pheno•type, n. Genetics. 1. the observable constitution of a living species. 2. the appearance of an organism, resulting from the interaction of the genotype and the environment.

Let’s start off with an example. When you buy a pack of seeds or are gifted by a friend with even just a few little hopefuls, you want the best of what the strain has too offer. And in your group of seeds, depending on how the strain was bred and how stable it is, there will be multiple phenotypes that possess different traits depending on the strain’s genetic background. With most strains out there these days, you can plant a whole pack of seeds for a particular strain and find either a hidden gem or a pheno with less desirable traits.


The trick is to find that hidden gem and use it as a clone mother so that you can stabilize, protect, and reuse those same genetics over and over in future projects. The question is: How do you find the hidden gem?


There are certain qualities and traits that one looks for when choosing a good clone mother, and these depend wholly on the grower’s specific desires. A person might look for a phenotype that is higher-yielding than the rest in order to boost overall harvest weight. Or a person might look for a phenotype that offers serious trichome production and thus higher potency, or maybe a pheno with a lighter aroma, in order to keep the grow op unnoticeable. In an experiment conducted for this article, our interest was in choosing a phenotype from each of two strains with high potency as well as a strong taste and aroma.


The two strains chosen for the project were Super Skunk and Shishkaberry, and the goal was to find a couple of impressive phenotypes that would then be used as clone mothers. Usually, someone such as a cannabis breeder would do this on a much bigger scale, using hundreds—if not thousands—of seeds. But the point of this project was simply to find two nice, stable, potent phenotypes that might make suitable mother plants for a home marijuana garden of clones.


The Trials
The vegetation cycle began with a total of 14 plants. Seven seeds from each strain were planted into 1-gallon pots and placed under a T-5 HO fluorescent light fixture containing four bulbs. The soil mix used consisted of 50% Fox Farm Organic Potting mix, 40% Fox Farm Light Warrior soilless mix and 10% perlite. Nutrients were added every other watering using Fox Farm’s Grow Big liquid fertilizer.


At around 25 to 30 days, the plants started to pre-flower, and a couple of female plants were already noticeable in the group. The light cycle was changed to 12/12 to induce flowering, and within 12 to 14 days, all of the males were weeded out. Sadly, this left only six females out of the original 14 seeds planted: three Super Skunk and three Shishkaberry. A 400-watt high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamp was added the same day that the veg cycle was flipped to 12/12. This was also when the plants began their nutrient feeding program, which included Fox Farm’s Tiger Bloom and Green Fuse Bloom Stimulant. Notes were diligently kept for later reference in order to gauge a particular strain’s response to environment, nutrients and time.


Generally, somewhere around 40 to 50 days, you’ll begin to witness firsthand the characteristics that define your phenotypes. That’s the time to start choosing, because only the best will make the cut. At the end of flowering—around 55 to 65 days, depending on the strain—you’ll be able to observe exactly how your phenotypes are turning out. Now is the time to solidify your list of desired traits and really think about what you’re looking for in your strains. What are your goals down the road? Is there a breeding program in your future? Are you growing for quantity, quality or both?


In the end, however, there is only one true way to judge the success of your phenos, and that takes place after they have been chopped down and fully dried and cured. Yes, you guessed it—you have to actually smoke the finished result. Only now will you be able to check the potency, test the high and look further into the trichome production of your flowers. Be sure to judge the taste and aroma of the buds, as these may also be desired traits when considering your selection.