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What is Cloning Paste?

October 14, 2021 3 min read

keiki paste

Cloning paste - what sounds like a plot device from a science fiction movie is actually a practical and easy-to-use gardening tool. Read on for what it does and how to use it. 

What is cloning paste? 

Cloning paste contains synthetic versions of growth hormones naturally produced by your plants. When the formula is applied topically to plant stems, it speeds up the production of new growth. For this reason, cloning paste can be useful for propagation. You can also simply use it to encourage more vigorous growth on your plant. 

Cloning paste usually goes under the brand name of Keiki Paste. Although marketed for inducing new growth on orchids, it can be used on any houseplant.

Take a look at our tutorials on how to use Keiki Paste on various houseplants. 

Southside Plants' very own cloning paste

What does cloning paste do? 

The chemicals inside cloning paste encourage plants to push out new growth. This new growth will come either in the form of new shoots or new offshoots (also known as off-sets).

What is the difference between shoots and offshoots? All plants produce shoots. They refer to any above-ground plant organ: flowers, stems, leaves, or branches. Once you apply your cloning paste to a stem node, the node might produce new shoots in the form of any one of these organs. 

Example of new shoots growing out of nodes on a bamboo plant

Off-shoots are a special kind of shoot. They look like complete, miniature versions of the main plant and they grow attached to the main plant. By making offshoots, the main plant is attempting to reproduce exact genetic copies of itself. They are an example of asexual reproduction: how plants make more of themselves without having to first exchange DNA with other plants through pollination. 

Example of an offshoot/offset: This Sansevieria pinguicula has produced an offshoot to its right, a tiny, genetically identical version of itself. Marlon Machado

Only some plants produce offshoots. They include gasteria flow (a type of succulent), pineapple, and orchids. Off-shoots can be removed from the stem with a knife. Once planted in a propagating medium, they will root quite easily and develop into an independent organism. 

Why does cloning paste work?

Cell division is what allows new plant organs to form - stems, petioles, flowers, roots.

Only certain types of plant cells divide. These are contained in special plant tissues called meristems which are located just above or below noes. These cells are unspecialized to begin with but have the potential to develop into different plants organs. They are found at different points along the plant, from roots to nodes to the very tips of shoots. 

A magnified image of onion root meristem. Cloning paste works by getting meristem cells to divide.  

To understand how cloning paste intervenes on this process, you should understand that cell division in the meristem is triggered by biochemical compounds called hormones. Like in animals, growth hormones in plants regulate all its physical growth. Depending on environmental conditions, they are present in different parts of the plant at different concentrations. They act as signals that indicate what the plant should do at any given time, governing everything from the opening and closing of stomata to the start of spring growth. 

When specific combinations of plant growth hormones at specific concentrations accumulate in meristems, they trigger cell division. Two classes of plant hormones are primarily responsible for this: auxins and cytokinins. Their functions are subtly different. Auxins regulate the patterns of cell division. But it is cytokinins that are responsible for cell division - in other words, the production of new cells themselves. Cytokinins are the active ingredient in cloning paste. 

How do you use cloning paste? 

Cloning paste is applied topically to plant nodes using a cotton bud or similar. It can be useful to score the node very lightly with a needle first and then apply the paste to the wound. 

Only a very tiny amount of paste is necessary for each nodes - the amount of hormones needed to trigger physiological responses in plants is miniscule.

Cloning paste is useful for propagation. With more new shoots on your plant, you will have lots more choice of stem cuttings. All these new shoots are active areas of growth, meaning that they are more likely to root once placed in a suitable medium. 

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