Make yourself a great big cloner.

I had a friend ask about my cloner, so I decided to show everyone how I made it. You can buy some premade, but for about the same cost you can build one with a much larger capacity. This one has 77 holes, cut into the lid of a storage bin. Inside is a 350+ gpm pump attached to some pvc pipe with tiny sprinkler heads (holes drilled into the pipe and screwed in). The holes are sized to hold 2″ neoprene inserts, and then I bought a slightly bigger, clear sterilite bin from Walmart to hold in the humidity until roots form. It worked great rooting coleus, without even any rooting hormones. I put a bunch of Passiflora in it with no hormones and they all died (except for one quadrangularis). So, I’m trying again with rooting hormones. I also put some fertilizer in the water, Clonex clone solution. 

Product list:
27 gallon tote ($14):

2′ length of 1″ diameter PVC pipe ($1) 

1″ diameter PVC fittings: T-connector, 2 end caps, 1″ to 3/4″ male threaded adapter ($4)

6 mister heads ($10 for 50):

This set includes a drill bit:

1/8″ drill bit (I already had one)

1-3/4″ hole saw ($14):

396 gpm (gallons per minute) submersible pump ($23):

2″ neoprene inserts ($30):

You will also need a drill, a ruler, and a permanent marker (Sharpie).

Building instructions:

Start with drawing a grid on the lid using your ruler and permanent marker, where you will drill a hole where the lines intersect, spacing out the lines at 2-1/4″. This will leave the plastic with some structural integrity after you drill the holes. Use the neoprene inserts to determine where to start and make sure you won’t be drilling too close to the edge.

Once you have your grid drawn, begin drilling pilot holes with your 1/8″ drill bit where the lines intersect. The bigger bit on the hole saw tends to slide a bit if you don’t, which will disrupt your spacing and possibly cause you to overlap your holes, affecting your structural integrity. Once all of your pilot holes are drilled use your 1-3/4″ hole saw and begin making holes. I put the lid on the box and drilled it through, which also helped to catch some of the plastic shavings. Drill slowly at first and hold the drill steady as you do this, because I found if you go too fast you can cause the plastic to crack, usually into a neighboring hole. This is the most time consuming part. The hole piece will stick into the hole saw, so use a screwdriver or something to pry it out; I bought the Lenox hole saw because it has the side holes with steps which help to pry things out.

I drilled a hole in the side of the box near the lid for the pump cord to come out, using a neoprene insert to seal it.

Take your two feet long PVC pipe and cut a three inch piece off one end, and then cut the remaining length in half. Put the longer pieces on both sides of the T, and mark six spots on the pipes evenly spaced to drill holes for the sprinkler heads. Remove the pipes from the fitting and holding the pipe on a table, place your marker perpendicular to the pipe and hold it flat on the table and draw a straight line down the length of the pipes. This is so you drill your holes hopefully in the same direction. Now drill your holes in the pipes, trying your best to drill perpendicular to the pipe. (If it’s at a little angle, it’ll be okay.) Once your holes are drilled, screw in your sprinkler heads. I used a machine screw with a similar thread to bore or some threads prior to screwing them in. Fit the pipes back together, placing the end caps at the end of the two longer pieces. Use your 3″ piece as a stem and fit that into your threaded male adapter, which should fit into your pump. (Your pump will include some nozzle adapters. You can take one of these with you to the store to help make sure you choose the right thread size.) 

Friction fit the whole rig together, and you don’t need to glue it unless you want to. It’s easier to screw the male adapter into the pump first, by the way. The pump has suction cup feet that will hold it to the bottom of the box. If you haven’t already, thread the cord of the pump through the hole in the side and seal it with a neoprene insert. Fill the box with water enough to cover the pump. Measure the water if you are going to add some Clonex clone solution:

You can now place your cuttings into the neoprene inserts, dipped into some rooting hormone if you want ( I do the cuttings in powder and let it sit for a while before turning on the cloner, hopefully allowing some of the hormones to soak in before the get washed off. (I also adjusted my rooting powder to contain IBM 1%, and NAA 0.5%. These hormones tend to work complementary to each other, and some brands have both, like Dip’n Grow:

I also bought a plastic storage bin from Walmart (Sterilite 105 qt, $12) that fits over the lid of the cloner to trap humidity while the cuttings grow roots.

This worked great to root coleus, without even using any rooting hormones, so I built a second one. I left the humidity bin off and killed off my second batch, so I’m trying again with my third using the bin.

This project will cost about $100. However, it could be less if you use pieces you already have, and the second will be cheaper if you choose to build another.

I chose the storage bin with the recessed lid because an early design had a sprinkler that rose above the cuttings and misted them. The box is black which will promote root development and inhibit algae growth. You will still want to change the water between batches, possibly more if gross. You will hear it when the water is low, as the pump becomes noisy.

Other lessons learned: You can buy little sprinkler heads in smaller quantities from your local hardware store, but they may not work as well. I bought some that only sprayed downward and were thus less effective, but came in a set of five. I also bought a fountain pump that was like 75 gpm, which was not powerful enough, so I returned it. I bought the bigger one from Amazon for about the same price, and a second one from a hydroponics store that was 372 gpm for about the same price.


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