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Transplanting Cannabis: The ONLY Guide You’ll Ever Need

It is crucial to start your marijuana seeds or weed clones in a container that is the right size for them. Starting a cannabis plant off in a container that is too large can lead to problems including root rot and poor air circulation in the soil.

However, as your cannabis grows, so too should the container it is growing in. The root mass of a marijuana plant will only grow as large as its container will allow, and more roots equal more potential for nutrient uptake, bigger, more potent plants, and eventually more bud and higher yields. 

Transplanting cannabis plants a few times throughout their growth cycle may seem daunting, but with care and attention, it can be done easily with little to no negative effect on your plants.

Remember, a plant’s structure above the soil is only as productive and large as its root structure under the soil, so the more container space provided, the more potential you are providing to your weed plant to yield large tasty buds!

When to transplant cannabis

As your pot grows, it will establish a root system to acquire nutrients from the soil. 

A plant growing above the soil is an indication that it is also growing more roots below the soil. If the cannabis is not transplanted to a larger container in time, the plant could become rootbound.

Essentially the pot plant will run out of space to expand its rooting network and can suffer from stunted growth, stretching, and wilting leaves. Providing too much moisture in a small container can also lead to root rot and pests that will be detrimental to the overall health of your cannabis plant.

The marijuana grower needs to keep up with transplanting cannabis as the plant grows instead of waiting until seeing the symptoms of too small of a container.  

  • Roots Showing

One of the major signs to look for is the presence of roots growing out from the bottom of the plants’ container. If you see roots beginning to grow out from the bottom, this is a clear sign that your cannabis plant would benefit from transplanting marijuana.  

  • Increased Water Uptake

If you notice your cannabis taking up more water than usual and it has experienced recent growth, it is likely time for a transplant. Once the roots are established, your marijuana plant is ready to expand in a container where the web-like system of roots can grow to secure more weed nutrients for the vegetative process.

  • Discoloration or Wilting

If you notice discoloration in the stems or wilting in the leaves, it is possible that the weed plant is experiencing a nutrient deficiency and would benefit from being transplanted into a larger container.

Transplanting marijuana

After completing its initial seedling stage, your cannabis is ready for transplanting cannabis.

Note that depending on how you started your plant and its growing environment, this could take anywhere from 2-6 weeks. Whether starting from seed or cutting, allowing your marijuana to root in a solo cup or seed starter trays around 31/2 inches deep is an easy way to avoid root rot. 

Root growth is stimulated from a mixture of exposure to water and oxygen as the cannabis soil dries. So it is essential to start plants in a container that will hold moisture after being watered but will also dry out over time to avoid seeds or roots rotting while allowing proper oxygen to the soil life.

Starting plants in too large of a container could result in too much moisture in the soil for too long, which creates an anaerobic environment that can lead to pests, disease, and stunted weed growth.

If you started from seed, track the marijuana seedling along its initial growing cycle to know when it is time to transplant. You will see the pot plant sprout from the soil with two cotyledons (small round leaves at the top of the stem). 

Eventually, these leaves will fall off the pot plant as the more familiar shaped cannabis leaves start to form and grow. 

Do not rush into transplanting cannabis too early along in this growth process as it is vital to allow the root structure of the weed plant to develop undisturbed. You will notice leaves growing two at a time from nodes along the stem.

When the pot has two to three layers of nodes, it is likely ready for transplant. These leaves perform photosynthesis allowing the plant to feed itself and grow both a stronger stem and root system.

Ensure the marijuana plant is ready by checking the bottom of the container for roots. You can also observe the strength of the stem of the plant. Once you notice the stem has become firmer and more stable, it is more likely to survive the marijuana transplanting process. Give the stem of your plant a gentle pinch without damaging it to observe the sturdiness of the stem.

It is critical to transplant into a larger container, and this can be done numerous times throughout the growing cycle. However, if you are an indoor or outdoor container grower that does not intend to transplant more than once, it is important to get your plant into a container no smaller than one gallon.

Container planting

Transplanting cannabis can be a traumatic experience for a plant, so you want to envision creating the most comforting and stable environment for your marijuana plant in the new container before removing it from the initial container into the larger one. 

Start by placing a layer of soil at the bottom of the new container. You want to provide enough room for the plant to fit into the container, but providing at least an inch or two of soil at the bottom of the container will provide space for new root growth.

If you are an organic cannabis grower, this is also a great time to mix in any amendments such as compost or worm castings in with the new soil. Carefully wet this soil so that it is moist but not too damp. If you over-wet the soil, allow it to dry out before carrying out the cannabis transplanting process. 

Your marijuana is now at the beginning of the vegetative stage and will require a heavy load of nutrients to support its rapid growth. If you plan on using liquid nutrients, mix in about a quarter of the recommended amount with your water used to moisten the soil. This will ensure your weed plant receives proper nutrients to encourage root growth into the new soil.

Next, you want to carefully remove your pot plant from the original container. It is important to not just tug on the stem to remove the weed as this can cause damage to the plant and root system. Placing your hand around the stem covering the top of the container, carefully turn your marijuana plant upside down and use gravity to help you to gently remove it from the container.

If your roots have outgrown the container, you may face resistance while removing the plant. In this case, gently pinch the plastic at the bottom of your container until you can remove the weed plant intact with the soil. Once the marijuana is out, take a moment to observe its root structure. 

This is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of your plant’s health below the soil! You want to see white, hairy roots growing from your soil. This indicates the soil is providing proper amounts of oxygen to your roots and mycorrhizae is present to help your cannabis plant obtain the nutrients it needs from the soil.

If your roots appear thin and brown, this is a sign of overwatering or underwatering your plant. Dry soil and thin roots indicate the soil is not receiving enough moisture, whereas moist and sometimes stinky soil with orangish-yellow roots shows overwatering.

Healthy roots vs. unhealthy roots

Take note of this to ensure you provide the proper amount of water to the pot plant in its new container. To stimulate root growth, very gently scratch your fingers along the bottom and sides of the root ball to encourage the roots to expand into the empty soil in its new container.

Now carefully dig an indention in the soil in your new container and place your cannabis roots facing down into the new container. Fill in the sides of the container with more soil until the entire root structure is covered. The stem of your cannabis plant will sprout new roots if it is buried underneath the soil, and this can be done to ensure a strong stem and even deeper root structure to support your plant.

Be sure not to plant any of the leaves of your marijuana below the soil. This can lead to rot and disease. For proper measure, leave at least an inch between your first layer of leaves and the topsoil. Gently pat down the soil so that the weed plant is secure, but do not press too hard as this can restrict the movement of water and oxygen through the soil.

Once your weed is secured, provide more water to the moisten the new soil you just added to the container. Again, make sure not to add too much to the soil, but enough so that the roots are moist. A good sign of when to stop watering is when you see water draining from the holes in the bottom of your container.  

Outdoor planting

If transplanting your cannabis plants into the ground outdoors, you will perform a similar procedure. Instead of laying soil into a larger container, dig a hole roughly 8 inches by 8 inches.

Breaking up hard or poor soil for your marijuana plant will encourage more root growth throughout the weed growing process. Prep the space by adding any soil amendments to your hole and lightly water the area until the soil is moist, but not soaking wet.

Carefully remove your cannabis from its container by tilting it upside down and letting gravity help you to gently remove your plant from its container. If your roots are stuck to the bottom of the container, gently pinch the plastic at the bottom to free them. This will allow your marijuana to slide out into your hand. 

Lightly scratch the sides and bottom of your root ball before placing it in the soil you have prepared. Fill your hole with soil until the hole is only a few inches larger than the container you just removed your pot plant from then place it in the hole and carefully fill the soil in around the sides. 

Gently pack the soil so that it keeps the weed stable, but not too hard to where water cannot properly drain through the soil. It is also beneficial to add mulch or compost around the base of your marijuana plant after planting to provide nutrients to the roots and to slow the rate of evaporation. 

When finished, lightly water the soil so that the area around the roots is moist but not soaking wet. If you are planting more than one plant in a space outside, don’t forget to provide enough space between each hole to allow your plants room to grow.

Depending on the strain and environment, cannabis plants can easily reach anywhere from 3 to 10 feet. If you intend to let your plants reach a taller height, this means you will need more space between each plant.

If you are transplanting cannabis outdoors in a hot or dry environment, keep in mind it will put less stress on the pot plant if you transplant early in the morning or later in the day closer to sunset.

After transplant

After transplanting weed, keep an eye on your plants to monitor how they adjust to their new home. It is common to see wilting in the leaves right away, but your plants should bounce back by the next day or two. If wilting persists or discoloration occurs, it is likely that your soil is too wet or too dry, or the marijuana plant is too hot in the new environment.

After a successful transplant, you should notice your plants standing tall and looking healthy within a day to signify the weed plant is receiving proper nutrients and moisture. If growing in a container, you can repeat this marijuana transplanting process as the pot plant grows to provide more room for root growth.

Keep in mind the larger the plants get, the more difficult it can be to transplant your cannabis plant without damaging the stem or branches. For this reason, keep your marijuana transplanting to a minimum once plants reach a larger size further along into the vegetative stage.

Test your knowledge about about marijuana transplanting by answering our quiz!

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