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Transplanting Marijuana Plants

Mar 17, 2020
Seedling Stage

Transplanting Marijuana Plants

Cannabis growers all over the world agree that the best marijuana plants are grown from high-quality seeds. Seeds provide the most powerful genetics and produce the most robust plants, giving growers the highest, most potent yields possible. There are many tips and tricks on how to germinate seeds successfully, but it is easy to overlook another critical component to growing plants from seeds: transplanting the marijuana plants.

Why Transplanting is Important

Many growers sow their seeds in the same containers they intend to grow their plants in, bypassing the need to transplant their plants when they grow bigger. While this can save some stress, small plants do not have an extensive enough root system to fill the container and miss out on moisture and vital nutrients. When the moisture sits in the pot without being absorbed, it can lead to rot, which causes significant damage to the plants.

Growers who start their seeds in smaller pots and move up as needed protect their plants from this dangerous rot. However, the biggest challenge with using smaller pots is limiting root expansion. For plants to flourish, the root systems need to stretch out as much as possible. Container size determines how far a root system can grow, and these cannabis plants require transplanting to thrive.

Without transplanting, cannabis plants can become rootbound. Crowded roots are detrimental to the development of the plant, making any new growth appear weak and flimsy, and stunting flower production. Rootbound plants will have a reddish appearance to their stems and are more likely to have nutrient deficiencies.

When a cannabis plant has a crowded root system, it will dry out much faster. The roots will soak up any available moisture, often before the grower has time to water them again. When root bound plants are not moved to a larger container, they are at risk for nutrient deficiencies and disease, and may even die off.

When to Transplant Marijuana Plants

If a cannabis seed has not been germinated directly in the soil, it will need to be planted immediately after germination. Growers must consider their grow container when first planting their newly sprouted seeds, as this will be a critical factor in how and when transplanting takes place. There are a few signs that growers can watch for to determine if their cannabis plants are ready to be transplanted.

Number of Leaves

Growers who have their plants in small containers will know when it is time to transplant by the number of leaves on the plant. It should have four to five sets of leaves, excluding the cotyledon. Once the plant has this number of leaves, the roots have outgrown the starter cup and will need to be transplanted as soon as possible.

Vegetative Stage

Many growers germinate their seeds and grow their plants in a small-to-medium sized pot, keeping them in that container until a few weeks before flowering begins. The final few weeks before a cannabis plant switches to its flowering stage, its size and volume increase exponentially. During this time, the roots will stretch out much farther, which will mean the plant needs a larger pot.

Root Development

Many planting containers have small drainage holes drilled into the bottom of the pot. These holes can also allow growers to check on the health of the plant’s root system. If a grower notices discoloration of the roots at the bottom of the pot, it could mean the plant is rootbound and will need to be transplanted right away.

How to Transplant Marijuana Plants

Growing marijuana plants in appropriately sized pots and transplanting them as they get bigger is the best method for growing cannabis. However, transplanting has some risks. Root systems are extremely sensitive, and damaging them could be disastrous, or even deadly for the plant.

There are steps growers can take to transplant their plants safely, minimizing any damage that the roots may sustain. These steps include:

First Time Transplants

It is more than likely that cannabis plants will need to be transplanted multiple times before they are finished growing. Young seedlings should be planted in a container not much larger than a solo cup. Once the seedling is large enough, growers can begin transplanting the plants.

Step One: Sanitation

The root systems of young seedlings are delicate and prone to disease. Growers must wash their hands or wear gloves when handling them and ensure their working area is clean and sanitary.

Step Two: Let the Plants Dry

Wet soil is malleable and is likely to tug on roots and break apart if growers try to transplant when the soil is moist. Instead, let the soil dry out enough that the soil easily separates from the side of the cup, but not so much that the plant wilts.

Step Three: Prepare the Receiving Pot

Before transplanting, make sure the pot that will receive the young plant has enough soil or other growing medium to support its root system and keep the plant upright. There should be enough space to transplant the young plant safely without banging or damaging its roots.

Step Four: Be Wary of the Roots

With gloves on, hold the base of the plant steady and tip the starter cup over. Gently loosen the soil from the container and be very careful not to disturb the root system. The first transplant is the riskiest and could quickly put the plant into a state of shock if the roots are agitated too much. It is equally important to avoid any intense, direct light during the transplanting process, as this could also shock the roots.

Step Five: Transplant Carefully

Once the plant has been removed from its starter cup, place it inside the new pot filled with growing medium. Holding the young plant steady with a gentle grip, loosely fill the space around the roots with more growing medium. Cover the stem of the plant up to the cotyledon with loosely packed soil or growing medium.

Step Six: Water Generously

Once the young plant has been transplanted, water it generously with pH balanced water. Make sure it is soaked until water drips out of the bottom of the pot. Watch it carefully for a few days for signs of shock before adding any nutrients.

Transplanting During the Vegetative Stage

When transplanting a cannabis plant during its vegetative stage, growers should plan to put their plant in a pot that can hold two gallons of soil for every twelve inches of height that the plant has grown. Plants need to have completely maximized the space in their current pot before being transplanted. From there, growers can follow these steps:

Step One: Monitor for Distress

Cannabis plants are excellent communicators, and they will show distinct signs of distress when they become rootbound. If growers see wilting, nutrient deficiency, discolored leaves, or brown roots, it is time to prepare the next pot for transplanting.

Step Two: Reduce Nutrient Intake

In the days before transplanting, growers should cut back on the number of nutrients they are giving their plants by at least half. Doing this will help protect the plants against shock when transplanting them to a new pot.

Step Three: Keep Growing Medium Loose

When transplanting during the vegetative stage, growers must take care to pack soil loosely in the bottom of the new pot and around the sides of the plant after placing it in the pot. If the soil is packed too tightly, it will impede drainage and damage the plant’s roots. Follow steps four through six under the “First Time Transplants” listed above to complete the transplanting process. This can be done as many times as needed during the vegetative stage, but keep in mind that the more often this happens, the greater the risk to the roots.

Transplanting into Finishing Containers

A finishing container is the final pot in which the cannabis plant will be grown to maturity. It is recommended growers transplant the plants before the start of the flowering stage, as doing so after could induce shock that has a detrimental effect on the quality of the marijuana flower. While following the same technique as listed above, growers should use the following tips:

  • Allow two to three weeks after transplanting before reducing light hours to start the cannabis plant’s flowering stage
  • Be sure that indoor plants are given a final pot that is between three and five gallons. Outdoor plants will need a container that is five gallons or larger, depending on the strain of cannabis grown.
  • Provide support structures like stakes and cages for large plants. As cannabis plants begin to flower, their buds become dense and could weigh down the branches enough to crack them.

The Bottom Line

The root systems of developing cannabis plants are sensitive and can be damaged easily through both limited growing space and damage during transplanting. Successfully transplanting cannabis plants is a critical component in growing the best, highest-yielding plants possible. By following the tips and tricks listed above, growers can be sure they are well on their way to a successful harvest. Find high-quality seeds from Canada’s online cannabis seed distributor.

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