When To Transplant Weed Seeds

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Does transplanting cannabis cause shock? Read our comprehensive guide with tips from Kyle Kushman. Learn when and how to transplant for optimal health. As cannabis plants get bigger they need to be moved into bigger containers to allow their roots to expand, so they can thrive. Read more on how to transplant marijuana. Did you know that transplanting your cannabis at just the right time will actually make your plants to grow faster? Luckily transplanting is easy with a little planning, and only take a few minutes!

Transplanting Cannabis: Complete Guide with Kyle Kushman Tips

If you don’t transplant cannabis when it needs to be moved, you could end up with rootbound plants and stunted growth.

Pot size is important when it comes to yield, you want your plants to finish in nice, big pots, but it’s not always sensible to start them this way.

Transplanting cannabis successfully is all about observation, practice and timing.

You need to recognise when your plants are ready to be transplanted, and you need to know how to transplant without stressing or killing them.

For most photoperiod grows, plan to transplant cannabis up to and around three times.

We’re going to look at the full cycle of the plant, when to transplant weed seedlings and transplanting cannabis plants pre-flip, so they can enjoy flowering in their final home.

Why is transplanting cannabis important?

As plants grow above the soil line, the root ball expands below it.

It’s important the plant has enough room to grow in both these dimensions.

Important both for the quality AND the quantity of your final yield.

While it’s true that pot size determines how big your plants can grow, transplanting marijuana directly from a tiny container to a large one can be detrimental.

We’ll talk about this more later on.

The main advantage of transplanting cannabis is that it helps you perfect the watering cycle, allowing the rootball to expand at a manageable rate.

If you don’t transplant your cannabis when it needs to be moved, the roots might outgrow the pot – the plant can become root bound. Root bound cannabis plants struggle to absorb nutrients, oxygen, and water, often leading to sickness and death. Transplanting marijuana plants too soon will have the negative effect of your root ball falling apart.

Growing cannabis is all about providing the most comfort for your plants, allowing them to thrive. One of the best ways to do this is to learn how to transplant cannabis with confidence.

How often do you need to transplant marijuana plants?

If you’ve germinated your cannabis seeds outside of the soil, your first experience of transplanting cannabis plants will be planting them.

Okay, so it’s not a major transplant, but you’re still ‘transplanting’ from the paper towel to the small pot or solo cup.

The first big transplanting decision is when to transplant cannabis seedlings to their first decent-sized plant pot. This will either be an intermediate pot, or their final pot.

Remember: transplanting pot is not something you can predetermine. You need to observe your plants, let them tell you when they’re ready to be moved.

Beginners should think about transplanting weed plants into an intermediate pot. This will help master the wet to dry watering cycle – the best way to water your plants!

Transplanting cannabis seedlings straight into a final container is best left to experienced growers (or those growing autoflowers). Unless your final pot is three gallons or less.

When to transplant your marijuana plant?

You should only really transplant weed plants when:

  • Plantinggerminated seeds into their first pot.
  • Transplantingpot seedlings into intermediate containers.
  • Transplanting into a final grow pot ready for flowering.

The key determining factor in transplanting cannabis is the size of the plant, and, by proxy, the root ball.

You can transplant cannabis as much as needed during the seedling and vegetative stages, but each time you transplant weed, you risk cannabis transplant shock. This is why you need to know exactly how to transplant!

We’ll go into this later on, but for a quick guide and vital tips, you can check out our transplanting video guide right now:

What are the symptoms of a rootbound weed plant?

Thankfully, a rootbound plant is relatively easy to diagnose. Symptoms include:

  • Weak new growth.
  • Stunted flowering.
  • Reddening of the stem.
  • Nutrient sensitivity or deficiency.
  • Wilting and drooping leaves.
  • Stretching.
  • Soil drying out fast.
  • Spots or unusual discoloration on the leaves.

Another telltale sign for transplanting your marijuana plant is when water takes a long time to be absorbed.

You should regularly lift your plant from its pot to check the roots. Are you seeing tangled roots clawing to escape from the pot? This means the soil has become packed and/or rootbound. Either way, it’s time to transplant.

When do you transplant cannabis seedlings?

Spotting when to transplant marijuana seedlings is a skill every grower must learn.

You should first transplant when the young plant sprouts its 4th or 5th set of leaves, and regularly check the drainage holes to assess the condition of the roots.

If the roots are healthy-looking and white, then transplanting your pot doesn’t need to happen immediately. If they’re discolored, growing free of the container, or look tangled, it’s time to get cracking!

Regular checks should help you to transplant before the plant shows huge signs of distress.

Be observant, always.

When do you transplant during the vegetative stage?

Never transplant weed once it begins flowering. Move your plant into its final and largest pot during the onset of the full vegetative phase. Plants transfer much of their energy to bud growth, leaving far less energy for root development than during the vegetive stage.

While flowering, your marijuana shoots for the sky and needs plenty of room to support vital functions. It also needs to absorb all the sweet, sweet, nutes to pump into your buds.

If you’re late to re-pot your weed, don’t do it while it’s flowering. This advice comes from long experience: moving your marijuana at this point spells disaster for your harvest.

Ride it out for now and use the experience to make you a better grower in the future.

How do you choose pot size when transplanting cannabis?

When transplanting cannabis, always pot-up into containers 2-3x the size of the previous one. This reduces the number of times you need to move your plants and minimizes the potential for cannabis transplant shock.

A cannabis plant requires a minimum of two gallons of soil per 12 inches of growth. Knowing the potential height of the strain you’re growing is always handy for planning when to transplant cannabis.

We’re looking at you, sativa lovers!

If you’re unsure of what to expect from your experimental seeds, always opt for more room over less. That way, you won’t be caught off-guard when a twelve-footer dominates your grow room!

Most indoor strains are happy finishing in a five-gallon container. Outdoor strains often dwarf those grown indoors, needing up to 20 gallons of soil per plant.

While planning your weed transplants, use my handy measurement guide on plant height vs. pot size:

  • 0–6″ = 16 oz
  • 6–12″ = 1-gallon
  • 12–24″ = 3-gallon
  • 24–42″ = 5-gallon
  • 42–60″ = 10-gallon
  • 60–84″ = 20-gallon

What do you need to prepare before transplanting pot plants?

Beyond selecting appropriately-sized pots for transplanting marijuana plants, you should prepare a few other things to make the transfer successful.

Prepare young plants by cutting the nutrients in half and letting them dry out as much as possible (not totally).

When you’re transplanting cannabis, removing a plant with a saturated rootstock can severely damage it.

You need to prepare the new medium ahead of the transplant. Flushing or sterilizing helps prevent threats like pests and nutrient imbalances, and you can add food back into the soil with fertilizers and nutrient boosters.

Recycling old earth helps maintain the pH and nutrient levels that your plant already likes, and helps prevent cannabis transplant shock.

Adjust the pH of the new soil to around 6 – 6.5 and always have water ready before you transplant weed plants.

Why not plant seedlings straight into their final home?

Transplanting marijuana seedlings as they grow may sound like hard work, and many new growers skip the transplanting and go straight for large containers.

This can be a mistake.

It’s better to transplant weed than to water small plants in big containers.

When transplanting marijuana seedlings into their final home, you run the risk of waterlogging. A large pot means a lot of soil. Lots of soil needs lots of water, often far more than the plant’s immature root system can handle.

As the roots spread out and colonize the pot, they can become trapped in saturated soil and begin to rot.

Another major reason for not transplanting cannabis into large pots too early is that plants use their stored energy to grow roots. They tend to seek the outside edges of your pot, using a whole lot of this energy to reach the farthest corners.

Transplanting pot plants too soon can, in these cases, actually slow down growth.

All this energy invested in the roots comes at the expense of above-ground growth, like developing leaves.

When you transplant cannabis according to its size and stage, roots can colonize pots quickly, absorbing all the water and nutrients it needs for balanced growth.

In other words—if the pot fits, your buds will blitz!

If transplanting cannabis straight into its final home is your only option, or if you’re ready for the challenge, follow the pro tips below for happier, healthier plants.

  • Only saturate the center first, around 50% of the potting media.
  • Water your plant in a column pattern—straight down, all the way around, using your seedling as a central point. This encourages roots to take the fastest path to the bottom and promotes upward growth.
  • Never let your marijuana dry out during the early stage. Wait until you can see the roots at the bottom of the container to start a wet-dry cycle.

How to transplant cannabis plants

We’ve covered when to transplant cannabis plants, now it’s time to learn how to transplant your marijuana plants.

Freshly germinated seeds are usually happy in their nursery pot for a few weeks. Once they’ve developed four to five sets of leaves, it’s time to move the plants into a fresh new home.

Transplanting seedlings: step by step

Follow these steps to transplant weed safely, minimize the risk of cannabis transplant shock, and maximize your plant’s happiness.

Step 1

Sterilize the area as much as possible and wash your hands (or wear clean gloves). These actions prevent contamination affecting the roots.

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Step 2

Make sure the soil is relatively dry – wet soil will fall apart when you pull it out.

Step 3

Prepare your receiving pot with new soil that’s been flushed, sterilized, tested, and fertilized.

Step 4

Remove the plant from its current pot by squeezing the container and flipping it upside down.

Put it straight into the new pot with the old soil to minimize the risk of shock. Leaving your weed outside of soil for too long, or exposing the roots to bright light can cause severe cannabis transplant shock.

Step 5

Now your plants are settled, give them a good watering.

Vegetative transplanting: step by step

Depending on the growth rate, and if you stick to the double-up rule (by making each new pot double the size of the previous one,) your next crucial time for transplanting cannabis plants is when they start vegging.

Having your plant in its largest container at least two weeks before flowering begins is a key to bountiful yields.

Transplanting pot plants at this stage is a little riskier – cannabis transplant shock this far into the lifecycle could spell disaster for your harvest.

Let’s look at how to get it right, every time!

Step 1

Prepare a clean area for the transplant.

Step 2

Amend your potting medium and add it to the new pots, leaving plenty of room for the root ball. The soil shouldn’t fully fill the pot, it needs to be a few inches off the rim.

Transplanting cannabis plants into soil with the same nutrients, electrical conductivity (EC), and pH for cannabis levels as the old soil significantly reduces the threat of shock.

Flush the new soil, take measurements, and saturate it with the same nutrient mix you fed your plant before.

The soil should be fluffy and light, so you can easily make a hole big enough to sit the rootball.

Step 3

Spray a little water over the plant and gently squeeze the container to loosen the soil.

Position yourself over the new pot or your compost pile. Hold the base with one hand as you turn the plant upside down. With your other hand, slide the container off.

Step 4

Seat the root ball in the hole and cover with loose soil, creating an even soil level.

Keep things like light, heat, and humidity consistent until it’s settled into its new soil.

How to avoid cannabis transplant shock

Many beginners are unnecessarily fearful of moving their plants in case cannabis transplant shock occurs.

Every time you move your plant, it’s at risk of shock.

We hear you—nobody wants stunted growth and lower yields.

But here’s the good news—Mother Nature is very forgiving, and with a little due diligence, she’ll take care of you just like she takes care of the earth.

With a little knowledge, even first-time cultivators can avoid shock when transplanting cannabis.

Most shock occurs when you move a plant out of the ground to somewhere entirely new. New soil, new pH levels, new humidity levels. All these features make your plant nervous, so keep your conditions as consistent as possible.

Transplanting weed plants is a unique method of potting up.

You can control every element as you simply move your plant to a bigger space with the same potting media.

To ensure your weed doesn’t fall victim to cannabis transplant shock, follow these basic precautions:

  • Take extra care when transplanting marijuana seedlings. Don’t touch their fragile roots as you move them.
  • Prune dead or decaying older plant roots to encourage fibrous structures—but don’t break them apart.
  • Use the same potting media and fertilizers.
  • Flush your soil and test its EC and pH before transplanting weed plants.
  • Fertigate the new earth with the same nutrient solution.
  • Execute the transplant fast and efficiently. Minimize air and light exposure.
  • Return your plants to where they’re happy. Don’t change the light, heat, or humidity until your plants start growing again.

Follow these rules, and instead of shock, your plant will thank you for your efforts with a growth spurt.

How’s that for a pleasant reward?

Is there anything you should do or avoid after transplanting?

After transplanting cannabis seedlings or vegetative weed, there are a few other things you can do to ensure the move doesn’t hurt.

Lay off any training that might put your marijuana under more stress.

After transplanting cannabis plants, you should wait a few days before resuming training and topping.

ALWAYS try to wait till the plant shows signs of healthy new growth. This is nature’s way of telling you “I’m ready. Let’s do this!”

Large plants may need some support in their new home. Consider a frame, plant stake, or other support structure to stop the larger ones toppling over.

When transplanting marijuana plants into their new home before flowering, don’t flip them straight after.

Give them time to get into the new groove to ensure they’re in the right frame of mind to enter the next phase. Let them settle, spread, and secure themselves in the new soil for up to two weeks before flipping.

How do you feed your cannabis plant after transplanting?

Flushing and sterilizing your new soil before transplanting cannabis is key to preventing myriad health risks.

But wait—won’t this leave your plant hungry when it arrives in its new home?

Totally! That’s why fertigating your potting media is essential!

Using the same solution you feed your plants before transplanting marijuana ensures it’s got everything it needs from the get-go.

Remember to recycle the old soil and test the new mix’s pH and EC levels before transplanting cannabis, just to be on the safe side. Your plant shouldn’t need additional nutes beyond its usual cannabis feeding schedule for a few weeks.

Now you’ve moved your ladies, be extra vigilant with them for the next few days. Monitor your plants for any signs of deficiency. Yellow leaves and purple stems are signs that something isn’t right with your pH levels after transplanting your marijuana plant.

Consider upping the nutes a few weeks later. Push them as far as possible for optimal crop outcomes, but be on the lookout for nitrogen-burnt tips.

These indicate that you’ve pushed your plant as far as it’ll go.

What about autoflowering plants: can you transplant them?

Autoflowering strains are one of the easiest to grow and boast rapid growth rates. They can mature within ten weeks after germination.

Transplanting cannabis of this type is generally a bad idea, though auto-experts like Kronic would disagree. Check out Kronic’s video on re-vegging autos – his argument for transplanting autoflowers is compelling!

For most growers, there isn’t enough time in an autoflower’s life cycle to overcome the stress of transplant.

If you must transplant your autos, timing is crucial. Only do it once—when your plant has grown four or five sets of leaves and has a robust root system.

Key takeaways about transplanting pot

Knowing how to transplant marijuana is simple, yet there’s a lot to remember.

Here are the key takeaways to help you on your home growing journey:

  • Before transplanting cannabis, for young plants cut your nutes in half, let your plant dry, and prepare your new potting media.
  • Choose a pot size that’s double the current container.
  • When transplanting your marijuana plant, sterilize the area, avoid contact with the roots, and don’t overfill or pack down your pots.
  • Work fast but be careful. Avoid exposing the plant’s roots to light and air.
  • Let your plants settle. Don’t cause further stress by training or changing the environmental conditions.
  • Always pot-up before the flowering stage—never during—and allow two weeks for your plants to adjust before flipping.

The roach

Transplanting your pot as your plant develops has many benefits.

It ensures your plants are happy and healthy, and they repay this TLC with THC.

As long as you respect the process of when to transplant cannabis, you won’t encounter too many problems.

Remember that transplanting cannabis straight into its final container can be tricky.

And that’s not just for rookies—I’m talking to you vets too!

If you have any special transplanting marijuana tips, why not share them with the rest of the Homegrown Cannabis Co. community?

Even expert cultivators can learn from others’ experiences on how to grow cannabis indoors. It’s all about listening to others’ tips and tricks, so share away on the Homegrown Forum.

About the Author: Kyle Kushman

Kyle Kushman is a legend in the cannabis community. He is the modern-day polymath of pot: cultivator, breeder, activist, writer, and educator. After winning no less than 13 Cannabis Cups, there’s nothing this guy doesn’t know about indoor growing – he’s been there, done it, and is still doing it to this day!

How and when to transplant cannabis plants

Transplanting is the process of “re-homing” a cannabis plant, or moving a plant into a bigger pot with more soil as it grows bigger.

Growers typically start off the cannabis growing process by planting many seeds in small pots because they don’t know if all of them will sprout—or germinate—and they don’t know if all of them will be female.

Only female cannabis plants produce buds, so if you start growing from regular seeds, you will have to sex them out and discard the males.

Why is transplanting marijuana plants important?

Transplanting gives a marijuana plant’s root system more space to spread out, allowing the plant to grow healthy and strong and to flourish.

When roots become cramped and can’t spread out they can get tangled and become “rootbound”—this will effective choke the plant, leading to a stunted, sickly plant, and can even kill it. A healthy root system will lead to a healthy weed plant.

A plant’s container will determine how much the roots can stretch out, and therefore how big your plant will get. A container that’s too small will stunt it.

You don’t want to plant a seed in a giant pot because you could potentially waste soil if the seed doesn’t make it. Also, if growing weed outdoors, it’s hard to plan out a garden and where to put your seeds in the ground if some seeds don’t make it.

Most weed growers start seeds in small 4-inch or 1-gallon pots when germinating.

For the seeds that do make it, they will need bigger homes after several weeks of growing and will need to be transplanted either into a bigger pot or directly into the ground.

When planting into the ground, make sure not to crowd your plants so their roots don’t run into each other.

The symptoms of a rootbound plant include:

  • Flimsy new growth
  • Stunted flower production
  • Stem discoloration (reddening)
  • Nutrient sensitivity

A rootbound plant may also appear under-watered. If a plant requires watering more than once a day, it may need to get transplanted.

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When to transplant marijuana

Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .

Most marijuana plants go through 1-2 transplants during their life but could have more. As an example, transplanting can happen from:

  • First container (1-gallon) to second container (2-gallon): 4-8 weeks after seed germination
  • Second container (2-gallon) to third container (5-gallon): transplant 8-12 weeks later, or 2 weeks before flowering

Some growers may only transplant once: using the example above, from a 1-gallon to a 5-gallon container, skipping the 2-gallon. And depending on how big you want your weed plants to get, you may transplant into bigger pots than what’s listed above.

The same goes for transplanting outside, in the ground—you can go straight from the first pot into the ground, but it depends on when you transplant and your local climate and weather.

Here are some indicators that your cannabis is ready for a new container.

Number of leaves

Young plants sowed in small containers are usually ready to be transplanted after they’ve sprouted 4-5 sets of leaves, but keep in mind this may vary from strain to strain.

Root development

Check the drainage holes at the bottom of the container—a plant should have a healthy and visibly white root system. If roots are growing out of the holes, it’s time to transplant.

Any discoloration or darkening may indicate the plant has become rootbound and a transplant should take place immediately.

End of vegetative stage

A weed plant should be in its final pot or in the ground with plenty of room for its roots before it enters the flowering stage. During flowering, a plant will increase in both size and volume, as the plant itself continues to grow and as buds develop. It will require a substantial amount of space for root development.

How much space does a marijuana plant need?

Plant height (inches) Pot size
0-6″ 4-inch (16 oz.)
6-12″ 1-gallon
12-24″ 3-gallon
24-42″ 5-gallon
42-60″ 10-gallon
60-84″ 20-gallon

When transplanting cannabis, give the plant at least double the space of its previous container. This reduces the number of times you need to transplant and minimizes the risk of transplant shock, which may occur when a plant experiences extreme stress from root disturbance.

For example, you could go from a 1-gallon to a 2-gallon to a 5-gallon, or from a 2-gallon to a 5-gallon to a 10-gallon.

Medium-sized indoor cannabis plants tend to be fine in 5-gallon containers as a finishing pot. Large outdoor plants may require much bigger containers to reach their behemoth potential, sometimes up to 10- or 20-gallon pots.

When in doubt, always opt for slightly more space than needed. A plant tends to require 2 gallons of soil for every 12 inches of growth it achieves during the vegetative stage. Knowing the potential height of the strain you’re growing is helpful.

Why not start in the largest pot for your marijuana plant?

Growers typically transplant weed plants 1-3 times, moving plants to bigger pots gradually as they get bigger.

If a plant is put in too big of a pot, the roots won’t stretch out that much and won’t soak up as much water. This can cause water to sit in the pot for a long time, waterlogging the plant and leading to root rot.

You can transplant into the largest pot for your weed plant to avoid multiple transplants, but be careful not to water all of the soil—only water around the stalk of the plant where the young roots are.

How to transplant marijuana

Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .

The process of transplanting weed does not come without risk. Transplant shock can be incredibly detrimental to the growth and development of a cannabis plant, and can even kill it. However, through proper execution, the process of transplanting will benefit the plant and lead to stronger root development and healthier flower production.

First transplant of a cannabis plant

Young cannabis plants should start in a 4-inch or 1-gallon pot. This starting pot should be adequate for a few weeks before transplanting is needed.

Again, the first transplanting should occur after the seedling has sprouted its 4th or 5th set of leaves. To transplant:

  • Wash your hands and/or wear gloves to prevent contamination of the delicate roots, and keep the surroundings as sanitary as possible.
  • Give the plant a light sprinkling of water to help minimize shock; don’t drench it, as the soil will be difficult to work with.
  • Fill the receiving pot with soil, allowing enough space for the new plant.
  • Avoid overpacking the soil during and after transplanting—this can compromise drainage and damage the root system.
  • Do not disturb or damage the roots when transplanting; the first transplanting poses the greatest risk for shock, which can occur from root damage and agitation.
  • Avoid intense light when transplanting; this will help prevent transplant shock as well.
  • Fully water in the plant once it’s in its new home.

Additional transplanting of cannabis plants

You may need to transplant your weed plant a second or third time to maximize its growing potential. Always monitor plants for symptoms of distress or overcrowded roots.

To do so, follow the steps above, and make sure the new container is at least twice as big as the old one, if not bigger.

The finishing container is the final home of a plant until it’s harvested. This will be the largest container for a plant, and you always want to transplant into this pot 1-2 weeks before the flowering stage—you don’t want to disturb a plant while it’s flowering.

Keep in mind that large plants may require stakes or other support to avoid structural damage after transplanting.

When Do I Transplant Cannabis Plants?

There are advantages to transplanting your marijuana, and this transplant guide and tutorial will teach you when and how to transplant your pot plants perfectly every time. But why should growers transplant their weed plants in the first place? Why not just plant them in their final container from the beginning? The reason is that a proper transplanting regimen actually makes your plants grow faster in the vegetative stage!

Transplanting Young Cannabis Plants At The Right Time Makes Them Grow Faster!

If you start your cannabis plants in a relatively small container they will grow faster than if you planted your seedlings or clones in a big container. This is because it’s easier for a small cannabis plant roots to get the right mixture of air and water when they’re not waterlogged in a big container.

Small Cannabis Plants Grow Faster in Small Containers

But if you do start small, you need to transfer your plants to bigger containers as they grow to ensure the roots have plenty of room to expand. When roots don’t have enough room, they’ll eventually form a “wall” around the edges of the container. This can cause an array of strange root problems.

If left in a container too long, the cannabis plant will actually become “root-bound.” Think of it as if the roots are choking themselves.The plant roots are unable to effectively get the right ratio of oxygen, water and nutrients, and unless the plant is transplanted, the problem continues to get worse as the roots wrap tighter and tighter. Some growers will even use too-small containers to constrict their cannabis plants on purpose and keep them from getting bigger! So when it comes to transplanting cannabis, you want to make sure you transplant at the right time so your plant roots never run out of room. You’ll actually be hurting their growth if you wait too long to transplant!

A root-bound cannabis plant – transplant your plants before it comes to this!

Root-bound cannabis plants grow very slowly and may even stop growing altogether. In addition to proper transplantation, you can prevent cannabis from getting rootbound by growing plants in smart pots (fabric pots) or air pots since they let air in from the sides. This automatically “prunes” the roots around the edges so they can’t form a wall. Plants don’t get rootbound, and tend to grow faster overall in containers like this compared to regular containers, but they need to watered about twice as often as a similarly sized regular pot since the growing medium is constantly being dried from the sides.

Smart Pots (Fabric Pots) & Air Pots Prevent Cannabis From Becoming Root-Bound

They also make it much harder to overwater your plants. The main drawback is they need to be watered much more often than a regular pot. (learn more about them here)

It is really nice that cannabis plants just plain grow faster in pots like smart pots and air pot. I personally recommend them if you can get a bigger size so you don’t have to water as often. Besides solo cups, fabric pots are the only type of container I use for growing cannabis in soil or coco coir! But I digress…

When a marijuana plant is root-bound, it may display a host of seemingly random symptoms such as drooping and nutrient deficiencies, but usually the main symptom is slow growth.

Root-Bound Cannabis Plant in Solo Cup

Drooping, strange leaf symptoms, yellowing and other cannabis nutrient deficiencies can be caused by a too-small container, like the plant pictured below.

The roots are unable to get the right mixture of air, water and nutrients in a too-small container because the roots are wrapped around the edges. The best (and really only) way to fix up a cannabis plant that has become rootbound is to transplant it to a new, bigger container.

Remember, it is okay to plant your young cannabis in a large container right from the beginning if you want to avoid transplanting your marijuana altogether; just know that they may grow a bit slower for the first few weeks compared to if you started them in something small like a solo cup. If you do want to achieve faster growth rates with transplanting, this tutorial gives you a good general guide to make sure you transplant at just the right time, so your plants never get stressed out, and grow as fast as possible.

There’s nothing wrong with planting seeds directly in a big container! The cannabis just grows a little bit slower at first.

How Can I Tell If My Cannabis Plant Is Rootbound?

It can be hard to know exactly when to transplant your cannabis plants into a new container. Here are some scenarios where you might consider transplanting your plants:

  • Soil is drying out too quickly – When your container is drying out only a day or two after each watering it means your plant is drinking fast and needs more water than your current container can hold
  • Plant is getting root problems – A cannabis plant can start showing root problems when it’s kept in a too-small container or if it’s become root-bound. These root problems can cause the plant to become droopy, or show unexpected leaf symptoms or deficiencies (such as spots or yellowing leaves). Whenever literally everything else is right but you’re still experiencing these problems, it may be a sign you need to transplant.
  • Plant has grown a lot or been in the same container for months. If you’re keeping a mother plant for months, or if a plant has doubled in size in the same container, those are signs you may need to transplant to prevent your plant from getting rootbound.
  • Plant is tipping over from its own weight. When your cannabis plant is much wider and taller than its container, it’s easy to tip over and therefore should be transplanted to a bigger pot that can hold it steady.
  • Plant is just plain too big for container (pics below) – There are some pictures below to give you an idea of what a plant looks like that needs to be transplanted. Some plants are just plain too big for the containers they are in.
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Now let me give you a few real-life examples you can use to refer to. The following transplanting pictures should help give you an idea of exactly when to transplant your cannabis plants!

These marijuana plants are ready to be transplanted

This cannabis seedling is ready to transplant – you can transplant a cannabis plant from a solo cup once its leaves reach the edges. Don’t wait much longer than this for a seedling in a solo cup!

This next cannabis seedling is huge for a solo cup – it should have been transplanted weeks ago! The strange curling symptoms are a sign that the roots aren’t happy. Once this plant was transplanted it started growing perfectly again.

Sometimes a rootbound cannabis plant shows strange symptoms that almost look like nutrient deficiencies and/or overwatering, when the real problem is it just needs a bigger container!

This next marijuana plant is also way too big for its solo cup. Although it still looks relatively healthy, notice the yellowing bottom leaves with spots and bluish color. If this plant isn’t transplanted to a bigger container, those leaf symptoms will continue moving up the plant and start causing problems. Additionally, most likely this plant would already be much bigger if its roots weren’t being constrained by the solo cup.

These marijuana plants aren’t showing symptoms yet, but they’re getting too big for their pots and should be transplanted soon, especially before they start flowering!

These cannabis plants are way too big for their containers and they’re starting to show strange leaf symptoms, drooping and curling because roots aren’t getting what they need

When a cannabis plant is much wider than its pot, it should be moved to a bigger container even if it’s not showing signs of being root-bound. Not only will the plant roots love the extra space, your plant won’t be so easy to tip over!

This cannabis plant was not transplanted before it started flowering. Although it was healthy its whole life, in the middle of the flowering stage it started drooping and showing these symptoms, because the plant was rootbound. Although it’s generally not recommended to transplant a marijuana plant in the flowering stage, that’s what was needed to fix up this plant and get to harvest!

Seed to Final Container: When to Transplant

1.) Start seeds or clones in a seedling plug/cube or germination station and wait until you start seeing roots come out the bottom (or skip this step and plant seeds directly in a solo cup).

This grower has waited too long before transplanting to bigger container
(it’s good to transfer once you start seeing roots)

2.) Place young plants in a solo cup with holes in the bottom to allow water to drain freely.

Make sure to cut holes in the bottom of the solo cup first, so water can drain out the bottom easily!

Just dig a small hole and stick the starter cubes directly into the new growing medium.

Allow them to grow a few sets of leaves, until the leaves reach the edges, like this…

Once the leaves have reached the edges of the solo cup, it’s time to transfer to a bigger container to prevent your seedlings from getting rootbound.

3.) Transfer plants to a 1, 2 or 3 gallon pot

Instead of pulling the whole plant out of the container, it’s often easier to just cut away the solo cup when you plan on transplanting. This is one of the advantages of starting in disposable cups – it makes transplanting easy and stress-free.

4.) Transfer again when plants double in height

Plants are ready to transfer again when they have about doubled in height.

They should look something like this…

If you’re growing big plants and your cannabis plants double in size again, you may need to transfer one more time!

5.) Transfer cannabis plants into their final container! That’s it. You’re done with transplanting your weed plants!

Now you just need to worry about taking care of your plants until you’re ready to start flowering/budding. Remember plants will usually double (or even triple) in size from when you first initiate the flowering stage.

Note: You can skip some of the steps in the cannabis transplant guide above. Just make sure you’re careful not to overwater small plants in too-big containers. Once plants start growing vigorously, you don’t need to worry as much about overwatering.

Tips For Easy & Stress-Free Transplanting

  1. Water your cannabis plants 1-2 days before transplanting. This will help the growing medium stay together (since it’s moist), but still slide out easily (since it’s not soaking wet).
  2. Before you get started, fill your new pot with potting mix. Don’t fill the pot to the top, instead leave about 2 extra inches (5 cm). That way you can easily water the plant without all the water running off the sides.
  3. Water this new container of potting mix before you begin the transplant so it’s nice and moist. If you don’t water the new soil first, it can have a hard time absorbing water after the transplant, and your roots won’t like that!
  4. Since you will soon be adding a new plant, you want to dig out a hole in the middle that’s about the size of your old container.
  5. Take your plant, and carefully slide a butter knife inside the container all around the edges to help separate the rootball from the sides of the pot. Avoid grabbing the plant directly by the stem. Try to grab the whole top with a flat hand, and turn the container upside down so you can gently pat the rootball out and catch it with your flat hand. You may have to gently pull the plant out of the container, but go slowly and be gentle!
  6. Plant the rootball directly into the new container, placing it in the hole you dug out earlier. You may need to add some extra soil to ensure a nice flat topsoil.
  7. Gently pat down around the roots, to help press everything together slightly, then water your plant immediately. If you do it right, it won’t stress your plants at all!

Minimize Transplant Shock

The process of transplanting can shock your cannabis plants, especially if you wait too long to transplant.

Learn how to avoid cannabis transplant shock!

You can help avoid causing your cannabis plants stress during transplant by following these principles:

  • Transplant your cannabis plants after their roots have begun to fill container (to help hold all the growing medium together) but before the roots have started wrapping around the edges (plants have become rootbound).​
  • Water your cannabis plants 1-2 days before transplanting. This will help the growing medium stay together (since it’s moist), but still slide out easily (since it’s not soaking wet).
  • It’s better to transfer too early than too late!
  • If the roots haven’t grown all around the sides of the root ball (plant isn’t rootbound), avoid disturbing the roots if possible. There’s no need to shake out dirt, just carefully move entire root ball directly into the next pot.
  • Make sure your plants are in their final container at least 1-2 weeks before you switch them over to the flowering stage, and avoid transplanting plants during the flowering/budding stage if you can since the stress may affect your final yields. If your cannabis plants seem like they are suffering from transplant shock (leaf symptoms, drooping, slowed growth), it can be helpful to use a seaweed kelp extract (often available as a liquid fertilizer) to help your cannabis recover more quickly.
  • If transplanting seems scary, it’s okay to plant your seed or clone in its final destination right at the beginning, just be wary of overwatering until the plant is growing vigorously and has a few sets of leaves. You can increase the amount of oxygen available to your plants by adding extra perlite to loosen the soil and allow water to drain through more easily after they’ve been transplanted for the best results!

If you follow all these steps, you may notice that your plant doesn’t show any signs of stress at all!

What Size Should my Final Container Be?

This depends on what size plant you plan to grow, since bigger plants require bigger containers, while smaller plants grow fastest in a relatively small container. For the best results, you need to match the size of your plant with the size of your container.

A general guide is to have up to 2 gallons per 12″ of height. This isn’t perfect, since plants often grow differently, and some plants are short and wide instead of tall, but this is a good rule of thumb.

So if your final (desired) plant size is…

12″ ~ 2-3 gallon container

24″ ~ 3-5 gallon container

36″ ~ 5-7 gallon container

48″ ~ 6-10 gallon container

60″ ~ 8-10+ gallon container

Go Bigger If You Need to Spend Time Away From Your Cannabis

However, if you plan on being away from your plant for more than a day or two during the grow, it can’t hurt to go up a size or two. The bigger the container, the less often you need to water. So even if you get slightly slower growth in a too-big container, you will definitely be able to spend more time away from your plants without having to water them!

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