Transplanting your cannabis plants can be one of the trickiest parts of growing your marijuana plants. It may seem overwhelming, but when properly researched it can be done with ease by just about anyone.
About Transplanting Marijuana Plants
Once your plants have established a stable root system, they are ready for a period of major foliage growth.
So what makes transplanting cannabis so important? What would even happen if you didn’t do it? In this article, we will answer those questions, and will dive into the following topics:
If you don’t transplant your plants in time they might get rootbound. Rootbound means that the roots have grown all the way around the edges and bottom of the container because it is nog big enough. Your plant will not grow any more until you transplant it to a larger container.
The following symptoms are signs that your plant is rootbound:
- Stunted Growth
- Smaller and slower bud production
- Needs watering too often
- Easy to burn with low % nutrient solution mixtures
- Red stems
The right time to transplant your cannabis plants is when they have an established, sturdy root system in place. This is the case when the roots grow out of the bottom of the pot. The plant is ready to focus its energy on vegetative growth now, so it needs to be moved to a larger container.
Note: Marijuana plants need around 2 gallons of soil for each foot of growth… Read all about it in my Grow Guide.
You will need to educate yourself about how to do this properly, since making even a small mistake during the process could have a devastating effect. You will also have to carefully choose where you are going to put your cannabis plants permanently to live out their adult lives.
Transplanting cannabis plants at this stage is always necessary, regardless of how you sprouted your plants to begin with. They simply cannot thrive if they are grown in containers for their whole lives, so you cannot avoid the transplantation process. The best way to deal with this is through research and planning.
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So what could happen if you make a mistake while transplanting your cannabis plants? Your plants could go into shock, which might cause their leaves to turn yellow and then wither, finally dying and dropping off the plant altogether. In some more serious cases, the plant itself could actually die from the trauma.
While risky, transplanting your plants will have an overwhelmingly positive effect (when done responsibly). It will help speed up the maturing process of the plant while simultaneously requiring even less hands-on care from you as the grower. In summary, it’s well worth the risk and hassle in the end.
Indoor or outdoor transplanting?
Before beginning the transplanting process, you will first need to make some decisions about your permanent grow site. The location is everything, as it will determine your cannabis plants’ growing environment (and, therefore, their rate of success) as well as your own security.
If you want more control over the environment in which your plants are growing, you may be interested in setting up a permanent grow site indoors. With this method, you can grow all your plants in larger separate containers of some sort (check these containers).
This can be a great way to ensure the health of your plants since you would control every aspect of their lives. On the other hand, growing your cannabis plants indoors will also require you to use a lot more money, time, and effort. Whether it is light, food, water, temperature or ventilation, you will have to provide it yourself.
For growers on a budget or who prefer a more natural method of growing, setting up a grow site outdoors might make the most sense. It costs much less in both money and effort.
That being said, with this method it is even more important to choose the right grow site for your plants, since it will have a significant effect on both the environment around your plants, as well as your own personal security. It will need to be a safe place with easy access, where you can ensure safety for both yourself and your cannabis plants.
When to transplant
The basic idea behind transplanting at a certain time is to do it when your plants’ roots have reached as far as they can grow within the constraints of their container. Roots actually tend to grow further and faster when they are enclosed in a container; it’s almost as if they are eager to reach open space as soon as possible.
Strangely enough, roots that are already planted straight into the ground do not grow with the same amount of urgency. So what happens if you leave your plants in a container for too long? The answer is simple: they’ll just stop growing altogether.
Containers are not the only thing guilty of causing such a response in the plant. Peat plugs can do the same thing since their mesh perimeter usually acts as a hindrance to the roots, and they stop growing as if they were contained in a plastic pot. This will cause them to stop growing as well.
Once your cannabis plants have sprouted, two leaves that are oblong in shape will start to be visible. These are called cotyledons and they come out from the one tiny stem that will pop up from the soil. They don’t resemble the easily recognized marijuana leaves, but after just a few days they will drop off and normal marijuana leaves will emerge. This shows you that your plants are beginning their seedling phase of life.
Plants in this phase are still relatively small in size, but their roots will begin to grow and develop into a proper root system. This system, though nicely developed, is still quite fragile.
You cannot yet move your plants while they are in their seedling phase, but do ensure that they have plenty of light and water (or just moisture in the soil). The seedling phase can be between two and six weeks long. Read How to grow strong plants ready to transplant
So how can you identify the time when your plants are ready for transplantation?
Doing it too early would be devastating for your tender seedlings, so you must act with caution. Once you suddenly are seeing faster growth of leaves as well as a firmer stem. You can test the firmness of the stem by grabbing it with your hand (gently) without doing any damage to it. If these things are happening to your young plants, they have officially entered the vegetative growth stage of their life.
You can, of course, begin the growing season a bit earlier by using peat plugs. This is ideal for growers who are located in climates where the growing season is naturally shorter.
If you do go with peat plugs, make sure you are always aware of the mesh perimeters and whether root tendrils are emerging from underneath them. As soon as you see this you will need to transplant the seedlings into a bigger container or else into the ground outdoors. If you don’t, the growth of your plant could remain stunted forever.
How to transplant
The first thing you need to do when transplanting your plants to a new, permanent location is to choose a spot for it. There are three types of locations that you can choose between.
The first one is an indoor location that can be accessed with ease, but is not easily noticed by other people. A second option would be to move your plants outdoors, where many of the valuable resources they need come at no cost to you. The third option is a sort of indoor-outdoor hybrid: you can move your plants to larger containers, but in turn move these containers outdoors temporarily.
During the first 3 weeks of flowering root-binding can seriously decrease your yield. The buds and leaves wont continue to grow because the plant cant grow new roots to support them
If you are most concerned about the discovery of your plants, the third option might be for you because it means that you will be able to quickly relocate your crop in case of detection. It also works well for moving your plants away from pests.
Out of the three options, moving your plants from one container to another is most likely the simplest and most straightforward option available to you.
No matter what option you choose to go with, there are a few key factors to your successful transplantation. First and most obviously, you need to make sure that new soil (whether in the ground or in containers) is fully prepared before you begin the transplantation process.
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If you are moving the plants into new pots, make sure that each pot is 4 gallons at the very smallest if it’s their permanent container. If you are going to move your plants to an outdoor location, simply dig a hole that is a few inches greater in size than the pots that your plants have been living in thus far. Make sure to have piles of dug up soil around the hole as well, so that you can push it back in once you have completed the move.
You should actually keep the plants in the soil that they have already been growing since it will reduce the amount of shock that it undergoes, and will instead ease your plant into its new environment. If you have grown your plants within a closet until now, they are especially susceptible to shock, so be particularly cautious.
The next factor that you need to pay attention to is the condition of the soil that your plants are currently living in. It needs to be moist but not wet, and not dry enough to crumble. The most important thing is that your soil sticks together during the transplantation, keeping the shape of its original container (wiki on transplanting).
The process is simple. Put the palm of your hand on the soil in its original pot, keeping the plant’s stem between two of your middle fingers. Your other hand should be beneath the plant. Using both hands, smoothly flip the pot upside-down, putting the full contents and weight of the plant and its soil into your hand that’s holding the stalk of the plant.
Then put away the container, as you will no longer be needing it, and put your hand back on the bottom of the contents, where you should be able to see the white tendrils of the roots. You then put the whole thing into one of the holes you have already dug in the ground.
Do not panic if large pieces of soil fall from the roots of the plant. Your only priority is getting the plant’s roots back underground and covered completely with soil. With a peat plug, the mesh surrounding your plant’s roots should be pulled off and discarded since your plant will no longer be engulfed by water.
Once you have pushed all the soil onto plant’s roots, make sure to give those roots plenty of water. Use up a full gallon that has added plant food.
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The last step is simply to cover up the soil that has been exposed to natural debris and leaves that are already at this location. This will both slow down the evaporation of the water you just poured, as well as camouflage your garden from unexpected discovery.
Once the plant is fully grown you will need to start thinking about flowering and harvest time. Our free little Harvest Guide will help you determine the best moment to cut your plants. Download it here.
When you are transplanting your cannabis plants, there are a few specific things you should be sure to avoid. The following steps are most important to remember when going through a transplant:
- Avoid watering your plants for a day or two before the planned transplant.
- Always take care of the roots. In other words, don’t touch them. The less the roots are disturbed during the transplant, the more likely that it will be successful.
- Use nutrients that are only half-strength in your water, and water your plant immediately after its transplant.
- Avoid hitting your plant with intense light in the first one or two days directly after the transplant.
- Download my free Grow Bible for more tips
The whole process can be risky, but when some simple measures are taken to lower that risk, you should have a highly successful transplant and harvest.
Thanks for reading. Please leave comments or questions about transplanting cannabis below and don’t forget to download my free grow bible
The founder of I Love Growing Marijuana, Robert Bergman, is a marijuana growing expert that enjoys sharing his knowledge with the world. He combines years of experience, ranging from small-scale grows to massive operations, with a passion for growing. His articles include tutorials on growing... [read more]