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Guide To Transplanting Cannabis Plants - How and When

Curious how to transplant weed plants and when? Learn to transplant cannabis plants like a pro! Last updated 06/12/2022

    Is your seedling or clone ready for transplanting? Is your plant growing too big for its pot? Here we look at how to transplant cannabis plants into a new container. Knowing exactly when to give your precious plant a new home can give you vital growing time and encourage more exceptional early growth. The end result – a well-grown strain with healthy, potent buds. Learn everything you need to transplant weed right here.

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    Importance of Transplanting Marijuana Plants

    Transplanting is a vital step to implement as your plant grows because it gives its roots extra space to flourish.

    As your cannabis plant’s roots begin to spread beneath the soil, they’ll eventually come into contact with the container’s confines. In hard containers, this causes the plant to become “root bound” as they begin to circle one another for available space. You want to avoid this because it's inefficient for nutrient and oxygen intake and runs the risk of choking the plant.

    When you notice any signs that your plant is growing too large for its container, it's time to transplant your plant into a larger pot so that its roots can naturally grow without damaging one another. Depending on your strain and its growth potential, you’ll need to transplant it to a larger pot at different times. Many growers opt to plant multiple seeds at once to test their germinating potential before transplanting as seedlings, and then transplant their plants again as they grow about 1 to 2 weeks before flowering.

    Transplanting marijuana plants during flowering?

    Either way, you want to be transplanting your growing plant before it begins the flowering phase. The only exception to this is if your flowering plant is visibly suffering. A root bound plant will produce inferior yields as it is starved of nutrients during the important flowering process. The whole point of transplanting before this phase begins is to enable the best quality yields.

    Why not start in the final pot?

    While you can start your cannabis plant’s journey in its final pot, this is often a colossal waste of nutrients. A large pot requires more soil, fertilizer and water to keep its contents healthy. If you begin your plant’s journey here, you run the risk of drying out the soil because it commands a larger surface area. What’s more, starting seedlings in larger containers is far slower than keeping things small. That’s because the roots are not developed enough to retrieve the necessary nutrients from the wide expanses of soil below.

    If you are too wary of transplanting and want to start in the final pot anyway, just ensure that you are not overwatering your plant to compensate. You can always aerate your soil with perlite to help the water drain easily to the roots.

    Transplanting autoflowers as well?

    Although starting your cannabis plant in its final pot isn’t recommended for normal photoperiod strains, autoflowers are an exception. Plants from autoflower seeds grow far quicker, smaller and without light prompts. That means they fit a very specific schedule of growth based on time instead of light changes. As such, transplanting an autoflower can actually limit growth by causing transplant shock. This can be caused when either roots become damaged in the process, unclean materials are introduced, or the nutrients and pH levels in the soil are not the same in the new container. This can stunt growth.

    While cannabis strains from feminized seeds can be given the time to recover by being kept in the vegetative phase, autoflowers can’t. They’re limited by a short growing window that, if interrupted, can greatly affect yield quality. It’s recommended that you start your autoflower strains in their final container. There are some exceptions to this, particularly if you have great experience transplanting and your autoflower strain is on the larger, slower growth side. Still, it’s best not to risk it when working with compact autoflowers.

    When to Transplant Cannabis?

    There are many tell-tale signs that it’s time to transplant your cannabis plant into a more spacious pot. If your plant shows any of the following symptoms, it’s best to check their roots for signs of being root bound. Simply remove them from their containers gently. Overgrown roots are easy to spot, and you may even be able to see them dangling from the pot’s holes below. If in doubt, just take a peek to discover if your plant’s roots are at risk. Here are some good indicators that you should transplant your seedling or young plant:

    Number of leaves

    If you’re starting seeds in a small container, you can transplant your seedlings as soon as they sprout between 4 and 5 sets of leaves. This depends entirely on your as some grow in different shapes and sizes.

    Soil drying out quickly

    The presence of dry soil despite following a specific water regimen is a sign that your plant can’t get enough nutrients. This may be because the roots are growing too large for their pot, a sign of a root bound plant.

    Stunted growth (root bound)

    Stunted or slow growth is a tell-tale sign of your plant becoming root bound. Cannabis is genetically supposed to be grown outdoors in nature where its roots can spread out. Look out for stunted buds during the flowering phase or drooping leaves that are close to wilting.

    Plant is getting too big

    Plants that are too big for their container become top-heavy and easy to tip over. This is a sign that it's time to transplant them into bigger pots. It’s always best to act preventatively, transplanting your cannabis before it is allowed to get too big.

    Red stems

    Red stems are a sign of nutrient deficiencies and stress. Stems turn red often because they are not receiving adequate amounts of phosphorus and magnesium. As such, your plant may be root bound and require transplanting into a larger container in fresh soil.

    How to Transplant Marijuana plants?

    1. Wash your hands
    2. Water before transplanting
    3. Prepare the new pot
    4. Remove the plant from its old pot
    5. Transfer to a new pot
    6. Water again

    1. Wash your hands

    Cleanliness is important to prevent any mishaps during the transplant process and to reduce the risk of shock. Begin by washing your hands and tools (if used). You can even wear sterile gloves if preferred. Many find going gloveless easier to manage, as you can get a better grip and a more sensitive feel of the plant’s roots and soil.

    2. Water before transplanting

    A key tip for transplanting is to always water a day or two before you move them, and to skip watering on the day you transplant. You want your soil to be slightly moist but not wet as this will help the root ball stick together. Wet soil breaks away and exposes loose roots, opening the possibility of damage and making the process more difficult. You don't want your soil to be dry, either, as it's too brittle to handle.

    3. Prepare the new pot

    Fill your new pot with some high-quality fresh soil. Layer your soil at the bottom of the pot and create a hole in the center for your plant. Don't over-pack your new container, simply line the bottom and sides with extra soil at hand for after transplanting.

    It's good practice to dim the lights low during this whole process, or begin transplanting during your plant’s dark schedule. This avoids exposing your plant’s roots to direct sunlight or grow lights that can harm them.

    4. Remove the plant from its old pot

    Removing your plant takes great care. In most cases, you can easily slide out the root ball and get rid of its old container. Do this by getting a firm grip on the stem just above the soil. Tip the pot over while keeping the stem balanced between your fingers in your palm. The container will slip right off, revealing the root ball which you can then carry carefully with your other hand.

    If the root ball is stuck, try squeezing or tapping the side of your container to loosen the soil. Some more stubborn plants require extra coaxing with a knife. Cut around the soil in line with the pot’s edge to free it. Be careful not to jab too deep, or you may cut the roots. Avoid grabbing the plant and pulling it out – try and let gravity do its work, or simply lay the plant pot horizontally and gently shake to release.

    5. Transfer to a new pot

    Carrying the root ball firmly but carefully with one hand while maintaining balance around the stem with the other, gently lift the plant into its new home. If your root ball is dense, loosen the compact nest of roots with your fingers to enable them to spread out in the new pot. Use the extra soil at hand to fill the gaps after transfer. Be sure not to pack your new plant too tightly, as the roots need to grow and adjust freely. 

    Related: Best Pot Size for Cannabis Plants 

    6. Water again

    Once your plant is safely in its new pot, water the soil. This helps the plant settle into its new surroundings. You can add extras like root stimulants at this point to help get things going and to prevent shock. Keep an eye on your plant over the next few days and keep stress levels low. That means no training methods of pruning as your plant adjusts to its new pot.

    Some growers opt to keep their lights lower than normal during this period as their plant settles in. Continue watering as normal, but don’t go overboard on the nutrients. Once you’ve spotted healthy new growth, it’s safe to continue growing your cannabis plant as normal. Some plants react differently to this process and recover in as little as one day, while others can take up to two weeks to stabilize.

    Final thoughts on Transplanting weed plants

    Whether you're transplanting precious seedlings into individual pots or re-homing a plant that has grown too big for its container, transplanting is an essential part of growing cannabis. The real trick to transplanting growing plants is to wait for the roots to fill their current container enough so that they hold the growing medium together, but not so much that they begin to wrap around the edges (or become root bound). After all, it’s always easier to transplant your cannabis early rather than later.