Cultivation Corner with Olivia Sobelman: Should I be transplanting my cannabis plants?
Should I be transplanting? As with any other part of growing, there’s really no wrong answer. Most people that have gardened in any capacity know the hows and whys, but it was new to me before it wasn’t, so I want to lay it out there for anyone who has asked the question.
There are many benefits to transplanting.
To start, transplanting conserves space in your grow area.
For those who grow in soil, transplanting allows you the opportunity to introduce fresh soil and with it, fresh nutrients to your plant. Doing so negates the need to add liquid nutrients to your plants in the vegetative state, which makes that stage of your plant’s growth that much easier.
Transplanting also promotes faster top growth.
When your plant fills out its container it stops focusing so much on root growth and redirects its energy to foliage growth. When you go from a small rooting plug or from a seed into a large container you may notice that the plant’s growth appears to be frustratingly slow.
All that being said, if you transplant into your final container or at least a larger one you will eventually see explosive growth, you just need to wait long enough so that the roots really develop below.
Your plant will, in a good environment, always be growing either up top or down below.
It is highly recommended that you transplant to a large container immediately before you begin your flowering cycle.
Transplanting into your final container too early can cause your roots to over-grow over the duration and become bound which could cause plant health problems in the flowering state.
It is also advisable not to transplant after you’ve begun your flowering cycle. Plants will halt progress and stop producing buds as they redirect their energy to root production.
As roots develop, they grow down and outward until they find the edge of their container.
Up-potting, transplanting into larger and larger pots, allows you to grow bigger plants with healthier roots.
The tops of the plants, as with any other plant, tend to be generally as big as their root zone. As roots tap into your medium in search of water, they will create a nice intermingled root ball that makes transplanting easy without suffering any breakage. When you start to see roots pop out of the bottom of your plastic pots then you know the roots are well established, typically you need 2-3 weeks to fully root into a new container.
Transplant shock can occur if your roots suffer from breakage in the process. Roots that aren’t well established are more susceptible to breaking off during the process, especially if your soil or medium is saturated and heavy.
Another factor that can create a stressful transplant is if your plant is root bound. This occurs when a plant is left in its container for too long and the roots have run out of room to move.
A B-Vitamin supplement during the first watering will help to mitigate the worst of the effects of shock.
It is safe to transplant clones as soon as you see an exposed root out of a rooting cube or a rockwool block. If you are cloning in a deep water or aero cloner, you will see better results if you wait until the roots are a couple of inches long.
Transplant into a small container, preferably no larger than a one-gallon pot, to maximize your growth and create layers of root balls that create much denser root masses when you end up in your final container.
If you are transplanting into soil, make sure you have the right medium so that you don’t nutrient burn your clones, they are more fragile than well-established plants and need a seed starting soil with fewer amendments.
Once settled in its new container, heavily water your clone and do your best to let it be for as long as it will go, a week isn’t uncommon. It will promote roots growth as they search for water as the pot begins to dry out.
Fabric Pots are hard to transplant out of for the same reason the pots are great to flower in. They don’t allow your roots to bind. Once the roots reach the edge of the container the air coming through prevents them from circling the edge of the container.
To transplant out of fabric pot, just let them dry out as much as you can and roll down the sides of the fabric until the plant is free of the container. If you aren’t planning to keep the plants in a container for a long duration, fabric pots can be a disadvantage in some regards.
In the younger stages, hard containers are better. They are easy to remove from the plant and promote much faster growth. Hard plastic containers make the work easy. Let the soil dry out as much as you’re able and then with your hands, press the sides of the pot together inwards and this should shift the root zone so that if you put your hand on the base of your plant you can gently tip the plant upside down and slide off the pot.
It’s not recommended by many in the industry to transplant autoflowering plants due to the shortened amount of time. The plant can become shocked, and time can work against you on the Ruderalis timeline.
Having tried it both ways, I can objectively say that if you start your seed in a rooting plug then that is the only transplant I would recommend without worrying about stunting your growth.
Sometimes it’s fun to get in there and get your hands dirty, to see your roots and the fruits of your labors throughout the process. I like knowing what my plants look like, so it’s nice to get a sneak peek when up-potting. You can start to tell which soil the plants do and don’t like, which beneficial bacteria they really respond to, and if you are having any root health problems early on. If you aren’t transplanting currently, try a side-by-side comparison. If you are transplanting, but think you could benefit from doing it more often, then I encourage you to experiment.
Happy growing everyone.
Olivia Sobelman has been a cannabis grower for 10 years and was part of a team that won the US Cannabis Cup Awards three times. Sobelman and her husband, Tyler, own and operate The Grow Depot Hydroponics Store in Mid-Missouri. Fast becoming “The Plant Doctors,” The Sobelmans’ mission to educate and destigmatize cannabis is at the root of their business. Grow depot offers access to free consultations for patients and growers, both in-person and by phone, to diagnose and mend many issues in the garden. Visit Grow Depot for grower tutorials, past articles, and to learn more about the services they offer and their contributions to the cannabis community.