Logic begs the question: Why not plant your cannabis seeds in their final pot from the start, rather than move them from pot to pot and risk transplant shock? Because the proper transplanting routine will actually make young cannabis plants grow faster in the vegetative state. The reason? It’s easier for tiny plant roots to get the ideal mixture of air, water and nutrients when they’re not waterlogged in an oversized pot.
Starting small, however, requires growers to transfer their plants into larger containers at the ideal time, making sure delicate roots have ample space to expand. If they lack the appropriate room, these roots will begin to circle and form a wall around the edges of the pot. Eventually – if left in the container – this causes a cannabis plant to become rootbound. When the roots aren’t able to absorb the right level of water, oxygen and nutrients, they’ll become wrapped tighter and tighter and will impede growth rather than facilitate it.
One of the best ways to prevent your plants from becoming rootbound is to use aeration pots, like the fabric & plastic ones RediRoot offers. These containers give your cannabis roots maximum exposure to oxygen while air pruning roots, or allowing the root tips to dry out when they meet dry air, prompting the plant to produce new feeder roots. The result is a healthy, vigorous root structure.
But, in order to maximize growth in the vegetative state, you don’t want to start with a two or three-gallon pot. So, let’s start at the beginning.
It All Begins with the Seedling or Clone
Whether you grow from seed or from a clone, the most crucial part of the cannabis plant’s lifecycle is at the beginning. After your seed is germinated or your clone is cut, this bean or cutting needs a nurturing environment to plant its roots and develop a healthy root zone. Seedlings and clones that struggle from the beginning often don’t stand a chance at fully flourishing later in life.
Traditionally, growers would choose rockwool or oasis cubes, jiffy plugs or a coco-based plug. These options come with a small hole that make it easy to place a seed or cutting (you can make the hole bigger if needed for hearty stems). With proper care, roots will grow out of the bottom, and you’ll be ready to easily transplant into your container.
Old-school soil growers might opt for a tried-and-true approach: utilizing a simple seed starting soil mix in a standard six pack. For those who want to get techy, try a RediRoot plastic aeration cell. Or, simply use the seed starting mix with 3.5-to 4-inch pots or plastic cups (be sure to cut holes).
First Transplant: From Seedling or Clone to Bigger Pot
The seedling/cloning phase can take anywhere from two to six weeks. As your babies begin to grow, pay attention to their root development as the white strands emerge from the cube or other growing medium. Once your seedlings have sprouted their 4th or 5th set of leaves, it’s time to choose a successor container.
Make sure your receiving pot is filled with your grow medium, that your soil is moistened (fresh roots don’t enjoy bone-dry soil), and there is ample space to safely transplant. If you’re potting into a bigger container with dirt, leave enough room in the larger pot so that you can water sufficiently. For growers using rockwool or oasis, gently pull apart the cubes while being careful not to disturb the roots. Carefully dip your roots in to your mycorrhizae (we like VAM by BioAg) and place in the new container. If you opted for soil or another loose growing medium, turn it upside down and gently tap the bottom to loosen the seedling. Starting with the roots, gently slide the cannabis plant from its former home, and into the larger pot. Put a bit of fresh soil (to account for any lost in the transplant process) all around the sides and on the top and add a healthy amount of water.
To prevent transplant shock, avoid intense light, don’t disrupt the roots and be sure your hands are clean or wear gloves to protect the fragile roots from any potential contamination. The first transplant presents the biggest risk for shock, so be sure to keep your surroundings sanitary and take the time to carefully perform this initial transplant. Another way to help reduce transplant shock is to use Mills Vitalize and Start R, at half strength.
While seed starts are used for outdoor growing or mother plants, clones are used for any short-growing style, which includes indoor and light deprivation greenhouses.
A good rule of thumb is that your cannabis plants need two gallons of soil for every 12 inches of growth in the vegetative stage. From here, all subsequent transplants should be based on root expansion and whether you’re growing from seeds (primarily outdoor) or clones (indoor/greenhouse) – this will make the biggest difference between pot sizes.
If you’re growing outdoors or making mother plants, your cannabis will need to veg between four and six months in order to reach maturity and may be up potted more than once before reaching their final home. Growers may transplant their outdoor plants from 4-inch pots to 1- or 2-gallon pots, to 5- or 7-gallon containers, and then into 100+ gallons for the remainder of for the rest of the season. The largest size pots will house the plants for months prior to flowering.
For shorter growing cycles, clones are ideal because they’re already proven phenotypes that you don’t have to sex – they’re all guaranteed females. Clones are as old as the plant from which the cuttings are taken, and often take just one to two weeks until they’re rooted. This means you won’t need as big of a container for plants. For an indoor or greenhouse application, it’s a good idea to transplant one, even two weeks before you flip your lights to the 12 hours off / 12 hours on flowering cycle. Doing this will allow your cannabis plants to maximize their growth in that particular pot before they advance.
Keep in mind that each environment and growing style will vary, naturally. Whatever your chosen method, be sure to transplant before your plants become rootbound. With RediRoot containers, this is never a problem. The company’s innovate design reduces circling roots and prepares plants for transplantation, thanks to the air pruning capabilities. If you’re not sure what size pots are ideal for your grow, the Garden Rebels team can listen to your goals and help you determine the best time to up-pot, and which size pots would be ideal for your situation.
When you’re finished vegging and ready to flower, now is the time for the final transplant – this is where your crop will remain until harvest. Make your final container has plenty of space to allow for full development.
The right size pot depends on a number of factors: indoor, light-dep, full season? From seed or from clone? Growing inland or on the coast? There are so many factors that will determine your final container size. For example, if you’re growing full-season cannabis from seed, you might want a 600-gallon fabric pot. If you’re growing indoor from a clone, you might opt for a 7-gallon plastic pot. A light-dep run from a clone might utilize a 7-gallon fabric pot (or raised beds), while 10-gallons would work on the coast. Pro tip: Always ask yourself “will the plant be in the container long enough to fill the pot with roots?” If the answer is no, you’re wasting money on soil.
Be sure to transplant before your plants start to flower, as transplant shock can eradicate your crop. Also, give your crop at least one, if not two weeks after the transplanting is complete before you initiate flowering, as this gives them enough time to adjust.
All in all, if you transplant with care, the benefits can be significant – a healthy, fast-growing crop that generates big yields.
If you need advice on transplanting or are looking to purchase air pruning pots for your cannabis grow, contact Garden Rebels today. We offer special pricing for commercial grows and can help ensure a thriving, successful crop!