Common Seedling Problems & Mistakes
Before we take a look at cannabis seedling problems and common beginner mistakes, let’s show you what healthy cannabis seedlings and young plants look like! If your plants look like this, you’re golden!
Healthy Cannabis Seedlings Look Like This!
Examples of healthy cannabis seedlings:
Cannabis seedlings start with two round leaves known as “cotyledons.” These leaves are already formed inside the seed and simply open up once the seed has sprouted. After the cotyledons emerge, the “true” (serrated) cannabis leaves will start to grow from the center.
As they get older, the leaves start looking more like the cannabis leaf you are probably most familiar with. Here’s what those seedlings look like as they start growing into healthy young cannabis plants…
Now that you know what healthy young cannabis plants look like; let’s take a look at some common seedling problems to avoid so your plants grow as fast and healthy as possible!
Common Cannabis Seedling Problems
Symptoms: seedling is droopy, growing medium is moist, damping off
Most common causes:
When a cannabis plant is “overwatered” it has less to do with the water and more to do with oxygen. Plants can even grow directly in water (hydroponics) but in order to thrive, roots need oxygen. In hydroponics, that’s accomplished by dissolving oxygen into the water. But when plants are grown in a container, too much water = not enough oxygen.
When a plant’s roots are sitting in water, they quickly use up all the oxygen until the growing medium starts to dry out. Without enough oxygen at the roots, the plant will start showing symptoms of oxygen deprivation. Luckily, there are many steps you can take to prevent overwatering your cannabis plants.
While overwatering can display many different symptoms, most overwatered cannabis plants look droopy, like this…
Despite what seems like an obvious cause, several different scenraios can end in overwatering. Here are some of the most common trouble-makers:
Big Pot, Small Seedling
When you have a small plant in a very big pot, it’s easy to overwater because the roots aren’t drinking much yet, and the big container takes a long time to dry out.
Notice how the plants in smaller containers have grown more than the plant that was put in a big container as a seedling. It’s common for plants in too-big containers to grow a little slowly at first.
- (Recommended) Start seedlings in smaller container until they’re growing vigorously, then transfer to a larger container
- If seedling is already in a big container, there’s still hope! When watering, give just a little water at a time in a small circle around the seedling. Then allow the top inch of your medium to mostly dry before watering again. Once the plant is growing vigorously, start watering as normal (with extra runoff water coming out the bottom every time)
These small cannabis plants (below) were put in big pots, and were given enough water to support a much larger plant. The plants couldn’t drink all the water that was given to them and as a result, their roots weren’t able to get the oxygen they needed and started “drowning.” Once the roots are out of commission, the leaves start drooping.
One way to prevent this from happening is to make sure your plants are in an appropriately sized container for each stage of their life; this is done with transplanting.
First, you need to get a general idea of the final container size which will be based on how big you want your plants to grow. The less often you transplant, the bigger the final size pot you’ll need because the roots will tend to grow out and cover the whole container if left too long. You can help avoid problems with roots getting rootbound by using a fabric pot (also known as a “Smart Pot”) or an air pot.
Final Container for Desired Plant Size – General guide
(the less often you transplant your plants, the bigger final size you’ll need)
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
But what size pot should you use for your seedlings?
For fastest growth rates, it’s better to plant young seedlings or clones in a very small container, like a disposable plastic solo cup.
For new seedlings and clones, use a small container if possible
Easy transplant guide – some popular transplant guideline:
- Solo cup -> 1 gal -> 3 gal
- Solo cup -> 1 gal -> 5 gal
- Solo cup -> 2 gal -> 5 gal
- Solo cup -> 1.5 gal -> 3 gal -> 5+ gal
There is no perfect transplant guide, but the one above should give you a general idea of where to start.
Why don’t you want to go from a solo cup to a 5 gallon pot? Or why not just start in a 5 gallon pot?
Young plants won’t be growing very fast yet, so they also won’t be using much water. When you completely saturate a big container that slow speed means that the plant won’t be able to drink all the water. Since so much of the water is contained in the middle without access to air, it won’t be able to dry out by evaporation. This means you’re left with a huge container full of wet potting mix.
The young cannabis plant roots will quickly use up all the available oxygen that’s been dissolved in the water, and then the roots will sit in water until the water slowly evaporates on its own. Some containers such as smart pots and air pots allow air in from the sides, which can help dry the growing medium faster, but it’s better to use proper technique from the beginning.
Planting in too big a container is sometimes called “overpotting.” It’s possible to get around this with special watering techniques (for example by giving plants just a little bit of water until they start “growing into” their containers) but starting plants in small containers and transplanting as needed can be a more straightforward way for some growers. Overpotting plants is also a waste of growing medium and nutrients, especially if the plants never get big enough to fully use their containers.
This OG Tahoe Kush seedling was overpotted, though this can be overcome by the grower just giving a little bit of water at a time until the plant starts growing vigorously. At that point, the grower can provide more and more water until they’re finally watering normally.
More information about container size and transplanting here: https://www.growweedeasy.com/germinate#what-size-pot
Small Pot, Big Seedling
While using a too-large container can cause problems for seedlings, so can too-small of a container.
Seedlings are happy in a small container like a solo cup for a while, but as they get bigger, their roots need more room. The roots tend to wrap around the outsides of the container, encasing the middle part so that water can’t get out. This is known as the plant being “root bound.”
If the seedling isn’t transferred to a bigger container in time, it can cause symptoms of overwatering, nutrient deficiencies, wilting, and sometimes very strange and unpredictable symptoms.
These plants were left in a too-small container for too long. Because they were drinking so fast, the grower watered them frequently – too frequently! This combination of being root bound and overwatering caused the plants to suffer.
A too small container, combined with overwatering – these conditions can cause some strange symptoms that often look like a nutrient deficiency
Pink leaves, red discoloration, rusty spots and edges… While it make look like these cannabis seedlings are experiencing nutrient deficiencies, all these symptoms are actually caused by a combination of overwatering plus a too-small pot.
When the roots aren’t happy, the plant isn’t able to uptake nutrients properly and cannabis seedlings can show a wide variety of strange problems.
It’s usually not a good sign when cannabis leaves start “crossing their fingers” like this (instead of having all the leaf tips spread out). While this can happen naturally every once in a while, you know for sure that you’re having a problem if the crossed fingers are combined with discoloration of the leaves. Also notice how the stems are bright red/pink.
The following cannabis plant was also overwatered and had no drainage. Notice how dark the soil is and the green algae growing all along the top of the soil – these are more signs the plant has been overwatered for quite a while. You should never water your plant when the soil on top is still wet, and if you notice lots of algae growing on top of your soil, it may be a sign that you’re overwatering on a regular basis. Leaving the top of the soil wet is also the number one reason growers get fungus gnats.
No Drainage (or poor drainage)
Cannabis roots need oxygen to thrive, and therefore they will have trouble if the roots are “drowned.” If water cannot run out the bottom of the container, it will pool at the roots, which causes overwatered plants.
- Always start with a good growing medium that drains well – never use a clay based soil which holds onto way too much water. A high quality potting mix (especially mixed with some perlite) provides great drainage
- Start with a smaller container to reduce the chances of overwatering seedlings
- Make sure there are plenty of drainage holes to let water out the bottom of the container
- If water runs through growing medium slowly, you can mix perlite into the potting mix to increase oxygen and quicken drainage
- Water less often and less at a time until plant is drinking more
- Get a container that helps the growing medium dry out from the sides (such as “Smart Pots” – highly recommended; or air pots).
- Don’t allow plants to sit in a tray that has been collecting runoff water
This seedling started “damping off” (dying) due to terrible drainage from bad soil. Never use soil that looks like it contains clay!
Seedling is “damping off” due to bad soil with no drainage
Here’s another example of a seedling damping off due to too much water (drowning roots), whis time combined with not enough light. After a few days of these conditions, this seedling just fell over and started dying.
The following plant was grown in an unsuitable growing medium with no drainage and started showing signs of overwatering. Always start with a quality potting mix that has good drainage, and never allow the top of your growing medium to look this wet!
This “soil” is more like mud. The plant roots are drowning from lack of oxygen, causing severe wilting.
Watering too often
While oxygen is available to the roots immediately after watering, the roots use up all the oxygen quickly if they are sitting in water. If all the oxygen is gone, roots are not able to get what they need to help power growth, at least not until the growing medium begins to dry out and create new air spaces in the growing medium.
Keep roots happy for fast-growing plants
Each air spot in the potting mix provides roots with precious oxygen, but if there’s no air spots, roots start to “drown.” By watering seedlings less often, growers can ensure that roots are getting access to plenty of oxygen at all times.
Of course you should never allow roots to actually dry out – roots need moisture at all times. But for new growers who want to do everything possible for their new seedlings, it can seem like more water = better. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.
Roots work best when they get as much oxygen as possible while also staying completely moist at all times.
- Wait until top inch is dry. Make sure that the top bit of potting mix has started to dry before you water seedlings again. Sometimes it can take a few days, depending on your growing medium, your environment and how much water you provided during the last watering.
- Increase the number of air pockets in the growing medium by mixing in a “lighter” amendment like perlite to the potting mix. Perlite will allow the mix to hold onto more oxygen when mixed with heavy soil. Many cannabis soil growers will mix 30-40% perlite into their potting mix to make sure there’s lots of drainage and plenty of air available for the roots.
- Provide air from the sides. Transplant to a container which allows air in from the sides like fabric pots (“Smart Pots” – highly recommended) or air pots. until plant gets bigger so there’s less water in the potting mix that needs to dry. You’ll be able to water your plants more often while ensuring they get plenty of oxygen.
- Water less when it’s cold. Plant processes tend to slow down when temps get cooler. This means that plants usually need water less often than normal after a cold snap.
This plant went through a few cool days but the grower continued to water as normal. As a result, the plants roots were surrounded by too much water and the plant started showing signs of overwatering.
The plant was watered the right amount each time, but too often. As a result, it shows some slight drooping. While this won’t kill the plant, the plant will definitely grow faster when the mix is allowed to dry out a bit so the roots are getting plenty of oxygen.
2.) Underwatering – seedling is droopy, wilting, or not growing properly, and the growing medium around the seedling isn’t moist
While overwatering is the most common seedling symptom, underwatering is also a problem, especially for those who have been warned to avoid giving too much water.
It can be confusing because the symptoms often look similar to each other, which is why it’s important to learn good watering practices.
This seedling was underwatered – the grower had been warned many times to avoid overwatering, and went too far in the other direction. Notice that the growing medium looks bone dry.
It’s crucially important to make sure that plant roots have access to moisture at all times. Plants are constantly losing water through their leaves (called “transpiration”) and this is actually how plants get water up from the roots. As the plants lose water from the leaves, it pulls water up from the ground like a straw.
When there’s not enough water at the roots, many plant processes cease to function. If roots actually dry out, the dried shoots die.
Here’s another example of a young cannabis plant that is underwatered, even in a big container (where the problem is usually overwatering). Notice how this cannabis seedling is basically just wilting and falling over, while the potting mix looks completely dry.
Seedlings suffer greatly from being underwatered, even more so than from overwatering. Often the grower will actually be able to see how dry the growing medium is. A big sign that the plant is being under-watered is when you can see the soil separating from the container. In this case, you can see the starter cube separating from the soil because it’s so dry.
Underwatering is bad on it’s own, but it causes the most problems when young cannabis seedlings are also stressed by too high levels of nutrients, or when started in a “hot” (nutrient-enriched) soil.
When underwatering is combined with too much nutrients, seedlings often become dark green and stunted, with twisted and discolored new growth.
The solution for this (underwatering + high levels of nutrients) is simply to give the plants more water so they can establish roots and start growing again. Most plants will be able to grow out of this problem once they get enough water to start growing. While it’s not always the best idea to start out with a hot soil mix, most seedlings will easily grow into it if given a good growing environment.
This cannabis seedling is dark because it was underwatered in a “hot” soil mix, but after watering the plant as normal for a week or two, the plant started growing vigorously
3.) Nutrient Problems – leaves are yellow, discolored, crispy or have spots
Healthy cannabis leaves on seedlings should be green! Again, here’s what healthy leaves look like.. .
Healthy Leaves Look Like This
When the cannabis leaves of young plants stop being green, you need to react. Changes of color (such as yellowing, spots, burnt tips, etc) are usually a sign that there’s a problem when it comes to young cannabis plants.
The leaves of young cannabis plants & seedlings should be green!
Some common seedling nutrient problems include…
Too Much Nutrients
A nutrient toxicity is most common in dry or hot conditions, when starting in “hot” soil, and when plants are underwatered.
Two of the most common signs of nutrient toxicty are tip burn and dark leaves.
Tip burn is a sure sign that the plant took up too much nutrients
A closeup of nutrient tip burn
Nutrient burned tips eventually start curling upwards if nutrient levels are too high for too long
Very dark leaves often indicate a nitrogen toxicity (too much nitrogen)
If a nitrogen toxicity is left too long, it starts causing other nutrient problems, like the yellow lines on the bottom leaves of this plant.
Causes of Nutrient Toxicity
- “Hot” Potting Mix – Sometimes seedlings get a nutrient toxicity when started ing a “hot” potting mix (one that has a lot of nutrients). If it’s good soil and you’re watering properly, your seedlings will be able to grow out of this relatively quickly.
- Slow-Release Soil – Nutrient toxicities are common when grower start with a “extended release” soil like Miracle-Gro original soil – you don’t want any type of soil that will be slowly releasing nitrogen throughout the grow; it will cause nutrient burn and reduced bud development in the flowering stage. Avoid original Miracle-Gro soil and any other slow-release soils!
- Give Nutrients Too Soon – Giving nutrients too early will overload the seedling with nutrients – in a good soil potting mix, additional nutrients usually aren’t needed for the first few weeks at least
- Give Too Much Nutrients At Once – Giving too much nutrients at once can cause a toxicity overnight – always start at half the recommended dose according to the nutrient schedule (most cannabis nutrients come with a nutrient schedule), and see how your plants react before upping the dose
Too much nutrients too soon caused this (tip burn)
While the above seedling may look light colored, the problem is actually that it was given too high levels of nutrients.
When there’s too many nutrients, the plant can start getting light colored because some nutrients are getting locked out. The tip burn on the leaves is a good indicator that this problem is caused by too many nutrients. Also this grower started with a “hot” (nutrient rich) soil mix, and there’s no way a plant this size could have already used up all those nutrients.
A lot of growers may think the way to fix this is add more nutrients since the plant leaves are pale, but that will actually make things worse! This plant just needs some plain water until it starts to use up the nutrients in the soil, and it will soon take on a healthy green appearance on new leaves.
Not Enough or Wrong Kind of Nutrients
Nutrient deficiencies and other nutrient problems are most common when growers are using the wrong type of potting mix or cannabis nutrients.
Two of the most common signs of nutrient deficiencies are pale or yellowing leaves and other unusual leaf discoloration.
The most common type of deficiency is a nitrogen deficiency.
The yellow leaves of a nitrogen deficiency may show signs of brown, and they will usually become soft and sort of “fold” in, before turning crispy and falling off on their own.
If the yellowing leaves are at the top of your plant or the yellow leaves are mosty new growth, then you probably don’t have a nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen deficiencies affect the oldest, lowest leaves first.
Nitrogen Deficiency Leaf Closeup
There are many other nutrient deficiencies, and you can view them all here…
Causes of Nutrient Deficiencies and Problems
- Soilless Medium w/o Hydro Nutrients – Some growers may start in a soilless medium and not realize it has no nutrients (with a soilless medium like vermiculite, coco coir, pertlie, rockwool, etc, it’s up to the grower to provide all the nutrients since they are inert mediums and don’t contain any nutrients on their own) which results in a deficiency if grower isn’t providing extra nutrients. Soilless mediums are easy to grow in, but they do require the grower provide nutrients from the beginning.
- Don’t Provide Nutrients As Plant Uses Up Soil – Many growers start in a good soil that has nutrients, but don’t give nutrients or transplant seedlings to a bigger container when the plant has started to use up the nutrients in the soil
- Wrong Type of Nutrients – Nutrient deficiencies commonly show up with the grower gives their plants the the wrong type of nutrients – generally it’s a good idea to give a “vegetative” nutrient formula for the first part of the plant’s life and a “bloom” nutrient formula for the flowering/budding stage. When giving the wrong time of nutrients at the wrong time, your plant won’t grow as well. If you give vegetative nutrients in the flowering stage, you make it harder for the plant to form buds, while also increasing the chance of getting nutrient burn and other nutrient problems.
Other Nutrient Problems
- Not Maintaining pH – If growers don’t manage pH, their plants may show signs of nutrient deficiencies even if the nutrients are actually there near the roots.
- Improper Watering Technique – Growers who don’t water properly (growing mediums stays wet or dry for too long, poor drainage, etc) often start getting nutrient deficiencies as the plant isn’t able to effectively carry out normal plant processes
- Too Small Container – Nutrient problems crop up when plants are kept in a small container for too long without being transferred to a bigger pot (this is known as being “root bound” and can cause the plant to display nutrient deficiencies because the roots aren’t functioning properly)
- Bugs– a lot of bugs and pests may initially look like a deficiency (spots on the leaves can appear from bites, or if bugs have infested the soil, etc)
4.) Heat – leaves bend in the middle so they look like canoes or tacos, turning up at the edges, wilting, strange spotting, symptoms usually appear after temperature starts climbing.
When the heat gets too high, the edges of the leaves will begin to curl up and the leaves will begin to “cup” or “taco.”
Here’s another cannabis seedling suffering from heat stress – notice how the edges are curling upwards. The solution to this problem is simply to lower the heat as experienced by the plant.
Sometimes the leaves sort of fold downwards due to heat, too, like this seedling
After being subjected to overwatering plus a heat wave, the leaves of the following seedling started cuppping upwards and turned lime green. The stems and veins of the leaves were turning red. You can see the soil is still dark and wet because the plant stopped drinking after developing root problems.
Cannabis plants often display heat stress when grown in hot, dry weather, especially when not given the right amount of water.
Learn more about cannabis heat stress and how to fix it: https://www.growweedeasy.com/heat-light-stress
5.) Not enough (or too much) light – burned or crinkled leaves, too much space between nodes, tall seedlings that fall over
Not Enough Light = Stretched, “Leggy,” Tall Seedlings
Too Much Light = Burned, Crinkled Leaves
Stretched, “Leggy,” Tall Seedlings – Give More Light!
This seedling is stretching too tall, with a lot of space in between sets of leaves, and a long thin stalk. This is caused by the plant not getting enough light. It’s “reaching” upwards, trying to find the sun.
More seedlings stretching from lack of light
To fix too-tall seedlings, simply provide more light (usually by bringing grow lights closer or getting a brighter grow light)
After giving enough light, growers can bury the extra stem, or just wait until the seedling grows out of it on its own
Burned, Crinkled Leaves – Reduce Light or Move Grow Lights Up
This cannabis seedling basically grew up into the grow light!
This cannabis seedling is being burned by too-close LED grow lights
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What do seedlings like?
Answer: Moist but not drowning conditions, warmer temps, and a bit of light to help them start growing. Very little nutrients to start.
Question: How do I avoid germination problems?
Answer: Before anyone worries about cannabis seedling problems, it’s important to get your cannabis seeds to sprout!
So make sure you are avoiding these common germination mistakes!
Most importantly, just remember that cannabis seeds like a warm, moist environment to sprout.
Common Germination problems
- Too wet – don’t drown your seeds! While it’s okay to soak seeds for the first 24 hours, after that they should be moist but not soaking.
- Too dry – if seeds are too dry, they won’t sprout! If seeds sprout but then are exposed to dryness, they will die.
- Too deep – if you plant seeds too deep in the growing medium, they may have a hard time making it to the surface. An inch deep (just enough to support the seed and cover it) is about as deep as you’ll ever need to go.
- Not warm enough – seeds and seedlings like warmer temps (from 80-85 F) and will grow more slowly in cooler environments.
- Wrong starting growing medium – Many growers like to plant their seeds directly in a growing medium, just like in nature. But some growing mediums are better for seeds than others. Learn more about the pros and cons of different starting growing mediums here.
- Old or improperly stored seeds – any seeds that germinates is a good seeds, but older or improperly stored seeds often take longer to sprout, and may no sprout at all, even if you do everything right.
- Not ripe seeds (pale or translucent) – while any seed that sprouts is a good seed, seeds that are pale, flimsy or translucent have very low germination rates because they’re not fully mature.
- Too much humidity – Some growers like to use a humidity dome for new seedlings, but don’t leaves these on too long after sprouting, as too much humidity can cause “damping off (seedling sort of folding over and dying, more info below)
Question: Am I drowning my plants? I planted my seeds two days ago in moist soil, I watered them a little, but no waterlogging. I then stopped watering them for fear of drowning them. Today, the top of the soil is getting dry, there’s still some moisture left in it, but not much from what I can tell. Should I keep it moist or just leave it be?
Answer: Young seedlings can get easily drowned, especially in a big container (learn about different containers for growing cannabis). But at the same time, they like moist conditions, and seedling roots should NEVER dry out as this can kill or seriously stunt your plant.
But how to balance the need for both water and air?
In a smaller container like a solo cup, it’s very difficult to overwater young seedlings as long as there’s plenty of drainage and you’re using a good growing medium. Once seedlings have started to outgrow a small container, you can transfer to a bigger container and the seedling will be much more robust.
If you’ve started your seedling in a big container, it’s good to be worried about overwatering young seedlings. In a large container, it generally takes a relatively long time for the growing medium to dry out, and your seedlings aren’t drinking much. Therefore it’s easy for them to get waterlogged. In this situation, you can use a spray bottle or a mister to mist the area around the plant thoroughly, which will seep down to the roots and keep them wet, but won’t soak the soil. Another option is to use just a small amount of water, maybe a cup at a time, and water in a circle around your plant until it starts growing vigorously. Giving seedlings just a bit of water at a time prevents them from getting drowned in drenched soil.
Once the plant is growing fast, you can start watering as normal (water until 20% runoff comes out the bottom, then don’t water again until the top inch is dry to the touch). At this point your plant will be drinking more and will have a stronger root system to seek out both the water and the oxygen it needs.
After reading this article, all your seedlings will look as green and happy as this one!
Common Cannabis Seedling Problems and How To Fix Them
Problems with seedlings are common and can end up affecting them further into their life cycle so it’s vital you detect and fix them as soon as you can. Yellowing or deformed leaves, burnt tips, or even slow growth are signs of cannabis seedling problems, even though your seedling may be able to recover, it may have a toll on the final size and yields of your cannabis plants. It’s definitely not hard to detect when something’s wrong, but if you’re a new grower, first you should know what a healthy seedling looks like.
1. Healthy Cannabis Seedlings
Cannabis seedlings start with two tiny round leaves called “cotyledons”, these leaves are already formed inside the seed and open up once the seed has been successfully germinated, after a couple of days, the first serrated leaves will appear, which indicates that your weed seedling is starting to grow.
As your seedling start developing, the first pair of true leaves will appear, the true leaves are the typical fingered leaves everybody knows, all of the leaves up to this point should be bright green, if not, it’s a sign that something is wrong, to help you diagnose what you may have, here are the most common cannabis problems.
Overwatering is one of the most common cannabis seedling problem amongst growers, even though weed plants need water to grow, they also need oxygen to properly develop, and when overwatering, you may end up drowning your plants because of the lack of oxygen. What about plants grown in hydroponics? Well, in hydroponic setups, about ⅓ of the roots are kept out of the water, this way they can breathe at the same time that they absorb water so even though the roots are in the water, they still get the oxygen they need.
When your plants don’t get the amount of oxygen they need, the leaves will start getting droopy and if you don’t treat it for long, the leaves will start to get yellow. If you are seeing any of these symptoms, it’s most likely the problem is being caused by any poor drainage or watering too often.
How to fix it
- Don’t leave plants sitting in runoff water.
- Get better containers such as Smart pots or Air pots.
- Mix perlite into the soil to increase drainage and oxygenation.
- Make drainage holes on the bottom of the container to allow water to drain.
Just like overwatering, underwatering is very common, especially among new growers who want to prevent overwatering and it can be quite confusing because the symptoms are basically the same as when overwatering.
It’s essential you ensure your plants have access to water at all times, the roots should be kept moist always because plants are constantly losing water through the process of transpiration and they need to be able to replenish the water in the leaves. When there’s not enough water, cannabis plants stop performing their basic processes and dry out, eventually killing them so even though you should be careful when watering, you should definitely keep your plants watered to avoid seedling problems.
How to fix it
- Ensure the top part of the soil is always moist.
- Mix soil with coco fiber or vermiculite to improve water retention.
4. Nutrient Problems
Just like the symptoms of overwatering or underwatering, plants that suffer from a nutrient excess (overfeeding) will start to get yellow leaves or yellow spots, burnt tips, or show slower growth. Seedling problems related to nutrients are usually caused by giving nutrients too soon, giving too many nutrients at once, or “hot” super soil or pre-amended soils. Giving too many nutrients at a time can cause problems overnight, so we recommend watering your seedling with plain water and taking a look at the following table so you prevent any seedling problems related to nutrients.
|The ideal water for seedlings|
|Coco, clay pellets, and hydro||5.5-6.2||300-400|
Have in mind that these are estimates and you should check every day for problems and lower or increase these numbers if you see signs of deficiencies. Giving nutrients too soon will overload the soil, and consequently, your seedling so remember that you shouldn’t feed for the first couple of weeks or at least give a low nutrient dose.
This can also happen with organic super soil, even though it’s organic, you need to wait until your super soil isn’t “hot” anymore, “hot” soil means that the mix is still undergoing biological activities so you will have to wait around 30-45 days before you can use it, although this is not the case with all super soils so make sure you get more information on the product you’re using to avoid seedling problems.
How to fix it
- Ensure you adjust the nutrient dose according to the medium you’re growing in.
- Wait at least 10 days before you start feeding your plants.
- Read the instructions on the products you’re using.
5. Excessive Heat
Excessive heat can also affect your plants, which will end up showing signs of heat stress, you will see the edges of the leaves turning up like tacos and they will start to get dry and crispy, and in more extreme cases, the leaves will start showing a yellowish-green color.
This can be caused by elevated temperatures, low humidity, or even the fans being too strong, but luckily, this can be easily spotted before your plants start showing the symptoms because you will see the soil is dry and sometimes it will start to crack.
How to fix it
- Make sure the temperature and humidity are at the right levels.
- Place your hand under the light fixture, if it’s too hot for you, it definitely is for your plants.
- Ensure your fans are not too strong for the stage your plants are in.
6. Too Much (or Too Little) Light
Another common problem among new growers is not providing enough or providing too much light in the seedling stage, if your seedlings are not getting enough light, they will start stretching and the stem will get super long, which is a bad thing because they can easily snap and there’s no way to fix it.
Now, when your seedlings are getting too much light, or the lights are too close to them, the seedling will get dehydrated and the leaves will get burnt, showing symptoms like burned and wrinkled leaves.
How to fix it
- Adjust the light fixture’s distance from the seedling every day, try to find the sweet spot.
- Use CFLs instead of potent LEDs or HPS to avoid this kind of problem.
7. Seed Shell Stuck on Seedling
Sometimes, when a seedling comes out of the substrate you’ll see how the seed shell is stuck on the seedling and won’t come off naturally. When this happens, your seedling won’t be able to develop properly and you’ll probably see a lot of stretching, and if left for too long, the seedling can end up dying. This happens because of the humidity levels, so in order to minimize the damage, there are a couple of things you can do.
How to Fix It
As mentioned, this happens because of humidity levels, low humidity levels to be precise, so what you need to do is hydrate the seed shell. So go ahead and spray the seedling with plain water or just drop one or two droplets of water on the seed shell, this will hydrate it enough for the seed shell to fall off. Keep in mind that sometimes the seed shell falls off but a membrane covering the cotyledons can remain stuck and your seedling will not be able to open so make sure to grab some tweezers or remove the membrane with your fingers but do it very, very carefully.
If you need to do it asap and don’t want to wait for the seed shell to fall, you can remove it by hand without spraying it but keep in mind that if the seedling’s roots have not grown enough, you can end up removing the seedling from the soil so do not use excessive force. It’s highly recommended to hydrate the seed before just to avoid shock or stress, especially to avoid removing the seedling from the substrate completely.
- Make sure to keep the humidity levels in range with the help of a humidifier.
- Place a plastic dome (like a cut-out plastic bottle or plastic cup) on top of the seedling to help keep higher humidity levels.
8. What To Have in Mind During The Cannabis Seedling Stage
In order to avoid all the cannabis problems mentioned throughout the article, here are the main tips that will help you avoid them and keep your cannabis seedlings healthy and happy.
The Perfect Environment
The relative humidity and temperature will directly affect how your seedling grows so make sure the light is not too strong but your cannabis is still getting enough light and the temperature is around 21-23 ºC and the relative humidity ranges from 70-80%. Failing to provide good conditions can affect plant growth and can ultimately kill your plants if left untreated for too long, so here’s what to expect in the different conditions:
Substrate is too wet
If the substrate is too wet, the seeds can drown. Despite seeds being germinated in water, it’s not okay for the substrate to be extremely wet so always make sure the substrate is moist but not soaking.
Substrate is too dry
Cannabis seeds need moisture to germinate so make sure the substrate is moist but not excessively wet as excessive dryness can make your seeds not germinate and die.
Watering cannabis seedlings properly is the hardest part for beginner growers, watering too much can result in an overwatered cannabis plant, and watering too little can result in an underwatered weed plant so make sure you start watering with around 100 ml and increase the amount according to how your plants grow.
Seeds were planted too deep
1 – 3 cm is the deepest you should go in order to provide support to the roots and cover the seeds with the substrate. If you plant the seeds too deep the seedling could have a hard time sprouting out of the substrate so do not plant it too deeply.
Environment is not warm enough
Seedlings prefer warmer temperatures ranging from 22 -26 celsius and will grow at a slower rate in colder temperatures.
Environment is too humid
It’s recommended to use a plastic dome for newly born seedlings but remember to remove them as soon as the seedling starts developing the first pair of one-fingered leaves after the cotyledons as a high humidity can cause damping off, which results in seedlings folding over and dying.
Marijuana light burn can indeed hurt your plants if the light is too strong. Seedlings are more fragile than adult weed plants so make sure you dim down the light or adjust the fixture’s light to avoid stressing them. Also, if your seedlings are stretching a lot it means they need more light so, if this happens, increase light intensity or place the light fixture closer.
9. FAQs About Cannabis Seedling problems
Here are the most frequently asked questions about cannabis seedling problems to help you understand a bit more and help you deal with them. Just remember that different problems may have similar symptoms so make sure you are 100% sure about what the problem is before taking drastic measures.
“Why are my seedling’s leaves turning yellow? Could it be a cannabis nutrient deficiency?”
When the leaves start yellowing it’s probably a sign of nutrient problems, this means they’re either lacking nutrients, are getting too many nutrients or getting the wrong type of nutrients.
“When should I remove the plastic dome of the seedlings?”
The plastic dome helps raise humidity for faster germination so you can remove it as soon as your plant has completely developed a pair of leaves (after the cotyledons).
Remove the plastic dome once the seedling has developed the first pair of leaves after the cotyledons.
“Why are my cannabis seedling’s leaves curling down?”
This usually happens when you overwater your seedlings or when they’re exposed to higher temperatures so make sure the temperature ranges from 20 – 25 ºC and pay attention to how much water you’re watering with.
“When is it safe to put my cannabis seedlings under the light?”
Well, your seedling needs to be under light since germination but you can use a 15-20 W fluorescent light during the first 1-2 weeks and once the first pair of true leaves have completely developed, you can go ahead and place it under the LED or MH bulb.
“Is there a better light schedule for marijuana seedlings?”
The best light cycle for both autoflowering and photoperiod cannabis seedlings would be 18/6 from seed.
“Is the substrate super important for seedlings?”
Of course, the substrate mix is super important for a healthy start. Some growers prefer a “light mix” which can provide nutrients for the initial weeks and others make their own blends with perlite and coco fiber. There’s no best substrate but a substrate mix that allows for good oxygenation and water retention is ideal.
“Why are my marijuana seedlings growing so slow?”
This is the hardest question because it can be caused by several things. Your cannabis seedlings may be lacking nutrients or it could be caused by lack of proper lighting and extreme temperatures or humidity.”
“How far should the grow light be from the cannabis seedling?”
If you’re using a CFL light, the lights should be 5 – 10 cm from the seedlings. If you’re using HPS or MH, the light should be around 25 – 40 cm from the seedlings and if you’re using LEDs, the fixture should be at around 75 cm from the seedling with 40% light intensity if possible.
“How long does it take for the seeds to germinate and the seedling to come out of the soil?”
The germination process is usually quite fast but depending on the quality of the seeds, it may take up to 5 days or even more. Once the seeds have germinated and been planted in the pot, the seedling should take around 3 days to come out of the soil if the growing conditions are proper.
“Is it possible to know my plant’s sex during the seedling stage?”
No, you’ll only be able to tell whether your marijuana plant is a male or female during the pre-flowering stage. This happens because cannabis plants need to sexually mature in order to show either male pollen sacs or female stigmas.
10. In conclusion
Marijuana seedlings are super fragile and sensitive so you should take good care of them, avoiding cannabis growing problems at this stage is vital because even though your baby plants may recover, the size and structure may be affected, which will end up affecting your harvest.
If you have tips you can share with fellow growers to help them take care of their baby plants, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below!
10 Common Marijuana Leaf Problems and How to Fix Them
Cannabis plants are extremely resilient and can withstand a harsh environment or an invader for some time, but growers shouldn’t risk leaving problems alone for too long. If your cannabis plants look a little on the sick side, here are some potential solutions, based on the most likely problem or issue.
Cannabis growers, especially beginners, are going to face pests and problems with their marijuana plants over the course of their grow. It’s just part of the deal and is something you can minimize as you get better at growing.
Luckily, cannabis plants are extremely resilient and can withstand a harsh environment or an invader for some time. This is convenient because it gives you time to figure out what the issue is and treat it before your plant is completely ruined.
Don’t freak out if something does start to happen to one of your plants, as it’s not the end! The best course of action is to view the signs and symptoms on your plant and then compare them to the symptoms listed below. Once you find the right match, continue your research and follow the instructions for how to cure it and within a few days you should see signs of recovery!
Under Watering & Over Watering
Underwatering and overwatering are the two most common problems among beginner growers and are also very easy to fix. If you are underwatering a cannabis plant, you will notice the leaves start to droop and they will seem as if they are hanging. Growth will also slow down.
If you notice these signs on your plants, all you’ll need to do is water them more frequently and give them more per watering. If your leaves are drooping, give them a quick watering and within 30 minutes they will be standing right back up nice and perky!
When you are overwatering the plant, it will cause the leaves to curl downwards and they will seem very rigid in tight because they are so full of water. Growth will also slow down tremendously and if you don’t fix it quickly, it can lead to root rot.
When overwatering occurs, it means you’ll want to water less frequently. The best method for deciding when to water is by checking how dry the soil is. If it is dry all the way around and inch deep, then it is ready to water.
If not, you still need to wait. With an overwatered plant, let it dry out for a few days and then resume a more appropriate watering schedule.
Nutrient burn is another common issue beginners and even expert growers often face, as they tend to get overzealous with feeding their plants. When it comes to nutrients, less is always more!
Nutrient burn is essentially what happens to your plants when you’ve been feeding them too strong of a nutrient mix, and/or too frequently. The edges of your leaves will begin to brown and look crispy like they were burned, and growth will slow down drastically.
The burning always starts at the very tip of the leaves, so look out for that subtle clue. If your plant begins to show signs of burn, hold off on feeding nutrients for a week or two and then you can resume. This will allow the plant to flush out the high quantity of nutes.
Whenever the tops of your plants are too close to the grow lights above, it will cause the leaves to yellow and burn. The easiest way to spot this problem is to look out for the leaves that are closest to the light; they will begin turning yellow first and then it will spread to other areas to the plant.
As soon as you spot this issue, raise your lights 6 inches to 1 foot higher. How close your lights should be is always determined by their strength and the stage the plants are in. Be sure to look at the manual your light came with as it will always explain the ideal distances for that specific light.
Incorrect pH Range
Growing at the wrong pH level is actually one of the most common reasons for why people experience issues with their cannabis plants. It is extremely important to mix your nutrients and waterings at the right pH as it affects how your plant absorbs those inputs.
If in the wrong pH range, it can cause your plant to go into a nutrient lockout, which means it is essentially in shock and no longer absorbing nutrients for the time being.
This is the first thing I always check for when someone is having an issue with their plants as it is almost always the answer. So before you assume you are having a nutrient deficiency, be sure you are using the proper pH levels for the growing medium you are using.
Nitrogen Deficiency & Toxicity
Nitrogen is one of the three main macronutrients cannabis plants survive on, so its presence is important when providing nutrients. When you look on the front of most nutrient bottles, you will see three numbers listed next to each other with dash marks. Those are the N-P-K Ratios, which are the symbols for the three main macronutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
When there is not enough potassium in the plants system, the leaves will begin to turn a bright yellow and will die. This is easily fixed by first checking to make sure you’re using the correct pH. If you are, then you’ll want to add a nutrient into the mix that is high in N.
Note that if you are getting close to harvest, your fan leaves will naturally turn yellow as the buds will pull the nitrogen out of them for one last boost in growth, which is completely normal and nothing to worry about!
Nitrogen toxicity, on the other hand, is caused by feeding too much nitrogen to your plants and is often referred to as “The Claw.” This is because one of the symptoms is the ends of your leaves will curl or claw downwards. They will also turn dark green, which is another sign of N toxicity. To fix this issue, just lighten up on the amount of nitrogen mixed into the nutrient feedings.
While not as common as the previous issues, this pest is definitely one of the most damaging and difficult to deal with. If you don’t catch these guys early on, there is a good chance you won’t be able to get rid of them. That is why it is so important to always monitor your plants and to comb through them every couple of days so you can spot pests and other issues as early on as possible.
Spider mites, and most other pests, hide on the undersides of your fan leaves so always check that part of the plant as well.
It will be hard to see this best with the naked eye so I recommend using the same tool you use for looking at trichomes as that will be perfect for zooming in on them. The mites will look like similar to spiders and will be crawling around nibbling on your leaves.
The early signs of spider mites includes lots of tiny and light-colored spots on your leaves. It will look like speckles as the dots are so small and close together.
If not taken care of, you will see webs that look similar to spider webs, and they will be covering your leaves and plants. Usually at this point it is too late, but if you do catch them early on you have some options.
The best and most organic option is to use live ladybugs. You can buy them for under $10 at the gardening store and they will eat up all the mites quickly. The big issue with spider mites is they reproduce at an extremely rapid rate, so you need to make sure you kill every last one of them or they will continue to come back.
Similar to spider mites, aphids hang out on the undersides of the fan leaves, but they are green and have long legs almost like a grasshopper. They are pretty tiny as well so I also recommend using the trichome scope for looking at aphids on your leaves. You will see them crawling around and what aphids do is suck the nutrients and water out of your fan leaves, which causes them to wilt and die.
Luckily, ladybugs love eating aphids so all you have to do is add them to your plant and they will do the rest. Be sure to take care of this issue ASAP as the aphids will take out a lot of fan leaves very quickly, which will lead to smaller yields.
Also, most people recommend spraying a neem oil mix onto your plants to eliminate these bugs, but I am not a big fan of that. Reason being, if you are in flower, you don’t want to be spraying your buds with anything as it can lead to mold and rot. The other reason is the spray leaves a lasting foreign smell on the plants that is unpleasant and something I don’t want in their system.
One of the more common types of fungi you will encounter as a cannabis grower, white powdery mildew is often a result of too high a humidity in the growroom, coupled with low or no airflow. Eventually this powdery substance forms on your plants and continues to spread and make more mildew while eating up your cannabis plants.
In order to kill the mildew, it is best to mist it with a mildew eliminating spray. Also, lowering humidity and increasing airflow in the growroom is enough to stop it from coming back.
Another issue caused by high humidity and low airflow is bud rot. Overwatering can also cause this to happen, and essentially the results are the rotting of your cannabis buds. It will start from the inside and will slowly turn them brown and moldy until the whole bud is ruined.
The best way to stop the rot from spreading is by first increasing airflow and lowering the humidity in the growroom. Next, you’ll want to cut off all the buds that are infected. Mentally, it is hard to do, but if they have any amount of rot on them, the bud is useless and can make you sick if smoked.
Once you have cut off all the rot, keep a close eye on the buds for more and make sure the conditions stay where they are and you will be fine.
This is the final problem on the list and is a very important one to monitor for. Just as the name suggests, heat stress is a form of stress on your plants caused by too high of a temperature in the growroom.
The temp should be as close to 75°F at all times, and once it reaches the low 80s, plant growth begins to slow down. As the temp gets hotter, the fingers of the fan leaves will begin to taco or fold up longways.
This is the easiest way to tell if your plant is experiencing heat stress and all you have to do to fix it is lower the temp to the appropriate levels.
So there you have the 10 of the most common problems cannabis growers face, as well as all the solutions to fix them before your plants are too far gone!
Also remember that with most of the nutrient deficiency and leaf problems, the issue is pH levels. So always be sure to check that first before trying to increase any particular nutrient.
Besides that, always make sure your temperature and humidity levels are correct and you aren’t tracking in any pests to the growroom. If you follow these steps, you’ll minimize most issues right off the bat.