How and when to transplant cannabis plants
Transplanting is the process of “re-homing” a cannabis plant, or moving a plant into a bigger pot with more soil as it grows bigger.
Growers typically start off the cannabis growing process by planting many seeds in small pots because they don’t know if all of them will sprout—or germinate—and they don’t know if all of them will be female.
Only female cannabis plants produce buds, so if you start growing from regular seeds, you will have to sex them out and discard the males.
Why is transplanting marijuana plants important?
Transplanting gives a marijuana plant’s root system more space to spread out, allowing the plant to grow healthy and strong and to flourish.
When roots become cramped and can’t spread out they can get tangled and become “rootbound”—this will effective choke the plant, leading to a stunted, sickly plant, and can even kill it. A healthy root system will lead to a healthy weed plant.
A plant’s container will determine how much the roots can stretch out, and therefore how big your plant will get. A container that’s too small will stunt it.
You don’t want to plant a seed in a giant pot because you could potentially waste soil if the seed doesn’t make it. Also, if growing weed outdoors, it’s hard to plan out a garden and where to put your seeds in the ground if some seeds don’t make it.
Most weed growers start seeds in small 4-inch or 1-gallon pots when germinating.
For the seeds that do make it, they will need bigger homes after several weeks of growing and will need to be transplanted either into a bigger pot or directly into the ground.
When planting into the ground, make sure not to crowd your plants so their roots don’t run into each other.
The symptoms of a rootbound plant include:
- Flimsy new growth
- Stunted flower production
- Stem discoloration (reddening)
- Nutrient sensitivity
A rootbound plant may also appear under-watered. If a plant requires watering more than once a day, it may need to get transplanted.
When to transplant marijuana
Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .
Most marijuana plants go through 1-2 transplants during their life but could have more. As an example, transplanting can happen from:
- First container (1-gallon) to second container (2-gallon): 4-8 weeks after seed germination
- Second container (2-gallon) to third container (5-gallon): transplant 8-12 weeks later, or 2 weeks before flowering
Some growers may only transplant once: using the example above, from a 1-gallon to a 5-gallon container, skipping the 2-gallon. And depending on how big you want your weed plants to get, you may transplant into bigger pots than what’s listed above.
The same goes for transplanting outside, in the ground—you can go straight from the first pot into the ground, but it depends on when you transplant and your local climate and weather.
Here are some indicators that your cannabis is ready for a new container.
Number of leaves
Young plants sowed in small containers are usually ready to be transplanted after they’ve sprouted 4-5 sets of leaves, but keep in mind this may vary from strain to strain.
Check the drainage holes at the bottom of the container—a plant should have a healthy and visibly white root system. If roots are growing out of the holes, it’s time to transplant.
Any discoloration or darkening may indicate the plant has become rootbound and a transplant should take place immediately.
End of vegetative stage
A weed plant should be in its final pot or in the ground with plenty of room for its roots before it enters the flowering stage. During flowering, a plant will increase in both size and volume, as the plant itself continues to grow and as buds develop. It will require a substantial amount of space for root development.
How much space does a marijuana plant need?
|Plant height (inches)||Pot size|
|0-6″||4-inch (16 oz.)|
When transplanting cannabis, give the plant at least double the space of its previous container. This reduces the number of times you need to transplant and minimizes the risk of transplant shock, which may occur when a plant experiences extreme stress from root disturbance.
For example, you could go from a 1-gallon to a 2-gallon to a 5-gallon, or from a 2-gallon to a 5-gallon to a 10-gallon.
Medium-sized indoor cannabis plants tend to be fine in 5-gallon containers as a finishing pot. Large outdoor plants may require much bigger containers to reach their behemoth potential, sometimes up to 10- or 20-gallon pots.
When in doubt, always opt for slightly more space than needed. A plant tends to require 2 gallons of soil for every 12 inches of growth it achieves during the vegetative stage. Knowing the potential height of the strain you’re growing is helpful.
Why not start in the largest pot for your marijuana plant?
Growers typically transplant weed plants 1-3 times, moving plants to bigger pots gradually as they get bigger.
If a plant is put in too big of a pot, the roots won’t stretch out that much and won’t soak up as much water. This can cause water to sit in the pot for a long time, waterlogging the plant and leading to root rot.
You can transplant into the largest pot for your weed plant to avoid multiple transplants, but be careful not to water all of the soil—only water around the stalk of the plant where the young roots are.
How to transplant marijuana
Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .
The process of transplanting weed does not come without risk. Transplant shock can be incredibly detrimental to the growth and development of a cannabis plant, and can even kill it. However, through proper execution, the process of transplanting will benefit the plant and lead to stronger root development and healthier flower production.
First transplant of a cannabis plant
Young cannabis plants should start in a 4-inch or 1-gallon pot. This starting pot should be adequate for a few weeks before transplanting is needed.
Again, the first transplanting should occur after the seedling has sprouted its 4th or 5th set of leaves. To transplant:
- Wash your hands and/or wear gloves to prevent contamination of the delicate roots, and keep the surroundings as sanitary as possible.
- Give the plant a light sprinkling of water to help minimize shock; don’t drench it, as the soil will be difficult to work with.
- Fill the receiving pot with soil, allowing enough space for the new plant.
- Avoid overpacking the soil during and after transplanting—this can compromise drainage and damage the root system.
- Do not disturb or damage the roots when transplanting; the first transplanting poses the greatest risk for shock, which can occur from root damage and agitation.
- Avoid intense light when transplanting; this will help prevent transplant shock as well.
- Fully water in the plant once it’s in its new home.
Additional transplanting of cannabis plants
You may need to transplant your weed plant a second or third time to maximize its growing potential. Always monitor plants for symptoms of distress or overcrowded roots.
To do so, follow the steps above, and make sure the new container is at least twice as big as the old one, if not bigger.
The finishing container is the final home of a plant until it’s harvested. This will be the largest container for a plant, and you always want to transplant into this pot 1-2 weeks before the flowering stage—you don’t want to disturb a plant while it’s flowering.
Keep in mind that large plants may require stakes or other support to avoid structural damage after transplanting.
How to Germinate & Transplant Cannabis Seedlings
In this tutorial, you’ll learn how (and when) to transplant your new cannabis seedlings so they grow as fast as possible!
Did you know that seedlings in solo cups often grow faster than seedlings started in big containers?
The reason some growers transplant their plants instead of starting them in their final container is that seedlings usually grow faster during the first few weeks of their life if you start them in something small like a solo cup. The growing medium dries out much faster in a smaller container, which means your seedling roots are always getting access to lots of oxygen at all times. It also makes it more difficult to overwater your plants!
If you start seedlings in a solo cup, you should try to transplant to a bigger pot around the time the leaves reach the edges of the cup. This seedling is ready for transfer!
If seedlings get too big for their cups before transplanting to a bigger container, you may accidentally limit your plant’s root space. This slows down growth and can cause puzzling deficiencies! So if you do start in small containers it’s important to transplant your seedlings on time to avoid letting them become rootbound!
“Rootbound” seedlings are often droopy and may display odd symptoms that are hard to explain. If seedlings are rootbound you’ll see during the transfer process that the roots have wrapped all the way around the outsides of the container, preventing the plant roots from doing what they need to do. Try to transfer to a bigger pot before this point!
For many growers, it’s simpler to start plants in their final containers. Although your seedlings may grow slightly slower at first, you never have to worry about transplanting them. You also avoid the possibility of shocking them during the transplant process.
That being said, if you want the fastest growth from your seedlings and don’t mind transplanting, starting in small containers like solo cups may be the way to go.
The truth is, your seedlings will thrive whether you start in a big or small container as long as you take good care of them! Neither way is the “best” method; it’s more a matter of personal preference.
How to Transplant Seedlings
1.) Germinate Seeds with Paper Towel Method
Before you can start transplanting, you need to germinate your seeds. I recommend the “paper towel” method for germination because this method is easy and hard to mess up! Learn About Other Ways to Germinate Seeds!
- Place your seeds inside a folded wet paper towel, and place it between two paper plates (or regular plates) so that they don’t dry out.
- Check on your seeds every 12 hours but try not to disturb them. When they’ve germinated, you’ll see the seeds have cracked and there are little white roots coming out.
- They should germinate in 1-4 days, though some seeds can take a week or longer (especially older seeds).
- Keep them warm if possible. One thing you can do to get seeds to germinate a little faster is to keep them in a warm place (75-80°F). Some people use a seedling heat mat but in most cases that’s unnecessary.
These seedlings were sprouted using the paper towel method!
Once your seeds have germinated, gently plant seeds in a solo cup about an inch deep, roots down.
Make sure to cut plenty of holes in the bottom of the solo cup first, so water can drain out the bottom easily!
Add your potting mix to the solo cup. Dig a small hole about 1-2″ deep and gently place your sprouted seed, root down, into the hole you made. Lightly fill around and cover with soil. You’ll see a seedling emerge a day or two later!
Here’s a quick cheat sheet for the paper towel germination method!
2.) Allow leaves to grow to edges of the solo cup
Your seedlings will take off in a day or two, and soon it’ll seem like they’re growing more and more each day!
Once your seedlings have grown enough that their leaves have reached the edges of the solo cup, it’s time to transplant to a bigger container!
These seedlings are begging to be transplanted to bigger pots (especially that big one on the bottom!)
Transferring to a bigger container at this stage will prevent your seedling roots from becoming rootbound and “choking” themselves because they get all wrapped around the outside of the soil. The outside circling of the roots prevents the plant from using water and nutrients properly, so you often end up with droopy seedlings and hard-to-explain nutrient deficiencies.
3.) Transplant seedlings to a 1, 2 or 3-gallon pot (then to an even bigger final container if you desire)
Instead of pulling the whole plant out of the container, sometimes you can just cut away the solo cup when you plan on transplanting. This is one of the advantages of starting in disposable cups – it makes transplanting easy and stress-free. You can also gently run a butter knife around the outside to help loosen the soil, turn it upside down and pat out the seedling, soil and all!
Transfer seedling into a new container by digging a hole the size of a solo cup, and gently placing your seedling in the new hole without disturbing the roots at all if possible, like this!
How to Avoid Transplant Shock
The process of transplanting from one container into a bigger one can shock your cannabis plants, especially if you wait too long to transplant.
You don’t want cannabis transplant shock!
You can help avoid causing your cannabis plants stress during transplant by following these principles:
- Transplant your cannabis plants after their roots have begun to fill container (to help hold all the growing medium together) but before the roots have started wrapping around the edges (plants have become rootbound).
- Water your cannabis plants 1-2 days before transplanting. This will help the growing medium stay together (since it’s moist), but still slide out easily (since it’s not soaking wet).
- It’s better to transfer too early than too late!
- If the roots haven’t grown all around the sides of the root ball (plant isn’t rootbound), avoid disturbing the roots if possible. There’s no need to shake out dirt, just carefully move entire root ball directly into the next pot.
- Make sure your plants are in their final container at least 1-2 weeks before you switch them over to the flowering stage, and avoid transplanting plants during the flowering/budding stage if you can since the stress may affect your final yields.
- If your cannabis plants seem like they are suffering from transplant shock (leaf symptoms, drooping, slowed growth), it can be helpful to use a seaweed kelp extract (often available as a liquid fertilizer) to help your cannabis recover more quickly. If transplanting seems scary, it’s okay to plant your seed or clone in its final destination right at the beginning, just be wary of overwatering until the plant has a few sets of leaves and is growing vigorously. You can increase the amount of oxygen available to your plants by adding extra perlite to loosen the soil and allow water to drain through more easily. after they’ve been transplanted for the best results!
If you follow all these steps, you may notice that your plant doesn’t show any signs of stress at all!
Now you just allow plants to grow!
4.) Transplant to an even bigger container if desired
If your cannabis plants double in height while still in the vegetative stage, you may want to consider transplanting them into an even bigger container for the best results. The final size of your cannabis plant is constrained by the pot size. If you keep your plants in small pots, they simply won’t grow as big as they would in bigger pots.
If you’re trying to keep plants small, small containers can actually be a good thing. But if you want to grow bigger plants, you need to give their roots enough space to “spread out”
What Size Final Container?
A general guide is to have at least 2 gallons per 12″ of height. This isn’t perfect since plants often grow differently, and some plants are short and wide instead of tall, but this is a good starting rule of thumb.
So if your final (desired) plant size is…
12″ ~ 2-3 gallon container
24″ ~ 4-6 gallon container
36″ ~ 6-8 gallon container
48″ ~ 8-10 gallon container
60″ ~ 10+ gallon container
Go Bigger If You Need to Spend Time Away From Your Cannabis!
If you plan on being away from your plants for more than a day or two during the grow, it can’t hurt to go up a size or two. The bigger the container, the less often you need to water. So even if you get slightly slower growth in a too-big container, you will definitely be able to spend more time away from your plants without having to water them!
5.) You’re Done!
That’s it. You’re done transplanting your weed plants!
Now you just need to worry about taking care of your plants until you’re ready to start flowering/budding. Remember plants will usually double (or even triple) in size from when you first initiate the flowering stage!
Note: You can skip transplanting if it seems like too much work for you. Just make sure you’re careful not to overwater small plants in too-big containers. Once plants start growing vigorously, you don’t need to worry as much about overwatering. Learn more about common seedling problems.
Should I start in a solo cup or in a bigger pot?
I think it’s a matter of preference. Just as a quick summary: It’s easy to give too much or too little water to a very small seedling in a big pot. With a solo cup, you just soak the grow medium and the roots get a lot of both oxygen and water at all times because the medium dries out quickly. The downside is you have to transplant a seedling as soon as the leaves reach the edges of the cup, or its growth starts slowing down. Also, if you’re not careful you could possibly shock the plant during transplant.
Seedlings started in solo cups take less room in the grow space, and tend to grow a little faster! But if you’re careful about watering plant in a big container, you can get seedlings to grow almost as fast without having to worry about transplanting.
I’ve done it both ways and each method will serve you well. In the end, don’t stress too much. Your seedlings will come out fine as long as you pay attention to them
Easy Steps to Germinating and Transplanting Cannabis Plants – Bonza Blog
Germinating seeds is not at all a complicated process. Even transplanting the seedlings is doable. Like other things, it is only difficult in the beginning. However, with enough practice, then it becomes a piece of cake.
After having a better understanding of the process, it becomes apparent the methods or procedures involved are simple. Even so, these are still critical aspects of nurturing cannabis plants to its full potential. For example, an improperly germinated seed may result in less flavorful or potent flowers.
Germination is the process in which plants develop from seed. Among growers, many have taken to calling it ‘popping seeds.’ Although simple, it is apparent that growers should be careful during this phase (and all stages for that matter) to bring out the best of the plant.
Germinating Seeds- Image powered by Hydroponics.co.uk
There are factors to consider when germinating cannabis seeds.
1. Moisture. Be sure not to over-water. With just the right amount of moisture, the seed should split, and roots start to grow.
2. Temperature. Seeds should not be exposed to low or cold temperature. It should be warm where the rate of germination becomes optimal.
Prior to germinating cannabis seeds, prepare the following:
- 4 sheets of paper towels
- distilled water
- 2 plates
- 2-inch pots (as many as needed depending on number of seeds)
Step 1. Soak four pieces of paper towels in distilled water then place two sheets on a plate. Place cannabis seeds over it making sure each is one inch apart from the others. Next, use the two remaining paper towers to cover the seeds.
Step 2. To create a suitable environment for the cannabis seeds to germinate, place the other plate on top. Although light is needed in almost all stages of cultivating plants, it is not the case during germination.
Step 3. Keep the room temperature between 21 to 32 degrees Celsius. Although it is possible to increase the temperature and raise the rate of germination, that would also entail buying equipment such as seedling heat mat. Once done, then it is time to wait for the cannabis seeds to sprout. From time to time, check and make sure that the paper towels are damp.
Things to Remember
Germinating Seeds – Image powered by Skunkmagazine.com
Adding water once or twice a day is good enough. Be sure that it is adequate and not excessive. Otherwise, the seeds could end up drowning. On the flip side, if it is not enough, then the seeds may not sprout at all.
Once the seeds start sprouting, remember that it is very fragile. As such, be careful in its handling.
Transplanting the Seedlings
Soon, roots start to form after the seed splits open. Once that happens, then it is time to place the seeds in small pots. To do that, prepare the following items:
- small 2-inch pots
- potting soil
- spray bottle
- pen or pencil
Transplanting the Seedlings – Image powered by Dailyimprovisations.com
Step 1. Put some soil in the small pot. At the center, make a half-inch hole using a pen or pencil.
Step 2. Use a pair of tweezers to transfer the seed to the pot. Be gentle as it is fragile. Carefully, place it in the center of the hole. After, top it and make sure the seed is only a few millimeters deep.
Step 3. Spray water and let it settle.
Let the seedling sprout until it has two or more internodes. Until then, keep it moist, and it should grow nicely. Transplant the plants into bigger pots once they are ready. This time, instead of using tweezers to pick up individual seeds, it is only a matter of removing the whole plant including a clump of potting soil and placing it in its new environment.
Things to Remember
Transplanting from a small pot to a bigger one allows the plant to continue growing. Otherwise, it becomes too crowded, and it stops rooting.
Spraying water once or twice a day is good enough. The key here is knowing how much is enough or lacking. If the leaves are signs of being droopy in which entire leaf curls down or having a yellowish color, it may be a sign of over-watering. If it looks wilted, then it may be due to under-watering.
Transplanting the Seedlings – Image powered by Growweedeasy.com
Once seedlings appear, lighting becomes vital to its survival and growth. Regardless if eventually placed outdoors or using grow light inside the house, it should not be too hot. It is achieved by placing it in an area where there is ample shading or adjusting the height of lighting fixture.
Soon after the first internode appears, it is time to add some nutrients. Some growers prefer the root-stimulating foliar nutrients. But, be cautious of the dose since the roots are young. Keep the concentrations low.
Finally, do not stress out the plants. Transplanting itself is already strenuous. During its care after, limit movement and avoid touching.
Proper Germination for Strong Cannabis Plants
As one can see, germinating and transplanting seedlings is not a complicated process. The most important thing to remember is that growers must be as careful as possible.
It appears to be inanimate objects, but plants are a life-form. Like people, it also experiences stress. Consequently, it may lead to poor-quality plant or in worse cases, death.
On the bright side, keeping it as safe as possible is also very much like a person having a happy childhood. Often, these people develop into well-rounded adults. In the same manner, proper germination and transplanting also leads to optimal growth and maximizing the potential of the plant.