Cannabis Growing 101: When to Transplant Cannabis

cannabis transplanting
By Anthony Pellegrino Updated May 23rd

Fact-checked by Deb Tharp

Growing cannabis can be a fulfilling hobby (and in some states a profession). But, it’s a practice that also requires a certain level of knowledge and care to be successful.

One of the most significant aspects of cultivating cannabis is transplanting. That is, moving the plant from one location or container to another.

In this article, we’ll cover crucial techniques to know about transplanting cannabis, including why it’s important, when to transplant, and how to do it properly. Whether you’re a seasoned grower or a new cultivator, this guide will provide the insight and tools you need to transplant your cannabis successfully and ensure a flourishing harvest.

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What is Transplanting?

Transplanting in horticulture refers to moving a plant from one growing container to another. Growers do this for many reasons, such as giving the plant more room to grow or changing its environment.

Just like many other plants, cannabis should be transplanted when it has outgrown its current container (or when entering the vegetative stage).

Why Do Cannabis Transplanting?

Cannabis Transplanting

There are several reasons growers may choose to transplant their cannabis plants.

Separate the Male & Female Cannabis Plants

One of the primary reasons for cannabis transplanting is to separate male and female plants. In the early stages of growth, it's difficult to tell the difference between the sexes. 

However, as the plants mature, the males produce small round pollen sacs, while females develop tiny white pistils. By transplanting the males to a different location, growers can prevent them from pollinating the females and producing seeded buds.

More Room to Grow

Giving the plant roots more room to grow is another common reason to transplant cannabis. As cannabis plants develop, they can outgrow their container, becoming root-bound, which restricts their growth and overall health. 

Transplanting the plant into a larger container or a raised bed can give the roots more space to expand, increasing the plant’s overall health and maximizing your yield.

Micro-Growing

Another reason to transplant cannabis is to go from a micro-grow setup to a larger space. Micro-grows are small-scale growing methods within a small area. As the plant grows, it may become necessary to transplant it to a bigger space.

Changing the Growing Environments

Cultivators often transplant cannabis plants to change the growing environment. For example, a grower may start their plants indoors and transplant them outside when the weather is appropriate. Or they may transplant them from a hydroponics system to soil.

Ultimately, cannabis transplanting can be a beneficial practice for growers as it can help to improve the plant’s health, increase yield, and better control the sex of the plants.

When Should You Transplant Cannabis?

Transplanting Cannabis

When transplanting cannabis plants, timing is crucial. Transplanting at the wrong stage of growth can cause the plants stress which can lead to reduced yield and health issues.

The vegetative stage (which is about 2-4 weeks after germination) is the ideal time to transplant cannabis. During this stage, the plant focuses on growing leaves, stems, and branches rather than developing buds. Transplanting during the vegetative stage allows the plant to adjust to its new environment before it begins flowering (when increased stress would be more likely to negatively affect your harvest).

Timing isn’t the only indicator a plant is ready for transplanting. It’s also crucial to monitor the size of your leaves and overall plant shape. It may be time to transplant if you notice the leaves are crowding closely.

In addition to the physical appearance of your plant, pay attention to the roots. If they are growing out of the drainage holes or appear to be squeezed tightly, it’s a sign that the plant has outgrown its current container and needs to be transplanted. Otherwise, its growth may be stunted.

It’s worth noting that cannabis plants grown in soil can be transplanted more often than plants grown in hydroponics, since soil can hold more water and the root systems are less delicate than in hydroponics.

How Much Space Should There Be?

Before transplanting your cannabis plants, consider the following guidelines to find the right pot size for your plant’s height.

How to Transplant Cannabis

Here’s a simple step-by-step process you can follow to transplant your cannabis plant.

Step 1: Choose the Right Container

Before you transplant, choose a proper container for your plant. The container should be large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system. It should also have drainage holes to allow excess water to escape.

Before buying a new container, consider the type of growing medium you will use when choosing a container. For example, if using soil, you will want a container with plenty of depth, 5 gallons or so, to accommodate the root system.

Step 2: Prepare the New Container

Once you have a new container, prepare it for the transplant by adding the growing medium. If using soil, fill the container with a high-quality, well-draining soil mix. Make sure the soil is moist but not water-logged.

Step 3: Carefully Remove the Plant from the Old Container

Carefully remove the plant from its old container. You can do so by turning it upside down and tapping the bottom of the container. From there, the plant will slowly slide out of the pot and into your hands.

If the plant is root-bound, use your fingers to gently loosen the roots. Be sure to handle the plant delicately to avoid damaging the roots. 

Step 4: Transplant the Plant into the New Container

Once the plant is out of its old container, it’s time to transplant it into the new one. Carefully place the plant into the new container. Make sure the soil level is the same as the old container. Gently firm the soil around the base of the plant.

Step 5: Water the Plant

After transplanting, it’s necessary to water the plant thoroughly to help it quickly settle into its new environment. Water until the soil is moist. As a rule of thumb, water until the water begins to drain out of the bottom of the container.

Step 6: Provide Proper Care

You’ve successfully transplanted your cannabis plant. However, you still need to provide proper care to help it adjust to its new environment. Nourish the plant with the appropriate amount of light and water.

Monitor the plant regularly for any signs of stress, such as wilting or yellowing leaves, and adjust the plant’s care as needed. Once your plant has time to adjust and recover, you can resume a regular feeding and care schedule.

Finally, keep an eye on the root development. If necessary, transplant the plant again if it outgrows this new container. 

What is Transplant Shock and How to Avoid It

Transplant Cannabis

Monitoring the plant after transplanting is crucial because of the possibility of transplant shock. Transplant shock occurs when the root system is disturbed significantly following a transplant. Following this disruption, the plant cannot absorb the needed nutrients and water to support its growth.

When a cannabis plant is experiencing transplant shock, the leaves may appear wilted or droopy and may turn yellow or brown. The plant may also stop growing or produce fewer buds. In severe cases, transplant shock can even lead to the death of the plant.

To avoid transplant shock, nurse the plant during the transplanting process, avoid damage to the roots, and provide proper care and attention to the plant after transplanting.

Here are some tips to prevent or minimize transplant shock: 

  • Use beneficial microorganisms: Apply beneficial microorganisms to the soil or growing medium to help improve the soil’s structure and increase the availability of nutrients to the plant.
  • Avoid over-watering: Over-watering can lead to water-logged soil, which can damage the root system and increase the risk of transplant shock.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing: Over-fertilizing can burn the plants and damage the roots, leading to transplant shock.
  • Avoid moving the plant around frequently: Transplanting too often makes transplant shock increasingly likely. Try to only transplant your cannabis plants once or twice.

By taking additional care, you can help to minimize the risk of transplant shock and give your cannabis plant the best possible chance to recover and thrive.

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What is a rootbound plant?

Rootbound happens when the roots have grown too large for their current container and become tightly packed or have grown out of the drainage holes. This can restrict the plant’s growth and health and signifies that it’s time to transplant the plant into a larger container.

What are the signs it’s time to transplant?

Some signs that it’s time to transplant include leaves crowding or overlapping, roots growing out of the drainage holes, or the plant being taller than the height of the container. Signs of stress, such as yellowing leaves or stunted growth, may also indicate time to transplant.

Why not just use the largest pot from the start?

While it may seem like a good idea to use the biggest pot from the start, a plant placed in a container that is too large for its current size will not have enough roots to adequately support the plant, leading to poor growth and health. It’s best to start with a smaller pot in the early stages of growth and gradually transplant into a larger container as needed.

What other things should I take into consideration when transplanting?

When transplanting, it’s essential to consider the type of growing medium you will use, the container size and drainage, the light exposure, and the plant’s overall health. It’s also important to pay attention to timing: it’s better to transplant during the vegetative stage when the plant is focused on growing leaves, stems, and branches rather than developing buds.

Do you water cannabis after transplanting?

Yes, it’s essential to water the plant thoroughly after transplanting to help it settle into its new growing environment. Be sure to water the plant until the water drains out of the bottom of the container.

Do plants need light after transplanting?

Yes, plants need light after transplanting to continue to grow and develop. Light is the driver of photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light energy into chemical energy, which is used to fuel growth and development. Without light, the plant cannot produce the energy it needs to grow.

Do you need to transplant autoflowering plants?

Autoflowering plants typically have a shorter life cycle and do not require as much attention as regular cannabis plants. However, autoflowers are still subject to the same problems that require transplanting. If you notice that the plant is outgrowing its container or showing signs of stress, it’s still a good idea to transplant it to a larger container.

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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