Does transplanting cannabis cause shock? Read our comprehensive guide with tips from Kyle Kushman. Learn when and how to transplant for optimal health. On many occasions, transplanting your cannabis is crucial to achieve the best possible yields. However, it’s natural to have doubts, especially in rel As cannabis plants get bigger they need to be moved into bigger containers to allow their roots to expand, so they can thrive. Read more on how to transplant marijuana.
Transplanting Cannabis: Complete Guide with Kyle Kushman Tips
If you don’t transplant cannabis when it needs to be moved, you could end up with rootbound plants and stunted growth.
Pot size is important when it comes to yield, you want your plants to finish in nice, big pots, but it’s not always sensible to start them this way.
Transplanting cannabis successfully is all about observation, practice and timing.
You need to recognise when your plants are ready to be transplanted, and you need to know how to transplant without stressing or killing them.
For most photoperiod grows, plan to transplant cannabis up to and around three times.
We’re going to look at the full cycle of the plant, when to transplant weed seedlings and transplanting cannabis plants pre-flip, so they can enjoy flowering in their final home.
Why is transplanting cannabis important?
As plants grow above the soil line, the root ball expands below it.
It’s important the plant has enough room to grow in both these dimensions.
Important both for the quality AND the quantity of your final yield.
While it’s true that pot size determines how big your plants can grow, transplanting marijuana directly from a tiny container to a large one can be detrimental.
We’ll talk about this more later on.
The main advantage of transplanting cannabis is that it helps you perfect the watering cycle, allowing the rootball to expand at a manageable rate.
If you don’t transplant your cannabis when it needs to be moved, the roots might outgrow the pot – the plant can become root bound. Root bound cannabis plants struggle to absorb nutrients, oxygen, and water, often leading to sickness and death. Transplanting marijuana plants too soon will have the negative effect of your root ball falling apart.
Growing cannabis is all about providing the most comfort for your plants, allowing them to thrive. One of the best ways to do this is to learn how to transplant cannabis with confidence.
How often do you need to transplant marijuana plants?
If you’ve germinated your cannabis seeds outside of the soil, your first experience of transplanting cannabis plants will be planting them.
Okay, so it’s not a major transplant, but you’re still ‘transplanting’ from the paper towel to the small pot or solo cup.
The first big transplanting decision is when to transplant cannabis seedlings to their first decent-sized plant pot. This will either be an intermediate pot, or their final pot.
Remember: transplanting pot is not something you can predetermine. You need to observe your plants, let them tell you when they’re ready to be moved.
Beginners should think about transplanting weed plants into an intermediate pot. This will help master the wet to dry watering cycle – the best way to water your plants!
Transplanting cannabis seedlings straight into a final container is best left to experienced growers (or those growing autoflowers). Unless your final pot is three gallons or less.
When to transplant your marijuana plant?
You should only really transplant weed plants when:
- Plantinggerminated seeds into their first pot.
- Transplantingpot seedlings into intermediate containers.
- Transplanting into a final grow pot ready for flowering.
The key determining factor in transplanting cannabis is the size of the plant, and, by proxy, the root ball.
You can transplant cannabis as much as needed during the seedling and vegetative stages, but each time you transplant weed, you risk cannabis transplant shock. This is why you need to know exactly how to transplant!
We’ll go into this later on, but for a quick guide and vital tips, you can check out our transplanting video guide right now:
What are the symptoms of a rootbound weed plant?
Thankfully, a rootbound plant is relatively easy to diagnose. Symptoms include:
- Weak new growth.
- Stunted flowering.
- Reddening of the stem.
- Nutrient sensitivity or deficiency.
- Wilting and drooping leaves.
- Soil drying out fast.
- Spots or unusual discoloration on the leaves.
Another telltale sign for transplanting your marijuana plant is when water takes a long time to be absorbed.
You should regularly lift your plant from its pot to check the roots. Are you seeing tangled roots clawing to escape from the pot? This means the soil has become packed and/or rootbound. Either way, it’s time to transplant.
When do you transplant cannabis seedlings?
Spotting when to transplant marijuana seedlings is a skill every grower must learn.
You should first transplant when the young plant sprouts its 4th or 5th set of leaves, and regularly check the drainage holes to assess the condition of the roots.
If the roots are healthy-looking and white, then transplanting your pot doesn’t need to happen immediately. If they’re discolored, growing free of the container, or look tangled, it’s time to get cracking!
Regular checks should help you to transplant before the plant shows huge signs of distress.
Be observant, always.
When do you transplant during the vegetative stage?
Never transplant weed once it begins flowering. Move your plant into its final and largest pot during the onset of the full vegetative phase. Plants transfer much of their energy to bud growth, leaving far less energy for root development than during the vegetive stage.
While flowering, your marijuana shoots for the sky and needs plenty of room to support vital functions. It also needs to absorb all the sweet, sweet, nutes to pump into your buds.
If you’re late to re-pot your weed, don’t do it while it’s flowering. This advice comes from long experience: moving your marijuana at this point spells disaster for your harvest.
Ride it out for now and use the experience to make you a better grower in the future.
How do you choose pot size when transplanting cannabis?
When transplanting cannabis, always pot-up into containers 2-3x the size of the previous one. This reduces the number of times you need to move your plants and minimizes the potential for cannabis transplant shock.
A cannabis plant requires a minimum of two gallons of soil per 12 inches of growth. Knowing the potential height of the strain you’re growing is always handy for planning when to transplant cannabis.
We’re looking at you, sativa lovers!
If you’re unsure of what to expect from your experimental seeds, always opt for more room over less. That way, you won’t be caught off-guard when a twelve-footer dominates your grow room!
Most indoor strains are happy finishing in a five-gallon container. Outdoor strains often dwarf those grown indoors, needing up to 20 gallons of soil per plant.
While planning your weed transplants, use my handy measurement guide on plant height vs. pot size:
- 0–6″ = 16 oz
- 6–12″ = 1-gallon
- 12–24″ = 3-gallon
- 24–42″ = 5-gallon
- 42–60″ = 10-gallon
- 60–84″ = 20-gallon
What do you need to prepare before transplanting pot plants?
Beyond selecting appropriately-sized pots for transplanting marijuana plants, you should prepare a few other things to make the transfer successful.
Prepare young plants by cutting the nutrients in half and letting them dry out as much as possible (not totally).
When you’re transplanting cannabis, removing a plant with a saturated rootstock can severely damage it.
You need to prepare the new medium ahead of the transplant. Flushing or sterilizing helps prevent threats like pests and nutrient imbalances, and you can add food back into the soil with fertilizers and nutrient boosters.
Recycling old earth helps maintain the pH and nutrient levels that your plant already likes, and helps prevent cannabis transplant shock.
Adjust the pH of the new soil to around 6 – 6.5 and always have water ready before you transplant weed plants.
Why not plant seedlings straight into their final home?
Transplanting marijuana seedlings as they grow may sound like hard work, and many new growers skip the transplanting and go straight for large containers.
This can be a mistake.
It’s better to transplant weed than to water small plants in big containers.
When transplanting marijuana seedlings into their final home, you run the risk of waterlogging. A large pot means a lot of soil. Lots of soil needs lots of water, often far more than the plant’s immature root system can handle.
As the roots spread out and colonize the pot, they can become trapped in saturated soil and begin to rot.
Another major reason for not transplanting cannabis into large pots too early is that plants use their stored energy to grow roots. They tend to seek the outside edges of your pot, using a whole lot of this energy to reach the farthest corners.
Transplanting pot plants too soon can, in these cases, actually slow down growth.
All this energy invested in the roots comes at the expense of above-ground growth, like developing leaves.
When you transplant cannabis according to its size and stage, roots can colonize pots quickly, absorbing all the water and nutrients it needs for balanced growth.
In other words—if the pot fits, your buds will blitz!
If transplanting cannabis straight into its final home is your only option, or if you’re ready for the challenge, follow the pro tips below for happier, healthier plants.
- Only saturate the center first, around 50% of the potting media.
- Water your plant in a column pattern—straight down, all the way around, using your seedling as a central point. This encourages roots to take the fastest path to the bottom and promotes upward growth.
- Never let your marijuana dry out during the early stage. Wait until you can see the roots at the bottom of the container to start a wet-dry cycle.
How to transplant cannabis plants
We’ve covered when to transplant cannabis plants, now it’s time to learn how to transplant your marijuana plants.
Freshly germinated seeds are usually happy in their nursery pot for a few weeks. Once they’ve developed four to five sets of leaves, it’s time to move the plants into a fresh new home.
Transplanting seedlings: step by step
Follow these steps to transplant weed safely, minimize the risk of cannabis transplant shock, and maximize your plant’s happiness.
Sterilize the area as much as possible and wash your hands (or wear clean gloves). These actions prevent contamination affecting the roots.
Make sure the soil is relatively dry – wet soil will fall apart when you pull it out.
Prepare your receiving pot with new soil that’s been flushed, sterilized, tested, and fertilized.
Remove the plant from its current pot by squeezing the container and flipping it upside down.
Put it straight into the new pot with the old soil to minimize the risk of shock. Leaving your weed outside of soil for too long, or exposing the roots to bright light can cause severe cannabis transplant shock.
Now your plants are settled, give them a good watering.
Vegetative transplanting: step by step
Depending on the growth rate, and if you stick to the double-up rule (by making each new pot double the size of the previous one,) your next crucial time for transplanting cannabis plants is when they start vegging.
Having your plant in its largest container at least two weeks before flowering begins is a key to bountiful yields.
Transplanting pot plants at this stage is a little riskier – cannabis transplant shock this far into the lifecycle could spell disaster for your harvest.
Let’s look at how to get it right, every time!
Prepare a clean area for the transplant.
Amend your potting medium and add it to the new pots, leaving plenty of room for the root ball. The soil shouldn’t fully fill the pot, it needs to be a few inches off the rim.
Transplanting cannabis plants into soil with the same nutrients, electrical conductivity (EC), and pH for cannabis levels as the old soil significantly reduces the threat of shock.
Flush the new soil, take measurements, and saturate it with the same nutrient mix you fed your plant before.
The soil should be fluffy and light, so you can easily make a hole big enough to sit the rootball.
Spray a little water over the plant and gently squeeze the container to loosen the soil.
Position yourself over the new pot or your compost pile. Hold the base with one hand as you turn the plant upside down. With your other hand, slide the container off.
Seat the root ball in the hole and cover with loose soil, creating an even soil level.
Keep things like light, heat, and humidity consistent until it’s settled into its new soil.
How to avoid cannabis transplant shock
Many beginners are unnecessarily fearful of moving their plants in case cannabis transplant shock occurs.
Every time you move your plant, it’s at risk of shock.
We hear you—nobody wants stunted growth and lower yields.
But here’s the good news—Mother Nature is very forgiving, and with a little due diligence, she’ll take care of you just like she takes care of the earth.
With a little knowledge, even first-time cultivators can avoid shock when transplanting cannabis.
Most shock occurs when you move a plant out of the ground to somewhere entirely new. New soil, new pH levels, new humidity levels. All these features make your plant nervous, so keep your conditions as consistent as possible.
Transplanting weed plants is a unique method of potting up.
You can control every element as you simply move your plant to a bigger space with the same potting media.
To ensure your weed doesn’t fall victim to cannabis transplant shock, follow these basic precautions:
- Take extra care when transplanting marijuana seedlings. Don’t touch their fragile roots as you move them.
- Prune dead or decaying older plant roots to encourage fibrous structures—but don’t break them apart.
- Use the same potting media and fertilizers.
- Flush your soil and test its EC and pH before transplanting weed plants.
- Fertigate the new earth with the same nutrient solution.
- Execute the transplant fast and efficiently. Minimize air and light exposure.
- Return your plants to where they’re happy. Don’t change the light, heat, or humidity until your plants start growing again.
Follow these rules, and instead of shock, your plant will thank you for your efforts with a growth spurt.
How’s that for a pleasant reward?
Is there anything you should do or avoid after transplanting?
After transplanting cannabis seedlings or vegetative weed, there are a few other things you can do to ensure the move doesn’t hurt.
Lay off any training that might put your marijuana under more stress.
After transplanting cannabis plants, you should wait a few days before resuming training and topping.
ALWAYS try to wait till the plant shows signs of healthy new growth. This is nature’s way of telling you “I’m ready. Let’s do this!”
Large plants may need some support in their new home. Consider a frame, plant stake, or other support structure to stop the larger ones toppling over.
When transplanting marijuana plants into their new home before flowering, don’t flip them straight after.
Give them time to get into the new groove to ensure they’re in the right frame of mind to enter the next phase. Let them settle, spread, and secure themselves in the new soil for up to two weeks before flipping.
How do you feed your cannabis plant after transplanting?
Flushing and sterilizing your new soil before transplanting cannabis is key to preventing myriad health risks.
But wait—won’t this leave your plant hungry when it arrives in its new home?
Totally! That’s why fertigating your potting media is essential!
Using the same solution you feed your plants before transplanting marijuana ensures it’s got everything it needs from the get-go.
Remember to recycle the old soil and test the new mix’s pH and EC levels before transplanting cannabis, just to be on the safe side. Your plant shouldn’t need additional nutes beyond its usual cannabis feeding schedule for a few weeks.
Now you’ve moved your ladies, be extra vigilant with them for the next few days. Monitor your plants for any signs of deficiency. Yellow leaves and purple stems are signs that something isn’t right with your pH levels after transplanting your marijuana plant.
Consider upping the nutes a few weeks later. Push them as far as possible for optimal crop outcomes, but be on the lookout for nitrogen-burnt tips.
These indicate that you’ve pushed your plant as far as it’ll go.
What about autoflowering plants: can you transplant them?
Autoflowering strains are one of the easiest to grow and boast rapid growth rates. They can mature within ten weeks after germination.
Transplanting cannabis of this type is generally a bad idea, though auto-experts like Kronic would disagree. Check out Kronic’s video on re-vegging autos – his argument for transplanting autoflowers is compelling!
For most growers, there isn’t enough time in an autoflower’s life cycle to overcome the stress of transplant.
If you must transplant your autos, timing is crucial. Only do it once—when your plant has grown four or five sets of leaves and has a robust root system.
Key takeaways about transplanting pot
Knowing how to transplant marijuana is simple, yet there’s a lot to remember.
Here are the key takeaways to help you on your home growing journey:
- Before transplanting cannabis, for young plants cut your nutes in half, let your plant dry, and prepare your new potting media.
- Choose a pot size that’s double the current container.
- When transplanting your marijuana plant, sterilize the area, avoid contact with the roots, and don’t overfill or pack down your pots.
- Work fast but be careful. Avoid exposing the plant’s roots to light and air.
- Let your plants settle. Don’t cause further stress by training or changing the environmental conditions.
- Always pot-up before the flowering stage—never during—and allow two weeks for your plants to adjust before flipping.
Transplanting your pot as your plant develops has many benefits.
It ensures your plants are happy and healthy, and they repay this TLC with THC.
As long as you respect the process of when to transplant cannabis, you won’t encounter too many problems.
Remember that transplanting cannabis straight into its final container can be tricky.
And that’s not just for rookies—I’m talking to you vets too!
If you have any special transplanting marijuana tips, why not share them with the rest of the Homegrown Cannabis Co. community?
Even expert cultivators can learn from others’ experiences on how to grow cannabis indoors. It’s all about listening to others’ tips and tricks, so share away on the Homegrown Forum.
About the Author: Kyle Kushman
Kyle Kushman is a legend in the cannabis community. He is the modern-day polymath of pot: cultivator, breeder, activist, writer, and educator. After winning no less than 13 Cannabis Cups, there’s nothing this guy doesn’t know about indoor growing – he’s been there, done it, and is still doing it to this day!
When to transplant cannabis and how to do it
Whether in an outdoor indoor cultivation, transplanting cannabis is a sensitive phase in the life of your plants, which need enough space to develop an extensive root system in order to reach their full potential. A plant with little room for its roots will never perform as well as another with a well-developed root ball! For this reason, it’s a very important moment for the plant growth, and you must transplant your marijuana at the right time and into the right pots.
Today we are going to take a closer look into this operation, which must be carried out with utmost care in order to minimize the stress caused to the plant. If you do it right, you will be able to make the most of the available space, save substrate and nutrients, reduce the risk of fungi, accelerate plant development, and obtain maximum yields. It’s worth trying, don’t you think? Let’s do it!
Healthy roots need some basic care
Why transplant your cannabis?
In nature, cannabis seeds germinate and rise directly from the ground after winter; these plants usually grow without any restrictions in regards to space for their roots, which can freely develop in all directions. This way, in addition to being able to better withstand the lack of irrigation, the plants grow and flower unrestricted, potentially reaching very big heights and yields with just some basic care.
However, when growing in pots you are limiting the space available for their roots, which naturally affects the plant’s overall development, both in the aerial part and the root system. Unsurprisingly, a plant cultivated in a small pot until harvest won’t yield as much as another plant that has plenty of room to develop a healthy root system, since the link between the size of the pot and the size of the plant is quite clear; but, why not germinate the seeds directly in large containers? Why keep changing pots periodically?
As we have already mentioned, if you do it right, you’ll be able to enjoy a number of benefits, among them:
You can save space, nutrients and substrate: when starting you cannabis grow, you don’t need large pots or huge amounts of soil. A straightforward 1L (or even smaller) container is more than enough for the first stage of your plant’s life, until it develops 3-4 sets of leaves. As you won’t need so much substrate or nutrients as with larger pots, the savings are obvious. Also, during this first phase, you probably won’t need much space or light, and certainly much less than during the vegetative and flowering phases, or if you start growing in a big pot and in a much larger cultivation area.
When growing in smaller pots you’ll save space, substrate and nutrients
Growing speed: when cultivating cannabis in a relatively small pot, you need to water your plant more often than with larger pots. When the dry substrate/wet substrate cycle is repeated more often, it results in a phenomenon similar to hydroponic cultivation: the more you water a plant, the faster it grows. It’s a matter of maximising this period until the transplant becomes necessary for the reasons we’ll see later on.
Lower risk of pathogenic fungi: imagine you sow marijuana in an 11L pot; if you moisten the whole substrate, it will be wet for several days, and given there are hardly any roots to absorb the moisture, it will take a long time to dry. This – especially when over-watering – can result in an increased risk of the roots developing pathogenic fungi, something that every cultivator would want to avoid at all costs.
Better performance: on the one hand, if you transplant your cannabis at the right moment using the right type of pot (basically, big enough for the plant you are growing), you’ll maximize the plant’s production. On the other hand, and as we have seen, when speeding up the process, you will save a few days at the end of the cultivation period, which will also improve the setup.
The same clone of the previous photo a few days after the transplant
How many transplants do cannabis need and when to carry them out?
Generally speaking, a marijuana plant is subjected to 2-3 transplants throughout its life cycle. A classic example of indoor cultivation would be a 1-2L pot followed by a 4L pot, and a final 7-10L pot. This could vary depending on the cultivation method and the grower needs and preferences, as it won’t be the same using the SOG than the SCROG techniques! Larger pots are usually used outdoors, where you can begin with a 3-4L pot followed by a 10-15L pot, and end with a final container of your chosen size (the larger the latter, the sooner you’ll have to perform the last transplant, so the plant has time to adapt and develop the maximum amount of roots before flowering).
In regards to the best moment to transplant cannabis, several indicators will let you know the time is right:
- Roots condition: when the roots start filling the pot’s drainage holes (and even sticking out through them), this is a symptom that they need more room to continue expanding.
- Plant size and structure: in the case of a poor or non-existent horizontal growth (lateral branches), it could be necessary to move the plant to a larger container. And the same applies when the plant begins to stretch; it’s very likely that it needs more space for the roots.
- Irrigation: when the plant has colonized all the substrate with its roots, it could barely retain moisture, so you should water it more often (every day or even several times a day). This is a clear sign that your marijuana needs transplanting into a pot with a bigger amount of substrate.
All these symptoms can overlap and take place simultaneously, something that is very common. If you monitor any of them, you’ll know whether the other signs are also present, which would confirm 100% the need of transplanting. But. how do you transplant your cannabis causing minimal stress to your plants? Which pots are most suitable? We explain this below!
This plant is beginning to need transplanting
As you know, the market provides plant pots of many types and sizes, from small containers for germination to large receptacles with a volume of hundreds of litres. As a guide, we propose the following pot sizes depending on the chosen technique:
Depending on the chosen cultivation method, the size of the final container can differ greatly. Here are some examples:
- SOG: 0.5L pot, followed by 1.65L pot, and a final 3.25L pot. Remember that the purpose of this method is to grow many small-sized plants with a single main central cola.
- SCROG: in this case, you can start with a 1.65L pot, followed by a 3.4L pot, and depending on the number of plants, a final 10-20L pot. Here we are aiming for a few large plants.
- Standard cultivation: many growers use a mixed technique, with more plants than in SCROG but less than in SOG. You can start with a 1L pot, move to a 2.5L pot, and conclude with a 4-7 litres container; again, depending on the number of plants you are growing.
Depending on the cultivation method, you can choose a different type of container
Similar to indoor cultivation, the pot size will also have a strong impact on the dimensions and production of the final plant. As we have seen, outdoor cultivations use larger pots than indoor grows from the beginning, as the vegetative period is much longer than when cultivating under artificial lights. For this reason, outdoor plants sometimes need more transplants, especially during the early stages of the vegetative period.
Either way, you need to apply the same criteria to determine whether the transplants are necessary or not, trying not to delay the right moment so the plant’s growth rate does not drop. It may also happen that after several transplants you’ll end up growing on the ground. In this case, we recommend you to perform the last transplant as soon as possible, in order to achieve maximum root growth (just like when using a final pot of more than 60-70L). To accelerate this process, and especially when growing on the ground or reusing a substrate, adding microbial life can greatly help with root growth.
How to transplant cannabis
Let’s have a look now at how you can transplant cannabis causing the least possible stress to your plants. Remember that, on the one hand, you are placing your plant in a new location with more room and nutrients, but on the other hand, you are causing stress by tampering with it and taking it out of its old “habitat”. Ideally, you should water it 1 or 2 days before performing the transplant; if the substrate is too dry, it could come apart when extracting the root ball, whereas – similarly – if it’s too wet, it could crumble. You need to achieve a medium humidity level.
This plant will need a transplant in a few days Remove the old pot place the plant and fill with substrate Ready for some water!
A great trick to cause minimal stress is to proceed as follows: fill the new pot with soil until when placing the old pot on top, there are still 2-3cm of the new container above the plant. Leave the old pot in the substrate and continue filling the new one until it’s completely covered, as if you’d wanted to bury the old one. Water the new container’s substrate, and carefully remove the old pot, so there’s a hole in the substrate which is a “mould” of the plant’s root ball. The only thing left to do is carefully remove the plant from its old container and place its root ball in the hole you made in the substrate. Cover everything with 1-2cm of soil and water a little more. You’re ready!
Usually after each transplant, root stimulators are used to maximize root growth and promote the plant continuous development. As we have pointed out, you can also use microbial life, such as beneficial bacteria or fungi, to speed up this process.
And here we end our article on how, when and why to perform a transplant. As you can see, if it’s done at the right moment and in the right way, the final yield can increase considerably. Don’t hesitate to share your transplant tips and techniques with us.
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.