Transplanting is a way to trigger further growth of cannabis plants. New growth mediums are larger in size, providing more room for plant roots to expand. 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. On many occasions, transplanting your cannabis is crucial to achieve the best possible yields. However, it’s natural to have doubts, especially in rel
How To Transplant Cannabis Plants: A Quick Guide
Growing your own cannabis garden is highly rewarding, both as a free source of weed and as a hobby. But like any other labor intensive engagement, growing cannabis comes with its fair share of unavoidable tasks, starting from the first-time seeds are planted to when leaves are harvested for consumption.
One such task is transplanting, which happens after seed germination and is very necessary for proper plant growth. When done wrong, it can destroy your whole cannabis garden in one day. When done right, it guarantees the yield you always dreamed of.
The guide below helps you understand the basics of how to transplant cannabis plants for maximum yields.
What is transplanting?
Transplanting is the process of moving newly sprouted seedlings or young plants from their original growth medium into another, as necessitated by increasing growth demands that the original growth medium can no longer fulfill.
The process of transplanting involves digging up a sprouted seedling or young plant along with some of its current soil mix and moving them to a new already-dug hole in the new growth medium.
Why do you need to transplant cannabis plants?
Transplanting seems a bit unnecessary and tedious, but cannabis growers still do it because of the reasons below:
To prevent plants from getting root bound. Plants get root bound when their roots outgrow their current growth medium, usually growing all around its edges instead. The problem with root bound plants is that they start to get stunted, start wilting, turn red at the stems and grow rather slowly, usually ending dead.
To foster faster growth. Transplanting is a way to trigger further growth of cannabis plants. New growth mediums are always larger in size, providing more room for plant roots to expand and ably support necessary plant growth processes such as flowering.
It prevents root rot. Transplanting would be easy to skip, but skipping it exposes plant roots to the risk of root rot, which happens when seeds are planted directly in the final growing medium and they fail to expand, later absorbing all the moisture in the soil and rotting instead.
When to transplant cannabis plants
Transplanting cannabis plants isn’t all about moving sprouted seedlings from one growth vessel to another. Factors such as timing are crucial and have to be considered to avoid any error.
How you can tell cannabis plants are ready for transplanting
Visible root growth
When you see the plant’s new healthy white roots reaching the edges of or passing through the bottom of their current growth vessel, the plant is ready for transplanting. That’s because the next step after reaching the vessel’s edges is getting root bound, which is dangerous.
Rapid leaf growth
When there’s faster development of leaves, and you can see about 4 to 5 leaves on the sprouted seedling, consider it ready for transplanting.
Strong plant stem
It’s time for transplanting if you touch the cannabis plant’s stem and find it harder or sturdier than it was before.
The vegetative phase
When the plant is clearly in the vegetative phase, you need to prepare for transplanting so that it doesn’t enter the flowering phase before it’s moved to a bigger growth vessel.
What stage of growth is transplanting most common in?
The simple answer here is during the vegetative growth phase because, at the germination stage, the plants are tender and might suffer more transplant shock. Additionally, this is the stage where there is a sudden increase in growth speed and hence increased demand for bigger root space.
What stage of growth is it safest in?
Transplanting can be done right after germination and during the vegetative phase, but it’s undoubtedly safer in the latter because the plant itself is more fit for the move and needs it for better growth.
How to transplant cannabis plants
The basic process of transplanting a cannabis plant seems pretty easy but there’s lots of room for error. The outlined process below is a good process you can follow for each form of transplanting.
Prepare your new growth vessel by filling it with enough growth medium (such as soil). Make sure it’s bigger than the current growth vessel. Then create a big enough hole in the middle for the new plant arrival.
Wear your gloves and use an appropriately sized trowel to scoop the plant out of its current growth vessel and medium, minding its roots the whole time.
Fit the transplant into the hole in the new growth vessel and quickly cover it with the new growth medium, minding the roots still.
A few notes to remember:
- Don’t water your plants a day or two before transplanting them.
- Always water the plant right after it’s been transplanted.
- Avoid touching the roots in any way when transplanting. Scoop the plant with enough soil to cover the roots as you move it.
- Avoid transplanting under intense sunlight or lots of artificial light.
The best methods to transplant cannabis plants
For maximum results, experts recommend following the method below when transplanting:
Carry out the first transplant: Make the first transplant as soon as 4 to 5 leaves appear to develop on the newly-sprouted cannabis plant. Make sure the roots have visibly developed too.
Carry out a vegetative phase transplant : The next transplant should happen when the cannabis plant appears to be about to exit its vegetative growth phase. During the vegetative phase, the plant grows rapidly and uses up more soil space for root development.
As it approaches the flowering stage, it should be transplanted again, this time to a final, finishing vessel/growth medium that will be sizable enough to support the increasing demands.
The best materials to use
Transplanting requires the best materials as much as it does the best soil if maximum returns are to be attained. We recommend the materials below:
A trowel , for safely scooping plants and their immediate soil during transplanting
Gloves , used to avoid contamination of fragile roots by bare hands
Spacious containers , designed to fit each level of transplanting, especially finishing pots.
Enough water for watering plants after a transplant
Stakes for supporting weaker plants for a while after transplanting.
There’s no doubt that planting your own cannabis will be a thrilling experience. But the growth process is quite long and requires a bit of extra effort from you for better results. We hope the guide above helps you understand the basic aspects of transplanting your cannabis plants for maximum yield.
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.
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.