There are two methods to grow cannabis in a soil substrate. Some hemp farmers prefer cloning existing, mature cannabis plants. This can prove highly cost effective and allows for the reliable reproduction of popular strains with known terpene profiles.
Other cannabis cultivators prefer the old-fashioned toil of planting a seed, allowing it to germinate, and then watch as it roots into the soil. Growing cannabis in this way allows for the innovation of new strains with new configurations of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Become Familiar with Your Cannabis Roots
Healthy roots equate to a strong, healthy plant. Sick, damaged, or neglected roots can quickly cause your cannabis plant to die or greatly diminish your trichome yields. Fortunately, vegetating and mature cannabis plants are always talking to you. And it’s important that you are listening.
Ninety-percent of human communication is non-verbal. So the notion of talking plants isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds. Successful cannabis farmers spend a lot of time with their plants. Doing so allows you to observe and identify problems with your plant early so you can quickly fix them.
Cannabis Root Basics
Like most plants, cannabis plants begin growing by means of their taproot. This is the first and primary root that grows from a germinated seed. Secondary roots grow laterally from the taproot. These are especially critical for clones, as they lack a traditional taproot.
Primary Roots (Taproot)
Taproots dig deep into the earth searching for water and nutrients. Carrots and radishes are examples of edible taproots. For these plants, their taproot stores an abundance of food, acting as an energy reserve. The taproot is considered the primary root, from which secondary (lateral) roots develop.
- Taproots provide structural support for the plant, anchoring it into the substrate.
- Taproots absorb large amounts of nutrients and water, allowing a seedling to quickly begin it’s first vegetative growth cycle.
- They store food and water for use during times of drought or dry weather.
Secondary Roots (Lateral Roots)
The secondary roots branch out horizontally to find and collect water and nutrients. They add additional stabilization and are very important to the vegetative growth of a plant. Lateral roots also add to the overall surface area of a cannabis plant root system.
- Lateral roots increase the surface area of the root system, allowing for additional water and nutrient uptake.
- They provide additional structural support for the cannabis plant.
- A strong, secondary root system facilitates larger plants and bigger buds.
We know how important roots are to a plant. In most cases, roots make up almost half of the plant’s anatomy. It’s no surprise that when a cannabis cultivator begins to experience problems with their cannabis crop, the issue often involves the roots.
Getting to the Roots of an Unhealthy Cannabis Plant
When cannabis plants root themselves into your soil (or substrate), they need a balance of air, nutrients, and water. If you’ve prepared your soil properly it will contain all three, and you’ll be harvesting large, dank buds when your plant flowers.
There are a number of circumstances that can result in damaged or diseased roots. If you can’t inspect the roots of your plants, you’ll want to play close attention to what your cannabis plants are telling you:
|Leaf Symptom||Common Cause||Impact to Roots|
|Drooping Leaves||Over-watering||Root Rot|
|Discoloration of leaves or stems||Nutrient Deficiency||Root Substrate pH imbalance, root rot, or over-crowded roots|
|Wilting leaves||Too Little Water||Root pH imbalance or plants not being watered enough|
|Dry, rigid leaves||Too Little Water||Thirsty, under-watered roots.|
When the leaves of your cannabis plant show signs of trouble, there’s a good chance your roots are struggling too. The most common mistakes or oversights that cause root issues are:
- The pH of your soil is too high or too low. Roots absorb water and nutrients best at a pH of around 6 to 7 in a soil medium.
- Your cannabis plants are being watered too frequently. This can lead to root rot.
- Your soil has been depleted of nutrients. You may need to fertilize or transplant your cannabis plant into fresh soil.
- Inappropriate size container for your plant. Too large can lead to root rot. Too small could cause your plant to become root bound.
If you’re concerned about the pH of your soil and don’t already have a pH testing probe or monitoring system, we’d recommend you take a peek at our selection of testing equipment. We have pH adjusting solutions also!
There are several ways to prevent issues with the roots of your cannabis plants. The easiest means of prevention is using the best pot for your plant.
Preventing Root Issues Using Fabric Pots
We believe the old axiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This holds very true when cultivating cannabis. And it works best when you start at the beginning when you first plant your clipping or seed into a pot.
Fabric pots can help prevent most of the root related problems facing cannabis farmers. They can cost more than plastic pots up front, however the increased trichome yields more than make up for the investment.
How do Fabric Pots Work?
Fabric pots, such as the popular Smart Pot, are usually manufactured with a non-woven material. Using non-woven textiles allows manufacturers to create fabric that is application-specific.
Fabric pots vary by brand, material, and construction. However most of the primary advantages remain the same. Let’s review some of the top benefits to cannabis cultivators.
Natural Root Development
One of the ways Smart Pots result in healthier plants and larger buds is by allowing the roots to develop naturally. When the primary root reaches the edge of the pot, it can sense air. This tells the primary root to stop growing as there is no where else to go.
Before the primary root stops growing, the secondary, lateral roots begin to form. They will continue growing until they also reach the edges of the fabric pot. Roots do not circle the pot, and so root-bound is prevented and roots do not become overcrowded.
Remember we mentioned that roots need both air and water to stay healthy? Smart Pots and fabric pots allow air to enter and leave the soil. This ensures that roots get plenty of oxygen, which allows them to function at their best.
Plants require oxygen to create the energy they need to grow and thrive. Properly aerated soil supports the roots natural need to respire.
One of the most common causes of poor cannabis health and low yields is over-watering. Fabric pots are superior at preventing water-logged roots. They allow water to freely drain from the container. This makes it necessary to have adequately sized drain trays, especially if you are a greenhouse or indoor cannabis cultivator.
Some fabric pots are designed to drain through the bottom, and some also “sweat” out the sides. This is highly effective at preventing root-rot, which is common in plastic pots that are not draining properly. Roots become brown and their nutrient and water uptake are greatly reduced. Untreated, root rot will kill your entire plant.
How to Choose the Best Sized Pot for Your Cannabis Plants
Cannabis cultivation involves a bit of alchemy. That is to say, each farmer will have varying preferences and techniques. This includes what size pots to use for their cannabis seeds and cuttings.
Ultimately, you’ll need to choose the best size for your cultivation business, however we’ll provide some best practices below to get you started.
Sizes for Cannabis Clones and Germinating Seeds
Whether you’re germinating cannabis seeds in search for new strains or cloning your most popular plants, you’ll want to start with a smaller, 1-gallon pot. If you plant your seed or transplant into a large pot, you run the risk of exposing the seedling to pre-mature root rot.
Soil retains water. Large pots contain more soil which retains more water. The small cannabis plant will not be able to absorb the water fast enough, creating an overly damp environment ripe for fungus. Over saturated soil can also suffocate your new cannabis plant.
Sizes for Vegetating and Flowering Plants
Once your young plant matures and has firmly rooted it’s taproots and begun branching out with lateral roots, you need to carefully inspect the roots when you suspect they’ve reached the edge of the Smart Pot. If they have, it’s time to transition them to a larger pot.
Fortunately, fabric pots naturally mitigate root binding, so your plant will stop growing in size but will remain healthy if you don’t transplant right away. When it’s time, growers will usually step up to a 3-5 gallon fabric pot.
Sizes for Established, Mature Cannabis Plants
Many cannabis farmers are discovering that there is huge growth potential for their plants. To put it simply, the larger the pot, the larger the cannabis plant. Larger plants equate to more buds and higher yields. This is when your greenhouse or grow room layout becomes significant.
It’s true that larger cannabis or hemp plants have a higher trichome yield, however they also take up more space both horizontally and vertically in your grow room. Because of this, many cultivators prefer growing a higher number of smaller plants so they fit better within their grow rooms.
We have fabric pots to support the largest of cannabis plants. That said, bigger is rarely better. You want more trichomes, not the record for the tallest plant. If you have the space and would like to try growing larger cannabis plants, the sky’s the limit! However keep the following in mind:
- Consider the distance between your grow lamps and your plants. If you begin growing larger plants, be sure you can raise your lights appropriately.
- Light distribution and diffusion. It can be more difficult to ensure all the leaves of a large plant receive adequate light.
- Vegetation is a means to an end. Flowering plants are the ultimate goal to get those righteous buds.
- Think economically. Once your plants reach 4-6 feet, you want your energy and nutrient costs to support flowering. Growing larger plants will come with additional energy and nutrient costs.
- Grow Room and Greenhouse design. Will you need to change your support structures to accommodate larger plants? Again, this is an additional cost.
- Appropriate spacing. Taller cannabis plants are wider cannabis plants. Be careful not to crowd your plants. This restricts how much light reaches the plant and causes vegetative stress. A stressed plant reduces your yields because the plant is focusing on survival, not flowering.
We are certainly not trying to discourage you from growing larger plants. However we want to be sure all the caveats and challenges have been considered ahead of time.
Healthy Roots, Healthy Plant, Higher Yields.
If you are a cannabis farmer that is germinating seeds or growing clippings in a soil medium, we highly recommend you give fabric pots a try. Healthier roots produce healthier plants. And that leads to larger yields. This allows cultivators to produce more product in the same amount of growing space.
Need more help?
We hope you found this article helpful and informative. Keeping your roots healthy to support respiration and prevent bacteria and rot is important – and we’re here to help.
If you have questions about our selection of fabric pots, including our high-quality Smart Pots, feel free to reach out to our team. We’re happy to help and provide additional resources and answer any other questions you may have.