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How and When to Transplant Cannabis Plants

In the first part
of this series, you familiarized yourself with the different types of pots
available for your plants. Now the question is, why, how, and when should you transplant your cannabis?

In this installment, we explain why progressive transplanting is important, while offering insight into why various container sizes benefit certain growth stages. Finally, we’ll review some techniques for successfully transplanting cannabis.


How to grow marijuana indoors: A beginner’s guide

Why Is Transplanting Important?

Some growers initially sow their seeds
in large containers in order to bypass the transplanting process. The setback is that the roots will be suspended in a large amount of soil and may not absorb all of the moisture. This sitting moisture can then lead to root rot.

For this reason, most growers opt to start seedlings in smaller containers before gradually transplanting them into their “finishing pots.”

When growing cannabis in containers, the number one limitation for plant development lies with root expansion. Roots need to expand and develop in order for a plant to grow and flourish. Containers determine the amount of space available for roots to grow, and cannabis requires transplanting in order to reach its full potential.

Furthermore, when root systems outgrow their environment and do not have enough room to expand, it may become “root bound.” The symptoms of a root-bound plant include:


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A plant that is root bound may also appear under-watered. If a plant requires watering once or more a day, this may mean a transplant is needed. Plants that continue to grow while root bound are at risk of growth deficiency and disease, and may die off.

Gradually moving plants from smaller containers to slightly larger ones will allow the roots to develop, while getting the most from their containers. When the plants are ready to move into the flowering stage
, they should have plenty of room in their finishing pots for the roots to flourish.

When Is the Right Time to Transplant?


Once your cannabis seeds are germinated, they are ready to be put in their first container. At this point, the grower must decide how and when transplanting will occur.

Here are some indicators that your cannabis is ready for a new container:


Stages of the cannabis plant growth cycle

How Much Space Does Cannabis Need?

Not only do certain cannabis strains
require more space than others, but growers will inevitably be working within their own garden’s parameters. How much room do you have available in your grow space?


Differences in Growing Sativa, Indica and Hybrid Cannabis

Medium-sized indoor plants tend not to need anything more than a 3-to-5-gallon container as a finishing pot in the flowering stage. On the other hand, large outdoor plants may require several-hundred-gallon containers to reach their behemoth potential.

A plant tends to require 2 gallons of soil for each 12 inches of growth it achieves during its vegetative cycle.

When transplanting, it’s advised to give the plants at least double the space of their previous container. This reduces the number of times you must transplant, and therefore minimizes the risk of “transplant shock,” which may occur when a plant experiences extreme stress from root disturbance.

When in doubt, always opt for slightly more space than needed. A plant tends to require 2 gallons of soil for each 12 inches of growth it achieves during its vegetative cycle. Knowing the potential height of the strain you’re planning to grow is a helpful consideration. (Note: information on a strain’s typical height can be found on most Leafly strain pages
under Grow Info.)

How to Transplant Cannabis 

The process of transplanting does not come without risk. Transplant shock can be incredibly detrimental to the growth and development of a plant, even deadly in some cases. However, through proper execution, the process of transplanting should benefit the plant, leading to stronger root development and healthier flower production.

First Transplant

Young plants should originally be sowed in a container about the size of a Solo cup. This starting pot should be adequate for a few weeks before transplanting is needed. Once again, the very first transplant should occur after the seedlings have sprouted their 4th or 5th leaf set.

After checking the root development and confirming that the plant is beginning to fill the basin with healthy roots, it is time to choose a successor container.


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Vegetative Transplanting

After the initial transplant, all others should be based on root expansion until a finishing container is selected. Remember, a plant tends to require 2 gallons of soil for each 12 inches of growth it achieves during its vegetative cycle.

Plants should maximize the space in their current containers before a new one is chosen. This process may continue for as long as a grower intends to keep their plant in a vegetative state. Oftentimes “mother” plants–used for cloning­
–are transplanted into larger pots so that they may continue to vegetate for long periods of time.

Finishing Containers

A finishing container is the final holding place for a plant during its flowering cycle. This will be the largest container used during the grow, and it is highly recommended that plants are placed in finishing pots prior to the flowering stage.


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If performed correctly, the benefits of transplanting can be profound. There is a lot of room for customization when it comes to transplanting progression, with different systems suiting various grow styles and container options. The most important aspect of a successful transplanting routine is that grower gets what they want from their garden and gets the most out of the containers they choose to grow with.

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Patrick Bennett

Patrick lives with his wife and daughter in Denver, where he spends his time writing, photographing, and creating content for the cannabis community.

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2 part series