Transplanting weed seeds

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.

Conclusion

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.

Root development

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.)
6-12″ 1-gallon
12-24″ 3-gallon
24-42″ 5-gallon
42-60″ 10-gallon
60-84″ 20-gallon

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.

How to Germinate & Transplant Cannabis Seedlings

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how (and when) to transplant your new cannabis seedlings so they grow as fast as possible!

Did you know that seedlings in solo cups often grow faster than seedlings started in big containers?

The reason some growers transplant their plants instead of starting them in their final container is that seedlings usually grow faster during the first few weeks of their life if you start them in something small like a solo cup. The growing medium dries out much faster in a smaller container, which means your seedling roots are always getting access to lots of oxygen at all times. It also makes it more difficult to overwater your plants!

If you start seedlings in a solo cup, you should try to transplant to a bigger pot around the time the leaves reach the edges of the cup. This seedling is ready for transfer!

If seedlings get too big for their cups before transplanting to a bigger container, you may accidentally limit your plant’s root space. This slows down growth and can cause puzzling deficiencies! So if you do start in small containers it’s important to transplant your seedlings on time to avoid letting them become rootbound!

“Rootbound” seedlings are often droopy and may display odd symptoms that are hard to explain. If seedlings are rootbound you’ll see during the transfer process that the roots have wrapped all the way around the outsides of the container, preventing the plant roots from doing what they need to do. Try to transfer to a bigger pot before this point!

For many growers, it’s simpler to start plants in their final containers. Although your seedlings may grow slightly slower at first, you never have to worry about transplanting them. You also avoid the possibility of shocking them during the transplant process.

That being said, if you want the fastest growth from your seedlings and don’t mind transplanting, starting in small containers like solo cups may be the way to go.

The truth is, your seedlings will thrive whether you start in a big or small container as long as you take good care of them! Neither way is the “best” method; it’s more a matter of personal preference.

How to Transplant Seedlings

1.) Germinate Seeds with Paper Towel Method

Before you can start transplanting, you need to germinate your seeds. I recommend the “paper towel” method for germination because this method is easy and hard to mess up! Learn About Other Ways to Germinate Seeds!

  1. Place your seeds inside a folded wet paper towel, and place it between two paper plates (or regular plates) so that they don’t dry out.
  2. Check on your seeds every 12 hours but try not to disturb them. When they’ve germinated, you’ll see the seeds have cracked and there are little white roots coming out.
  3. They should germinate in 1-4 days, though some seeds can take a week or longer (especially older seeds).
  4. Keep them warm if possible. One thing you can do to get seeds to germinate a little faster is to keep them in a warm place (75-80°F). Some people use a seedling heat mat but in most cases that’s unnecessary.

These seedlings were sprouted using the paper towel method!

Once your seeds have germinated, gently plant seeds in a solo cup about an inch deep, roots down.

Make sure to cut plenty of holes in the bottom of the solo cup first, so water can drain out the bottom easily!

Add your potting mix to the solo cup. Dig a small hole about 1-2″ deep and gently place your sprouted seed, root down, into the hole you made. Lightly fill around and cover with soil. You’ll see a seedling emerge a day or two later!

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for the paper towel germination method!

2.) Allow leaves to grow to edges of the solo cup

Your seedlings will take off in a day or two, and soon it’ll seem like they’re growing more and more each day!

Once your seedlings have grown enough that their leaves have reached the edges of the solo cup, it’s time to transplant to a bigger container!

These seedlings are begging to be transplanted to bigger pots (especially that big one on the bottom!)

Transferring to a bigger container at this stage will prevent your seedling roots from becoming rootbound and “choking” themselves because they get all wrapped around the outside of the soil. The outside circling of the roots prevents the plant from using water and nutrients properly, so you often end up with droopy seedlings and hard-to-explain nutrient deficiencies.

3.) Transplant seedlings to a 1, 2 or 3-gallon pot (then to an even bigger final container if you desire)

Instead of pulling the whole plant out of the container, sometimes you can just cut away the solo cup when you plan on transplanting. This is one of the advantages of starting in disposable cups – it makes transplanting easy and stress-free. You can also gently run a butter knife around the outside to help loosen the soil, turn it upside down and pat out the seedling, soil and all!

Transfer seedling into a new container by digging a hole the size of a solo cup, and gently placing your seedling in the new hole without disturbing the roots at all if possible, like this!

How to Avoid Transplant Shock

The process of transplanting from one container into a bigger one can shock your cannabis plants, especially if you wait too long to transplant.

You don’t want cannabis transplant shock!

You can help avoid causing your cannabis plants stress during transplant by following these principles:

  • Transplant your cannabis plants after their roots have begun to fill container (to help hold all the growing medium together) but before the roots have started wrapping around the edges (plants have become rootbound).
  • Water your cannabis plants 1-2 days before transplanting. This will help the growing medium stay together (since it’s moist), but still slide out easily (since it’s not soaking wet).
  • It’s better to transfer too early than too late!
  • If the roots haven’t grown all around the sides of the root ball (plant isn’t rootbound), avoid disturbing the roots if possible. There’s no need to shake out dirt, just carefully move entire root ball directly into the next pot.
  • Make sure your plants are in their final container at least 1-2 weeks before you switch them over to the flowering stage, and avoid transplanting plants during the flowering/budding stage if you can since the stress may affect your final yields.
  • If your cannabis plants seem like they are suffering from transplant shock (leaf symptoms, drooping, slowed growth), it can be helpful to use a seaweed kelp extract (often available as a liquid fertilizer) to help your cannabis recover more quickly. If transplanting seems scary, it’s okay to plant your seed or clone in its final destination right at the beginning, just be wary of overwatering until the plant has a few sets of leaves and is growing vigorously. You can increase the amount of oxygen available to your plants by adding extra perlite to loosen the soil and allow water to drain through more easily. after they’ve been transplanted for the best results!

If you follow all these steps, you may notice that your plant doesn’t show any signs of stress at all!

Now you just allow plants to grow!

4.) Transplant to an even bigger container if desired

If your cannabis plants double in height while still in the vegetative stage, you may want to consider transplanting them into an even bigger container for the best results. The final size of your cannabis plant is constrained by the pot size. If you keep your plants in small pots, they simply won’t grow as big as they would in bigger pots.

If you’re trying to keep plants small, small containers can actually be a good thing. But if you want to grow bigger plants, you need to give their roots enough space to “spread out”

What Size Final Container?

A general guide is to have at least 2 gallons per 12″ of height. This isn’t perfect since plants often grow differently, and some plants are short and wide instead of tall, but this is a good starting rule of thumb.

So if your final (desired) plant size is…

12″ ~ 2-3 gallon container

24″ ~ 4-6 gallon container

36″ ~ 6-8 gallon container

48″ ~ 8-10 gallon container

60″ ~ 10+ gallon container

Go Bigger If You Need to Spend Time Away From Your Cannabis!

If you plan on being away from your plants for more than a day or two during the grow, it can’t hurt to go up a size or two. The bigger the container, the less often you need to water. So even if you get slightly slower growth in a too-big container, you will definitely be able to spend more time away from your plants without having to water them!

5.) You’re Done!

That’s it. You’re done transplanting your weed plants!

Now you just need to worry about taking care of your plants until you’re ready to start flowering/budding. Remember plants will usually double (or even triple) in size from when you first initiate the flowering stage!

Note: You can skip transplanting if it seems like too much work for you. Just make sure you’re careful not to overwater small plants in too-big containers. Once plants start growing vigorously, you don’t need to worry as much about overwatering. Learn more about common seedling problems.

Should I start in a solo cup or in a bigger pot?

I think it’s a matter of preference. Just as a quick summary: It’s easy to give too much or too little water to a very small seedling in a big pot. With a solo cup, you just soak the grow medium and the roots get a lot of both oxygen and water at all times because the medium dries out quickly. The downside is you have to transplant a seedling as soon as the leaves reach the edges of the cup, or its growth starts slowing down. Also, if you’re not careful you could possibly shock the plant during transplant.

Seedlings started in solo cups take less room in the grow space, and tend to grow a little faster! But if you’re careful about watering plant in a big container, you can get seedlings to grow almost as fast without having to worry about transplanting.

I’ve done it both ways and each method will serve you well. In the end, don’t stress too much. Your seedlings will come out fine as long as you pay attention to them