Essential Nutrients For Growing Cannabis Plants

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Although your cannabis plant will still grow and bear buds with just basic fertilizer or enriched soil, the resulting yield and quality of buds will likely disappoint you. So if you are a serious grower, you have to learn how to wield nutrients well. But you can’t just put them on your plant and hope for the best. Nutrients are nothing more than various elements and using them improperly can dramatically impact the taste and smell of your buds and even damage your plant. But knowing how to use them properly can easily double or triple your potential yield.

Shopping for nutrients

When shopping for cannabis growing supplies, you’ll mostly come across nutrient formula combos instead of individual nutrients. Often, these nutrients will be labeled “grow” and “bloom”, meaning that the ratio of individual nutrients, typically macronutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, are formulated specifically for the needs of your plant during that phase. Micronutrients will likely be a separate product bundled with these grow and bloom formulas to make a complete nutrient package. It should be noted that nutrient packages for soil are different from that for hydroponics, so make sure to get the right one for your setup.

These nutrient packages are very convenient but they’re not entirely foolproof. Even if you follow the instructions that come with the product, there’s still a risk of overfeeding since there are a lot of factors that can affect the nutrient needs of your plant. You have to take into consideration the kind of soil you are using, the amount of water you put in, the amount of light your plants are getting, etc. Even the kind of strain you grow will be a factor on the amount and ratio of nutrients you need to use. 

Macronutrients and micronutrients

There are two types of nutrients your plants need to survive: macronutrients and micronutrients. Cannabis plants use up macronutrients in much larger quantities, as much as 10x, than micronutrients but the latter is nevertheless still essential for various plant processes. Here’s a basic overview of the various elements in cannabis nutrient formulas and how they are used by your plant:


  • Nitrogen (N) – a key catalyst for photosynthesis and essential for plant growth
  • Phosphorus (P) – critical for transporting and storing energy, needed for root growth and flowering
  • Potassium (K) – necessary for synthesis of carbohydrates and enzymes, regulates water and activates nitrogen absorption


  • Boron (B) – acts as catalyst for various nutrients, essential for plant growth and functions  
  • Calcium (Ca) – needed for mineral retention and transportation
  • Chlorine (B) – necessary for proper stomata function
  • Copper (B) – needed for chlorophyll production and various enzymatic activities
  • Iron (Fe) – needed for chlorophyll production and various enzyme functions
  • Magnesium (Mg) – main component of chlorophyll, phosphorous carrier, necessary for protein creation and cell division
  • Manganese (Mn) – used in various biological systems, plays a role in root health
  • Molybdenum (Mo) – necessary for nitrogen fixation 
  • Nickel (Ni) – necessary for nitrogen fixation and disease resistance
  • Sulfur (S) – essential in formation of chlorophyll and nitrogen metabolization
  • Zinc (Zn) – needed for activation of enzymes, directly affects chlorophyll production

The roles these nutrients play in your plant’s growth and health are certainly not limited to the ones mentioned above. All of them are essential in varying degrees – macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium need to be applied regularly, while secondary nutrients like calcium, sulfur, and magnesium once in a while or if there are signs of deficiency. 

Micronutrients rarely need to be applied, especially when growing in enriched soil. In fact, there is a bigger risk of overfeeding than deficiency, and this can cause nutrient lockout and micronutrient toxicity which can show up as damage on the leaves. 

Frequently Asked Questions on Essential Nutrients for Cannabis Plants

What kind of nutrients does cannabis need?

Cannabis plants need a number of nutrients to survive. These can be divided into two kinds: macronutrients and micronutrients. Nutrient formulas for grow and bloom phases contain different ratios of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Meanwhile, micronutrient formulas may contain magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, nickel, and iron.


It may be more advisable for new growers to use organic “super soil” as they build experience since this medium typically has all the nutrients in adequate amounts to get an acceptable harvest. Those who want to use nutrient formula should be extra cautious and know how and when to perform flushing and diagnose signs of overfeeding. Experienced growers also advise using a diluted dose of nutrients instead of following manufacturer instructions since it is easier to add than rectify the damage of overfeeding. However, this may not be applicable to hydro growers who need to maintain their system’s nutrient levels regularly.

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