How to Transplant Your Cannabis Plants

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If you plan on using soil as a medium, then you also have to learn how to transplant if you want your plant to produce a good yield. Similar to how a growing child constantly needs new clothes as they get bigger, your cannabis seedling will outgrow its seedling tray quickly and when it does, you’ll have to transfer it to a new pot. While this is necessary for your plant to grow strong, healthy roots, it also causes it stress. But once you get the hang of it, transplanting won’t pose any risk to your plant.

Why do you have to transplant?

You may be wondering “what about cannabis farmers who have to plant thousands, don’t they just put seeds in the soil and wait for them to grow?” You might be surprised to know that they in fact, transplant each seedling and clone. Although it is possible to grow a seedling directly into the ground, this won’t give your young plant the optimal conditions for growth since its small roots won’t be able to access water, air, and nutrients as well compared to those planted in seedling trays or cups. This is because water will settle in soil, taking nutrients with it. You can’t exactly soak your soil since roots also need air, and you also can’t compact it to increase moisture retention since the roots will struggle to penetrate.

But you also can’t leave your seedlings for a long time in their small containers, it is critical that you transplant them at the right time. Otherwise, your plant will get rootbound and its growth may get stunted permanently.  

When should you transplant?

Transplanting causes your plants stress so you only want to do it twice, at most 3 times – from seedling to young plant and another into the ground or a large capacity pot. The main concern with pot size is your plant’s roots’ access to water; if you put a small plant in a large pot, you’ll have to water it more frequently and not only will this waste water, it will give rise to a host of problems like pests, root rot, etc. 

How do you know when it’s time to transplant? This depends on what kind of medium you’re using:

  • Rockwool – you can transplant once you see the roots poking out of the cube
  • Soil – it can be a bit hard to judge when to transplant when using soil since you won’t be able to see how the roots are doing. It is not advisable to use transparent seedling cups because roots grow in the dark and sunlight could trigger algae growth in the soil. However, you may want to move your seedlings to a bigger container once it grows 4 to 5 sets of leaves. Another cue is if the roots are already trying to grow out of the pot’s bottom drain holes.

Knowing when to transplant is just something you get the hang of through experience. Here are a few good rules of thumb on transplanting your marijuana plants:

  • First transplant to a 2-gallon pot typically happens within 4 to 8 weeks after germination. 
  • Second transplant to a 5-gallon pot can be done around 2 weeks before the flowering period.

You can use your plant’s size as reference to get an idea on the optimal size of pot to use, here’s a simple guide you can follow:

HeightPot capacity
Up to 6 inches6 ounce
Around 6 to 12 inches1 gallon
Around 12 to 24″ inches 3 gallons
Around 24 to 42 inches 5 gallons
Around 42 to 60 inches 10 gallons
Around 60 to 84 inches 20 gallons

How to transplant your marijuana plant

Transplanting is fairly easy, if you do it at the right time. First, here are the things you need to prepare:

  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Water sprayer
  • New pot for transplanting
  • New soil

Steps on how to transplant a seedling, clone or older plant:

  1. Clean your hands or wear clean rubber gloves to avoid contamination of the roots. Harmful bacteria can thrive in moist soil and can cause root problems that cannot be treated with sprays.
  2. Spray your plant to make the soil moist but not wet. If the soil gets too wet, it may fall off the roots.
  3. Put a bit of soil in the bigger pot and make sure there’s enough space for the new plant. 
  4. Squeeze the pot around slightly to loosen the plant. If possible, cut the container open from the plant, do not pull up from the stalk! Also take care that the roots do not get exposed to light too much.
  5. Put it gently into its new container. Continue filling with soil but do not pack tightly. Spray it some more until it is adequately moist.

Frequently Asked Questions on Transplanting

When is the best time to transplant my marijuana plant?

Typically, you need to transplant seedlings once it grows 4 to 5 sets of leaves. Another cue is if the roots are already trying to grow out of the pot’s bottom drain holes. The second of third time you will need to transplant is when your plant reaches a certain size. You should upgrade to a 5 gallon pot once it reaches a height of around 24 to 42 inches.

Is it necessary to transplant my cannabis plant?

Whether you are growing from seed or clone, it is necessary to transplant your marijuana plant at least two times: from a seedling cup to a pot, then once or twice to a much bigger pot where your plant will remain until the end of its life cycle. Transplanting to a bigger pot will give your plant more room to grow its roots but the new pot should also be the right size so that your soil won’t get waterlogged.


If you’re growing in soil, you really have no option but to learn how to transplant. However, it’s a fairly easy process that you’ll get the hang of after one try. You only need to get the knack of figuring out the size of pot to upgrade to. To improve the outcomes of transplanting, you may want to try using formulations that reduce transplant shock like Miracle -Gro Quick Start but most growers do fine without. Your choice of seedling cups, trays and gallon pots also matters since it is critical that you get your plant out of its old container easily.

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