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Transplanting Cannabis Plants: All You Need To Know

As any keen gardener knows, transplanting your plants is usually a good thing. Indeed, some plants thrive after doing so. It gives plants more room to grow and spread out, and a change of location and/or soil type may be all they need to flourish. 

Transplanting your cannabis plants offers this same promise of rejuvenation, but only when done correctly. 

Transplanting a cannabis plant properly can address several issues that cannabis growers struggle with. It can mean the difference between an unhealthy, straggly plant and a healthy, vibrant one. 

Want to know more? Find out all you need to know in this step-by-step guide to when, why, and how you should practice cannabis plant transplanting. 

What Is Cannabis Transplanting? 

Transplanting a plant is the act of uprooting it from its place of growth and moving it to a different site. 

This can involve moving it from a pot to the ground or from an indoor growing area or greenhouse to an outdoor garden. It can also be a shift of location from one area of outdoor soil to another, or from a smaller pot to a larger one, with more soil. 

As with other plants, cannabis transplanting is moving the plant elsewhere, with more space/soil, as it grows bigger. And there are some good reasons to do so.

The Importance Of Transplanting Cannabis Plants

As your cannabis crop grows and develops, you will want to transplant your plants from time to time. These are the top 3 reasons why you should consider transplanting your cannabis plants.

More Room To Grow

Transplanting your cannabis plant allows it more room to grow and thrive. Cannabis plants in cramped conditions will often show signs of poor health. Although you should start your crop off in smaller pots to ensure an optimal air-to-water ratio, as they grow larger, they will need bigger pots with more soil. 

When a cannabis plant’s roots are cramped, they can get tangled up. The plant will become ‘rootbound’, leading to stunted growth, nutrient deficiencies, and possibly the plant’s demise. So, always give your larger plants enough room to spread out and grow.

Spacing Your Cannabis Plants

Spacing your cannabis plants properly is vital for their continued health and growth. 

A general rule of thumb is to space outdoor growing plants at least 3-6 feet apart, and indoor growing plants 1-2 feet apart. But what about the space when planting seeds? Planting a seed in an enormous pot without knowing whether it will germinate is wasteful. The same would apply if planting seeds outdoors. 

That’s why growers typically start seeds off in 4-inch or 1-gallon pots. After a few weeks of growth, growers should transfer the sprouted seeds into larger pots or outdoors.Don’t transplant when the plant is still small and weak, as it will probably become damaged.

Helps Avoid Plant Diseases

Cannabis plants can develop mold and bud rot if there is not enough space around them for proper air circulation. Such problems will ruin your entire crop if left unchecked. Powdery mildew and leaf spot are other common problems that will affect plant health and reduce yield.

Early identification is crucial for saving your plant and avoiding further contamination of your cannabis crop. Check out our article on how to identify the signs of bud rot, mold, and root rot for a guide on how to recognize these challenges.

You can avoid many of the above problems by transplanting plants to a more spacious environment. It’s also essential to separate sickly plants from healthy ones as soon as possible, to prevent widespread contamination. 

Prevents Rootbound Issues And Root Rot

The grow container’s size will determine how much the roots can spread out. The roots need to stretch out to get all the nutrients the plant needs for growth. A container that’s too small will inhibit the root system, limit nutrient uptake, and prevent healthy growth.

But there’s another problem that rootbound pants can face – root rot. Various factors can lead to root rot, including viruses, harmful bacteria, and fungi. Soil that is too dense and does not allow enough drainage, or a container that is too compact, often causes root rot.

Signs Your Plant Is Rootbound

 If you are unsure whether your cannabis plant is rootbound, look for the following signs:

  • Yellowing and drooping leaves
  • Stunted growth and small buds
  • Soil dries extremely quickly after watering
  • Roots protruding through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot 

One or more of these signs may indicate that your plant is rootbound. To check, gently lift the plant by its main stem while tugging the pot downward, until you see the upper area of the root ball. A dense mass of roots tightly circling the perimeter of the pot means the plant is root-bound.

Separates The Male & Female Cannabis Plants

Cannabis growers usually plant as many seeds as possible in their growing pots because they don’t know how many will germinate. Also, they don’t know how many of the seeds that sprout will be female. This is important because only female cannabis plants produce the buds growers are after.

Discard any male plants that grow before they can pollinate the female plants. If not, the female plants will focus more on seed production than bud growth. Also, their overall potency will be lower. 

Transplanting cannabis plants is a way to separate the male and female cannabis plants from each other before this can happen. You should remove any hermaphrodite plants for the same reasons. In this way, transplanting maintains the quality and potency of your cannabis crop.

When Is The Right Time To Transplant Cannabis? 

So, when is the right time to transplant cannabis? Here are a few clues when your plant is ready to be transplanted.


Young plants grown from seed in small containers are usually ready to be transplanted once they’ve sprouted 4 or 5 sets of leaves. This can vary according to the marijuana strain, and you’ll learn with time and practice which strains need to be transplanted, eventually.


The stage of growth and development of your cannabis plant will give you clues when it should be transplanted. During flowering, a cannabis plant increases in both height and girth. 

As it continues to grow and develop buds, it will need more space for root development. Your cannabis plant should preferably be in its final ‘home’ before it enters the flowering stage.


Check for tightly packed or extending roots (see section ‘signs your plant is rootbound). This means it’s time for a transplant. 

Take Note

Any darkening or malodor can also indicate signs of developing disease in the root system. If not too far gone, it may still be possible to save the plant, but be aware that it may contaminate other plant’s root systems if planted outdoors.

How Often Must You Transplant A Cannabis Plant?

First-time cannabis growers often wonder how often they should transplant a cannabis plant. However, it depends on your unique growing situation and the growth and vitality of your plant.

There is no hard-and-fast rule for transplantation. Some growers do so only once, after a few weeks of growing, from the first pot into a much larger pot or in the ground outdoors. Others do so twice, with intermediate-sized pots in between.

Depending on other factors like proximity to male or hermaphrodite plants, root issues, or failure to thrive, you may need to transplant more than twice. But the average is 1-2 transplants in the plant’s lifetime.

Step By Step Guide For Transplanting 

The correct transplantation method is essential to avoid problems like damage or transplant shock (root shock).


  • A new pair of latex or similar gloves 
  • A trowel 
  • Watering can with water
  • A layer of plastic or a clean, old towel to work on
  • The new pot (if not transplanting to the outdoors)

Choosing The Right Container And Soil

Choose a pot that is a size larger than the current one, to give the plant’s roots room to expand. You can either use a new pot or an old one that has been thoroughly cleaned beforehand. 

Fill the new pot with a few inches of sterile potting soil. Get the new soil from your local garden center. Don’t be tempted to use soil from your garden, as it may carry hidden pathogens that could affect your transplanted plant. 

Avoiding Contamination 

Wash your hands thoroughly and wear gloves to prevent contamination when handling the plant and its root ball. Sterilize tools like the trowel before and between each transplantation to avoid cross-contamination with plant diseases.

Ensure your work surface is clean and free from anything that could damage the plant, providing a clean area for transplanting and a soft place to set the plant down during transit.

Remove The Root Ball

Water the plant a few hours before transplanting, and the root ball will be easier to remove. You can remove the root ball from the container as described earlier in this guide by gently tugging on the main stem. However, if the plant is still fairly small and delicate, you can try this method instead.

Place your one hand over the plant so that the stems and leaves are comfortably protruding through your spread fingers. With the other hand, hold the pot from the base and gently tip it over. A few up-and-down movements should free the root ball from the pot. Place the plant upright again, on your work surface.

Preventing Root Shock And Damage 

Root shock, or transplant shock, can irreversibly damage a cannabis plant’s delicate root system during transplanting, potentially leading to sudden death. Young cannabis plants have fragile roots that are still growing, so handle the root ball with care, avoiding excessive force and minimizing handling.

Transplanting Into A Container

Once you set the cannabis plant’s root ball into the partially filled pot, the top of the ball should sit about an inch below the pot’s rim. Fill in the space around and over it with more soil. Give the plant a gentle watering, and try not to disturb it again for a day or two until it adjusts to its new home.

Transplanting Into The Ground

Dig a hole in the ground that is slightly larger and deeper than the container the plant is currently in. Ensure that the depth of the hole comfortably accommodates the plant’s root ball.

Follow the steps mentioned earlier to release the plant from its container.

Place the plant in the center of the planting hole, making sure that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding ground. Fill in the hole with soil, gently firming it around the plant to remove any air pockets.

After planting, water the transplanted plant thoroughly to help settle the soil and provide moisture to the roots. Continue watering regularly, especially during the establishment period.


Transplanting cannabis plants is the best way to avoid plant diseases, pollination, and cramped growing spaces that can all negatively impact your crop. If you’re a dedicated home grower, it’s something you’ll have to do occasionally to ensure healthy, thriving cannabis plants.

But if you want high-quality cannabis without all the hassles growers face, there’s Embarc. Our dispensaries are stocked with all the premier cannabis products you need, from flowers to pre-rolls, edibles, vaping supplies, and even topicals. Browse our range today, and enjoy weed without all the work.