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Slow Cannabis Plant Growth And What You Can Do About It

When your cannabis plants grow slowly or stop growing altogether, there is always a reason. It could be a problem with nutrients, an environmental factor, or something else entirely. Let’s explore the reasons your cannabis plants or seedlings may experience slow or stunted growth.

“Why are my plants growing so slow?”. Sometimes, marijuana plant problems occur out of the blue. Your baby may not have shown any signs of an issue, but now you notice that development has halted and have no idea why. Here are some possible factors behind the slowed growth of your cannabis seedling or plant.

18 REASONS FOR SLOW OR STUNTED CANNABIS GROWTH

1. SEEDS ARE OLD OR LOW-QUALITY

Old seeds don’t just take longer to germinate (if they germinate at all); plants grown from aged seeds can also sometimes grow at a reduced pace. Likewise, good genetics are essential for healthy and vigorous growth from seed to harvest. A random bagseed will not perform nearly as well as quality seeds obtained from a reputable seedbank.

2. CLONE STRESS

Sometimes cuttings don’t root well, which hampers their growth. To prevent this from happening, apply a little bit of rooting hormone immediately after taking your cuttings.

Also, make sure your environment promotes root growth. The medium should be humid (but not too moist) with a pH level of about 6.0. Keep your cuttings at a temperature of around 22ºC. If they get too cold, they won’t root at all, and if it’s too hot, the roots will die.

3. ROOT HEALTH

When your plant’s roots can’t receive enough oxygen, metabolic functions slow down. In some cases, a lack of oxygen may stop their growth altogether. One common reason for this is overwatering or using substrates with poor drainage.

What to do about it? Create a light and airy growing medium with good drainage. You can improve poor-draining soil by adding some perlite.

The root zone for your cannabis plants should never get much hotter or colder than room temperature. Likewise, physical damage to the roots, mould, or bacteria can severely affect the growth of your plants. Always use non-transparent planters so light doesn’t reach the roots, as this is bad as well.

4. CANNABIS PLANTS STRETCH TOO MUCH

Stretching among seedlings can be particularly problematic. Multiple factors can induce this response, but the most likely culprit is a lack of light.

If your seedlings are spindly, increase light intensity or bring the lights closer. Prop them up with dowels as an aid during recovery. As a last resort, you can (carefully) replant them deeper into a new pot.

5. PLANTS ARE NOT GETTING ENOUGH LIGHT

Although requirements can vary from strain to strain, light is nonetheless a critical factor for the development of all cannabis plants. A lack of “good” light can absolutely lead to slowed growth. If you grow indoors and suspect that your plants aren’t getting enough light, try to decrease the distance between your lamps and the tops of plants. If you grow outdoors in pots, move your plants to a sunnier spot.

6. PLANTS ARE GETTING TOO MUCH LIGHT

Any type of stress on your cannabis plants, including many hours of exposure to direct sunlight without rest, can also halt or slow down growth. If you grow indoors and suspect light exposure to be the source of stress, decrease the intensity or move lamps further away from the canopy if possible. Know that seedlings are particularly sensitive to intense light! If you grow outdoors and you’re able to, move your plants into a spot where the light is diffused, such as around a shade tree.

7. INCORRECT LIGHT SPECTRUM

How fast and how vigorously plants grow are influenced by the spectrum of light they receive. Make sure you use the correct type of light according to each stage of growth. For healthy vegetative growth, you want a cooler light with more blue in its spectrum, a so-called “vegging light”. Lights with a warmer, more reddish spectrum are used for the flowering phase.

8. LIGHT STRESS: DARK CYCLE INTERRUPTION

Light is essential for all plants to grow. Any changes in light intensity or exposure will have an effect on growth. Flowering cannabis is especially susceptible to interruptions in the dark cycle. A light leak in your tent, stray light from a street lamp, and even a red light from a camera can disrupt flowering, and in a worst case scenario, can turn plants hermaphroditic. For that reason, it is very important to maintain complete darkness during the lights-off hours.

Exposing weed plants to irregular light hours can cause a hormone imbalance that confuses their internal clock. Your plants could flower prematurely, or they could revert back to the vegetative stage. If this happens, growth and yields will greatly suffer. For that reason, make sure to keep your light cycle consistent.

The above suggestions predominantly apply to photoperiod strains, as autoflowering cannabis flowers based on age rather than light exposure.

9. OVERWATERING

Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes made by new cannabis growers. It’s like suffocating your plants, and one of the main reasons behind slow growth, nutrient deficiencies, root rot, fungus, and many other problems. Don’t water too often and do not water on a fixed schedule. It is better water less frequently so that the soil can dry out between waterings. A good way to test whether you should water or not is to lift up the pot itself. If it feels quite light, it is time to water again.

10. NOT ENOUGH NUTRIENTS

Although not as common as overfeeding cannabis plants, an insufficient amount of nutrients for healthy growth can well be the reason for slow growth. Know that the nutrients found in most commercial potting mixes will only last for 3–4 weeks; afterwards, you will have to administer some more quality nutrients. Check the label of your nutrient products for the recommended dosage for healthy growth. Also know that your plant’s nutrient requirements are closely linked to the light intensity your plants are exposed to. Plants under intensive lights grow faster and will require more nutrients than plants under fluorescent lights, for example.

11. CALCIUM DEFICIENCY

Calcium is among those vital elements that your plant needs for healthy development. A lack of calcium can manifest in the following symptoms:

  • Fresh growth is slow, twisted, and curled
  • Young shoots are discoloured and turn purple or yellow
  • Overall plant growth is slow and lacks vigour and vitality
  • You can avoid a calcium deficiency by adding dolomitic lime to your soil or growing medium

Address a calcium deficiency immediately with commercial CalMag products that contain liquid calcium. You can add these products to your nutrient solution or administer them as a foliar spray.

Be aware that some growing media, like coco, increase the risk for a calcium deficiency. If you grow in coco, you should use special coco nutrients and/or regularly add CalMag to your nutrient regimen.

12. INCORRECT PH LEVEL

Incorrect pH level of your nutrient solution is among the most common reasons for cannabis growing problems, including slow growth. The reason for this is that cannabis thrives only in a relatively small window of suitable pH values. If the pH is off, the plants are unable to take in nutrients, even if they are present.

Make sure to dial in the correct pH level depending on your growing method. If you grow in soil, make sure the pH level is from 6.5 to 7.0. If you grow in hydro, an optimal pH level is 5.6 to 5.8. For soilless grows, such as coco, a pH level of 6.0 to 6.3 is optimal.

13. TEMPERATURES ARE TOO LOW OR TOO HIGH

Cannabis likes it warm to grow healthy, and does best at daytime temperatures between 25–30°C. Temperatures lower than that will slow down your plant’s metabolism, resulting in slower growth. But excessive temperatures are not optimal either. At very high temperatures, heat stress can also slow down or even halt plant growth altogether. If you grow indoors, adjust your temperature to a comfortable level. You can also provide some cooling with fans that blow a mild stream of air over your plants. This can also help prevent hot air pockets from forming inside your grow room.

14. PLANTING POTS ARE TOO BIG

Cannabis growers often start their seedlings in small cups. Later on, when the plants have reached an adequate size, they will “pot-up” to larger containers.

If you start your cannabis plants in containers that are too big, there is a high risk that you’ll overwater them. The issue is that seedlings cannot absorb all the moisture that is held in a large container, unlike mature cannabis, which can “drink” much more. Furthermore, a large pot will also take much longer to dry out.

To avoid the problems that come with too much soil and moisture, start seedlings in smaller containers until they’re growing vigorously. Once they have a set of 5–6 real leaves (not counting the cotyledons), then transfer them to a larger container, at least twice the current size.

If your seedling is already in a big container and you don’t want to or can’t move it into a smaller cup, water only a small area around the seedling.

• What Is The Right Size Pot For Your Cannabis Plant?

Use this rough guide to determine what size pot you should use for your cannabis plant:

  • Plant height 30cm: 7.5–11l container
  • Plant height 60cm: 11–19l container
  • Plant height 90cm: 18–26l container
  • Plant height 120cm: 22–37l container
  • Plant height 150cm: 30–37l+ container

15. STRESS CAUSED BY PESTS / DISEASES

Insects, pests, and disease can cause damage and compromise a plant’s immune system. In a best case scenario, your plant may survive, but you will have poor yields. In the worst case, your plants could die.

Insects may feed on the leaves, affecting a plant’s ability to retain water and transpire. Other pests may damage the roots or cause additional problems. Any time your plant is sick or infested with insects, it will spend most of its energy defending itself and recovering from damage, which will slow down growth.

If your plants are infested, you’ll want to treat them immediately with appropriate measures. Even better, you can use preventative methods (e.g. neem oil, slug barriers, etc.) to minimise the risk for pest infestations. During all stages of growth, ensure that you regularly check for symptoms of pest infestations, including under the leaves.

16. STRESS CAUSED BY TISSUE DAMAGE

Physical damage, such as broken branches, can significantly slow your plant’s growth. Any damage will make the plant redirect valuable resources to repair wounds—resources that could be better spent on growing or flower production.

If you’re growing outdoors, situate your plants in an area sheltered from strong winds and heavy rains, and use chicken wire and stakes to maintain support.

Seedlings and young cannabis plants are especially vulnerable. Allow your seedlings to mature indoors for some weeks before setting them outside.

17. STRESS FROM CANNABIS TRAINING TECHNIQUES

Tissue damage from high-stress plant training techniques always causes some delay in plant development. But when you’re pruning excessively or too frequently, your plant may ultimately spend more energy repairing itself than growing.

If you plan on pruning, don’t overdo it. Be aware that each pruning can delay the development of your plant for days, if not weeks.

If you’re using other plant training techniques such as topping, make sure you start as early as possible. If you’re growing autoflowers, don’t use any plant training techniques that involve tissue damage, such as pruning and cutting.

18. AGE STRESS

Older cannabis plants have different nutritional requirements than young plants. Their tissues become hard and woody, they’re less vigorous, and they’re unable to take in as many nutrients.

Because of this, you’ll want to adjust your feeding regimen accordingly. Otherwise you risk overfeeding, which in turn results in stunted growth, deficiencies, and disease. Keep this in mind if you’re keeping mother plants around for a long time.

Why is my cannabis plant growing slowly or not at all? Find out the answer to this question and see what you can do to solve it.

12-12 From Seed – Flowering Plants Early

The term “12-12” means you’re giving your cannabis plants 12 hours of darkness, and 12 hours of light every day. “12-12 from seed” mean you’re giving a cannabis plant a 12-12 light schedule from a very young age to force it to flower early (make buds) while staying small.

Some growers are attracted to the idea of 12-12 from seed, because it means that harvest will come sooner. How long does it take to grow a plant from seed to harvest?

But does the 12-12 from seed technique work to give you a faster harvest, and if so, what are the results?

I have changed cannabis plants over to the flowering stage from seed, but no matter what the light schedule, plants don’t start flowering (making buds) until they are about 3 weeks old. Initiating a 12-12 light schedule at 3 weeks old from seed is as early as I’d recommend for this technique, if you choose to use it.

“12-12 From Seed” is a misnomer if you’re trying to force your cannabis to flower early – 3 weeks from seed is the earliest time a plant can start flowering after the switch to 12-12

Make sure to let your young marijuana plants get a minimum 2-3 weeks in the vegetative stage before changing them over to flowering. Your plants will be healthier and will start flowering at the same time as if you started 12-12 from when they first sprout.

Giving a 12-12 shedule when a cannabis plant is younger than that will not work to make the cannabis start flowering – a cannabis plant will only grow vegetatively for the first few weeks of life, and giving them less light will only cause them to grow more slowly.

Some strains of cannabis will naturally start flowering after about 3 weeks, and you don’t need to do anything with light schedules to cause that to happen. These strains are known as “autoflowering” or “Ruderalis” strains.

Many Growers Who Want To Force Cannabis Plants to Flower at a Young Age May Be Interested in Auto-Flowering Strains – No Need for 12-12 and Often Much Better Yields!

I have grown a few plants from seed to harvest just in a solo cup container. I was able to do this by flowering a plant from a young age – giving the plant 12-12 lighting when it was only 3 weeks old (pictured here).

These solo cup plants were able to survive their entire lives in a small container. I wouldn’t recommend a solo cup because they tip over easily, and plants are prone to nutrient and root problems once the flowering stage begins (the root space is just way too small, even when doing 12-12 from seed or using an auto-flowering stage).

But it’s possible.

The downsides… When your cannabis is kept in a too-small container, you will notice that you have to water your plant much more often than if you kept your plant in a big pot. As time goes on, plants are also more likely to suffer from nutrient problems and root problems because the roots aren’t being give enough room to spread out. When plants become root-bound this way, there’s not much you can do about this besides transplanting your plants into a bigger container.

While I wouldn’t recommend 12-12 from seed, and no longer ever use this technique myself, there are growers who are going to do it anyway.

For those growers who still want to use 12-12 from seed despite the warnings here…

If you are set on keeping potted cannabis plants in small containers for their whole lives, the smallest container you should try is a 1-gallon or 2-gallon container, like the pots pictured here.

Keeping plants in tiny containers may be important when growing in a very space-limited grow space, such as growing in a space bucket for stealth reasons.

There are powerful cannabis growth control techniques that will also allow you to grow high-producing plants, while keeping them short.

But like this extreme girl to the right (less than a foot tall and grown under CFLs), I’ve experimented starting the plants on 12/12 from seed to keep plants REALLY small.

When forcing your cannabis to flower early, plants will stay small and spend almost all their energy on producing flowers/buds on what few stems they have, instead of growing tall or making more colas/nodes.

Some people say that cannabis that is forced to flower too early will not make any buds, but that’s not true. The plant pictured here produced 0.75 ounces of bud after drying. So while 12-12 from seed may not be optimal, it does work.

The problems I’ve had with forcing cannabis to flower early is that since the plant is much smaller, you get smaller yields, but you’re still basically spending about the same amount of time to grow the plant as if you’d grown it bigger.

Compared to 12-12 from seed, growing an auto-flowering strain will generally give you bigger yields for the time, and will be less trouble

With such small plants, you don’t have the time to train your plant, which gives you much greater control over the final shape and size of your plant, improving yields without adding much time.

The other disadvantage to overly small plants is their inability to recover well from problems: you have fewer leaves as a ‘buffer’ so the plant can’t bounce back when something goes wrong such as a pest attack. In a too-small container, as roots get more root-bound, cannabis plants have a harder time using nutrients efficiently, and may start showing nutrient problems.

Growing extremely tiny marijuana plants is fun, but honestly you’ll get the biggest yields by instead investing a little more time in the vegetative stage to train your plant to grow into the exact shape you want. Or just grow an auto-flowering strain.

Auto-Flowering Strains – A better way to force plants to flower early

Plant Training Techniques – Make your plants grow how you want

Learn About Grow Lights – Which is best for your setup?

Learn what it means to give your plants "12-12 from seed" to force them to start making buds early. ]]>