What’s the Best Pot? Containers Explained
Table of Contents
Which growing container works best for cannabis? What is it that makes some containers better than others?
The answers are contained in the roots of your cannabis plants. The idea behind choosing the right container is to pick one that is going to provide the best possible environment for your cannabis roots. Your roots are like the “heart” of your of your cannabis plant. They need to be healthy for your plant to get nutrients and grow.
What do marijuana roots want?
Happy cannabis roots want…
Moist at all times – roots die when they dry out! Good watering practices combined with a great growing medium will make sure your roots never dry out
Oxygen – your roots “breathe” oxygen, so one of the best things you can do for them is make sure they always have access to plenty of oxygen – more oxygen to the roots = faster growth
Nutrients – your roots “find” nutrients at the roots, and then deliver them to the rest of the plant, so making sure your plant has easy access to nutrients will help your plants thrive and make buds
pH Management – Some nutrients are sensitive to the pH of their environment. When exposed to the wrong pH, the molecular form of these nutrients actually changes. Nutrients in the wrong chemical form become unavailable to your plant roots. Exposing nutrients to the correct pH reverts them back to a form your roots can take in.
Bottled Cannabis Nutrients
Managing pH is especially important when using bottled nutrients.
Using bottled nutrients gets the nutrients to your plant faster (which equals faster growth), but it also means you are in charge of managing the pH.
These systems deliver nutrients directly to the plant roots in their simplest form, but there is no “middle man” between you and the plant roots, leaving you in charge.
So if you’re using bottle nutrients, make sure you manage your pH!
Amended & Composted Soil
When starting your cannabis grow with properly amended and composted soil, pH isn’t as important for you to manage. Instead of managing pH, you need to manage and care for the bacteria and microorganisms in the soil. In a proper composted soil setup, the microorganisms deliver nutrients to your roots in the right form. They become the “middle man.”
Types of Containers
There are many kinds of popular rowing containers for cannabis gardens…
Standard plant container with saucer
Here’s a breakdown of those different container options…
Standard plant container with saucer
This is a container with a hole at the bottom for drainage, plus a saucer to catch the water.
Tried and true method
Easy to find at any gardening store
Saucer captures runoff water for easy disposal
Smart pots (fabric containers)
More oxygen to the roots
Prevents plants from getting “root-bound” via “air-pruning” from the sides
Since growing medium dries out from the sides, smart pots make it difficult to overwater your plants, but that also means you will end up watering more often
Since smart pots dry out faster than regular cannabis containers, you should get double the size as your normally would, and it’s recommended your final size should be at least a 5-gallon container (anything smaller than that dries out in just a day or two!). So if you would normally get a 2-gallon container, you’d want to get a 5-gallon smart pot.
Need an extra large saucer or a tray to capture runoff water – smart pots don’t come with a saucer or tray and they seep out water from the sides
More oxygen to the roots
Helps prevent plants from getting “root-bound” via “air-pruning” from the sides
Since growing medium dries out from the sides, air pots make it difficult to overwater your plants, but that also means you will end up watering more often
Although water seeps out the sides when watering, air pots are tall and thin so you can use a regular size saucer for each container
Like a regular plant container except instead of having drainage holes out the bottom, they are located near the bottom on the sides
This leaves a small pool of water in the bottom of the container after watering
Need to water less often with hempy buckets, which is a great advantage when growing larger plants that drink a lot
Can sometimes lead to root or nutrient problems since stagnant water can sit at the bottom of the container and any nutrient buildup never gets rinsed out
How to Catch Water Runoff
The two most popular ways of capturing runoff water in small containers are…
Individual saucers for each container
Trays to catch runoff from several containers
Most regular plant containers come with a matching saucer. These are placed under the plant and catch the runoff water for each individual plant.
When using a container that lets air in through the sides (such as a smart pot or air pot), you will need a larger than normal saucer to capture all the runoff water, since water will be seeping down the sides of the container.
One of the problems with saucers is you usually remove them from under the plants to empty the runoff water (always remove runoff – never let it sit so it’s seeped back up into the growing medium!). This is easy with just a few plants, but can become a problem when growing with a lot of plants in a small space. It can be difficult to get to the saucers in the back after the grow space has been filled up with plants.
If you’re having trouble emptying out all your plant saucers, you may want to consider an alternative to regular saucers…
If you want to capture the water from a lot of plants in one space, I recommend using a tray set one a slight incline, so the part of the tray furthest away from you is raised slightly off the ground.. With even a tiny incline, the runoff water will pool at the front of the tray, and a wet vac can be used to capture all the water from the plants. This can be a lot easier than emptying saucers, depending on your setup.
As a bonus to using a tray, you won’t have to move your plants around as much, which results in better and faster growth. Plants don’t like being moved around if you can help it.
How to pick up the water from your tray?
- Wet/Dry vacuum
- Water transfer pump
I found the “Bucket Head” attachment at Home Depot which costs about $25 and can be attached to any standard bucket, turning it into an ultra-cheap wet/dry vacuum.
Which Size Container?
Final Size Container for Desired Plant Size – General guide
When choosing the size of your containers, you must think about the final size of your plant. Bigger plants will need bigger containers, while smaller plants grow best in a relatively small container. You need to match the size of your plant with the size of your container.
A general guide is to have up to 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 rule of thumb.
So if your final (desired) plant size is…
2-3 gallon container
3-5 gallon container
6-8 gallon container
8-10 gallon container
12+ gallon container
Lots of different types of containers will work for growing cannabis as long as it has good drainage holes out the bottom
If you’re using a Smart Pot (fabric pot) or any container that lets in oxygen from the sides, you’ll get faster growth than a hard-sided container. However you will also need to water your plants more often since the soil will dry out more quickly.
Therefore it’s recommended to get twice the normal size if you get fabric pots so the soil doesn’t dry out as fast.
Get twice the normal size if the container lets oxygen in from the sides (like fabric pots and air pots)
Which size container should you start with? Start Small
To start, your plants will do best in a relatively small container. This helps prevent the chances of overwatering (since the container is so small) and since a small container dries out quickly, it will deliver more oxygen to the roots.
Many growers start their plants in a solo cup or a 1-gallon pot.
As mentioned earlier, some growers start their marijuana plants in their final container, which is usually larger than a 1-gallon pot. Starting in a big container isn’t as simple as starting with a small container, and can cause slower growth at first, but here’s you can take to get a seedling to grow quickly in a large container.
Once the leaves reach the edges of the solo cup it’s time to transfer to a larger container. These seedlings are getting close!
How to water seedlings or clones in a too-big container
When starting seedlings in a big container (bigger than 2-gallon), it’s important to slowly give just a little bit of water at a time until your seedling “grows into” its pot. This prevents overwatering, which slows down seedling growth.
By watering the right amount in the seedling stage, you can speed up growth significantly, especially during that first week or two.
For new seedlings you should give water in a small circle around the plant instead of saturating the whole container.
Don’t give water again until the top inch of potting mix is dry to the touch (which should be less than a few days if you did your job right). This makes sure your seedlings get a perfect mix of air and water so it grows as fast as possible.
Make sure to give water slowly in a small circle around seedlings until you get runoff water out the bottom of the container. This makes sure that water is getting to your plant’s roots but isn’t over-saturating the container.
After plant has started to “grow into” it’s container, the top inch of potting mix will start drying out quickly (less than a few days). At this point, you can start normal cannabis watering practices which means you saturate the whole growing medium until you get about 20% runoff water
How to water cannabis seedlings or clones in a too-big container
This is for when you’ve just planted your cannabis seeds or clones in a too-big container. By giving your young plants less water at a time following the steps below, you prevent overwatering which can slow down seedling or clone growth in a too-big container.
- Pour water slowly in a small circle around the base of the seedling (I first pour my water into a solo cup so that it’s easy to pour water around each plant).
- The circle should be
2 inches in every direction from the base of your seedling (or if your seedlings are bigger, about the width of the leaves).
Regular Watering Stage
Once your marijuana plants have established healthy root systems that can support the size of your container, you can start watering as normal.
- Once the top of the growing medium is drying out quickly, in less than than 2-3 days, you’re past the beginning stage.
- Switch to normal watering practices. This means that you are watering the entire container until you get 20% runoff every time. Then don’t water again until the top inch (up to your first knuckle) is starting to feel dry to the touch.
Important: Always wait until the top inch (up to your first knuckle) is starting to feel dry to the touch before watering your plant again. This prevents both overwatering and fungus gnats 🙂
Transplanting for faster growth
Transplanting means that you start your plants in a relatively small container, and then transplant the plants as needed so that their roots never run out of room.
Transplanting will provide your plants with faster growth if done right. This is because transplanting allows you to set up an environment where your roots are getting access to plenty of water and air. However, transplanting can stress your plants (and slow down growth) if not done properly. When transplanting, it’s important to carefully move plants so that their roots are not disrupted in any way. This means moving plants before they get root-bound, and creating a hole in the potting mix of their new container so the plants can be placed right in without disturbing the roots.
If you plan on starting your plants in a small solo cup and transplanting your plants to bigger containers as needed, take a look at this transplanting guide.
While transplanting makes it easier to give your young plants access to plenty of water and air, it can stress the plants if not done right, and it can also be too much work for some growers. So many growers start their plant in it’s final container.
When seedlings or clones are started in a large container, it can be difficult to get enough air to the roots until the plant is bigger and drinking a lot. Thisis because when the potting mix gets soaked, the seedling roots just won’t be able to drink it fast enough, and the roots will end up sitting in stagnant water with very little acces to oxygen. The growing medium has to dry out on it’s own, which can take a while, and your plant will be droopy and overwatered until the roots start getting access to air again.
Some growers start their seedlings or clones in a bigger pot, or even the final container they plan to use. While this can slow down growth of young seedlings, you can minimize this effect by watering young plants correctly when they’re started in a too-big container.
Here’s a very quick breakdown of some of the most common cannabis growing mediums for a hand-watered grow. This is not a comprehensive list, but should give you a place to start your research. Each of these different growing mediums have pros and cons.
Soilless (coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc)
Easy to find at any gardening store
You can start with nutrient-rich soil and transplant several times throughout the grow to give your plant what it needs after it’s used up all the nutrients in the soil in it’s current container. If you choose not to continue transplanting to give cannabis more nutrients, you will need to use cannabis nutrients to make sure plants are getting what they need
You will need to manage and adjust pH for a soil grow, especially if using bottled cannabis nutrients
Composted Soil – learn about composting your own soil
You will need to amend and compost your soil to use this method, which can take a lot of time, or buy amended and composted soil from a quality source
When done right, there’s no need for bottled nutrients or adjusting pH
Many growers claim that composted organic soil provides the best bud taste and smell
Soilless Potting Mix – (coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc)
Faster growth than growing in soil
Starting at the seedling stage, you will need to use cannabis nutrients made for hydro, since soilless mediums do not come with nutrients
Managing and adjusting pH is crucial to success in a soilless growing medium
Less likely to get pests or bugs
How much grow medium to get?
In the USA, a “3-gallon” plant container usually holds less than 3 gallons (same with 1-gallon, 2-gallon, 5-gallon, etc.). It’s a weird convention in the USA which means a direct conversion between listed gallons and gallons of soil (or conversion to liters) isn’t accurate. A “trade” gallon holds about 3/4 of a “real” gallon. This makes it easy to buy a lot of extra grow medium. To make things more confusing, in the USA not every 3-gallon pot actually holds the same amount of grow medium (it’s not totally standardized). Additionally, smaller companies often give the actual amount. Other factors change how much grow medium you need, including how high you fill the pot and how much it gets compacted. When in doubt, get the listed amount and you’ll always end up with enough or extra grow medium.
What’s the Best Pot? Containers Explained Table of Contents Which growing container works best for cannabis? What is it that makes some containers better than others? The answers are
Types Of Pots For Growing Weed
Not all growing containers are equal. Some types of containers are better suited for some purposes than others. Likewise, growing pots don’t just differ in size. You can find containers from the classic flower pot to advanced smart pots or specialty containers for hydro systems. Learn what you need to know about growing containers for weed.
Selecting the optimal growing containers for weed isn’t always easy and straight forward. While you may be able to get by with the ol’ flower pot for your first grow, you want to choose the right growing containers, that provide for optimal growth and healthy plants. Let us take a look at the various types of growing containers available along with their differences, advantages and drawbacks.
If we were to simplify things a bit, the optimal growing containers for your weed plants would be those types of pots, that will provide your plants with the best possible environment for their roots. Healthy roots are essential for optimal nutrition and water intake and quite literally are the foundation for the healthy growth of your plants.
Knowing this, we can go from there when we want to find the optimal type of pot, since we can take into account what cannabis plants need for healthy roots:
The roots of your cannabis plants should never entirely dry out, since dried-out roots mean, that your plants would likely die.
Roots will also want adequate aeration and oxygen. When the roots have easy access to oxygen, this not only promotes fast growth, but will also help keeping mould and other growing troubles in check. A stale root zone depleted of oxygen will almost always lead to problems, if not entirely kill off your plants.
TYPES OF GROWING CONTAINERS AVAILABLE
If you visit a grow store or search around online to get some pots on the internet, you can find various types of containers for cannabis growing. Here are some of the most common types of growing pots.
STANDARD FLOWER POT
This is the good ol’ flower pot, that you can get almost everywhere for little money. They are most often made from plastic these days, but you can also find the old classic types, which are made from terracotta. If you get these standard flower pots, you will usually want to get them together with a matching saucer, that serves to catch your runoff water below the pot.
What’s important to know about these types of pots, is that you want them to have drainage holes at the bottom to avoid water logging. Not all pots come with prebored holes, sometimes you will have to break them out, before you use the containers to grow your plants.
Terracotta planters are heavier than plastic pots, but they can be a good choice. Terracotta has a natural ability to soak up and store excess moisture and can provide a cooling effect, which would benefit your plant’s roots in the hot summer months.
SMART POTS (FABRIC POTS)
The principle behind fabric pots, these so called “smart pots”, is to prevent, that your plants would become rootbound. Rather than growing in a cycle as would be the case in normal (closed) pots, smart pots made from fabric are air-pruning the roots as soon as they reach the sides of the container. This ensures constant new growth of roots and can help promote better plant growth.
Fabric growing pots or bags have the added advantage, that they make it pretty much impossible to overwater a cannabis plant. They can also easily be stored when not in use.
Make note, that the soil in smart pots dries out faster when compared to standard pots. To avoid the smart pots drying out too fast, you want to get double the size pots as you normally would. Of course this comes with the slight drawback, that you will require a bigger amount of growing medium. Since these types of pots leak water to the outside, they may not be suitable for all growing environments.
RQS FABRIC POT WITH AQUA-BREATHE LAYER
Royal Queen Seeds re-engineered the standard smart pot to create an improved version that continues to air-prune roots for enhanced growth while preventing overwatering. But it also includes several new features that make it easier to use.
If you’ve ever struggled to move a standard smart pot once your plants reach their full size, you’ll really appreciate the convenient side handles of the RQS fabric pot. They’re double-stitched and securely attached to the main body of the pot. You won’t believe the difference they make.
Although it’s not as clearly visible as the handles, the inner “Aqua Breathe” layer is the real game-changer. This inner layer of specialised material gives the RQS Fabric Pot another advantage over a standard smart pot. It allows air to flow through the pot, but ensures the water drains only from the bottom and not from the sides. Not only does this keep your grow space cleaner and preserve your nutrient mix, it prevents unsightly salt stains from forming on the sides of the pot.
Featuring the iconic RQS logo embroidered on the side in gold, the RQS Fabric Pot is a useful and attractive addition to any grow space. It can be used inside or out, in hydro or in soil, and it’s environmentally friendly. It’s washable, biodegradable, and available in a convenient 11-litre size.
Air pots make use of the same principles as the above mentioned “smart” pots. These are plastic containers with openings on the side, that provide automated “air-pruning” for the roots of your cannabis plant. Like smart pots, you will have to water more often, since these pots can dry out faster as compared to standard pots. Compared to fabric pots and grow bags, air pots have the advantage, that they are sturdier and won’t likely tip over. Since air pots are also leaking water from the openings at the side, you may want to set them above properly sized saucers.
Hempy buckets are providing a type of manual hydroponic system for growing cannabis plants. The difference to normal pots is, that the drainage hole isn’t at the bottom, but several centimetres above, which leaves a small reservoir of nutrient solution at the bottom of the hempy bucket.
As compared to soil grows, you would normally fill the hempy bucket with a mix of perlite and vermiculite or use clay pebbles and then feed the plants with hydroponic nutrients. The nutrient reservoir at the bottom of the bucket means, that you can water less frequently.
Since hempy buckets are a manual and passive way of hydroponic growing with no pumps for oxygen, you need to ensure, that the nutrient solution left in the pot won’t become stagnant, since this could lead to growing troubles.
CATCHING RUNOFF WATER WITH SAUCERS
Since you don’t want runoff water flooding your entire growing area, you want saucers placed under your pots. Normally, you would have a matching saucer for each of your growing containers.
Some types of growing containers like smart pots or air pots will require much bigger saucers, since excess water will flow down the sides when watering. Take this into account.
Most cannabis growers will likely get into a routine of frequently emptying out their saucers. This isn’t much of a problem if your plants are still small and you can easily access any pot in your growing area. Sometimes, in particular when your plants have grown taller, reaching to each and every pot and removing the saucers can become quite a chore, if not entirely impossible due to space constraints.
One solution for this problem can be if you use large trays underneath a number of growing pots as opposed to smaller, individual saucers under each. If you set this large runoff tray on a small incline, the water will usually collect in one space and you can then easily remove it with a shop vac.
Another more advanced solution can be with an automated pump, that can take care of the runoff water, that will collect in your tray.
WHAT SIZE OF GROWING CONTAINER IS BEST
Not all cannabis plants require the same size of growing containers. Some plants, for example autoflowering varieties, are not growing too tall and can do well in smaller or medium sized containers. When you select the size of your growing pot, consider the final size of your cannabis plant.
As a first starting point for selecting the right size pots, you can use pot sizes of approximately 7.5l for each 30cm of plant height. Just know, that not all cannabis varieties grow in the same way. Some strains can grow wide and bushy, while others can grow tall and slender, but this rule can help you get started finding the right sized pot.
GROWING CONTAINERS FOR SEEDLINGS
The same principles for healthy growth will apply for smaller containers for your seedlings. You need to ensure proper drainage for your seedlings as well. Since pots for seedlings can be very small and don’t hold too much growing medium, the soil dries out quicker, which means, that the risk of overwatering is lower.
Many cannabis growers use solo cups (“party cups”) for their seedlings without problems. Just make sure to cut drainage holes in the bottom of the cup.
Not always can it be recommended to start out cannabis plants in a small pot or cup and then transplant them later. Any repotting will always cause some stress to your plants, that you want to avoid.
For autoflowering varieties, that by their nature have a preset and rather short life cycle, it can often be best to start these plants in their final container. The reasoning here is, that you want to avoid any stunted and halted growth from repotting during their short growing life cycle if you want to max out your plant’s growth and yield.
TRANSPLANTING YOUR PLANTS INTO BIGGER GROWING CONTAINERS
Most of the time (with some exceptions as mentioned above) you will likely start out your seedlings or clones in small containers and transplant them to bigger pots when the right time has come. The reason here is, that a bigger container allows for a larger root system, that your now rather grown-up cannabis plant will require to get all her nutrients.
Transplanting on the other hand can always cause some stress for your plants and if not done carefully, could even kill your plant, say, should you damage the roots when transplanting. It is therefore important, that you move your plants, so that you don’t disrupt their roots in any way.
The best time to transplant is when your cannabis plant has developed a vast root system, but is not rootbound in the pot yet. Normally, the right time for a transplant is when your plant’s roots would show through the holes of your pot, as if they were searching for more room to grow. You want to avoid the plant having become completely rootbound though.
Carefully take out the plant from the first pot and try not to disturb the roots. In the bigger pot, make a hole in the middle of the growing medium where you carefully place the plant. Fill any remaining gaps in the new pot up with soil or whatever growing medium you are using.
When you transplant your seedlings, the best time for larger ports is usually when the seedlings have grown 3-4 sets of leaves.
If you want to avoid any type of potential growing troubles and want to keep it on the safe side, simply skip transplanting altogether and start your plants in their final pots. Your plants may start out slower than if you were to start them in smaller pots, but the reduced risk and then the less work from transplanting can be worth it, especially for less experienced growers.
Learn about the types of containers for growing weed to find the optimal container for fast and healthy growth of your cannabis plants.