Growing a cannabis plant at home for the first time can seem like a daunting task, but it's not that difficult once you get the hang of it. In this article, we'll cover the basics of what your plant needs and why. Soon you'll see them thrive in your care.
With so many options for nutrients, from hydroponic to organic and everything in between, you may feel overwhelmed. But, once you understand what your plants requires, it will seem more and more like a really cool science experiment.
Learn more about what your cannabis plant needs, and how it absorbs and utilizes nutrients.
The main group of elements your cannabis plant needs are called macronutrients. These include both mineral and non-mineral types. They include:
- Nitrogen (N)
- Phosphorus (P)
- Potassium (K)
- Calcium (Ca)
- Magnesium (Mg)
- Sulfur (S)
Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur are considered secondary plant nutrients as plants require very little of these nutrients, compared to Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.
Nitrogen is very important because your cannabis plants will need it in order to develop during their vegetative stage of life. They can't make chlorophyll without it; It's essential for turning sunlight into energy.
But that's not the only reason your plants need Nitrogen. It's required for the creation of amino acids, which are essential building blocks of the proteins that keep your cannabis plants strong.
ATP, or Adenosine 5'-triphosphate, requires Nitrogen as well, to help your plant's cells store and transfer energy.
Nucleic acid is formed using Nitrogen as well. This is needed to create DNA or RNA. If Nitrogen is lacking, the cells won't have a chance to grow properly and multiply.
Do you want big, healthy buds? Phosphorus is key, because it allows your cannabis plants to uptake nutrients. The very structure of the plants, as they grow from roots to flowers, depends on Phosphorus.
If your plant is lacking enough of this element, it will suffer from underdeveloped roots, and perhaps not even flower at all. First signs of deficiency shows up as purple veins and leaves.
Potassium is a multi-tasker as well. To keep your cannabis plants growing healthy and strong, they'll need this element. It's very important for osmoregulation, which is basically the regulation of salt and water concentrations. It does this by controlling the stomata. The stomata are essentially microscopic openings on the surface of the leaf. When they open and close they provide an exchange of H20, CO2, and oxygen to the plant.
This element is also needed for the triggering of ATP production, which we learned about above, creates the glucose which is produced by photosynthesis. With low potassium, your plants will begin to look weak and appearing burnt, as they'd be starved of important glucose energy.
Cell walls, which your plant depends on, need calcium to keep their structure. Any new growth and development will be stunted, brown spots will appear, and leaves will curl up if it doesn't have a sufficient amount. Your plants won't grow as they should.
Another element required for glucose generation is magnesium. Photosynthesis depends on it. It's the central molecule around which chlorophyll is made, so no magnesium = no energy from sunlight.
Not only is it needed to make glucose, but it's also needed to metabolize it; Meaning it helps make it available to the plant. If your cannabis plant is lacking in this element, it will begin to show yellowing of the leaves and discolouration in the veins.
There are non-mineral elements required as well, which your cannabis plant will derive from the air and water:
Have you seen the 3 numbers on fertilization products and wonder what they stand for? They tell you the percentages of N-P-K, or nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and are always listed in that order. These are the main elements provided by the product, whether it be on fertilizer bags, additives, or nutrient solution bottles.
For example, if a product says "5-30-20", it will contain 5% available nitrogen, 30% phosphorus, and 20% potassium by weight. You might be wondering which product is the best? Well, there are so many great ones on the market today, you could put 100 farmers in a room and they'd all disagree on what works best.
The science of it is quite fascinating. It's really up to you to decide whether you want organic/chemical, or whether it's for soil or hydroponics.
Now let's go over the other mineral nutrients used in lower quantities. These still play fundamental roles in your plant's physiology, and deficiencies, although quite rare, could negatively affect its yield, growth, and health.
Micronutrients include the following:
- Zinc (Zn)
- Chlorine (Cl)
- Manganese (Mn)
- Molybdenum (Mo)
- Boron (B)
- Cobalt (Co)
- Silicon (Si)
- Copper (Cu)
These nutrients are only needed in low concentrations, but as we mentioned above, are still vital.
Let's go on and examine the main sorts of nutrients that today's cannabis growers use, as well as how to properly apply them.
You'll also want to get familiar with the basic mechanisms as well, such as how plants absorb water, nutrients, and how they perform osmosis and active transport. This way, you'll be confident and informed before you begin your own growing project.
Hydroponic Nutrients for Your Cannabis Plant
You've probably heard of hydroponics or the growing of plants without using soil. Growing this way usually requires the use of substrates such as clay pebbles, rock wool, or coco coir, to name a few.
But did you know that many premium, cannabis-specific "potting soils" you'll find are actually soilless? You are, technically, growing hydroponically when you use these mediums and water by hand.
This is why you see so many cannabis-specific nutrients sold as "hydroponic" nutrients. You'll notice these are made concentrated mineral salts (liquid or powder) and are to be diluted in a certain way before application.
What Do All These Labels Mean?
Check the labels and they'll give you specific dilution instructions for each stage of the plant's growth. You'll find products divided into "part A" and "part B", which mean they shouldn't be used together.
Sometimes you'll see they're divided by the stage of growth for which they work best. For example, "Grow" solutions, which are high in nitrogen, are best for the vegetative stage. "Bloom", as you might have guessed, is high in phosphorus and is best for the flowering stage.
Hydroponic nutrients are amazing, but be careful to not over-apply, which many new growers tend to do. But too much of a good thing could damage or even kill the plant. Try starting with about 25% of the recommended level, and then work slowly up to full strength.
It can be confusing when you see all the different types of hydroponic media and soil. Note that soil contains organic matter such as humus, manure, worm castings, and compost. These will provide majority of the nutrition your cannabis plant needs.
Macro- and micronutrients in organic matter are "locked up", so in order to be used by your plant they must be processed by microbes and fungi living in the soil. These nutrients are processed as the microbes in the soil consume the organic matter.
Note: Synthetic nutrients are not common or recommended for use on soil because they can easily accumulate and build up to a harmful level. Soil life could be killed, and the uptake of water and nutrients by the roots could be halted. They are, however, great for their intended use!
Organic fertilizers, on the other hand, are beneficial to the soil's organisms rather than being immediately soluble. It's harder to overfeed. So it's best to stick with organic nutrients and fertilizers if you're using actual soil for growing cannabis at home.
What Should I Use?
Some organic fertilizers include fishmeal and blood meal to provide nitrogen. To provide phosphorus, use bat guano and/or bone meal. Try using kelp meal and wood ash to provide potassium.
For calcium and magnesium, try adding dolomite lime. Epsom salts provide magnesium and sulfur. You can usually buy these cheaply from your local garden center.
Pre-mix small amounts of them into your soil before potting. It's good to occasionally add organic matter (such as worm castings) to the soil to feed the microbes and bacteria, etc, unless the soil blend already contains the right amount of these ingredients.
You could opt instead for the more expensive organic nutrient solutions, which are pre-mixed. This would take the guesswork out of feeding. Just follow the instructions on the package and you'll get good results.
While organic cannabis cultivation is more forgiving of mistakes and poor conditions, it can lead to slower growth and smaller yields. You can get larger yields and quicker flowering times with synthetic nutrients and hydroponics, however, you should be mindful and attentive to details and doses.
Think about your medium and technique, and then select compatible nutrients and fertilizers for that medium. This is the most important piece of advice for choosing the right products for your growing project. Doing your research will pay off big for the yields, bud quality, growth time, health, and your wallet.
Growing a cannabis plant can be one of the most rewarding, and even spiritual, undertakings. Some growers even say they form a certain bond with their cannabis plants.
Grobo is an automated grow box. We use deep water culture, a hydroponic technique to grow the plants. Users simply add their plant, pick a grow recipes in our app (we have hundreds of strains!) then the system does the rest.
- Grobo reduces smell but doesn't eliminate it fully
- Users can grow 2-3oz every 3-4 months
- You can grow from seed or clones
- We have tons of educational videos on our YouTube channel as well
- We focus on growing cannabis but can grow other plants as well
We're here to help you have the best cannabis growing experience possible. Contact us with any questions you may have and we'll be happy to answer them!