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Cannabis Watering Tips for Healthy Growth and Big Buds

All plants need water to survive, and it seems to be the easiest of tasks when growing and caring for the cannabis plant. However, improper watering is one of the most common issues amongst growers, especially those new to growing cannabis.

Incorrect watering of the cannabis plant can lead to all sorts of health issues, including disease, nutrient deficiencies and toxicities, pests, stress, and even death. We will cover the basics of proper cannabis watering in this guide to help avoid these common issues!

Basics of Cannabis Watering

tips for Cannabis Watering

Watering seems to be a very simple task: you water the plant regularly, and the plant should be fine! But, there are some intricacies and nuances that need to be considered when watering cannabis.

1. Find the Balance

what does overwatered cannabis look like

overwatered cannabis

Overwatered cannabis can exhibit signs such as droopy leaves, often accompanied by a lack of vigor and slow growth. On the other hand, underwatered cannabis may display both a drooping appearance and yellowing leaves.

Overwatered cannabis can come with a long list of correlated issues, like pest infestations, disease and viruses, slow growth, nutrient issue, low yields, poor quality, and overall sick plants.

While underwatering can cause other issues that can be as serious as drying out and death of the plant!

2. Assess Environmental Factors

The right water content and watering frequency can be greatly affected by the conditions of the grow environment, including:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Air movement
  • Light intensity

Hotter, drier, and brighter environments will cause more water to evaporate, and also encourage the plant to transpire (transpiration is the process of the plant moving water through the plant tissue and into the environment) and use more water. The same goes for air movement. The more air movement in the grow area, the more water will evaporate, and the more the plant will transpire.

On the opposite side, a colder, more humid environment, with low air movement and less light intensity will cause the plant to transpire less, and need less water!

3. Water the Grow Medium Evenly

When watering cannabis, you want to make sure that you're watering the entire medium evenly. If using a watering wand, it's best to use a “shower head” style that can water all parts of the medium evenly. This way, there are no too dry or wet areas and the entire root zone gets adequate water!

How to Tell If My Plant Needs Water?

It's hard to assess your plant's water needs solely with naked eyes. And actually you should never use the “eye test” to determine if the plant is thirsty or not. By the time the plant shows signs of drought (dipping, wilting, sad-looking plant), it's already too late and the plant has been experiencing a lot of unnecessary stress!

Hence, you should keep knowing the water content of the growing medium (substance which the plant is growing in) to make your decision. Here are 2 effective ways to help you measure the water content when watering the cannabis plant.

1. Weight Test

How to Tell If My cannabis plant Needs Water_weight test

The best way to determine water content is by weight.

You should be picking up and feeling the weight of the plant's container or medium on a regular basis, to monitor the saturation and tell if the cannabis plant needs water or not! Consistency is key here. Use the same technique across all your plants; if not, you may misdiagnose the saturation level and overwater or underwater the cannabis plant!

To get the best grasp on the medium's water holding capacity, start by completely saturating the medium and feeling the weight. Keep that weight in mind for the future when you will be checking weights to tell if there has been proper dry-back.

Equally important is to see what the plant feels like when it has been properly dried back. This way you get a comprehensive understanding of the medium's varying moisture levels, and its correlated weight! This practice should be used throughout the grow to help you water the cannabis properly.

2. Knuckle Test

How to Tell If My cannabis plant Needs Water_knuckle test

Some growers prefer to do the knuckle test - this is the practice of sticking your finger into the medium to see how far the medium has dried out.

It's said that if you stick your finger in, and it feels dry up to your knuckle (about 1-2inches), then the plant most likely needs water! This isn’t my preferred method, as it can sometimes be misleading, and it's hard to feel the actual moisture of coco coir or soil!

Best Ways to Water Cannabis Plant at Each Stage

Early Life

During the first stages of growth (seedling or clone stage), the plant will need to be watered regularly. Typically, clones and seedlings are started off in a small rockwool rooting cube, or small soil or coco pot. The plant's medium should be allowed to dry back slightly, so that the roots are able to stretch out and search for water.

At this stage, if the cannabis plant becomes overwatered, the roots will not expand as they are meant to. This can hinder root development and slow growth! If cannabis is under-watered at such an early stage, it can very easily dry out and die!

During the early stages, it is much better to apply water too frequently, than to not apply enough water. You never want to let the medium dry back so much that the plant wilts or becomes droopy. Wilting or drooping is a clear sign of underwatered cannabis, and can have unexpected affects on the plant.

Ideally, you want to water the plant enough so that there is runoff coming from the medium. Then, you want to wait until the medium dries back about 50% before watering again. Dry backs are crucial during this time, as it allows for proper oxygenation of the root zone, which helps establish a strong and extensive root zone. This leads to more water and nutrient uptake, and better overall growth!

Vegetation Phase

how to water cannabis in the veg stage

While in the veg stage, you want to apply similar water techniques as to those used when watering clones or seedlings. However, there should be slightly less of a dry back applied!

You will want to water the cannabis plant once it has had about a 30% - 40% dry back. I recommend watering with less quantity, but with more frequency during the veg stage.

Each time you give the plant water, you're sending it signals to transpire and uptake nutrients, essentially telling it to push and grow! So watering the cannabis plant more frequently during veg is a good thing! But be careful not to apply too much water, as it is easiest to overwater the cannabis plant during this stage.

As mentioned previously, overwatering can surely cause many issue with the plant, and cause a tremendous slowing of growth! And that is the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish in veg!

It’s important to note that the roots are still developing during the veg stage. As the roots grow, the plant will get a lot heavier. Regularly feel the plant's weight both when fully saturated and dry to accurately understand the moisture level of the soil medium, especially with the newly grown roots!

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Onto Flowering

cannabis buds in the flowering stage

Image via Hey abby grower_sparty

When in the blooming stage, the cannabis plant will ramp up its intake and transpiration levels, especially in the first 3-4 weeks! Ideally, you will have more intense light, more air movement, and less humidity in the grow environment. All these factors will increase the plants' level of transpiration, which will lead to the plant needing more water.

Although the plant has ramped up and started to drink more, you will need to dry the plants back a bit more than previous stages. It is very important to let the medium dry back to allow proper aeration and oxygenation of the root zone. You want to shoot for 50%-60% dry back, from full saturation. Ideally you want to keep the medium at a lower level of saturation/moisture than when in veg, but still water frequently.

Generally speaking, you want to administer enough water at each watering event, so that there is runoff leaching from the bottom of the container. Then allow the plant to dry back before watering again! This may vary depending on the size of container you are using, as well as the medium being used.

If you over water the cannabis plant in the flowering stage, it will dramatically halt growth and flower development. Additionally, the roots will then be very susceptible to root rot, a headache no grower wants to deal with.

Same goes for underwatered cannabis plant. It may shut down root function, and bring growth and flowering production to a complete stop. I have ever seen plants “stalling out,” with flowers not maturing from week 3 onwards and staying the same size. So if you want a healthy robust plant that is capable of producing big buds, it is essential to get the watering process properly.

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Why are Hydroponic Cannabis Plants Not Overwatered?

Growing cannabis with hydroponics system have emerged as a preferred method these days, known for the higher yields and more potent buds compared to typical soil grown cannabis.

Some growers just wonder how cannabis plants could survive in a hydroponic environment without getting overwatered. There is OXYGEN in the reservoir. Unlike stagnant water in potted plants, which can drown the roots, hydroponic systems provide continuous aeration so the roots can breathe freely.

If you don't want to deal with watering, choosing a hydropinic cannabis grow tent can be the right way to go. No more worries about checking the dry-back, giving water at precise intervals & quantity, as well as how to fight over/under watering. Speaking from experience, I find maintaining my hydro reservoir is much more manageable than other mediums.

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Conclusion

In a nutshell, getting the watering right for your cannabis plants is a big part of keeping them happy and healthy. Pay attention to the water content in your chosen medium, find that sweet spot between too much and too little water, and create a cozy environment for them to grow up. Or, if you're up for it, consider diving into the world of hassle-free hydroponic weed growing. With a bit of TLC and some good old observation, you'll be reaping the rewards of your green thumb in no time.

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