Overwatering Cannabis Plants: How Much Is Too Much?

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Water is vital for all living things, including cannabis. Without a steady supply of good-quality water, a marijuana grow will never truly thrive and reach its full potential. Too much of a good thing can be bad, however, and this definitely applies to the volume of water supplied to plants. Overwatering ranks among the biggest mistakes new cannabis growers make, and too much can be as much of a detriment to a grow as too little.

Particularly in the early stages of growth, a seedling plant appreciates good amounts of water, and this need continues throughout its life, although the demand will vary during different stages of the life cycle. The soil should be wet but never oversaturated and flooded, with pools of standing water present. If overwatering persists, the plants will have stunted growth, fail to thrive, and never deliver a satisfactory yield.

Proper Watering Essentials

Implementing a sound watering schedule requires evaluating some important considerations besides the frequency and quantity of water provided to the plants on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at some essential cannabis horticulture considerations that are essential for success.

Water Quality

Good water quality should be one of the first and foremost considerations of any good cannabis cultivator. Since most growers use hard city water, the water will require testing for pH and may possibly need treatment or a proper filtration system to ensure that it’s suitable for cannabis cultivation. Purchase a pH meter and adjust your water’s pH if necessary.

Proper Containers

Growing cannabis correctly necessitates properly sized containers with excellent drainage. Based on how tall you plan to grow your plants, the pots should be large enough to accommodate the root system. Air Pots® and smart pots provide an excellent means of providing proper soil aeration as well as drainage. For solid pots, be sure there are multiple drainage holes at the bottom to accommodate full drainage.

Excellent Soil

Always use soil that will promote root development and easy drainage. Soil mixes with perlite and small quantities of sand, compost, and other materials will encourage these two things. Coco coir makes a good alternative to soil and works well for cannabis plants. Avoid dense soils and anything with clay as a component because it will prohibit drainage.

Proper Soil Aeration

The soil should be loose, not dense, so the roots can grow easily and spread out to absorb vital nutrients. Restricted roots or pots that are too small and cramp the roots are very undesirable for proper root development and healthy plants. To encourage aeration, you can poke several holes in the soil using chopsticks to get adequate depth.

Sound Nutrient Plan

Since the vast majority of soil additives and plant nutrients are mixed with water, you want to create a feeding schedule that alternates between nutrients/water and clear, fresh water. Alternating nutrients-fortified water with clear untreated water will provide your plants with a solid nutrient plan without overdoing it.

Telltale Signs of Overwatering

If your plants are receiving too much water, they will reveal some clear signs to you to confirm this fact. Heed these warnings your plants are giving you. If you act in a timely manner, you will probably be able to improve your cultivation practices and get your grow back on the right track. Without proper action on your part, your grow will fail to thrive and eventually perish or, at best, result in an unsatisfactory harvest.

Drooping Leaves

A healthy, unstressed cannabis plant does not have drooping leaves. Drooping leaves can be a sign that the plants have either been given too much or too little water. The leaves on overwatered plants will curl as well as droop, while underwatered plants will merely droop. Plants that have received too little water will have dry soil on the surface as well as 2 or 3 inches below the surface. If the plants have not been denied water for too long, they will perk up within a couple hours of receiving water. Drooping from overwatering is a more sinister affliction.

Yellow Leaves

As well as drooping, overwatered plants will develop yellow leaves—which is a classic sign of a plant that is unhealthy or overwatered. Without prompt attention to correct the overwatering or drainage problem, the plants will fail to thrive. Yellow leaves usually occur after they begin drooping. The yellow color is a sign that the plants are not receiving adequate oxygen through the root system. The plants are literally drowning, and the roots need to dry out enough to start functioning properly again.

The Solution

The solution to overwatering is simple and obvious: Stop providing so much water! This will mean watering less often or providing less water when you do water—or both.

Allow the plant’s soil to dry, and in extreme cases where proper drainage may also be a problem, transplant into a new, appropriate pot with fresh, moist—not wet—soil. If you are prone to overwatering, smart (fabric) pots are an excellent alternative to conventional pots and almost eliminate the possibility of overwatering—although you may have to water more often since the soil in smart pots dries at a faster rate. Allow the plant’s root system to dry within the pot for a few days before providing any water. Closely monitor the plants and provide the correct quantity of water once the plants begin growing in a normal, healthy manner and have a green, firm leaf structure.

Correct Cannabis Watering Procedure

Sometimes, young sprouts and seedling plants require more watering than usual. Since they begin to grow with a single root that soon starts to branch and fork, it’s imperative that the early, delicate root doesn’t dry out. Young seedlings are vulnerable to overly dry conditions, so be sure the soil is very moist but never sopping wet.

Once plants are past the young seedling size and are a few inches in height, watering should occur every other day or whenever the pots appear dry. Because humidity levels vary by location, plants will dry quicker in some areas.

Water your plants when the soil surface appears dry. Check the surface dryness with your index finger. It should be a little moist an inch or so below the surface. Add water until you see it emerge from the drainage holes and collect on the ground or in the collection tray, if you use them. No more than 25 percent of the water you provide should drain out. If too much water emerges or the soil surface stays wet for longer than two or three days, provide less water.

Another way to check soil dryness—but can be difficult to do once the plants grow tall and develop large flowers—is to lift the pots to check weight. If the plants require water, the pots will feel much lighter than they do after watering. This method is a quick and easy way to determine if watering is necessary.

Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes cannabis growers make—especially novice growers. Fortunately, overwatering is also one of the easiest problems to solve, as long as the plants haven’t been seriously compromised. When provided with the correct amount of water, plants will perk up, show vibrant green colors, and grow at a more rapid rate. Once you settle into a proper water schedule and regimen, you will most likely never overwater again.

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