Not all forms of stress are bad for plants—in fact, some growers intentionally stress cannabis plants to accelerate growth, maximize yield, and bolster their resistance to disease. However, some types and levels of stress can have detrimental and even fatal effects. Here, we’ll look at some of the most common causes of stress in cannabis plants, as well as a few common-sense solutions.
Over- or Underwatering
Cannabis growers know that excessive watering is bad, but too little water can be just as harmful. Over- and underwatering plants can cause their leaves to wilt, curl, and become discolored. When plants are overwatered, their roots are cut off from nutrient and oxygen supplies; when they don’t get enough water, they’ll simply shrivel up.
It’s quite common for new cultivators to water their plants overenthusiastically. After all, cannabis plants are 80% water! Plants in different geographical locations and soil types have varying water needs, so there’s no way to offer a universal watering recommendation. Before creating a watering cycle, check the soil’s drainage by digging a hole 12 inches deep and filling it with water. If it takes more than an hour to be absorbed, drainage is inadequate.
Cannabis plants, even those grown from cheap seeds, give certain signs when they’re over- or underwatered. For instance, if the lower foliage looks limp, the plants may need more water. Check the soil at a depth of five centimeters; if it’s dry, add water gradually until the soil is moist. Use room temperature water at a pH of 5.6 to 5.8 during vegetation and increase the pH slightly during the flowering stage.
Over- and Underfeeding
Plant stress from an insufficiency or an excess of nutrients is another problem among cannabis growers. It’s important to give the plants what they need, but not so much that they can’t process it all. Nutrient-related stress brings on all kinds of problems, from spotted and discolored leaves to slow growth. A nutrient surplus can also attract bothersome insects.
NPK, or nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are the most important nutrients to consider. When you buy nutrient blends for cannabis plants, you’ll typically see the NPK ratio on the package. If you’re using high-quality soil, let the plants absorb those nutrients for the first several weeks before doing any supplemental feeding.
Once the plants’ leaves start to open, choose a nutrient blend that’s rich in nitrogen and potassium. As they reach the flowering phase, you’ll need less nitrogen and more phosphorus. While potassium increases the number of flowers on each plant, potassium makes them heavier. If plants get too much nitrogen during flowering, it may result in stunted bud growth and a bad-tasting product.
For optimal growth, cannabis plants need the right soil and nutrient solution pH. If the pH is too high or too low, the plants won’t be able to absorb nutrients even if they’re present in the right quantities. Not only will improper pH bring nutrient deficiencies and growth problems, but it will also cause root burn.
The growth medium you choose will have a significant effect on growth and crop yield. Loamy soil is a great option because it is a mixture of silt, sand, and clay. It drains well, has plenty of room for air, and offers high yields.
While loamy soil is ideal, it’s still important to ensure that the soil is at the right pH so the plants’ roots can absorb nutrients properly. Generally, cannabis plants need a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5. A pH of 7.0 is considered mid-range, while higher numbers are alkaline and lower numbers are acidic. When checking the pH of the soil, don’t forget to check that of the nutrient blend you’re using.
While these plants are tough and resilient, they won’t thrive in unsuitable environments. Cannabis plants require a certain level and quality of light; when they don’t get enough, they won’t reach their full potential.
Lighting isn’t a big issue for outdoor cultivators because the plants get natural light. However, indoor growers must keep their plants on a strict lighting schedule, which will change as growth progresses. For instance, the plants may need up to 24 hours of light during vegetation, while they’ll need 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness when flowering.
When cannabis plants aren’t on a consistent light cycle, they tend to get confused. It’s crucial that the darkness cycle isn’t interrupted, as even the smallest amount of light can stress the plants into re-entering the vegetative phase. This will adversely affect growth and overall yield.
Putting grow lights too close to or too far away from the plants will cause stress, and the buds near the bottom of the plants may not get enough light. When planning an indoor grow, be sure to design the lighting to offer the appropriate level of exposure.
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