You may not see them, but roots are still one of the most important parts of a cannabis plant. Strong, healthy roots are essential for growth, flowering, and harvest results of your cannabis seeds. Moreover, cannabis root extracts have been used for millennia in light of their medicinal potential. Here, you’ll read how and why to keep cannabis roots strong and healthy, and what to do with them after the harvest.
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How Roots Support Cannabis Plants
Roots give cannabis plants the firmness that keeps them upright in stormy weather. The root system develops underground from the very first tiny white tip that sprouts from a seed at germination. From that moment, the root starts to dig its way down into the soil, ready to start searching for water, nutrients, and oxygen.
The big main root that tries to grown straight down is called the taproot. Emerging from its sides, an intricate network of smaller roots extends outwards in all directions. The root system is surrounded on all sides by a full ecosystem of microbes (fungi and bacteria) that cooperate with the roots in symbiosis. In a very real sense, cannabis roots are constantly communicating with and collaborating with the soil life around them.
The primary purpose of cannabis roots is to provide the plant with water and nutrients. Few people know, though, that roots absorb oxygen, too. These vital functions indicate how crucial healthy cannabis roots are for the plant’s chances of survival and eventual yields. The absorption of all these essential compounds is deeply interrelated. Without water, roots cannot absorb nutrients; and if the soil gets too wet, oxygen supply starts to falter. In addition, microscopic lifeforms in the soil must be well-balanced for optimum performance of cannabis roots. You can read more about these factors in our blogs on the best soil types, pH levels, and watering routines.
Keeping Roots Healthy
The main threat to healthy cannabis roots is wet soil. Mildew, root rot, fungi and other threats can wreak havoc on root systems in soil that holds too much moisture. Too dry isn’t good either, because that limits root absorption capacity. Indoor growers need to check air and grow medium humidity closely to avoid root issues. Outdoor growers can control soil moisture levels using hay, mulch, or live clover to regulate evaporation rates.
As an added benefit, these interventions also serve as a temperature buffer, which is good because roots don’t like heat and cold fluctuations. Of course, temperature tends to rise and drop faster in pots compared to open soil.
A Good Start
Adding the right nutrients to your grow medium will help young plants develop strong roots. Within the familiar NPK spectrum, pay particular attention to sufficient levels of potassium (K) and phosphorus (P). Well-balanced potting soil can be helpful here, but adding the right organic mix of compost, bone meal (K), and kelp (P) can really help give your roots a head start. Growers looking for an organic kickstarter can use slow-release Biotabs to promote healthy and varied soil life.
Cannabis roots growing on hydroponics also benefit from high phosphorus and potassium nutes in the water supply during the early growth stage of the plant. Just be careful not to go too far, because nutrient overdoses can burn plants – and yes, that can still happen when you have all that water close at hand.
Dosing your water supply is fairly easy as long as you don’t add water before the soil has dried up entirely. Don’t keep watering until puddles form underneath the pots you use, or you’ll risk overdoing it inside the pot as well. Proper drainage also helps: drilling a few holes in the bottom of the pot helps excess water flow off. Perlite, some peat moss, or a few handfuls of gravel in the lower section of the pot also promote good drainage capacity.
When watering, make sure to work your way to the edges of the pot, too, instead of just hitting the soil at the base of the stem. This way, you’ll keep all the soil damp, which attracts the roots and promotes them to make full use of all the available soil.
Be careful when adding nutrients to water, too, because nutes in the water supply can burn your plants as well. Another vital tip: give the root system enough room to grow. Frequent repotting only adds to the stress your plant experiences. Growers can make it easier by providing a spacious pot right after the seedling stage has passed, with plenty of space for a full root system by the time the plant starts to flower.
Get Some Fresh Air
Special fabric and ‘smart’ pots are available to help aerate roots from the sides. Even if you use these, though, you’ll still need to make sure soil drainage is sufficient to ensure plenty of oxygen. Growers with organic preferences should use compost and full, rich soil for their grows. Healthy and natural cannabis soil life is a great improvement for root oxygenation, and it boosts drainage and nutrient supplies as well.
Common Cannabis Roots Issues
Rootbound Root Systems
A well-known root issue is know as ‘rootbound’ plants. This happens when roots run out of space in their pots, resulting in a big bundle of roots with little or no room left for soil, air, or water. Small pots are the main culprits here, so making sure you leave plenty of room from step 1 is key here. If the current spot is still getting too cramped, just take out the plant, untangle the root system, and put the whole plant back in a larger container with good drainage and fresh soil. A splash of water can help, but make sure you don’t add too much as discussed above!
Cannabis roots can start to rot if they come under attack from bacteria and fungi. Yellow leaves, brown spots, curling leaf tips, and limp stems can all be signs of root rot, but the condition is always tricky to diagnose. Similar symptoms can result from simply giving too much or too little water, a range of diseases, and nutrition problems. If you suspect that root rot may be the cause, then gently remove the plant from the pot, shake the soil from the root clout, and watch, feel, and smell carefully. Mushy, yellow, and brown roots are all signs of root rot, as is a musty, autumnal scent of decay.
If root rot appears the cause, move the plant to a brand new and clean pot. Give the roots and/or fresh soil a special mycorrhiza treatment. These are instances of roots and beneficial fungi working together for mutual benefit, improving healthy nutrient and water uptake. Ready-made root stimulators are an easy way of adding mycorrhizae, along with a wealth of other compouds that promote soil life.
In fact, root rot is a bit of a catchall term, because these issues can be caused by a variety of microbes. Fusarium, pythium, and a host of other bad guys can all cause root rot. Ultimately, the best protection for roots in soil is a proper, robustly balanced cannabis ecosystem. Not too damp, not too dry, not too hot and not too cold is the way to go, with a careful balance of nutrients to boot. Hydroponics cannabis roots are more vulnerable than soil grown roots, since they lack the buffer capacity that natural soil organisms provide.
What Can You Do With Cannabis Roots?
The roots of cannabis plants have been used for millennia to ease and remedy all sorts of health issues. Roman historian and naturalist Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder, recommended cannabis roots for rigid joints, while the Chinese have been using it for millennia to stop blood loss after childbirth. These days, cannabis roots are often used in oils and salves against eczema, psoriasis, and joint aches.
Weed roots contain few cannabinoids, but they pack lots of other interesting compounds instead.
Marijuana Root Terpenes
Of the many terpenes found in cannabis plants, some occur only in the roots. Friedeline is an antioxidant that may help protect the liver, while epifriedelanol is studied for its tumour inhibiting potential.
We still don’t know much about the long-celebrated effects of cannabis roots and their derivatives. Still, many people are convinced that they work. Do be careful when trying to make your own weed root extract, paste, oil, or salve, however. Cannabis roots contain certain compounds that can be harmful in high concentrations.
Getting To Work With Cannabis Roots
If you want to try and create your own cannabis roots product, you can easily do so at home. One option is to clean and dry the roots before grinding them. Add oil to create a paste for topical use on painful spots or inflammations, but never rub anything into open wounds.
Another option is slow-boiling the roots and making them into tea. This calls for even more caution than topical ointments and pastes, though, because tea is more likely to contain high doses that could be harmful.
A third technique involves boiling cannabis roots in (coconut) oil. You can choose to take a teaspoon of siphoned oil, but the safer (and usually more pleasant) option in terms of dosages is to mix it with beeswax. If you get the proportions right, this lets you make your own cannabis root salve to rub onto any problem spots.
The Roots Of Your Cannabis Knowledge
Now that you know more about what goes on underground in a cannabis grow, we hope you have some firm roots to work with for yourself. In the end, all growers rely on the solid foundations of a good root system, so having that secure basis should bring that next harvest one step closer. Time to order some prime cannabis seeds and get growing then, perhaps?