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  • Writer's pictureAlexis Mellons

The Roots of Success: Cannabis Health Starts at the Bottom

At the root (pun intended) of success within your grow, root systems are like the holy trinity of cannabis health. Responsible for much more than the uptake of water and key nutrients, these hidden gems play a crucial role in your harvest, from initial sprout to final sale.

The Importance of Root Health

From the moment of germination, root systems work to ensure a plant is receiving what it needs to thrive. Hidden beneath a layer of soil, a plant’s first tendril of life reaches out in search of water, nutrients, and oxygen. On an immediate mission to grow, this first root is called the taproot. It quickly branches off, creating secondary and tertiary roots that expand the system’s ability to absorb and communicate with the world around them.

The ecosystem contained beneath the soil is just that, a whole ecosystem. Roots are enveloped in a mix of microbes, and together they form a symbiotic relationship that allows the other to thrive. In turn, the roots, fungi, and bacteria in the soil join forces to feed, water, and oxygenate the growing cannabis plant above. By caring for and attending to your cannabis roots properly, you build a strong foundation for a healthy and bountiful harvest.

Balancing the Components of Root Health

The health of cannabis roots comes down to three interrelated essentials: water, oxygen, and nutrients—the holy trinity. As the gatekeeper for all three as they migrate upward, roots rely on a balanced environment to maintain not only their own health, but also that of your cannabis plant. For example, roots need water to absorb nutrients; with too much water, however, roots can be deprived of oxygen. Insufficient oxygen blocks the uptake of other nutrients, and so on. Optimizing your plant health requires a sustained harmony between these three components.

Roots & Water

Popular as being “that which drinks,” cannabis roots play the key role in transporting water from soil to stem. Due to what’s known as “water potential,” and through the use of hydraulics, water moves upward via a plant’s permeable, absorptive roots and directly to the stems and leaves above.

Without access to water, both the roots and the plants they serve would simply dry up and perish. Just like us humans, water is essential to life as they know it! However, there are dangers to overwatering as well. Excessive watering can cause some of the biggest threats to plant health, including root rot, mildew, and unwanted fungi. These thrive in environments with extra moisture where oxygen is low, and can easily occur with a simple case of overwatering.

Alternatively, too little water, and your roots won’t be hydrated enough to absorb nutrients the plant wants from the soil. Your growing medium shouldn’t reach bone-dryness, nor should it be overflowing with water. Ensuring your pots have drainage holes is a huge step in releasing excess water, while watering regularly and with caution ensures they don’t get too thirsty.

As with most aspects of cannabis plant care, maintaining the perfect water supply is relatively easy, so long as you keep eyes on your plants consistently, knowing their status from day to day and checking for signs of imbalance. .

Roots & Oxygen

Lesser known of root systems is their importance to plant oxygenation. In fact, most of the oxygen used by a plant is acquired through water in the soil, and therefore by its roots. Through respiration, the uptake of oxygen facilitates the creation of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which in turn allows for the transportation of energy (food) throughout the cannabis plant.

Simply put, water equals oxygen equals food. A delicate balancing act indeed, your plants essentially starve without root access to oxygen, as they can’t secure other crucial nutrients without it. Depending on your method of growing, you may choose to boost your chances of oxygenation. Breathable pots and grow bags allow oxygen to reach more than just the topsoil of your plants. Porous media, such as perlite or peat moss, help to improve soil aeration by encouraging water runoff and “fluffing” the soil around your roots.

When you give your roots plenty of room to grow and spread, you can avoid unhealthy rootbound systems. Your pots should offer “breathing room” within your root system, giving each individual strand the opportunity to absorb the water, oxygen, and nutrients they need.

Roots & Nutrients

Roots are the sole conduit by which nutrients are absorbed into the cannabis plant. When root systems are healthy and well-treated, Nitrogen, Potassium, and other important elements are taken from the soil and given to the leafy lifeform above.

That said, roots themselves require a proper diet in order to survive as well. While Nitrogen primarily benefits stems, leaves, and flowers, Phosphorus and Potassium are the key to root system success. Not only do these nutrients strengthen your roots, but they also allow your roots to branch out and grow anew, further stabilizing and supporting your harvest.

Adding Phosphorus and Potassium to your growing medium in the early stages of growth helps to ensure your roots will reach their full potential. Mixing these into your soil prior to planting, or adding these as fertilizers in your hydroponic system, will help you grow stronger roots more quickly and efficiently. As they say, success starts from the ground up.

Reading Your Root Structures

The ability to discern whether your root systems are healthy or unhealthy is fairly innate, whether you’ve been growing for a day or a decade. Milky white with no smell or malformations, healthy roots are firm enough to gently squeeze and hold their shape with ease.

Unhealthy root systems, on the other hand, announce their presence like a bad omen. These roots lean into a brown color, can become slimy and lose their integrity to the touch, and are complete with a smell we can only describe as “funky.” You see it, or you smell it, and you can typically sense something is wrong.

As is with our own human biology, sick root systems are the result of an imbalance. When you’re seeing signs of poor health, check in on the holy trinity. As you find the perfect balance of water, oxygen, and nutrients, your roots will offer their thanks in the form of happy and thriving fields of flower.

We’ll be further exploring what lies underneath in this blog space, so if you have a question or request for the future, drop us a line! You can stay up to date and in touch over on our Instagram, and you can contact us directly anytime at

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