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How to Tell if Your Cannabis Plant is Healthy

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

The outcome of a cannabis plant is heavily dependent on its initial plant care and the overall health of the plant as it grows. Being able to assess a cannabis plant’s health and whether or not it has nutrient deficiencies early on in the growth phase of cultivation will prevent any undesirable outcomes. Growers will use both visual indicators and plant nutrient analysis to assess a cannabis plant’s health.



person holding a healthy marijuana leaf
Image by Erin Stone from Pixabay


Nutrient Deficiencies in Cannabis

Nutrient deficiencies in cannabis will make the plant more vulnerable to plant diseases from pest infestations and mold growth, which can ultimately lead to the plant’s death if not properly cared for. Prevention is the best approach for your cannabis plants, though there are still ways to detect and treat nutrient deficiencies early on (Weedmaps, 2021).


The environment of a cannabis plant will always have a significant impact on the health of the plant. If there is an imbalance of nutrients needed for cannabis plants, then the plant may not achieve its full potential or may not survive altogether. This would include the cannabinoid and terpene levels that make the plant valuable to cannabis cultivators and consumers (Crinkley, 2021).


One of the most common causes of nutrient deficiencies in cannabis plants is improper pH levels. The soil the plant resides in could have all the proper nutrients, but if the pH levels are not balanced then the cannabis plant won’t be able to absorb the nutrients through its roots. Cannabis performs best “in a slightly acidic environment,” ranging from 5.8 to 6.8 pH level of the soil (Weedmaps, 2021). The acidic levels of the water will also impact the cannabis plant’s health, with ideal pH levels ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 (Weedmaps, 2021).


What are Some Visual Indicators of a Healthy Cannabis Plant?

Traditionally, assessing the health of plants relied heavily on visual indicators. Cannabis plants have their own set of visual characteristics that indicate whether the plant is healthy or not, which include color, the presence of leaf damage, consistent growth, bud production, thickness, leaf strength, and stem appearance (Chatterly, 2021; Zativo, 2017).


Vibrant colors are the first good indicator for determining if your cannabis plant is healthy. A vibrant green, blue, purple, black, or gray that is within the typical coloring for that specific cannabis variety will suggest a happy, healthy plant. Pay careful attention to cannabis plants that show dull shades, patches, or spots (Chatterly, 2021). These visual characteristics demonstrate an underlying issue with the water or soil pH levels, a potential pest infestation, or nutrient deficiency (Zativo, 2017).


Observing damage to your cannabis plant’s leaves is an easy and definite sign your plant has some underlying problem that needs correcting. Leaves with holes, patches, cracks, and veins are all indicative of an unhealthy cannabis plant (Chatterly, 2021).


The next visual indicator of a healthy cannabis plant is whether or not consistent growth is being observed. Small cannabis plants will grow a lot, but as they mature to the bud development stage the plant will grow in height, thickness, and additional leaves and buds. Happy plants will continue to grow regardless of the life phase it’s in, even if it is only in tiny increments daily. If cannabis plant growth ceases and stops producing new leaves and branches, there could be some adjustments that need to be made (Chatterly, 2021). As a general guide, each mature leaf will have about 9-11 fingers or blades depending on the variety (Zativo, 2017).


Cannabis plants begin developing buds “in the final 8-11 weeks of their life,” (Chatterly, 2021). At this point, the plants are fully established with an extensive root system and full foliage of branches. If you begin observing a lack of flowering or bud growth during this time, there could be some hidden factors hindering the plant’s progress (Chatterly, 2021).


Additionally, some cannabis plants are thinner than others, but in general healthy cannabis plants will grow in size and thickness. Thinner cannabis varieties may have a tree-like appearance, while others may have a bush-like appearance. If your cannabis plant does not resemble the typical appearance of its variety, then there is a good chance something may be off (Chatterly, 2021).


The strength of the leaves can also be telling on the health of the cannabis plant. Wilted leaves can indicate underwatering or a nutrient deficiency, meanwhile, leaves that are “heavy and curl downward” are likely being overwatered. A happy and healthy cannabis plant will have leaves that “angle upwards toward the light,” (Zativo, 2017).


Lastly, the stem appearance of cannabis plants can also tell you whether your plant is healthy and growing accordingly. The stem of the plant will likely present stretch marks if it is healthy because they are growing rapidly as they are naturally supposed to. A lack of these marks may mean your plant isn’t growing much and corrective action may be needed (Zativo, 2017).


What is Plant Nutrient Analysis for Cannabis?

Previously, plant cultivators had to rely on visual indicators only to assess the health of a plant and whether it needed more or fewer nutrients. Now, cannabis growers can combine visual indicators with plant nutrient analysis tests. Plant nutrient analysis is helpful for any plant cultivator, but it has been a particularly useful tool for cannabis growers to assess the health of their plants.


Administering a plant nutrient analysis consists of “digesting a leaf or other plant matter in a strong acid” and then coupling “plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to see what elements are present in the plant tissue,” (Crinkley, 2021). This allows cultivators to identify the micro and macronutrients of the plants, providing an exact breakdown of the plant’s nutrients and elements.


Plant nutrient analysis can test for potential nutrient deficiencies or excess that hinder healthy “maturation and production” in cannabis plants early on in the growth stages (Crinkley, 2021). Plant nutrient analysis will test the levels for every type of macronutrient needed for plant growth, including “phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, and calcium,” and micronutrients such as “boron, copper, chlorine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, and zinc,” (Crinkley, 2021).


This type of analysis can provide cannabis growers with the opportunity to treat plant diseases and other problems directly at the source before the plant shows visual indicators of a decline in health. Depending on the stage the cannabis plant is at in its cycle, cultivators can assess the health of the plant, make adjustments, and “even discover what aspect of the growing environment might be affecting nutrient intake,” (Crinkley, 2021).


When performing a plant nutrient analysis, cultivators can also see the rate at which nutrients are being absorbed in every stage. This can save cannabis growers money on additional nutrients as they can see just how much the plant is absorbing, therefore preventing wasted nutrients (Crinkley, 2021).


Visual indicators will always be a valuable resource for cannabis cultivators to assess plant health, but plant nutrient analysis can provide accurate data for growers to use and become better informed on the growth and health of their plants. Monitoring the data retrieved from this type of analysis can also allow cannabis growers the opportunity to refine their practices over time and optimize their plant growth (Crinkley, 2021).


Trust in Steep Hill Illinois

Whether you are interested in laboratory testing, data analysis, or consulting services, you can always rely on Steep Hill Illinois to assist you with accurate, reliable results on the latest cannabis production practices. Email us today at info@steephillil.com to get started!



Resources

Chatterly, C. (2021, May 14). How to tell if your pot plants are happy. Cannabis Wiki. Retrieved April 4, 2023, from https://cannabis.wiki/growing/how-to-tell-if-your-pot-plants-are-happy


Crinkley, J. (2021, October 12). Are your cannabis plants healthy? how can you tell? MCR Labs. Retrieved April 3, 2023, from https://blog.mcrlabs.com/are-your-cannabis-plants-healthy-how-can-you-tell


Landis, H., Smith, J. T., Cockson, P., & Whipker, B. (2019, November). Prevent & Solve Nutrition Problems with Leaf Tissue Analysis. Cannabis Business Times. Retrieved April 4, 2023, from https://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/prevent-solve-nutrition-problems-cannabis-leaf-tissue-analysis/


Nutrient deficiencies in cannabis: How to spot and address them. Weedmaps. (2021, July 23). Retrieved April 4, 2023, from https://weedmaps.com/learn/the-plant/nutrient-deficiencies-in-cannabis


Zativo. (2017, January 27). How to check your cannabis plant's health. Zativo. Retrieved April 4, 2023, from https://www.zativo.com/blog/155-check-cannabis-plant-health


Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/erin_hinterland-17114308/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=5315561">Erin Stone</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com//?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=5315561">Pixabay</a>

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