1. We are currently experiencing issues with viewing and uploading images, our team is working on the issue.
    Dismiss Notice

Developing Strong Healthy Roots

Discussion in 'General Marijuana Growing' started by Wiggla, Sep 26, 2009.


    Wiggla Active Member

    I have been curious for awhile now about how to develop strong roots, since a healthy root system will almost ensure a robust plant that can defend against moisture or pest problems. Of course I have tried searching "developing roots/root systems," but of course there weren't any good results, and the stickys that cover growing or cloning or vegging don't say how to develop lots of healthy strong roots. They say you want white/opaque roots or that you want a lot of roots, or that you want a nice root ball, or they say once roots get to the bottom of rockwool or jiffy cube or pot, to transplant into a larger container (about 1 gallon per foot of growth).
    So, I would like to know from those that are aware of how important the root ball is to the overall growth and health of the plant, what their process is for ensuring that the plant develops quality roots without any threat of root bound, which leads me into my next question.
    What is root bound exactly? First I would like to explain why I ask. I had a crop at one time that I started from cuttings in the red/blue Dixie (Keger) cups. As the plants grew to about 8-10", I knew there were plenty of roots because of the amount of foliage as well as how quickly the solution was absorbed. I purposely left the plants in the cups because I wanted to make sure the plant had a nice strong root ball for when I transplanted the plants (I use coir "coconut fiber"). Well one morning I opened the cab to see a little more than half of my plant were drooped over like they were dried out. I quickly grabbed one of the cups expecting it to be very light in weight and dry, but it was heavy and wet. What happened? For about two weeks all was well than overnight a bunch of plants basically died. As I began asking questions to friends, store owners (hydro stores), and forum members, no one was aware of this "phenomenon." For a second I thought it may be root bound, but all of the people I asked, and all of those lovely grow bibles and videos say that when a plant is root bound growth is stunted and slowed. When I opened the cab to see plants bent over half ways slowed growth didn't come to my mind, I thought they were shocked by something. As I researched a few other plants began to droop as the others did. I became pissed off since it would seem I wasted time, money, and effort by raising 14 plants for two weeks to see them die, so I took the remaining plants out of the cups and put them in larger pots and over a week most of them perked back up. Well, what the hell happened? If it wasn't root bound, then what was it? So I never waited very long before transplanting after that, and now I want to find out how roots work. How long can a plant stay in a dixie cup (12-16oz) before any problems arise? I have seen some messages of people successfully growing in very small containers. How the hell is that possible?

    Someone with some experience please put my brain to rest and tell me what most likely was the cause of that.

    The same thing happened a month ago, this time in an ebb & flow system. I thought I wouldn't have any problems with root bound since the plants were in net pots that were flooded every 3 hours. Many people like to say that the less moisture there is in the media, the more the roots search for it and the longer the roots end up as a result. Vice versa, it is said that the more moisture a media has, the less the roots would need to grow because the food is easily available. Using that ideology, I wasn't scared when I saw the roots approach the edges of the net pots but wouldn't grow outside. I figured they didn't like being exposed to the grow light so they would simply grow within the net pot, also, the roots don't need to grow much since the tray is flooded every 3 hours. Well, the plants got about one foot tall and 2.5 weeks into flower with a bunch of popcorn nuggies and overnight, bent over half way. So the same thing that happened in the dixie cups almost 4 years ago, happened in hydro just one month ago. I have to figure this out because it keeps bruising my ego. I do an awful lot research and fabrication when it comes to this hobby so I consider myself pretty experienced with it. But then I'll lose a cutting to overwatering or root/stem rot or experience a retraction of roots when using the bubble buckets, or this root bound phenomenon with the dixie cups where after 1.5 months of growing healthy, a plant dies overnight. Well if Cervantes' books don't help, maybe Mel Franks' and Ed Rosenthal's will. (Just so you know, to avoid this stress, I simply grow in the reliable, consistent coir. Start in Dixie cups till roots get to the bottom, then one gallon pots, then 2 gallon pots. Flush about a month into flower. After 8 weeks, jobs done.)

    As a result of these recent humbling events where I find myself having to take a trip back to the newbie forums, I have developed a rather extensive list of questions that either a newbie, or someone who has grown for years but was always curious about would ask (Example: When using CFL in flower, what's the ratio of red bulbs (2700k) to blue ones (6500k)?). This is to of course help myself get things I've always wanted to know answered, and give other newbies a head start, ya know, so they don't have a plant die overnight after babying the f**king for 1-2 months.

    Thanks to anyone that can help,

    P.S. (Sorry for the extremely long post):eyesmoke:

    fureelz Active Member

    You definitely sound experienced in your hobby which is great to see. I myself have experienced this same phenomenon. I wouldn't say it was rootbound, more like rootlock. I have noticed it mostly when I have topped a plant and/or taken clones from a mother. The best idea I can come up with is that the plant has severely slowed down the process of new growth and is trying to repair its existing growth. Almost causing the roots to shrink back into itself like a defense mechanism. If the roots aren't actively converting nutrients they aren't going to grow, seeking new sources of nutrients. It will also use most of what it thinks is good nutrients in the fan leaves/stems causing the plant to almost lockout transpiration. Which would be the reason the roots feel 'wet'. I will also see damage to the fan leaves; what I would best describe as a rusty looking rash.. But given time the plant will start to come back. The best thing I have done to prevent this would be to lower the water amounts when I know I will be transplanting or taking clones. I mean the soil is almost scary dry. I keep mine in the dixies for a month, making them about 10-12" inches in height. They almost look rootbound but I know that the center of the soil area could take on new roots (if it had to) which could mean that you could start and finish a plant in the cup..1 by shortening the life of the plant, maybe 3 weeks in veg, 4-5 weeks in flower..I could see that being done in a dixie cup for its lifetime. Obviously those results aren't what most go for, and you can see why because of the effects it has on the plant..

    I would say the ratio of red spectrum to blue spectrum using cfls to flower would be 1:0, But of course you could put a 6500k bulb in there and would probably go 4:1. For some reason people like to add the full spectrum when flowering, I read somewhere that the plant doesn't even use the cooler kelvins when reproducing.
    Just a start to this crazy situation, there are a few smarties on here that can add I'm sure..
    Brick Top

    Brick Top New Member

    While it is not exactly 50/50 and at some stages of growth it can vary more one way or another on average the below soil portion of a plant will equal in size/area the above soil portion of the plant.
    Once a plant’s roots begin to circle a pot the plant is then under some degree or stress. The longer the circling is allowed to continue and increase the greater the degree of stress. Among the problems a root-bound condition can cause the most common are stunted growth, stretching, smaller and slower bud production, much more frequent watering is needed, plants are easy to burn even with a low percentage solution fertilizer and wilting.
    As to if there was an actual connection in cause or just a similar coincidence that appeared to share a cause between your two mentioned experiences I could not guess. What I can say is unless it is taken to the extreme where there is no way in the world a plant could ever use the entire amount of pot space it was given or because of pot size not enough plants would be able to be fit under someone’s lighting then you can never go to large when it comes to picking your pot size …. but you easily can pick to small.

    Wiggla Active Member

    Wow, great responses to get me thinking. Thanks for responding as this issue has had me thinking for awhile now, periodically, since it first happened years ago. I think the only way to settle my curiosity is to force the same thing to happen again, so I know what to definitely avoid in the future. I never stated that I am currently four weeks into a very successful Casey Jones (Trainwreck x Thai x Sour Diesel) grow. After the death of 3 Querkles (Purple Urkle x Space Queen) in the ebb&flow, I went back to basics as stated earlier, by using the coco fiber, and what da ya know, strong healthy, sticky plants. Fureelz touched on exactly what I was saying. People often grow in cups just fine, and others have pretty large plants in one or two gallon containers. I'm not agreeing with these methods, but their plants aren't dead like mine ended up. And my plants could have maybe came back, because cannabis is resilient, meaning it's a weed, but whenever a plant gets as hurt as these did, from overwatering or rootbound, I give them maybe 48-72 hours then toss them. I am only just now getting into trying to bring plants back to life when they're hurt or sick, which could take a month or more. I have to have a supply of medicine before I can experiment with problem plants.

    Maybe the medium I'm using is causing overwatering issues. I have recently noticed an overwatering issue when transplanting from rockwool cubes into coired dixied cups. It absorbs water like a sponge but maybe too much water. It could be locking out oxygen and causing the leaves to droop/wilt. I planned to buy some perlite or vermiculite (which do you think is better to use) for more aeration, but never got around to it and have found an alternative for transplanting and avoiding overwatering. Keep in mind there shouldn't be much of an overwatering risk after the plants graduate from a 16 ounce cup to a one gallon pot because of all the roots that should have developed by then (or it wouldn't be ready for transplanting), and the medium used should most likely be the same used to grow all the roots that filled the dixie cup (meaning the same amount of aeration to provide oxygen), so the only time there is a risk of overwatering for me is when they're babies. Either the rockwool soaks up too much water and causes overwatering, or the coir in the dixie cups soaks up too much water. When I noticed this was happening everytime I transplanted, I knew it was because the plant wasn't ready to leach off the excess water that's in the container. Even though the container dripped no more after watering, the coir still held too much.

    But there usually are a few roots peaking out of the cubes, and I thought that if they weren't put into some medium, the air would trim the roots (root tips turn brown and pull back into the cube). So there's another question, when rooting clones before transplanting, what do you guys do when a few roots peak out but you know the plant isn't ready for transplanting? I feel most comfortable transplanting when the plant needs to be fed approximately 24 hours after its last feeding. Also, for those that use rockwool cubes for rooting, do you keep the sides covered with the wrapping that comes with them (grodan for example) or is it ok to sit them on a heat mat without the sides of the cube covered? I ask this because for some reason I think that if the sides are covered, roots wont grow out the sides, they'll just grow down. If the sides are exposed, roots grow towards the closest opening, which would be the sides, then get burned by air and retract. Does it even matter if the roots come out the sides and get burned? Would it still be better to keep the clone on the heat mat until a lot more come out than to transplant a clone that may not be ready because 3-5 root tips are poking out?

    Anyway, I am able to transplant these clones without drowning them by simply folding a paper towel until it's the size of the bottom of the cube or cup, and it pulls the water right out of the medium. I don't like to waste paper but this does work very well. I read that the top 1/3 of cannabis roots like straight oxygen, the second 1/3 a mix of liquid and oxygen (vapor/mist), and the last 1/3 liquid; so, by having the towel pull water out from the bottom, the top 1/3 that wants the most concentrated air, gets the most. After 1-1.5 minutes the towel becomes drenched and disposable. I do this after I have rigorously bounced the cups up and down, tilting them to get rid of as much run-off as possible by gravity. So for all of you scared of overwatering your babies and turning a joyous occasion of acquiring a rare or favorite strain into a depressing waste of money, water or transplant then water your clones, check in on them every 5-10 minutes for about 2 hours is what i do (time intervals expand after a few successful checks without problems), and if the leaves begin to droop, slap a folded paper towel under the cup or cube (if it's considered a pot [1/2 gallon or more] remove the clone altogether, then slap a towel under it and in 10-20 minutes the leaves should rise and if the top began to tip over you should be able to bend it back in place.

    Also didn't know that the plant stresses by finding new places to grow its roots in a pot, but I guess that's unavoidable.

    I'm glad you replied to the color spectrum question. I actually read that the plants respond well to the blue spectrum for foliage growth, and i consider the plant to still be in veg until after two weeks in flower. But leaves grow larger throughout flower whether there is blue light or not, so the plants don't completely switch foliage growth for flower growth. And the healthier/better the leaves, the larger/denser/more potent/stickier/more resinous/sweeter/better tasting/stinkier/higher yielding/healthier/better the nuggies. That's hilarious because I have a 4:1 ratio at the moment so i guess i was right on, sweet. Four plants in a square with there own light, and one blue bulb dead center for all to share.

    Can you achieve the same/similar topping effects from your plant by pinching the stems instead of cutting the top nodes?

    Thanks for your responses

    bleachfan Active Member

    Roots are vital to healthy plant growth. Whats even more vital is for the roots to have an area to project roots hairs out that collect small drops of water. The root hairs are so vital because they increase the surface area that water can be "drank" A similiar comparison would be a bucket that had a few small holes in its bottom vs a bucket that had thousands of small holes in it. The bucket with more holes will allow more water through.

    When the roots hit the bottom of the cup there is no space for the root hairs to project into. Not having any room to go down further (which roots tend to do due to the gravity sensitive mechanisms of root cells) the plant will send another root down and hit the bottom without being able to bust out the root hairs.

    So long story short the number of root hair goes down drastically over time which has an exponetially devasting consequence of lowering surface are of roots that can actually pull in water, leading to one night the plant not having the needed root hair surface area to remain turgid. I suspect roots grow most actively at night and if this is the case, this would explain why you discover the plant wilted in the am.

    Another problem with those roots bound up at the bottom is that water will just sit there due to being unable to be absorbed by the roots. What this can do is rot out the end segments of the roots that are at the bottom of the container. If this happens its almost like ripping the plant out the ground and doing major damage to the delicate ends of the roots.

    JoeCa1i Well-Known Member

    Did'nt read all that,but I just copped some oregonism XL.

    Wiggla Active Member

    Thank you for that information. I've been wondering what it is that plants do during sleep. I currently don't have a sleep cycle for plants in veg and have killed many clones before the roots could even fill a dixie cup. I know it's because there is a lack of roots/foliage to "breath" but I have been having the damnedest time getting the roots to grow enough to be able to comfortably feed the plants (without fear of overwatering). Here is a question: a clone has roots poking out of a standard 2" rockwool cube/jiffy. You put it into a 16 ounce dixie cup with soil/coir/rockwool/whatever. How long before you see roots poking out of the bottom of the cup?

    raw225 Active Member

    I diDnt read everything cuz i'm a lil high...but i did see you are talking about a strong root system.

    What you do is get a fan & point it at your plants, you'll see the leaves moving in the wind, make sure there not blowing too much. The plant/s will then since the wind & defend itself for the wind (therefore making a bigger stock & more roots) thats the easiest way i come to find man. no store bought chemicals!

    <Grasshopper> Active Member

    Thread resurection......Im always looking to make bigger thicker roots. Whats the methods you use?

    SplifMcGee Active Member

    I am going to give you guys the magic list for root your root zone.
    -step 1: use aeration pots. either smart pots or geo pots.
    -step 2: inoculate your soil with mycorrhizae. i recommend greengro or extream gardening.
    -step 3:throughout the vegatative cycle water and first 2 weeks of flower with rapid start or roots excelerator.
    -step 4: maintain a healthy rhizosphere by using compost teas. use through flower and veg.
    -step 5:make sure that you water enough so that there is about 15% runoff. this will greatly reduce lockout.

    If you do this you will have a dope as plant.

    CanBud Well-Known Member

    Liquid Karma helped make insane root balls on my first grow, the drain rocks were entangled after a couple weeks before I moved them into my garden. Not saying you should use it but it worked for me and I really never had any issues with my plants.

    SplifMcGee Active Member

    liquid karam is a catalyst so it will facilitate reactions in your rhizosphere. it will also help flowers and veg. but the list above is all you need.

    lemay69er Member

    I just grew seeds in clear dixie cups. check out my journal or my pics. Them plants are about 4-5 weeks old.

    jstro420 Member

    Sounds dumb but damp off possibly?

Share This Page