Nico’s Nuggets: Notes on Transplanting Seedlings and Clones

Hey Nico!
Hope all is well on the Cannabis grower’s front. My question is one that I’ve had some trouble finding good info on. When is the best time to transplant seedlings from their first baby home (I have them in Solo cups) into their next step up (their pots)? About how tall should they be/ what kind of leaf development should they have?
Also, I was wondering how many transplants are optimal for an indoor plant’s life stages and what size containers at what times in their lives should be used? I know you’re the man to ask, Nico. I’ve seen many of your videos and read many of your High Times entries. I have become a big fan of yours and have become inspired to represent our cannabis community over here on the East Coast. Grow on, one love, peace.
Thank you for your time my brotha! – Matt W. from CT via

Matt, thanks for reading and writing in and a big thanks for your kind words. Everyone here at HT is more than happy to share knowledge and hopefully inspire people to grow their own—especially on the East Coast where our own headquarters are located!

Your questions are most pertinent for indoor growers, and there are a couple of simple guidelines you can follow when it comes to transplanting that will make your decision making easy. To begin with, the time to transplant is mostly predicated by a single factor: Root development. The container size you transplant into will depend on the desired size of your plant (not the current size).

Starting your seedlings in cups, peat plugs, Rockwool plugs or similar is common practice and a great way for plants to start out. However, once the seedlings are firmly rooted in the medium, it is time to transplant to their bigger plant container. If you see roots reaching the side of the plugs or coming out the bottom, you are safe to transplant. Remember that plants, especially very young plants, will go through some form of transplant shock for a couple of days after transplant. As such, many growers prefer to transplant as early as possible so as to get this out of the way and not let it interfere with the more important stages of plant development. To lessen these effects, be extremely careful with the roots, taking care not to tear or cut them during transplant. Once in the new container, be sure the new medium is moist and that your room temperature and lighting are correctly dialed in.

The desired size of your mature plants—both height and width—will dictate the size of the container you transplant into. Many growers will transplant only once during the plant’s lifetime, and this usually occurs at the end of the seedling stage and start of the vegetation stage. Once you see your seedling is firmly rooted and it is time to transplant, you must survey your garden space and practically determine the size your plant will be at full maturation. Remember that your plant will also have another big growth spurt once the flowering stage is triggered.

The container size you transplant into depends on how big your final plant will be. It is important to understand that your plant size is directly proportional to its root zone. The larger the root zone, the larger the plant. This is an especially important consideration for indoor growers, where space may be limited. Many growers choose containers that range from two to five gallons. Anything smaller than two-gallon containers are usually reserved for much smaller plants that will be placed into a sea-of-green (SOG) system. Anything over five-gallon containers graduates from “bush-like” plant to “tree-like” plant. Of course, growers can transplant their plants again before flower if they change their mind and want bigger plants, but the less you transplant the better off the plant’s health will be. Avoiding any transplant shock at these latter stages is most desirable, so growers will routinely place graduated seedlings into their final containers and take them all the way to harvest in them.

Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!

Got questions? Email ‘em over to Nico at and be sure to put “Nico’s Nuggets” in the subject line!
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