The Flora Series from General Hydroponics is your tried & true nutrient solution for hydroponic cannabis growing, trusted since the 1970s Starting your seeds hydroponically has many benefits, but many people are unsure how to go about it. How to Grow Hydroponic Cannabis at Home Hydroponics is when you grow your cannabis plant in an inert medium like coco or a reservoir of water, and provide all the nutrients to the plant directly
Hydroponics: The original way to grow perfect cannabis every time
There’s a reason hydroponics is such a classic choice for cannabis: It’s easy to set up, it’s space efficient, and without the variability that comes with soil, you can fine-tune your plants’ nutrients for every part of the growth cycle. There’s almost zero guesswork involved, too, thanks to decades of growers that came before you—as long as you’re able to measure things—so it works for beginners and old hands alike.
When hydroponic herb rose to prominence in the 1970s, General Hydroponics, now part of Hawthorne Gardening Company, was right there on the ground floor. By 1976, they’d released their three-part Flora Series, the OG cannabis nutrient system that growers still swear by today.
Using General Hydroponics’ personalized assistance, clear guides, and straightforward nutrient system, first-time growers can get all the basics for starting their first crop—but once you have the basics down, it’s just as easy to personalize and adapt to every individual grow.
Whether you’re just starting out with cannabis cultivation or you’re used to growing using soil, hydroculture is the most foolproof way to get a full, healthy harvest. Here’s what you need to know.
What is hydroponics?
The simple version: Hydroponics is a way of growing plants with a blend of water and nutrients instead of soil. While humans have been growing plants without soil for eons, technology has developed in the last century. It was used to feed troops in World War II, and later, it would be used to grow lettuce in space.
Hydroponics gradually spread from scientists to gardeners and hobbyists. While a lot of them were just growing veggies, it especially caught on with cannabis growers. Cannabis is a unique plant with very specific lighting, humidity, and nutritional needs, and hydroponics gave them a level of control they’d never had before. It made it easier than ever to avoid pesticides, too, since many common pests require soil to thrive.
Getting started with a hydroponic cannabis crop
A cannabis plant has two basic stages, although they break down into smaller ones. During the grow period, the priority is developing leaves and stems, creating a sturdy, healthy plant. With that strong foundation in place, you move onto the bloom phase, creating as many sticky buds as you can. For maximum yields, both of those processes need different nutrients—for example, cannabis needs the most nitrogen at the end of the growing period—and with hydroponics, it’s incredibly easy to adjust them to the plant’s exact needs at any given time.
To get started, you can either buy a premade hydroponics system or, if you’re thrifty and handy, build your own. Make sure your plants are getting adequate light, either naturally or from grow lights, and plenty of ventilation. (If you stick with it, you’ll want to look into getting more precise environmental controls, like an air conditioner.) Check your water for the proper pH level before mixing in your nutrients.
General Hydroponics’ Flora Series is the simplest way to make sure your plants are well-fed. Your plant gets all the nutrients you need in just three different blends—FloraGro®, FloraBloom®, and FloraMicro®—mixed in different combinations depending on the plant’s growth stage.
General Hydroponics’ straightforward feedchart, built from decades of experience, gives both a simplified, four-step nutrient plan and a week-by-week breakdown, giving your crop the right balance for a productive harvest.
The team at General Hydroponics are the original experts on hydroponic cannabis—and they’ve prepared a whole knowledge library to get you started. Articles for beginners cover the basics and frequently asked questions. Next-level growing resources give you everything you need to know about your growing environment, keeping your plants healthy, and troubleshooting.
But if all that doesn’t cover it, you can always give them a call. They’ll get a hydroponics wizard on the line to make sure you’re set up for success.
Hydroponic Seed Starting 101: A Primer for Beginners
Starting your seeds hydroponically has many benefits, but many people are unsure how to go about it. Shannon McKee gives us a primer on the basics of starting your own seeds to expand on what you’re currently growing.
Many people skip starting their own seeds because of the time and effort to get them started, but there are some great reasons to start your own seeds hydroponically. It’s so much easier to just go to the store to pick up some seedlings to pop into your system and get growing, right? Well, store-bought seedlings do have some downsides that can be avoided if you start your own.
The first is that you’re limited to what you can grow in your system. You have to choose from the options available at the store. However, if you start your own seeds, you can grow anything. This means you can grow your favorite heirlooms or even rare plants that aren’t found at many nurseries.
Adding seeds to your hydroponic system means that they won’t go through any trauma or root damage from being transplanted into your system. This process may also introduce diseases or bugs into your hydroponic system from the store.
Also, you get the satisfaction of growing a plant from a tiny seed rather than just picking up a seedling. Plus, a packet of seeds can grow a number of plants for just a few bucks, whereas the cost of only one seedling can be the same amount.
Seeds are also more cost-effective than buying one or two seedlings in the long run, as you can save some for the following year. The germination rate can decrease over time, but often, you can still get quite a few to sprout over the years until you have to buy your next seed packet.
What You Need to Start Seeds in a Hydroponic System
The first time you start your own seeds for your hydroponic system may be a bit more expensive at the beginning because you need to buy more materials than in future years. Seeds need water, light, oxygen, and heat to grow. You really don’t need anything too special to grow your own seeds.
You can use a grow tray with a dome for your own miniature greenhouse to create an ideal environment. If you’ll be growing your seeds in an area that is cooler, you may want to invest in a heating mat that goes underneath the grow tray to keep it warm as this is a necessary condition for sprouting to occur. Light is good to have as well as this will help your seeds sprout.
Inside of your grow tray, it can be beneficial to use a pot that works for your seeds and their future as seedlings in your hydroponic set-up. You’ll want to use starter cubes, such as those made of stonewool (rockwool). The key here is to use something that can withstand being immersed in water without dissolving, as it could clog up your system after transplanting.
Step by Step Instructions for Sprouting Seeds in a Hydroponic System
- The first thing that you’ll want to do is to soak your starter cubes in clean water for about an hour. After they’ve been given a chance to soak, put a few seeds into the cube’s hole. You’ll want to add several just in case you have some seeds that don’t germinate. Once they sprout, you can thin out the weaker plants to allow the strongest to grow.
- Prepare your grow tray with about an inch of clean water or nutrient solution that is at half strength. Arrange the light source and heating mat as needed. You can keep the lid on to keep the heat and moisture in the tray.
- Put these planted cubes into the grow tray and add water or the half strength nutrient solution as the level goes down in the grow tray.
- After about four days, you’ll start to see some sprouts emerging.
Some people prefer to use a Ziploc bag, rather than a grow tray, when trying to get the seeds to germinate as it functions like a greenhouse. Seal the bag with a little bit of air and put it in a dark place for about four days to get the seeds sprouted. Then, you can put the starter cubes with sprouted seeds into the grow tray.
Step by Step Instructions on Transplanting
Keep your tiny seedlings growing strong with your hydroponic nutrient solution. Once they’ve gotten bigger, you don’t have to make the nutrient solution half strength.
You’ll start to see the seedlings’ roots coming out of the bottom of the cube, and this is the sign you’ve been waiting for, as it means you can start transplanting. This can take about two to four weeks depending on what plants you’re growing.
Clear up a spot in your hydroponic system’s growing media for the seedling – cube and all. Gently transfer the starter cube into your growing media, and cover it gently.
Give the root system a chance to naturally seek out the water and nutrients in your system by top watering it for a few days to give it a chance to grow the root system.
Voila! You grew your own seedlings into a strong plant for your hydroponic system. Depending on the type of plant, you’ll be able to get your first harvest about four to eight weeks from the time you transplanted your seedlings.
Cut out the dependency of only being able to grow the types of plants that are available as seedlings at your favorite gardening store. Take a little extra time to nurture your seeds so that they become strong seedlings ready to transplant into your system. You’ll be able to take pride in your efforts with how healthy your plants are and your overall system’s health.
How to Grow Hydroponic Cannabis at Home
Hydroponics is when you grow your cannabis plant in an inert medium like coco or a reservoir of water, and provide all the nutrients to the plant directly in the water.
Growing in coco coir can be considered a type of hydroponics since it naturally contains no nutrients and you must provide all the nutrients in the water. However, when you say “hydroponics” most people think of this:
When it comes to hydroponic cannabis…
Differences Between Soil & Hydro
- The optimum pH for coco and hydroponics is 5.5-6.5, while the optimum pH for soil is 6-7
- Nutrients must be provided from when a hydroponic plant is a seedling (in seedling doses to start), otherwise the seedling will grow slower because it only has what’s contained in the seed itself. In soil you don’t need to add nutrients for a few weeks since there’s already some in the soil
- Growing in coco coir (a growing medium that looks somewhat like soil but is actually made of dried coconut husks) gives you results that are somewhat between growing in soil and growing in a hydroponic reservoir of water – you get a lot of the benefits of both
Pros of Hydro
- Plants in hydroponic setups generally grow faster in the vegetative stage than soil-grown plants
- Less likely to get bugs
- Buds can feel more potent
- If growing in a reservoir you don’t have to worry about watering your plants when they’re dry, over/under watering, or removing runoff. Everyone is different but I find maintaining a hydro reservoir easier than moving the plants around or watering and using a wet vacuum to remove runoff (but we all have our personal preferences!)
- If growing in a reservoir you use a very efficient amount of nutrients since you only mix up new water a few times a month, and only toss old water after the plant has already used up a lot of nutrients, which can save quite a bit if you’re using expensive nutrients and is better for the environment (compared to drain-to-waste)
- You have more control over nutrient levels, PPM, and pH – for the mad scientists among us who want to get the most out of our plants as possible!
Cons of Hydro
- Hydro usually takes more preparation/setup than growing in soil. You’re providing more for the plant instead of letting the soil do some of the work for you
- It can be easy to get root rot in hydro if you don’t provide your plant with a good-bacteria supplement like Hydroguard.
- Soil-grown buds may have a more complex or stronger smell than hydro-grown buds, especially if grown in composted living soil without any liquid nutrients
- Growing in soil is more intuitive for many people, and some people already have experience with soil from other types of gardening!
Is Hydroponics Good for Growing Cannabis?
Have you seen cannabis plants growing with their roots just floating in a reservoir of water? This type of hydroponics is known as Deep Water Culture (DWC), and has been around for over a 100 years! As more growers gain experience with this medium, DWC has become increasingly popular for growing cannabis. Hydroponic setups are really neat and offer some big benefits over growing in soil!
Benefits of Hydro Over Soil
- Plants grown in a hydroponic reservoir tend to grow faster in the vegetative stage, resulting in bigger yields and faster harvests
- Hydroponic buds tend to be more potent and often cost more at dispensaries
- Once a hydroponic reservoir is set up, it does not take a lot of work or time to maintain. Instead of regularly watering plants and removing runoff, a hydro reservoir only requires you dip a PH Pen and top off with more water or adjust as needed.
Cons of Hydro
- Takes more time and effort to set up than soil or coco
- Buds grown in soil without added nutrients tend to have a stronger smell than buds grown with liquid nutrients like in a hydroponic setup (though if you’re trying to keep things low odor this might be a benefit).
- Unless you protect your roots by using the right supplements and equipment, your plants may struggle with root rot. Luckily if you follow the steps in this tutorial you don’t need to worry about root rot killing your plants!
Hydro is a no-brainer for me. Whenever I go back to a hand-watered grow like coco coir, I am always surprised by how much extra time it takes to water plants and remove the runoff. The most intimidating part of hydro is just getting started – after that it’s actually really easy to take care of your plants. In my opinion, hydro is far easier and less time consuming than growing in soil or coco coir once you’re set up. If you are interested in hydro, go for it! If you follow this tutorial you will succeed!
Today I’ll teach you how to set up your hydroponic reservoir for growing cannabis, and I’ll show you what you need to do each day for optimum growth
How to Grow Cannabis in DWC
So there are five major parts to getting set up. You need….
- Grow Environment – I personally recommend a grow tent as opposed to building your own environment from scratch.
- Grow Light – If you don’t already have a grow light, I recommend getting a 250W, 400W or 600W HPS grow light for your first grow. They are the most consistent type of grow light and get really great results in DWC.
- Nutrients – I highly recommend getting GH Flora trio, Calimagic (Cal-Mag supplement) and Hydroguard.
- Seeds – Learn where to get seeds
- DWC tank – Learn how to build your own (it’s surprisingly hard to find a pre-made tank considering how cheap all the parts are!)
Once you’ve got your gear and supplies, it’s time to get set up and start growing! Here’s a quick overview.