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Table of Contents

Key Differences Soil Vs Hydroponic Cannabis Cultivation

Of all the ways to grow cannabis this is one of the most asked questions by new growers. Not to leave old growers out, they ask this question as well from time to time if they have only ever grown in soil, or hydroponics. 

Many growers over the years, start growing one way or the other and once they gain some experience growing that way are like, what if I can try growing another way what is the difference? Well in this article we are going to help you understand the differences in these two main ways of growing cannabis. We have grown using both of these methods of growing cannabis. While one way is not any better than the other, there are pros and cons to using these two growing techniques.

Is it Better to Grow in Soil or Hydroponics?

As a cannabis grower for 30 years, we believe that growing cannabis one way or another isn’t really any better. If you are growing in soil vs hydroponic cannabis there are benefits to each, the only way to know which one is better for you is by growing your own, and understanding the differences between the two types of growing.

Soil vs Hydroponic Cannabis

What are the main Differences in Soil vs Hydroponic Cannabis?

When growing in soil, growers will do just that, grow in soil. When growers grow cannabis using hydroponics methods, the plants are grown using synthetic (salt based) nutrients, and water. The nutrients are provided directly to the root of the cannabis plants. There are many different ways that growers will use hydroponics to grow cannabis. Growers using soil will grow in different types of soil, they can grow either using organics, all natural nutrients, or also use synthetic nutrients in soil.

Does hydroponic cannabis grow faster?

Yes, using hydroponic methods of cannabis growing will grow plants faster and yield buds faster then in a soil growing medium. Cannabis plants will also grow much larger than in a soil based growing system.

Hydroponic Cannabis DWC

Does hydroponics increase yield?

Once again this is true of growing in a hydroponic cannabis system. While much of the yield you get from your cannabis, comes down to genetics. Plants growing in hydroponic systems tend to grow much larger buds then in a soil growing setup.

What yields more hydro or soil?

Growing cannabis hydroponically will grow larger buds then growing in soil. Granted this will depend on the strain that is being grown, and the growers skill at cannabis cultivation. However with a clone, and a good grower hydroponic cannabis will yield generally high amounts then growing soil cannabis.

Does Cannabis Grow Faster, Hydroponic vs Soil Cannabis?

When growers use hydroponic growing methods over soil, the plants are grown in perfect condition in a hydroponic growing system. A very important factor when growing cannabis or any plant is that the roots have good oxygen supply. In a hydroponic vs soil growing system, the hydroponic system will allow the roots much more oxygen then in a soil cannabis growing system. Growers will pump air using air stones into the water. This creates oxygen bubbles in the nutrient water. In soil the water in the soil can become stagnant after watering and lose a lot of the oxygen that was stored. 

When this happens the plant’s growth will slow dramatically, this does happen with hydroponic cannabis growing.  Also the plant has perfect access to nutrients in a hydroponic growing system. In a soil environment the cannabis plant’s roots have to grow out in search of nutrients to help it grow and find them in the soil. With hydro the root has access to all the nutrients they require as the solution flows over them, or they sit in the oxygenated nutrient water.

How long does it take a cannabis plant to grow hydroponically?

Generally we have found that over the years, soil vs hydroponic cannabis can finish flowering up to a week before soil grown cannabis plants. This of course can vary depending external factors, like lighting, C02 injections, and how experienced the hydroponic cannabis gardener is at growing.

Hydroponic vs Soil Pros and Cons

Now that we have reviewed what it is to grow hydroponic cannabis plants, I will review some of the pros and cons of growing soil vs hydroponic cannabis. Both types of growing have their strengths and weaknesses that we will highlight in this section of our article.

What are the Disadvantages of Hydroponics?

There are a few things that can be described as disadvantages to hydroponic growing of cannabis plants. The first being that it is very difficult for new growers to do, there takes a certain amount of skill when growing cannabis this way and it can be somewhat overwhelming for a new cannabis grower to jump into this type of growing and be successful right off the bat. There are daily PH checks, adding nutrients, adding water, checking PPM of the nutrient solutions. If any of these get out of whack, things in a hydroponic cannabis system can get out of hand much quicker than in soil growing. 

Another disadvantage to growing cannabis like this is that you will require a good water supply to grow this way just like you need good soil to grow. Your plants will be taking in a large amount of water each and everyday especially during flowering. Most hydro growers will switch out their water supply every one to two weeks requiring all new water. Even if you are growing a few plants this can use a tremendous amount of water in a month. If you have poor water it will require a filter that can cost a large amount of money.

Cost, growing in hydro can add up over the long run. Nutrients are not cheap to grow with, you will need to buy them and not run out. These days it’s not just good enough to have the base nutrients, they’re “enhancers” for everything. It can add up quickly for the bloom boosters, root enhancers, flower finishers, smell enhancers; these things can add up to hundreds of dollars for each and every hydroponic cannabis grow.

DWC Hydroponic Bucket

What are the Advantages of Hydroponics?

Faster Growth of plants, your cannabis will grow faster in a hydroponic cannabis garden. This is a big advantage if you are a commercial cannabis grower, you can save weeks at a time each year using hydroponics. 

Potency, while potency depends on genetics, hydroponic cannabis can grow very potent cannabis. This is because it has access to everything that it needs in the nutrient solution. This can boost potency of the cannabis making it somewhat more potent than soil grown cannabis plants. 

Very healthy cannabis plants, sure you can grow healthy cannabis in soil grown crops. If you know how to grow hydroponic cannabis you can grow extremely healthy cannabis. Once you have everything dialed in, your plants will grow very healthy in these types of systems.

What are the Disadvantages of Soil farming?

Hauling soil, this is one of the biggest disadvantages of soil cannabis farming. Dealing with all that heavy soil can be a pain for growers. Big bags of soil, mixing soil and potting soil is far more work than using a hose to fill hydroponic water reservoirs. This is especially true for medical cannabis growers that may have back or other medical issues. 

Slower growth, because the roots in soil have to go out in search of nutrients in the soil instead of having them right there in a nutrient solution a cannabis plant will generally grow slower in a soil system. 

Smaller yields are a disadvantage as well when growing soil vs hydroponic cannabis. Growers can grow some very large plants in hydroponics, however to do this in soil you will need a very large container to get the same results.

Pest are a much bigger issue when growing in soils. They give the pest a home to live in and grow and thrive. Once they have taken up a home in your soils they are very hard to get rid of. Many cannabis pests such as fungus gnat will lay their eggs in your soil. Then hatching and attacking your plants.

What are the Advantages of Soil Farming?

Organics and great tasting cannabis buds. Generally growers find that they like the taste of soil and organic grown cannabis better than hydroponic grown cannabis. Not using chemical salt fertilizers and using organic cannabis nutrients seems to grow better, and more favor filled cannabis buds.  Organic growing of cannabis is a more natural way to grow cannabis, and the buds smell and taste better overall after harvesting. 

Ease of growing cannabis plants is a key difference when growing soil cannabis, especially for a beginner cannabis grower. Soil growing has far less issues overall then growing hydroponic cannabis. Also the issues don’t happen as fast like overnight with hydro. You will have time to diagnose the issue in soil and have more time to correct it before the plant either dies or has serious issues. This makes growing in soil much more noob friendly.

Is soil-grown cannabis better?

This all depends on what you as a grower prefer with your buds, and how you like to grow. If you are into the best tasting and easier to grow cannabis then soil may be the way to go for you. If you are a cannabis user that wants the strongest most potent buds you can get, and have them grow very fast then you may like to grow hydroponically. Growing this way will also have a greater learning curve for the grower. 

What is easier: hydroponics or soil?

Growing organic soil grown cannabis is far easier for growers than growing using hydroponic methods of growing. This is very true if you are just a beginner grower. There are far fewer variables to grow soil cannabis then with hydro cannabis growing. With soil you add soil, organic nutrients to feed those plants and go. When hydro there are many more things that are going on that can go wrong in your growth, such as pumps quitting, PH goes out of range quickly sometimes, flooding, and nutrients out of range. 

Not to scare growers out of growing with hydro, however we believe that growers should have some good experience growing cannabis before jumping into hydroponic growing.

Does hydroponic cannabis taste different?

Some growers will claim this is the case, they may have been heavily using nutrients for their hydroponic cannabis growing. These can build up in the cannabis flowers and this is why growers do a process called “flushing” this is where growers, growing in hydroponics, will run water over the plants roots the last two weeks of flowering to remove any excess salts that may have build up in the plants buds before they harvest.

Banana Dream Cannabis Seeds
Banana Dream from Green Avenger Seeds

Hydroponics vs Soil Taste

Over the years we have found that we prefer the taste of organically grown soil cannabis to the taste of hydroponic cannabis. However hydroponic cannabis can also taste great, when grown correctly, and removed of any excess nutrients by flushing before harvesting.

What is the easiest medium to grow cannabis?

We believe that growing in organic soil is the easiest medium to grow cannabis, this goes double for new cannabis cultivators. 

Growing Autoflowers in Soil vs Hydroponic Cannabis

Unless you are a very skilled grower using hydroponics we highly recommend that you grow autoflowers using soil. You have limited time to grow autoflowers and you as a autoflower grower will have limited time to fix hydroponic issues before the plant flowers and finishes. If you are a skilled hydro grower then this is a great way to grow autoflowering cannabis seeds even faster for harvesting. We have more information in this article about growing autoflowers you can read here.

Final Thoughts

As you can see from this article there are benefits to growing in organic soil vs hydroponic cannabis. Each way has its different issues and benefits to growing. Using both methods can yield great cannabis and buds for your hard work and dedication.

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