hydroponics vs soil cannabis

Growing Marijuana in Soil vs Hydroponic Systems

Friday November 6, 2015

C annabis, like many plants, can be grown in more than one way. Most people think of roots growing in soil, but hydroponics offers the ability to work in smaller spaces with more control over your green’s food source. If you’re looking for flavor and forgiveness in the occasional mistake, take up the traditional soil method. Of course, any experienced grower will have a preference with first-hand accounts of why they stick with their technique. If you’re looking to plant a marijuana seed and help it grow, there are a few things you should consider before planning things out.

Cannabis plants prefer rich soil that allows for maximum drainage, in fact, many growers switch out soil for perline to increase drainage. Nutrient rich materials like earthworm castings or manure can be added to improve the health of your greens and make sure the crop gets everything it needs. Plants absorb nutrients from soil, so during the flowering stage it’s important to use just the right kind and amount of nutrients to maximize your yields and prevent any a nutrient deficiency. Even with the best soil you will still need to supplement some nutrients to maximize your results.


  • Can be more forgiving for inattentive growers
  • Growing in soil is easier than some types of hydroponic growing
  • Better flavor in the end
  • Natural product
  • It takes up a lot of space
  • It is usually more expensive
  • Problems take longer to become evident and be recovered
  • Doesn’t produce as high of a volume of nutrients than hydroponics do


Hydroponics is growing cannabis by using any growing medium other than soil. These alternatives (which are often combined) include gravel, coco coir, sand, mister air, vermiculite, peat moss, perlite, hydroton, and/or just water. During the entire process you must provide the plant with all its nutrients by way of its water supply.

Hydroponic systems come in different forms, here are the top 5 common forms: aeroponics, deep water culture, drip irrigation, nutrient film technique, and ebb-and-flow.

1. Aeroponics

Aeroponics uses a grow chamber to suspend roots in the air with no medium inside of a closed-loop system. Water, rich with nutrients, douses the bases of these plants as they hang in the air. By providing an oxygen-rich environment, the microbes on the plant are able to digest and process the nutrients for its circulatory system.

2. Deep Water Culture

Deep Water Culture is a method of growing which uses a bucket of nutrients, also called bubblers. The plants are suspended over the nutrients as the roots grow into the nutrients below. The bubblers’ mixture is filled with air using an aquarium pump and pays off by speeding up the growtime. The oxygen and fertilizer enriched mixture work wonders for the end product.

3. Drip Irrigation

The drip irrigation system feeds each plant individually in its own chamber. Nutrients are administered by a dripper, and then the solution is recycled, much like the already mentioned methods. Each plant is located in separate chambers where the nutrients are fed to the medium by means of a small dripper.

4. Nutrient Film Technique

The Nutrient Film Technique is a hydroponic method which involves a nutrient solution being pumped onto a tray or gulley to form a shallow and slow moving film that moves through the plant’s roots. These roots grow into the solution, creating a large root mat in the tray. Having round the clock access to water and nutrients along with more than enough oxygen for the roots, makes for rapid development with maximum yields.

5. Ebb-And-Flow

Ebb and Flow replaces soil with a medium like rockwool to produce very large yields. This type of system stimulates a natural cycle of rain and the time in between it, therefore giving off a more natural environment for your grow.

The two main ways to grow cannabis are with soil and soil-less hydroponics. See the pros and cons of each as well as the 5 most common types of hydroponic systems.

Growing Cannabis: Hydroponics vs Soil

One of the biggest debates in the growing world is over which medium will result in better quality and yield. There will never be a correct answer as it really depends on what suits you as a grower. Every medium has its pros and cons, factors like environment and price may influence the right choice.

Here is a comparison between hydro and soil growing to help you make the best decision.

1. Advantages of Growing Cannabis in Soil

Relatively Cheap and Easy

Soil is the easiest and cheapest medium, there’s no much need for equipment other than pots and a container to water your plants. People just starting growing may even get soil from the local park or anywhere where there are healthy plants growing to avoid spending in soil.

Less Experience Needed

Growing in the soil seems to be what many people try first when it comes to growing in cannabis. This may be the best choice for beginners if you’ve grown or taken care of any other plant in soil because you’ll be familiar with the medium.

Bigger Yields (In Some Cases)

When growing in soil outdoors you can expect bigger yields than in hydroponics because you’re not restricted by space and your plants can grow as big as they like, if you grow indoors you can apply training techniques and if applied correctly you will have bigger yields.

Low Maintenance Required

After the initial setup, the main cost of soil will be replacing broken pots when needed and changing soil after every harvest. It is not recommended to reuse soil unless you know how to amend it as al the nutrients have been absorbed by the plants.

2. Disadvantages of Growing Cannabis in Soil

Slower Grow Rate

Because of the resistance of soil, roots will develop slower than they do in soilless mediums like hydroponics. Plants in hydro may develop smaller roots but will grow faster especially in the vegetative stage.

Pests and Bugs

A big disadvantage of soil is getting pests. This medium is organic matter and contains organic material that attracts many types of bugs that can live in soil, growers seem to suffer more often from pests and bugs in soil than in hydroponic setups.

Less terpenes (Compared to Hydro)

As said above, this medium contains organic matter that can influence in the smell and taste of your flowers. Now, this doesn’t mean your harvest will taste bad but because they’re in soil their taste and smell won’t be as good as soilless grown cannabis.

3. Advantages of Growing Cannabis in Hydroponic Setups

Less likely to Get Pests

Of all the grow mediums, hydroponics is the least likely to be attacked by bugs. Although it’s still possible, many pests need soil as part of their life cycle, the lack of soil and organic material will significantly lower the chance of pests reaching your plants.

Faster Grow Rate

Plants in hydroponics grow their roots directly in a mix of water and nutrients, there’s no resistance from the medium so they tend to grow much faster in the vegetative stage, this can result in harvesting sooner.

Better Overall quality

Hydroponic growers usually get the best tasting and smelling flowers as there is no medium to influence it. The more experienced growers can give their plants optimum growing conditions and this may result in a bigger yield also.

4. Disadvantages of Growing Cannabis in Hydroponic Setups

Expensive Setup Costs

Hydro setups are way more expensive to set up initially than growing in soil it also may require a bit of knowledge. There are DIY setups that reduce costs but there is essential equipment that cannot be left aside.

High Maintenance Required

Some hydro growing methods are relatively high maintenance and may take lots of checking, measuring, and adjusting for the best results. Neglecting to check these parameters may result in root problems. This is very common when growing hydro because the roots are openly exposed to the solution and environment.

Hard to Optimize Feeding

Getting the right amount of nutrients can be very difficult for hydro growers, especially when combining nutrients from different companies. In a hydroponic setup you have complete control over the nutrients your plants get, this means you can fix deficiencies quick and easy but also means feeding requires special attention and should be monitored closely.

Difficulty of Setting Hydro Outdoors

Growing hydro outdoors is possible but can be very difficult in some cases. For example, you need a sterile environment and controlling heat/cold which can be extremely hard in some situations outdoors. There’s also the need to plug the equipment to the power grid and sometimes this isn’t possible outside.

5. In Conclusion

We recommend beginners to start growing the simplest way possible and get a feel of what you like and don’t in every medium. Every medium has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Once you establish your method of growing you’ll naturally begin to improve your setup, and eventually reaching a more complex setup, such as hydroponics.

One of the biggest debates in the growing world is over which medium will result in better quality and yield. There will never be a correct answer as it really ]]>