Marijuana plants growing indoors using hydroponics

Different Grow Mediums for Marijuana

There’s a lot of debate within the cannabis sector when it comes to the best grow mediums for indoor marijuana plants.  The debate basically comes down to two schools of thought:  growing in soil or using a non-soil, hydroponic system. But there are many variations on those two grow mediums, especially when you factor in things like size of the “grow,” the anticipated yield of the plants and the amount of time and money you plan to invest in these systems.

Here are some basics:

Growing in Soil

If you’ve done any gardening, this is the most familiar method. Soil is also considered the easiest way to start for newcomers to cannabis. The challenge, however, is ensuring the plants grow optimally.

Marijuana grows best in nutrient-rich soil.  It also prefers a slightly acidic soil, with a pH level of around 5.5 to 6.5.

There are a variety of commercial, pre-mixed soils designed with cannabis in mind.  But if you’re more of a do-it-yourself type, most soils can be successfully amended for cannabis use by adding in nutrients. Among the items recommended for soil amendments are bat guano, earthworm casings, manure, fish meal, bone meal and a variety of compost.

Cannabis also requires soil that drains well, otherwise the plant’s root system will suffer from fungus, rot and exposure to harmful bacteria. Sand, perlite and vermiculite all aid in soil aeration and drainage.

And of course you’ll want to make sure your soil mixture has been sterilized, to destroy any harmful bacteria, fungi or insect pests.

Hydroponic Grow Systems

Simply put, hydroponics involves soil-less grow mediums and a constant flow of nutrient-rich water.

Hydroponics is valued by growers for its higher yield rates compared to soil and a faster rate of growth. You can also correct any problems with your plants more rapidly in a hydroponic operation.

There are a wide variety of hydroponic systems available on the market, as well as a large spectrum of grow mediums.

The best-known form of hydroponics is having plants grow in an oxygenated nutrient solution.

There are also wick hydroponic systems – a passive system where nutrients move into the plant’s roots via a wick from a nutrient solution reservoir – as well as Deep Water Culture (DWC); where the plants are suspended in aerated, nutrient-rich water. And there are drip systems and “ebb and flow” hydroponics, to name just a few of the other systems available.

Most hydroponic operations require the plants remain anchored in their nutrient/water solutions. And growers have a wide range of reusable, non-soil alternatives in hydroponic operations: including heated clay pellets, mica chips, pumice and Styrofoam.  They can also go with more perishable, non-reusable growing mediums such as coconut fiber, sand, Rockwool and vermiculite.

As mentioned, hydroponic systems have some strong advantages over soil.  Nearly the entire grow can be automated, and the lack of soil also means a lack of many of the insects and diseases that can plague soil-grown cannabis.

But hydroponics can become a very complicated system, especially when used on a large scale. And a breakdown or malfunction in the system can trigger disastrous results for your plants.

Then again, there are mix-and-match alternatives. One popular method used by growers is a hybrid of soil and hydroponics; where growers use a nutrient-free, soil-less mix which is watered anywhere from daily to every four or so days with a nutrient-rich solution. Do your homework and figure out what will work best for you.


For more detailed information about marijuana grow mediums, consult the following:

Cannabis 101/ Growing Organic Cannabis at Home –

All you need to know about the best indoor marijuana setups –

Growing Marijuana in Soil vs. Hydroponic Systems –

Indoor Marijuana Growing in Soil –

Hydroponic Systems 101 –