Hydroponics vs Soil: Which is Best for Growing Marijuana?

When comparing growing cannabis in soil to hydroponics, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. In fact, they’re different enough that you’ll need to carefully decide which method makes more sense for you before you get started.

The Basics of Growing in Soil


Growing cannabis in soil is exactly what you expect: growing the plant in soil, typically in a pot or planter of some sort. This is the traditional method of growing all types of plants and how they grow in nature. It is popular because the soil contains organic matter and important minerals that are difficult to provide to your plants with other methods. Even so, most people who grow cannabis in soil will add nutrient-rich materials or solutions.

The Basics of Growing with Hydroponics

Growing cannabis in hydroponics eliminates the need for soil. Hydroponics is commonly used to describe any growing method that involves a medium other than soil. Solution culture describes water-based growing without any stationary medium. Most people will define hydroponics as a method that puts the cannabis plant’s roots in constant contact with your water solution. Hydroponics growers add nutrients to the water in liquid form. Hydroponics maximizes the grower’s control over what elements the cannabis receives.

In addition to growing cannabis in water, hydroponics can refer to growing it in hydroton, perlite, peat moss, mister air, coco coir, sand, gravel, or vermiculite, among other mediums.


What differentiates these two methods is mainly a matter of yield vs. quality. Growing outdoors with a soil medium will generally allow for much higher yields. Outdoors there is no height restriction. And with soil growing the roots can grow and branch out freely. With proper care, a soil medium can help you grow plants that are 2m tall.

This can offer you more than 400g of quality bud per plant. Using hydroponics indoors won’t allow for cannabis this tall. Therefore, yields won’t be as high because the roots are limited by the size and volume of your grow medium, pot size, grow room size, etc.

It’s much easier to control an indoor hydroponic grow. You’ll be giving the plant the exact nutrients it needs under the perfect lighting conditions and in an environment with the ideal humidity. This will also allow you to automate most of the growing process.

Soil is not as predictable and controllable. When growing cannabis outside, there will be temperature changes, uncontrollable wind, and even humidity changes. These are hard to predict and impossible to control. One can only adapt to the outside environment and hope for the best. Soil also contains organic matter and bacteria that might not be too good for your plant’s health. These will be hard to identify until visual changes happen on the plant.

You’ll have to base your decision on finding the best combination of quantity and quality for your set up and grow. Soil is much more familiar of a medium than hydroponics and is more suited for the first-time grower. There is a lot of information out there. Go and do further research to make a more informed decision.

Both Methods Can Include Adding Nutrients

Whether you choose to grow your cannabis in soil or hydroponics, you will need to pay careful attention to the nutrients that it receives. The nutrient requirements will vary slightly based on the chosen grow medium, so you have to do a little bit of research on the ideal nutrient levels.

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All macronutrient products for cannabis plants will include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, also known as NPK. You should see an N-P-K ratio on the nutrient bottle that shows how much of each is present.

Extra Nutrients for Soil

When growing in soil, you can also add manure, as this is nutrient-rich and cannot be replicated with a hydroponic solution. While supplements are not as crucial to cannabis growth in soil as in hydroponics, they can still help you improve the quality and quantity of the yield.

Extra Nutrients for Hydroponics


When growing with hydroponics, you will typically need to add more micronutrients, including those that are already present in soil. For example, most soil will already have magnesium, copper, and iron, so you will have to add minimal quantities of these elements to soil. By contrast, hydroponics solutions need more of these micronutrients to overcome the lack. Nitrogen is another mineral that you will need to add to hydroponics in much larger quantities than soil.

Soil is better for

  • Ease – it is more straightforward than hydroponic growing
  • Price – it is cheaper to grow outdoor in soil as you need less equipment
  • Bigger yields as your plants have space to grow as big as they like

Hydroponics is better for

  • Control – in a hydroponic set up you can control the temperature, lighting and humidity
  • Flavor – thanks to the controlled environment hydroponically grown cannabis is likely to be tastier
  • Speed – cannabis plants grow faster when grown hydroponically

Which to Choose?

You should be able to get great results whether you choose to grow cannabis in soil or hydroponics. If you are unsure which to choose, consider soil if you can grow your cannabis outside. Even if you cannot grow outside, growing in soil can appeal to those who want an easier grow method and bigger yields. Go with hydroponics if you want to be in full control or grow your plants more quickly.

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