I was working in my garden today and, while I was pulling out my dear departed lilies from the world’s smallest planter, I got to thinking: my lilies would not have crossed over had I not shoved them into a planter that was way too small. I effectively killed my lilies by disregarding one of the flowers’ most essential systems. I did not give the roots of my flowers any room to spread out and breathe.
It is due to the unfortunate discovery of my own fuckup that I have decided to write today’s piece on the root system of the cannabis plant. I feel that it is one thing to know and understand the structure and function of the cannabis flower but another to know and understand the cannabis plant in all of its splendor.
The first and most important thing to know about the root system of the cannabis plant is that they need oxygen. Think of the roots as the pores on your face. If your pores are clogged, they cannot breathe and get rid of the excess sebum in your skin, and thus break out causing the oh-so-dreaded pimples to appear. It is quite similar to the root systems of cannabis. When the roots of the cannabis plant are deprived of oxygen, the results can be disastrous.
Roots suffering from a lack of oxygen will degrade in a variety of ways. Without oxygen, the roots are unable to drink water and disperse much-needed nutrients, which causes the complete halt of growth and respiration. In short, the plant suffocates. Oxygen-deprived roots cause the plant to lose its vitality and become highly susceptible to harmful pathogens. Oxygen-free environments also aid in the growth of anaerobic bacteria which produce ammonia and in large amounts become toxic to the plant.
The next time you purchase cannabis flower, take a good, long smell of your bud before and after cracking it open, and see if you smell ammonia. If you do, that is a sign that the cannabis plant has endured an oxygen-deprived environment and now has anaerobic bacteria.
The second handy dandy thing to know about cannabis root systems is that they are also susceptible to a little thing called Pythium, more commonly known as root rot, and yes, it is just as unpleasant as it sounds. Root rot stems (wild guess what my next article will be about) from water and can cause a cannabis plant to throw in the towel rapidly.
Pythium is a root fungus that attacks the root systems of a cannabis plant that have been weakened due to poorly aerated water and soil. Seasoned growers know to make regenerating their plants a top priority when root rot is discovered, and even with their skills and expertise, the plant is sometimes unsalvageable. Pythium works voraciously and spreads very quickly. How does it spread you might ask? Pythium spreads through the clever use of microscopic spores that can infect a mass grow with ease.
Root rot is not easily detectable as it starts at the root. One common, visible sign of root rot is wilted fan leaves that are turning yellow and brown at the edges. The problem with relying on visual indicators is that the rot starts at the root. More often than not, by the time the visual indicators have been noticed, the damage done to the plant itself is irreparable. The best way to check for root rot is by checking the roots of the plants. If the roots are discolored and the moist, outer coating comes off like over processed, fried bleached hair (we’ve all seen those YouTube hair fails) then the roots have been overrun by root rot.
So, my lovelies, if you are a gardener like myself and you intend on keeping your plants in the pots you place them in, take a look at the roots of your plant and ask yourself these questions. Is my pot big enough? Do I have light, aerated soil? And, does my pot have drainage? All of these questions will help you to better care for your plant's root health and as we know, happy roots will give you happy plants!