What’s the Difference Between Soil and Hydroponic Marijuana?

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by Morgan

Last update:

August 29, 2023

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One of the hottest debates in the marijuana world is about which medium — soil or hydroponic — is better for growing cannabis. The truth is, there isn’t one correct answer. It all depends on the needs and wants of the grower.

Each medium has its own set of pros and cons. Other factors like the cost and the environment can also influence the decision. 

This post will talk in detail about the difference between soil and hydroponic marijuana to help you make the right decision. So, let’s get started!

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What’s the difference between soil and hydroponic systems for growing marijuana?

Hydroponic marijuana refers to cannabis that is grown without the help of soil. It uses soilless mediums like coco coir, peat moss, or clay pebbles and therefore eliminates all of the unpredictability that comes with using soil-based mediums. 

Instead of using soil to provide necessary nutrients, growers supply necessary nutrients to the plant using a water-based solution in hydroponic systems. The roots of the cannabis plants are always in contact with a liquid solution that contains nutrients.

What are the advantages of hydroponics vs soil?

Hydro growing has several benefits over traditional growing cannabis methods. Compared to soil-grown marijuana, hydroponic marijuana has a faster growth rate, offers higher yields, is better quality, and is less likely to attract pests. 

Due to being immersed in a water solution constantly, plants are able to receive higher amounts of oxygen and nutrients and basically grow non-stop without resistance. In comparison, the oxygen found in soil is significantly inferior to the oxygen that hydro plants have available.

Hydroponics can also end up saving you a decent sum in water and electricity bills, as your plants will be ready for harvesting much earlier.

Hydroponic growers also get better smelling and tasting flowers because optimum conditions can be better maintained and no medium is present to influence the plant.

Lastly, they’re also less likely to get attacked by pests. This is because many bugs need soil as a part of their life cycle. The lack of organic soil significantly reduces the chance of pests getting to your hydroponic marijuana! Still, your plants might get attacked by mold, and here’s how you can save them.

What are the disadvantages of hydroponics vs soil?

While plants are less likely to get attacked by bugs, hydro setups can expose your cannabis plants to damage if you run out of water or experience a mechanical pump failure. Generally, hydroponic setups are more delicate, expensive, and challenging to set up than organic soil-based media. 

But you can still try to minimize your costs by following our guide on how to set up a low-budget grow room.

Strict maintenance and monitoring are needed because, just like how growth is accelerated, so are the issues with the crop when you use hydroponics. For instance, a slightly changed pH or water level for a short period can restrict the crop or even completely destroy it! 

This is why it’s often better to stick to more straightforward soil-based growing methods as a beginner. 

Not to mention some of the essential equipment required for hydroponics is often quite expensive! Figuring out the correct nutrient mix to use for your marijuana plants is also a daunting task and can take several yields.

So while hydroponics does have significant advantages, it takes more resources, time, and knowledge to set up than a soil-based system. 

Still, it’s important to realize that although growing cannabis hydroponically can be a struggle initially, you’re sure to get the best crop possible if you’re able to “dial in” your setup.

What is the best marijuana strain to grow hydroponically?

As minor fluctuations in pH are pretty common with hydroponic systems (due to the absence of soil which normally acts as a buffer), you should stick to solid hydroponic cannabis strains that are versatile and can handle a bit of variability. Amnesia Haze, for example, is an excellent choice and is often considered the best strain to grow hydroponically. 

Amnesia Haze is famous for containing primarily Sativa (one of the three major types of weed) genetics and high THC content. It is ideal for hydroponics and indoor growing because it is susceptible to bad weather and grows better in a controlled environment.

The strain results from the crossing of very stable parents, have great germination capacity and do well in hydroponics due to their medium size and easy soil cannabis cultivation. 

Can you switch a plant from soil to hydroponics?

Yes, it’s entirely possible to switch your existing cannabis plants from soil to a hydroponic setup, as long as it’s done correctly. 

In fact, growing cannabis plants in soil and transporting them to a hydroponic environment is a commonly used, low-cost, and easy way to start a hydroponic garden.

You seed them normally in soil (preferably using one of these complete grow tent kits) and wait until they are 4-6 weeks old, have grown their first true leaves, or are at least 2-3 inches tall. Then simply remove the soil and move the plant into the hydroponic setup. Just be careful when transporting your plants to ensure the root structure doesn’t get damaged!

Does Hydro yield more than soil?

Given the same overall conditions, hydroponics has shown to be the more “fruitful” option in terms of yield. 

Specifically, hydroponic growers find significantly increased growth in the vegetative phase (you can learn more about the stages of a marijuana plant here) using hydro methods compared to organic soil farming. They also encounter a more predictable and consistent volume of yield.

As a bonus, most hydro setups allow more room for crops than soil-based methods. In this way, hydroponics isn’t just a matter of faster growth; it’s also a matter of a greater number of plants.

Do hydroponic plants taste different?

The taste and flavor of hydroponically grown plants can differ from conventional soil-grown alternatives. The overall taste of the plant can vary based on a wide variety of factors like water quality, nutrient type, sun (or grow lights) exposure, and whether you cure and dry it correctly

However, taste and flavor are subjective. So it’s difficult to say which one tastes better. Many studies have been conducted to find out the answer to this question and so far, we don’t have a definite answer.

Now you know the difference between soil and hydroponic marijuana!

You should grow marijuana hydroponically if you want higher yields. But know that hydroponics is a relatively complex matter and requires greater resources, time, and effort to pull off than soil-based growing. To work around this, you can seed your plants in soil initially and move them over to a hydroponic system as they grow their first true leaves.


1. Is hydroponic marijuana better than soil?

There are pros and cons to both hydroponic and soil-grown marijuana. Hydroponically grown marijuana can be more potent than soil-grown plants, but it can also be more expensive. Soil-grown plants are typically cheaper and can be more flavorful, but they may not be as potent.

2. Does marijuana grow faster with hydroponics?

Yes, cannabis plants develop 30-50 percent faster when grown hydroponically, which is one of the biggest advantages of hydroponic marijuana cultivation. Many farmers will tell you that their harvests are bigger and more frequent because of this.

3. Can you grow marijuana without hydroponics?

Yes, you can grow marijuana without hydroponics. You can use soil or other growing mediums to grow your plants. However, using hydroponics will give you faster, more consistent results.

4. Do hydroponic plants taste different?

Yes, hydroponically grown food does have a distinct flavor from that of conventionally raised food. However, even different types of soil create plants that taste different.

5. How much faster is hydroponics than soil?

When planted in the same conditions, a hydroponic plant grows 30 to 50% faster than a soil plant. The plant's output is also higher. Scientists believe that hydroponic plants differ greatly from those grown in the soil for a number of reasons. 

🌿  Join my "growing" community 
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— Morgan, 420GreenThumb 🌱

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About the author 


I discovered the benefits of Cannabis at a young age in 2002, with years of trial and error, my knowledge grew just like my plants. As my love for cannabis unfolded I began to teach and learn, trying to gain as much information and practical growing experience.

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