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Why Cannabis Leaves Wilt, Sag, or Droop Down

August 06, 2021

With many states passing cannabis legislation and lawmakers mulling over federally decriminalizing marijuana, more people than ever have a chance to get into the cannabis-growing game. Growing cannabis isn’t a difficult endeavor, but it takes some knowledge and the right kind of attitude. Still, like most things, growing cannabis comes with its own sets of challenges. Learn how to identify these challenges, and you can have greater yields. 


One of the most common challenges for growers is cannabis leaves wilting and turning yellow. This issue is fixable if addressed early. First, you will need to find out exactly why your leaves are drooping. Once you’ve done that, you can find appropriate solutions to reverse the wilting and get your plants back in top shape. 

Why Do Cannabis Leaves Droop?

The leaves are the powerhouse of the plant, creating the energy the plant needs to grow through a process called photosynthesis. Finding out why they are losing color, drooping and wilting help you remedy the issue and ensure the leaves can create the energy the cannabis plant needs. If you can return the plant to full health, you will have a bountiful harvest at the end of the season. 


Overwatering can be the reason for cannabis leaves wilting and dying. This is usually a rookie mistake. First-time growers often give the plant much more water than it needs. While cannabis, and all plants in general, need water to photosynthesize and grow, too much of a good thing can have negative consequences. 


On the other hand, you may be underwatering your cannabis. Like humans and other mammals, plants need water to ensure their internal processes run smoothly and effectively. Provide less water than your cannabis plants need, and you will see the cannabis leaves wilting. There is a delicate balance between too much and too little moisture. 


Another reason your plants may be sagging is that the plant is getting too much or too few nutrients. If you use an artificial grow medium or normal soil and supplemented it with nutrients, too few or too many nutrients will lead to discolored and wilted leaves. You will need to strike a delicate balance to ensure your leaves stay strong and healthy.


Finally, your plants may droop because it is nighttime. There are many theories about why some plants close up or let their leaves fall horizontal at night.

Watering cannabis leaf

The Connection Between Watering and Drooping Cannabis Leaves 

Plants consist of up to 90% water. Consequently, water plays a crucial role in plants’ vital processes, from regulating temperature to the absorption and transportation of nutrients from the roots to other structures. If a plant receives too much or too little water, these processes are disrupted, leading to sickly leaves and overall poor health. 


Providing a lot of water may seem like a good idea, but it can have catastrophic effects that may eventually lead to your plants’ death. Plants use oxygen during respiration, which is the process of releasing energy for their cells to use. The cannabis plant’s roots absorb oxygen. When you overwhelm your plants with too much water, you are essentially suffocating their roots and preventing them from using the energy generated via photosynthesis. On top of that, the roots can soften due to the excess moisture and eventually die, causing your cannabis plants to die as well. 


On the opposite end of the spectrum, underwatering leads to the cannabis plants wilting and leaves dying. This usually happens to cannabis seedlings long before they have a chance to thrive. Inadequate water slows the rate of photosynthesis and delivery of nutrients, stunting the plant’s growth and development. It can also disrupt the balance of oxygen absorption and transpiration, forcing the cannabis plants to spend more of their already limited energy to absorb oxygen via the roots. 


Both over and underwatering can lead to discolored, shriveled, and withered leaves. If you do not address this problem early enough, your cannabis plants will wither and die. If they manage to survive, they will develop a reduced number of subpar flowers, reducing your final yield and wasting your efforts.


Nutrients and Cannabis Drooping

Providing too much or too few nutrients may also be the reason behind your cannabis leaves wilting. In addition to water, carbon dioxide, and oxygen, plants also require various nutrients. These nutrients ensure they photosynthesize and use the energy generated through photosynthesis effectively. Nutrient deficiencies can also make your plants more susceptible to mold and pests. In severe cases, it may lead to plant death. 


The most common cause of nutrient deficiency in cannabis plants is improper pH, presenting as discolored leaves. If the growing medium or the water you provide is too acidic or too alkaline, your plants will not be able to absorb crucial nutrients. For instance, if you give the plants too much fertilizer, you will alter the pH balance, causing nutrient lockout. 

Cannabis plants need a pH balance of 5.8-6.8 in soil or a growing medium. If you are using hydroponics, the optimum pH balance is 5.5-6.5.  A pH level that is higher or lower will prevent your plants from absorbing the nutrients they need, leading to cannabis leaves wilting and turning yellow

essential cannabis nutrients

Essential Cannabis Nutrients

A variety of nutrients are essential to the health of cannabis plants. Nitrogen is one of the most crucial nutrients, especially during the vegetative growth stage. However, your plant will continue to need nitrogen even after this stage. Watch out for the following symptoms to determine if your plants aren’t getting enough of this vital resource: 

  • The older leaves at the base of the plants lighten in color and become yellow. 
  • Extreme nitrogen deficiency will cause the lightening and yellowish appearance to progress up the plant, causing discoloration and brown spots at the margins of the leaves. 
  • Curled leaves that lose their vigor and drop.
  • Reduced buds and early flowering. 

Phosphorus plays a major role in photosynthesis as well as the release of energy to plant cells. Phosphorus deficiency usually happens when the pH exceeds 7, reducing photosynthesis and the deployment of energy to the cells. This inevitably leads to stunted growth, delayed flowering, and poor resin production, ultimately reducing plant yields. The following symptoms are signs of phosphorus deficiency:

  • Leaf stems of older leaves turning purple while the other leaves take on a dark blue-green hue.
  • Blackish-purple spots in the leaves and dead spots on leaf stems.
  • Curled and dropped leaves 

Potassium facilitates the production and movement of vital sugars and carbohydrates throughout cannabis plants. It also aids in cell division, root growth and transpiration, and water absorption. On top of that, potassium helps develop flowers, keeps pests away from the plant, and regulates internal temperatures. Potassium deficiency will present as:

 

  • Brown, burnt-looking leaf tips, and brown spots on the older leaves at the plant’s base.
  • Dehydration and yellowing of the leaves. 
  • Curling of the younger leaves at the top of the plant and outer branches. 
  • Physically weak plants that are sickly and susceptible to pests. 

Magnesium is instrumental in the creation of carbohydrates and sugar, as well as absorbing energy from sunlight. Magnesium deficiency usually presents in cannabis plants after around 3-6 weeks, with yellowing in the leaf veins of older leaves and rusty brown spots on the margins and tips of leaves. The entire plant will look sickly and start drooping, with some cannabis leaves wilting and dying.


Calcium is crucial for cell growth and the circulation of vital resources like nitrogen and sugars in cannabis plants. Reduced calcium levels are more common in cool, wet climates with acidic soils and hydroponic grows. It causes the older leaves at the plant’s base to curl and develop brownish-yellow spots. The root tips eventually wither and die. 


Nighttime Cannabis Drooping

In some cases, cannabis plant leaves drooping may be a response to the cold as day turns into night. Thanks to photosensitive cells and an internal circadian rhythm, over 200 species of plants, including cannabis, are nice and perky during the day but droop at night. This is known as nastic movement. It happens in response to environmental factors like temperature, light, humidity, and even touch.


Cannabis plants move their leaves in certain ways once night falls, light levels reduce, and the temperature drops. This is referred to as foliar nyctinasty. It causes cannabis leaves to droop from their usual horizontal position during the day to a more vertical, down-facing position at night. Although we don’t know precisely why cannabis plants do this, there are a couple of theories. 

Some scientists suggest plants like cannabis do this to reduce heat loss and keep warm as temperatures drop. Others theorize that this helps water roll off the plant, allowing it to be completely dry by the time morning comes and the leaves start to photosynthesize. Reducing the amount of moisture on the surface of the leaves may also prevent pathogens like powdery mildew from growing and spreading across the plant.


Nighttime drooping may also be a defense against small plant-eating animals and insects as vertical leaves are harder to access and eat than horizontal leaves. It may not be that your cannabis plant leaves are wilting at night; they are probably just ‘sleeping’ in preparation for the next day.

nurturing cannabis back to health

How to Nurture a Drooping Cannabis Plant Back to Health

You may be wondering, do wilted cannabis leaves recover? If you discover the issue in time and take the appropriate steps, of course, they will! The first thing you should do is identify the reason behind the drooping and wilting leaves. Are you providing the wrong amount of water, or is it a nutrient deficiency? Once you’ve identified the cause, you can begin reversing the damage. 


Water and Drainage Issues

If you suspect that your cannabis plants are absorbing too much or too little water, first consider the breathability of your growing medium. Without good drainage, the water will remain at the surface, suffocating the plant’s roots. If you use clay-based soil, switch to a premium grade potting mix because clay soils have poor drainage and hold too much water. Using a skewer, poke holes around the growing medium to provide ample aeration without harming the roots.


You should also make sure you are allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. If the first inch of the growing medium is still wet, wait a day or two before you water your plant again. You can stick a finger in the growing medium to check how moist it is. An inexpensive soil sensor is an even more accurate way to measure the moisture in your growing medium. They only cost $10-20, so you won’t break the bank getting one. 


To avoid overwatering your seedlings, place them in smaller containers and ensure they have superb drainage and aeration. This will ensure you don’t have to deal with cannabis plants wilting and leaves dying before they even have a chance to grow. 


Nutrient Deficiencies

If the cannabis plant leaves wilting is caused by nutrient deficiencies, you can do a couple of things. First, make sure your growing medium has the optimum pH balance.  Purchase a pH testing kit for $50 or less to test your growing medium. If it is within your means, you can also try using nutrient-rich potting soils to ensure your plants get the nutrients they need to thrive. 


Finally, you should consider pruning any damaged leaves to prevent them from spreading disease to healthy leaves. Although this will delay flowering, your plants will grow big, strong, and healthy, leading to good yields. 

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