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How to Revive a Dying Cannabis Plant?

Added 27 June 2023

How to Revive a Dying Cannabis Plant?

You’re growing cannabis, and everything's hunky dory. 

But, out of the blue, one of your plants starts dying. It can be a scary situation — our cannabis plants are precious to us, and no grower wants to lose even a single bud on their plant, let alone an entire plant. 

If this happens to you, the first thing you need to do is not panic. Be calm! Agreed, it’s easier said than done, but you’re going to achieve nothing by panicking, and will only make the situation worse. Remember that running into problems while growing cannabis is normal and happens to the best of us, and most probably, whatever happened wasn’t your fault and is still fixable. 

With a calm mind, start working to revive your dying plant — yes, it’s possible and, often, quite straightforward to do. In this article, we will take you through some troubleshooting steps that you can try one after the other to figure out the problem and fix it. 

However, before we start, it is crucial that you catch the problem early so you have more time to fix the issue before it becomes irreversible. Troubleshooting starts with studying the symptoms, analyzing the growing conditions of your plant, and fixing any lapses in the environmental factors or your growing methods. 

In this article, we will go through every possible reason as to why your cannabis plants may be dying. In addition, we will discuss how you can revive them if all’s not lost already.

Causes for a Cannabis Plant Dying

So, what to do if your cannabis plants are dying?

Here’s a list of things that can force your plant to give up on you suddenly. Also, keep in mind that a host of problems can attack the plant together. For example, if the temperatures are too hot, your plant can experience heat stress and have pests attack them, too, since pests love hot environments. 

While some symptoms are obvious (like crisp dying leaves when they are too close to the grow light, for example), it could be a pH problem and confuse the hell outta you.

There are many things you can do to revive your plant. However, sometimes, you may not be able to do anything. For example, your plants may die if your hydroponic setup isn’t working currently, and you won’t have much time to salvage the situation. But, in most cases, there’s still hope. 

Before you do anything, you should study the symptoms closely. After all, you should treat the cause, not the symptoms. Just like our human body displays signs of sickness, cannabis plants will likely reveal numerous signs and symptoms. 

Here are a few causes and the approach you can take if you notice any signs of life. 

1. Nutrient Deficiency

Nutrient Deficiency

Cannabis plants start yellowing when there’s a shortage of nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important macronutrient that works as a foundation for amino acids along with chlorophyll. Thus, you’ll see that your plant’s struggling to grow or develop properly when it lacks sufficient nitrogen. Without nitrogen, the plant may not be able to grow healthy leaves and stems. 

Fortunately, nitrogen is easy to source for the plant if you ensure the conditions are right. You can apply booster supplements, liquid seaweed spray, or other fertilizers or amendments to rebalance the nitrogen in the growing medium. 

In addition, the absence of other vital nutrients, such as phosphorus, potassium, or micronutrients, can impede development and stunt the plant. To prevent this problem, make sure you provide a well-balanced blend of nutrients consistently so the plant grows healthy. 

One of the most typical symptoms of a dying marijuana plant is yellowing leaves which can occur due to nutrients, pH problems, lights, or watering. It can stunt your plants, too, so it’s essential to provide a balanced fertilizer that contains the right blend of all macro and micronutrients necessary for plant growth. 

One more sign that the plant is experiencing nutrient deficiency is that it will display stunted development. Cannabis plants that are stunted will die much sooner than other plants. Nutrient deficiencies of different kinds, specifically nitrogen, as it’s responsible for the growth of the plant during the vegetative stage. While nutrient deficiencies can stunt the growth of plants, using excessive nutrients can also be harmful. 

Another nutrient particularly whose absence can trigger stunted development is calcium, which is critical; a calcium shortage is noted by stunted development, tarnished young shoots, as well as crinkled fallen leaves. To remedy this issue, use Cal-Mag regularly, according to the manufacturer's instructions. 

On a side note, cannabis plants can develop yellow leaves when they are aging, which means they are getting closer to their harvesting date. This is pretty normal. If your plant is in the late-flowering stage and you notice yellow leaves, it’s just telling you it’s time to clip the buds off soon. 

Typically, you’ll see the lower leaves yellowing, which is not a cause for concern. This is because the plant tends to proportionate the nutrients to support new leaves or growth. However, if you see new leaves getting affected, it could be another underlying problem. Therefore, it’s important to be able to differentiate between the plant’s normal aging process and a nutrient deficiency. 

2. Excessive Nutrients

Excessive Nutrients

The next reason that could kill your cannabis plants is nutrient burn. This can happen if you inadvertently overfeed your marijuana plant. When you provide extra nutrients to the plant, it creates a detrimental situation, hence the name “nutrient toxicity.” The plant may produce extremely dark leaves and eventually turn yellow with brown tips. 

As you can understand, both deficiency and toxicity will affect your plant, but a common sign of toxicity is that the leaves look like “claws” and become dark green. 

How do you repair this situation? Well, you just have to flush the growing medium with RO or pH-balanced water to eliminate salt build-up. 

Next, you need to go back and check why it happened in the first place. Take a good look at your growing medium. What about the nutrients you’re using? Do they contain an imbalanced proportion? Also, you need to check if you’re feeding the plants consistently. Here, consistency is key, which means that you need to stick to a routine rather than feeding the plants randomly. 

3. Watering Problems

Watering Problems

One more common reason for dying cannabis plants is inappropriate watering, whether over or under-watering. Most beginners tend to overwater, just like they over-fertilize, because they assume that the plant will perform better with more “love”; however, you’re only stifling the roots by doing so, not to mention the dangers of root rot. You’ll also flush out nutrients from the medium by watering more, thereby causing yellow leaves. 

On the other hand, underwatering happens due to neglect or harmful weather conditions, where the plant may get too dry. This can also severely affect the plant’s ability to stay healthy and keep growing, leading to a dying cannabis plant with yellowing leaves and many other symptoms. 

If your cannabis plant is underwatered, start watering it regularly and consistently. Always use the finger test — if the top inch of the soil is dry, it’s time to water until 25% of the water drains out the bottom. 

Similarly, a marijuana plant that is overwatered will also show signs and symptoms of drooping leaves, stunted development, and yellow leaves, as pointed out previously. In this instance, you should improve the growing medium’s drainage by placing the container on a layer of gravel, adding an airy growing medium to the soil, or using better soil that’s more fluffy. 

Repairing this issue is simple, though. First off, maintain a journal to track your watering routine; you can do so by starting a diary on Growdiaries or keeping notes in your own diary. Write down every detail, including the watering time, watering amount, drainage amount, etc. This will help you spot problems sooner and be consistent with the watering schedule while minimizing human error. 

In addition, you can use this journal to note every aspect of your cannabis plant, from its growth speed to nutrient requirements, its color to temperature fluctuations, and everything in between, including the various growing methods you use, weird symptoms you may encounter, and much more. 

This growing journal will act as your bible for growing cannabis, as it can help you keep a detailed track of your plant’s growth and your observations. So, if your plant experiences any problems, you can always refer to this journal to figure out what could be causing this issue or how you can fix it. 

Yes, it does add a layer of complexity to growing cannabis, but it is a worthy investment of your time and observational skills. It will more than make up for itself in the long run, and it will help you become a much better grower than you already are. 

4. pH Imbalance

pH Imbalance

Marijuana plants have specific pH demands for ideal nutrient uptake. When the pH of the growing medium, whether soil or hydroponics, goes above or below the recommended range, it can impede the plant's ability to soak up nutrients successfully. The recommended pH range for soil is about 6 to 7, while it’s 5.5 to 6.5 for hydroponic plants. 

If the pH is too high (alkaline) or too low (acidic), the plant will not be able to take up many nutrients like iron, manganese, or phosphorus. This can cause nutrient deficiencies and impact the overall health of the plant. Ultimately, you’ll see that the leaves turn yellow and fall off. An imbalance in pH can also cause stunted growth as the plants won’t be able to absorb the essential nutrients necessary for their development.

If you identify the problem quickly, though, you can salvage it by flushing the plant with pH-balanced water and adding nutrients after the plant recovers. 

5. The Plant is Growing Too Tall: Stretching

The Plant is Growing Too Tall: Stretching

Another common sign of a dying plant will be stretching, i.e., if your plant grows too tall and lanky. Not every plant stretching will die; however, they won’t perform as expected. When this happens, your plant becomes weak and may even topple over. Usually, this occurs if your grow lights are placed too far from the plant. 

Plus, you must also ensure the strain you are growing is not predisposed to stretching; some strains naturally grow tall and lanky. Also, cannabis plants stretch during the early flowering stage; this is known as the flowering stretch, and it is not a problem. 

Coming to the grow lights, if you have placed your grow lights too far from the plant or if the lights are not bright enough, your plant may start stretching to reach closer to the light source as an act of desperation. If that’s the case, you must reposition your grow lights closer to the plant. 

Sometimes, this can also happen if the growing environment is too warm for the plant. It is recommended that you place a thermometer in your grow room, close to the plant, and aim for an ideal temperature. You can also use a fan and an air conditioner to regulate the temperature. More on this later.

6. Light Stress 

Light Stress 

While cannabis needs light for photosynthesis, too much of it can create stress and cause yellowing of the leaves. When you place the plants too close to the light or if the light is just too intense for the plants, they can stress the plant and even bleach them. Typically, the topmost parts of the plant will display these symptoms. 

Similarly, the plant can encounter issues if the grow lights are not intense enough. The lights should provide enough light to support growth and bud development. For example, although CFL lights work well during the seedling stage, they don’t have enough power or intensity to support the plants during the vegetative and flowering stages. Go for good grow lights such as HIDs or LEDs. This means that you need to hit the right balance when it comes to lighting, as it can harm the plants if it’s too less or too much. 

The solution? Whether your plant is dying due to excessive or inadequate light, you may have to tweak grow lights to ensure they are sufficient for the plant. Otherwise, your plant may stretch, underperform, or experience light stress. 

Go for intense lights meant to grow cannabis, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to position the lights at an appropriate distance. 

Plus, ensure your grow lights produce a PPFD reading of:

  • 308 to 617 µmol for 18 hours during the vegetative stage
  • 462 to 926 µmol for 12 hours during bloom 

In addition, ensure your grow lights produce the right light spectrum: blue-dominant during the seedling and vegetative stages and red-dominant light during the flowering stage. It is recommended that you upgrade your grow lights to LED lights if you haven’t already!

Improper light cycles can also stunt the growth of your cannabis plants, as they need at least 18/6 hours of light/darkness during the vegetative stage. Since this is the stage where the plant will grow more leaves and thick stems, lack of light can reduce their growth. 

Also, they need about 12/12 hours of light/darkness during the flowering cycle to develop strong and tasty buds. You must follow this schedule strictly, as it will trigger the flowering phase in the plants. Any interruptions, such as inconsistent light cycles due to power cuts or light leaks due to a low-quality or poorly-designed grow tent, will force the plant to revert to its vegetative stage. This is called “re-vegging,” and you won’t like it unless you’re deliberately doing it. 

7. Pests


Cannabis is vulnerable to different pests, which eventually cause yellow leaves. Typically, pests like aphids, thrips, whiteflies, fungus gnats, and spider mites feed on tender leaves, suck out the sap and damage them, and cause yellow leaves. You will see patches on the plant and brown spots too. In addition, fungal or microbial infections like mold or root rot can create yellow patches, spots, or total yellowing of the leaves. 

To avoid this problem, monitor the leaves regularly and use preventive pest-control methods. If the pests have invaded the plants already, there are various ways to get rid of them; however, regardless of your method, avoid spraying the buds as they can change the taste. 

8. The Buds are Growing like Popcorn

The Buds are Growing like Popcorn

Often, if your cannabis plant is dying during the flowering stage, the buds may not develop fully and may appear like popcorn. Here, the buds are airy and small and likely inferior quality and not so potent. 

If you face this issue, start with defoliating your cannabis plant to improve air and light exposure to the flowers that may be overshadowed by other parts of the plant. You can defoliate during the vegetative stage and continue even in the flowering stage if you have a little bit of experience growing cannabis. 

You must also ensure that you snip away just a few leaves at a time rather than removing all the leaves simultaneously to prevent shock. Cannabis plants, especially autoflowers, exhibit stunted growth if they are stressed in any manner. 

Next, start feeding your plant with supplements or bloom boosters that are rich in phosphorus and potassium, two macronutrients essential for bud development. 

9. The Leaves are Curling Upwards

The Leaves are Curling Upwards

Your cannabis plant’s leaves may also start turning upward if it is dying; this condition is often referred to as canoeing since the leaves start looking like a canoe. This usually occurs if the temperatures are too hot or cold, leading to slower growth and curled leaves. 

10. Mold Growing on the Plant

Mold Growing on the Plant

One of the worst conditions that has the capacity to kill your plant is mold, which shows itself in the form of white powdery patches all over the plant, especially on the leaves. This is a fungal disease that can spread quickly, cause stunted growth, discolored leaves, and eventually death of the plant. 

If this happens, isolate your plant from the rest, wipe it down with a wet towel, use neem oil spray on the leaves, or dilute a tablespoon of baking soda in a gallon of water and apply it to the plant. If your buds have too much mold, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do, and discarding the plant is the only option

If these troubleshooting tips don’t fix the issue, you need to go further and start deducting the most common potential causes of your plant dying. Follow these steps to revive your dying cannabis plant. 

11. Unhealthy Growing Medium

Unhealthy Growing Medium

If your cannabis plant looks sick and seems to be dying, one of the first things you need to check is the growing medium. An unhealthy growing medium may not only be unsuitable for your plant, but it can also cause all kinds of problems related to root development and nutrient absorption. 

So, start by ensuring you haven’t picked up the wrong type of soil or compost for growing cannabis. Gardening stores sell a variety of soils, some of which are specifically designed to support particular species of plant. So, if you pick a soil that’s suited to grow roses, then you’re trying to grow cannabis in mud, and that’s not how the saying goes. 

On the other hand, ensure whatever soil and compost you’ve picked is good. The soil should be fluffy and airy but not too dry; it should have adequate aeration and drainage and no sign of fungal infections. Similarly, avoid using compost that is too compacted or dense. If this is the case, consider upgrading your soil.

If your soil is healthy, the next thing to check is the pH of the growing medium. Use a pH meter to test the pH of the soil; you can do this by testing the pH of the nutrient solution and the runoff water and comparing the two readings. If the pH is off, you can use pH balancers to bring the pH within the recommended ranges. 

Many growers also use compost in the growing medium since it is a rich source of nutrients for the plant. However, if you are using store-bought compost, you need to be wary of aminopyralid, aka AP, which is a herbicide that often makes its way into the final product. 

AP can make your plants look yellow, distorted, or stunted. To avoid AP in the first place, source your compost from the right supplier that takes measures to ensure a healthy compost, or even better, make your own compost. It is super easy to make, and it can also reduce your home’s produced waste. 

Lastly, if you are growing cannabis in a pot, ensure the pot is big enough to support your plant. When you grow cannabis in a smaller pot, the roots experience root lock and fail to grow bigger, which can lead to your plant not growing bigger and looking sickly. 

12. Environmental Stress

Environmental Stress

Next, you need to analyze the environment the plant is growing in, especially if you’re growing an indoor cannabis plant. Your plant might also be stunted if it experiences a great deal of environmental stress. 

When environmental factors like temperature and humidity are not right, the plant can develop various problems, some of which can lead to death. 

Follow these tips to check various environmental factors.

  • Humidity

The relative humidity is the moisture content in the air in your grow room, and generally, cannabis prefers a moderately dry environment to thrive in. High humidity not only feels suffocating for the plant and hampers perspiration, but it can also lead to mold or fungal infections. 

Generally, aim to keep the relative humidity within the following ranges:

  • 65% to 70% during the seedling stage
  • 40% to 70% during the vegetative stage
  • 40% to 50% during the flowering stage

Also, avoid turning down the humidity levels quickly, as it can stress out the plant. Instead, reduce the humidity by 5% weekly for a safe and healthy transition. You can use various methods like greenhouses, polytunnels, indoor fans, ventilations, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers to control relative humidity. 

  • Temperature

As for the temperature, cannabis prefers slightly warm conditions but not scorching hot. If the temperatures are too hot or cold, your plant can experience heat or cold stress and stop growing properly. 

Aim for the following temperature as per your plant’s growth:

  • 68°F to 77°F ( 20°C to 25°C) during the seedling stage
  • 72°F to 82°F ( 22°C to 28°C) during the vegetative stage
  • 68°F to 79°F ( 20°C to 26°C) during bloom

If your plant has experienced heat stress, you need to take extra measures to revive it; simply turning down the thermostat will not work in some cases. So, try the following techniques to revive a dying cannabis plant from heat stress:

  • Use oscillating fans in the grow room 
  • Install an active exhaust system to pull out hot air 
  • Install an air conditioner in the grow room
  • Move your outdoor plant to a spot that gets plenty of breeze 
  • Consider installing automated sensors and temperature regulation in your grow room

Summary: How to Revive a Dying Cannabis Plant?

Do you have a dying cannabis plant in your hand? Worry not, the situation can still be fixed with prompt action and the right approach. Remember, worrying will never help, so do not freak out about the situation. This is common, and every grower, even the best one, will run into problems once in a while. You are not alone, and this does not make you a bad grower. 

To revive a dying cannabis plant, it's crucial to catch the problem early. Take the time to study the symptoms and analyze the growing conditions. Look for any lapses in environmental factors or your growing methods. By troubleshooting and addressing the root cause, you can potentially save your plant from irreversible damage.

There are several possible reasons for a cannabis plant dying. Nutrient deficiency is a common culprit, particularly when there's a shortage of nitrogen. Yellowing leaves and stunted growth are telltale signs of this issue. Yellow leaves aren’t a problem if the plant is aging. 

The good news is that you can easily fix nutrient issues by flushing the plant with pH-balanced water and adding the nutrients in the next watering cycle, as you need to allow some time for the plant to recoup. Additionally, you can provide boosters, enzymes, and even compost to help revive the plant. It's also important to ensure a well-balanced blend of nutrients to support healthy growth.

Excessive nutrients, on the other hand, can lead to nutrient burn. Overfeeding the plant is detrimental, causing dark leaves and eventual yellowing. Again, flushing the growing medium with pH-balanced water and reassessing your feeding routine can help rectify this problem. Additionally, improper watering, whether over or under-watering, can contribute to a dying cannabis plant. Finding the right balance and consistency in watering, along with proper drainage, is crucial for the plant's health.

pH imbalance is another factor that can impede nutrient uptake and result in yellowing leaves. Maintaining the recommended pH range for the growing medium is essential to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Other factors such as stretching, light stress, pests, and improper light cycles can also contribute to a dying plant. If you identify these issues early on and take appropriate measures, such as adjusting grow lights or implementing pest control, you can potentially save your dying cannabis plants.

Use the guideline presented above to troubleshoot the problem and find the right solution for it. Additionally, do as much research as you can and always stay on your toes when it comes to observing your cannabis plants. Even a small change in its anatomy should tingle your spidey senses — it may not always be a problem, but when it is, you can easily fix it. 

And always maintain a journal for your cannabis operation. It is an underrated tool that can help you fix most problems with your plant; it will not directly solve the problem, but it will guide you significantly. 

Your cannabis plant is not 100% immune or immortal, and it will run into problems; it’s part of the process of growing cannabis. So, if you want to avoid these problems, stay tuned to our blog. We post regular guides on how to grow healthy cannabis plants and fix common problems your plant may encounter.