How Different Types of Stress Affect the Growth of Cannabis Plants

By Luis Rivera
Published: July 24, 2017 | Last updated: April 22, 2021 11:56:05
Key Takeaways

Professional growers use stressing techniques to strengthen their plants and turn amazing yields, but it is definitely something that should be done with utmost care.

While cannabis is a versatile plant, it can be sensitive, just like people. It reacts to the surrounding environment and it can either thrive or wither depending on the environment's conditions.


When growing cannabis, a grower should be aware of the types of stress the cannabis plants will experience, and the effects will be, both good and bad.

The Different Types of Stress Cannabis Plants Experience

Logically, there are two stress types – good and bad. Good stress actually stimulates the plant towards a positive development, making it grow bigger or thicker. The second type of stress, the bad one, causes the plant to grow very slowly, or not at all. If you want to be able to grow cannabis by yourself, you should learn how to use the good kind of stress to your advantage, while keeping the bad stress away.


There might be some confusion regarding how stress can be good, but certain conditions – although stressful – can lead to positive outcomes. Although the plant is experiencing momentary negative stimulus at the time, the end result is a stronger and healthier plant.

This is one of the best things when growing cannabis indoors: you can control the environment much more easily and fully, subjecting the plant to the right kind of stress. The most successful growers are the ones who can control the amount of stress on the plant, and actually alter it to their desire.

Stress in cannabis results mainly due to balance disruptions in the chemistry of the plant, which in turn disturbs its normal functions. When the plant goes outside its homeostasis, which describes its ideal living conditions, stress starts to accumulate and certain functions start changing.


Bad Types of Stress Cannabis Plants Experience

Water Stress

Watering the plant too often is not good for it but the same goes for not watering it enough. Either of these situations can lead to loss of color in the leaves, causing them to dry up and even fall off.


Giving you cannabis too much water causes the roots to get stuffed, which in turn prevents the plant from assimilating nutrients and oxygen properly. Inadequate watering is one of the most frequent mistakes beginners make. It is important to find the right balance and be consistent with the quantities.

Nutrient Stress

Similarly to the water case described above, nutrients must be delivered in exact amounts, otherwise the plant starts to experience negative stress. The first signs of poor nutrient balance in the plant can be seen in the leaves, which start turning yellow or brownish. It is important to note that as the plant matures, it needs less nutrients, so if you are giving it the same amount for each growth stage, you are not doing it properly.

Light Stress

Cannabis is a tricky plant to grow because it has very specific light needs and there are cycles during which the light needs to be adjusted. When plants are in a vegetative stage, they need to receive 18 hours of light, whereas when they are in the flowering stage, they need 12 hours of light.

What's important is to be consistent with the light schedule. You need to turn the lights on and off at the same time every day. Also be careful not to expose plants to any light during the dark stages when they are flowering because even the slightest amount can revert plants back to their vegetative state.

Cannabis perceives the change in light duration as a change of seasons, which pushes it into its flowering stage. Furthermore, each growth stage benefits from a specific light wavelength. Many types of high-quality LED grow lights for cannabis can deliver light in the exact spectrum the plant needs and their sophistication helps prevent any light stress or heat overload. Otherwise, a combination of HID lighting spectrums can be used as well.

Heat Stress

For cannabis, excessive heat is a lot more harmful than excessive cold. If the temperature in your grow room starts exceeding 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant will start transpiring more in order to cool itself. This will cause the stem to grow bigger but the rest of the plant will lack in development resulting in poor mass and yields. As with water and lighting, the temperature and humidity must be controlled and consistent.

Good Types of Stress Cannabis Plants Experience

As we mentioned earlier, stress can also be beneficial for the plant if introduced properly. This can raise its endurance and make the buds bigger. The cannabis plants that are worth cloning afterwards are the ones that can endure and thrive on controlled doses of stress.


This is the most widely used method for providing cannabis with controlled stress, and some growers might be doing it without even realizing the full benefits. Using a fan to keep the branches and leaves in flux causes small but constant amounts of stress to the stem, making it thicker and stronger.

Exposure to Cold

Although this might sound a bit extreme, exposing cannabis to cold conditions during the final 14 days of the flowering stage can have a positive impact. For this method, bring the temperature in the room down to 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit when it's dark.

This fluctuation between warm and light filled days and colder and dark nights simulates the plant's natural cycle and improves its metabolic system, causing increased resin production.

Low Stress Training

Low stress training is a technique that stimulates the branch growth in a desired direction in order to make the lower parts of the plant more accessible to light.

When done during the vegetative stage, it makes the stem grow thicker, which helps the plant deliver nutrients more efficiently to the tops and the leaves during the flowering stage.

Another good thing about this technique is that it keeps the plant height lower, making it more compact, bushier, and easy to grow.


Stress can be both a good and a bad thing when it comes to growing cannabis. The most important thing that applies to almost any external factor such as light, nutrients, and watering is to be consistent and find the right balance, not too much and not too little of anything.

Professional growers use stressing techniques to strengthen their plants and achieve amazing yields, but it is definitely something that should be done with utmost care. Overdoing it or not paying enough attention will only make your plants suffer.


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Written by Luis Rivera

Profile Picture of Luis Rivera

Luis Rivera has more than 20 years of experience in global market expansion, business development, mergers and acquisitions, business re-engineering, finance and investor relations of software companies. He is passionate about technology, spectral science, indoor farming, food production, automation, and more. Since 2015 he has been the president of Advanced LED Lights, a leading LED grow lights manufacturer based in Hiwasse, Arkansas. When not at work, Luis enjoys swimming, yoga, and growing grapes and flowers in Sonoma, California.

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