Magnesium Deficiency In Cannabis Plants
Magnesium deficiency too frequently stunts marijuana growth. Be it early in vegetative growth or late into the bloom cycle, this is one deficiency no grower wants. With our practical advice, magnesium deficiency can be avoided and overcome.
HOW TO IDENTIFY?
Magnesium deficiency is the definition of a bottom to top nutrient imbalance in cannabis. Growers will first notice unhealthy looking lower growth. It’s the oldest and lowest leaves that will signal the advance of a magnesium deficiency. In the beginning, bottom leaves will yellow and the tips will dry out into a crunchy brown.
Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is mobile, so it will spread up the plant if left unchecked. As the deficiency spreads to the shoots, they will turn purple and leaf chlorosis will accelerate. Grower reaction time, as always, will be the defining factor. Don’t mistake magnesium deficiency for nitrogen starvation.
Probably the biggest mistake novice growers make is rushing to apply a quick fix by increasing nutrient doses. In fact, this will likely lead to nutrient lockout. No matter the growth stage or medium, yellow leaves and brown spots starting from the bottom are a red flag for magnesium deficiency. Micronutrient deficiencies always start in the root zone; magnesium deficiency is no exception. The problem must be remedied at the source. More on that a little later.
WHO’S MOST AT RISK?
Coco coir is a great growing medium, but it can cause problems for growers concerning micronutrient uptake. Magnesium, along with calcium and iron, is one of the three micronutrients cannabis plants cropped in coco have difficulty absorbing.
Hydroponic growers that let the pH of the nutrient solution slip to 5.0 or below will likely experience magnesium deficiency. Water with too low a pH in the reservoir is a recipe for micronutrient lockout. Indoor soil growers often encounter magnesium deficiency for two reasons. The first is over-watering the soil. Roots in soggy soil just can’t access the nutes.
However, the second is more difficult to detect. Growers that use lightly fertilised soil and liquid nutrients lacking in trace elements can unexpectedly get hit with a magnesium deficiency during mid-late bloom. As the marijuana plant matures, roots essentially drink up all the micronutrients in the medium. Without adequate supplementation, magnesium deficiency strikes.
TREATMENT OPTIONS: FLUSH AND ADD SUPPLEMENTS
Solving a magnesium deficiency should begin with a flush of 6.0pH water. This should work fine for all substrates. Next, you need to prepare a feed with the optimal pH for your growing medium. (Soil: 6.0-6.5, Coco: 6.0 and Hydro: 5.5-6.0). In addition to the usual brew of nutes, add a high-quality, cannabis-specific magnesium supplement.
FLUSH AND UPGRADE NUTRIENTS
As above, rinse out the substrate. But instead of adding a supplement, a better long term solution is to consider a nutrients upgrade. Specific nutrient lines customised to soil, coco or hydro grow styles make life a whole lot easier. Premier brand base-nutes are formulated with the complete macro and micronutrients needed for cannabis cultivation.
TIPS TO AVOID MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY
Soil growers should consider potting up from smaller containers filled with lightly fertilised soil to large containers with a time-released fertiliser/soil mix. After a few weeks of vegetative growth, roots will be hungry for nutes and more fertile soil will save you money on bottles of liquid alternatives.
Investing in a high-quality growing medium and cannabis-specific nutrients is the best way to avoid troubleshooting deficiencies later during the grow. Finally, we cannot finish without a word on Epsom salts. To be honest, recommending them would be cannabis quack-doctoring. Let’s just say it kind of works to treat a magnesium deficiency. Roughly as well as a 19th-century barber performing surgery.
Micronutrient deficiencies are avoidable and in the worst case scenario, very treatable. Magnesium deficiency is a common problem. Here’s how to solve it.
Problem: A light green or yellow coloring will begin to show on the veins and edges of the lower & older leaves – this is one of the classic signs of cannabis magnesium deficiency. You may also see red stems.
Magnesium is a mobile nutrient, which means that the plant can move it from old leaves to new leaves.
If you don’t react to it promptly, a cannabis magnesium deficiency can spiral out of control and cause your plant to lose a lot of lower leaves quickly. The plant will pull magnesium out of older leaves and bring them to the newer leaves. That’s why a magnesium deficiency usually appears towards the bottom of the plant and on older, less important leaves.
The edges of the leaves may become yellow or bright green and may start feeling crispy to the touch. This crispiness around the edges is different from nutrient burn, which does not lighten the margins inside the leaves.
You may see red stems with a magnesium deficiency, though not always.
Sometimes you will also get light brown spotting within the margins or along the edges if the problem continues to get worse, though this may be partially other deficiencies, which often happen alongside a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium deficiencies are easy to prevent and fix once you know what to do. Read on below to learn how.
Solution For Magnesium Deficiency in Cannabis
A magnesium deficiency sometimes happens after supplementing plants with something that contains calcium but not magnesium, such as agricultural lime (non-dolomite lime), egg shells, etc. This won’t happen with proper cannabis nutrients. If you’re using good nutrients, cannabis plant may still show signs of a magnesium deficiency if the pH at the roots is too low, especially in hydro. That is because when the pH of your root zone is not in the correct range, your cannabis cannot properly absorb magnesium through the roots.
Often with this deficiency, the magnesium is present, but the roots cannot absorb the magnesium properly due to an improper pH. Therefore it is very important to maintain the correct pH (and make sure the pH does not get too low / acidic) in order to avoid a magnesium deficiency.
Growers using Coco Coir or Reverse Osmosis (RO) water usually need to supplement their plants with extra Calcium & Magnesium in addition to regular nutrients. Treating coco coir with Cal-Mag and supplying extra throughout your grow is recommended for growers in coco coir, or those using RO water.
Adding more magnesium to a system when there is a pH lock-out will probably not help because the plant will not be able to absorb any magnesium until the pH has been corrected. If there’s already enough magnesium, adding more can cause other apparent deficiencies by locking out other nutrients from the plant.
Please note: Once a magneisum deficiency is cleared up, the problem (yellowing lower leaves) will stop spreading to other older leaves, usually within a few days. Please note that leaves which have been damaged by a magnesium deficiency will probably not recover or turn green, so you want to pay attention to other growth for signs of recovery.
- In soil, magnesium is best absorbed by the roots in the 6.0 – 7.0 pH range (some growers say a 6.5 – 7.0 pH is best if you suspect a magnesium deficiency)
- In hydro, magnesium is best absorbed by the roots in the 6.0 – 6.5 pH range (in hydro, it’s generally recommended to keep the pH between 5.5 – 6.5, but magnesium specifically tends to be best absorbed above 6.0)
If you suspect your growing cannabis plant has a magnesium deficiency, flush your system with clean, pH’d water that contains a regular dose of cannabis-friendly nutrients that includes magnesium. This will remove any nutrient salts that may be affected the uptake of magnesium and help restore pH to the proper levels..
To supplement with extra Magnesium…
Calcium and magnesium deficiencies often appear together in cannabis. Many growers decide to purchase some sort of Calcium-Magnesium (often called Cal-Mag) supplement for their grow room in case one of these common deficiencies appear.
Listed below are common cannabis Calcium supplements, along with some general information about each one. After supplementing with Cal-Mag and correcting the pH, you should expect to see new healthy growth within a week. Remember, the old leaves will probably not recover, but new growth should be green and healthy.
Cal-Mag is Well Suited For Hydro, Coco Coir, or Soil
General Hydroponics CaliMagic is a calcium and magnesium plant nutrient supplement. General application is to mix 1 tsp (5ml) of CaliMagic into each gallon of water. I have used Calimagic several times with great results.
Organic Dolomite Lime – For Soil Growers
If you’re looking for a way to supplement magnesium in your organic or soil setup, I highly recommend a product called “Dolomite Lime.”
Note: The finer the dolomite, the more quickly it will be available to nutrients
Dolomite is a good source of calcium and magnesium and can be mixed with your soil. The great thing about dolomite is it works slowly over the course of a few months.
Dolomite has a neutral pH of about 7.0 and will help buffer pH in soil so it’s easier to maintain the correct neutral pH range which is optimum for cannabis growth, especially in acidic soils.
You can buy Dolomite Lime online, but with shipping, it’s almost always waaaay cheaper to pick up a bag at a home improvement or gardening store such as Lowes, Home Depot, gardening centers, etc. If possible, try to get a finer grade of dolomite compared to something that is more coarse.
How to Use Dolomite Lime for Cannabis: When growing cannabis indoors, add 6-7 teaspoons of fine dolomite lime to each gallon’s worth of soil. So if you’re mixing enough soil to fill a 5-gallon container, you want to add 30-35 teaspoons (about 2/3 cup) of dolomite lime to the mix. Mix the dolomite lime and the dry soil thoroughly, then lightly water it with water that has been pH’ed to 6.5. After getting the soil wet, mix the soil well and wait a day or two to let the soil settle before checking the pH and adding plants. When growing in an outdoor garden, follow the dolomite lime manufacturers instructions.
If watering plants by hand… Flush the system with properly pH’ed water that contains a full set of proper nutrients that are suitable for growing cannabis. Make sure you are using the right nutrients for the stage your plant is in. Check the pH of your runoff water to ensure that nothing in the growing medium is throwing off the root pH.
If growing hydroponically… Check the pH and PPM of your reservoir water to make sure that pH is on target and nutrient levels are not lower than expected. If you do this and are still not certain what is causing the magnesium deficiency, it is recommended that you drain your reservoir and refill with a newly mixed reservoir with fresh nutrients which have been pH’ed.
Should I add extra Magnesium? Some growers will add 1 tsp of Epsom salt/gallon of water and water plants with this mixture in response to a magnesium deficiency (since Epsom salt is primarily made of magnesium).
As I mentioned, often a magnesium deficiency is actually caused by a mix of factors, such as pH being off. Even if the pH is on target, sometimes a magnesium deficiency appears when other important nutrients like iron or calcium are not present in the right quantities.
A great supplement that has all of 3 of these important nutrients is known as Cal-Mag, as this contains Magnesium and Calcium, as well as a trace amount of iron.
Adding extra magnesium is often not necessary if you are using tap water. However, you will likely want to supplement Cal-Mag if you are using filtered or reverse osmosis (RO) water, since most tap water already contains some amount of all 3 of these cannabis nutrients. Cal-Mag also has a small amount or iron, which is another trace cannabis nutrient that is often missing in filtered water.
How long until new growth looks better? If you fix the root of the problem, further yellowing and discoloration of the leaves should stop almost immediately. Some of the affected leaves may recover somewhat, but what’s most important is to make sure the problem isn’t continuing to spread to other leaves on the plant.
I generally don’t remove any discolored leaves until I know for sure that the problem is completely gone and is no longer spreading to new leaves (that way any possible further discoloration will happen to the leaves that have already been affected).
- Bronze or brown patches
- Brown or slimy roots
- Brown or yellow leaf tips/edges
- Buds dying
- Buds look odd
- Bugs are visible
- Curling or clawing leaves
- Dark leaves
- Drooping plant
- Holes in leaves
- Mold or powder
- Pink or purple on leaves
- Red stems
- Shiny or smooth leaves
- Spots or markings
- Twisted growth
- Wilting leaves
- Yellow between leaf veins
- Yellow leaves
This page is part of our Plant Doctor series. You can use our tool to filter by symptom and help diagnose your plant.
Does your cannabis plant have yellowing lower leaves between the veins? See pictures of a magnesium deficiency and learn the easy solution.