Can You Grow Marijuana Upside Down?

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An increasingly popular way to grow cannabis that’s been making the rounds on all the cannabis growers’ forums of late is the Topsy-Turvy method, or growing cannabis upside-down.

Originally attempted with tomato plants to great success, the Topsy-Turvy growing system employs a counterintuitive approach to growing, as all plants, cannabis included, naturally grow toward the sun, or in an upward direction. By hanging a plant upside-down, you are essentially forcing it to grow in the direction of gravity rather than encouraging its natural pull against gravity toward the light.

Does this do more benefit or harm to a cannabis gardener’s growing efforts?

Pros of the Topsy Turvy System

Why might a cannabis gardener choose to employ this method?

Maximize Space

Growing some of your plants upside-down is a way to maximize limited growing space. In addition to placing plants on the ground or a table as you normally would, you can also hang more plants upside-down above them, in essence creating a second layer of harvestable crop.

Protect Seeds and Soil

Advocates of the Topsy Turvy system of growing cannabis cite as one of its main advantages the protection it offers from elements that can negatively impact the growth and development of seeds and soil, including pests and molds and mildew.

Two hemp seeds

Suspended containers have greater exposure to air and light, reducing the risks of these common cannabis infestations.

Outdoor Subterfuge

Outdoor growers can gain an additional advantage with the Topsy Turvy method. By suspending their containers from trees rather than growing them directly into the ground, the canopy of the trees can act to help camouflage the plants from would-be invaders, like thieves.

Cons of the Topsy Turvy System

While effective for maximizing space and reducing the risk of soil-dwelling pests, growing cannabis plants upside-down does have its disadvantages and risks.

Insufficient Light

There is a question of whether a cannabis plant growing downwards will get as much light as a plant growing upwards. First, the plant is initially growing away from the light before turning toward it, rather than growing toward it the whole time.

Second, the container holding the soil and root system is above the plant, blocking its light from all but the shoots that have grown long and strong enough to extend past the rim of the container and bend upward.

Excessive Heat

Heat is another risk, due to the proximity of the soil and root system to the light, especially inside a heat-conductive container like plastic. The root system prefers a dark, cool environment, and the Topsy Turvy system exposes it to the risk of the opposite.

Close up of a Fresh harvest of marijuana plants hanging

Roots could dry and wither in excessive heat or dryness, while excessive heat and moisture could lead roots to rot. Excessive heat can also diminish the nutritive value of the soil and additives you mix into it.

Stress Causing Weakened Growth and Production

Unlike tomatoes, which will hang down with gravity and drop their fruits, cannabis plants will always grow back up, leaving behind a lot of bare stem that would ordinarily be filled with more flowering nodes. The weight of gravity pulling down on the plants can also place undue pressure and stress on the stems, distorting and weakening them.

Stress Causing Breakage and Loss

As the cannabis buds form, their weight can pull the stems downward and potentially snap them. While this is always a risk when growing cannabis, the risk can be greater for plants growing upside-down, as their stems are less straight and sturdy, and their bends can act as weak points.

This can cause you to lose entire branches of buds prematurely.

How to the Topsy Turvy System Works

To grow cannabis upside-down using the Topsy Tuvey system, take these steps:

  1. Fill your pots or containers with your choice of growing medium. Choose pots that are made of a sturdy yet lightweight material that won’t leach into your growing medium, like BPA-free virgin plastic. While standard gardening soil is sufficient, a better medium for the Topsy Turvy method may be a more porous and lightweight medium like coir, or coconut fiber.
  2. Suspend the containers from the ceiling of the room or grow tent using sturdy ropes or steel wires. Make sure they hang sufficiently below your lights so the light can shine down on them and the plants that grow will have enough room above the container and below the lights to ultimately fill out.
  3. Plants your seeds or starts in the growing medium and gently water them in.
  4. Maintain your seeds or seedlings as normal for at least one or two weeks, until a decent root system has developed. It is extremely important that you do not turn your plants upside-down until an adequate root system has formed. These roots will help to hold in the growing medium once you turn your plants upside down.
  5. When your seedlings are ready, turn your containers upside-down so the mouth or opening is facing downward. If the mouth is too wide to contain the soil or the soil still too loose, you can attach some sort of wire or mesh screen over it. Just make sure the openings are large enough for your cannabis seedlings to grow through.

Some growers use a version of the Topsy Turvy method in which they place their lights on the ground, so the force of gravity and the pull of the lights are in the same direction rather than opposite ones. This can be an effective adaptation of the system, although it comes with its own risks associated with having an electrical system on the ground below where you will be applying water to plants.

Care and Maintenance

Most of the care and maintenance of cannabis plants growing upside-down is the same as it is of plants growing rightwise. Maintain them as normal, through proper watering, feeding and increments of light and dark.

Some growers find a slow-drip irrigation system a particularly effective way to water plants suspended in this manner. One clear reason for this is it averts the likelihood of overwatering and dripping out valuable nutrients.

A suitable alternative to this is a sprinkler system set on a timer.

close-up of a Sprinkler system

As your upside-down plants grow, the shoots they send out will begin turning up toward the light. From this point on, periodically check them to make sure any dangling limbs are supported until they become strong enough to support their own weight without snapping.

You can do this by tying them to a supporting structure like a plant stake stuck into the container. On some of these limbs, if not all, you may want to keep the support, and even periodically fortify it, for the entire life of the plant.

You can also boost the light you’re giving your upside-down plants by placing reflectors on the ground shooting the light back up at them.

Topsy Turvy FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about growing cannabis upside-down.

Will cannabis plants grow faster upside down?

There is no evidence or authoritative reporting that cannabis grows any faster upside-down than it does right-side up. However, there are some theories that, in fact, cannabis may grow slower this way, due to the stress of being pulled in two directions (toward gravity and the light) rather than one, and the extra “distance” the shoots must travel after coming out facing downward initially to, then, turn back up and climb above its own root system toward the light.

This potential is especially high while the plant is still young and sending out its initial growing shoots, the very ones that need the light the most to develop their initial strength and color.

Does growing cannabis upside-down produce stronger cannabis?

Growing cannabis upside-down can actually produce weaker cannabis. The reduced exposure to the sun this method causes can lead to reduced potency in the buds that form.

Can you grow marijuana upside down?

In addition, by expending greater energy to reach the light, the plant expends less energy developing terpenes and cannabinoids.

What happens if the pots drop?

If your plants drop from even a moderate height, their stems can break irreparably. What’s more, depending on the material and durability of your containers, they, too, could break, dislodging, and exposing your soil and root system.

For this reason, secure your plants as best as possible while they’re still young and light. You may even want to place a “safety net” of sorts made of chicken wire or plexiglass below your plants to catch them and potentially reduce the damage to them if they do drop.

In conclusion, growing cannabis upside-down using the Topsy Turvy system can be useful if you have limited space or an environment with higher risk of pest, mold or mildew infestation. Be aware, however, that, while many aspects of using this method are similar to growing cannabis normally, or even easier in ways, the results in terms of time-frame and quantity and quality of yield may differ considerably.