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air pots vs smart pots

Smart Pots And Air Pots: What Are They And What’s The Difference?

Published : Feb 5, 2019
Categories : Cannabis cultivation

Air pruning the root zone of cannabis promotes outstanding health and rapid growth. Air Pots, Smart Pots, and Spring Pots do the job perfectly, but what are they exactly?

AIR PRUNING FOR HEALTHIER CANNABIS

Smart Pots, Air Pots, Spring Pots, and the numerous variations on this theme all work in a similar manner. That is, they let air in through the side of the pot, which promotes air pruning of the apically dominant root tips. This in turn makes the root diverge in two different directions, and eventually, a dendritic pattern appears. When the perimeter roots are pruned by the air, their growth slows prior to the new shoots developing. In this time, the plant responds by increasing root growth everywhere else in the root ball.

BENEFIT #1: MORE SURFACE AREA & STABILITY

Plants that have been grown in an air pruning pot not only have a complex outer root pattern, they also have larger and denser root balls in general. This equates to more surface area for gas exchange and water and nutrient uptake, while providing more stability for plants.

BENEFIT #2: PROMOTES ROOT HEALTH

Another benefit of pots that encourage air pruning is that they prevent roots from winding around the sides of the pot and eventually strangling themselves in a knot. This can promote every cannabis farmer’s worst nightmare, Pythium or root rot. It can also subject the plants to unnecessary root stress from overheating. When roots hug the pot walls, they come into contact with a very hot surface. Especially on the sunward surfaces.

BENEFIT #3: BETTER HEAT-MANAGEMENT

Plastic pots tend to heat up considerably, transferring the heat to the grow medium. When a grow medium heats up too much, plants can display many symptoms of stress in the growth patterns and leaves. These include over and underfeeding simultaneously, cupping and canoeing of leaves, and many symptoms attributed to pathogens and bug infestations. Overheated grow media can have growers chasing their tails trying to sort out problems that don’t really exist.

Air pruning pots keep the growing medium at a manageable temperature. The permeable surfaces expose water to the air, encouraging evaporation. This in turn cools the pot walls, which then help keep the grow medium cooler. Combined with mulching, air pruning pots make plants more resilient to heat stress in general.

BENEFIT #4: INCREASED AIR EXCHANGE

These types of pots also give the root zone access to plenty of air. Roots, not just leaves, need air as well to remain healthy. Not only do roots need to breathe; a robust oxygen exchange helps keep pathogens at bay. A friable and well-structured grow medium allows plenty of air to move about in the root zone. Air pruning pots allow plenty of air to not only trim roots, but to permeate the entire grow medium. Plants can draw in air from 360°, rather than only relying on air available at the surface. Traditional pots in comparison only have minimal ability to promote efficient air movement.

WHAT IS AN AIR POT?

Air Pots are made from a perforated and uniquely profiled plastic sheet that is rolled into a cylinder to form a pot. A perforated base is held in place when the pot is rolled, and is located a few centimetres from the bottom. This lets water freely drain right through and encourages airflow around the bottom of the pot. The profiled surfaces train roots to grow towards perforated air holes where they are air-pruned. The air holes are also an escape zone for water, which evaporates and keeps the pots cool.

The nature of the pot means larger plants can be grown in smaller pots with less grow medium. This makes them more cost-efficient for the same results, and allows more plants per square metre of available space. There are a range of pot sizes, and the material from which they are made is available in custom-sized rolls. This way, large pots can be made in situ, of any capacity, and up to a metre deep.

WHAT IS A SMART POT?

Smart Pots are made from a dense fabric that has been used for decades for a number of other purposes in the horticultural industry. The fabric is sewn into pots with bottoms made from the same material.

They come in various sizes, from only a few litres right up to 4,000 litres. People are surprised to hear they have been around for over forty years, especially in the tree-growing industry. The fabric from which they are made allows 100% exposure to the air over the whole surface of the pot. Roots grow as they please and are air-pruned when they reach the air layer between the pot and the grow medium.

WHAT IS A SPRING POT?

The Spring Pot addresses one issue associated with fabric pots—their lack of rigidity. The Spring Pot functions as any other fabric pot, only it has a built-in spring that encircles the pot, giving it a firmer structure. After the pot has been used, it can be collapsed so it takes up minimal storage space. They come in a variety of sizes and have sturdy handles for easy moving about.

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

When root zones from each type of pot are examined, it is easy to discern the differences and similarities in root growth. There is a definite geometric pattern to Air Pots. It is easy to see where the roots diverge, then diverge again after they have been air-pruned.

Smart Pots and other fabric pots have less of an organised appearance, and the roots are more randomly spaced and patterned. However, it is again easy to discern the divergences in the roots where they have been air-pruned.

One thing’s for sure; cannabis responds vibrantly to being grown in a way where there is plenty of air availability at the walls of the pot. Larger, thicker stalks and greater plant volume in general are quite obvious when grown side-by-side with traditional pots. The same rules apply indoors or outdoors. Give them a try. You will be stoked.#

Air Pots and Smart Pots are two favourite solutions for air pruning the roots of cannabis plants. Find out more at Zambeza Seeds.

Smart Pots vs Air Pots vs Regular Pots

Have you seen fabric pots (also known as “Smart Pots”) or “Air Pots” in a local gardening store or online in cannabis growing pictures? Wondering if smart pots and air pots are good for growing marijuana?

Smart pots and air pots provide extra oxygen at the roots, which is a good thing. In fact, that’s a big part of what makes hydro so effective at increasing cannabis growth rates, and smart pots capture some of that power. Growing cannabis in smart pots or air pots gives you some of the advantages of growing hydro, while allowing you to still hand-water your plants in soil or coco coir.

Smart Pots & Air Pots Make Cannabis Grow Faster!

Smart Pots
(Fabric Pots)

Air Pots
(plastic containers with holes on the sides like Swiss cheese)

However, there’s no one size fits all when it comes to growing weed. All types of containers have their strengths and weaknesses for growing weed, which I’ll outline for you quickly:

Quick Review: Regular Containers vs Smart Pots & Air Pots

  • Cannabis plants grow faster in smart pots or air pots (especially in the vegetative stage), in part because plant roots get plenty of access to oxygen
  • Cannabis plants in smart pots or air pots can’t really become root-bound, which is when roots wrap around the edges of the container and “choke” the plant. In a smart pot or air pot, it’s very difficult for the plant to get rootbound since it’s always receiving air from the sides which “air prunes” away any roots trying to wrap around the edges.
  • Cannabis plants are protected from becoming overwatered in air pots or smart pots. The air from the side helps make sure your plant always has plenty of oxygen so your plants don’t get “wet feet.”
  • However, in air pots or smart pots, plants need to be watered about twice as often as regular containers since the grow medium is constantly drying out from the sides.

Complete Cannabis Container Breakdown

Regular Pots vs Smart Pots vs Air Pots

Regular Pots for Growing Cannabis

This is a container with a hole at the bottom for drainage, plus a saucer to catch the water.

Tried and true method

Easy to find at any gardening store

Saucer captures runoff water for easy disposal

Helps keep growing medium from drying out too fast

Usually made out of ceramic or plastic

Smart Pots for Growing Cannabis

A smart pot is a plant container that has been made completely out of a stiff fabric

The shape is usually wider/more squat than a regular container, so it may be possible to grow plants in a slightly shorter space, especially compared to an air pot which is tall/thin. However, they take up more width than any of the other containers, so you may be able to fit less containers in a particular space.

Indoors, you need an extra large saucer or a tray to capture runoff water since smart pots don’t come with a saucer or tray and they seep out water from the sides. So in addition to the container taking up extra room, so will the saucer.

The wide base of a smart pot makes them well suited to growing really large plants, which is why smart pots come in huge sizes in addition to standard plant container sizes. Even giant plants won’t tip over in a smart pot. Many outdoor cannabis growers plant their cannabis in big (600+ gallon) smart pots since they help outdoor plants grow faster than just putting them straight in the ground.

More oxygen is delivered to the roots than a regular pot

Smart pots help prevent your cannabis from becoming root-bound and needing to be transplanted to a new container. This is accomplished by “air-pruning” roots from the sides, which stops your roots from wrapping around the edges of your container and “choking” your plant.

Smart pots make it difficult to over-water your plants, but that also means you will end up watering more often

Because smart pots dry out faster than regular cannabis containers, you should get double the size as you normally would, and it’s recommended your final size should be at least a 5-gallon container (anything smaller than that dries out in just a day or two!). So if you would normally get a 2-gallon container for your plants, you’d want to get at least a 5-gallon smart pot to make sure you’re not having to water your plants all the time.

If you’re going to go big, go with smart pots – your plants won’t by tippy

Air Pots for Growing Cannabis

An air pot is a plastic container with holes on the sides

The shape is taller and thinner than a regular container, so it may be possible to put more plants in a smaller space as long as you have the height

The narrow base means plants tend to be less stable on the ground in an air pot, especially if they’re tall, which means large plants can be easy to tip over.

Although water seeps out the sides when watering, air pots are tall and thin so you can use a regular sized saucer for each container (if it’s a 5-gallon container, you can use a regular 5-gallon saucer).

More oxygen is delivered to the roots than a regular pot, though about the same as a smart pot

Air pots help prevent plants from becoming root-bound and needing to be transplanted. This is accomplished by “air-pruning” roots from the sides, which prevents your roots from wrapping around the edges of your container and “choking” your plant.

Air pots make it more difficult to over-water your cannabis plants, but that also means you will end up watering more often

Because air pots dry out faster than regular cannabis containers, you should get double the size as you normally would, and it’s recommended your final size should be at least a 5-gallon container (anything smaller than that dries out in just a day or two!). So if you would normally get a 2-gallon container for your plants, you’d want to get at least a 5-gallon air pot to make sure you’re not having to water your plants all the time.

The Blue Velvet cannabis plant on the left reacted beautifully to growing in an air pot! On the right is what your cannabis roots look like after growing up in an air pot – all of the roots are reaching to get oxygen from the sides, and absolutely no signs of wrapping like with a rootbound plant!

cannabis root pic by coco coir expert roll_it_large

Which one is the best for growing cannabis? Is it Smart Pots, Air Pots, or regular plant pots?

The truth is these containers are each good in different ways. Some are better suited to some grow setups than others. So let me share my personal opinion…

A Regular Plant Pot is Tried and True

As a general rule a regular plant pot tends to take slightly less maintenance than the others because the growing medium dries out more slowly. Since you can use smaller pots for the same effect, you may be able to fit more plants in a small space.

At the same time, it’s a lot easier to overwater your plant in a regular pot, and you may find your plants quickly become rootbound if you keep them in a too-small container. When a plant is suffering nutrient deficiencies and droopiness from being rootbound, there’s not much you can do to fix it besides transplanting the plant to a bigger container and that can be tough, especially if your plant is already in the flowering stage. I like that you never have to worry about plants becoming rootbound with smart pots or air pots.

Air Pots & Smart Pots Make Cannabis Grow Faster

I’ve tried them both and air pots and smart pots both work amazingly well at increasing cannabis plant growth. A few years ago I even did a side-by-side grow with a regular pot for comparison. From my experience, I don’t think either air pots or smart pots are inherently better than the other. They are both very effective at increasing the vegetative growth rates of your cannabis plants, and they work by doing essentially the same thing – bringing in air from the sides.

As far as I can tell, the major differences between the two is mostly physical. Air pots are taller/thinner and made of plastic, while smart pots are wider/shorter and are made of fabric.

If you’re trying to stuff a bunch of plants in a small space, you might want an air pot since they’re thinner, however plants become tippy if they get tall.

If you have a shorter space, you may opt for a smart pot to save a few extra inches of height, and a smart pot is less tippy so it’s more suited to growing outdoors, or any time you’re growing a big plant.

Personally, I like smart pots better, but mostly just because I prefer fabric over plastic. (Check out my last grow journal using smart pots)

Full disclosure: I currently have switched to hydro (you just can’t beat those cannabis yields!) but if I was going to do another hand-watered cannabis grow, I would never use a regular pot again! At least for me, the increased cannabis growth from a smart pot or air pot makes it worth a little extra watering! It’s like capturing a little bit of that hydro power, while keeping the hand-watered experience.

Do smart pots and air pots really make your cannabis plants grow faster? The answer may surprise you!