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Saturday November 6, 2021

By Matthew Mongelia

female weed plant growing in a 5 gallon pot Growing

Growing your own cannabis at home is a very rewarding process. Not only will you grow your own medicine, but you’ll learn to have patience, solve problems, and pay close attention to details along the way. Of course, there’s also weed at the end of it. And the best part? You can get started on your cannabis home grow with only a small financial investment towards supplies.

Today, we’d like to focus on one important facet to the home grow set-up: DIY planters for cannabis grows. Specifically, we want to outline the steps necessary to convert a five-gallon plastic bucket into a pot for growing marijuana. But first, let’s discuss the importance of using quality grow pots for cannabis cultivation.

When it Comes to Cannabis Grow Pots, Size Matters

The most important part of a growing cannabis plant is not its buds, but rather its roots. It is through the roots that water and nutrients absorb into the plant which has a huge impact on its health and vigor of growth. Choosing the right grow pot is vital to maintaining a healthy plant system, especially if that plant will have to be moved or transplanted later.

Though seedlings and young, vegetative plants can survive well in small containers, when it comes time to flower, the roots will need room to grow and expand. If plant growth seems stunted, the issue is likely crowded roots which means it’s time for a transplant.

Transplanting from a small pot – one that holds less than a gallon of soil – is easy enough especially if the soil is thoroughly watered before the transplant (this helps prevent the soil from crumbling and the roots from damage during the process). 

Transplanting from a large pot, however, is no easy task. It is therefore recommended that seedlings grow in a small to medium sized pot if they are to be transplanted later. Do not transplant seeds or clones from pots larger than one gallon.

A cannabis seedling in a grow pot.
Make sure your seedlings are ready to be transplanted. photo credit

Flowering cannabis plants need plenty of room to grow. Pot sizes for flowering cannabis plants can range from 1.5 gallons to five gallons; anything over five-gallon planters could take up too much room in a grow space and/or be too difficult to maneuver.

Though three-gallon planters are perhaps the most common size  of grow pot for cannabis plants, if you can go bigger, you will likely grow bigger, too. That’s why generic five-gallon buckets are so great for cannabis grows: their size reduces the chance of the plants drying out, gives roots more room to expand and anchor themselves, and provides easy mobility thanks to its handle and relatively light weight. Plus, five-gallon buckets are super easy to find at an affordable price.

How to Turn a Five-Gallon Bucket into a Planter

The first step to transforming a five-gallon bucket into a planter is to find the right bucket. Do not use one that is dirty (i.e. potentially contaminated) such as one that has been used for mixing cement. Also confirm that the bucket you choose is “food grade.”

Though most five-gallon buckets on the market are made with HDPE plastic which is considered food grade by the FDA, some that use recycled HDPE plastics, add non-food-grade dyes, or use the buckets for non-food-grade chemicals are not safe to use for the cultivation of edible (or smokable) plants. If you can’t find a food grade bucket at your local hardware store, ask local restaurants and bakeries if they’ll share their old buckets with you.

A cannabis plant in a grow planter.
There are plenty of options for making your own 5 gallon planter. photo credit

Note: you can also line your bucket with a large oven bag to reduce the risk of chemicals leaching into the soil and to make clean-up easier later. Unfortunately, the ever-popular orange Home Depot buckets are not food safe, however they sell plenty that are. 

Next, modify the buckets to include drainage holes. Drainage is important for healthy root systems as they help prevent root rot and allow for thorough watering without adding a lot of extra weight. Turn the bucket upside down and add about five to 10 drain holes to the bottom using a drill and a large drill bit, ensuring plenty of spacing between the holes. If you use a bucket liner like an oven bag, be sure to add holes to this, too.

You can also choose to add a few inches of rocks to the bottom of the bucket (we prefer lava rocks) to improve drainage and reduce the overall weight of the planter. There is, of course, debate about the necessity of rocks in planters (if there is plenty of drainage, there is technically no need) but with the ample space a five-gallon bucket provides, there is no reason not to, either. This optional step is ideal for those who want lightweight buckets with ample grow space.

A healthy weed plant growing.
With the right know-how you can grow thriving cannabis plants in your own DIY credit

Finally, add nutrient-rich soil to your bucket along with the small plant and set it up in your grow space. If growing indoors, be sure to use quality grow lights in a contaminant-free environment. Check out this article for tips on cleaning and sanitizing a grow space to reduce the risk of pests and viral contaminants.

Note: five-gallon buckets also make great hydroponic setups. To turn your bucket into a hydro bucket, omit the steps in which you add drainage and use mesh bucket lids for plant support. Hydroponic bucket lids are found at garden shops or online following the keyword search, “five-gallon mesh lids” for around $5 - $10 each. Include a water pump and the appropriate liquid nutrient solutions for an easy DIY hydroponic setup.

Final Thoughts

Five-gallon plastic buckets are an easy find. Practically every hardware store carries them for only a few bucks (each and many restaurants just toss them after cashing out their pickle supply). If you’re ready to start your own cannabis grow, grab a five-gallon bucket and give it a go!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does it matter what 5-gallon bucket I use as a pot for cannabis?

Yes, make sure that your bucket is made of food-grade plastic. Buckets that are not food-grade may introduce unwanted chemicals to your plant. If you’re unsure, line your bucket so that it has a barrier from the bucket’s plastic. A standard oven bag works well, and is intended for use with food.

Can you grow pot in a bucket?

Yes! When set up for proper drainage, buckets can make an excellent grow pot.

How many plants can you grow in a 5-gallon bucket?

It’s recommended to do just one plant per bucket, due to limited root space.

Photo Credit: Unsplash (license)


Matthew Mongelia Matthew Mongelia

Matthew Mongelia is the Content Manager for He holds an MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA in Creative Writing from CUNY Brooklyn College. He has worked in the industry in numerous roles for over 5 years while covering cannabis content from coast to coast. Like so many in the industry, he first became acquainted with cannabis as a medical patient, and has been a passionate advocate for the plant ever since. He is a writer for the comic Dark Beach, and has previously covered music and cultural content for SOL REPUBLIC.

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