What is the Best Medium and Environment for Growing Cannabis: Soil, Soilless, or Hydroponic?

Which media will you use to grow your cannabis? Learn the pros and cons of choosing soil, soilless, and hydroponic growing media.
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When you’re ready to grow cannabis, there are many decisions you’ll need to make first. Which strain do you want to grow? Do you want to grow from seed or plant? Will you grow inside or outside? What media should you use to grow your cannabis? Between all of those decisions, there are countless ways to grow, and it can be challenging to narrow down your choices. Fortunately, when it comes to media, there are only three main options to choose from: soil, soilless, and hydroponic. Learn the pros and cons of each media to help make your decision.

Media Considerations for Growing Cannabis

The media you choose greatly impacts the health and growth of your cannabis. This media is what will help you grow strong roots, improve the root-to-shoot ratio, and therefore produce a more robust plant. Your roots need water, oxygen, and the right nutrients. Key factors when choosing your ideal media includes:

  • Available oxygen at the root zone. Cannabis thrives in a media that has a light and loose texture because it ensures oxygen can reach the root zone.
  • A balance between drainage and water availability. Cannabis plants require excellent drainage and don’t do well in over-saturated soil. If they’re overwatered, they can become sick, produce smaller yields, or even die. While the roots shouldn’t be soaked, your cannabis plants do need adequate moisture. It’s essential to create a soil mix that can hold water without flooding the roots.
  • pH value: Cannabis is known for its pH sensitivity. An ideal pH is between 5.8-6.3.
  • Nutrients: Like other plants, cannabis has certain macronutrient and secondary nutrient requirements to help during different stages of growth.

Soil Media Options for Growing Cannabis

A soil media includes naturally occurring soils and other additives.


  • It’s easy and beginner-friendly! Using soil is one of the simplest ways to grow your cannabis. It’s not as simple as digging up some soil from your flower bed outside, but it’s easier than going with a soilless mix or growing hydroponically. Your buds will still benefit from soil enriched with high-quality compost.
  • It’s inexpensive. Head to the growing media aisle of your local garden store, and you’ll see soil options are by far the least expensive.
  • You can grow great-tasting cannabis. While it’s subjective, many growers say the best-tasting cannabis comes from cannabis grown in soil.
  • With this growing media, you can grow naturally and organically.


  • Comparatively, the yield isn’t as great as other growing media.
  • Your plants are at a higher risk of pest infestations, disease, mold, and fungus.
  • Plants grown in soil don’t grow as quickly as those in other soil media because of the nutrient profile. This means you’ll need to wait longer to see results, and you might miss problems.
  • While soil is widely available, not all are optimal for growing cannabis, so you’ll need to shop around for the right option.

Soilless Media for Growing Cannabis

As the name suggests, a soilless media doesn’t contain soil. Instead, it’s a combination of organic and inorganic materials like perlite, vermiculite, peat moss, coco coir, bark, coarse sand, and fertilizers.


  • There is a lower threat of organisms when you use inorganic media like perlite, vermiculite, or diatomaceous earth.
  • It’s low-cost! While more expensive than growing in soil, your soilless media will not break the bank.
  • You have full control. Because you can craft your soilless media however you want by combining different organic and inorganic materials, you can decide the right profile for your plants. This allows you to have more control of the nutrients and pH levels.
  • You can grow big plants and get great yields! It’s every cannabis grower’s goal. This is largely in part because of your ability to control the nutrients and environment.
  • It’s almost as easy as growing in soil. You don’t need special equipment to get started. It’s as simple as getting the materials you want, a container and your plant.


  • It might not be as easy to find the components you want. Unlike shopping for soil, you might need to visit a few stores to get all of the organic and inorganic materials you want.
  • You’ll need to add nutrients from the start. Because you’re in full control of your soilless mix, you need to be sure to add nutrients at the right times during growth.
  • It’s less forgiving of mistakes than soil because you’re in charge of making sure it has the nutrients it needs.

Hydroponic Media for Growing Cannabis

When you grow hydroponically, you completely skip the soil and soilless mix and grow in nutrient-rich water.


  • Your plants will grow large and fast, providing a significant yield.
  • There are many ways to customize your growing environment, so you can get creative with your setup. In some systems, plants are suspended above the tanks, and the roots reach down into the water/nutrient solution. In other systems, plants are supported in pots filled with hydroponic growing media like perlite, clay, or rockwool.
  • If you have a recirculating system, you don’t need to feed your plants as often as you do with other growing methods.
  • There is a low risk of pests and soil-based diseases.
  • You have greater control over the pH and nutrient levels, so you can set your plants up for success.


  • Growing hydroponically isn’t for the casual grower. This is much more difficult than growing using a soil or soilless mix.
  • Hydroponic systems require upkeep. You should expect to empty your tank and clean the system periodically.
  • A hydroponic setup is more expensive than using a soil or soilless mix.
  • Although subjective, some people say cannabis grown hydroponically doesn’t taste as natural as those grown using other methods.

Enhance Your Media with Harvest Hero

Our products have been carefully crafted with cannabis growers in mind. No matter the media you choose, you can grow further with help from Harvest Hero.

Hydroponic Perlite

We know cannabis growers can have great success growing hydroponically and using soil media mixes, so we developed our Hydroponic Perlite to support both growing methods. Our Hydroponic Perlite is a medium-grade, 100% sterile horticulture perlite that is OMRI listed. Get ready to grow great:

  • Allows for greater air availability.
  • Provides superior water drainage.
  • Holds nutrient-enriched water and distributes evenly.
  • Regulates pH fluctuations.
  • Increases yields and potency.

Enhanced Perlite Mix

The innovative mix features a unique, proprietary blend of perlite, diatomaceous earth, and essential nutrients that help support the critical vegetative growth stage of your cannabis plants. NC State conducted testing to see how cannabis plants were impacted by this 3-in-1 mix. Harvest Hero Enhanced Perlite Mix resulted in:

  • Improve Soil Conditions for an Increase in Flower Bud Dry Weight.
  • Improve Soil Conditions for an Increase in Plant Diameter.
  • Improve Soil Conditions for an Increase in Phosphorous Accumulation.
  • Improve Soil Conditions for an Increase in Potassium Accumulation.
  • Improve Soil Conditions for an Increase in CBD Yields.
  • Improve Soil Conditions for an Increase in Nitrogen Accumulation.
  • Improve Soil Conditions for an Increase in Plant Height.

Perlite+ Silica

Similar to our Enhanced Perlite Mix, this blend spotlights diatomaceous earth (the silica content) and perlite to support all stages of cannabis growth. Without the addition of nutrients, you have more control over the ones you add to your soil mix. The benefits of this blend include:

  • Natural soil substrate: an organic amendment that helps increase growth.
  • Maintains high levels of oxygen in the soil.
  • Increases your crops’ uptake in water and essential nutrients.
  • The silica source provided by diatomaceous earth enhances resiliency towards abiotic environmental stress factors, such as temperature extremes, sunlight, and water extremes.
  • Minimizes pH fluctuations by keeping oxygen levels consistent.
  • Increases plant mass and plant growth. The silica fortifies the plant tissue to improve soil conditions.

Grow Great with Harvest Hero

Help your plants get the nutrition they need for robust and vigorous growth with Harvest Hero. Shop now for FREE SHIPPING on all available product sizes of 8 quart through 3 cubic foot bags.

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