The 7 Stages of the Cannabis Plant Growth Cycle

Understand the weed growth cycle!
Nicole Richter / Updated on August 3, 2018

The 7 Stages of the Cannabis Plant [Growth Cycle]

If you live in a state where cultivating cannabis is legal and are looking to grow cannabis plants, improving your knowledge of the various growth stages is critical. When you grow weed, you’ll discover that there are various important milestones. Knowing what these changes are, and when they are likely to take place, gives you an insight into what to expect and ensures you have a better understanding of any health issues faced by your marijuana plants.

I am not going to lie; a lot of work goes into cultivation as you need to use different amounts of water, nutrients, and light throughout the various stages of growth. In this guide, I will provide you with information on the seven steps of cannabis plant growth and harvesting:

  1. Germination.
  2. Seedling.
  3. Vegetative.
  4. Flowering.
  5. Harvesting.
  6. Pruning.
  7. Seed Preparation for Next Season.

1 – Germination: Between 24 Hours & 2 Weeks

Marijuana uses sexual reproduction to create and then spread seeds. Every seed is produced by two parents, and it has genes from male and female cannabis plants in most cases. Occasionally, a seed is produced by a hermaphrodite weed plant, but you don’t need to concern yourself about this complicated issue.

However, only the female cannabis plant produces those trichome-rich buds that contain cannabinoids and terpenes. When you use a typical cannabis seed, there is a 50-50 chance that you’ll end up with a male plant. Besides being used for breeding, there is little else you can do with the male cannabis plant. You can take the guesswork out of growing by using feminized seeds. It is possible to feminize seeds yourself, or purchase them from a professional organization.

The next time you hold a cannabis seed, take a close look. Underneath that waxy coat lies a dehydrated cannabis plant that is eagerly awaiting heat and water. The seed will sprout once it receives enough of both, but if it doesn’t get what it needs, its demise is inevitable. Cannabis seeds also include the ‘endosperm,’ which is a calorie store that helps the plant at the beginning of life.

The seed you hold in your hand is ‘dormant’ and will remain so until you provide moisture and warmth. However, you can store it in a fridge or another cool dark place for quite a while until you’re ready to help it germinate.

There are a variety of ways to germinate a cannabis seed. Remember, it really only needs water, heat, and air. Best of all, it is possible to germinate a seed using nothing more than paper towels and two clean plates as accessories!

First, soak four paper towel sheets in water and place two of them on one of the plates. Place the weed seeds on the towels and make sure they are spaced out.

Place the other two sheets on top and cover with the other plate. Keep the temperature in the room between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the seeds every so often and make sure the paper towels are still wet. Add more water if the sheets are drying out. Eventually, you will see a white taproot sprout from the seeds. The germination process can take between 24 hours and 7 days, so be patient!

Once you see the taproot, carefully transplant the germinated seeds to a growing medium. In most cases, you can place them in 2-inch pots of soil, to begin with. Above all else, avoid touching the taproot with your fingers. They are fragile and break easily.

2 – Seedling Stage: 2-3 Weeks

Your plant will only begin to show the cannabis leaves you’re familiar with during the seedling stage. Two leaves will open outward from the stem of the plant and receive sunlight. However, it is the next pair of leaves to grow that resembles the ‘classic’ weed leaf. These leaves spread out and grow at the top of the plant as it enters its first real growth cycle.

It can take up to a week before your germinated seed can be classified as a seedling. During the seedling stage, your plant develops its root system. Marijuana plants normally remain as seedlings for 2-3 weeks, but in rare cases, this stage can last up to 6 weeks. The duration depends on the type of strain you’re growing and several environmental factors.

Ideally, you will house the seedling in a room with a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity of approximately 60%. As a rule of thumb, expose the seedling to 18 hours of white light a day as soon as you see the cotyledons (these are leaves that should spring up straight after the seed germinates). Use nitrogen-rich fertilizer and invest in CFL lights if possible. If you use CFLs, keep them around two inches from the seedlings.

3 – Vegetative Stage: 3-8 Weeks

This is a really exciting stage because it is when your marijuana plants begin to take shape. You should have transplanted them into larger containers by now because the roots and foliage are growing at a rapid rate. The reason why so many leaves grow now is because the plants are capable of absorbing and processing larger amounts of nutrients such as carbon dioxide.

Your plants will grow noticeably taller during the vegetative stage, and it isn’t unusual for a healthy weed plant to grow two inches in 24 hours! Keep the temperature between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit and keep humidity between 50% and 70%. Make sure you provide ample nutrients, especially nitrogen, and expose the plant to 16-24 hours of sunlight.

You will be able to determine the cannabis type you’re growing by analyzing the space between the nodes. Sativas have less dense foliage whereas indicas are short and dense. If you used normal seeds, you should be able to determine the gender of the marijuana plant by the end of the vegetative stage.

Females have two white pistils growing on the buds. Males grow pollen sacs. At this point, it is imperative that you separate the sexes or else the males will pollinate the female flowering plants and ruin your crop.

CBD GUMMIES

4 – Flowering Stage: 6-8 Weeks [Most Important]

This is the final growth stage and is also the most crucial. Once you are happy with how your plants have grown, you can help them transition to flowering by reducing their exposure to light. Ideally, you will use a 12 hours of light, 12 hours of complete darkness cycle. By now, your plant is sexually mature and ready to spread its genes. As males mature faster, you have to cull them before they reach the flowering stage.

You will know that your plants are flowering because they produce enormous amounts of sticky resin on the outside of the leaves. This substance contains the highest concentration of THC, the psychoactive substance so abundant in good weed that provides the high. Overall, the potency of your marijuana depends on how long it spends in the flowering stage.

Keep the temperature between 68 and 77 degrees and humidity at approximately 50%. Make sure you provide your plant with potassium and phosphorus but no more nitrogen.

5 – When to Harvest Marijuana

Ideally, you will be able to identify when your cannabis plant reaches maturity. When this happens, the pistils of the plant begin to turn brown, and the leaves turn yellow en-masse. Calyx’s development slows, andthe buds become large and heavy. Stop fertilizing the plant ten days before you intend to harvest it.

It is important to get your timing right here because harvesting impacts the smell, taste, weight, and potency of the final product. Experts recommend harvesting when 70-90% of the pistils have turned brown. If the pistils are almost entirely brown, you may have overdone it because it’s likely that the weed it produces will have a heavy taste and less pleasant effects.

It is also a sad fact that over-mature cannabis begins to lose its medicinal value. It is too late to harvest when the stem swells, calyxes’ production cease, and the yellow leaves have fallen off. In this sense, it is better to harvest too early than too late. If you do so when 50% of the pistils are brown for example, you won’t get maximum potency, but at least it offers a mellow high.

6 – It’s Time! Pruning Your Cannabis

Once your plants have been cut down, don’t assume that you can move straight into the drying and curing processes. The next step is to prune your cannabis to ensure you have a rounded and smokable bud. You have the option to perform wet or dry pruning although it is easier to perform the former.

With wet cannabis pruning, the leaves are sticking out, but when you attempt dry cannabis pruning, you will find that the leaves have curled up inside themselves. Don’t use the same scissors to trim as you did to cut the plants down. You need a more delicate implement, and I recommend finding a comfortable seat because pruning can take hours. If you choose wet pruning, wear a pair of gardening gloves because the sticky resin will get on your fingers otherwise.

First and foremost, pick off the fan leaves from the buds. Next, trim off the sugar leaves that are sticking out of the buds. It is up to you to decide what to do with the trimmings. Sugar leaves are high in THC, while the other leaves are weak but could be useful in edibles. The resin that’s on your hands or gloves is extremely potent, so find a way to scrape it off — and keep it for dabs!

7 – Preparing Your Seeds for Next Season

By now, you have turned cannabis seeds into powerful medicine, but your work isn’t done! The final step involves drying and curing your weed.

Various articles have been dedicated to this process, and you can read an in-depth guide on this website. Instead, I would rather conclude by focusing on continuing the cannabis growing process. As much fun as it is to watch a seed grow into a mighty plant, you have to do it all over again next season if you want to continue enjoying home-grown Mary Jane.

New cannabis seeds capable of producing a new plant grow in the colas of the female marijuana plant 2-16 weeks after they are pollinated by a male plant that grows nearby. For relatively new growers, it is probably best to buy cannabis seeds to continue the life cycle of your best plants.

In a process called sensimilla cloning, you can grow genetically identical versions of your preferred marijuana strains annually. All you have to do is cut a branch of at least four inches from your most productive plant and place it in a rooting solution.

7 Grow Stages of Marijuana: Conclusion

So let’s try and sum up the entire life cycle of a marijuana plant in approximately 200 words!

At the very beginning, use feminized cannabis seeds if possible to eliminate guesswork and get the most out of your yield. Otherwise, half the plants you grow will be male and they don’t produce the juicy buds you’re so desperate for. They’ll also pollinate the females, which will cause the buds to become full of seeds.

Soak the cannabis seeds in a wet paper towel for up to a week to sprout the taproot. Then, transplant it in a growing medium such as soil, and after a few weeks as a seedling, your plant is ready to enter the fruitful vegetative stage.

Keep any male plants you find away from the females, and give your plants nutrients and light. Reduce light exposure when it is time to trigger the flowering phase and wait patiently until up to 90% of the plant’s pistils are brown.

Now it is time to harvest, so cut down your plants, prune them, and hang them upside down to dry. Store the dried weed in glass mason jars for at least a few weeks.

Finally, your potent nugs will be ready to use! If you want to do the process all over again, start purchasing more cannabis seeds and get ready for the next season — after all, this marijuana is not going to grow itself!

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The 7 Stages of the Cannabis Plant Growth Cycle
August 3, 2018
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