How can you tell when your marijuana is ready for bud collection? Learn when to harvest cannabis for optimal levels of ripeness, deliciousness, and potency. Amsterdam Seed Supply – Not sure when to harvest Marijuana seeds? Look no further – Buy Marijuana seeds – Discreet shipping Harvest is an exciting time when it comes to growing weed, because you finally get to see your trichomes mature. Learn how and when to harvest marijuana.
When To Harvest Cannabis: Tips & Tricks From Kyle Kushman
One of the most important decisions you can make is when to harvest cannabis plants.
Harvesting too early or too late can seriously affect the quality of your buds.
But how do you know when your buds are ripe for harvesting?
Well, just like a piece of fruit, there’s a peak time for ripening.
Collecting a little bit too soon or too late will produce a less than ideal harvest.
So how do you tell? How do you make sure your cannabis harvests are done at exactly the right time?
By reading this article! Let’s go!
What is the average time from planting to harvesting cannabis?
Some autoflowering cannabis plants can finish their entire cycle in 10-12, while big sativa strains can take up to 32 weeks, from planting to flowering!
Your average indoor cannabis grow will be 3 – 5 months.
Okay, this all sounds a little vague, and I apologize, but it all does depend on the cultivar!
Knowing exactly when to harvest cannabis is about knowing what you’re growing, when you flipped into flower, and knowing what signs to look out for.
We shall deal with this without delay.
How can you determine when to harvest pot?
Let’s start with the basics.
Save the date. When you flip to flower, mark the date on your calendar. You won’t know when to harvest cannabis without this basic barometer.
That day is going to be the best indicator of when your particular strain of marijuana is going to be ripe and ready for harvest.
Be equipped. When it starts getting close, you’ll see the pistils turning red.
That’s when you will need a lighted loupe, a handy magnifier that provides a better, closer view of the buds.
Know where to look. To harvest marijuana properly, the last few inspections are the most important of all.
Make sure you always check the buds that grow on the interior, so the coat of trichomes has not been touched.
When walking through the garden or tent, any contact like rubbing or brushing against the flowers could turn the bulbs brown, potentially leading to misjudgment.
Know what the colors mean. When you first look at the trichomes, those tiny mushroom-looking stalks will be clear.
As ripening gets close, maybe a week or two out, they will begin to turn opaque.
The cloudy or milky heads will then turn amber or brown, just like a ripe piece of fruit.
Once 5 to 10% of the trichomes have achieved the amber color, perfect ripening has been reached and that’s when it’s time to harvest marijuana like a master.
Check out this amazing video on ripening, you’ll love it.
How to tell if it’s too early to harvest cannabis
There are many ways to tell it’s too early to harvest your cannabis buds.
Use these guidelines combined with your knowledge and perception to know when to harvest cannabis at its most resinous.
The time spent in flowering differs among cannabis cultivars. Consult your seed supplier, they should be able to tell you the flowering time of your plants. This will be your first data point.
For example, Gelato Feminized takes 8 to 10 weeks in flower.
Even if you see beautiful flowers and an abundance of trichomes, it’s worth waiting until all the boxes are ticked.
Trichomes make your cannabis sticky. Their color is a superb indicator that your marijuana crops are ready to harvest.
If they’re still glassy and transparent, your plants aren‘t ready for harvest.
Your plants should be cut down during the peak of resin production. Too early means losing out on strength, taste and smokability.
Too late, and the THC levels can drop as it degrades into CBN.
Pistils go through color and shape changes when cannabis is ready to harvest. If the hairs are still white and poking straight outwards, your cannabis isn’t ready yet!
Pistils must be amber-colored before you harvest. Combine trichome hues with pistil color changes to pinpoint the best time to harvest cannabis.
How to tell if it’s too late to harvest
Knowing when to harvest weed is also knowing when you’ve left it too late. Missing the peak window to harvest cannabis buds can lead to over-ripe, super-sleepy buds.
A good sign you’ve left it too late is seeing the majority of the trichomes turn brown or amber.
Your plants will also be close to dying off!
How often can you harvest cannabis plants?
Wouldn’t you love to keep that gorgeous cannabis plant forever?
Harvesting cannabis plants is generally a one-off, as they are annual plants that die after reproduction.
Indoor harvesting of cannabis generally happens only once, though you can stagger the harvest if plants mature at different rates. You can also harvest some branches before others, though I wouldn’t advise it.
The best way is to cut the plants down whole. This helps them dry slowly and evenly.
How do you know when to harvest cannabis outdoors?
You’d typically do it before the cold evenings of late September and early October, but you need to look out for the same signs as with indoor growing.
Mark the dates on the calendar. Look out for darkening pistils. Look for amber trichomes. When 5 to 10% of the trichomes turn amber, you can start cutting the plants down.
What do you need to harvest cannabis?
You now know how to tell if your plant is ready to harvest.
Get ready to harvest by making sure you have the room and the equipment.
When you harvest marijuana you’re going to get covered in resin.
If you’ve got a large garden, things get very messy very fast.
A pair of gloves is a lifesaver! Latex-free ones are best as they don’t contain powder or synthetic resin.
Your eyes are a tool with limitations.
Invest in a magnifying glass, pocket microscope, or 40x magnification jeweler’s loupe. Use them to identify color changes in the trichome heads.
Modern smartphones also have great zoom lenses!
When it’s time to harvest cannabis, growers know all-too-well how thick-limbed a mature marijuana plant can get.
Chopping from the base may require significant cutting power, which is why you’ll need high-quality pruning shears. Especially if you’ve grown outdoors.
A good pair of pruning scissors is invaluable for trimming on busy harvest days!
Your scissors should be sharp, ergonomic, and spring-loaded.
High proof alcohol and clean wipes
Trimming scissors get coated in resin.
Keep 90% proof alcohol and sanitary wipes on hand.
Cleaning your tools makes the task of harvesting marijuana much less of a drag!
Drying rack and drying area
Drying cannabis activates THC in the resin, which is the final step to achieving potency. Plus, it extends the shelf life of your bud!
A drying area isn’t a tool, but you’ll need a clean space big enough for your harvest. Pick a dark, dry place with adequate airflow. Your laundry room or a spare bedroom do the trick.
Moist marijuana plants become a hotbed for microorganisms like fungi.
You don’t want to be smoking that!
Pre-harvest: 5 things to do before harvesting marijuana
Knowing how to harvest cannabis includes steps to take in preparation.
Check out my harvesting video and learn what you need to do ahead of the big day.
Defoliate the plant
As flowering ends, you’ll no longer need large water leaves on stems and branches.
Snip them away for more direct light to the lower flowers.
Tip: Leave some larger leaves here and there. They’re indicators of any potential health issues.
The humidity in your grow room or tent should be dropped to 20%–30% a few days before you harvest cannabis.
By doing this, you force unseeded female flowers to produce more trichomes and resin.
That bud coating boosts potency.
Reduce nute feedings
You’ve been feeding your cannabis to help it reach its full potential.
Start reducing the feed the closer you get to the cannabis harvest date.
Drop the regular nutrient infusions a week, even better two weeks before you harvest marijuana flowers.
Prepare to flush nutes one last time, too.
Flush your plants
Before you harvest weed, you need to flush the remaining nutes from the soil and the plant.
Basically, you skip the liquid fertilizer with each watering and drench the soil with pH-neutral water.
That way, you make sure your plants use up the nutrients, so you won’t taste them in the bowl.
How to harvest marijuana: a step by step guide
Now you know when to harvest marijuana, I’ll show you how to harvest marijuana.
Get the tools we discussed, play some feel-good music, put on an old T-shirt you don’t mind ruining, and follow these steps.
Prepare the space
Excess light can degrade THC. That’s a scenario no eager stoner wants to face!
Turn off the lamps, toss an opaque sheet over the window, or wait for an overcast day. Some leakage isn’t the end of the world, but do your best to make it dark.
Go for a temperature range between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and around 50% relative humidity.
If you’ve already gone through our “how to grow cannabis indoors” guide, you’ll know how to optimize these conditions.
Choose your method
You’ll find many niche cannabis harvest methods online, but why complicate things?
These two are the most common and effective:
- Whole plant. This one is quick and easy, especially with smaller cultivars. Cut and hang the entire plant, and that’s it.
- Ripe bud. This technique is a bit more time-consuming, but it maximizes yield and bud quality. You trim outside-in and top-down, cutting the buds that have ripened and leaving the others to mature for several more days each time.
Trim the leaves
There’s another decision to make before you harvest marijuana. Will you trim the leaves before or after drying?
Here’s the gist of it:
- Trim before in humid environments. This will help you avoid mold issues on the horizon.
- Trim after in low-humidity climates. Leafless flowers sometimes dry too quickly.
The next step is to hang the branches. Hang upside down and leave a tray underneath for falling leaves.
Mistakes to avoid when harvesting marijuana
You now know when to harvest cannabis and which tools you need.
Avoid these common mistakes for peace of mind and confidence in your next harvest:
Harvesting too early
Harvesting cannabis too early compromises your yield, cola size, and bud potency.
Overhandling cannabis rubs away the resin and ruins smoke, sale, and gift value.
While you harvest marijuana, be gentle with your ladies!
Respecting the herb will help preserve it’s quality.
Too few hands
Do you have a large garden? Rally friends, family, and paid hands to help.
When it’s time to harvest cannabis, having help is great for batch consistency.
During harvest windows, 12 hours can turn your cannabis plant’s effects from balanced to highly sedative!
You also have to dry and trim all those buds.
Why not make it fun?
Share the experience with friends and award everybody who helped with a fun type of gift bag.
What’s the next stage after the cannabis harvest?
Congratulations, you’ve done it.
Now, here’s how to get those colas ready for smoking, vaping, and mind-warping eves with your bong.
Trim your cannabis
Buds are lovely, but wheezing after inhaling burning leaves isn’t. Take the time to snip leaves off your cannabis for a smoother, more consistent smoking session.
Do you already know how to trim cannabis? It’s easier than you think!
Dry the trimmed buds
After harvesting, weed requires some time to hang and dry, ideally in an area with 45% to 55% humidity.
Internal moisture is a breeding ground for fungi and other microorganisms. It can ruin your whole batch. That’s weeks of money and effort going to waste.
Drying takes up to 14 days, depending on your climate.
Cure your marijuana
Curing removes trace amounts of moisture hidden deep inside each flower. It can take up to three weeks to complete the curing process.
It’s straightforward—all you need are some mason jars and patience.
Learn all about drying and curing weed right here.
Before you head off to your garden, let’s answer some common questions about harvesting weed.
Can I harvest the top half of my plant?
Good news for impatient stoners—you sure can! No matter how much you trim, top, and prune, the upper side of your cannabis plant receives more light exposure.
The buds up there ripen earlier than those below.
Should all leaves be yellow before harvest?
There are two answers. Both boil down to ‘not really.’
Organic growers don’t have to flush before harvesting marijuana. In this case, it’s normal for the fan leaves to turn yellow. The plant is mature. It no longer needs the green pigment for photosynthesis.
It’s not necessary for everything to go golden for juicy, ripe buds. Those who flush see discoloration, but they should be careful about the sugar leaves. The buds deteriorate quickly once sugar leaves lose their greenery.
It’s better to harvest before this happens.
Should I harvest in the morning or at night?
Marijuana is higher in terpenes, crystals, and THC in the morning.
It also uptakes moisture during the day, which can increase your drying time.
Harvest with confidence
You now know when to harvest cannabis for top-shelf results.
You have the theory down, so why not put your knowledge to the test?
Buy cannabis seeds and start a garden of your own. It’s a gratifying experience, and once you’re smoking the fruits of your labor, you’ll never look back.
About the Author: Kyle Kushman
Kyle Kushman is a legend in the cannabis community. He is the modern-day polymath of pot: cultivator, breeder, activist, writer, and educator. After winning no less than 13 Cannabis Cups, there’s nothing this guy doesn’t know about indoor growing – he’s been there, done it, and is still doing it to this day!
When To Harvest Marijuana Seeds?
After the whole process of germination, growth and flowering, a lot of growers ask themselves when to harvest Marijuana seeds. Usually, the breeders will include a suggested flowering time for each strain, but as a rule of thumb, Indica marijuana plants harvest in 6-8 weeks while Sativa Marijuana plants take 10-12 weeks.
Look for these signs for when to harvest Marijuana seeds
You can also judge the ripeness of the Marijuana by taking a look at the trichomes; or little hairs/crystals on the flowers and surrounding areas of the Marijuana plant. If they are transparent its still too soon, if they are milky white they are ready and if they turn brown they have become over-ripe. It is also advisable to follow the instructions to harvest Marijuana seeds on the packet since most reputable breeders also have a tried and tested flowering time for optimum ripeness, potency and flavour of a Marijuana strain.
If you meant when to harvest seeds from cross-pollinated Marijuana plants, then the seed will fall from the flower by itself once it is mature and ready to germinate into another Marijuana plant. Usually, as a best practice to harvest Marijuana seeds, some growers wait for the whole flowering cycle to end just as if they were harvesting the flower.
You might find our FAQ Submission How Do I Harvest My Plant? useful
How to harvest marijuana plants
It’s been months since that little weed sprout first popped out of the ground, or you put that delicate clone into some soil. You’ve watched your plants grow and mature, getting bigger and developing buds, and can’t wait to get those buds off the plant and light up.
But not so fast—harvesting cannabis isn’t just cutting down plants and trimming buds; you’ll also need to dry and cure buds before you can smoke them.
There are a few different ways to harvest weed, depending on whether you trim buds wet, straight off the plant, or dry, allowing them to dry first:
- In wet trimming, the plant is cut down, buds are removed off branches—called “bucking”—then trimmed, and then dried, all in one sitting.
- When dry trimming, the plant is cut down and hung to dry for several days; buds are bucked off branches and trimmed when fully dried.
Harvesting is one of the most exciting steps when growing weed, and here’s what you need to know before cutting down your crop.
Overview of how to harvest weed
- Flush plants a week before harvesting
- Determine when to harvest based on trichome color
- Decide if you’ll be wet or dry trimming
- Prepare equipment
- Chop down plants
- Dry and trim plants
Learn more on harvesting weed
Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .
How to know when to harvest cannabis
It’s important to note that every gardener has a different opinion on when to harvest their cannabis plants—some like to harvest early while others prefer later. When you harvest can also depend on other factors in life, such as your schedule, a job, the weather, etc.
Harvesting weed a week early or late probably won’t be the end of the world, but don’t let your plants sit around much longer than that.
When to harvest cannabis according to trichomes
The best way to tell if your marijuana plants are ripe and ready to harvest, both indoors and outdoors, is to look at:
- Stigma: These hair-like strands that cover buds will turn from white to orange and will start to curl.
- Trichomes: The resinous glands all over the plant will turn from clear to opaque and then amber.
The color and clarity of trichomes will tell you when a plant has reached peak maturity and is ready to harvest.
Ripe, healthy trichomes will be sticky and milky white; unripe trichomes will be clear; and overripe or diseased trichomes will be amber or brown. You want to look for milky white trichomes before harvesting.
Keep in mind that top colas might reach maturity faster than bottom buds because they receive more light. You may need to harvest a plant when some buds are ripe and others are under-ripe.
Additionally, information from the breeder or grower can be helpful in getting a rough estimate of when a particular strain should be harvested.
Weed is a warm-season annual, so if growing outdoors, harvest time comes between September and November in the Northern Hemisphere.
There is some variability—growers in Northern California may be able to harvest into November, whereas growers in the Pacific Northwest will likely need to pull their crops down by mid-October, before fall rains set it.
Know your local climate and talk to other growers in your specific area to see when they harvest marijuana.
Tips for determining when to harvest outdoor weed
Strains from regions close to the equator—sativas—need a long, seemingly endless summer to fully ripen, while strains from harsh, cold climates—indicas—tend to finish earlier. That being said, some indicas take a long time to finish and some sativas finish on the early side.
The best time of day to harvest outdoor marijuana plants is in the morning, before the sun blasts them. Ideally, you don’t want them to be wet and dewey, but you don’t want them to under the bright light of the sun, which can degrade terpenes.
You can also harvest at night when the temperature cools off, but the morning is better as plants haven’t been sitting under the sun all day.
Follow the weather
As cannabis buds pack on weight and the season changes from summer to fall, there will be fluctuations in the weather. Depending on your climate, there might be cold snaps or rainstorms.
These aren’t disasters but you do need to keep an eye on the weather and possibly make a game-time decision on when to chop down plants, balancing peak ripeness with conditions that could compromise your harvest.
Harvesting weed in cold temperatures
Most cannabis plants can sail through a light freeze—28-32°F for up to three hours—with no trouble. But a hard freeze, any temps lower or for longer, can spell disaster.
Frost can cause ice crystals to form in plant tissue, damaging their cells. Leaves will appear wilted before turning dark and crispy. The deeper the frost, the more of the plant that will get damaged.
Note that potted plants experience more severe temperature fluctuations than plants in the ground, making the cannabis more susceptible to frost damage.
Similar to a cold snap, rain itself isn’t a huge problem, but the duration and severity of the storm is. If it’s going to warm up and dry out quickly, you can leave almost ripe cannabis to weather the storm. If the rain will be there to stay, mold awaits—cut your losses and harvest before things get soggy.
Covering your plants will help, but there will still be moisture in the air. You can cover plants with a few tall stakes and a tarp, just be sure to remove the cover when the cold or rain passes to let plants warm up and get the sun and air they need.
When growing indoors, plants generally get harvested about 7-9 weeks after flipping them into the first stages of flowering. Some strains may take longer, some shorter; it depends on the strain. Indicas usually finish quicker, while sativas longer.
How often do you harvest weed?
Harvesting indoor marijuana
When growing weed indoors, you can harvest as much or as little as you want. The sky—rather, your grow room—is the limit.
Weed can take anywhere from 3-8 months to grow from seed to harvest, so you can fit in as many as four harvests of smaller plants, or one or two harvests of bigger plants each year.
More harvests mean you’ll have fresh, homegrown weed to smoke more often, but it will also be more work in cleaning up the space between harvests, trimming, etc.
You can even fit in more than four harvests a year if you start with clones or autoflower seeds, both of which shave off some weeks of the grow cycle.
Harvesting outdoor marijuana
By and large, cannabis grown outdoors gets harvested once a year. In most climates, seeds or clones will start in the spring, and you’ll harvest in the fall. In some tropical regions, you can squeeze in a second harvest in a year because of the climate.
You can set up your outdoor weed grow to have more than one harvest a year if you grow autoflower seeds. Autoflower weed plants have a shorter life cycle—they “automatically flower” when they get to a certain age, instead of beginning the flowering stage when sunlight starts to decrease in the sky outdoors.
Because of this, you can start growing a set of autoflowers early in the season, around March or April, harvest them in June or July, and then start growing a second set for harvesting in the fall. You’ll be able to have multiple harvests, but keep in mind that your plants will be smaller because they’re autoflowers.
Light deprivation, or light deps, are another technique to get multiple outdoor harvests in a year. A tarp is placed over a greenhouse to cut off the amount of light outdoor weed plants receive, giving you the ability to control the flowering cycle of plants. As with autoflowers, this will allow you to fit in multiple outdoor harvests in a season.
The drawback to light deprivation is you have to have a greenhouse and other equipment, and you have to place and remove the tarp every day. If marijuana plants receive too much light on even one day, it can confuse them and ruin their flowering and bud production.
Preparing to harvest marijuana
Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .
If you’re growing the same strain, you’ll want to harvest all your cannabis plants in the same window of time because they’ll all ripen at the same time.
If you’re growing multiple strains, they may ripen at different times. But you may still want to harvest all strains at once to get trimming done all in one sitting, just keep in mind that some strains might get harvested on the early side and some on the late side.
Before you harvest, you’ll also need to know if you are going to trim wet or dry. Wet trimming involves trimming buds immediately after the plant is cut down, and with dry trimming, chopped plants are hung up to dry for several days before trimming.
It’s also a good idea to flush your plants a week before harvesting—give them only water to clear out the nutrients.
What do trichomes look like when they’re ready to harvest?
Trichomes will be sticky and milky white when ready to harvest.
When looking at trichomes you’ll need a microscope. Handheld microscopes ranging from 30x-100x will work and can be purchased at any growing supply store.
During their change from clear to opaque to amber, trichomes reach their maximum THC content. After that, they begin to break down due to exposure to oxygen and UV rays.
What happens if you wait too long to harvest?
Waiting a week or two after a plant’s peak maturity to harvest isn’t the end of the world, the plant might just lose some THC. Busy schedules or too many plants to harvest and cause growers to delay harvesting plants for a little bit.
If you wait for a long time, several weeks or more, the plant will likely dry out and the buds shrink. The plant may start to rot and develop mold, especially in an outdoor environment and in cold climates.
Equipment needed to harvest cannabis
To harvest weed, you’ll need the following tools:
- Scissors (for trimming buds)
- Pruners (helpful for big branches)
- Comfortable chair and area
- A clean surface, like a table
- Tray or bowl
- Rubbing alcohol
- Clothes that can get dirty and sticky
- Optional: Non-powdered latex gloves
Make sure scissors are ergonomic and will fit comfortably in your hand, as you will be holding these bad boys for quite a while. With time, these scissors will get very sticky, so get a pair that will clean easily, or buy two pairs so you can switch between them.
There are many types of scissors you can buy; some are spring-loaded, some not. Beginners often go for spring-loaded ones because they seem quicker.
However, a lot of trimmers recommend Chikamasa scissors—these are not spring-loaded and might take a day or two to get used to, but you will soon notice the precision and speed they provide.
You may also want to invest in a larger pair of shears for cutting branches. Save the scissors for the more precise work.
Comfortable chair and area
Give yourself plenty of space and have an ergonomic setup so you can settle in for a long trim. Pick a cool place with plenty of light, and try to stay away from places with excess dust, hair, or particulates, which can contaminate the weed.
The longer you sit, the more work you get done, so find a comfy chair. Avoid anything that makes you hunch over and compresses your lower back.
Tray/bowl and a clean surface
Many trimmers opt for trimming trays because they are much easier to transport and can make a great lap companion. We recommend something that has a screen for collecting kief. The simpler the design the better.
You can also just trim onto a flat table and put your finished buds in a bowl.
Whatever you choose, make sure the surface is easy to clean.
Rubbing alcohol and rags
Trimming scissors will inevitably get gunked up with resin, so you’ll need to clean them or switch them out with a fresh pair periodically. Keep a rag and a cup with rubbing alcohol handy.
Clothes that can get dirty and sticky
Wear old clothes you don’t care about or an apron. Better yet, wear a silk apron—the resin won’t stick to silk and your laundry will thank you.
Gloves are also great to keep your hands resin-free. If you don’t like trimming with gloves on, you can rub coconut or olive oil on your hands to prevent resin buildup.
A long trim session can seem even longer without anything to pass the time. Staying entertained is crucial to your sanity when trimming. Anything that doesn’t require visual attention is recommended, such as music, podcasts, audiobooks, and stand-up comedy.
Tips for a successful marijuana harvest
Once your plants are ready for harvesting and you have all your equipment, it’s time to chop down your plants.
With dry trimming, chopped plants are hung up to dry for several days before trimming.
Wet trimming involves trimming buds immediately after the plant is chopped down.
Either way, to chop down plants, grab a large pair of shears and start cutting off big branches, making sure to be delicate with the buds. If plants are small, you may be able to cut them directly at the base, above the soil.
If dry trimming, it’s helpful to cut branches in a way to give them a hook on one end, making it easy to hang them. If wet trimming, cut branches so they’re easy to handle and snip buds off of.
- Make sure to flush your plants with only water, no nutrients, for about a week before harvesting
- Check trichomes on plants to make sure they’re ready to get chopped down
- Wear clothes that can get dirty—harvesting weed is sticky
- Keep shears and scissors sharp
- It’s good to harvest before plants get too hot—outdoors, this means harvesting in the morning; indoors, harvest soon after the lights come on
- If growing different strains, some plants may be ready to harvest before others
- If wet trimming, be sure to trim buds immediately after chopping down plants
Now that you’ve harvested your weed, what comes next? Learn how to trim, dry, and cure your marijuana harvest.