Cannabis growth is divided into 4 distinct life cycle stages. Take an in-depth look at the four marijuana growth stages from germination to flowering! Cannabis plants have different needs depending on the growth stage. The Stages of Cannabis Growth – From Seed to Harvest In North America, you don’t have to look far to find a t-shirt or hat embossed with the iconic cannabis leaf. Avid users are quick to show
Growing Stages of the Cannabis Plant
There are four primary growing stages of weed throughout the cannabis plant’s full life cycle. Knowing and understanding each of the cannabis growing stages is of the utmost importance considering they are all unique in their daily requirements regarding nutrition, water, and light.
Learning the basic necessities of the cannabis plant will help you become a better cultivator from start to finish considering that each of the weed growing stages needs to be perfected if one wants to optimize yield, consistency, and overall quality in the final flowering stage of cannabis.
This article explores the four primary weed plant stages, their individual importance, along with the cultivation practices the grower needs to know to ensure success over the cannabis plant’s lifespan.
So let’s get down, dirty… and straight to business!
How Long Does it Take to Grow Marijuana?
This is a common question for novice cannabis cultivators and for good reason because the answer can vary greatly depending on your growth plan and whether you are growing from seed, clone, etc. The cannabis growth cycle from start to finish can range from 3-8 months or 10-32 weeks. Factors regarding the plant’s genetics, growing methods, and at what plant stage you decide to plant your crop, among other elements alter the time frame at which your plant excels from seed to harvest.
For example, if you are planning to grow in a greenhouse using a light deprivation to “trick” or “flip” your clones into flower you can shorten the time to harvest compared to an outdoor plant from seed using the light cycles of the sun. Coming up with a growth schedule before the season begins will help you dictate the time frame of your plant and the time of harvest. Proper planning from budgeting and projected yields down to dry space and proper curing and storing bags for marijuana will help you finish your season strong every time!
Take into account this chart overview of the individual time frames per stage when you are asking yourself “how long does it take for weed to grow?”
The Four Primary Marijuana Plant Stages:
• Germination (3-10 days)
• Seedling (2-3 weeks)
• Vegetative (3-16 weeks)
• Flowering (8-11 weeks)
How Long Do Cannabis Plants Live?
Cannabis plants live and grow for one season; they are also known as annuals. Once they reach their final stage, the flowering stage they will need to be harvested. The “hairs” on the top of the bud will turn from white to purple in color which is a sign they are ready to harvest. Once the plant is ready to be harvested the cultivator will trim the plant from the rooted system and begin the drying process.
It is important to keep a close eye on the final flowering stage of the plant. Why? To ensure there are no seeds in the final stage due to excess stress or accidental pollination. In addition to the fact that the cannabis flower is more prone to mold as the buds get denser. Knowing when to harvest and undertake the final drying and curing processes so your product finishes correctly will decide the overall quality of your cannabis flower. Similarly, using the appropriate marijuana humidity packs, drying conditions, and observation practices will get your buds looking and smoking just right.
The Beginning Stages of Growing Weed: An In-depth Look
There are four distinct stages of a weed plant each one unique, all of which are important. Knowing when to transition your plant into each phase of its life cycle will guide the cultivator into knowing when to transplant, trellis, prune, train, top, adjust nutrients, etc.
The first stage is known as the germination stage of the cannabis plant. The germination stage is the initial stage lasting anywhere from 3-10 days. What you are looking for in this phase of the cannabis plant’s life cycle? Well though there are many different ways to germinate a seed successfully. An important rule of thumb is to have a strong seed, which will be both brown and white in color and have a hard outer shell.
Some seeds are green or white in color these seeds will not germinate successfully, although if they do pop roots in this time frame they may be weaker and more susceptible throughout the next growing phases of the plant. Note: If your seed does not germinate within this time frame, chances are it won’t germinate at all. Throw it away, there will be other stronger alternatives I promise.
The second and perhaps one of the most delicate growth stages of weed is the seedling stage. This phase usually lasts between two to three weeks. Once you have transplanted the seedling into a medium the cannabis plant will sprout showing off its two cotyledon leaves. This particular phase leaves the plant very vulnerable and should take place indoors, under at least 18 hours of light, at warm temperatures, with very light air circulation.
The seedling stage should also maintain 18-plus hours a day of light, but as the plant’s leaves begin to mature from three blades or “fingers” to the traditional seven blades per leaf you will want to start introducing the plant to natural sunlight. That said, 3-6 hours a day of direct sunlight will help the plant mature and strengthen into its next cannabis growing stages appropriately.
Note: Be sure to not overwater plants in the seedling stage and ensure they are receiving enough light. The marijuana plant is still very delicate and susceptible to mold and disease at this stage. They need to be well monitored and in a clean and stable environment.
Final Weed Plant Stages: Reaching Maturity
The cannabis seedling stage is then followed by the cannabis vegetative state, which is generally speaking the longest phase in the weed plant’s life cycle lasting 3-16 weeks. When you ask yourself, how long does it take to grow weed? This phase can have a lot to do with the final answer to that question.
A lot of transitions and adjustments take place during this stage of the cannabis plant’s life cycle. This is when you will begin adding nutrients, usually higher levels of nitrogen to your cannabis plants. The cannabis plant in the vegetative stage should be vibrant to dark green in color and its growth will start to rapidly increase.
It can be quite a task to keep up with a large number of plants in the vegetative stage, so it is important to have a growing journal to keep track of nutrients, ppm levels, daily observations, moisture levels, etc. Here is a list of some larger projects you will tackle during the vegetative stage of the cannabis plant.
Checklist for Cannabis Plants in the Vegetative Stage:
• Successful transplant timing, so your plants do not get root bound
• 18 hours or more of light, 6 hours of direct sunlight
• Consistent plant walk-throughs checking for bugs and powdery mildew
• Weekly observation for nutrient deficiencies
• Check for males (2-3 weeks into this stage plants from seed will reveal their sex, males need to be removed to prevent pollination!)
• Topping Technique ( Top your plants at least three times before the flowering stage)
• De-leafing for proper nutrient flow, air circulation, and proper plant maintenance
• Plant training for strong plants and heavier buds
• First layer of trellis perhaps two
• Increase watering and nutrient levels with appropriate ppm range
All of these tasks will provide consistent work for a grower. It is important to keep your plants on a healthy cycle in a clean space. Note: Some plants and genetics are weaker or more susceptible than others. You may have to “trash” some plants to secure the safety and health of the future crop. This can be hard to do, but important to decrease the likelihood of powdery mildew, bug infestations, pollination, etc.
Once you are ready to “flip” your cannabis plant from its vegetative stage to the flowering cannabis stages of the marijuana plant there will be some adjustments that need to be made. These adjustments will pertain mainly to the plant’s light cycle and nutrient levels.
The final stage of the cannabis plant is known as the flowering stage. The cannabis plant transitions into the flowering stage as summer turns into fall and the days begin to shorten. A rule of thumb is once the plant’s light cycle switches to “12-12” or 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness your cannabis plant will begin to flower.
How long is the flowering cycle for weed? The answer is about 8-11 weeks from “flip” to harvest. Keep an eye on your region’s planting and sun cycle, so it correlates with a October – Early November harvest time. Greenhouse growers are able to manipulate the flowering of cannabis plants through light deprivation using a tarp system, while a grower using the sun and planting outdoors will have one turn and one harvest.
How Fast Does Marijuana Grow: Greenhouse Versus Outdoor Growing
Once you have a keen understanding of the flowering stage of the cannabis plant you will open yourself to a whole new world of opportunity and growing options in cannabis! In particular are two large-scale options for growing cannabis, which are the greenhouse and outdoor farming methods. These two forms of growing beg the most common question: how long is flowering stages outdoors?
In short, when growing in a greenhouse you can manipulate your flowering cycle using a light deprivation system, which essentially tricks your plants into a 12-12 light cycle. This enables growers to have a shorter three-four week vegetative stage and a roughly 8-11 weeks flowering period.
Alternatively, growing outdoors will have a much longer vegetative phase using the natural sun cycle. These plants will be much larger in size and yield more per plant, but you will only get one run per season. Both methods have a similar flowering time but alter the vegetative stage immensely.
Understanding both techniques for growing outdoors and their light cycle will help you choose which growing method is right for you. Knowing each stage of the cannabis plant cycle will ultimately help guide you in yielding high-quality consistent cannabis flower on both large and small scales using different techniques of growing. That way at the end of the season you will have beautifully grown full jars for cannabis that consumers can’t seem to get enough of!
Cannabis Plant Growth Stages
Knowing about the different cannabis plant growth stages is very important for cultivators so they can provide the proper nutrients, light, pruning, and harvesting at the right time to get the most and best buds out of each harvest. However, even if you don’t grow cannabis at home, learning about the cannabis plant life cycle will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation for the green goddess.
Cannabis plant growth stages
Cannabis plants typically take between 3 to 8 months from seed to harvest. The wide range depends on many factors, though the cannabis strain makes one of the biggest differences in terms of growing time. Cannabis clones, which are started from a cutting, or growing an autoflower cannabis strain will shorten the total time it will take the marijuana plant to grow. Clones are considered seedlings and will only have three stages of growth. Another factor is if you have an outdoor or indoor grow. Since the environment is controlled when growing indoors, cultivators are able to force the plant into the flowering stage by altering the light. Those growing outdoors will need this to happen naturally with the seasons.
4 stages of marijuana plant growth
If starting from a seed, the first stage of growth is germination, or sprouting of the seed. Be sure to purchase feminized seeds from a reputable online seed bank to avoid wasting time and money growing male plants that don’t flower. Cannabis seeds are hard and dark or light brown in color. Most cultivators begin the process by soaking their seeds overnight and planting them directly into a small pot with soil. During the germination stage, the plant will need around 16 hours of light per day. The seeds will begin to develop roots and a stem will grow upwards with two cotyledon leaves. Once these leaves unfurl, your plant is now considered a seedling. This stage lasts anywhere between one day to two weeks.
Now that you have a seedling, you will need to maintain the 16 to 18 hours of light per day for the plant to flourish. This is the stage where most people kill their plants from over watering or it is overtaken by mold or disease. Cannabis seedlings don’t have fully developed roots yet and don’t require as much water as you may think, so monitor humidity and moisture to avoid these common issues. The seedling stage has ended when your plant starts to produce the iconic cannabis fan leaves with all points. This can take between two to three weeks.
Entering the vegetative stage means your plant’s growth will take off and you’ll need to repot immediately. This is also the stage where you will need to top your plant and train them if using the Screen of Green (SCROG) method of growing. Cannabis plants in the vegetative stage are developing roots rapidly, which requires more water and nutrients with a higher level of nitrogen. Maintain 18 hours of light with six hours of darkness for indoor grows. Pre-flowers may develop around week six and any male plants should be identified and removed immediately. This cannabis plant growth stage can take anywhere from three to 16 weeks. A longer vegetative stage will produce larger plants and in most cases, larger buds and yield.
Flowering is the last stage before harvest! If not using an autoflower strain, growers will need to force their plants into the flowering stage when the time is right. This is done by altering the photoperiod to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. The period of darkness is key for flowering to take place. Now you will begin to see the resinous trichome covered buds develop. The flowering stage is broken up into three substages: flower initiation, mid-flowering, late-flowering. These correspond with pre-flowers (flower initiation), when the plant ceases to grow and puts all its energy into producing flowers (mid-flowering), and finally an increase in sticky trichomes (late-flowering). Check the color of the pistils and trichomes to know when to harvest. The flowering stage takes anywhere from eight to 11 weeks.
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The Stages of Cannabis Growth – From Seed to Harvest
In North America, you don’t have to look far to find a t-shirt or hat embossed with the iconic cannabis leaf. Avid users are quick to show their plant appreciation using this symbol, but in reality, the true magic lies within the cannabis flower. For growers, all stages of cannabis growth and harvest go into cultivating flower, also known as bud.
The chemical basis of the cannabis experience is based on special types of metabolites found in cannabis. These include cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. On a very simplified level, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD provide psychological and physical effects, flavonoids provide colour, and terpenes contribute to aroma. Different strains of cannabis have unique combinations of these compounds.
The iconic cannabis leaf, moving through the stages of cannabis growth outdoors in the sunshine.
In this article, we’ll walk through the major steps of cannabis plant development. We’ll look at how the Big Three macronutrients affect each stage of cannabis growth, and how they contribute to producing metabolites.
Note: The word “bud” in cannabis lingo does not have the same mean ing as the word “bud” in plant science. To avoid confusion, they will be referred to as either (cannabis) bud or (plant) bud.
Cannabis has been cultivated for thousands of years. In the past, research has largely revolved around hemp, or varieties of cannabis that contain very low THC content. However, recent studies are improving our understanding of this fascinating plant. We’re seeing how different environmental conditions affect the production of its unique metabolites.
Most growers generalize the cannabis lifecycle into three: stages, seed, vegetative and flowering. This is only a simplified view. Botanists use a standardized BBCH scale to describe stages of plant development. The scale has nine-steps that classify the major developmental stages by the plant’s appearance or phenotype. This can be helpful in assessing the growth process.
Stages of Cannabis Growth
Stage 0: Germination, sprouting, (plant) bud development
In this stage, roots emerge from the seed. The initial stem (the hypocotyl) and the first leaves (cotyledons) form. This stage ends when the cotyledons brea k through the soil surface.
Stage 1 of cannabis growth, where leaf development has begun. Pictured here are two cotyledons and true leaf pairs emerging.
Stage 1: Leaf Development
The cotyledons unfold and separate. Leaf development begins as the two cotyledons and true leaf pairs emerge, it ends once the first lateral shoot appears. Leaf pairs continue to emerge in stage 2.
Stage 2: Formation of Lateral Shoots
(Plant) buds along the initial stem develop into new lateral shoots or stems. This process is known as tillering. Tillering is highly dependant on soil moisture, with low moisture conditions driving deeper root systems rather than bushier growth from increased lateral shoot formation.
Stage 3: Stem Elongation
During this stage, the cannabis plant grows rapidly up to its final height, forming nodes along the stem. Nodes are the points on the main stem where leaves and branches form. Spacing between nodes varies among cannabis strains. Indica strains have less spacing relative to Sativa and tend to grow denser and shorter .
Step 4: Rooting
This BCCH stage does not exist for cannabis development.
Step 5: Inflorescence emergence
(Cannabis) buds, referring to the complete flower head of cannabis , are scientifically known as inflorescence. Each inflorescence contains the main stem as well as its many branches ending in clusters of flowers. This stage is where the “vegetative” stage ends and the “flowering” stage begins. This stage is also when female cannabis plants can first be differentiated from the unwanted male plants which contain low concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Step 6: Flowering
The flowers in each inflorescence begin to open. Within each female flower, there is a pistil that contains the ovary and stigma. These collect the pollen that later fertilizes the ovary, forming the cannabis seed. The ovary is protected by structures known as bracts, which are covered in tiny glandular structures known as trichomes.
Trichomes are found all over the cannabis plant, but specialized capitate glandular trichomes are only found on bracts. These are the only trichomes containing cannabinoids and are responsible for the stickiness found in (cannabis) buds. The “natural cell factories” produce large amounts of specialized metabolites, including flavonoids and terpenes.
Metabolites are present at their highest levels in this stage, meaning it is the optimal time to harvest. Without harvest, metabolite levels will begin to drop off. Growers look for a high bract-to-leaf ratio in (cannabis) buds, identified by a higher weight. Denser (cannabis) buds have a higher metabolite content, and are considered most potent.
Step 7-9: Post Harvest
In these steps, new seeds form and mature and the plant reaches the end of its lifespan.
Nutrient Needs Throughout Development
There are three nutrients that play a major role in plant development: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients have different roles by stage of cannabis growth, so it’s important to know exactly which steps require high or low amounts.
Nitrogen is the main macronutrient responsible for lush, green growth. It plays a vital role in photosynthesis and chlorophyll production.
In all types of cultivation, nitrogen is responsible for lush, green growth. This is due to nitrogen’s major role in photosynthesis , the production of energy from light. The higher the concentration of nitrogen found in leaves, the higher the concentration of chlorophyll (the molecule responsible for plants appearing green). Nitrogen is transported by plants towards the top leaves , allowing for photosynthesis to be more efficient, resulting in more growth. Nitrogen is key for stages 1 through 3, allowing the plant to capture the energy necessary to grow to its full potential.
However, excess nitrogen in later stages means that your plant will continue to promote growth, instead of allowing inflorescences to develop. Excess nitrogen drives further leaf development, which will lead to a lower bract-to-leaf ratio. Nitrogen can also increase the proportion of male to female plants, decreasing the efficiency of your grow.
Lastly, nitrogen plays an important part in seed formation . This means that your cannabis plant may progress through stages 5 and 6 rapidly and move into stage 7, lowering the harvesting window and preventing the formation of dense, potent buds.
Nitrogen is key for optimal early development. For higher yields, it should be reduced in later stages of cannabis growth.
Phosphorus is involved in every growth phase and is vital for maximum crop yield . Phosphorus’s interaction with micronutrients is extensive and phosphorus levels are often targeted by growers as an indirect method of controlling micronutrient availability.
Plants require large amounts of phosphorus. It is part of the energy currency used in cells, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and is used in nearly all cellular functions. From initial development to flowering, phosphorus is in constant demand. Phosphorus is also directly involved in the formation of cannabinoids. If phosphorus in the soil is consumed and not replenished in the early stages of cannabis plant growth, stage 5 and stage 6 the plant will produce fewer cannabinoids. This will lead to less potent crops.
Phosphorus is key in all stages. It should be replenished in later stages of cannabis growth for higher yield and potency.
Most known for its regulatory function in pH and water uptake , potassium also activates over 50 plant enzymes . Some of these enzymes trigger plants to move from stage 3 to 5 . Supplementing with potassium reduces the time it takes for your crop to reach the flowering stage.
Additionally, higher levels of potassium are correlated with a longer inflorescence period , meaning higher concentrations of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. While a direct link has not yet been found, enzymes directly responsible for cannabis metabolite production may also be activated by potassium.
Potassium drives (cannabis) bud formation and leads to a more potent crop.
BlueSky Organics Flower Two is a phosphorous and potassium additive for the flowering stages of cannabis growth. It helps to increase bud density and potency.
BlueSky Organics & Flower Two
Whew! We covered a lot of important information in this post. Understanding the stages of cannabis growth is key to troubleshooting issues encountered in growing. It can help you fine-tune your process, leading to your best harvests yet.
As we learned, nutrient needs can shift between stages. Delivering the perfect ratio of nutrients can result in significantly higher yields and quality of (cannabis) buds. Denser, more potent buds can be achieved by applying BlueSky Organic’s Flower Two . Carefully designed for simple application during the flowering stages of growth, Flower Two adds phosphorus and potassium to your soil when it needs them most.