If you’re new to cannabis growing, our Cannabis 101 guide on the stages of growing weed can help you understand what to expect during your journey. From a small seed or clone, cannabis plants need the right light, nutrients, growing medium, and water to grow and thrive. Each stage of the growth process requires unique considerations. Let’s go through each stage!
Cannabis Life Cycle: A Timeline
Generally, cannabis can take as little as 3-4 months to fully mature. Some strains can take shorter or longer to grow, depending on the growing conditions. After you’ve assembled your equipment and sourced your clones or seeds, here’s the growing timeline you can expect:
- Germination: The beginning growth of a seed into a seedling (12 hours-8 days)
- Seedling: The young plant develops ridged edged leaves (1-4 weeks)
- Vegetative: The plant grows stems and leaves (2 weeks-6 months)
- Flowering: The development of flower buds (6 weeks-3 months)
- Harvesting: Cutting down crops (1-3 days)
Now, let’s discuss the stages of the growing process more in-depth.
Germination (12 hours-8 days)
If you’re starting from seeds, the first stage of growth will be the germination phase. After selecting a high-quality seed for your garden, it’s time to get it to sprout using various methods. Most growers swear by the paper towel method.
During germination, the seed’s taproot will become exposed and a small stem will grow on top of the seed. From the stem, you’ll notice a couple of round cotyledon leaves growing. These rounded leaves are in charge of absorbing light and promoting further growth.
As your weed plant grows larger and the root system becomes more robust, your plant’s first fan leaves will appear. At this point, the plant has entered the seedling stage.
Seedling (1-4 weeks)
When your plants have come out of their shell, your plants start to look more like the traditional cannabis plant. Its ridged edged fan leaves will begin to appear. In the beginning, your plant’s leaves will grow a single ridged blade. As it continues to grow, its leaves will grow multiple blades. Generally, a mature plant will develop 5-7 blades per leaf, sometimes more.
As a young plant, it’s important to regularly check if it needs water or for any disease or mold. Seedlings don’t need as much water due to their small size. Overwatering can make them vulnerable to mold formation.
If needed, start your seedling off indoors in a climate-controlled environment and gradually expose them to the outdoors. After they’ve gone through the vulnerable stage, you can leave them outdoors.
If you’re starting from a clone, you won’t need to go through the germination phase. Clones are seedlings grown from cuttings from female mother plants.
Vegetative (2 weeks-6 months)
If your seedling has grown its ridged blades and displays a healthy green color, it’ll thrive during the vegetative stage. If needed, transplant your seedling into a larger pot. During this stage, the plant’s roots, stems, and leaves will grow fast.
As your plant’s growth speeds up, so will your frequency of watering. Remember, its roots will have developed so it’s important to water your plants away from the stalk in your growing medium. This promotes root expansion and growth compared to watering close to the stalk.
During the vegetative stage, cannabis plants require a specific ratio of nutrients. Make sure to feed them a higher percentage of nitrogen to promote their foliage growth. Stick with a pre-made “Grow” nutrient formula over a “Bloom” (used during the flowering stage).
If you’re growing marijuana from a regular seed and not a feminized seed, you’ll need to watch your plants closely to determine their sex. Pre-flower formations can help you figure out if you have a male or female after a few weeks of the vegetative stage.
If you have a male on your hands, remove it immediately from your garden unless you want to pollinate the females. Instead of dumping it in the trash, there are many ways you can make the most of your male plants.
Flowering (6 weeks-3 months)
After the initial seedling and vegetative stage, your plant is ready to start growing its resinous buds. Generally, growers grow photoperiod plants which begin their flowering phase when the light cycle grows shorter.
If grown outdoors, your plants will begin to flower as the summer turns to fall. Indoor growers will need to switch up their light schedules from 18 hours of daylight to 12 hours per day. In addition, its nutrients uptake will require more phosphorus, commonly found in bloom formulas.
During the flowering stage of weed, your plant’s bud sites will require the maximum amount of light. While it’s recommended to not prune excessively during this time, you may need to remove some leaves to give your buds to light they meet.
If your plant grows too tall or too wide with heavy branches, you’ll need to employ a number of training and topping techniques to support bud growth. Bud growth will dramatically speed up during the final part of the flowering stage.
Harvesting (1-3 days)
Once you’ve gone through the entire life cycle of your plant, it’s time to reap what you’ve sown. During the harvesting stage, you can cut down branches with buds once they reach peak ripeness. Some growers will wait until the plants grow white pistils all over, while others will pay close attention to the color of the trichomes to determine when to harvest.
After cutting down the plants, some growers choose to prune their excess foliage to improve the appearance of the bud. In addition, removing the excess plant matter can reduce harshness when smoking or vaping the weed.
Growers can choose between the wet or dry method of trimming their plants. Each trimming method has its own unique pros and cons, but most choose to trim dry cannabis buds.
Once you’ve trimmed all the fan leaves and sugar leaves, you can begin the drying and curing process. During the drying process, plants are kept in a cool, dark, and dry room where all the excess moisture evaporates and the plant’s flavors and aroma come to life.
After the drying process is over, the curing process begins. It involves storing cannabis buds in UV-protected glass jars. Curing can take a couple of weeks or months for the potency, flavor, and aroma to reach peak levels. The curing process is the last stage of growing weed. Congratulations you did it.
Master Grower Certification
Ready to start growing weed at home? Want to learn the techniques of master growers? Enroll in CTU’s online cannabis training college. Our curriculum helps you jumpstart your hobby or career. Learn how to grow weed on a budget all from the comfort of your home and at your own pace.