Since your first cannabis home grow is the hardest, our expert grower Nibameca tells you how to make it from seed to harvest. Knowing where your cannabis plants are in their life cycle will dictate when to prune, train, and harvest your plants. Learn more about marijuana growth stages today. Jack Frost Landscapes & Garden Center blog for updates on sales and products as well as gardening tips and tricks, recipes, crafts, and more!
Growing Cannabis: From Seed To Harvest
Welcome to the sequel to my first post on growing cannabis at home. In it, I explained what you need to get set up for your very first weed grow. After that, you ordered your perfect seeds to work with. That means we’re all ready to roll up those sleeves and get growing! Your weed plants will go through a lot between the moment your seeds germinate and that first taste of your harvest. In this blog, I’ll discuss the stages you’ll go through before you get to enjoy the fruits of your very first cannabis grow at home!
Looking for genuine first-hand grow expertise, sleeves rolled up and boots in the mud? You’ll find plenty in our Nibameca blogs & grow guides ! Ever since discovering White Choco genetics, this cannaboss refuses to leave our AG grow program – and rightly so. This veteran grower is all about top quality, innovation and sustainability in indoor grow projects. This Amsterdam Genetics Grow Guru shares his experience with our readers to make the most out of every weed seed you’ll ever plant!
Baby Steps: Germinating Your Weed Seeds
When growers receive their Cannabis seeds, it is time to germinate. Germination is the first step of the real growing adventure: so far, everything was just preparation. Once a cannabis seed germinates, its protective shell cracks open, and the first tiny root peeps out. For the sentimental grower, this is an emotional moment – a bit like childbirth, actually. It’s also a moment, however, to be very delicate in handling cannabis seeds.
Personally, I prefer the following high success rate germination procedure. I take a glass of lukewarm water and gently chuck in the seeds. Then, I leave them alone someplace dark for 12 to 24 hours. I check them regularly: as soon as I see white tips (taproots) emerge, I carefully pick up the seed with a pincer. I place them root-down into a pre-watered grow plug. I use a water and root stimulator mix following user instructions. Then I put the plug and seed in my propagator and patiently wait for them to surface.
You’re probably thinking: grow plug? Propagator? Root stimulator? What?! No worries: germinating is 100% natural. All cannabis seeds really need is light and water. Check out my preferred germination method here, or follow this grow guide to plant germinated seeds directly into the soil. Find out what works best.
Germinated and planted: your grow is good to go!
From Germination To The Growth Stage Of Your Very First Cannabis Home Grow
After germination comes the vegetative or growth stage of the cannabis life cycle. In indoor conditions, the plants will keep on growing as long as they get 18 hours of light. This is a 16-8 lighting regime (18+6=24, i.e., a whole day). Autoflower strains are an exception; these switch from growth to flowering automatically.
Once the seeds become seedlings, with roots showing on the sides and bottom of the grow plus (usually after about four days), they’re ready for planting. I start with small P9 size flower pots. I’ll leave them for 7 to 11 days to give the roots time to develop, creating a stable habitat.
The growth stage begins.
The next step is transferring them to the full-sized grow tent. Time to repot adgain: choose a flower pot that matches your approach and available space. In my case, that’s 18 litres.
I continue the growth stage until I’m happy about plant size. It usually takes about three weeks, but my perfect size will differ from your ideal dimensions. It’s all up to you, and when you’re done, it’s time to start growing flower buds. Let’s start the flowering stage!
From Growth To Flowering
The flowering phase is where the actual magic happens. At this point, your home grow will start developing the (flower) buds containing the THC, CBD and other useful compounds. You can initiate the flowering stage by making your plants believe the calendar has moved past its midsummer peak. How, you wonder? Easy: just make the days shorter! Grab your timer and change the lighting settings from 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness to 12 hours of light/ 12 hours of dark. There you go; you’ve just started late summer in your tent! After about 8 to 12 days, you’ll see the first flowering hairs or pistils emerge. That’s a good sign: your plants have started flowering.
The transition from the growth to the flowering stage is marked by serious stretching. The cannabis plants soar up to the tent roof; some strains can triple their height at this point. Take this into account to make sure your plants fit your grow space.
Keeping Your First Cannabis Home Grow In Check
There’s all sorts of techniques to keep plant size under control.
LST, or low-stress training, simply amounts to bending and fixating your plants. This ensures maximum grow surface spread and enough light for optimal flowering across all branches.
Sea Of Green (SOG) allows you to grow more plants per square metre. You switch to 12/12 lighting early, creating a ‘sea’ of flowering buds.
SCReen Of Green (SCROG) instead accommodates fewer plants per square metre. Bending branches allows you to weave them through a screen or wire frame. That improves light distribution, allowing for SOG-like results using fewer plants in the same space.
Don’t Wake The Neighbours
Well, you’ve made it: at this point, your cannabis plants are in full bloom! Some strains have a 7-week flowering phase, while other flower for up to 14 weeks. Decide what you want before you start. Keep a tight grip on your grow climate in the flowering phase. If it gets too cold, bud development stagnates. High air humidity invites bud rot, mildew, and other pests to ruin your harvest.
Personally, I just love the flowering stage. You can watch the buds develop, rewarding your hard work so far. Still, the flowering stage comes with its own particular risks. As your budding colas flower, the lovely aroma of fresh weed spreads. Of course, we don’t want to share that with neighbours and passers-by. That stresses the need to use proper filtering with exhaust fans and carbon filters. Here’s a helpful tip in case you can’t control the stink, or if your power blacks out: always have a bottle of vinegar handy! In case of emergence, put a pan of vinegar on the cooker. Yes, it smells awful, but the vinegar stench will also neutralize the odour of your weed!
Harvesting And Trimming
Indeed, we’ve been saving the best for the last: harvesting those plants to find out how much they yield! It’s almost time to start trimming. At this point, keep the air humidity n your tent between 30 and 45% to prevent fungi and bud rot issues. You don’t want to lose all that hard work right before the finish line!
Can I Trim Yet?
As the flowering stage draws to a close, keep watching your trichomes. Trichomes are the little ‘crystals’ glittering on the buds and the small sugar leaves around them. In fact, they’re not crystals, but resin glands. They hold all the active compounds we’re after. Trichomes clearly indicate when it’s harvest time.
A small, cheap USB pocket microscope or a jeweler’s lens are great for determining trichome maturity. Clear transparent trichomes are a sign to wait some more. Once they turn milky white, with a few amber-coloured trichomes among them, you’re ready to cut the flowers. Harvest time is finally here!
Trimming And Drying Your First Cannabis Home Grow
Harvesting and drying your buds can be done in various ways as well. You can let the buds dry first and trim them later, but some prefer to do it the other way around. In that case, branches loaded with buds are hung upside-down in the tent to dry before trimming. The downside is that your precious trichomes dry out, making them brittle and easy to lose while trimming.
That’s why I prefer to trim first, and then drying the buds in a drying net in the same room where I grew them. I allow fresh air into the tent and keep it flowing to cut mold risks. The buds take two to three weeks to dry.
With the lights off, drying net in place, and exhaust fan running at 50%, air humidity slowly drops. Your buds are dry as soon as bending branches makes them snap.
Curing Your First Cannabis Home Grow
Now comes the last stage: curing your cannabis and processing the trimmings. Never just dump your trimmed leaves in the bin; use it for good. You can make hash or delicious edibles from what’s left over: this plant has more to offer than buds alone!
After drying, I carefully remove all the buds from the nets and place them in glass mason jars to cure. The buds cure gradually, improving their taste and ‘maturing’ them until they are perfect for smoking. Curing buds is a straightforward affair: simply stick them in a jar and wait. Give them time to ‘burp’, though: open them for a few minutes to refresh the air inside and return them to their dark storage location. How long you cure is matter of personal taste. I personally cure my weed for one month before that sweet day arrives: time to smoke those fabulous Amsterdam Genetics! Let’s not kid ourselves here: this is what we’ve been working so hard for, isn’t it?
Let me conclude with a personal warning: try to curb your enthusiasm! Of course you’re proud of your results, and you should be! Still, avoid the mistake of telling taal tales to your friends. Keep your hobby to yourself, just like back when you started out. Oh and another thing: you now probably have more weed lying around than ever before. Don’t go and smoke your brains out now; handle your harvest responsibly. Well-cured cannabis will last for a long time. Enjoy your crop, but enjoy it responsibly.
Nibameca’s Final Thoughts
I hope I helped you make the best start at managing a first ever cannabis home grow! I wish growers all the best and lots of fun, as well as heaps of homegrown weed of course. Should anything go wrong along the way, then don’t despair. I’ve run into some minor setbacks myself – and major ones too.
My biggest mistake ever was leaving the lights on after flowering in the room where I set up my tent. Sadly, the tent wasn’t light-proof, so my plants got stressed out and turned into hermaphrodites. The result: a whole harvest full of seeds that was no use at all… Fourteen weeks of work down the drain! I also made the mistake of pumping out my entire 60L nutrient mix tank in one go once. Pretty bad for plants capable of handling 10 litres at once max…
The germination of cannabis seeds is illegal in most countries. Amsterdam Genetics cannabis seeds are exclusively sold as collectable souvenirs to customers living in countries where the cultivation of cannabis is illegal. All information on this website is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to incentivize people to engage in illegal activities.
4 stages of marijuana plant growth
Cannabis plants go through a series of stages as they grow and mature, and those different growth stages call for different amounts of light, nutrients, and water.
It’s important to know these stages and how long each lasts to know what the plant needs and when. Knowing where your cannabis plants are in their life cycles will dictate when to prune, train, and trellis your plants, and when to harvest.
How long does it take to grow a marijuana plant?
Generally speaking, it takes anywhere from 10-32 weeks, or about 3-8 months, to grow a weed plant from seed to harvest. It’ll be quicker if you start with a clone or an autoflower seed.
The biggest variability in how long a marijuana plant takes to grow will happen in the vegetative stage—after the seedling phase and before flowering.
If you’re growing indoors, you can force a weed plant to flower after only a few weeks when it’s small or after several weeks when it’s big.
When growing outdoors, you’re at the whim of the seasons and will have to wait until the sun starts to go down in the fall for plants to flower, and then to harvest.
However, one way outdoor growers can control the flowering cycle is by using light deprivation techniques.
What are a weed plant’s growth stages?
The growth stages of marijuana can be broken down into four primary stages from seed to harvest:
- Germination (3-10 days)
- Seedling (2-3 weeks)
- Vegetative (3-16 weeks)
- Flowering (8-11 weeks)
Cannabis seed germination
Seed germination length: 3-10 days
Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
The first marijuana plant stage begins with the seed. A cannabis seed should feel hard and dry, and be light- to dark-brown in color. An undeveloped seed is generally squishy and green or white in color and likely won’t germinate.
Once your seed has germinated, or sprouted, it’s ready to be placed in a growing medium, like soil. The tap root will drive down while the stem of the seedling will grow upward.
Two rounded cotyledon leaves will grow out from the stem as the plant unfolds from the protective casing of the seed. These initial leaves are responsible for taking in sunlight so the plant can grow healthy and stable.
As roots develop, the stalk will rise and you’ll begin to see the first iconic fan leaves grow, at which point your cannabis plant can be considered a seedling.
Can you speed up the germination process?
No. Cannabis seeds are delicate and don’t like to be moved around. They need a warm environment that doesn’t fluctuate in temperature, and not too much water. Once you put them in soil, we recommend leaving them be.
Quality seeds typically have high germination rates, but you may get some duds that don’t sprout. Let them do their thing; helping them along can decrease their chance of survival.
Seedling stage in cannabis plants
Seedling stage length: 2-3 weeks
Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
When your marijuana plant becomes a seedling, you’ll notice it developing the traditional cannabis fan leaves. As a sprout, the seed will initially produce leaves with only one ridged blade.
Once new growth develops, the leaves will develop more blades, or “fingers” (3, 5, 7, etc.). A mature cannabis plant will have between 5 or 7 blades per leaf, but some plants may have more.
Cannabis plants are considered seedlings until they begin to develop leaves with the full number of blades on new fan leaves. A healthy seedling should be a vibrant green color.
Be careful to not overwater the plant in its seedling stage—its roots are so small, it doesn’t need much water to thrive.
At this stage, the plant is vulnerable to disease and mold. Keep its environment clean and monitor excess moisture. Be sure to give it plenty of light.
Even if growing outdoors, a lot of growers will start their seeds inside under an artificial light to help them through this delicate stage of marijuana growth.
If you buy a clone from a grower or breeder it will be a seedling, so you can skip the seed germination phase.
Vegetative stage in cannabis plants
Vegetative stage length: 3-16 weeks
Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
The vegetative stage of cannabis is where the plant’s growth truly takes off, and it typically lasts 3-16 weeks. At this point, you’ve transplanted your plant into a larger pot and the roots and foliage are developing rapidly. This is also the time to begin topping or training your plants.
Be mindful to increase your watering as the plant develops. When it’s young, your plant will need water close to the stalk, but as it grows the roots will also grow outward, so start watering further away from the stalk in the soil so roots can stretch out and absorb water more efficiently.
Vegetative plants appreciate healthy soil with nutrients. Feed them with a high level of nitrogen at this stage.
Cannabis plant flowering stage
Flowering stage length: 8-11 weeks
Marijuana light cycle: 12 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
The flowering stage is the final stage of growth for a cannabis plant. This is when plants start to develop resinous buds and your hard work will be realized. Most strains flower in 8-9 weeks, but some can take even longer, especially some sativas.
Outdoors, flowering occurs naturally when the plant receives less light each day as summer turns into fall.
Indoor growers can trigger the flowering cycle by reducing the amount of light marijuana plants receive from 18 to 12 hours a day.
There are three subphases of the flowering stage:
- Flower initiation (week 1-3): The plant will continue to grow and females will develop pre-flowers—pistils, or white hairs, will grow out, which are the beginnings of buds.
- Mid-flowering (week 4-5): The plant itself will stop growing and buds will start fattening up.
- Late flowering/ripening (week 6 and on): Trichome density will increase and plants will get very sticky; keep an eye on the color of the pistils to tell when to harvest.
There are a number of changes to consider once plants go from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage:
- Don’t prune when plants are flowering, as it can upset their hormones
- Plants should be trellised or scrogged so buds will be supported as they develop and air can flow through plants
- Consider giving plants bloom or phosphorus nutrients
What does the pre-flower stage look like?
Pre-flowers are the beginnings of cannabis plant sex organs. If you’re growing regular seeds, you’ll likely have a mix of male and female plants and will need to determine the sex of your plants to discard the males. It’s imperative to separate males so they don’t pollinate the females.
Pre-flowers appear at the nodes of the plant, where a branch grows out of the main stalk. Females will develop an oval-shaped bract with hairs or pistils sticking out, while males will develop round pollen sacs.
Learn more about pre-flowers and cannabis plant sexing in our anatomy article.
How to tell when a cannabis plant is ready to bloom
When growing outdoors, weed plants will start flowering, or blooming, after the summer solstice, when the daily amount of light starts to decrease. Plants will start developing pre-flowers, as mentioned above, telling you that flowering has initiated.
When growing indoors, growers make the decision to force blooming or “flip” plants into flower by cutting off the amount of artificial light they receive.
What to do when cannabis plants flower early or late
The amount of time it takes a plant to finish, or be done flowering and ready for harvest, will depend on what strain it is. Typically, indicas finish flowering early and sativas finish flowering late.
Note information from the breeder when you buy seeds to grow to get a sense of how long it takes to flower. You may have to harvest some plants early and some late depending on their finish times.
For late-flowering strains, keep an eye on the weather and make sure cold weather doesn’t ruin your plants before they finish.
When do buds grow the most?
Buds typically grow the most toward the end of the flowering life cycle. You probably won’t notice much budding out at the beginning of the flowering stage, and it will slow down toward the end of the cycle, when buds become fully formed.
Once buds have reached full maturation, it’s time to harvest your marijuana. How long it takes to harvest buds depends on many factors, including harvesting methods and how many plants you harvest.
How long can a marijuana plant live?
Weed plants are annuals, meaning they grow and live for one season and then die. Wild cannabis plants grow seeds and drop them when they die, which will grow into new plants the following year.
When harvesting, plants are cut down and die in order to get their buds. New seeds need to be planted in order to grow more plants.
If left unharvested, weed plants will eventually wither and rot within a few months after the peak flowering phase.
When should you grow marijuana?
If you’re growing outdoors in the Northern Hemisphere, growers usually get their seeds between February and April and start germinating seeds by the end of April.
Many start growing seedlings inside in a more controlled environment because seedlings are more delicate, and then put the seedlings in the ground outside once they’re a little bigger and the weather is warmer.
If you’re growing clones or autoflowers, you have a grace period of another month or so. Plants usually need to be outside, in the ground, by the end of June.
Harvesting happens sometime between September and November. This depends on your local climate, as well as the weather that particular year—one year it could be the end of September, the next, end of October; growers in the Pacific Northwest will have to pull down their crops earlier than those in Northern California because of cold weather.
If you’re growing weed indoors, you can grow whenever you like. Keep in mind that the outside environment will affect your grow space—you may need to add heaters in the winter or fans and ACs in the summer.
Other than that, you can start seeds whenever you like and flip them into flower whenever you like, depending on how big you want the plants.
Important dates for growing marijuana outdoors
Many growers begin germinating seeds as early as February and March in order to have big plants come harvest time, but the Spring Equinox is a good reminder that it’s time to kick off the outdoor growing process and start germinating your seeds if you haven’t already.
Many farmers wait until after Mother’s Day in May to put their plants outside. Just make sure all of your plants are outside by the Summer Solstice at the latest.
The weather will start to turn and the sun will begin descending in the sky as your plants fatten up with sweet, sticky buds. It might be tempting, but the Fall Equinox is about when to start harvesting. It’ll depends on your climate and the year—it could happen a little before or after.
Everything should be cleaned up, dried, and curing by Thanksgiving, and in some places, even by Halloween.
As winter approaches, it’s prime time to make your own cannabutter, topicals, or tinctures with all that trim from the harvest. Kick your feet up, relax, and hunker down for the cold, it’s been a long growing season!
Notes on marijuana growth phases
We can’t stress enough that the timeframes in the above graphic are ranges of time for the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll need to adjust them based on your specific region and local weather and climate.
Be sure to keep a grow journal to track the progress of your plants. Looking back on your notes will help you learn from mistakes and maximize the quality and quantity of your buds next year.
Take meticulous notes on when and how you perform each step, noting:
- How much water you give plants, and at what intervals
- Nutrient amounts
- When you top and prune
Pictures will also give you a better sense of how your plants look along the way.
Stages of Growing Cannabis
Cannabis, weed, marijuana, kush, ganja – whatever you want to call it, it’s now legal to own and grow in the state of Virginia. So what does this mean for those interested in growing it?
Growing Cannabis for the first time can be quite overwhelming. A quick Google search will lead you to hundreds of results with more information than you can ever sift through. There’s so much to learn – lighting, pH, soils, training methods, curing, and so much more. Where does one start?
It’s really easy to fall down the rabbit hole of information online. The sheer amount of information can almost hinder you when you’re first getting started. I think it’s easiest to just get started and learn as you go.
Starting with gaining a general understanding of the stages of growing Cannabis is a great place to begin before you try growing for the first time. It will help you have a decent idea of what to expect along the way.
How long does Cannabis take to grow?
How long Cannabis takes to grow can vary based on the variety of the plant and conditions it is grown in. On average, from seed to harvest, it takes anywhere from 10-32 weeks (about 3-8 months). It’s a quicker process if you start with a clone (rooted cutting) or an autoflower seed. The biggest variability in how long a marijuana plant takes to grow will happen in the vegetative stage—after the seedling phase and before flowering.
Stages of Growing Cannabis
Every plant begins with a seed. Cannabis seeds should be germinated just like any other seed. They can take anywhere between 3-10 days to germinate, although it can happen in as few as 24 hours or as long as 2 weeks. To germinate, you can place the seeds in a damp paper towel, which you should then place in a dark place, such as inside a drawer. Check on them after a few days to see if the primary root, called the radicle, has emerged. This will look like a little white “tail” coming out of the seed. Once germinated, move them to damp soil.
Alternatively, you can place the seeds directly in damp soil to germinate and grow, without having the trouble of moving them. For this method, I would recommend a seed starting mix. These are usually lighter and fluffier than traditional potting soil, which gives your fragile germinating seeds a start on the right foot. We carry Coast of Maine Sprout Island Blend Organic Seed Starter Mix. It has additional perlite that aerates the soil and helps prevent damping off. It also has mycorrhizae, worm castings, lobster meal, hen manure, and kelp to get your plants off to a healthy start.
2. Seedling Stage
Once your seed has germinated, it’s now time to move the germinated seed from its paper towel to a growing medium. If you started them in a seed starting mix, you will want to move them from the seed tray to a larger pot with a high-quality potting mix, such as the Coast of Maine Stonington Blend Grower’s Mix. This is a super soil, that works especially well for growing Cannabis. It contains mycorrhizae, kelp, alfalfa meal, fish bone meal, worm castings, perlite, manure, peat, coir, and lobster compost that feed your plant throughout the growing cycle, with no need to use additional nutrients.
Plants are considered seedlings for about 2-3 weeks after germination. During this time, the plant should be moved to a spot with direct sun, if growing outdoors. If growing indoors, set your grow lights to run for 16 hours a day.
3. Vegetative Stage
After the seedling stage, Cannabis plants move to a vegetative stage. This is the time when the plant focuses on leaf production. It will not produce flowers at all during this stage, as the plant needs to grow plenty of leaves to take up enough photons (sunlight) to create the necessary energy to produce large flowers. The vegetative stage can last anywhere from 3 to 16 weeks, depending on the variety.
During this stage, indoor plants need 16-18 hours of light per day, and outdoor plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight (“full sun”), plus several hours of indirect sunlight. They will also need plenty of Nitrogen during this point, as Nitrogen is the nutrient that promotes healthy leaf growth.
The flowering stage is the last stage of the Cannabis plant life cycle. This is the time when your plant will stop putting as much energy into leaf growth and will instead focus that energy on creating the flowers (buds), which are used for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Stages of Flowering – Source: Katie Plummer
Cannabis is triggered to flower when the hours of light it receives are reduced. If you’re growing outdoors, you’re at the whim of the seasons and will have to wait until the sun starts to go down in fall for it to flower and then harvest. If you’re growing indoors, you get to play mother nature and can force your plant to flower at any point. When you’re ready for plants to start the flowering stage, change your lights to a 12/12 cycle ( 12 hours with the light on and 12 hours with it off ). You will see signs of flowering in 1-3 weeks . On average plants will be ready to harvest after 8-11 weeks of flowering.
Your plant will be ready to be harvested once flowers are compact and the pistils turn orange/brown. These pistils look like “hairs” coming out of the flowers.
To dry your Cannabis, hang sections of the plant upside down in a dark, cool space, such as a closet. You want to aim for 55-65% humidity and 60-70°F in the spot that you’re drying your plants in. Prolonged periods of light, friction from handling, and humidity/dampness can degrade resin glands, so you will want to avoid all of these.
During the drying process, plants lose roughly 75% of water weight, which increases the cannabinoid to weight ratio. It also helps equalize moisture content, preserve cannabinoids, and shed chlorophyll.
Cannabis is ready to trim once the stem snaps when bent, typically after 3-7 days of drying.
After your plant has dried, it’s time to trim! Trimming makes your fingers very sticky, so wear gloves if this is something you want to avoid. Simply trim off the larger leaves and stems. You can leave smaller sugar leaves if you’d like, as these still contain a good amount of cannabinoids and terpenes that provide the medicinal properties of Cannabis. It’s all personal preference of exactly how much you trim off. And you can save all the trimmings to make edibles, tinctures, salves, and more.
Curing is an essential part and the last stage in growing Cannabis. It helps the buds achieve full aroma. Curing is as simple as placing your freshly trimmed buds in a glass jar with a lid, like a mason jar. You’ll then want to place the jar in a cool, dark place, such as inside a drawer or in a cabinet.
During the first week of curing, you will want to “burp” your jars. This means you should open the containers once or twice a day for a couple minutes to allows moisture to escape and replenish the oxygen inside the container. After the first week, you only need to burp containers once every few days.
You should allow buds to cure for at least 2 weeks, but some people choose to cure for as long as 6 months. This helps stop the loss of moisture and to preserve flavors and aromas.