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 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.
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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