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From Seed to Smoke: 10 Basic Tips for Growing Your Own at Home

As part of our 500th-issue celebration, we’re answering the single most-asked question from our growers’ mailbag.

Here is the question: Can you please list all of the necessary steps I need to know from seed to harvest? (Asked, in one form or another, more than 680 times since the start of 2017.) Well, the answer usually requires at least a book (or several, depending on how far you want to take it), but we’re going to attempt it here in 10 easy-to-follow steps.

Good luck, everyone… Who knows, maybe you’ll be our next Cannabis Cup champion!

Clones offer uniformity and easy access from local dispensaries. (Photo by Nico Escondido)

Step 1: Get Some Seeds (or Clones)

We start off by answering the second-most-asked question: “Where do I get seeds?” Indeed, in today’s world of feminized seeds and sinsemilla (Spanish for “without seeds”) bud, it’s more difficult than ever to find a few beans in your eighth of weed.

The solution, if you live in a medical or recreational state, is to find a local dispensary that sells clones, check them closely for mites and mold, and away you go. Of course, for more than half of the United States, and in many other narrow-minded countries across the globe, this is simply not a reality. Instead, these folks need to rely on some good old-fashioned rebels, mainly the offshore seeds banks shrewdly located in places where seeds aren’t illegal to possess or sell. Some of these seed banks will ship worldwide—at the buyer’s risk. Still, quite a few of them do manage to get their seed packs through customs to your door with a bit of ingenious packaging. But, as always, the first rule is never to have your seeds shipped to the same address where your garden will be! And the second rule is to read the fine print on these companies’ websites, as many claim that they’ll ship “worldwide,” but then list the countries that they won’t ship to (including the US)—so once you send that money order, you can kiss your allowance goodbye.

Seeds can be more vigorous in growth, but harder to find—unless they’re in your buds! (Automatic Haze Seed photo courtesy of Dinafem Seeds)

This is definitely one of the harder obstacles to overcome when it comes to growing your own head stash, but you’d be surprised how word of mouth and simply asking around can get you a few gems to sprout at home. However, if you’re feeling bold and want to undertake a seed-bank adventure, you might check out the following sites: bcbuddepot.com; dinafem.org; bigbuddhaseeds.com; and cannabis-seeds-bank.co.uk.

Step 2: Choose Your Space and Your Light

Whether you’re planning to grow indoors or out, finding a smart and secure space is critical to the success of your garden. The most important aspects to consider are its dimensions (especially height), security and, of course, light.

Outdoor growers should make sure that the area they choose is a large, secluded clearing free of shrubs, brush and overhanging trees that can shade out a garden. Southern-facing clearings are usually the best option in North America, as they enjoy the most sunlight during daytime hours. It’s also important to keep in mind that while a plot may appear clear in the early spring, a host of weeds, shrubbery and tree branches may be present by midsummer. Thus, clearing the ground of all vegetative matter and trimming back nearby tree branches (or, even better, not having any trees nearby at all) is imperative.

Indoor growers will want to consider the overall height of their garden space, taking into account the fact that a lamp will likely hang approximately 2 feet below the ceiling and plants should only grow to within 18 inches of the light, thereby eliminating at least 3.5 feet from the overall height of the space. This is one of several reasons why attics often prove to be inadequate as grow spaces—not to mention that heat rises in homes, which usually makes an attic space too hot for an indoor garden.

Basements, empty garages and spare bedrooms often provide the best spaces for home grows. When you factor in the newest all-in-one solutions for indoor gardens, such as grow tents, grow cabinets, or plug-and-play hydroponic systems, the solution to the puzzle quickly takes shape. Indoor tents are probably the most popular option for home growers these days, as they usually come in package deals that also include garden pots, medium, nutrients, fans, filters and lighting, thereby offering beginner growers a turn-key operation right out of the box. More experienced growers can simply buy the grow tent in almost any size footprint they want and then build and customize the garden to their own specifications.

A simple basement grow tent with two HPS lamps makes for an easy home garden. (Photo by Nico Escondido)

The most important aspect of the indoor garden will be the lighting used; most failed attempts are the direct result of growers cutting corners on their lamps. While it’s understandable to want to eliminate heat emissions and high power draws, gardens that don’t deploy high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps will pay for it with low yields and low potency. Metal halide (MH) lights are the norm for plants in the vegetative stage, while high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights are recommended for flowering plants.

Although compact fluorescents and LEDs are excellent sources of supplemental lighting for HID lamps—especially under the canopy or along the sides of the garden—there are few of these on the market today that can be used as stand-alone grow lights to take a garden to harvest. LEDs that are intended as solo lamps need to provide full-spectrum white light, but these usually cost quite a bit more than traditional HID lights, while also consuming just as much electricity. For small indoor gardens, a 250- or 400-watt HID light will do the job nicely.

Step 3: Choose Your Medium and Containers

Whether you’re growing indoors or out, the next step is deciding the type of medium you’ll cultivate your plants in, especially since the root zone is extremely important to a plant’s growth and development. Containers can be just as important, since the containers and medium work together to hold water and oxygen for the roots—two essential components for a happy, healthy garden.

Outdoor growers have the luxury of using actual dirt or topsoil, in addition to compost and soil amendments, for their gardens. Most outdoor growers take advantage of these options, while indoor growers are limited to the more sterile and inert grow mediums. In fact, indoor growers don’t use soil at all these days; instead, they use “soilless” mediums, which look and feel very similar to traditional topsoil, but are really peat-, sphagnum- or coco-based substrates. These mediums act just as regular soils would, offering excellent buffering for root systems and holding plenty of moisture and air for roots to absorb during the day.

This coco-based soilless mix looks and feels like regular dirt but is better suited for indoor grows. (Photo by Nico Escondido)

“Smart” pots (with holes around the sides and bottom), or fabric pots made with cloth material, are fast becoming some of the most popular containers among indoor cultivators. These pots are extremely breathable, allowing air to permeate the root zone, which is important because the roots breathe in oxygen at night (while the rest of the plant breathes in CO2 during the day). They also offer ample drainage so that excess water doesn’t build up, compress the medium, and become stagnant at the bottom of the containers, which can contribute to root rot.

Step 4: Nutrients

Selecting the proper nutrients is an important consideration for any grow. Plants need the minerals found in nutrients to aid in photosynthesis and sugar production. But it’s important to remember that the nutrients we “feed” our plants aren’t the actual food they use for energy, but rather are part of a process that allows the plants to create their own food in the form of glucose.

Start by looking at the N-P-K (nitrogen/phosphorous/potassium) ratio listed on the nutrient products. Typically, nutrient lines consist of two parts, a “Grow” formula and a “Bloom” formula. Grow formulas contain more nitrogen, while Bloom formulas have N-P-K ratios higher in phosphorous and potassium. These ratios correspond to the plants’ needs during their vegetative and flowering stages of growth.

New growers are often reminded to start slow and low when dosing their gardens with nutrients, because it’s far worse to overfeed your plants than it is to underfeed them. Read the labels carefully and then mix a milder nutrient solution at one-half to two-thirds of the recommended dose. After a week to 10 days, if you see signs of discoloration or general deficiencies, you can increase the dose to the recommended levels. But if your plants are looking strong and healthy, you will have saved some money on nutrients and also avoided one of the biggest mistakes encountered by first-time growers. Remember, overfeeding can lead to nutrient burn in the root zone or, even worse, a buildup of excess salts in the medium, which can cause nutrient lockup, blocking the roots from absorbing the necessary minerals for important biological processes like photosynthesis.

Another way to avoid excess salts is to use organic fertilizers, compost teas or veganic nutrients. Organic and veganic nutes may be a bit more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, but they’re not salt-based and are easier for your plants to break down and absorb at the root level. Data collected and analyzed over the past five years at the various High Times Cannabis Cups show that organic and veganic lines go further than synthetic nutes in unlocking the maximum genetic potential of cannabis strains in terms of their cannabinoid and terpene production.

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Many outdoor growers choose not to feed their gardens directly, but rather use a composted medium that comes loaded with the minerals that plants need for development and growth. Other outdoor growers who can’t tend to their gardens on a daily basis utilize time-release nutrients in pellet form that dissolve slowly and seep into the medium for uptake by the plants.

Step 5: The Vegetative Stage

The vegetative stage is crucial to a plant’s final success, especially where yields are concerned. In general, the longer a plant is kept in veg, the more it will develop, producing a greater yield at harvest time. The vegetative stage of a plant’s lifecycle usually lasts anywhere from two weeks to two months, depending on the grower’s preference (or the time of year it was planted, if the garden is outdoors).

Vegging plants are topped early on to create bushy plants for both flowering and cloning. (Photo by Nico Escondido)

For plants to remain in the vegetative stage, they must receive more than 12 hours of light to keep them from flowering. Most indoor growers will keep plants under a minimum of 18 hours of light per day during the veg cycle. However, since the roots grow mostly during the dark cycle (or at night), allowing your plants some “down time” during veg is a good way to ensure vigorous development.

Growers utilize MH bulbs during the vegetative stage, since these lights are heavier in the blue wavelengths that help keep plants from stretching. This produces plants that are squatter and bushier, with shorter internodal lengths (the distance between branches on the main stem). This in turn helps save space indoors, but it also produces more budding sites, which typically occur at the nodes where the branches meet the stem, thereby helping to increase yields as well.

The vegetative stage is also important when it comes to training and pruning your plants. Smart pruning techniques, such as “topping” or “pinching off,” entail removing the top terminal shoot of the main stalk toward the end of the veg cycle. This causes the plant to release growth hormones that result in added shoots growing out from directly under the place where the terminal shoot was removed. These new shoots at the top of the plant can become large colas during the flowering stage.

Indoor and outdoor growers alike can use these techniques in conjunction with a trellis system, which opens up the garden to better light penetration and helps to induce longer branching with more nodal sites for flower production. A trellis system is also an excellent support structure for plants once they begin to produce heavy buds, but the trellis needs to be placed over the plants—and their growing shoots trained into its open spaces—early in the vegetative stage.

Step 6: The Flowering Stage

The flowering stage of cannabis plants occurs when the photoperiod (or light cycle) of the garden drops to 12 hours or less. In nature, outdoor gardens will begin to flower after the summer solstice, usually around July (depending on latitude), when the sunlight falls below this 12-hour threshold. Indoor growers set their lights on a timer using a 12-hours-on/12-hours-off cycle. Most cannabis strains flower after 56 to 65 days (eight to nine weeks). Sativas generally take longer than indicas, but since the majority of today’s cannabis varieties are hybrids, this can vary greatly from strain to strain.

These plants were just moved under HPS lights (12 hours on) to trigger the flowering phase. (Photo by Nico Escondido)

As a general rule, a cannabis plant will grow another 30 to 50 percent of its final size in the flowering stage. Growers typically use HPS bulbs during this period, as these lights emit a spectrum heavier in the red wavelengths to more closely mimic the autumn sun, helping to spur faster flowering (and finishing) times. However, these red wavelengths can also cause plants to stretch a bit. Thus, savvy indoor growers will use a mix of MH and HPS lighting to provide a broader spectrum for their flowering plants, with the MH bulbs helping to curb stretching as well as providing added light energy, in the form of photons, to the garden. (Note: The shorter wavelengths, such as blue light, carry higher concentrations of photons.)

Diligent pruning in the flowering stage is very helpful toward increasing yields and potency. Removing deficient or necrotic leaves, especially larger, older growth, can help redirect the plant’s energy to the bud sites. Many leaves will begin to turn yellow toward the end of the flowering stage, which is normal and an indication of the dwindling amounts of nitrogen in the medium and plants. Nearly every Bloom formula has a lower level of nitrogen in its N-P-K ratio, as the plants need less of this mineral during flowering and more of phosphorous (P) and potassium (K).

Step 7: Flushing

Flushing the plants and the medium is an essential and underrated aspect of any grow. Whether you’re eating vegetables or smoking cannabis, the final product should be devoid of any residual minerals that will make the product harsh and unhealthy. This is especially important in the age of concentrates, where residual mineral deposits, pesticides and solvents can pile up to toxic levels for human consumption.

These buds are 6.5 weeks into flowering with leaves starting to yellow due to flushing. (Photo by Nico Escondido)

Most advanced growers will do a minimum flush with fresh water only for the entire final week of the flowering stage. Some growers prefer longer flushes of up to two weeks. During the flushing period, leaves will become extremely yellow and discolored as nutrients are leached from the plant. This will make for a smoother smoke, with the cannabis burning to a clean, white ash rather than a black, tar-like ball.

Step 8: Cutting and Drying

You’ve finally made it: harvest time! The reward for all your hard work is close at hand—but don’t rush it now. There are many acceptable methods for cutting down cannabis plants and drying the flowers. In general, the basic rule of thumb dictates that growers cut down their plants at the end of the daily dark cycle, just as the lights are coming on or the sun is rising. This allows the plants to be harvested in a dormant state, before they begin physiological processes like photosynthesis, which will draw moisture and minerals back up into the plant from the root system.

These cut branches from outdoor plants are hung in a dark, dry(Photo by Nico Escondido

Rather than cutting a plant at its base, one popular technique is to remove the individual branches starting at the top of the plant. For this method, the branches are cut just before the first shoot on each branch, thereby creating a convenient “V” notch near the base from which it can be hung upside down on a line or hanger. Be sure to label each branch with the strain name and plant number so as to avoid any confusion further down the line (such as during the trimming or curing).

Once they’re cut, hang the branches upside down in a dark, dry place for five to seven days. Be sure that plenty of air is being circulated around the flowers using floor and wall fans. Use a hygrometer to check the room’s humidity, and deploy dehumidifiers if the humidity in the drying room rises above 50%. Remember that the flowers are 85% water, and you can expect the final dry weight of the buds to be about 15% of their wet weight when originally cut at harvest.

Step 9: Trimming and Curing

Perhaps the most overlooked step in terms of the quality of the final product is this one, particularly where curing is concerned. But before the curing starts, the buds must be trimmed and manicured. Large commercial operations sometimes deploy trim machines to aid in the workload; however, veteran growers know that the best method for manicuring flowers is to trim them by hand.

Buds curing in jars before being sold in a Colorado dispensary. (Photo by Nico Escondido)

There are competing opinions about whether it’s better to wet-trim or dry-trim. The latter occurs after drying, whereas the former occurs immediately following harvest, while the plant is still alive and “wet.” Some growers find it easier to dry-trim, when the leaves have less moisture and don’t stick to the buds as much. Conversely, other growers feel that trimming dry buds can knock off or damage the valuable trichomes. Either way, the buds need to be trimmed prior to the start of the curing process, and it might be more efficient for new growers to trim after drying so that the manicured flowers can go directly into the curing jars.

Sometimes growers are so excited (or relieved) after the harvest that they forget just how integral the curing of the buds is to their final quality. In short, curing is just a much slower drying process, which can last anywhere from a week to a month or two depending on the grower’s preference. Some connoisseurs prefer a longer and deeper cure to draw out the ultimate essence of the flower. Of course, there is always a point of diminishing returns after a certain length of time.

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One of the best methods of curing consists of using UV-protected glass jars. The buds are placed in these jars and then kept in a cool, dry place out of direct light, with the jars being “burped” once or twice daily to allow the slowly evaporating moisture to escape. Leaving the jars open for five to 10 minutes at a time will do the trick nicely. Some people like to use larger jars, or bins, for curing larger amounts of flower. However, be wary of using plastic containers or bins for curing, as plastic can often impart an unwanted smell to your buds.

These flowers were trimmed to perfection with only buds and sugar leaves remaining. (Photo by Nico Escondido)

After about a week to 10 days, the buds should be dried and cured to a nearly pristine point. Each time you open the jars, you will smell more and more of the buds’ aromatic bouquet as the more volatile compounds—known as the terpene profile—begin to present themselves. Finally, once you—the grower!—know that the time is right, you can proceed to the final step…

Step 10: Smoke That Herb!

Congratulations! There is nothing in the world quite like smoking your own homegrown cannabis… and, hopefully, the process itself was a fun and rewarding experience.

Thanks for reading and celebrating our 500th issue of High Times. And remember: Grow … and help the world grow, too!

How Long Does It Take to Grow Weed Indoors?

This is one of the most common questions we receive from curious soon-to-be indoor cannabis growers: How long does it really take to grow weed? What’s the growing timeline?

It’s actually a really good question! Every new marijuana grower should know how much work they’re signing up for! The short answer is…

The Average Indoor Cannabis Grow Takes 3-5 Months

The long answer is: from Day 1 of your weed plant’s life to actually smoking your harvest, it can take… 8 weeks – 7+ Months! That’s a huge range, right?

That’s why most cannabis growers won’t give you a straight answer. The truth is, there are many factors will affect the total time until you have ‘ready’ buds, by days, weeks or even months. This includes your strain, your setup, and how big you plan to grow your plants (bigger plants need more time!). So instead of giving you a huge range, an easier-to-swallow answer might be to say that the average grow takes 3-5 months for indoor growers.

This includes the time needed to grow your cannabis plant from seedling to harvest plus an additional 2 weeks (or more) which is used to cure your cannabis buds after harvest (making them more potent and better smelling).

Additionally, for at least the first time you grow, you also need to consider the time needed to get your equipment and seeds/clones.

This article will give you the total time breakdown, so you can plan out the details of your grow in order to achieve the harvest times you desire:

Ultimately, How Long to Harvest Marijuana Depends on the Desired Yields, Strain and Grow Style

Today I will show you how to plan your grow so it takes the amount of time you want!

Note: When growing cannabis indoors, it takes 3-5 months on average to go through the life cycle of a plant. When growing outdoors, the total time depends on your local climate as most strains are ready to harvest in mid-to-late Autumn.

Jump to the Section of the Tutorial You’re Interested in:

  1. Before You Start Growing Weed– Get seeds and supplies so you’re set to start growing!
  2. Time Needed to Grow Weed, From Seedling to Harvest
  • Germinate Your Seeds (1-7 days) – Learn about fail-proof methods to germinate perfectly in soil/coco or hydro.
  • Vegetative Stage (average 4-8 weeks, length based on desired plant size) – In the vegetative stage, the cannabis plants are growing just stems and leaves. On average, most indoor growers vegetate their plants for 4-8 weeks. Seedlings are able to start flowering as early as 3 weeks from germination, but the resulting plants will be tiny. Most growers choose to let plants vegetate for longer because giving them more time to grow results in bigger plants, which tend to produce bigger yields as long as you have enough light to cover all the bud sites. That being said, you can still produce quite a bit of bud with a lot of small plants growing at once as long as you fill up your grow space.
  • Flowering Stage (average 8-10 weeks, depends on strain) – This is when plants start making buds. The length of the flowering stage depends heavily on the strain/genetics, with an average of about 8-10 weeks for most strains. Some strains are bred to have very short flowering stages (for example, most auto-flowering strains will naturally start flowering at around 3 weeks old and some are ready to harvest just 5 weeks later, for a total of only 8 weeks from seed!). Other strains take months in the flowering stage before they’re ready to harvest. Typically, longer-flowering strains produce higher yields and short-flowering ones tend to produce lower yields. Buds that are exposed to more light-hours have more time to fatten up, though that’s not always the case.
  1. Post-Harvest (This is when the smell/taste/look you love shows up) (1-2+ weeks) – After buds are harvested, they are dried for about a week then placed in glass jars to “cure” for 2+ weeks in order to achieve the best quality. This post-harvest processing dramatically improves the taste, smell and the perceived potency of the buds. It also reduces the chance of buds causing headaches or unpleasant “speedy” effects. Don’t skip this step! It will account for nearly 50% of your final bud quality! Learn how to dry & cure your buds to perfection.

If you choose the right strain, you could be smoking your own buds as soon as 3 months from germination!

Before You Start Growing Weed

Total preparation time needed: Up to a few weeks

Here’s the breakdown…

Get equipment: 0 days – 2 weeks
This includes purchasing your equipment and/or waiting for it to show up in the mail. This goes much quicker if you buy everything locally, for example at a hydroponics shop. Once you have your marijuana growing supplies, you’ll need to setup your growing area and equipment. A standard setup should take an afternoon at most. Depending on how you purchase your equipment and how quickly you setup, you could be ready the same day or in two weeks (after factoring in shipping time).

Check out examples of new grower shopping lists to learn exactly which supplies you’ll need.

Get seeds or clones: 0-4 weeks:
If you’ve found seeds in your bud or have instant access to genetics (like knowing a grower or buying seeds/clones locally), you’re already good to go. If you order from a seed bank overseas (especially US residents), expect to wait 1-4+ weeks to get seeds. Shipping time depends on the shipper and how fast the mail gets delivered. Sometimes seeds get caught up in customs for weeks. Make sure to always order from a trustworthy vendor.

Time Needed to Grow Weed, From Seedling to Harvest

Total growing time needed: 3-5 months on average

Here’s the breakdown…

Seedling Stage
Germinate your seeds: 1 – 7 days
Seedlings can sprout in as little as a day, but by 3-5 days, they should be good to go. If you have access to clones, you get to skip this wait.

Learn my fail-proof method to germinate your seeds in soil/coco or hydro.

Vegetative Stage
Vegetative Stage: 4-8 week average (but if you want big plants it may take longer)
The length of this stage is a matter of personal preference. Most cannabis plants won’t start flowering until they’re at least 3 or 4 weeks from germination, but after that you get to choose how long your plant spends in this stage (except auto-flowering strains, which automatically start flowering in 3-4 weeks from seed). Except for auto-flowering strains, you have total control over the vegetative stage because you’re the one to ‘flip the switch’ and get your plant to enter the next life stage: flowering.

When you start with a seed, even with an auto-flowering plant, you will always have at least 3-4 weeks of vegetative growth before any buds start forming no matter what you do. Growers generally allow their plants to stay in the vegetative stage from a few weeks to a few months.

The size your plant achieves in the vegetative stage has a very large effect on your final yields since bigger plants produce more bud sites than smaller plants. However, you need enough light to cover all the bud sites or they will never develop properly. Light is like food for bud growth!

These vegetating plants are about 4 weeks old from germination

To give you an idea as to what your FINAL marijuana plant may look like depending on how long it spends in the vegetative stage…

This plant didn’t spend any time in the Vegetative Stage. It was given 12-12 lighting almost immediately after sprouting. It’s so small that it spent its whole life in a solo cup, and its only light came from CFLs. I weighed down the bottom of the cup so it didn’t fall over. It ended up yielding about 0.75 oz.

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These auto-flowering plants spent about 3 weeks in the vegetative stage before they automatically started flowering, and were ready to harvest just 5 weeks later. They were about a foot tall at harvest and yielded approximately 2 ounces each. Read the step-by-step tutorial to grow plants exactly like this.

This marijuana plant spent about 6 weeks in the vegetative stage before being changed over to flowering and yielded just over 6 ounces at harvest. View the complete grow journal with instructions on how to grow your plant so it looks just like this at harvest!

These cannabis plants were vegetated for about 8 weeks before being flipped to the flowering stage. Although they were grown in the exact same conditions from seed to harvest, their final heights are remarkably different because their strains had vastly different genetics. The smaller plant produced 6.6 ounces, while the big plant produced 9.3 ounces. Strain can make a big difference! Learn about growing different strains together.

These cannabis plants were vegetated for about 9 weeks before being flipped, in the exact same setup as above, and produced over 10 ounces each. Besides an extra week of veg, the biggest difference between this grow and the one above was simply the strains.

This human-sized plant (one of my very first plants) spent a little more than 3 months in the vegetative stage before I realized I needed to turn it over to the flowering stage. It then spent another 12 weeks in the flowering stage before it was ready to harvest because it was a long-flowering strain. It got way too tall for its space (taller than me!) and started falling over. However, despite the huge size and more than 5 months of growth, it only ended up yielding about 6 ounces. This is because it was under weak CFL grow lights. Though there were a lot of buds, the lack of strong light made them airy, without a lot of weight. Click the picture for a close-up.

Some people put their seedlings or clones right into the flowering stage if they want to harvest quickly though this makes for extremely small plants. For example, super-stealth growers who are growing in small hidden spaces – like out of a computer case – would want to put their seedlings into flowering nearly right away to keep their plants as small as possible. It’s also important to remember that container size and grow lights make a big difference. Small containers constrain the roots and keep plants from getting as big as they could, and small lights prevent buds from fattening up as much as they could.

I personally recommend at least 4 weeks in the vegetative stage with 18+ hours of light each day for the best results. Plants that are forced to start flowering sooner than 4 weeks don’t yield much compared to how much work you put in. That being said, keeping plants relatively small does have some benefits!

A good rule of thumb…

Your plant will likely double in size (maybe a bit less, maybe more) from when you first put it into the flowering stage; this is known as the Flowering Stretch. So make sure you end the vegetative stage before your plant reaches half the final height you want, or your cannabis plants may outgrow your grow space during the flowering stage!

Flowering Stage
Flowering Stage: (average 8-10 weeks, length depends on the strain/genetics)

Here’s the breakdown…

  • Week 1-3 – Transition to Flowering
  • Week 3-4 – “Budlets” Form
  • Week 4-6 – Buds Start Fattening Up
  • Week 6-8 – Buds Ripen, Pistils Darken – some strains spend longer in this stage
  • Week 8-12+ – Flowering Ends, Harvest time!

The length of time needed to stay in the flowering stage depends heavily on the strain. Once you have switched your plant into the flowering stage they will stretch (the ‘flowering stretch’), form buds and then fatten.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite and best cannabis strains by the length of the flowering period:

Short (6-8 weeks)

    – Known for being especially easy to grow – High-yielding, medical, high-CBD, medium-THC strain – Based on the famous White Widow strain but with a much faster finish – This version of Blue Cheese is fast flowering and easy to grow, yet buds are extra potent and produce great effects – One of the best strains for outdoor growing (and buds may turn pink or bright purple!) – A gem by Barney’s Farm, this strain “lifts you up” and causes a strong “head high” that can be a great way to relax after a tough day, or for when you want to get in a creative mood. – One of the most potent auto-flowering strains I’ve grown so far, ready in about 10 weeks from germination (7-week flowering stage) and just overall a healthy, easy, and high-yielding plant.
  • In fact, if you’re interested in a very short flowering time, most auto-flowering strains are ready to harvest less than 3 months from seed.

Frisian Dew plant growing outdoors with deep purple buds

Medium (8-12 weeks)

    – I just finished a grow with this strain and it impressed me. The buds did not turn purple but the smell, yields, and potency of buds were outstanding. – Medical strain, has a THC:CBD ratio of 1:1 – An award-winning strain that’s fruity, vigorous, and potent. The yields are not necessarily the highest, but it’s worth it for the quality of buds. I’ve grown this strain in many different setups and buds always come out great. – An award-winning strain that’s curiously strong. It’s one of the few “haze” cannabis strains that doesn’t take forever to finish flowering. – A cross between Gelato and OG Kush; two extremely popular strains in the US on the west coast. Finishes on the faster side, yet still produces great yields, potency, and smell. – Another beautiful Gelato cross, this time with the famous Gelato 33 clone (a very specific cut of Gelato), with Wedding Cake. – Another west coast favorite, this produces beautiful buds that are covered in crystals/trichomes, also high yielding. – Yields were so-so yet buds produce powerful effects. It turned a bit purple when I grew this strain (pictured below in the middle), which was a delightful surprise, but the potency is what I remember. – Easy to grow. Wants higher levels of nutrients in the flowering stage but rewards you with big yields, a strong spicy smell, and great potency.

Long: (12-14+ weeks)

  • Many Haze strains, as well as some Sativa strains, and generally any strains that originated near the equator. – A cross between some of the best Haze strains in Southeast Asia. If you want to try something different that is almost impossible to find in the US or Europe, this is it. It produces psychedelic effects that defy its cannabinoid content. May be too intense for some people.

In general, most strains (besides auto-flowering strains) are in the medium range as far as how long they take to flower.

It’s not exact – There’s a 2-3 week harvest window for most plants, and keeping your plants in the flowering stage for a bit longer tends to increase your yields. This is because the plants tend to really bulk up their flowers once they’ve become ‘ripe’.

So often times, even though you could harvest at the shortest recommended time, waiting an extra week or two will give you 10-30% more yield compared to harvesting as early as possible.

Utopia Haze is a mix of Brazilian landrace strains

Post-Harvest (before you smoke you should do this stuff too)

Total post-harvest time needed: 2.5 weeks – 1.5+ months

Drying: 4 – 10 days
Good marijuana buds can be dried in as little as 4 days, but ideally, drying should be a slow process taking up to a week or more. Making sure your plants have been thoroughly dried (but not over-dried) will lower chances of mold during the curing process.

Curing: 2 weeks – 1+ months
Curing really seems to make the effects of buds feel less ‘speedy’ and be better suited to medical applications like treating anxiety, reducing pain, and improving feelings of depression.

Additionally, curing gets rid of any ‘cut grass’ smell, harsh taste and other undesirable traits of some freshly dried buds. Over time with proper curing, those traits will be replaced by the ‘real’ smell and potency profile of your buds.

Two weeks is considered the minimum time to cure your buds, but I personally cure all my buds for a month or even a bit longer because the buds continue to improve for several more weeks.

So, after you’ve bought seeds and equipment, grown a plant from seed to harvest, trimmed, dried and cured your buds, that brings us back to the original answer…

Total Time to Grow (and Be Ready to Use) Your Own Weed:
8 weeks – 5+ Months

Average Time to Grow (and Be Ready to Use) Your Own Weed:
3 – 5 months

If you haven’t started growing your own weed yet, today is the day!

New Grower Shopping Lists – What You Need to Get Started

How to Grow a Pound of Cannabis – Step-by-Step Instructions from Seed to Harvest

7 Tips for Growing Top-Shelf Buds – How to Grow Better Cannabis than the Dispensary!