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.
The Stages of Cannabis Growth
Cannabis growth is made up of a series of stages that plants undergo during their lifecycle. Each stage during the cannabis cultivation process requires its own unique demands, including different levels of light, water, and nutrients.
It can take anywhere from 4 to 8 months to grow a cannabis plant, this varies based on where you’re growing. If you have an indoor grow room, your plant has the ability to flower after only a few weeks!
The quality of your plant depends on your knowledge of the cannabis growth stages and the lifecycle of your plants.
Cannabis Growth Timeline
1. Germinating: 1-7 days
2. Seedling: 2-3 weeks
3. Vegetative: 2-8 weeks
4. Pre-Flowering: 1-2 weeks
5. Flowering: 6-8 weeks
1. Germinating Seeds
2. Seedling Stage
3. Vegetative Growth
How to tell if your plant is a male or female
Female: Two pistils (the pistil contains the reproductive parts of a flower) will be growing on the buds (flowers grow above these leaves, one cluster on each side).
Male: Small green sacs full of pollen will be seen on the node areas.
- If there is a high color ratio of white to red pistils your cannabis will provide a euphoric THC high.
- If the color ratio is more red to white, your cannabis will provide a calmer, CBD-stoned feeling.
- If you harvest once half the trichomes are opaque and the pistils haven’t turned brown, your cannabis will provide a balanced THC/CBD high.
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Grow Weed Starting From Seed
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Growing your own cannabis plant starting from seed is a remarkable journey. Understanding the biology of the plant is one thing, but comprehending how a little miracle bean can turn into a gigantic tree producing flowers that can affect your body and mind is nothing short of an evolutionary miracle. Or rather a co-evolutionary story of plant and human.
Start Growing Weed From Seed
Our favorite thing about growing your own weed starting from a seed , rather than a clone, is that you get to see the full life cycle and enjoy a plant that is unique, just like you. An entirely new genetic makeup will enter the world for the first time, and if you’re lucky, something remarkable might be born.
Raising a cannabis seedling , however, requires some patience, gentle hands, and a smidgen of luck. Thankfully pot seeds are remarkably vigorous because they are what’s called endosperm seeds , which means they have almost pre-formed cotyledon leaves before you even add water. Below is a brief guide on the techniques we have found yield the most success when starting seeds and raising your seedling to a healthy plant ready for transplanting. And, don’t forget, a Pot for Pot’s Complete Grow Kits take the guesswork out so you always wind up with a splendid harvest!
1) Germinating Your Cannabis Seed
To accelerate germination, soak your seed in a small container with lukewarm water and place it in a dark and warm place (like a kitchen cabinet) for 12-24 hours, but no longer. By drenching the seed, it absorbs the water thoroughly, activating the germination process on a physical and chemical level. Doing this helps to loosen the shell as it becomes a little softer making it easier for the embryo to crack it open. When your seed sinks to the bottom, it is ready to be planted, and sometimes the seed will pop out a small taproot. A seed can still be planted though if it does not sink or put out a taproot. When a seed pops a taproot (often called a tail), it becomes more vulnerable and it is better to plant it before this root emerges.
2) Planting Your Weed Seed
We see best results with seedling pellets that are made of a mix of compressed peat moss and coco husk. To expand, soak it in water for 10 to 15 minutes. Using warmer, lukewarm water, instead of cold water, will speed up the time the pellet takes to fully expand. Once your seedling pellet has absorbed enough water and has expanded to its maximum size, gently squeeze to remove excess water. The growing medium should be like a damp sponge that would not leave streaks on the table. Dig a small hole about 1/4 inch deep for your seed. Use a spoon to lift the seed out of its bath. If it has popped out a taproot be careful not to damage it. Gently place the seed into the hole and lightly cover it with dirt from the pellet. Now that you have started the germination process, your seedling will come above ground within two weeks. The older the seed, the longer it takes for it to germinate.
Want an easy-to-use starter kit for Cannabis seedlings? Check out our Seedling Starter Kit, perfect for nurturing your germinated seeds into viable, healthy plants.
3) Weed Seedling Sprouts
Perhaps the most exciting stage, your plant baby will come above ground in 1-2 weeks, with the average popping up in 5 to 7 days after planting. As your seedling comes above the soil, its shell might take a few days to fall off. It’s best to leave it alone, nature has the job covered. If it does not come above ground after about two weeks, the chance of success is dramatically reduced, and it’s best to try again. Even the best seeds have an 85% germination rate. When your seedling comes above ground, it is going to want to see a direct light source.
Save Money – No Tent Needed
Organic Cannabis Soil Recipe
Avoid Common Mistakes
4) Lighting for Your Cannabis Seedling
Marijuana seedlings require a medium amount of light — enough to get energy to grow, but not too much light that to get burned. Leaving your seedling in direct sunlight will cause the leaves to curl, while too little light will cause the seedling to stretch. If growing outside, seedlings want to see a direct light source to stop them stretching. If inside, a sunny windowsill with more than half a day of sunlight works wonders. Otherwise, 24 to 30 inches from a grow light is an excellent supplement. Your seedling should not stretch more than 6 inches at most.
5) Watering Your Cannabis Seedling
For cannabis plants young and old, it’s best to use bottled, distilled, or filtered water as these are without chlorine. If using tap water, let it sit for 48 to 96 hours before watering to dissipate any chlorine. Chlorine can also be eliminated by boiling for 20 minutes. Under normal conditions, after soaking your seedling pellet, it should contain all the moisture your plant needs before it comes above ground. As it grows, it will only need about a shot glass worth of water at most per week to keep the medium damp. Seedlings don’t drink a lot of water, which makes sense given their size. Your plant will do better in a growing medium which is damp but not soaking wet. Overwatering is just as deadly as drying out!
Damping off happens when the seedling is in too moist of an environment. The young plant’s immune system is not strong enough to ward off a fungus that results in the plant rotting from the bottom of the stem. When this happens, the plant will bend over and die if not treated. To help fight the infection, lightly spray a 0.5% solution of hydrogen peroxide around the affected area. However, the best option is to avoid this by not exposing your seedling to too much moisture.
6) First Cannabis Seedling Leaves & Hardening Off
The first set of leaves to come above ground are called the cotyledons . These little leaves are packed with energy and will grow to about 1/4 in in size before eventually falling off. Your second leaves to emerge will be single blades and will be serrated, looking like regular pot leaves.
They will become several inches in length. During their growth your first actual set of leaves will appear. These are typically three blades. Around this time is when your plant is “hardening off”. You will notice that the stem will start to develop a thicker skin and harden off. As the leaves of the plant get bigger, they can gradually handle more sunlight, so move it into more direct light– the more light the better!
7) Transplanting Cannabis Seedlings
About 10 days after germination, when the baby cannabis plant has hardened off, roots will start emerging from the bottom of your seedling pellet and the plant is ready to be transplanted into a bigger pot. Be very careful not to damage the roots during this stage. Any stress will slow its growth.
Dig a small hole in your bigger pot for the seedling, sprinkle some rooting booster in the bottom of the hole then carefully plant the whole seedling pellet holding your weed baby.
Now bury so the base of its stalk is level with the topsoil. Give it a watering to set the roots in the ground, then hold off watering until you pick up the pot and it feels light in weight.
Are you ready to transplant your seedlings? Shop our best selection of Cannabis starter growing kits from small to large pots.
8. Separating the Girls from the Boys
At about 4-6 weeks into your plant’s growth , you’ll be able to determine the sex of the plant. You’ll want to separate and dispose of any male plants. This is an important step for growing marijuana because the female plants are more potent and valuable. You also don’t want male plants to compromise the growth of your female plants.
Why Do You Only Want Female Weed Plants?
Only female marijuana plants produce THC buds that are high in potency. You want to make sure your Cannabis plants are all female. If you have a male plant, it can fertilize the other female plants, and they will work to produce seeds instead of flowers and nugs.
It’s essential as a grower to know the difference between a female and a male plant so that you can remove the male plants before they contaminate your crop . Unfortunately, you have a 50/50 chance of getting a male plant when growing a plant from a seed from a nug.
There is a massive market for seeds that will only grow into female plants. But even these seeds are not a 100% guarantee you’re going to get a female plant. To ensure a good crop, you’ll want to germinate and plant many marijuana seeds and then separate the females from the males when the plants begin to show their sexuality.
How to Tell if a Weed Seed is Male or Female
As your plant matures sexually, it will develop between its nodes. Nodes are the area of the plant where the branches connect to the plant’s stalk. The distinguishing characteristics that will help you identify your plant’s gender:
- Male Plants : Small pollen sacs will cluster in the nodes.
- Female Plants : Stigmas will develop in the nodes. The stigmas can catch the pollen of male plants. Stigmas have hair-like veins that will extend from the sacs in the nodes.
- Hermaphrodite Plants : These plants have both the stigmas and pollen sacs in their nodes. These are female plants that develop both sex organs when exposed to a lot of stress.
Once you can identify the sex of your plants, you’ll want to remove the male or hermaphrodite plants because they can negatively affect the harvest of your female plants. That’s why it is crucial to germinate and grow several cannabis plants to this stage to ensure you get at least one healthy female plant.
9) Grow Weed Plant, Grow!
Suddenly, before your very eyes, the plant will transform. She will grow in height and branch out, putting off leaves and a network of branches. It is your job as the grower to meet her needs so that she can reach her full potential. With a good grow kit, this means as much light as possible and lightly watering only when she is thirsty.
This is considered your marijuana plant’s vegetive stage. The goal in this stage is to keep her healthy and allow the plant to grow as big and strong as possible so that she can hold many, many flowers.
Our complete grow kits include everything you need to go from seed to your very own supply of high grade medical cannabis.