Knowing how to care for your cannabis plants at each of the four distinctive stages of their life cycle will provide a healthy, productive garden. Since your first cannabis home grow is the hardest, our expert grower Nibameca tells you how to make it from seed to harvest. Everything you need to know about the 6 stages of cannabis growth. From selecting seeds to determining plant sex.
From Seed to Harvest: The Life Cycle of Cannabis
Knowing how to care for your cannabis plants at each of the four distinctive stages of their life cycle will provide a solid baseline of knowledge and healthy, productive gardens.
It can take four to eight months to grow a cannabis plant. During this time, it goes through four distinct stages: germination, seedling, vegetative, and flowering. It is essential for cannabis growers to understand each stage in the life cycle so they can properly care for their plants. Each phase requires different nutrients, hours of light, and type of light. There are also different tasks that can help make each stage more successful.
It all begins with a seed. If stored in cool, dark conditions, a cannabis seed can remain viable for years. The best seeds are hard and dry and will be light to dark brown in color. Underdeveloped seeds tend to be soft and either white or green. It’s very unlikely these seeds will germinate.
The seed lies dormant until it is exposed to warmth and moisture. You can germinate your seeds by planting them in a moistened seedling starter mix, covered with plastic and placed on a heat mat. It is important to use a seed-starting mix instead of potting soil.
There is enough nutrition in a seed to feed a sprout for about two to three weeks. Any additional fertilizer can burn your plants at this tender age. Once planted, a seed can take five to 10 days to sprout.
Once your seeds have sprouted, the two seedling leaves will be the first to appear. Place a fluorescent grow light about two inches from the top of your plants for 18 hours per day. You don’t need a powerful light for them in the beginning. When the true leaves appear, your little plants can officially be considered a seedling.
The seedling stage of a cannabis plant can last three to six weeks.
The seedling stage of cannabis plant lasts three to six weeks, depending on environmental factors and the strain you’re growing.
During this time, your seedlings are focusing their energy on growing roots and foliage. Because the roots are so small, be careful not to overfeed or overwater. Use a fertilizer high in nitrogen and be sure to dilute it so you don’t harm your plants.
Fluorescent lights still work well at this point. Set your timer so the lights are on for 18 hours and off for six.
Seedlings are susceptible to pests and disease at this age, so this is a good time to apply a preventative neem oil treatment. It’s much easier to prevent spider mites and powdery mildew than to treat them while your plants are so young. If they do get infested or infected at this age, the stress on your plants will likely produce a smaller harvest down the line.
The vegetative stage of a cannabis plant can last one to four months.
After a few weeks as seedlings, your cannabis plants will outgrow their starter pots and start demanding more food and light. The roots and foliage grow rapidly during this stage, which allows the plant to take in more nutrients and carbon dioxide. Don’t be surprised if your plant shoots up two inches in one day!
If you don’t already know, this is when you’ll be able to identify whether you are growing an indica or sativa. Indicas tend to be short and bushy, while sativas are lanky with less foliage.
You will also be able to identify the sex of your plants. About four weeks into the veg cycle, pre-flowers start to appear. By six weeks in, you should be able to determine whether those new buds are male or female. Most growers remove the males from their garden, so they don’t pollinate the females and cause seeds to form.
When growing indoors, the vegetative stage can last one to four months, or even indefinitely in the case of mother plants. You control the length of this phase by the number of hours of light you give your plants. As long as they receive 18 hours, they will remain in this stage.
During the vegetative stage, you’ll need to trade in your fluorescent lights for a metal halide or powerful LED. This blue light mimics the light in spring and sends the message to grow roots and foliage to prepare for the flowers.
If you haven’t already, transplant your cannabis into larger pots and start feeding them more. As they grow, be mindful you will need to increase the PPM of your nutrient solution and transplant them into larger pots as needed.
At this age, your plants need high levels of nitrogen and modest amounts of phosphorus and potassium. Silicon is also beneficial at this stage because it helps to build strength in the stalk and stems, which you’ll need to support those big buds that will soon grow.
As your plants grow taller and fill out, you’ll need to start pruning and training them. This focuses their energy on growing large colas, opens up the plant so light can reach all the leaves, and prevents fungal diseases by increasing air flow.
The general rule of thumb is to flip the lights to 12/12 and trigger the bloom cycle when your plants are about one third of the size you want them to be at harvest.
The flowering stage lasts six to 10 weeks, depending on the strain you’re growing.
You imitate autumn in your garden when you reduce the light to 12 hours on and 12 hours off, and switch to a red high-pressure sodium bulb. This triggers your cannabis plants to start blooming so they can procreate before they die at the end of the season.
The flowering stage lasts six to 10 weeks, depending on the strain you’re growing. During this time, dense buds covered in a sweet-smelling, sticky resin will form on your plants. This resin is where the THC and terpenes are, and so growers do whatever they can to grow the stickiest colas possible.
Your fertilizing schedule will change during this stage. Start feeding your plants minimal amounts of nitrogen, moderate amounts of potassium, and high amounts of phosphorus. This is the time to add bloom boosters and sugars to your regimen.
Be on the lookout for nutrient deficiencies or toxicities during this phase. Brown leaf tips can signal nutrient burn, while yellowing leaves may indicate a nutrient deficiency. It is normal, however, for the lower leaves to turn yellow towards the end of the flowering cycle, when your plants feed on themselves for more efficient nutrition.
Keep feeding your plants until about 10 days before harvest, and then stop fertilizing and flush your crop. This clears your plants of excess nutrients and is crucial to making sure your end product is smooth instead of harsh.
As your buds grow large and dense, environmental conditions and poor air flow can cause bud rot. If you don’t catch it in time, you can lose all of your plants. Keep a close eye on your buds as harvest time approaches. Inspect your buds often and harvest immediately if you see signs of rot. If you catch it early, you can cut the rot out of your buds and salvage most of your crop. You’ll know your cannabis is ready to harvest when the pistils, or the hairs, turn the color of rust and the resin changes from clear to a milky white.
If you understand the life cycle of cannabis, you’ll be able to care for your plants the right way in each stage of their life and anticipate problems before they occur. You’ll be a better grower and have top shelf smoke to prove it.
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…
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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.
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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