There are four primary growing stages of weed throughout the cannabis plant’s full life cycle. Knowing and understanding each of the cannabis growing stages is of the utmost importance considering they are all unique in their daily requirements regarding nutrition, water, and light.
Learning the basic necessities of the cannabis plant will help you become a better cultivator from start to finish considering that each of the weed growing stages needs to be perfected if one wants to optimize yield, consistency, and overall quality in the final flowering stage of cannabis.
This article explores the four primary weed plant stages, their individual importance, along with the cultivation practices the grower needs to know to ensure success over the cannabis plant’s lifespan.
So let’s get down, dirty… and straight to business!
This is a common question for novice cannabis cultivators and for good reason because the answer can vary greatly depending on your growth plan and whether you are growing from seed, clone, etc. The cannabis growth cycle from start to finish can range from 3-8 months or 10-32 weeks. Factors regarding the plant’s genetics, growing methods, and at what plant stage you decide to plant your crop, among other elements alter the time frame at which your plant excels from seed to harvest.
For example, if you are planning to grow in a greenhouse using a light deprivation to “trick” or “flip” your clones into flower you can shorten the time to harvest compared to an outdoor plant from seed using the light cycles of the sun. Coming up with a growth schedule before the season begins will help you dictate the time frame of your plant and the time of harvest. Proper planning from budgeting and projected yields down to dry space and proper curing and storing bags for marijuana will help you finish your season strong every time!
Take into account this chart overview of the individual time frames per stage when you are asking yourself “how long does it take for weed to grow?”
• Germination (3-10 days)
• Seedling (2-3 weeks)
• Vegetative (3-16 weeks)
• Flowering (8-11 weeks)
Cannabis plants live and grow for one season; they are also known as annuals. Once they reach their final stage, the flowering stage they will need to be harvested. The “hairs” on the top of the bud will turn from white to purple in color which is a sign they are ready to harvest. Once the plant is ready to be harvested the cultivator will trim the plant from the rooted system and begin the drying process.
It is important to keep a close eye on the final flowering stage of the plant. Why? To ensure there are no seeds in the final stage due to excess stress or accidental pollination. In addition to the fact that the cannabis flower is more prone to mold as the buds get denser. Knowing when to harvest and undertake the final drying and curing processes so your product finishes correctly will decide the overall quality of your cannabis flower. Similarly, using the appropriate marijuana humidity packs, drying conditions, and observation practices will get your buds looking and smoking just right.
There are four distinct stages of a weed plant each one unique, all of which are important. Knowing when to transition your plant into each phase of its life cycle will guide the cultivator into knowing when to transplant, trellis, prune, train, top, adjust nutrients, etc.
The first stage is known as the germination stage of the cannabis plant. The germination stage is the initial stage lasting anywhere from 3-10 days. What you are looking for in this phase of the cannabis plant’s life cycle? Well though there are many different ways to germinate a seed successfully. An important rule of thumb is to have a strong seed, which will be both brown and white in color and have a hard outer shell.
Some seeds are green or white in color these seeds will not germinate successfully, although if they do pop roots in this time frame they may be weaker and more susceptible throughout the next growing phases of the plant. Note: If your seed does not germinate within this time frame, chances are it won’t germinate at all. Throw it away, there will be other stronger alternatives I promise.
The second and perhaps one of the most delicate growth stages of weed is the seedling stage. This phase usually lasts between two to three weeks. Once you have transplanted the seedling into a medium the cannabis plant will sprout showing off its two cotyledon leaves. This particular phase leaves the plant very vulnerable and should take place indoors, under at least 18 hours of light, at warm temperatures, with very light air circulation.
The seedling stage should also maintain 18-plus hours a day of light, but as the plant’s leaves begin to mature from three blades or “fingers” to the traditional seven blades per leaf you will want to start introducing the plant to natural sunlight. That said, 3-6 hours a day of direct sunlight will help the plant mature and strengthen into its next cannabis growing stages appropriately.
Note: Be sure to not overwater plants in the seedling stage and ensure they are receiving enough light. The marijuana plant is still very delicate and susceptible to mold and disease at this stage. They need to be well monitored and in a clean and stable environment.
The cannabis seedling stage is then followed by the cannabis vegetative state, which is generally speaking the longest phase in the weed plant’s life cycle lasting 3-16 weeks. When you ask yourself, how long does it take to grow weed? This phase can have a lot to do with the final answer to that question.
A lot of transitions and adjustments take place during this stage of the cannabis plant’s life cycle. This is when you will begin adding nutrients, usually higher levels of nitrogen to your cannabis plants. The cannabis plant in the vegetative stage should be vibrant to dark green in color and its growth will start to rapidly increase.
It can be quite a task to keep up with a large number of plants in the vegetative stage, so it is important to have a growing journal to keep track of nutrients, ppm levels, daily observations, moisture levels, etc. Here is a list of some larger projects you will tackle during the vegetative stage of the cannabis plant.
• Successful transplant timing, so your plants do not get root bound
• 18 hours or more of light, 6 hours of direct sunlight
• Consistent plant walk-throughs checking for bugs and powdery mildew
• Weekly observation for nutrient deficiencies
• Check for males (2-3 weeks into this stage plants from seed will reveal their sex, males need to be removed to prevent pollination!)
• Topping Technique ( Top your plants at least three times before the flowering stage)
• De-leafing for proper nutrient flow, air circulation, and proper plant maintenance
• Plant training for strong plants and heavier buds
• First layer of trellis perhaps two
• Increase watering and nutrient levels with appropriate ppm range
All of these tasks will provide consistent work for a grower. It is important to keep your plants on a healthy cycle in a clean space. Note: Some plants and genetics are weaker or more susceptible than others. You may have to “trash” some plants to secure the safety and health of the future crop. This can be hard to do, but important to decrease the likelihood of powdery mildew, bug infestations, pollination, etc.
Once you are ready to “flip” your cannabis plant from its vegetative stage to the flowering cannabis stages of the marijuana plant there will be some adjustments that need to be made. These adjustments will pertain mainly to the plant’s light cycle and nutrient levels.
The final stage of the cannabis plant is known as the flowering stage. The cannabis plant transitions into the flowering stage as summer turns into fall and the days begin to shorten. A rule of thumb is once the plant’s light cycle switches to “12-12” or 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness your cannabis plant will begin to flower.
How long is the flowering cycle for weed? The answer is about 8-11 weeks from “flip” to harvest. Keep an eye on your region’s planting and sun cycle, so it correlates with a October – Early November harvest time. Greenhouse growers are able to manipulate the flowering of cannabis plants through light deprivation using a tarp system, while a grower using the sun and planting outdoors will have one turn and one harvest.
Once you have a keen understanding of the flowering stage of the cannabis plant you will open yourself to a whole new world of opportunity and growing options in cannabis! In particular are two large-scale options for growing cannabis, which are the greenhouse and outdoor farming methods. These two forms of growing beg the most common question: how long is flowering stages outdoors?
In short, when growing in a greenhouse you can manipulate your flowering cycle using a light deprivation system, which essentially tricks your plants into a 12-12 light cycle. This enables growers to have a shorter three-four week vegetative stage and a roughly 8-11 weeks flowering period.
Alternatively, growing outdoors will have a much longer vegetative phase using the natural sun cycle. These plants will be much larger in size and yield more per plant, but you will only get one run per season. Both methods have a similar flowering time but alter the vegetative stage immensely.
Understanding both techniques for growing outdoors and their light cycle will help you choose which growing method is right for you. Knowing each stage of the cannabis plant cycle will ultimately help guide you in yielding high-quality consistent cannabis flower on both large and small scales using different techniques of growing. That way at the end of the season you will have beautifully grown full jars for cannabis that consumers can’t seem to get enough of!