Last updated: May 4, 2020
The growth of a cannabis plant can be divided into 5 main chapters: germination, seedling, vegetative, flowering, and finally, budding. Within these stages of growth, many changes occur to the plant that should be noted and carefully watched for by the grower. Here, we’re going to dive into these different stages, to give you an idea of how long things generally take and what to keep an eye out for during cannabis growth.
This is where it all begins, the seed. During this formative stage of growth the cannabis seed, once planted or placed in a germination station, breaks apart and the spindly taproot emerges looking for nutrients.
The seed should be hard, dry and darker brown to grey before being used. Younger seeds won’t “pop” as readily. It can take up to a week to 10 days for the plant to finally emerge from its seed, but once it finally does it is ready to be transferred into a more permanent location.
This is assuming the grower is using a germination technique that doesn’t involve direct planting, otherwise, they simply need to wait for the plant to sprout to begin the seedling phase.
As the taproot of the germinated plant begins to take hold, the first set of iconic fan leaves begin to develop. This signals the beginning of the plant’s seedling stage of growth and should be placed in a large growing area immediately if it hasn’t been done so already.
The first leaves should be developing at this point, which the plant uses to photosynthesize light into nutrients.
It will grow a bit taller and begin to straighten up during this week. The very first new growths will appear as well, which will be another leaf along with the development of additional blades on the current leaves. Initially, they will be quite small.
A healthy plant will start turning a more vibrant green color and those blades will finally start becoming sizable, it will start looking more and more like a marijuana plant at this point. Once these seedlings fully develop these initial leaves and blades, they will be considered maturing and move onto the next stage of growth.
After those initial leaves develop the plants begin to enter a stage of explosive growth. This is the vegetative stage. A healthy vegetative stage is the period of growth most associated with great yields, as the size of the plant can make a huge difference at the end of it all.
This is also the stage with the greatest variability for the length of time it will take to get through, dependent on strains and growing conditions.
It can last anywhere from 3-16 weeks, so knowledge of the particular strain being used is crucial here.
Somewhere in this time-frame is generally when the sex of a plant can be determined. The pre-flowers develop here, though they can be quite small, and once sex is determined it is time to separate the males from the females before any fertilization can take place.
Sexing can technically wait until the flowering stage, but cautious growers should remove them now.
The length of the vegetative stage of growth is dependent on the genetics of the plant, as well as the period of time they are receiving light. Plants can technically remain in the vegetative state pretty much indefinitely, but eventually, it will hit its max growth or the amount of growth comfortable for the room and need to be switched over to flowering.
There will be a ton of foliage at this point and the plants will want more water than seems possible. Any training should be done at this stage, as long as the plant is healthy and growing rapidly.
This is the final stage of cannabis growth. All the previous work keeping the plant healthy and structurally sound pays dividends here as the plants begin to produce their buds. All males need to be removed at this point, otherwise, fertilization will occur and the females will lose a fair amount of yield and quality.
Flowering is triggered by the light cycle shifting to 12 hours on and off, so the timing of it will vary from grow to grow but this generally begins around week 13 of a grow.
This is the transition phase. It technically isn’t flowering at this point, but the plant will begin preparing for bud growth. The biggest growth occurs in this short period, the structure it develops within the vegetative stage is important now as the plant can almost double in height during this transition.
Towards the end of these transition weeks, the first wispy, white hairs known as pistils will begin developing. These are what eventually will become the buds that you’re after.
Those pistils will begin developing larger and larger and become darker in color. This is also when the odor from the plant becomes very apparent, so a good filtration system is a must at this point for indoor grows.
The growth of the plant will begin to slow down here as well, eventually stopping altogether as the plant’s energy will be focused entirely on the buds.
Buds will not have grown too much at this point, so don’t worry if they are still fairly small.
The final stage of flowering will have begun at this point for most plants, and the length of time can be variable. Buds will begin to grow very quickly now, seemingly overnight turning into dense flowers all over the plant.
The rest of the growth is up to the plant, but when it seems to be getting close to harvest time flushing nutrients is important for a quality tasting harvest. Simply flush the plants with pH-balanced water and stop administering nutrients at this time to ensure a good harvest.
The weeks involved for each plant are variable for a lot of conditions, but this is a good general gist of what each week and group of weeks involve for standard cannabis grow.
Things like auto-flowering plants or quickly growing strains will heavily veer off this, but for the most part, following this guide will give a grower a good idea of what to expect each week of their growth.
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