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Mastering The Cannabis Seedling Stage In Just 3 Steps

The seedling stage can be a looming challenge for novice growers. With these three simple steps, however, even inexperienced growers can manage their cannabis seedlings with confidence.

Three simple steps to mastering the cannabis seedling stage.

  • 1. Pick the right genetics, containers, and medium for your seedlings
  • 2. Use the right germination techniques
  • 3. Mastering the seedling stage
  • 3.a. The basics: Optimising light, temperature, and humidity for cannabis seedlings
  • 3.b. Growing seedlings outdoors
  • 3.c. Understanding the seedling stage
  • 3.d. How to water your seedlings
  • 3.e. How to prevent damping off
  • 3.f. How to prevent nutrient problems
  • 3.g. How to prevent pests and bugs
  • 3.h. How to prevent stretchy seedlings
  • 3.i. Know when and how to transplant your seedlings
  • 4. Get growing!
  • 1. Pick the right genetics, containers, and medium for your seedlings
  • 2. Use the right germination techniques
  • 3. Mastering the seedling stage
  • 3.a. The basics: Optimising light, temperature, and humidity for cannabis seedlings
  • 3.b. Growing seedlings outdoors
  • 3.c. Understanding the seedling stage
  • 3.d. How to water your seedlings
  • 3.e. How to prevent damping off
  • 3.f. How to prevent nutrient problems
  • 3.g. How to prevent pests and bugs
  • 3.h. How to prevent stretchy seedlings
  • 3.i. Know when and how to transplant your seedlings
  • 4. Get growing!

Cannabis seedlings can be tricky to keep alive, especially for rookie growers. With a solid understanding of seedlings and their requirements, though, the all-important seedling stage can be a lot less threatening. Keep reading for three simple steps to growing healthy seedlings.

STEP 1: PICK THE RIGHT GENETICS, CONTAINERS, AND MEDIUM FOR YOUR SEEDLINGS

When sourcing your seeds, be sure to actively search out the right strain for you; your experience and skill as a grower, budget, grow equipment, preferences in taste and effect, and whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors will determine which strain will yield the best results for you.

As for the medium, we always recommend growing in a light, well-aerated, slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.3–6.5. We recommend using between 20–50% perlite in your medium to aid with soil aeration and nutrient retention. The more nutrients you plan to give your plants, the more perlite you should add to your soil to help with drainage and prevent nutrient lockout.

Remember to water just around the stem of your seedlings, and only once the soil has completely dried out (see the section on over/underwatering below for more info). Also, keep in mind that seedlings (especially autoflowering varieties) are extremely sensitive to nutrients. Never plant them into hot (nutrient-rich) soil and don’t start feeding them until they’ve grown 3–4 sets of true leaves.

When it comes to picking pots, we recommend the following approaches for autoflowering and feminized seedlings.

THE RIGHT POTS FOR AUTOFLOWERING CANNABIS SEEDS

When growing autoflowers, we recommend planting them directly in their final pots. Because of their short life cycle, it’s best to avoid putting autoflowering strains through any kind of unnecessary stress, including transplanting. While the exact pot size you use will vary depending on the strain you’re growing and the size of your grow space, most auto growers use pots between 5–15l.

THE RIGHT POTS FOR FEMINIZED CANNABIS SEEDS

If you’re growing feminized seeds, transplanting isn’t as much of an issue since these plants have time to recover from the stress. Using Easy Start germination pots, you can support robust health right from the beginning. You’ll want to transplant your seedlings just before they start outgrowing their starter pots. We typically recommend transplanting once they’ve grown sets of true leaves that spread out to cover the full circumference of their current container.

From here, most indoor growers move their plants directly into 12l pots, but you can go above or below that to suit your particular strain and grow setup. Keep in mind that you can (and should) up-pot feminized photoperiod plants a few times to max-out development, meaning you don’t need to transplant your seedlings into a giant pot right away.

A NOTE ON CANNABIS POTS

From cheap nursery containers to sophisticated smart pots, growers are spoilt for choice when it comes to picking the right container for their cannabis plants. And while it’s possible to grow great weed in cheap plastic propagation containers, there are a couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind when choosing pots for your weed plants.

• Drainage holes

Make sure your pots drain well to protect your plants against fungal pathogens and root rot. If your pots don’t already contain holes (or some other kind of mesh to allow runoff), you’ll need to puncture them yourself.

• Aeration

One of the functions of a plant’s substrate is to serve as a site for air exchange between the roots and the environment. Smart pots like the RQS Fabric Pothelp your plant’s roots respire by allowing more oxygen to reach them. This translates into faster, more vigorous growth, healthier plants, and a better harvest.

• Pot size

Keeping tiny seedlings in huge pots increases the risk of overwatering, as your plant’s roots won’t be big enough to extract all the water from their substrate. Any water that stays in the substrate will effectively drown the roots and attract pathogens and pests into your garden/grow room.

STEP 2: USE THE RIGHT GERMINATION TECHNIQUES

Cannabis seeds need four things in order to germinate: moisture, warmth, darkness, and time. To ensure you grow healthy seedlings, germinate your seeds using one of the following techniques.

• Paper towel method

Carefully place your cannabis seeds between a few moist pieces of paper towel, and place it all in a plastic container with a lid. Keep the container in a warm, dark place (temperatures between 20–25°C are ideal). Leave a slight crack in the lid to allow for some fresh air exchange.

• Glass of water method

Simply drop your seeds into a glass of water and let them sit in a cupboard for 24–48 hours at 20–25°C. Once you see the first signs of taproots sprouting from your seeds, they’re ready to plant. If your seeds don’t germinate after 48 hours in water, switch to the paper towel method. Don’t keep the seeds submerged for more than 48 hours or they’ll rot.

Your seeds are ready to plant once they’ve cracked open and released a small, white taproot. Plant your germinated seeds one knuckle (roughly 3–5 millimetres) deep with the taproot facing down. That way, your seedlings won’t have to reorient themselves.

• RQS Starter Kits

Alternatively, use the RQS Autoflowering or Feminized Starter Kits to provide your seeds with the perfect conditions from the get-go. This kit contains starter pots filled with perlite and beneficial bacteria, as well as a propagator and lights to breathe life into your seeds. carla

STEP 3: MASTERING THE SEEDLING STAGE

Now that your seedlings are in their soil, the real challenge begins. Cannabis seedlings are extremely fragile; armed with nothing but frail roots and a small set of cotyledons (that first set of small rectangular leaves), minor stressors can take down your seedlings in just a couple of hours. By taking the time to understand your seedlings and their specific needs, however, you’ll automatically know how to optimise their environment and help them grow into strong vegetative plants.

THE BASICS: OPTIMISING LIGHT, TEMPERATURE, AND HUMIDITY FOR CANNABIS SEEDLINGS

Seedlings have very particular needs when it comes to temperature, humidity, and lighting, and missing the mark in any of these areas can prove fatal for such small plants. For best results, we recommend growing seedlings in a propagator where you can easily create the perfect environment for them to flourish in.

• Temperature

Cannabis seedlings like daytime temperatures of 20–25°C and nighttime temperatures that are roughly 4–5°C cooler. High temperatures will stress your seedlings and stunt their growth, which, at such an early stage, can prove fatal. Dry leaves with curled up edges are a telltale sign of heat stress. With time, your seedlings might also develop other symptoms, including pale foliage and red or purple stems. Heat stress can also cause weak, wilting leaves with downward folding tips.

Cold temperatures, on the other hand, can freeze a seedling’s cells and affect its ability to transport and use nutrients, water, and oxygen. This will result in stunted growth and eventually death if not dealt with properly. Wilting foliage, slow growth, and poor plant turgor are some signs that the temperature in your grow room or propagator is too low.

• Humidity

While their roots are young and still developing, cannabis seedlings absorb water via osmosis in their leaves. To optimise this process, it’s super important to keep relative humidity levels at 40–60%.

Humidity levels below 20% will seriously stunt the growth of your seedlings and may cause them to develop symptoms similar to some nutrient deficiencies (yellow or spotted leaves). Humidity levels above 60%, on the other hand, will cause your plants to develop wet spots that can cause foliage to wilt or rot, as well as attract fungi and/or other pathogens and pests. Once your seedlings enter the vegetative phase, you should keep relative humidity at 50%.

• Lights

Seedlings are sensitive to light and will burn under strong HID or LED bulbs. Like adult plants, seedlings will develop burnt, crinkled leaves when suffering from light stress. Alternatively, seedlings that don’t get enough light will grow tall and lanky and topple over.

For best results, we recommend growing your seedlings under an 18/6 light cycle using CFL bulbs with a blue light spectrum for the first 10–14 days. Once they’ve developed healthy true leaves and at least 2–3 nodes, you can move them under stronger HID or LED lights to start vegging.

GROWING SEEDLINGS OUTDOORS

Outdoor growers obviously don’t have the liberty of being able to change the temperature or humidity with the push of a button. If you’re an outdoor grower, you have three options on how to tackle the seedling stage:

  1. Most growers choose to keep their seedlings indoors under CFL lights for the first two weeks to protect them from elements.
  2. Alternatively, you can keep your seedlings outdoors during the day (as long as temperatures sit consistently between 20–25°C) and only move them indoors at night to protect them from the cold, rain, etc.
  3. Finally, you can keep your seedlings outdoors permanently in a propagator, greenhouse, or polytunnel to provide shelter and allow you to drive up humidity and manipulate the temperature.

UNDERSTANDING THE SEEDLING STAGE

Inside that dark, hard shell, cannabis seeds house all the necessary genetic information to sprout and grow into big, luscious plants. When exposed to humidity and warmth, seeds are able to absorb water from their environment. This process is known as imbibition, and it’s the key to life for all plants.

Once water enters a seed, it activates special enzymes that trigger the growth of the taproot (the small white root that pops out of seeds when germinated properly). This root starts to push deeper underground in search of more water while the seed sends a shoot up and out of the soil in search of light.

Cannabis seeds already contain two cotyledons (or embryonic leaves) that unravel and push the seed casing from the shoot. After the cotyledons emerge, cannabis plants will develop their first set of true leaves. These will grow out of the main stem and have just one finger.

During the early stages of their lives, cannabis seedlings get all their energy from stores inside the seed. As their roots develop, they can absorb water via their leaves. Once your plants have developed their first sets of true leaves (that is, leaves with at least 5–7 fingers), they are no longer considered seedlings and are officially vegging.

Remember, rapid growth and vibrant green foliage are telltale signs of healthy seedlings.

HOW TO WATER YOUR SEEDLINGS

There’s no universal schedule on how to water your cannabis seedlings. Instead, you’ll need to pay close attention to your plants and their medium. We recommend sticking your finger roughly 2.5cm (1 inch) into the soil and watering only when the soil is completely dry. Also, remember to water your plants close to the stem where you know their roots are. Finally, remember that your pots need to have drainage holes in the bottom so excess water can drain out.

• Overwatering

Overwatering seedlings is one of the most common (and most fatal) mistakes rookie growers make. Unfortunately, it’s an easy crime to commit; scared to let their seedlings’ soil dry out, inexperienced growers often end up watering their plants too regularly. This essentially drowns a seedling’s tiny root system, starving the plant of oxygen and causing it to droop.

Overwatering can also occur when a plant’s container is too big or too small. When growing a small seedling in a big pot, the excess soil can hold water for days in areas untouched by the plant’s roots. What you’re left with is a big container filled with wet soil that’s not only robbing your plant of oxygen, but also creating a breeding ground for fungi, bacteria, and pests.

Similarly, under-potting can be just as detrimental to your plants. Plants that are root-bound take up water very quickly, encouraging you to water them more regularly than necessary, leading to overwatering.

• Underwatering

While it’s not as common as overwatering, underwatering is definitely an issue for some beginner growers (especially those that have been warned about overwatering their plants).

Cannabis plants constantly lose moisture through their leaves in a process known as transpiration (which plays an essential role in a plant’s ability to transport water from its roots up through its stem). Hence, it’s super important they always have access to water from their soil. When a plant goes too long without water, a lot of its vital functions start to slow down. Any roots that dry out completely die off, stunting the plant’s growth or possibly killing it all together (if its root system is underdeveloped).

Unfortunately, the symptoms of underwatering are mostly the same as those of overwatering (drooping and wilting). However, you’ll be able to tell that your plants are underwatered if their soil is bone dry.

HOW TO PREVENT DAMPING OFF

We’ve all been there; your seedlings look perfectly healthy, then suddenly you find them slumped over the edge of their containers. Within 24 hours (or sometimes less), they’ve shriveled up and died.

This phenomenon, known colloquially as “damping off”, is caused by fungi like Pythium, Botrytis, and Fusarium. While these fungi can lie dormant in soil, they grow and thrive in overly wet conditions. Overwatering and high humidity, for example, are some of the most common causes of damping off.

Unfortunately, by the time your seedlings show the first signs of damping off (a limp and discoloured stem), there’s nothing you can do to save them. We just recommend removing the affected seedlings from your grow room or propagator ASAP to avoid spreading the fungi.

To prevent damping off, make sure to keep close tabs on the temperature and relative humidity in your grow space, and avoid overwatering your plants. Also, make sure both your soil and pots drain well.

Finally, to minimise the chance of a Pythium, Botrytis, or Fusarium infestation even further, be sure to always use new soil or sterilise your soil by baking it in the oven until it reaches a temperature of 85°C.

HOW TO AVOID NUTRIENT PROBLEMS

Healthy cannabis plants look vibrant and green, and any sort of discoloration on a plant’s leaves or stems can be a sign of nutrient stress.

Remember, cannabis seeds are jam-packed with nutrients to help get your seedlings through the first stage of their life. Once these nutrients run out, it’s time for you to step in and give your plants the added nutrients they need to veg and flower properly.

• Feeding seedlings

Cannabis seedlings are super fragile and can easily “burn” in nutrient-rich soil. In general, we don’t recommend feeding during the seedling phase. Instead, keep your seedlings chilling in their Easy Start pots until they’re ready to be transplanted and start vegging.

Most blogs and forums will tell you that your plants are ready to veg after two weeks, but that’s far from true; it usually takes about 3–4 weeks from germination for your seedling to use up all the energy stored in the seed, although some plants develop faster than others. But rather than going by time, we recommend you transplant and start vegging your seedlings once they’ve developed at least three nodes and 4–5 sets of true leaves.

• Transitioning to the vegetative stage

Once you’ve transplanted your seedlings into their new pots, give them 3–7 days to adjust. Remember, transplanting is a stressful process, and your plants will need some time to recover from it. Feed your plants too early after transplanting, and they likely won’t take up all their nutrients from their medium, which can cause problems (like nutrient lockout) further down the line.

Once you’re confident your plants have recovered from being transplanted, start feeding them with a mild nutrient solution. An NPK ratio of 4:2:3, for example, is a good starting point for plants just beginning to veg.

• Nutrient burn

Growers usually run into nutrient burn when they feed their seedlings too early or when they transition into the vegetative phase (either because they transplant their seedlings into hot soil or they start feeding with a fertiliser that’s too strong). The first signs of nutrient burn are dark green leaves with burnt tips. Left untreated, nutrient burn also causes leaves to curl upwards.

Luckily, unlike some of the other seedling issues we’ve mentioned in this post, it is possible to remedy nutrient burn. Simply lay off the nutrients for at least one week and water your plants with plain, pH-balanced water. Once your plant starts to grow more healthy, green foliage, slowly dial the fertiliser back in.

Whenever you start feeding your plants, we recommend giving them half the recommended dose of fertiliser during the first week of feeding. This gives the plants time to adjust to their new diet.

• Going organic

At RQS, we’re big fans of organic cannabis gardening. No amount of chemical nutrients could ever compare to the complex mix of microorganisms that exist in organic soil.

When growing organic, the focus is all about building a vibrant soil from the get-go, rather than growing in a stagnant medium and pumping it full of chemical nutrients once a week. While it’s a lot more hands-on, the taste of organic weed is hard to beat. Just remember that organically grown plants typically don’t provide the same yields as their non-organic siblings.

HOW TO PREVENT PESTS AND BUGS

Pests and plagues can destroy seedlings in less than a day. To prevent this from happening, it’s super important to keep the environment around your seedlings clean and at optimal temperatures and humidity levels. Avoid overwatering, and remember to read up on common cannabis pests so you can spot and treat them early. Some common pests to look out for include:

• Fungus gnats

These small, black, fly-like bugs feed off your plants and lay their larvae in wet topsoil.

• Spider mites

Black or red in colour, spider mites live on the underside of leaves and sometimes spin protective webs around healthy foliage. They love hot, dry conditions.

• Leaf miners

These small, slender, winged insects leave irregular snail-trail-like spots on healthy leaves.

• White powdery mildew

As the name suggests, white powdery mildew is a type of mould that forms as a white, flour-like powder on the leaves of your plants.

• Pythium and Fusarium

These fungi can be hard to spot, but white spots on wet topsoil can be an early sign of their presence.

Cannabis seedlings like warm, humid conditions. Unfortunately, pests and diseases also love these conditions. Keeping things extra clean and growing your seedlings in a propagator can help prevent an infestation.

HOW TO PREVENT STRETCHY SEEDLINGS

Seedlings stretch in order to get closer to their light source. To keep your seedlings from developing unnaturally long, flimsy stalks, grow them under blue spectrum CFLs located roughly 5cm from the top of the plants. Also, avoid keeping your seedlings in the dark for 24 hours after germination (a common piece of advice on grow forums), as the lack of light will force your seedlings to stretch abnormally.

KNOW WHEN AND HOW TO TRANSPLANT YOUR SEEDLINGS

Unfortunately, transplanting seedlings is far from an exact science; rather than following a strict calendar or schedule, it’s all about paying attention to your plant and knowing which cues to look out for.

As we mentioned earlier, a good rule of thumb is to transplant seedlings when their leaves fully cover the circumference of their container. After about one week, try checking on your seedlings’ roots. If you can completely remove a seedling and all its soil, it is ready to transplant.

Remember to be very gentle when handling your seedlings and transplanting them. Any minute damage to their roots can result in a ton of stress that, for such young and fragile plants, can take a while to recover from.

GET GROWING!

Now that you know the theory behind growing healthy cannabis seedlings, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Remember to invest in one of our Starter Kits for the best, most reliable results, and keep reading our blog for more tips on growing spectacular weed at home.

Struggling with your cannabis seedlings? Click here for 3 simple steps to growing healthy seedlings, alongside tips for mastering the cannabis seedling phase.

Understanding marijuana plant stages

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Contents

  1. The marijuana growth cycle
  2. Where to plant cannabis
  3. Germination Stage
  4. Seedling Stage
  5. Vegetative Stage
  6. Flowering Stage
  7. Harvesting Stage
  8. Pruning Stage
  9. Storing Cannabis
  10. Cloning Cannabis
  11. Cultivating marijuana at home

The hands-on, sensory pleasure of planting a garden is an experience like no other. Whether you have a green thumb or not, you can grow a marijuana garden at home by understanding the essential life cycle of the plant.

The cannabis plant experiences growth throughout six distinct stages: germination stage, seedling stage, vegetative stage, flowering stage, harvesting stage, pruning stage, and finally a preparation stage for the cycle to start again.

Here we outline each of these important stages in the growth of a marijuana plant and share how you can oversee each one to optimize your crop. Measuring the nutrient feed is the best way to ensure that you are not overloading your plant with any one element or skimping in one area either.

The marijuana growth cycle

Beginning with tiny seeds and culminating in rich harvests, the marijuana growth cycle can last between 10 and 26 weeks, or as much as half the year. Therefore, growing your own cannabis entails a sizable commitment of time and effort, but the rewards may be equally abundant. In three to six months’ time, you can raise a crop to serve you with plant-based medicine, recreational enjoyment, or both. The marijuana you grow can transform into smokable, edible, and topical treasures that may offer a combination of physiological and psychological benefits.

The cannabis plant requires differing amounts of nutrients as it grows. There are three primary nutrients for the cannabis cultivator to understand: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus . Nutrient packages often label these big three components as NPK , based on the chemical symbols for each one. In addition to these most vital nutrients, there is another trio of secondary nutrients to be aware of: magnesium, calcium, and sulfur. Finally, marijuana requires an array or micronutrients which tend to appear naturally in soil. Some of these micronutrients, or trace elements, include zinc, manganese, iron, boron, chloride, cobalt, and silicon.

The key is balance when nourishing a weed plant. All-in-one mixes tend to be too broad, while overloading with one single nutrient, even those in the NPK group, could be hazardous to the plant’s health.

Where to plant cannabis

There are three main locations where cultivators plant cannabis: outdoor, in a greenhouse, or indoors.

Outdoor cultivators often begin to grow their plants in the spring to prepare for a fall harvest. Choosing the right soil is perhaps the most vital component for outdoor cultivators. Choose a soil chock full of plant nutrients and organic materials, including microbes, earthworm castings, and forest humus. Some soils are even classified as “super soils” because they minimize or eliminate the need for liquid nutrients. Overall, an investment in cannabis-compatible soil is the biggest investment for the outdoor cultivator.

One other option to consider is to start growing marijuana in a greenhouse. A greenhouse provides the bright sunlight necessary to raise a healthy plant while offering better environmental controls. For example, darkness is key during certain growth stages, and a greenhouse gives you the control to use blackout shades or roof covering systems. Cannabis also receives protection from the elements in a greenhouse, as well as from animals and pests. However, a greenhouse is an expensive undertaking and not ideal for the budget-conscious grower.

Indoor cultivators have the flexibility to plant their cannabis seeds any time of year, as long as long as indoor conditions are managed with regard to temperature, humidity, light, and air quality. Light management is especially important as plants cannot survive without the right amount of photosynthesis. In an outdoor garden, natural sunlight does all the work, but indoors you’ll need to invest in a lighting system, such as LED lights or high intensity white light.

Indoor cultivators have the flexibility to plant their cannabis seeds any time of year, as long as long as indoor conditions are managed with regard to temperature, humidity, light, and air quality. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Before you start to plant your outdoor, greenhouse, or indoor marijuana garden, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with state and local laws which can vary significantly. Once you’ve established the legality of cultivating cannabis at home in your state or region, you can begin the first stage of growth and plant seeds.

Germination Stage

Duration: 24 hours to 2 weeks

The germination stage is the first stage in the cannabis plant cycle. As a grower, you will want to maintain an abundance of female plants because they are richer in trichomes than their male counterparts. Trichomes are the white crystals that grow on marijuana plants and contain the sought-after cannabinoids of CBD and THC.

You’ll want to purchase feminized seeds and germinate them. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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On the other hand, male plants are not as useful and could in fact contaminate your female plants. Therefore, you’ll want to purchase feminized seeds and germinate them. Online seed banks are an excellent resource to find feminized seeds.

Seedling Stage

Duration: 2 to 3 weeks

The marijuana plant is a baby at this point in the life cycle. No longer merely seeds, your plants are now officially seedlings. During the seedling stage you will notice your cannabis plant sprouting from the soil and growing a pair of leaves that fan outward from the stem. Leaves will also sprout from the top of the plant while a root system simultaneously develops. While it’s possible for the seedling stage to extend to six weeks, a timeline of two to three weeks is much more typical.

During the seedling stage you will notice your cannabis plant sprouting from the soil and growing a pair of leaves that fan outward from the stem. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Nurture your seedlings in a warm environment with a temperature of approximately 77 degrees Fahrenheit with 60 percent accompanying humidity. Fertilizer (preferably nitrogen-based) and light are also vital during the seedling stage. To determine what’s best for your particular plant, research the strain that you are cultivating. By the time this stage concludes, your plants will have outgrown their tiny pots.

Vegetative Stage

Duration: 3 to 8 weeks

Also called the vegetation phase, the vegetative stage marks a significant growth spurt for your seedlings, which you will need to transfer to larger pots. Growth occurs rapidly during the vegetative stage, with vertical growth especially pronounced. Can you imagine your plant growing two inches taller in just 24 hours? It could happen!

Growth occurs rapidly during the vegetative stage, with vertical growth especially pronounced. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Your plants will also begin to take on a definitive shape at this stage. For example, a sativa plant will become long and narrow, while an indica will be shorter, bushier, and denser with foliage. The sexual characteristics of your plants will also become apparent and you can differentiate between the males and the females now. By the end of the vegetative stage, female plants will exhibit two white pistils and male plants will grow pollen sacs. Be sure to remove these pollen sacs to avoid contaminating your female plants.

A slightly lower temperature is ideal during this phase. When your plants were seedlings, you maintained a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, but now you can adjust to a range of 68 to 77 degrees. Humidity may also vary more, with 50 to 70 percent sufficient. Give your plants ample light: at least 16 hours a day and as many as 24 continuous hours. Finally, keep feeding your cannabis plants with nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

Flowering Stage

Duration: 6 to 8 weeks

If you’re wondering which is the most crucial among the stages of growth, the flowering stage is the one to watch! Look out for sticky resin on the leaves and clusters of trichomes as well. The more trichomes you see, the more potent your marijuana plant is becoming. Ultimately, potency also depends on how much time a plant spends in the flowering stage, so if it goes beyond the 8-week mark, you might be in for a pleasant surprise at harvest time.

The flowering stage represents the final stage in the growth cycle but not in the life cycle of your cannabis plants. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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The flowering stage also represents the final stage in the growth cycle but not in the life cycle of your cannabis plants. One key distinction of the flowering stage is a reduction of light on your plants. No longer does a cannabis plant require 24 hours of light; 12 hours will be adequate, along with a corresponding 12 hours of darkness.

A consistent temperature range of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended as your marijuana flowers, along with moderate humidity of 50 percent. Nitrogen is no longer the most important nutrient; now feed your cannabis plant potassium and phosphorous instead.

The end of the flowering stage marks an eagerly anticipated milestone in the growth process as you prepare to harvest your crop.

Harvesting Stage

Duration: Varies; Harvesting generally takes place in fall for outdoor plants but can occur any time of year for indoor plants.

Congratulations! The harvesting stage is when you reap the rewards of your careful planting and cultivation. The challenging part is knowing exactly when to harvest and proceeding with care. If you harvest too soon or too late, your weed may not taste or smell the way you expect, and you could also affect the potency.

The harvesting stage is when you reap the rewards of your careful planting and cultivation. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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So, how do you know when the harvesting stage has arrived? Your plants will provide you with numerous clues to guide you. For example, take a good look at the pistils on your female plants. If the pistils are mostly brown, then there’s a good chance that it’s harvest time. In contrast, if all the pistils are brown, then you may have missed the optimal moment for harvest and the marijuana will be classified as “overripe.” Likewise, observe the color of the leaves. If the leaves are yellow, rather than green, then don’t delay the start of your harvest.

Is it ever too late to harvest a marijuana plant? If the stem is swollen and all the yellow leaves have fallen off, then it is too late to harvest the marijuana. Cannabis at this late stage will likely taste and smell unpleasant, possibly bitter. As a general rule, it is preferable to harvest earlier rather than later. Prematurely harvested weed has not reached its maximum potency, but it will probably taste and smell more desirable than that which has become overripe. So, invest in a hardy pair of scissors and harvest your weed when the time is right!

Pruning Stage

Duration: Varies; May begin in spring to anticipate a fall harvest for outdoor plants or start in any season for indoor plants.

Pruning is the next step to take after you cut down and harvest your plants. The purpose of pruning is to round out the buds and, by doing so, enhance the smoking experience. You can experiment with two different types of pruning, wet and dry. Many novice growers find it easier to prune when the plant is wet, so you may like to start there. Dry plants tend to curl at the leaves, which makes them more difficult to prune.

Whether you use the wet or dry method of pruning, you will need to fully dry the cannabis before proceeding with curing and storage. To dry cannabis, hang the cuttings upside down, perhaps on a clothesline and most definitely in an environment that is not overly moist. Once the plants have dried, you will be ready to complete the last steps of the pruning process.

A precision pair of pruning scissors is your most useful tool at this stage. Whereas a heftier pair of scissors is appropriate at harvest, a more delicate pair does the job for pruning. A pair of gardening gloves is also helpful to protect your hands from the sticky resin of the buds.

First, use your hands to pluck the fan leaves from the buds. Next, use your scissors to trim off the sugar leaves which contain high levels of trichomes and can be used to make cannabis concentrates. You can also save the sugar leaves to use as an ingredient in your favorite edible, such as cannabutter. Others prefer to discard the sugar leaves, but there’s no reason to do so unless you’re trying to preserve space. Lastly, collect the excess resin that sticks to your gloves and put it to work if you create any dabs.

Everything you have pruned from the plant can serve a purpose, but the crowning glory is the bud. Curing the dried buds is one of the final steps in the process before you can enjoy a relaxing smoke. Patience is essential at this point proper curing can take up to two months and affects the quality of the buds. One easy curing method is to place the buds in a glass jar and leave them there for up to eight weeks. During the first two weeks, open the jar periodically to let in oxygen and “burp” your buds.

Patience pays off at the end of the pruning stage when you can consume the cannabis you’ve cultivated and effectively store any leftover weed for future use.

Storing Cannabis

As with curing, glass jars make ideal storage units for cannabis if you plan on using the cannabis soon. Long-term storage of up to two years necessitates vacuum sealing of containers to keep the weed as fresh as possible. Even in the most tightly sealed jar, cannabis can lose some THC content the longer it is stored. This is one reason why you might like to clone your excess cannabis and begin the growing cycle again.

Cloning Cannabis

To continue the weed life cycle, you can purchase more seeds or you can breed and clone your cannabis during a final preparation stage. Start growing a whole new cycle of cannabis by choosing a branch that is at least four inches long and cutting it off from your most fertile crop. Then, plant the branch into a rooting solution to grow a new batch of plants that will be genetically identical to the ones you just harvested.

Of course, if you were not satisfied with your harvest, then breeding and cloning would not be a good choice. Perhaps the strain you chose was too potent, or not potent enough, for your preferences. In this case, revisit an online seed bank and take the opportunity to learn the difference between strains. Explore your options and you’ll not only educate yourself about the growth process but you’ll also enjoy the ride.

Cultivating marijuana at home

Understanding these stages of growth is the first step towards cultivating a healthy yield of cannabis. Observe the development of your plants throughout the process and consider keeping a journal of their progress. As you work through trial-and-error with your crops, you can pinpoint which techniques work best to deliver the desired results. You’ll also have the satisfaction of seeing a cannabis plant through from its smallest form as a seed to full maturity when it’s ready to smoke, eat, and enjoy.

Understanding marijuana plant stages Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents The marijuana growth cycle Where to plant cannabis Germination