Knowing where your cannabis plants are in their life cycle will dictate when to prune, train, and trellis your plants, and when to harvest. Learn more about marijuana growth stages today. Cannabis seeds need only water, heat, and air to break dormancy and germinate; they do not need extra hormones, fertilizers, or additives. Seeds sprout This soil germination method is a low risk, easy method that that take up to 3-10 days. Read our guide to learn how to germinate seeds in soil.
4 stages of marijuana plant growth
Cannabis plants go through a series of stages as they grow and mature, and those different growth stages call for different amounts of light, nutrients, and water.
It’s important to know these stages and how long each lasts to know what the plant needs and when. Knowing where your cannabis plants are in their life cycles will dictate when to prune, train, and trellis your plants, and when to harvest.
How long does it take to grow a marijuana plant?
Generally speaking, it takes anywhere from 10-32 weeks, or about 3-8 months, to grow a weed plant from seed to harvest. It’ll be quicker if you start with a clone 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.
If you’re growing indoors, you can force a weed plant to flower after only a few weeks when it’s small or after several weeks when it’s big.
When growing outdoors, you’re at the whim of the seasons and will have to wait until the sun starts to go down in the fall for plants to flower, and then to harvest.
However, one way outdoor growers can control the flowering cycle is by using light deprivation techniques.
How long can a marijuana plant live?
Weed plants are annuals, meaning they grow and live for one season and then die. Wild cannabis plants grow seeds and drop them when they die, which will grow into new plants the following year.
When harvesting, plants are cut down and die in order to get their buds. New seeds need to be planted in order to grow more plants.
If left unharvested, weed plants will eventually wither and rot within a few months after the peak flowering phase.
When should you grow marijuana?
If you’re growing outdoors in the Northern Hemisphere, growers usually get their seeds between February and April and start germinating seeds by the end of April.
Many start growing seedlings inside in a more controlled environment because seedlings are more delicate, and then put the seedlings in the ground outside once they’re a little bigger and the weather is warmer.
If you’re growing clones or autoflowers, you have a grace period of another month or so. Plants usually need to be outside, in the ground, by the end of June.
Harvesting happens sometime between September and November. This depends on your local climate, as well as the weather that particular year—one year it could be the end of September, the next, end of October; growers in the Pacific Northwest will have to pull down their crops earlier than those in Northern California because of cold weather.
If you’re growing weed indoors, you can grow whenever you like. Keep in mind that the outside environment will affect your grow space—you may need to add heaters in the winter or fans and ACs in the summer.
Other than that, you can start seeds whenever you like and flip them into flower whenever you like, depending on how big you want the plants.
Important dates for growing marijuana outdoors
Many growers begin germinating seeds as early as February and March in order to have big plants come harvest time, but the Spring Equinox is a good reminder that it’s time to kick off the outdoor growing process and start germinating your seeds if you haven’t already.
Many farmers wait until after Mother’s Day in May to put their plants outside. Just make sure all of your plants are outside by the Summer Solstice at the latest.
The weather will start to turn and the sun will begin descending in the sky as your plants fatten up with sweet, sticky buds. It might be tempting, but the Fall Equinox is about when to start harvesting. It’ll depends on your climate and the year—it could happen a little before or after.
Everything should be cleaned up, dried, and curing by Thanksgiving, and in some places, even by Halloween.
As winter approaches, it’s prime time to make your own cannabutter, topicals, or tinctures with all that trim from the harvest. Kick your feet up, relax, and hunker down for the cold, it’s been a long growing season!
Notes on marijuana growth phases
We can’t stress enough that the timeframes in the above graphic are ranges of time for the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll need to adjust them based on your specific region and local weather and climate.
Be sure to keep a grow journal to track the progress of your plants. Looking back on your notes will help you learn from mistakes and maximize the quality and quantity of your buds next year.
Take meticulous notes on when and how you perform each step, noting:
- How much water you give plants, and at what intervals
- Nutrient amounts
- When you top and prune
Pictures will also give you a better sense of how your plants look along the way.
What are a weed plant’s growth stages?
The growth stages of marijuana can be broken down into four primary stages from seed to harvest:
- Germination (3-10 days)
- Seedling (2-3 weeks)
- Vegetative (3-16 weeks)
- Flowering (8-11 weeks)
Cannabis seed germination
Seed germination length: 3-10 days
Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
The first marijuana plant stage begins with the seed. A cannabis seed should feel hard and dry, and be light- to dark-brown in color. An undeveloped seed is generally squishy and green or white in color and likely won’t germinate.
Once your seed has germinated, or sprouted, it’s ready to be placed in a growing medium, like soil. The tap root will drive down while the stem of the seedling will grow upward.
Two rounded cotyledon leaves will grow out from the stem as the plant unfolds from the protective casing of the seed. These initial leaves are responsible for taking in sunlight so the plant can grow healthy and stable.
As roots develop, the stalk will rise and you’ll begin to see the first iconic fan leaves grow, at which point your cannabis plant can be considered a seedling.
Seedling stage in cannabis plants
Seedling stage length: 2-3 weeks
Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
When your marijuana plant becomes a seedling, you’ll notice it developing the traditional cannabis fan leaves. As a sprout, the seed will initially produce leaves with only one ridged blade.
Once new growth develops, the leaves will develop more blades, or “fingers” (3, 5, 7, etc.). A mature cannabis plant will have between 5 or 7 blades per leaf, but some plants may have more.
Cannabis plants are considered seedlings until they begin to develop leaves with the full number of blades on new fan leaves. A healthy seedling should be a vibrant green color.
Be careful to not overwater the plant in its seedling stage—its roots are so small, it doesn’t need much water to thrive.
At this stage, the plant is vulnerable to disease and mold. Keep its environment clean and monitor excess moisture. Be sure to give it plenty of light.
Even if growing outdoors, a lot of growers will start their seeds inside under an artificial light to help them through this delicate stage of marijuana growth.
If you buy a clone from a grower or breeder it will be a seedling, so you can skip the seed germination phase.
Vegetative stage in cannabis plants
Vegetative stage length: 3-16 weeks
Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
The vegetative stage of cannabis is where the plant’s growth truly takes off, and it typically lasts 3-16 weeks. At this point, you’ve transplanted your plant into a larger pot and the roots and foliage are developing rapidly. This is also the time to begin topping or training your plants.
Be mindful to increase your watering as the plant develops. When it’s young, your plant will need water close to the stalk, but as it grows the roots will also grow outward, so start watering further away from the stalk in the soil so roots can stretch out and absorb water more efficiently.
Vegetative plants appreciate healthy soil with nutrients. Feed them with a high level of nitrogen at this stage.
If you need to determine the sex of your plants (to discard the males), they will start showing sex organs a few weeks into the veg stage. It’s imperative to separate males so they don’t pollinate the females.
Cannabis plant flowering stage
Flowering stage length: 8-11 weeks
Marijuana light cycle: 12 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
The flowering stage is the final stage of growth for a cannabis plant. This is when plants start to develop resinous buds and your hard work will be realized. Most strains flower in 8-9 weeks, but some can take even longer, especially some sativas.
Outdoors, flowering occurs naturally when the plant receives less light each day as summer turns into fall.
Indoor growers can trigger the flowering cycle by reducing the amount of light marijuana plants receive from 18 to 12 hours a day.
There are three subphases of the flowering stage:
- Flower initiation (week 1-3): The plant will continue to grow and females will develop pre-flowers—pistils, or white hairs, will grow out, which are the beginnings of buds.
- Mid-flowering (week 4-5): The plant itself will stop growing and buds will start fattening up.
- Late flowering/ripening (week 6 and on): Trichome density will increase and plants will get very sticky; keep an eye on the color of the pistils to tell when to harvest.
There are a number of changes to consider once plants go from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage:
- Don’t prune when plants are flowering, as it can upset their hormones
- Plants should be trellised or scrogged so buds will be supported as they develop and air can flow through plants
- Consider giving plants bloom or phosphorus nutrients
When do buds grow the most?
Buds typically grow the most toward the end of the flowering life cycle. You probably won’t notice much budding out at the beginning of the flowering stage, and it will slow down toward the end of the cycle, when buds become fully formed.
Once buds have reached full maturation, it’s time to harvest your marijuana. How long it takes to harvest buds depends on many factors, including harvesting methods and how many plants you harvest.
Jorge’s Cannabis Encyclopedia: Seed Germination
Cannabis seeds need only water, heat, and air to break dormancy and germinate; they do not need extra hormones, fertilizers, or additives. Seeds sprout without light in a range of temperatures. Strong, viable, properly nurtured seeds germinate in 2 to 7 days. At germination, the outside protective shell of the seed splits, and a tiny, white sprout (radicle) pops out. This sprout is the root, or taproot. Cotyledon, or seed, leaves emerge on a stem from within the shell as they push upward in search of light.
Break dormancy: Put newly harvested seeds in the refrigerator for a week or two to simulate winter. Remove and germinate. Seeds will germinate more uniformly because they all come out of dormancy at the same time.
Timeline for Germinating Most Seeds:
At 36 to 96 hours – Water is absorbed, root tip (radicle) pops through outer shell and is visible.
At 10 to 14 days – First roots and root hairs become visible.
At 21 to 30 days – At least half of seeds are rooted by day 21. Seeds not rooted by day 30 will probably grow slowly.
Once seeds are rooted, cell growth accelerates; stem, foliage, and roots develop quickly. Seedlings develop into full vegetative growth within 4 to 6 weeks of germination.
Seeds are Prompted to Germinate By:
Water: Soaking seeds in water allows moisture to penetrate the protective seed shell within minutes. Once inside, moisture continues to wick in to activate the dominant hormones. In a few days, hormones activate and send enough signals to pro- duce an initial root tip. The white radicle (rootlet) emerges to bring a new plant into the world. Once a seed is moist, it must receive a constant flow of moisture to transport nutrients, hormones, and water so that it can carry on life processes. Some seeds need lots of moisture to wash out the dormancy hormones in the seed coat, and if they do not get enough moisture, they do not germinate. Conversely, too much water deprives the seed of oxygen, reducing its quality or destroying it. If fragile germinated seeds are allowed to suffer moisture stress now, seedling growth will be stunted. Soaking most seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours is all they need to initiate germination. All the nourishment for a seed’s initial growth requirement is pulled from the fleshy cotyledons, or seed leaves. Water seedlings with low-EC (electrical conductivity) household tap water during the first week or two of life. Supple- mental nutrients are unnecessary and if applied in excess can disrupt internal seed chemistry. Some gardeners prefer to germinate seeds using distilled or purified water that contains virtually no dissolved solids.
Temperature: Overall, cannabis seeds germinate in temperatures from 70°F–90°F (21°C–32°C) and grow best at 78°F (26°C). Temperatures below 70°F (21°C) and above 90°F (32°C) impair germination. Low temperatures delay germination. High temperatures upset seed chemistry causing poor germination. Seeds germinate best under the native conditions and temperature ranges where they were grown.
Air & Oxygen: Sow seeds twice as deep as the width of the seed. For example, 0.125-inch (3 mm) seeds should be planted 0.25 inches (6 mm) deep. Adequate oxygen is un- available for seeds planted too deeply, and tender seedlings have insufficient stored energy to drive through deep layers of soil or crusty hard soil when sprouting.
Agricultural Astrology — Planting by the Moon
Ancient Babylonians and Egyptians planted and harvested based on moon phases in relation to geographic location. The premise is that plants grow better when planted during the appropriate moon phase.
Moon phases cause ocean tides to rise and fall. They also affect the rise and fall of moisture in soil and fluids inside plants. The moon phase influence is said to be the same indoors, outdoors, and in greenhouse-grown cannabis.
Cannabis gardeners who plant by the moon report faster-sprouting seeds that grow into vigorous plants. However, scientific evidence is lacking in regard to cannabis and other plants’ relationship with agricultural astrology.
Seeds need oxygen from the air to germinate. Growing mediums that are too moist (soggy) will cut off oxygen supplies and the seeds will literally drown. Cannabis seeds germinate best when moisture is between 60 and 70 percent.
Soil Germination Method in 8 steps
Amongst the best ways to germinate cannabis seeds, this soil germination method is a low risk, easy method that explains how to germinate your seeds in soil. Germination can take 3-10 days, depending on environmental conditions and variety
Never use soil from your backyard! It can contain pests and moulds that will damage or destroy your seeds, seedlings or plants.
How to germinate seeds in soil
Read here which 8 steps you have to take for this soil germination method.
Step 1: Prepare your soil
Prepare your pots with clean fresh soil. It is often easy to use small pots for this, and transport them to a larger container later.
Step 2: Watering the soil
Make sure your soil is wet, but do not soak it. It needs to be damp but not soaked, otherwise you risk your seeds to rot. In most countries, normal tap water is clean enough to use. Do not add any additives to the water.
Step 3: Placing the seed inside the soil
Make a small dimple in the soil and place the seed 3-5mm deep inside the soil. Don’t bury your seed too deep! When you put your seed too deep inside the soil, it will struggle to reach the surface, and have a high risk of dying before it does.
Step 4: Cover the seed and press gently
Cover the seed with soil and press the soil gently.
Step 5: Cover the pots with kitchen foil
Cover your pot(s) with kitchen foil or microwave foil (with the small holes). The foil will act like a small greenhouse, keeping the inside of your pot warm and moist. Perfect for germination.
Step 6: Poke some holes
When you use normal kitchen foil, poke some holes through the foil. This will avoid the risk of overheating and let air flow true.
Place your setup in a room with stable temperature. 20-25 degrees is ideal. We often advice your living room
Step 7: Wait for germination
All you have to do now is wait. In our experience it often takes about 4-5 days for your seedlings to show. But to calculate for differences in conditions and seeds, we say 3-10 days is a safe estimate. As soon as your seedling has sprouted (first leaves reach the surface) you can remove the foil.
Step 8: Take care of your seedlings
All 5 seeds germinated in 4 days within 24 hours of each other. You can now place them under a grow light, behind your window or outside (during spring / summer of course).
WARNING! Do not place this germination setup outside in direct sunlight, especially during summer. Day and night temperatures vary too much and sunlight will cause the temperature inside your soil to rise to a point where your seed will be damaged or killed by the heat.
17 Comments . Leave new
buongiorno dutch passion ho seguito il vostro tutorial e dopo 4 giorni la germinazione è avvenuta.una domanda vorrei fare,devo aspettare che si aprono i cotiledoni prima di rimuovere la pellicola o posso mettere il vas gia al sole anche se non sono aperti i cotiledoni. grazie e buona domenica
tutto ok germinazione perfeta.
When a seedling is in its first days its best to not place it in direct sunlight. This can be too much for a little seedling. When the seedling starts growing a little bit you can place it in direct sunlight
ok perfect I do this because I saw that it is the best method.I had put it in direct sunlight and it was dying, I managed to save it in time.I have one in germination and I will apply your advice.thank you very much Joe
Once the stem has come through the soil how long till you put it on a larger pot and up the tempreture
It depends a little bit on the pot size you started with.
Additionally, if you grow an autoflower its best to germinate them in the pot they will also flower in. They don’t like to be transplanted a lot.
If you grow feminised seeds than you can put them in a larger pot after 3/4 weeks.
Sweet thank you ,
Hi, Joe answering?? I did an error putting seeds in soil not enough wet and under lamp … I choose Orange punch feminized and autoflowering…Is a good choice for me ad a beginner or could you give me best options? (Medium-high THC and quantity of final result) I also need some good ideas about the soil to use and the power of led lamps (I’ve buyed 2x100watt multiple ranges led lamp for plant grown for about 60cm x 40cm for 4/6 seeds). I have to do another order and I’m trying to do all well. Waiting hopefully for your answer, my best regards, thanks. Heathcliff
Critical Orange Punch is a good strain to start your growing career. Please try to follow the germination steps from this blog and you should be fine Don’t start your light if the seeds have not germinated yet. For your soil I advice you to have a type of soil that has minimum nutrients because seedlings cannot handle too much nutrients, these should be added later :).