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how long to grow a weed plant

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 cycle 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. 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. If you’re growing outdoors, you’re at the whim of the seasons and will have to wait until the sun starts to go down in fall for it to flower and then to harvest.

When should you grow marijuana?

If you’re growing outdoors in the Northern Hemisphere, growers usually get their seeds between February and April, and you should start your seeds by the end of April. Some growers will start their seedlings inside in a more controlled environment because seedlings are more delicate, and then put their seeds in the ground outside once they’re a little bigger. 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.

Harvest 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, and growers in the Pacific Northwest will have to pull down their crops earlier than those in Northern California.

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

The Spring Equinox is a good reminder that it’s time to kick off the outdoor growing process and start germinating your seeds.

As the sun reaches up high in the sky, your cannabis will want to as well. Make sure all of your plants are outside by the Summer Solstice.

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 wait until around the Fall Equinox to start harvesting.

Everything should be cleaned up, dried, and curing well before the Winter Solstice. Now’s a good 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.

Take meticulous notes on when and how you perform each step, as well as what the weather is like. Other notes can include how much water you give plants, at what intervals, and how much nutrients you give them. 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)

Seed germination

Seed germination length: 3-10 days

Marijuana light cycle: 16 hours a day

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 needed for the plant to become 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

Seedling stage length: 2-3 weeks

Marijuana light cycle: 16 hours a day

When your marijuana plant becomes a seedling, you’ll notice it developing more of 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 (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 very 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

Vegetative stage length: 3-16 weeks

Marijuana light cycle: indoor—16 hours a day; outdoor—at least 8 hours of direct sunlight (“full sun”), plus several hours indirect sunlight

The vegetative stage of cannabis is where the plant’s growth truly takes off. 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 higher 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.

Flowering stage

Flowering stage length: 8-11 weeks

Marijuana light cycle: 12 hours a day

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 16 to 12 hours a day.

Within the flowering stage, there are three subphases:

  • 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 stage, as it can upset their hormones
  • Plants should be trellised so buds will be supported as they develop
  • Consider giving plants bloom (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.

Pat Goggins and Trevor Hennings contributed to this article.

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.

The 7 Easy Steps of Growing Marijuana

Legal cannabis is becoming the norm across the United States and in many other countries of the world. Hooray!! Although not official, it is ostensibly legal in most of Europe and if not legal, then certainly tolerated.

So, you have come to the decision to grow your own cannabis. Well done! Soon you will be part of a rapidly growing culture. The phenomenon of homegrown marijuana that is sweeping the world.

Growing your own cannabis is a fun and inexpensive way to put high-quality buds in your jar. Marijuana is a hardy plant that can grow in a wide range of climates, in greenhouses or indoors all year round.

  • 1. Cannabis is your friend
  • 2. Step 1: choosing your cannabis seeds
  • 3. Step 2: cannabis fundamentals
  • 3a. Light
  • 3b. Growing medium
  • 3c. Air
  • 3d. Water
  • 3e. Temperature
  • 3f. Nutrients
  • 3g. Humidity
  • 4. Step 3: lights for indoor cannabis growing
  • 5. Step 4: germination and cannabis seedlings
  • 6. Step 5: the vegetative phase of cannabis
  • 7. Step 6: the blooming period of healthy cannabis
  • 8. Step 7: harvesting, drying and curing for best quality buds
  • 8.a Harvesting the marijuana plant
  • 8.b How long does cannabis take to cure?
  • 9. Pick a strain
  • 10. Top 6 cannabis strains that are easy to grow
  • 1. Cannabis is your friend
  • 2. Step 1: choosing your cannabis seeds
  • 3. Step 2: cannabis fundamentals
  • 3a. Light
  • 3b. Growing medium
  • 3c. Air
  • 3d. Water
  • 3e. Temperature
  • 3f. Nutrients
  • 3g. Humidity
  • 4. Step 3: lights for indoor cannabis growing
  • 5. Step 4: germination and cannabis seedlings
  • 6. Step 5: the vegetative phase of cannabis
  • 7. Step 6: the blooming period of healthy cannabis
  • 8. Step 7: harvesting, drying and curing for best quality buds
  • 8.a Harvesting the marijuana plant
  • 8.b How long does cannabis take to cure?
  • 9. Pick a strain
  • 10. Top 6 cannabis strains that are easy to grow

GROWING CANNABIS FROM SEED STEP BY STEP

Like all gardening, cannabis growing is a skill developed over time. It is easy to learn but takes a happily stoned lifetime to master. There is no reason to be intimidated by growing your own. The process is not complicated and can be as inexpensive or expensive as you like.

Understanding the fundamentals of cannabis growing is a good place to start your marijuana growing journey. Making informed decisions early will maximise your end yields. These seven basic steps will give you an excellent knowledge base to become an expert marijuana gardener.

STEP 1: CHOOSING YOUR CANNABIS SEEDS

The choice is staggering. Sativa, indica, ruderalis, any number of hybrids, all available at a click. You know what you enjoy from personal experience. What strains have fitted your groove in the past? What strains have performed as a satisfactory medicine for your particular ailment? They are probably a good place to start.

With your personal taste in mind now consider your growing circumstances. Are you growing in a small cupboard where small fast-maturing plants like autoflowering strains or indicas will be the most effective use of your space? Or do you have a nice big backyard where you can grow one or more monsters directly in the soil or in large pots?

STEP 2: CANNABIS FUNDAMENTALS

In order to grow at its best and give you the juicy buds, you love cannabis requires some fundamental things.

LIGHT: For healthy vegetation marijuana needs over eighteen hours of light per twenty-four hour period. Indoors this is controlled by you with timers. Outdoors germination must be delayed until the plants can be exposed to more than twelve hours of daylight and receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight per day.

GROWING MEDIUM: Organic growers will use some kinds of soil every time inside or out. However, soil isn’t the only choice. Neutral mediums that are entirely nutrient dependant include coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite or rock wool. Aeroponics, purely hydroponic or deep water culture do not use mediums at all. The suspended root matrix gets nutrients directly from the nutrient mix.

AIR: For strength and proper exchange of gases, cannabis requires fresh moving air. Outdoors this is no problems your plants will be exposed to breeze and gale alike. Indoors your plants will need a fresh air intake, stale air exhaust and a fan for air movement. Still environments encourage pests, moulds and weak growth. A buildup of aspirated gases will stunt plant growth.

WATER: Like all living things cannabis needs water to grow, thrive and carry out its biological functions. If you live somewhere with regular rainfall your outdoor crop may get all it needs from nature alone. Large cannabis plants are notoriously thirsty. If you are going big then you will certainly need to supplement water between rains.

Indoors water becomes the medium that carries nutrients. Unmodified water is used to flush hydroponic and soilless systems regularly. The pH of your water is very important. The canny cannabis grower has a good pH meter as part of a comprehensive grow kit.

TEMPERATURE: Cannabis is a very hardy plant and can survive cold and heat well. Just like you or me though, it can get stressed and not function well in the extremes. Cannabis can freeze or boil to death. It can stop growing or go into stasis. It will go into survival mode if the temperatures are too high or too cold for too long. Twenty-seven degrees centigrade is the accepted ideal for vigorous cannabis growth. Indoors this is easy to achieve with fans, air conditioning units, heating and cooling mats. Lights will certainly generate heat that needs to be vented.

Outdoors you need to pick your time. Know your particular climate well. Have a sun cycle app or chart to make sure you get your timing right. Too early and you risk your plants going into flower immediately, then re-vegging when the daylight increases. This is unwanted. Your flowers will not form properly when blooming begins. Too late and you will have small plants with fewer flower sites.

NUTRIENTS: Like all living things cannabis also requires fuel to grow. A good friable soil mix that is rich with compost, living organisms, vitamins and minerals can supply your plants with enough food for their whole life cycle.

Watering with compost tea and other organic mixes like molasses or feather meals improve soil quality and encourage healthy plant growth.

With hydroponics or neutral mediums you supply all of the plant’s lifeblood with pre-formulated nutrient blends. Usually customised for marijuana especially. Specialised concoctions are made exclusively for whichever soil-less medium you choose.

HUMIDITY: Outdoors you don’t really have any control over this factor and you are at the mercy of your climate. The upside is that the variations in humidity and the robust biological functions needed to adapt to a changing grow environment makes your plants exceptionally strong!

Indoors humidity control is very important from seed to flower. Leaves aspirate atmospheric moisture as part of their day to day functions. Properly balanced humidity makes for a healthy pest and mould-free environment.

Cupboard, grow tent or dedicated grow room. Directly in the soil or in pots outdoors. Even in a companion planted garden your marijuana will need to satisfy all these needs to grow well and supply you with high-quality resin soaked nuggets.

STEP 3: LIGHTS FOR INDOOR CANNABIS GROWING

With legalisation, there has been an absolute explosion in the choices of lights and grow chambers for growing cannabis indoors. Your budget then will be the deciding factor.

GROW CUPBOARDS: Fully customised for cannabis and ready to go sophisticated grow cupboards made by people with decades of experience are available. If you have the thousands of dollars to spare. Lights, fans, separate clone, veg and flower chambers, timers and carbon filters all ready to plug and play.

LIGHTS FOR EVERY BUDGET: At the other end of the scale, you can have a rudimentary yet very efficient CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) or small LED panel (Light Emitting Diode) setup for less than three hundred dollars. Growing great buds in a spare cupboard. Other compact fluorescent lights like T5 battens come in a range of spectrums for vegging and flowering and can fit in a small space well.

HPS (High-Pressure Sodium) and MH (Metal Halide) lamps are traditional types of grow lights. A 1000W HPS with reflectors can efficiently light a 1.5 x 1.5-meter space and provide excellent growth. Similarly, a 600W MH lamp will light the same sized space and give you world class flowers at the end of the grow cycle. The heat factor generated by these lights must be considered. If not exhausted efficiently your grow space will quickly become too hot for healthy cannabis growth.

STEP 4: GERMINATION AND CANNABIS SEEDLINGS

Beginning your whole cannabis grow adventure is the germination of your seeds. Each viable seed contains all the information needed to grow the strain of plant you have chosen. All they need are the right conditions and the life cycle will begin. Seeds won’t germinate until three specific needs are met. Water, correct temperature (warmth) and a good location.

Growing cannabis is an organic process without strict sets of rules. It is not a linear system to learn, but an art to be mastered. There are a number of equally effective methods for germinating cannabis. Over time you will find the one that works best for you.

STRAIGHT INTO THE MEDIUM: Place seeds directly into your medium, this way you can avoid any transplant shock. More often it is easier to germinate in a small pot of your chosen medium then pot on to the garden or bigger pots.

PAPER TOWEL: Seeds are placed on moistened paper towel on a plate and placed in a warm dark place. Usually covered with plastic or an upturned plate to retain moisture and humidity. After a few days to a week, your seeds have sprouted.

JIFFIES, PLUGS AND ROCK WOOL STARTERS: Easy to maintain as you can have fifty seeds germinating in a very small space. Once the seedlings are established they can be put in their final position without damaging roots.

IN WATER: Simply soak seeds in enzyme enriched water until you see the tap root appear then put in your medium. The seedling will quickly strike and break the surface about a week later.

GERMINATION STATIONS: Offering substantial control over the germinating environment germination stations provide humidity, temperature control and can accelerate germination times.

When your plants have broken the surface and the cotyledons have shed the seed husk and opened to reveal the first set of true leaves photosynthesis has begun. Now you have a true marijuana seedling on its way to becoming a heavy resinous indoor miniature or booming outdoor tree.

STEP 5: THE VEGETATIVE PHASE OF CANNABIS

The moment green leaves meet the light photosynthesis begins in earnest. Your plants start to metabolise and the vegetative phase has begun.

INDOORS: Lights are set to an eighteen hour day, six hour night light regimen. This doesn’t have to coordinate with the actual daylight hours, you can set it to times of day that suit you. Running electrical equipment during off-peak periods can save you a lot of money.

Your plants are happy in an organic soil or they are being fed nutrients designed for the vegetative phase. Lots of fan-forced breezes keep temperatures under control and strengthen your young plants. Exotic disciplines can be used like adding carbon dioxide to the environment. Low-stress training and scrogging can be used to increase the growth rate and flower potential of indoor cannabis.

How Long Does The Vegetation Phase Last?

The vegetative phase can last as long as you like. Depending on whether you want lots of small plants taking up your space as with the Sea Of Green grow method. Or, choosing a few larger plants topped and mainlined to produce large flower clusters.

OUTDOORS: Cannabis grows rapidly once the daylight hours start to increase during spring and on into summer. Unlimited root room and good genetics can see a plant grow to three or four meters during the vegetative phase.

Most contemporary plants are topped and under-shucked continually during the whole growth phase. This encourages an even canopy that will fill with homogeneously sized buds during the bloom stage. Cannabis will continue to vegetate while there are more than twelve hours of daylight. The further away from the equator, you are the shorter vegetation time your cannabis will have before starting to flower.

STEP 6: THE BLOOMING PERIOD OF HEALTHY CANNABIS

Blooming, flowering and budding all refer to the same phase of growth for the marijuana plant. The next few months will be exciting times as aromas start to develop. Interesting floral arrangements also begin to emerge that are particular to your choice of strain. The blooming phase has distinctive chapters that are common to all cannabis plants and begin when vegetation finishes.

Outdoors the first stage of flowering can be seen when Summer’s heat has passed and autumn approaches. Indoors you control when the flowering begins by changing the lighting schedule to a twelve hour day, twelve hour night photoperiod.

Depending on species cannabis responds to hormonal changes that make it continue vegetating or begin blooming. There are typically two types APD and autoflowering:

  • APD or Absolute Photo Determinate plants rely on a hormone that is sensitive to light to keep vegetating. This hormone prevents flowering when it is active. It is rendered inactive in low light levels and as nights become longer. Twelve hours or more of night will induce flowering.
  • With autoflowering strains, this same hormone is age dependent. The plant stops producing it when it reaches a certain species-specific age and flowering begins regardless of photoperiod. This can be as little as two weeks after germination.

Well-linked marijuana tutorial about growing great cannabis indoors or outdoors. Soon you will have a big brain full of essential marijuana growing knowledge.