The 4 stages of cannabis plant growth

July 10, 2023

Like all plants, cannabis goes through various stages of its growth process. Each stage will require an adjustment of light, water, and nutrients. If you plan to grow your own cannabis plants, this timeline is crucial for getting the best of your season.

How long does it take from planting to harvesting?

The length of time to get your plants to harvest depends on a few factors. The strain itself is a big part of it. Autoflowers and some strains have a much shorter growing time than others. The growing environment is also a big factor. Indoor grows can be tailored to suit the needs of the grower and can be produced in a shorter amount of time. Outdoor grows tend to rely on Mother Nature and educated farm crews to flourish, so their growing times are a bit longer. Another thing to consider is starting from seeds or clones. Clones are already germinated, sprouted, and begun their growing phase, so they will produce a faster result. Seeds need to germinate and sprout to a size that will survive a transplant, so there is more time added going this route. Generally speaking, growing a mature plant can take 10-32 weeks, or 3-8 months, depending on your strain and environment.

The four phases of growing cannabis plants

  1. Germination. This is the first phase of cannabis plants and lasts 3-10 days. When choosing seeds, look for ones that are feminized, light-dark brown, and hard and dry. Any squished or green seeds will most likely not germinate. This cycle will require 18 hours of sunlight a day indoors, or full sun for 6 hours outdoors. Once the seed has sprouted, it is now ready to be planted in the soil. You will first see two cotyledon leaves emerge from the casing, which is responsible for taking in sunlight to help the plant continue to grow and thrive. During this phase, the roots will also begin to develop and as the stalk grows, you will see the tell-tale fan leave start to form.
  2. Seedling stage. This phase of the plant typically lasts 2-3 weeks and requires the same light schedule as in the germination phase. Once the typical fan leaves have begun to emerge, you are in the seedling phase. As new growth begins, more fan leaves will start to appear. Typical mature plants will have 5-7 fans per leaf, but some will produce more. Be sure to not overwater in this phase as the roots are still small and fragile, and excess moisture can cause mold or disease. A lot of outdoor growers will opt to do this phase indoors to have more control over this delicate stage.
  3. Vegetative Stage. This state is where the plants start to explode and can last 3-16 weeks. For this phase, you have already settled your plants into their final home in pots or the ground, and the roots and leaves are developing rapidly. Keeping with the same light schedule, these babies still need 18 hours indoors or 6 hours of full outdoor sunlight. The watering needs to be adjusted as well. When the plants are in the seeding phase, you water close to the plant itself. As they are in a vegetative state, you want to be mindful to water away from the stalk, forcing the roots to spread and absorb the water more efficiently. As far as nutrients go, this phase requires high levels of nitrogen.
  4. Flowering Stage. This is the final growth state of the cannabis plant and lasts typically 8-11 weeks. While outdoor grows still need 6 hours of full sunlight, indoor growers can scale back to about 12 hours, which will trigger the flowering phase. This is the phase where the plant will begin to develop their resinous buds and you can start to see the results of your hard work. Keep in mind that in the flowering phase, you don’t want to prune your plants as you can mess with their hormones. We also suggest netting or a trellis to support the weight of the growing buds and give them support so they can fan out and get as much airflow as possible. This is also the phase where you would give your plants phosphorous nutrients. Within this phase, there are 3 sub-phases of development.
    1. Flower initiation: This process is weeks 1-3. You will see your plant continue to grow and your plants will begin to develop pistils, or the white hairs that grow out of your buds.
    2. Mid-flowering: In weeks 4 and 5, you will notice the plants stop growing, but your buds will start to fatten.
    3. Late-flowering/ripening: This phase will begin around week 6 and will be complete at harvest time. This is where trichome density increases and your buds will start to become very sticky. Once the pistils have darkened in color, it is time to harvest.

As said before, each strain will require a little tweaking of growth time. Indicas tend to flower early and Sativas go later. Be sure to do some research with the person or company you are getting your seeds or clones from. They can give you a little insight into which strain would work best for your growth plan.

When to plant seed

This is something that will differ from zone to zone. Since each area of the US gets different weather, planting also needs a modified schedule depending on where you live. Plant too early in the Northeast, and you risk losing all of your time and investment. You will want to make sure that wherever you are planting, they do not go outside until well into spring when the weather has turned and there is no chance of frost. After Mother’s Day is a general idea of when it’s okay to start planting. This means you can start your seeds indoors shortly before you are ready to move them outside. If you are using clones or seedlings, you can buy yourself another month or so of time before the plants need to be in. Plants should be outside in their pots by the end of June or by Summer Solstice.

When to harvest

Harvesting is also dependent on location as some places get colder much quicker than others which can also ruin your growth. Some states grow well into October if the weather cooperates. As much as they may look like they are ready once the weather changes, most farmers will start harvesting around the Fall Equinox. When growing outdoors, you want to make sure you have everything harvested and cured by Thanksgiving, but some places can get there by Halloween. One benefit of growing indoors is that the seasons don’t matter, as you control all of the outside influences on the plant. This also allows for multiple grows throughout the year because you can stagger your planting times.

After harvest, you will be ready to trim, dry, and cure your buds. Once these steps are completed, you are ready to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

While this can seem like a lot of information to take in, use this as a guideline when starting your plants. Every area and zone has its range of timeframes due to its weather. Check into local growing guidelines to get additional guidance on the best planting and harvesting times for your area. We hope this will help you in a successful growth that you can enjoy and be proud of for months to come.

Growing at home not your thing? No worries-we’ve got you covered! You can find Juniper Jill products at:

Upstate Canna Co in Schenectady

Good Grades NYC in Queens

The Greenery Spot in Johnson City (Binghamton)

Stage One Cannabis in Rensselaer

or by delivery through:

Legacy Dispensers

Must be 21+. Please consume responsibly.