What Are The Growing Stages of Cannabis

Contributor: Carol Kalvelage

So you want to grow your cannabis. In 2000, the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, also known as Question 9, was passed by voters. Users could legally cultivate marijuana for medical uses. In 2017, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (Question 2) went into effect, allowing adults 21 and over to legally purchase and consume cannabis for personal use. 

With this game-changer, cultivators have begun to grow one of two strains: Sativa and Indica. Each strain offers a unique effect depending on the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) levels. THC is associated with the “high effect” while CBD produces a calming effect. 

THC is used for pain relief, anti-nausea, sleep, appetite, and mood stimulants. Others prefer CBD for its pain relief, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and seizure reduction qualities. 

If you know which cannabis strains you’re interested in growing, keep in mind Question 2 permits a maximum of 6 plants per person or 12 plants per household, only if they reside more than 25 miles from a state-licensed dispensary. In this article, we will cover the five stages of growth that anyone can follow along from novice grower to intermediate user.

Germination Stage

The first stage takes roughly 1-2 weeks. Seeds for germination are acquired from female plants, which you can buy from your local shop.

You will know a mature seed is ready for germination if they have a shiny coat and their colour ranges from light to dark brown. They will also be dry and hard to the touch. 

The best way to encourage growth is to place your seed on a damp paper towel and leave it somewhere dark. The first signs of successful germination appear when a single root, the radicle, shoots downward. Two cotyledon leaves will emerge 2-4 days after to begin photosynthesizing.

Seedling Stage

Once the cotyledon leaves have sprouted, it is ready to be transferred to soil. Leaves will take on their iconic fan shape at this point. This phase takes around 2-3 weeks.

During this timeframe, the seedling is at its most fragile and requires a lot of attention. Seedlings should receive 18-24 hours of sunlight, moist soil, and mild humidity. Many growers use fluorescent lights as an alternative to high-pressure sodium lights or metal halide bulbs. 

New leaves initially develop one ridged blade, and as it matures, the average number of blades rises to between 5 and 7. Do not overwater in the seedling stage since the roots are young and short so it doesn’t need much to grow. 

Healthy signs of growth are thick vegetation and vibrant green leaves. Keep the vicinity clean and free of excess moisture to avoid mold or disease. Maintain the environment at 70% humidity and between 68-77°F or 20-25°C.

Vegetative Growth

As the plant develops, relocate it to a larger pot as it can grow up to 3 feet in the next stage of growth. At this point, you’ll notice that the stem is thicker, has larger leaves, branches, and its root system has extended in response to the demand for increased nutrient demand. Cannabis during this stage requires flowing dry air and fresh warm water and nitrogen-rich soil.

Water closer to the stalk during the early stages. When the roots start to grow outward, begin watering away from the stalk so the roots can stretch out and absorb water efficiently. 

The vegetative stage requires 4-8 weeks with 50% humidity and between 68-75°F or 20-24°C. 12 hours of sunlight or 18 hours of artificial light with 6-hour night cycles are recommended. Expose your plant to more sunlight than darkness to avoid early flowering. 

Be sure to separate male and female plants before pollination to prevent female cannabis plants from producing seeds instead of trichomes. Trichomes contain THC, terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids.

Flowering Stage

The flowering stage lasts anywhere between 8-11 weeks. The first signs of successful flowering are when resinous buds develop. 

Within this stage, there are three different flowering phases. The flower initiation occurs in the first 1-3 weeks, where it grows and females develop white hairs called pistils and are the beginning of buds.

In the fourth and fifth weeks with mid-flowering, buds swell. During the ripening around the sixth week, trichome density increases. 

Female plants will have two pistils grown on the buds while male plants have small green sacs full of pollen. Male plants should be removed immediately.  

As the plant continues to flower, you will notice a few color changes. Once 70-90% of the pistils on the cola buds turn reddish-orange and the trichome heads are amber, it is ready to harvest. The amber color is also a good indicator of a higher CBD to THC ratio. 

Keep your plants in warm weather with 12 hours of light, 40-50% humidity, and between 68-82°F or 20-28°C.

Keep an eye out for the trichomes. If it grows too long, the trichome has a higher chance of falling off and most of the cannabinoids disappear so you won’t receive any of the effects. If you let it flower too long and the trichomes begin to brown, the THC begins to weaken and leads to a weaker product.

Harvesting & Curing

Harvesting involves trimming and drying the product. The recommended time for harvesting is once trichomes turn opaque for optimal THC and low CBD.

For a euphoric THC high, harvest when there are more white pistils than red. A higher red ratio will produce a calmer CBD feeling. Opaque trichomes that haven’t browned will give you a balanced THC/CBD high.

Cut the plant into small sections, string, and hang upside down in complete darkness for 7-14 days. Dry them at 50% humidity and 68-77°F or 20-25°C. Drying cannabis will prevent fungus and bacteria from growing.

Curing is optional if you want a stronger flavor, better burn quality, and reduced harshness. To cure your inventory, seal your cannabis in airtight containers and somewhere between 20-25°C. Store them for 1-3 weeks, however, some experts say they can be stored for months at a time. Open the jars briefly to release any buildup of gases while exposing them to fresh air. 

Some growers clone their cannabis if they are happy with the results and want to reproduce the same effects. To clone, choose a branch at least four inches long from your most fertile plant. Plant it in a rooting solution to grow a new batch and it will be genetically identical to the first batch. 

Brian from One Eye’s Weedery had this to say about curing your buds:

“Properly curing your buds can get rid of that ‘fresh-cut grass’ smell and truly bring out the aroma of your cannabis strain. It’s extremely important to cure your bud, especially if you’re going for a top-shelf product that has a high potency, delicious flavor, and unique aroma that you can build a world-class strain upon.” 

Final Words

Growing cannabis is a time-consuming and lengthy process that requires patience. Not only do you need patience, but reliable equipment is also key to sustaining growth.

Artificial lights provide constant light, especially during seasons with shorter daylight. Equipment to monitor temperatures and control humidity brings out the maximum effects for cannabis plants. 

Indoor cultivators have typically either harvested Indica or Sativa strains, but nowadays it is common to grow a hybrid strain. The cannabis industry continues to develop and innovate ways to grow cannabis for enhanced THC and CBD effects. For indoor weed growers, supervise your plant over the different stages of cannabis growth and experiment with different harvesting times to test out different outcomes.

It’s a lot of work but the outcome is rewarding, whether you use it to enhance your mood, for medical purposes, or if you plan to use cannabis in your edible recipes. Cannabis plants have many benefits depending on what you need, and so growing your own is a practical option. 

Again, be sure to read up on your city’s bylaws about the number of plants you can grow in your house, and how much you can keep on your persons in public. 

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