Understanding the Life Cycle of Marijuana Plants
Whether for recreational use or medicinal, there is great pleasure in growing marijuana plants. Seeing a plant change each day is an interesting process that is both fun and educational. For new growers, it is important to fully understand the lifecycle of marijuana plants so each stage of development is supported.
Each Stage of Growth Is Vital for the Yield
When it comes to growing marijuana, growers want to produce the highest yield possible. There are seven key growth stages in the lifecycle of marijuana plants. Each of these is vital to a successful harvest.
- Stage One: Seed
- Stage Two: Germination
- Stage Three: Seedling
- Stage Four: Vegetative
- Stage Five: Pre-Flowering
- Stage Six: Flowering
- Stage Seven: Harvesting
Each of these stages must be understood in depth so the right care can be provided to maximize plant health. Growing marijuana is an investment, and growers want to ensure their seeds produce the healthiest, strongest, and most potent plants possible.
Knowing as much as possible about each of the stages of life helps growers to identify problems before they cause major damage to the health of the plant. Delving further into the details of each stage of growth will provide you with the information that is essential for marijuana growers to know.
It All Begins with a Seed
You cannot grow a marijuana plant without first having a seed. A seed essentially contains a tiny, dehydrated marijuana plant that is just waiting to be exposed to warmth and water so it can expand into its full form of root, stem, and leaves.
Seeds are the offspring of two parents, and they contain both male and female DNA. A cannabis seed, like all other seeds, remain in a dormant state until it is exposed to moisture and light. Therefore, it is essential you properly store seeds so they do not prematurely sprout and die.
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Tips for Preserving Seeds
Many cannabis growers have a collection of prized seeds. Preserving seeds until it’s time for planting is important. There are three main enemies to cannabis seeds and they include the following.
- Changes in temperature
Whenever possible, always store cannabis seeds in their original packaging. The seeds should be stored in a dark, dry, cool place. If cannabis seeds are improperly stored, they will begin to use their stored energy to start the growing process prematurely.
Unfortunately, this means there will be no energy for germination and the seed will never sprout. Cannabis seeds can also develop fungal growth if exposed to too much humidity. They would then be good only for the trash. If you properly store your cannabis seeds, they should remain viable for up to one year.
Germination Awakens the Plant Inside
Exposing the seed to light and moisture awakens the plant inside. Once the seed is exposed to light and moisture, a major set of events begins to occur. The cannabis plant inside begins growing a single root that will eventually split the seed in half as it pushes through the waxy shell and grows downward. Around the same time, the plant shoot starts growing and breaks through the split seed, growing upwards.
There are three main ways to germinate seeds and each work effectively. Most growers use paper towels and a couple of foam plates. For this method, simply saturate a couple of paper towels. They should be thoroughly wet but not dripping. Place the paper towels on the first plate and lay out the cannabis seeds, folding the top layer of wet paper towel over them. To keep light out, put the other plate on top.
You can also soak your female cannabis seeds in a cup of water or plant them in a growing medium like peat plugs or jiffy pellets. With any of the three methods, it should not take longer than five days for germination, from start to finish.
Avoid these common mistakes in germination.
- Do not allow the seeds to dry out during germination.
- Do not leave them to germinate too long. If two cotyledon leaves appear, the seeds were left too long.
- Do not try to germinate them directly in the soil.
- Do not attempt to germinate seeds with too little humidity and low temperature. (The best germination temperature is around 80 – 82°F).
While it may be tempting to germinate many seeds, just remember a single marijuana plant can grow up to five feet tall. Consider the growing space before deciding how many seeds to germinate.
It’s Alive! The Seedling Has Emerged
Once you have planted your germinated seeds, it is so exciting to see the seedling begin to emerge and grow. During this growth stage, the seed will release a tiny sprout with two embryonic leaves (cotyledons). These leaves provide nutrients to the cannabis plant until it begins to grow its fanleaves.
As the seedling begins to grow, it will produce the iconic serrated fanleaves cannabis lovers are accustomed to seeing. The seedling stage of growth lasts between one to three weeks. During this time, four to eight leaves will grow.
During this stage, the cannabis plant is delicate and vulnerable. Cannabis seedlings need to be watered regularly with small amounts of water. Never let the soil dry out. During the seedling stage, plants need a lot of light. If you do not provide the seedlings with enough light, they will grow “leggy” because they will search for light. Leggy cannabis plants grow too high and will not be able to support themselves.
Cannabis Plants Start to Mature During the Vegetative Stage
Major changes begin to take place during the vegetative stage of growth. The cannabis plant will become fuller and the stem will grow thicker and stronger so it can support the growing weight of the plant.
Because this is a stage of rapid growth, your cannabis plants are going to become “needy”. It is important they have the following:
- A steady supply of warm water, but not too much
- Dry, flowing air
- Nitrogen-rich supplementation
- Plenty of soil space
It is interesting to note, cannabis plants can grow as much as two inches per day during the vegetative stage. The vegetative stage will take place over one to two months, depending on whether the plants are being grown in indoor controlled environments or outdoors.
Cannabis plants in the vegetative stage need temperatures between 68 – 78°F. Relative humidity levels should be kept between 50 – 70%. Constant full spectrum white light (up to 18 hours a day) is needed during the vegetative growth period.
The Buds Are Emerging During the Pre-Flowering Stage
From the point the seeds are planted, it can take between one and five months to reach the pre-flowering stage. This length of time will depend on the type of marijuana plant and the growing conditions it’s exposed to.
During the pre-flowering stage of growth it’s easy to tell males apart from females. Males produce sacs that resemble tiny bananas and these will be found on the node regions of the plant. These sacks contain pollen.
It is essential you separate any male plants from the females. If the sacks open, the male plants will pollinate the females resulting in fertilization of the cola(s), haulting the production of protective and psychoactive trichomes. Keeping female plants from being pollinated by the males’ pollen causes plants’ flowers to react by producing more THC-rich trichomes that eventually form a thick protective outer layer of resin. Every grower is seeking a potent THC level in their plants so separation is key. A female cannabis plant that has never been pollinated by a male is called a Sinsemilla. Sinsemillas do not produce seeds.
This stage typically lasts around one to two weeks. The pre-flowering stage can continue for longer if a light is always concentrated on the plant. Most growers immediately proceed to the flowering stage because shorter plants are likely to produce more buds. At this stage, you can reduce light and enter the flowering stage or continue in vegetative until the plants reach their potential height, which is around five feet.
The Flowering Stage Is Finally Here!
If you do not gradually reduce the amount of light on your photoperiod cannabis plants, they will continue to produce leaves and sticks but never flowers. The light must gradually be reduced so your plants can begin producing flowers.
If growing indoors, you will need to lessen the light exposure to eight to twelve hours a day. During this stage of growth, it is important to supply your plants with potassium and healthy phosphorous-based supplementation.
At this stage, you will notice cola buds beginning to form and they will have a highly intoxicating smell because they are drenched in trichomes. Over a period of eight to ten weeks, the plant’s buds will grow milky hairs. Once this process is complete, this best is yet to come.
How Do You Know When to Harvest?
You have spent months growing your “babies” and harvest time is nearly here. Harvesting is the reward after all the hard work. The key is knowing when your cannabis plants are fully ready for harvesting.
You should not harvest cannabis until the white pistils begin to turn reddish-orange. You will also need to fully investigate the cola buds to see the color of the trichomes that are beginning to ooze. The trichomes start off as clear and then they move to a milkier shade. When it is time to harvest, the trichomes will be an opaque or amber color. If the color is amber, this means there is a greater concentration of CBN.
Finally, you can start the process of drying and curing your cannabis buds so they can soon be enjoyed. You have now been through an amazing journey and it has been fun watching each phase of growth. In some phases, especially in vegetation, you can literally watch your plants grow by leaps and bounds.
How Long Is the Indoor Life Cycle from Start to Finish?
Although the growing times can vary, it typically takes around three months from start to finish. Depending on the method of growing, cannabis plants are typically ready to harvest after three months. The time it takes to grow your plants will also depend on the amount of time the cannabis strain takes to flower.
Some strains flower at 7 – 8 weeks, while others may not flower until 9 – 10 weeks. There are a few strains that may take up to 15 weeks to flower. In general, cannabis plants mature much faster when grown indoors because the environment can be precisely controlled.
Should you choose to grow cannabis plants outdoors, expect the entire process to take around 6 – 9 months before harvesting. The reason for this lengthy period is a lack of control over the light the plants receive.
Growing Cannabis Is an Enjoyable Experience with Big Rewards
From start to finish, you have nurtured your plants and seen them grow. Each stage of development is fascinating for growers because they know every day that passes leads them closer to harvest.
If you are new to growing cannabis, it can be a bit intimidating getting started, but you should not be afraid. Growing cannabis is not difficult, especially if you have the right tools and knowledge.
Now that you know more about the stages of growth and what to expect from each, the growing process can be more streamlined and exciting. Allow this information to assist you in keeping marijuana plants growing healthy and strong at all stages of development.
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