The Stages of Cannabis Growth
In some states, residents are permitted, by law, to grow their cannabis at home. The intention to add this freedom to cultivate is often meant to help patients economize their use of cannabis for medical purposes.
The cannabis plant is more complex than many people realize. It takes more than a ‘green thumb’ to grow a healthy cannabis plant. That is because, through all of the cannabis growth stages, the plant has specific needs.
From the vegetative stage through the development of the root system, stem, leaves, and bud, the marijuana plant has a long way to go (often at least eight weeks). If all the needs the cannabis plant has are not met during any of the cannabis growth stages, the plant will die. Or enter into a vegetative stage where flower does not develop.
If you live in a state where home cultivation is legalized, here is our guide to the stages of cannabis growth. And all the steps you need to take before feminized seeds start flowering into vibrant green or purple buds.
Where Is It Legal to Grow Cannabis at Home?
Cannabis cultivation requires a lot of skill. Sometimes when a state permits residents to seed and grow a marijuana plant, novice indoor growers line up. Because there is a misconception that healthy cannabis growth is a piece of cake.
It takes an investment to get the right materials to grow cannabis at home successfully. From specialty lighting to timers, the right kind of soil, and fans for ventilation. Cannabis can feel less like growing plants and more like having pets; growing can be demanding and time-consuming.
Depending on where you live, you may need to tent your plants or create a special climate-controlled environment for humidity and heat. Or build a secure greenhouse in your backyard.
The following states allow patients with a medical marijuana card to cultivate a cannabis plant (or more than one) at home:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
The states which permit any resident over the age of twenty-one (21) years to grow a marijuana plant (or a limited number of plants) for recreational or adult use include:
It takes a while to wait through the vegetative stage to the end of your cannabis cultivation, where you can harvest flower. Usually, it takes a few failed attempts at cannabis growth before people can master it.
Cannabis Growth Cycle
When you are learning to grow cannabis for personal use, it is important to select strains that are easy to grow. Many strains are labeled “fast flower” or “easy grow,” and they are the best choice when you are learning how to cultivate.
The average cannabis growth cycle includes the following stages:
- Seed germination (3-10 days).
- Seedling stage (2-3 weeks).
- Mid-flowering stage (weeks 4-5).
- Cannabis vegetative stage (3-16 weeks).
- Flowering stage (8-11 weeks).
- Late flowering or ripening (week 6 to harvest).
Many online resources for novice growers provide advice on different types of cannabis plants. Typically, the higher potency flowering cannabis plants are more complex to grow.
Flushing Cannabis Before Harvesting
One to two weeks before harvesting mature cannabis plants, growers need to “flush” the plant. Throughout the growth process, nutrients are added to the water to help the cannabis plant grow. But before harvesting, only pure water (without growth nutrients) should be provided.
Flushing helps remove built-up salt and other hard minerals and nutrients. This helps create more aromatic and flavorful flowers. If you skip this step, you could have bud that is still potent but may have a bad taste. And smokable flower may be harsher on the inhale.
How To Create the Perfect Cannabis Growing Conditions
Most plants you might grow at home have simple needs. Plant the seeds in a pot, place them in the sun and don’t forget to water them. But for a plant that has been on the planet for millions of years, the cannabis plant life cycle is pretty complex.
Each one of the cannabis growth stages has a checklist of requirements. And if you try to rush propagation or skip any of the important steps of the cannabis plant’s life cycle, you’ll end up with a nice-looking houseplant. But not what you are looking for in terms of a crop of beautiful buds.
What makes home cultivation even more difficult for a novice grower is balancing the perfect combination of light, soil PH, moisture, and airflow through the vegetative and flowering stages. Not to mention that cannabis requires beauty sleep, with several hours of complete darkness daily. How’s that for “high” maintenance?
Balancing Soil Acidity
At any point in the cannabis plant stages of development, soil acidity can make or break you. Cannabis seeds and plants need the right balance of acidity in the soil to grow. And for the cannabis plant, acidic soil produces a healthy cannabis plant.
You can have the best nutrient content in your soil, and your cannabis plants will fail to flower if the pH levels are incorrect. Cannabis plants like a range of 5.0 to 7.0 pH, but the best results (depending on the strain) typically occur with acidity balanced at 5.8 to 6.2.
There are many different ways to check the pH balance of your soil. You can use a digital meter (pH/EC) to test pH or use a soil testing kit (sold online or available at garden stores like Home Depot).
Testing the soil’s acidity for cannabis plants should happen every two days. And if the pH is too low, add a lime-based compound like dolomite lime or agricultural lime. You can also create your mixture using crushed eggshells and baking soda and mix it into the soil. Or add some natural wood ash to your potting mix.
Cannabis Grow Light Cycles
Most plants that can be cultivated love as much exposure to the sun as you can provide them. Water, sun, and you’re done! But the weed plant is particular about how much sunlight it gets. And if you do not time your light cycle, you won’t be able to grow a healthy plant.
Here are the light cycle requirements from germinating seeds to flowering plants:
- Sixteen (16) hours of light and eight (8) hours of darkness.
- Enriched red light (spectrum).
- LED blue light spectrum for the first 10-14 days.
- Depending on the strain, approximately eighteen (18) hours of light and six (6) hours of darkness are required. This mimics a mid-summer outdoor growth cycle.
- Full spectrum lighting for eighteen (18) hours per day and six (6) hours of darkness.
- Blue enriched light (450nm).
- Twelve (12) hours of darkness are required daily.
- Red LED with 660nm. Broad-spectrum lighting can increase the production of THC. But UV lighting can also reduce the amount of CBD that the plant produces.
Many types of programmable lighting products can help make it easier. And the light cycle can be controlled by an app on your smartphone.
Some growing kits also include moisture monitors that are placed in the soil. And the app provides data to allow you to adjust moisture, monitor heat, and optimize the light cycle for your plant(s).
Moisture Requirements for Cannabis Plants
The marijuana plant is tropical, so it prefers a humid environment. But when you are growing a female cannabis plant (or more than one), the levels of humidity vary according to the plant’s life cycle.
- In the cannabis vegetative stage, humidity must be kept between 65% to 80%.
- During the seedling stage, humidity needs to be 65% to 80%.
- During the flowering stage of development, humidity is reduced to 45% to 60%.
- When the plant flowers are drying, humidity should be 45% to 60%.
Higher humidity is required during the vegetative stage duration because the relative humidity (RH) allows the seed to germinate. If the soil is too dry, the plant will not develop.
Choosing the Right Strain of Cannabis to Cultivate at Home
You may have two or three favorite strains of marijuana that you buy from your local dispensary. But that doesn’t mean those strains will easily grow at home.
It is important to do your research and start with strains that are known as easy to propagate when you learn how to grow cannabis.
Five strains of cannabis that are “low maintenance” and perfect for the novice grower are:
- Blue Cheese
- Blue Dream
- Gorilla Glue #4
- Green Crack
- Northern Lights
Remember to purchase your seeds in the state where you live. Even though home cultivation of cannabis may be legal, buying cannabis seeds and having them mailed to you could result in a criminal charge. Until cannabis is decriminalized and legalized by the federal government.
If you can legally home-grow, you should have no problem finding seeds and growing supplies (lamps, fans, hydroponics, or materials to make your space bucket) in your local area.
The Stages of Cannabis Growth
Proof of the existence of cannabis as a plant genus has been found, and samples dated were over 20 million years old. No matter what happened on the planet (global warming, global cooling), somehow, the cannabis plant managed to evolve and survive.
Marijuana plants have a vegetative stage and flowering stages. And the complete marijuana growth cycle in the wild happens within a one-year span. That includes the germination stage to sexual maturity and flowering stages.
Domesticated cannabis strains flower from 6-12 weeks of age. Seeds for a fast-flowering type of strain will be labeled as “autoflower seeds,” or they may have “fast flower” in the name. And once you have selected your seeds and purchased your cultivation supplies, here are the cannabis growth stages you’ll navigate.
Choosing the Right Cannabis Seeds
Cannabis seed can last a long time if it is stored properly. In fact, if you take the right steps to store your cannabis seed, it can last up to five years. And successfully germinate when planted.
There are two types of cannabis seeds:
1. Photoperiod Cannabis Seeds
You can’t be sure what you will get, in terms of gender, when you purchase photoperiod cannabis seeds. If you are an experienced grower, that’s no big deal. You know how to identify male cannabis plants in the seedling stage duration and isolate them from the female plants.
Another tricky thing about photoperiod cannabis seeds is that they germinate and grow according to seasonality. This means growers have to replicate the indoor light cycle accurately. And exactly adjust light periods and darkness, or the plant will remain in the vegetative stage.
2. Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds
Autoflowering cannabis seeds produce only female plants. And they do not need the special care that photoperiod seeds need to germinate from the vegetative to the flowering stage. They are called autoflowering because they will automatically begin flowering after several weeks.
If you are a beginner, autoflower seeds are your best choice because you do not have to guess whether the plant is male or female. And separate them to prevent pollination and seeded flower.
Autoflowering seeds also produce plants that develop much faster, with a shorter growing cycle. They are less time-consuming and have a higher success rate for home cultivation. Many growers prefer autoflowering cannabis because the flowering phase is guaranteed. They are easy to grow.
How To Store Cannabis Seeds
Cannabis seed must be kept in the dark, cool, and dry place. You can purchase special containers to protect your seeds from moisture and light. The ideal RH (relative humidity) level to store your seeds is 8% to 10%.
You can also include a packet of desiccant in the container (like silica gel) and refresh those packets every six months to remove moisture. Mixing your seeds with dry rice can also help reduce humidity in your storage container.
If cannabis seeds are exposed to light or moisture, two things can happen. First, they may start to germinate. Then you are forced to plant them right away or lose the seed. The second problem is seed rot; they may spoil in a container if not stored correctly.
Seed Germination Stage
Cannabis seeds need special care in order to germinate. And some strains of cannabis are notoriously difficult to germinate if they do not receive the proper moisture and precision-controlled environments.
One of the reasons why indoor growers prefer to propagate inside is that it is easier to control humidity, temperature, and light exposure in an isolated area. Specialized soft tents are also sold to help at-home growers create the perfect environment.
Light, moisture, and soil pH (acidity) are crucial in the germination stage. For successful cannabis seed germination, however, you can start with a few simple supplies.
- Cannabis seeds.
- One plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
- Paper Towel.
- A water container with a light mist spray setting.
- Room temperature water.
To get started, place a paper towel in the bottom of the container and spritz it with water to dampen it. Then place the cannabis seeds, keeping them at least two inches apart.
Watering Cannabis Seeds
The hard part is that you must keep refreshing the container’s moisture every two hours until the seeds germinate. Or when you see the sprouts emerging from the cannabis seeds, and you see the tap root. Then the cannabis seeds can be planted in a small cup, coco, or peat plug. Some people use Styrofoam cups for this step.
If the cannabis seed shell is stuck to the tap root or sprout, you can moisten it with water and help it fall off. You may gently try to remove it, but make sure you do not damage the tap root, or the plant will not develop.
In the seedling stage, the plant will develop roots and grow a stem and leaves. During the cannabis seedling stage, plants should only be watered once every 5-7 days. And because cannabis plants are very delicate during the seedling stage, you should not add any supplemental nutrients to the water.
Cannabis in the vegetative growth phase only requires water when the soil is dry. You can tell by sticking your finger about one inch into the soil. If it is damp? Don’t water it. On average, healthy marijuana growth requires a watering cycle of once every 2-4 days.
The last part of the cannabis growth stages, flowering, requires plenty of water. But not too much. On average, cannabis needs moisture every 2-3 days, but a thorough dousing so that 10% to 20% of the water comes out of the bottom of the pot as runoff. This ensures that the roots have ample moisture.
Cultivation Gender Bias: What Happens to Male Cannabis Plants?
The cannabis life cycle allows for plants to be identified as male or female before the flowering stage. The male marijuana plant has some unique characteristics that make it easy for an experienced grower to separate the “girls from the boys.”
Before the flowering stage of cannabis growth, the first signs of gender appear in the cannabis plant. On average, plants can be gender identified after six weeks because the pre-flowers differ for each gender. But some strains develop pre-flowers around the four-week mark.
Before the cannabis flowering stage, many signs can indicate the male gender. But hermaphrodite plants are also a possibility. That means cannabis plants that mutate to be both male and female.
If you detect plants with hermaphroditism, you should destroy them and not allow them to cross-pollinate. It is a strong trait that can pass on to future seedlings if allowed to propagate.
How Are Male Cannabis Plants Repurposed?
Female plants have a definite advantage when it comes to cannabis species. That is because only female plants produce flowers. The fate of the male weed plant is a much shorter story. And they don’t even get to hang out with the female cannabis plants at all.
During the cannabis seedling stage, male cannabis plants are identified easily. A few visual indicators quickly separate the “girls from the boys” in the greenhouse. Male cannabis plants like to work out? Just kidding.
Male cannabis plants are bulked up, though, and they have much thicker and sturdier stalks with fewer leaves. That is because the male cannabis plant grows much taller than female plants. It also develops a thicker root system to support all that.” muscle on top”.
The life cycle of male plants is shorter because once they are “sexed,” they are removed immediately to prevent pollination with nearby female plants. If male plants are allowed to mature near female plants, it can ruin the flowering cycle for harvesting buds. And produce flower that is heavily laden with seeds.
Male plants, once uprooted, can be dried (away from female plants) and then composted to become mulch. There are very valuable micronutrients in the stems, roots, and leaves that can be used to enrich the soil used for potting more seedlings.
Production of Edibles and Cannabis Beverages
Male cannabis plants can be used to make concentrates and edibles. Even though male cannabis plants don’t produce the same high levels of THC as female plants, there is enough to concentrate and use for cooking tasty cannabis-infused treats.
Did you know that male cannabis plants have a higher concentration of THC in their leaves compared to female cannabis plants in the vegetative growth stage? The sugar leaves have the most THC content in male cannabis plants.
There are other valuable cannabinoids located in the stems and sacs of the male cannabis plant. The highest quantity of resin is located in the sepals of the male plant. This makes sense since this is where pollen is produced.
The drying process isn’t complicated. You can use a dehydrator to expedite the process if you cultivate marijuana at home. There are even some guides to using an air fryer to dry leaves and flower.
Once you have dried your male cannabis seeds, leaves, or stems, you can use a coffee grinder to create a fine powder. That can be added to any food or beverage, or to create your own cannabis tea and coffee, budder, added to soups or gravies, or whatever you like.
Since 2016, DocMJ has provided education and assistance to patients who want to explore medical cannabis to achieve their wellness goals.
We provide thirty clinic locations, including our Pensacola office, where patients can consult with a licensed physician for a medical cannabis evaluation and recommendation.
At DocMJ, patients come first. Our friendly and knowledgeable team will help you complete the first step to help you get your Florida medical card. We also provide telemedicine medical card health appointments in Texas and Ohio.
Aaron Bloom serves as the CEO, overseeing the mission and growth of DocMJ. Aaron’s passion for improving patient’s lives comes from his background in health care. For more than 20 years Aaron owned, operated, and represented traditional health care organizations. This experience created a passion for finding improved ways to relieve suffering. His goal as CEO is to work hard every day to bring relief to all patients who seek better health and wellness through the medicinal benefits of medical cannabis and evidence based alternative medicines.