4 Stages of Marijuana Growth (Life Cycle From Seed to Harvest)

When growing the marijuana plant, there are 4 major stages of growth. It’s crucial to know which stages of growth your plants are in, and how long each stage lasts, so that you know what to administer to your plant and the best way to go about it.

This guide will walk you through each stage of marijuana growth and its typical timeline, and offer details of what each stage entails, along with tips and best practices!

Germination and Seedling (/Clone)

Seed Germination OR Clone Rooting

Depending on how you chose to start your grow can impact the length of the growth stages of a weed plant. If you decide to start from seeds, you will need to germinate the seed and get it to sprout. The germination process can take anywhere from 3-15 days. Once the seed has its second set of leaves, and robust root development, it will be ready to transplant!

If you choose to take a cutting, and start from marijuana clones, it usually takes about 8-15 days for the clone to root, and be ready for transplant!

sprouted cannabis seed ready to transplant

germinated cannabis seed (ready for transplant)

marijuana clone rooting

a rooted clone

Transplanting is the process of moving the plant from its original medium, and planting it into its new home (soil pot, coco pot, rockwool cube, DWC hydroponic reservoir). Starting from seed usually takes a bit longer, but can produce the strongest genetics possible for said strain.

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Post-Transplanting Timeline

2 week old seedling
marijuana clones

marijuana seedling (top)/clone (bottom) being transplanted to Hey abby grow box

marijuana seedling (left)/clone (right) being transplanted to Hey abby grow box

While caring for both clones and seedlings takes roughly the same amount of labor, clones can be more dependable and trustworthy. As you already know what strain your are growing, clones will always be female and can produce coveted buds (unless purchased otherwise). Moreover, once rooted they will grow quicker than cannabis seedlings.

Seedling will take about 2 weeks (once sprouted) to grow to the size where it can be considered an “vegging” plant, whereas clones will take about 7-10 days (once rooted) to be considered vegging.

Basic Needs of Seedlings and Clones

No matter which you choose to grow with, clones or seeds, they both are very fragile and delicate at their first cannabis growing stage. Though clones are typically a bit more robust and can handle more light, wind, feeding etc.

Seedlings and clones will share the basic needs: water, nutrition, light, and air. However, it's vital not to over apply, or overdue any of these factors, as it can hinder the plants' potential, and dramatically slow down the growth, especially watering. If you overwater the clone/seedling early in life, it will struggle to develop the roots needed to sustain rapid, healthy growth, let alone a robust plant capable of producing large buds!

Seedlings and clones will share the basic needs: water, nutrition, light, and air. However, it's vital not to over apply, or overdue any of these factors, as it can hinder the plants' potential, and dramatically slow down the growth, especially watering. If you overwater the clone/seedling early in life, it will struggle to develop the roots needed to sustain rapid, healthy growth, let alone a robust plant capable of producing large buds!

  • pH of water/nutrient solution: 5.5-6.0 (hydroponic); 6.0-6.6 (organic and soil)
  • Light intensity: medium/medium-low
  • Light cycle: 18h on, 6h off
  • Light spectrum: more blue than red
  • Temp: 80°F/27°C
  • PPM: lower

During these early stages, it’s best to feed and water with a lower ppm, and let the plant dry back before watering again. Drybacks really help root development! Depending on your medium and feeding regimen, the pH of your water/nutrient solution should be balanced between 5.5-6.0 for hydroponic mediums, and 6.0-6.6 for organic and soil mediums.

The plant will respond best to medium, or medium-low light intensity, with a light cycle of 18 hours on, and 6 hours off. During this early growth stage of a weed plant, it will like a light with more blue than red in the spectrum, since the blue will help the plant grow upwards and build a good structure. It will be best to maintain a warmer temperature (80°F/27°C), and more humid in the environment (50%-65%). This will help the plant adjust to its new environment, and transition smoothly into the weed vegetative stage.

Vegetation

Vegetation, or the “Veg” stage is the stage of cannabis growth in which the plant rapidly grows new leaves, chutes, and lengthen branches. The Veg stage of marijuana growth can last anywhere from 3, to sometimes 12 weeks when growing outdoors!

Basic Needs During the Vegetative Stage

  • Same pH of water/nutrient solution: 5.5-6.0 (hydroponic); 6.0-6.6 (organic and soil)
  • Light intensity: medium-high
  • Same Light cycle: 18h on, 6h off
  • Feeding PPM/EC: higher
  • Air: more airflow (all leaves should have a slight flutter)
weed vegetative stage in Hey abby

marijuana veg stage in Hey abby grow box

The light cycle should remain the same as it was during the seedling/clone stage, that is 18 hours on, and 6 hours off. But now that the plant is a bit larger, it will be appropriate to increase the intensity of the light to a medium-high strength. You should also increase the PPM/EC of your feeding during the weed vegetative stage.

As the plant matures and grows larger, you will also need to increase the watering/feeding quantity and frequency! Though drybacks can still be very useful—if you notice the leaves start to point downwards, or you see some issues with slow growth, you may want to let the plant medium dry back before its next watering. The pH of your feeding and watering will stay the same throughout all growth stages of a weed plant!

As the plant grows in size, you may need to increase the air movement in the grow area. A gentle flutter in all the leaves indicates an optimal level of ventilation. This will help maintain the transpiration levels of the cannabis plant, since it has much more plant matter to distribute water and nutrients to.

More Tips for Better Results

The Veg stage is crucial for building the plants structure, which is the key to putting out a good yield of high quality flower. Therefore, various cannabis plant training techniques such as topping, LST and lollipopping should be done to the plant during this marijuana growth stage! You want the plant to have many main branches, and take the shape of a candelabra, prior to entering the bloom/flowering stage!

In addition, it's important to note that in all growing stages of a weed plant, you should monitor and check it thoroughly! Do a daily check of the leaves and medium, and periodically check the root system to ensure that there is no issues with the plant.

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Flowering

The flowering stage of a weed plant is where the heavy action takes place! Marijuana flowering will take anywhere from 8-11 weeks, depending on strain and growing conditions.

During the flowering stage of cannabis growing, the light schedule will need to be switched in order to induce the plant to bloom/flower. Now, the light schedule will go from 18 hours on & 6 hours off to 12 hours on & 12 hours off.

Early Blooming Stage (Week 1-3/4)

early cannabis flowering stage

During early flowering, you can expect the plant to stretch vertically, and nearly double its size! So try to plan ahead—utilizing trellis netting is a great way to mange the plant height, and canopy! During early flowering stage of the plant, it will be ready to absorb and utilize all the light available; so increasing the intensity to a high level would help the plant onset buds more quickly! In this stage of growth the plant will ramp up its level of transpiration and nutrient uptake, so make sure that there is a good amount of airflow throughout the plant and canopy, and water and feed the plant adequately. At each feeding/watering, you should give enough so that the medium has some run-off!

You will notice the plant start to produce white hairs, known as stigmas, from the growth tips and flowering sites. These sites will all grow up, and mature to be full flowers.

Mid Blooming Stage (Week 4-8)

mid marijuana blooming stage

Once you have hit week 4, the marijuana plant will almost completely stop growing in size, and instead focus its resources on fattening up the buds. As the plant progresses in the coming weeks, the buds will continue to grow and become more dense and resinous. From weeks 4-8, the plant will continue to add size on the flowers, before it starts to ripen them! You will notice the buds take on a shiny, or frosty appearance from the production of trichomes.

Late Blooming Stage (After Week 8)

later marijuana flowering stage

From week 8 on, the plant will stop bulking, as the buds have reached their maximum size. Through the next week or so of cannabis growth, you will notice many of the stigmas changing color from white to different shades of orange, amber and brown. This is a sign that the plant has stopped growing/bulking the flowers, and started to ripen them.

In the ripening phase the weed plant will make a final push. The trichomes will extend and start to mature, and meanwhile the plant will produce a wide variety of cannabinoids and terpenes. Many growers will keep a keen eye of the color of the trichomes, to determine when their plant is ready to flush or harvest. The progression of trichome coloration is a sign of the bud's ripeness level. During ripening (the final stage of cannabis plant growth) the trichomes will change opacity and color. They'll switch from clear, to milky/opaque, and finally amber.

Flushing

pictures trichomes ready harvest

Once you start to see amber trichomes (try to use microscope lens or magnifier for more precise results), your plant is ready to flush. Flushing is the final step in the flowering phase of the weed plant, and will aide in the ripening of buds. To properly flush, you will give the plant only fresh water, which allows the plant to utilize all of its stored minerals within the plant tissue. This is said to help the quality and enjoyability of the final product!

Once you have progressed through the entire flowering stage of your weed plant, and finished flushing, it will be ready to harvest!

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Harvest and Drying

The final cannabis growing stage! Your plant has grown, buds have fattened and matured, you have flushed your plant adequately, and are now ready to harvest and dry!

Harvesting cannabis is very simple. All you really need do is chop the plant from the main stalk, close the medium!

hang drying cannabis buds in the Hey abby_@SilverFox

hang drying weed: Image via Hey abby grower @SilverFox

Once your plant has been harvested, you will need hang it, or put it on a cannabis drying rack, for drying. Throughout all growth stages, weed drying is often the most overlooked one. Improper drying can quickly ruin your 13+ weeks of hard work, and care given to your plant!

How to Dry Cannabis Properly?

cannabis drying

I personally prefer to cut the plant down into similar sized branches, and hang them from a drying line. It is best to keep the branches close to each other, but not crowded when drying. This allows everything to dry in unison, as a unit, rather than having some moist areas while others are dry and crispy!

When drying, try to aim for 60°F/15°C with 60% humidity, and try to not let the plant dry for not less that 7 days. This will allow the plant to dry properly, and allow the remaining chlorophyll within the plant to oxidize and breakdown. Chlorophyl is the chemical within the plant that keep its green. And if not dried properly, the chlorophyll will not be able to breakdown. This will lead grassy/hay smelling weed!

So try to keep the drying environment as close to said parameters as possible! There is a test you can do to see if your plant is done drying, called the “snap test”. To do the snap test you will find a branch of medium thickness and give it a hard bend, if the branch gives an audible “snap” sound, it is done drying and ready to start curing. If no snap is heard, the plant still needs more dry-time!

To Recap

So, there you have it, the lowdown of the entire growing stages of a weed plant from seed to harvest. From understanding every different stage, you've got the tools to cultivate your own stash of primo buds.

Remember, this guide is not just about growing cannabis, it's about nurturing a thriving plant with dense buds in the end. Keep an eye on those crucial factors like light, water, nutrients, and airflow, and don't forget the importance of plant training. With Hey abby's smart grow box kits, you can even keep tabs on your green beauties from anywhere, ensuring they're getting the care they deserve. Happy growing!

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