The Stages of Cannabis Growth
Cannabis growth is made up of a series of stages that plants undergo during their lifecycle. Each stage during the cannabis cultivation process requires its own unique demands, including different levels of light, water, and nutrients.
It can take anywhere from 4 to 8 months to grow a cannabis plant, this varies based on where you’re growing. If you have an indoor grow room, your plant has the ability to flower after only a few weeks!
The quality of your plant depends on your knowledge of the cannabis growth stages and the lifecycle of your plants.
Cannabis Growth Timeline
1. Germinating: 1-7 days
2. Seedling: 2-3 weeks
3. Vegetative: 2-8 weeks
4. Pre-Flowering: 1-2 weeks
5. Flowering: 6-8 weeks
1. Germinating Seeds
2. Seedling Stage
3. Vegetative Growth
How to tell if your plant is a male or female
Female: Two pistils (the pistil contains the reproductive parts of a flower) will be growing on the buds (flowers grow above these leaves, one cluster on each side).
Male: Small green sacs full of pollen will be seen on the node areas.
- If there is a high color ratio of white to red pistils your cannabis will provide a euphoric THC high.
- If the color ratio is more red to white, your cannabis will provide a calmer, CBD-stoned feeling.
- If you harvest once half the trichomes are opaque and the pistils haven’t turned brown, your cannabis will provide a balanced THC/CBD high.
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How long does it take to grow marijuana?
Fr om day 1 of your marijuana plant’s life to a smokable harvest, you’re looking at 2-6 months. Many factors affect the total time (especially the strain and size of the plant) but the average grow takes 3-4 months .
The average indoor cannabis grow takes 3-4 months from seed to harvest. The full range is 2-6 months and depends on the strain and desired size of plants.
You can control the timing if you plan ahead.
2-3 months from seed to harvest
- Use an autoflowering strain (ready to harvest in as little as 10 weeks from germination)
- Standard (photoperiod) plants from seed typically won’t be ready to harvest in under 3 months
- Average 1-2 oz per plant
- In 5-gallon pots with strong grow light, expect up to 4 or 5 oz per plant indoors
- Autoflowering plants can get huge outdoors in full sunlight, where they can produce many ounces per plant
3-5+ months from seed to harvest
- Photoperiod strains are your best bet (they are flexible on timing and allow you to choose the final plant size/yields)
- In 5-gallon pots with strong grow light, expect up to 5 oz per plant indoors
- Up to 10 oz per plant or more if you have a strong light, a 10-gallon pot, and let the plant get big before initiating the flowering stage
- When growing photoperiod plants outside, you must get a strain that’s suitable for your climate and plant in the spring so buds are ready to harvest before winter
These factors have the greatest impact on total time from seed to harvest:
- Cannabis strain – Some strains are ready to harvest in under 2 months, while others may need 5 months or more from seed to weed. Strain has a big impact on growing time. Luckily, breeders almost always give time estimates so you can plan ahead.
- Desired yields – Do you want to grow a few grams, a few ounces, or a few pounds? Bigger plants produce bigger yields, but also need more time to grow.
- Setup – Different grow methods or setups can add or subtract a few weeks. For example, plants grown without added nutrients tend to grow slower than plants getting nutrients in the water.
How to grow marijuana as quickly as possible:
You want to get an auto-flowering strain. These cannabis plants automatically start making buds after about a month from germination, and are ready to harvest by the time they’re 2 or 3 months old.
Auto-flowering plants tend to stay small since they go from seed to harvest in under 3 months. These auto-flowering plants produced about 7 ounces.
However, if you take really good care of auto-flowering plants for the first 4 weeks and give a lot of light, they can grow much bigger. These auto-flowering plants reached half this height in the first 4 weeks and produced about 11 oz under the same grow light as above.
Counter-clockwise from top left: Alaskan Purple Auto, White Widow Max Auto, Candy Kush Auto, Pink Kush CBD 30:1 (short purple plant), Zkittlez Auto, Gelato Auto
Here are some of great auto-flowering strains I’ve personally grown and recommend. These are all ready to harvest 8-10 weeks from germination:
(American stabilized version) – These plants responded well to plant training and produced nice yields. I really enjoyed the strong yet unique bud effects of this strain. It reminded me of a sativa/haze with more of a body stone. – Easy to grow with buds that smell amazing. This didn’t get the best yields, but the bud quality was worth it. by G13 Labs – An extremely popular autoflowering strain. Plants stay short, are quick-to-harvest even for an auto, and the sparkle-encrusted buds smell like heaven. by Bomb Seeds – I’ve grown 5 different plants of this strain over multiple grows in different setups, and every one came out marvelous. Easy to grow, great yields, beautiful sparkly buds, and potent effects. Highly recommended! by Dutch Passion – Average potency buds, but the best yields of any auto-flowering plant I’ve ever grown. Always yields twice as much as the next auto-flowering plant in the tent. However, plants can get big so watch the height! A great choice for someone who wants classic bud effects that aren’t too overwhelming. by MSNL – The plants grew big but with a good bushy structure (not too stretchy), responded well to training, and produced enormous yields of high-quality bud. (American stabilized version) – This strain has grown fast and healthy for me and produced fat buds that smell sweet and look gorgeous.
Recommended Autoflowering Breeders
Many other breeders also produce great auto-flowering strains (Dutch Passion, FastBuds, Barney’s Farm, etc.), but the following breeders stand out for consistency.
Zkittlez Auto is ready to harvest 8-10 weeks from germination. Every time I grow this strain the smell and bud effects are excellent
What if time is not an issue?
This gives you the freedom to choose the exact strain you want without any worry about how long it will take. This gives you the freedom to grow some strains that otherwise are inaccessible to growers who are worried about timeframes.
Strains from warm climates tend to have long flowering periods before their buds are ready to harvest, adding weeks or months to the time needed. Long-flowering strains often produce higher yields than short-flowering strains because buds have more time to grow. For example, Acapulco Gold takes almost 3 months after initiating 12/12 before buds are ready to harvest. However, it produces amazing yields and unique psychedelic effects.
Important Milestones in the Marijuana Plant’s Life
Depending on how you set up your grow, it can take anywhere from 2 months to 6 months or more to grow a marijuana plant from a seedling to the point where the plant is ready to harvest. Some methods, such as growing hydroponically indoors, give your flexibility to get a harvested plant in as little as 2-3 months. Growing outdoors generally takes longer than growing indoors and is more dependent on when you plant your seeds and how long your growing season is.
Once your plant is harvested, there is a drying and curing process that takes about a minimum of two weeks before your buds are “ready” for smoking. If you aren’t a smoker and plan on turning plants into edibles or concentrates, you should still dry your buds but typically you don’t need to cure your buds.
For more information about how to grow your own marijuana at home, then check out my Basic Marijuana Growing Guide or one of my more detailed How-To Guides which will explain how to grow your marijuana plant from beginning to end.