How Long Marijuana Plants Take to Grow
Are you not sure how long marijuana plants take to grow? Well, the first thing we recommend is to have patience, something that applies to pretty much everything in life. Plants need enough time to grow and develop correctly, and time is what can tell a nice productive plant from a pile of branches lacking in both foliage and yield.
Today we’re going to talk about normal growth times and the different stages that your plants will go through. Maybe some of these questions sound familiar to you;
- How long does cannabis take to germinate/flower?
- What can I do to make my plants flower earlier?
- Can I speed up the growth?
- Which is the fastest, highest yielding plant?
These questions are probably best answered with the age old phrase, time is gold. Obviously a lot of the answers are quite subjective and we can’t give any absolutely concrete times, but we’ll do our best in this article to provide you with a general idea of how long a marijuana plant takes to grow.
Firstly, we’ll begin by dividing the plants’ life cycle into a series of phases:
Germination is defined as the period and process through which the seed changes from a seed to a sapling.
If you’re planting cuttings, then the germination period is known as the cloning and rooting period.
Germination techniques are varying in method, although the one we tend to use the most and is the most recommended involves damp kitchen paper as a base for the seed; many people use other methods, like damp cotton, straight into the earth or a jiffy, or in water.
Some growers even use germination stimulators that work with the seeds initial metabolism and reduce the germination time to about a day in most cases.
Of course, time is relative. It will depend not just on the strain, but the actual quality of the seed itself. Some determining factors are the age of the seed, how fertile it is and how it has been kept.
Saplings tend to take around 24-72 hours to sprout, although sometimes it can take 5 days and in extreme cases it can take up to 15 days. Make sure to pay attention to the water and humidity conditions, as well as the temperature which should be at around 21-24ºC.
This is also called the vegetative phase. It’s the main period of growth that your plant will go through, and probably the most important.
After managing to get your sapling to sprout and transplanting it (into soil or a jiffy), the growth period begins. Just like the name says, your plants will grow the most it’s ever going to grow and stretch upwards during this period, allowing it to get the correct shape and size to proceed to the next stage; flowering.
Like many of you probably already know, your plants will need more light during the growth phase than any other phase. Generally, 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness are recommended per day. A proper balance between light and dark is the key element to a successful growth period. The light is obviously very important in as far as photosynthesis, but those hours of darkness are incredibly important as well, as during that time there’s an exchange of essential elements in your plants’ metabolisms.
This period will take more or less time depending on the seed, strain and growing method. Autoflowering plants will be much faster than feminized plants and indoor crops are generally much faster than outdoor crops. Also, if you use a stronger light your crops will generally grow faster than those with less powerful bulbs.
It’s difficult to put a number on how long the growth period takes due to environmental and external factors (fertilizers and the grower’s expertise) that can interfere with crops. Generally, indoors autoflowering plants take about 3 or 4 weeks (21 to 25 days) and around 6 to 8 weeks, maybe more, for feminized strains.
Outdoors regular and feminized seeds tend to take around 8 to 9 weeks, but by growing indoors you can mess around with the timings to make them begin flowering earlier.
This is your cannabis plants’ last period. When it starts will depend obviously on the growth period, but the plant must also have the necessary characteristics developed to allow it to grow buds.
This means that sometimes, a month after germination your plant might still look weak or small, which means that you’ll have to let it continue its growth period for more time.
It’s also important to note that autoflowering strains will flower at their own whim; you’ll need to change the light period once they start showing signs. However, seasonal seeds will need to be helped into the flowering phase by a change in light period. To be exact, you’ll need to switch them to a 12/12h light period which induces your plants into the flowering phase.
I know we said that the growth phase’s timing was relative, but true relative is how long a flowering period can take. There really are no rules apart from certain ones preached by seed banks about their strains, although in most cases these rules are simply guidelines.
The important thing to keep in mind when trying to figure out when the flowering period is coming to an end and you need to wash out the roots is how the buds look. Although times stated by seed banks can give you a general idea, the best way to find out is to watch your bud grow until they’re buried in pistils.
Once they’ve developed that fair, the harvest time will be indicated by the maturity and oxidization of the pistils and trichomes, which become that nice amber/honey color.
Indoors, autoflowering strains will generally finish up at around 8 weeks of flowering, and feminized versions can take longer depending on the growth period, and it’s normal for them to take anywhere between 10 to 12 weeks, and in a lot of cases even more.
Drying and Curing:
This stage isn’t even classifiable like the plant’s life cycle, although we can tell you that it’s a process that will take a while and it’s just an important as the plant’s periods when it comes to gett ing top quality taste, aroma, effect and potency.
First, you’ll have to differentiate between drying and curing; the first thing you’ll need to do with your freshly-cut harvest is dry it.
Basically, you’ll have to place your harvest, cut and trimmed, in a dark, cool and dry place in a drying mesh or sock (don’t forget to clean your plants roots out thoroughly towards harvesting time). All you’ll have to do is move the buds around the mesh or sock every day so they don’t become inclined to one side or another.
This process can take a while depending on placement and terrain; from two to four weeks. The sign of a properly dried bud is being able to bend it without breaking it, but while also hearing that nice crispy sound.
After the drying process comes the curing process, like a good cheese.
It simply involves placing all of your buds in a container and leaving it to sit with a periodic opening to let the air flow. Curing can be done in different containers; plastic, glass or wood, although wood is faster than glass and glass is the most recommended as it doesn’t emit or contain any sort of toxic substances.
The container in which you deposit your harvest will need to be kept in a dark, cool and dry place. The only thing you’ll need to do will be to open the container for about five minutes a day so that the humidity can leave your bud, and you end up with a perfectly chlorophyll-free product.
This process can take anywhere from two to six weeks. The main indication of a proper curing is that the bud crunches when pressed in slightly, if you bend the stem it breaks water than bends, and the intense green color should fade, as well as the leafy green smell.
According to these estimates, marijuana takes about three months to grow completely for autoflowering versions, and four to five or more months for feminized strains depending on crop method and expertise. Don’t forget that drying and curing will take a month or two more.
We’re going to insist on the fact that depending on how you grow your plants as well as the strain you choose to grow, each phase will be longer or shorter, and therefore so will the entire life cycle. Feminized strains will take longer to be harvestable, and autoflowering strains will take less time. There’s also a new version called the “fast version” that the Sweet Seeds seed bank has developed. Also, indoor crops will take less time to be harvestable than outdoor crops.
4 stages of marijuana plant growth
Cannabis plants go through a series of stages as they grow and mature, and those different growth stages call for different amounts of light, nutrients, and water.
It’s important to know these stages and how long each lasts to know what the plant needs and when. Knowing where your cannabis plants are in their life cycles will dictate when to prune, train, and trellis your plants, and when to harvest.
How long does it take to grow a marijuana plant?
Generally speaking, it takes anywhere from 10-32 weeks, or about 3-8 months, to grow a weed plant from seed to harvest. It’ll be quicker if you start with a clone or an autoflower seed.
The biggest variability in how long a marijuana plant takes to grow will happen in the vegetative stage—after the seedling phase and before flowering.
If you’re growing indoors, you can force a weed plant to flower after only a few weeks when it’s small or after several weeks when it’s big.
When growing outdoors, you’re at the whim of the seasons and will have to wait until the sun starts to go down in the fall for plants to flower, and then to harvest.
However, one way outdoor growers can control the flowering cycle is by using light deprivation techniques.
How long can a marijuana plant live?
Weed plants are annuals, meaning they grow and live for one season and then die. Wild cannabis plants grow seeds and drop them when they die, which will grow into new plants the following year.
When harvesting, plants are cut down and die in order to get their buds. New seeds need to be planted in order to grow more plants.
If left unharvested, weed plants will eventually wither and rot within a few months after the peak flowering phase.
When should you grow marijuana?
If you’re growing outdoors in the Northern Hemisphere, growers usually get their seeds between February and April and start germinating seeds by the end of April.
Many start growing seedlings inside in a more controlled environment because seedlings are more delicate, and then put the seedlings in the ground outside once they’re a little bigger and the weather is warmer.
If you’re growing clones or autoflowers, you have a grace period of another month or so. Plants usually need to be outside, in the ground, by the end of June.
Harvesting happens sometime between September and November. This depends on your local climate, as well as the weather that particular year—one year it could be the end of September, the next, end of October; growers in the Pacific Northwest will have to pull down their crops earlier than those in Northern California because of cold weather.
If you’re growing weed indoors, you can grow whenever you like. Keep in mind that the outside environment will affect your grow space—you may need to add heaters in the winter or fans and ACs in the summer.
Other than that, you can start seeds whenever you like and flip them into flower whenever you like, depending on how big you want the plants.
Important dates for growing marijuana outdoors
Many growers begin germinating seeds as early as February and March in order to have big plants come harvest time, but the Spring Equinox is a good reminder that it’s time to kick off the outdoor growing process and start germinating your seeds if you haven’t already.
Many farmers wait until after Mother’s Day in May to put their plants outside. Just make sure all of your plants are outside by the Summer Solstice at the latest.
The weather will start to turn and the sun will begin descending in the sky as your plants fatten up with sweet, sticky buds. It might be tempting, but the Fall Equinox is about when to start harvesting. It’ll depends on your climate and the year—it could happen a little before or after.
Everything should be cleaned up, dried, and curing by Thanksgiving, and in some places, even by Halloween.
As winter approaches, it’s prime time to make your own cannabutter, topicals, or tinctures with all that trim from the harvest. Kick your feet up, relax, and hunker down for the cold, it’s been a long growing season!
Notes on marijuana growth phases
We can’t stress enough that the timeframes in the above graphic are ranges of time for the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll need to adjust them based on your specific region and local weather and climate.
Be sure to keep a grow journal to track the progress of your plants. Looking back on your notes will help you learn from mistakes and maximize the quality and quantity of your buds next year.
Take meticulous notes on when and how you perform each step, noting:
- How much water you give plants, and at what intervals
- Nutrient amounts
- When you top and prune
Pictures will also give you a better sense of how your plants look along the way.
What are a weed plant’s growth stages?
The growth stages of marijuana can be broken down into four primary stages from seed to harvest:
- Germination (3-10 days)
- Seedling (2-3 weeks)
- Vegetative (3-16 weeks)
- Flowering (8-11 weeks)
Cannabis seed germination
Seed germination length: 3-10 days
Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
The first marijuana plant stage begins with the seed. A cannabis seed should feel hard and dry, and be light- to dark-brown in color. An undeveloped seed is generally squishy and green or white in color and likely won’t germinate.
Once your seed has germinated, or sprouted, it’s ready to be placed in a growing medium, like soil. The tap root will drive down while the stem of the seedling will grow upward.
Two rounded cotyledon leaves will grow out from the stem as the plant unfolds from the protective casing of the seed. These initial leaves are responsible for taking in sunlight so the plant can grow healthy and stable.
As roots develop, the stalk will rise and you’ll begin to see the first iconic fan leaves grow, at which point your cannabis plant can be considered a seedling.
Seedling stage in cannabis plants
Seedling stage length: 2-3 weeks
Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
When your marijuana plant becomes a seedling, you’ll notice it developing the traditional cannabis fan leaves. As a sprout, the seed will initially produce leaves with only one ridged blade.
Once new growth develops, the leaves will develop more blades, or “fingers” (3, 5, 7, etc.). A mature cannabis plant will have between 5 or 7 blades per leaf, but some plants may have more.
Cannabis plants are considered seedlings until they begin to develop leaves with the full number of blades on new fan leaves. A healthy seedling should be a vibrant green color.
Be careful to not overwater the plant in its seedling stage—its roots are so small, it doesn’t need much water to thrive.
At this stage, the plant is vulnerable to disease and mold. Keep its environment clean and monitor excess moisture. Be sure to give it plenty of light.
Even if growing outdoors, a lot of growers will start their seeds inside under an artificial light to help them through this delicate stage of marijuana growth.
If you buy a clone from a grower or breeder it will be a seedling, so you can skip the seed germination phase.
Vegetative stage in cannabis plants
Vegetative stage length: 3-16 weeks
Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
The vegetative stage of cannabis is where the plant’s growth truly takes off, and it typically lasts 3-16 weeks. At this point, you’ve transplanted your plant into a larger pot and the roots and foliage are developing rapidly. This is also the time to begin topping or training your plants.
Be mindful to increase your watering as the plant develops. When it’s young, your plant will need water close to the stalk, but as it grows the roots will also grow outward, so start watering further away from the stalk in the soil so roots can stretch out and absorb water more efficiently.
Vegetative plants appreciate healthy soil with nutrients. Feed them with a high level of nitrogen at this stage.
If you need to determine the sex of your plants (to discard the males), they will start showing sex organs a few weeks into the veg stage. It’s imperative to separate males so they don’t pollinate the females.
Cannabis plant flowering stage
Flowering stage length: 8-11 weeks
Marijuana light cycle: 12 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors
The flowering stage is the final stage of growth for a cannabis plant. This is when plants start to develop resinous buds and your hard work will be realized. Most strains flower in 8-9 weeks, but some can take even longer, especially some sativas.
Outdoors, flowering occurs naturally when the plant receives less light each day as summer turns into fall.
Indoor growers can trigger the flowering cycle by reducing the amount of light marijuana plants receive from 18 to 12 hours a day.
There are three subphases of the flowering stage:
- Flower initiation (week 1-3): The plant will continue to grow and females will develop pre-flowers—pistils, or white hairs, will grow out, which are the beginnings of buds.
- Mid-flowering (week 4-5): The plant itself will stop growing and buds will start fattening up.
- Late flowering/ripening (week 6 and on): Trichome density will increase and plants will get very sticky; keep an eye on the color of the pistils to tell when to harvest.
There are a number of changes to consider once plants go from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage:
- Don’t prune when plants are flowering, as it can upset their hormones
- Plants should be trellised or scrogged so buds will be supported as they develop and air can flow through plants
- Consider giving plants bloom or phosphorus nutrients
When do buds grow the most?
Buds typically grow the most toward the end of the flowering life cycle. You probably won’t notice much budding out at the beginning of the flowering stage, and it will slow down toward the end of the cycle, when buds become fully formed.
Once buds have reached full maturation, it’s time to harvest your marijuana. How long it takes to harvest buds depends on many factors, including harvesting methods and how many plants you harvest.
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.