If you’re growing your own cannabis at home, it’s important to get to know more about the cannabis vegetative stage especially, as this stage is crucial to its development. The vegetative stage is the first real step in the cycle of life for a marijuana plant, the period where the plant grows and develops, but before it flowers. It’s when your cannabis plant includes stems and leaves but has not yet sprouted buds, it’s considered to be in the vegetative stage.
The Cannabis Life Cycle
There are a few steps in the cannabis life cycle after you plant your seeds:
- Seed germination
- Vegetative stage, when stems and leaves grow
- Flowering stage, when buds and flowers sprout
There are differences in helping your cannabis plants get to the vegetative stage and then flower, depending on where you grow your cannabis. For indoor growers, if you give your plants at least 18 hours of light each day, you can keep your plants in this vegetative stage for as long as you want. In most cases, you would put grow lights on a timer to manage the life cycle of your plants. On the other hand, if you grow outside, natural sunlight will determine the stage of your cannabis plant’s growth.
Note that some cannabis strains are auto-flowering. These plants will go through the life cycle in three months despite light management practices.
When typical cannabis plants get over 18 hours a day of light, they respond as if they’re in the summer growing season. This means that providing this much light keeps them in the cannabis vegetative stage, producing stems and leaves but not buds.
Using Lights To Manage the Cannabis Vegetative Stage
As an indoor grower, you might keep your lights on an 18-6 schedule or a 24-0 schedule. The former keeps on the lights 18 hours a day and turns them off for six, while the latter keeps grow lights on around the clock. There are a number of reasons to choose one schedule or the other.
Some plants do well on either, but others seem to develop better under a more “natural” 18-6 schedule. In addition, if you find that you are spending a lot on electricity costs, this schedule can ensure you have six hours of downtime from your lighting system. Because you’re growing indoors, you could also set those six hours to take place during the hottest time of the day, to keep your grow area from getting too warm.
On the other hand, if you’re in a cold area and risk a temperature dropping below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, running the lights 24/7 could help to keep up the warmth as well as the light. If you’re using an auto-flowering plant, however, make sure to give at least 18 hours of light each day and up to 24 hours throughout their life cycle, from planting until harvesting.
In many cases, you can get faster results and urge your plants to the flowering stage more quickly by providing more light each day. After all, plants process light, so this gives them more energy to put into the growth process.
In most cases, this stage lasts between four and eight weeks. You may be able to push some seedlings to flower only a few weeks after they germinate, but the results are often sparse and poor. Instead, keeping your plants in the vegetative state for a bit longer results in larger plants that produce more buds.
Caring For Vegetative-Stage Plants
Use this stage to nurture your cannabis plants and get them ready to flower and harvest. You’ll find that your plants are resilient and grow quickly throughout the vegetative stage.
Make sure to water your plants when you feel that the soil is dry when you touch it. If you are using containers, make sure there is proper drainage for water at the bottom.
You may want to add nutrients to your cannabis plants to help them grow. You can start by using a nutrient schedule at half strength before rising to higher levels. In general, you will dissolve nutrients in the water before you provide it to your plants.
Lighting, as noted, is one of the most important elements involved. Keep your grow lights on the schedule you decide. Your plants will stay in this stage until you change the lighting schedule to stop giving more than 18 hours of light each day.
In general, you want to keep your plants warm, between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The environment should also be relatively humid, around 40% humidity or higher. Make sure that your plants are never exposed to freezing cold.
Cannabis plants benefit from fresh air. This can keep hot spots from developing and keep the leaves moving around.
Recognizing Problem Signs
There are a few signs that you might need to take extra care of your plants. Some of these include the following:
- Leaves falling off or dying
- Strange spots or odd colors on the leaves
- Powdery white mold
- Extremely slow growth
- Excessive stretching growth with sparse areas
- Insects, eggs and trails
- Bad odors (moldy or rotten)
If you spot a problem, identifying it can help you treat your plant, find a solution and nurture your cannabis back to health. The earlier in the vegetative stage you address issues, the less likely it will have any effect on your future yield.
Watering Your Cannabis
Keeping your plants well-watered is important, but you don’t want to over-water them. Don’t give too much water until your plants start growing more quickly, especially if they are small plants in a large planter or container.
In general, provide enough water that your soil is moist. You generally don’t want to see significant runoff, unless you are using added nutrients in your water. If you’re adding nutrients, add water until around one-fifth of the extra water drains out through the bottom. Natural, nutritious soil can be easy to over-water.
You could even just lift up your plants to determine if they need to be watered. If the plant feels light, you’ll know that the water has been used from the soil, and more is needed.
Managing Grow Room Temperature
As you know, cannabis grows best in warm room temperature or slightly warmer. You need sufficient humidity for a good grow as well; make sure to not go below 40%, especially in the vegetative stage.
When you’re measuring the temperature, don’t just check the general feeling in the room. You’ll want to measure heat directly below the light where you have your plants. Just as you need to keep your plants away from freezing areas, you also don’t want to expose your plants to excessive heat. If your hand feels too hot after 10 seconds under the lights, you’ll need to make the area cooler. Try using fans to disperse the hot air.
While excessive heat can lead to slow growth, freezing is a killer. If you’re growing in the basement, make sure that you have the right level of light and heat to protect your plants, including at the bottom.
You can determine the best amount of time in the vegetative stage for your plants, but usually, around one month or four weeks of this growth leads to strong yields and tall plants. As you develop experience in growing, you’ll find out what the best vegetative stage length is for your plants.