Growing a cannabis plant can become less intimidating once you understand the stages of its life cycle and the maintenance requirements of each stage. In the wild, cannabis follows the seasons by germinating in the spring and growing all summer. It’s ready for harvest in the fall. When growing cannabis indoors, growers must mimic the seasons through lighting requirements and nutrients. Below is a quick overview of every stage in the cannabis plant growing process, as well as some tips to ensure a healthy harvest.
Growing a cannabis plant begins with germinating your seeds. You can germinate them in seed cubes, soil, or even a wet paper towel. If growing outdoors, you can plant seeds directly in the ground. If you use the paper towel method, be sure to use cheap ones instead of the super-thick, absorbent kind. To sprout, seeds need moisture and warmth, so think spring.
When growing indoors, place the seeds under an incandescent lightbulb or two, and take care not to touch the fragile taproot. Germination typically takes 3-7 days. One advantage of sprouting seeds directly in the soil is not having to disturb the root.
The Seedling Stage
Be careful with cannabis seedlings during their first few weeks of life. If growing indoors, they’re not ready for full-strength grow lights. If you’re not using LEDs, and instead plan to use high-intensity lights such as MH or HPS, start them off under less-intense lights such as CFLs. Another option is to keep the seedlings a few feet away from the high-intensity lights and move them closer as they grow. The seedling stage is normally about 2-4 weeks.
The Vegetating Stage
During the vegetative stage, the cannabis plant will begin to grow its stems and leaves. By now you should have transferred to a more intense light setup if growing indoors. Outdoors, the summer sun will do the job. Indoors, plants will also need circulating air such as a fan so that they don’t suffocate or develop environment-based diseases.
Remember that less is more when giving young plants nutrients. You may or may not need to adjust your water’s pH level. However, if you notice abnormalities such as shiny, yellow, or darker green leaves, you’ll need to check your pH levels as your plants likely have a deficiency. As for pots, a good rule of thumb is to use about a two-gallon pot for each foot of height. The vegging stage usually lasts about 3-8 weeks.
The Flowering Stage
Indoors, the flowering stage begins when you switch your plants to a 12/12 lighting schedule. Using a timer will make this easier. Outdoors, it’s shorter days that cause the plant to begin budding. After the 12/12 switch, the plant will begin to grow rapidly and will require more nutrients. In a few weeks, a female plant will begin sprouting white pistils.
Male plants will grow tiny pollen sacs and should be kept away from females to prevent cross-pollination. During about week four to six, the buds will fatten and grow “sugar” leaves. In week six to eight, the pistils turn darker as the buds ripen.
During the last two weeks of flowering, be sure to flush with plain water to remove nutrients that may affect taste. You’ll know it’s close to harvest when most of the pistils have darkened and the trichomes turn an auburn hue. The time differs between strains but generally the buds are ready to harvest after about eight weeks of flowering. Finally, it’s now time to harvest, dry, and cure your cannabis buds.
So there you have a quick overview of what it takes to grow a cannabis plant at home. If you’re looking for more in-depth techniques, be sure to check out our marijuana grow guides.