This article explores the four cannabis growing stages in detail, highlighting common issues that growers may encounter at each stage. The cannabis plant life cycle consists of four distinct stages:
- Cannabis seed germination phase.
- Seedling development phase.
- Vegetation phase.
- Flowering (or budding) phase.
The life cycle of a cannabis plant.
The information about the different cannabis growing stages is derived from the Paradise Seeds knowledge base, which includes articles and tips for both indoor and outdoor cannabis growers.
This article provides links to blogs that draw on the experiences of seasoned weed cultivators, cannabis innovators, and feedback from customers who have shared their own experience with growing cannabis seeds.
Cannabis Growing Stages: Seed Germination
The first stage of the cannabis growth cycle is the seed germination phase, which typically lasts between 2-7 days. During this stage, the dry seed absorbs water through its seed coat, causing it to swell and split open to reveal a taproot.
As the seed germinates, enzymes are activated, providing the embryo with energy and initiating its growth through the subsequent cannabis plant growth stages.
Popular Cannabis Seed Germination Methods
There are a couple of tried and tested techniques for cannabis seed germination:
- The wet tissue paper method.
- The glass of water method.
These methods, which are crucial for progressing to the next stages of cannabis growth, are discussed in more detail in our article Methods to Germinate Cannabis Seeds or you can watch this germination video from Top Shelf Grower on the Paradise Seeds Youtube channel.
A video guide to cannabis seed germination.
Common Issues with Cannabis Seed Germination
- Overwatering can cause the seed to rot or drown.
- Planting the seed too deep in the soil.
- Interfering with the seedling by touching or prodding it.
- Extreme temperature fluctuations, especially cold temperatures.
Cannabis Growing Stages: Cannabis Seedling Stage
The next stage of the cannabis growing cycle is the seedling phase, which begins when the shoot emerges from the soil and the plant starts developing its stem and first small leaves.
During this stage, the plant’s root system establishes itself in the soil, absorbing nutrients and water to support the growth of the seedling. It is a critical period for the plant’s development.
As the seedling progresses, it experiences simultaneous growth above ground (leaves and branches) and below ground (root system). The new leaves contribute to energy production through photosynthesis, utilizing sunlight or artificial light sources.
In most cases, seedlings are cultivated in small pots and later transplanted into larger pots or directly into the soil. The process of transplanting seedlings should be done with care to minimize stress on the plants.
Common Issues in the Seedling Stage
- Over-fertilization can cause nutrient overload and harm the seedling.
- Insufficient or excessive light during the seedling stage can affect growth patterns.
- Insufficient light can lead to leggy (spindly) seedlings.
- Temperature fluctuations can negatively impact seedling growth.
- Fungal diseases, such as pythium wilt, mildew, and root rot, can affect seedlings.
- Pest infestations can be problematic.
Cannabis Growing Stages: Vegetative Phase
During the seedling phase, it can be difficult to envision the eventual size of the plant in the remaining cannabis growing stages.
However, the vegetation phase is characterized by rapid growth as the plant develops more branches and leaves above the soil. Simultaneously, the root system expands to support the new growth and absorb nutrients and water.
Although the vegetation phase is generally considered as one stage, it can be further divided into four different stages for a better understanding of the cannabis growth cycle:
- Establishment: During the initial two weeks, the seedling experiences accelerated growth, entering the veg stage after developing 6-8 sets of proper leaves. It also develops a more extensive root system. At this stage, the plant requires essential resources such as water, light, and nutrients to thrive.
- Vegetative Growth: Once established, this stage is characterized by rapid vertical stem growth, increased branching, and leaf development. Indoor cultivation usually involves an 18/6 light/dark cycle during this phase. Outdoor growth is dependent on natural light, with the vegetative stage lasting until the hours of daylight decrease to less than 12 hours.
- Pre-flowering: During this period, the plant reaches sexual maturity and develops pre-flowers. Traditionally, this was the stage for separating males and females. However, with feminized cannabis seeds, this is not a concern.
- Transition to Flowering: As the light cycle changes to 12 hours or less of light (either artificially or naturally), the plant transitions from the vegetative phase to the flowering phase. Energy focus shifts from leaf and branch development to the production of flowers (buds).
The duration of the vegetation phase is determined by the number of light hours the plants receive. Indoor growers have full control over this phase, while outdoor growers’ vegetation stage duration depends on the natural light cycle. In general, the vegetation phase lasts between 2-8 weeks.
In outdoor settings, the vegetation phase can last up to 3 months, varying based on the hours of natural light available. The flowering stage for growers in northern regions begins later due to longer daylight hours in the summer compared to regions closer to the equator.
Due to these variations, many outdoor growers in northern regions prefer to cultivate autoflowering strains that have a shorter growth cycle (60 days from planting to harvest).
Growers may employ advanced techniques during the vegetation phase to train their plants, either to optimize space utilization or to manipulate flower development for better yields. Common training techniques include:
Common Issues in the Vegetative Phase
- Pest infestations, especially for outdoor plants.
- Weaker plants are more susceptible to diseases.
- Nutrient and pH issues (see linked articles for solutions).
- Over or under watering, particularly for outdoor plants exposed to the elements.
- Inadequate light sources.
Cannabis Growing Stages: Flowering Phase
The flowering stage is the most significant phase of the cannabis growth cycle as it leads to the harvest of buds. It is often considered the favorite stage among growers due to the payoff after all the hard work.
However, reaching the harvest stage requires navigating a two to three months period of flower development. Most strains take between 8-10 weeks to flower and require continuous nutrient supplementation to maximize yield.
The flowering stage can be divided into three basic sub-stages:
- Early Flowering Stage: During this period, small white hairs known as pistils begin to appear at the base of the buds, indicating that the plant’s energy is now directed towards flower development. This phase typically lasts for a few weeks.
- Mid-Flowering Stage: In this stage, pistils become more defined, and the flowers start forming trichomes, which contain resin, cannabinoids, and terpenoids. During this six-week period, the flowers will expand and firm up. As the buds mature, changes in trichome and pistil color indicate their readiness for harvest.
- Late Flowering Stage: At this point, the plant reaches maturity as the flowers fully develop. The branches are laden with dense buds, and the trichomes and pistils undergo noticeable color changes. The plant’s leaves begin to yellow and die off. The most reliable indicator for harvest readiness is when the trichomes change from clear to milky. Nutrient supplementation is typically stopped 1-2 weeks before harvest, and plants are flushed with water.
Common Issues in the Flowering Stage
- Light pollution disrupting the plant’s biological clock.
- Nutrient and pH issues.
- Pest infestations potentially affecting the final yield. See our guide on natural pest control.
- Strong odors that may attract unwanted attention from neighbors.
- Airborne diseases like mold and fungus due to inconsistent temperature and humidity.
- Stress-induced hermaphroditism (development of both male and female parts) in plants.
Choosing the Right Cannabis Seeds for Your Grow
Successful cannabis cultivation begins with choosing the right seeds. Consider the following factors when selecting cannabis seeds:
- Type of strain: Decide whether you want to grow feminized photoperiod strains or autoflowering strains, depending on your cultivation environment and requirements.
- Growing space: Consider space limitations, height restrictions, and environmental conditions such as mold susceptibility or high temperatures.
- Regional considerations: Different regions have varying conditions for outdoor cultivation. Consider whether you are in a northern or southern latitude and choose seeds accordingly.
Choosing the right cannabis seeds increases the chances of a successful grow. Trusted seed banks, such as Paradise Seeds, offer high germination rates (96%+).
Each of the cannabis growing stages (germination, seedling, vegetative, flowering) presents its unique challenges, as well as common issues related to environment, nutrients, and pests.
The shortest stage is germination, during which the seed transitions from a dormant state to an active growth phase. The seedling stage consolidates initial growth and establishes the plant’s structure above and below the ground.
The vegetation and flowering stages are the longest, characterized by significant growth changes. Close attention and careful care are necessary throughout the cannabis growing stages to achieve a healthy, productive harvest.
By understanding and effectively managing each stage of the cannabis growth cycle, growers can expect a bountiful harvest of high-quality buds!
1. What are the four cannabis growing stages?
The four cannabis growing stages are seed germination, seedling, vegetative, and flowering.
2. How long is the seed germination phase?
The seed germination phase typically lasts between 2-7 days.
3. What are some common issues with cannabis seed germination?
Common issues with cannabis seed germination include overwatering, planting too deep, human interference, and temperature fluctuations.
4. How long does the vegetative phase last?
The duration of the vegetative phase depends on the number of light hours the plants receive. Indoors, the grower has control over the duration, which typically lasts between 2-8 weeks. Outdoors, it lasts up to 3 months.
5. When does the flowering phase begin?
The flowering phase begins when the light cycle changes to 12 hours or less of light. It usually occurs 8-10 weeks after the start of the vegetative phase.