Marijuana growth stages! Learn how marijuana plants grow!

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It takes several marijuana growth stages to produce a healthy marijuana harvest.

Like all living things, marijuana plants to go through several marijuana growth stages as they develop and grow.

Because each marijuana growth stage requires distinct care, you need to be familiar with the different marijuana growth stages that your plants go through during their life cycle.

First, your weed plants need varying levels of light, nutrients and water during the different marijuana growth stages.

In addition, the various marijuana growth stages help us to:

  • Determine when it is the correct time to prune or train your cannabis plants.
  • Identify the sex of your marijuana plants.
  • Determine the general health of your weed plants because you know what they should look like at a particular time.

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Key marijuana growth stages

From seed to harvest, a cannabis plant goes through four key marijuana growth stages: germination, seedling, vegetative and flowering.

Marijuana growth stages

Germination marijuana growth stage: week 1 – 2

The marijuana growth stages start with the seed germination seed. This is the first stage of life. Before germination, your marijuana seed is dormant and requires water and light to come to life.

About marijuana seeds

Beneath the coat of the seed there is a very small, dehydrated plant waiting to be exposed to moisture and warmth. If the marijuana seed receives water and light, it will sprout. If it does not, it will remain dormant and eventually die. Marijuana seeds do not last forever, but some keep longer than others.

The color and texture of a marijuana seed give you a good idea of its quality. A marijuana seed ought to be light to dark brown in color. When you touch the seed it should feel hard and be totally dry. If the seed is soft and green, or white in color, this means it is underdeveloped is unlikely to germinate.

Like most plants, marijuana plants use sexual reproduction to create and spread marijuana seeds. It takes two parent plants to produce each marijuana seed. The seed contains the DNA from each parent plant: the female and the male plants. The one exception to this rule is seeds that are spawned by a hermaphrodite plant, but this process is too complex for the average marijuana grower. 

In addition to the tiny marijuana plant, a seed also has a store of calories that it uses to start growing into a plant. This is known as the endosperm.

Marijuana seed are quite hardy. Your seeds will last a lot longer if you store them in a dark, cool, but not very cold, place where the temperature is constant. A fridge or cellar is ideal. Make sure the temperature is not too low. Very low temperatures can damage your seeds and anything below freezing is likely to kill your marijuana seeds.

Germinating marijuana seeds

When your marijuana seeds start to sprout the germination marijuana growth stage begins. Germination can take anything from 24 hours to 7 days.

To start the germination process, expose the seeds to light and moisture. The exposure activates hormones within the seed and the plant starts growing.

There are many ways to germinate marijuana seeds. The simplest way is to soak them in water. Watch this tutorial on germinating cannabis seeds using paper towels.

When the seed pops and the tap root shows up, you can put your marijuana plants in soil or another growing medium.

Marijuana growth stages -germination marijuana growth stage

The stem of the marijuana seedling grows upward, while the tap root simultaneously grows downward.

In the beginning two rounded cotyledon leaves will grow from the stem as the plant grows from the protective outer shell of the seed. The cotyledon leaves are very important to the health and stability of the marijuana plant. Their job is to soak up the light which is crucial for the plant’s growth. As the roots develop, so too do the first iconic fan leaves. At this point in time, the marijuana plant has become a seedling.

Marijuana growth stages - seedling cotyledon leaves

Seedling marijuana growth stage: week 2 – 3

Light requirement: 18-24 hrs of light

When the seedling marijuana growth stage starts, your plants will produce numerous typical marijuana leaves. Being a sprout, the seed at first produces leaves with one single ridged finger. With the development of new growth, the leaves create many more fingers (1, 3, 5, 7….). Mature marijuana plants have on average 5 to 7 fingers on each leaf, but some leaves will have many more.

Marijuana growth stages -many fingers

Marijuana plants remain seedlings until such time as they consistently produce leaves with the complete amount of fingers on new leaves.

A healthy seedling is one that is short with thick vegetation. The plant should not appear to be straining towards the light and the leaves should be a radiant, bright green color.

Seedlings do not need a lot of water to flourish. Be careful not to over-water your marijuana seedlings as the roots are very little and cannot tolerate too much water. During the marijuana seedling stage, the plant is susceptible to disease and mold. Keep conditions as clean as possible and and monitor constantly for excess moisture.

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Vegetative marijuana growth stage: 2 – 8 weeks

Light requirement: 13-24 hrs of light

It is typically during the vegetative marijuana growth stage that your marijuana plants’development really takes off. Because the roots and foliage are growing so lushly, you will probably already have transferred your marijuana plants into larger growing containers by this stage.

Marijuana growth stages - vegetative plants

The vegetative marijuana growth stage is the time to start topping or training your plants. How you space between the nodes depends on the strain of marijuana. Indica plants are generally shorter and denser, and sativa plants lanky and less dense.

As the plants grow bigger, it is important to proportionately increase watering. Young marijuana plants need water near the stalk. As the marijuana plant grows its root grow outwards. For this reason start watering further away from the stalk as the plant grows. If you do this, the root tips get to absorb the water more effectively.

Vegetative plants flourish is healthy, balanced and nutrient-rich soil. Ensure that you increase the nitrogen levels during the vegetative marijuana growth stage.

Towards the end of the vegetative stage, when your marijuana plant are coming into the flowering marijuana growth stage, you can determine the sex of the plant. The pre-flower located at the nodes determines whether the plant is male or female:

  • On the female plant, the pre-flower has two hair-like pistils growing on buds.
  • On the male plant, the pre-flower develops small sacs that contain pollen.

Marijuana growth stages -vegetative male female plants

The older your marijuana plants get, the easier it is to determine the sex of each plant.

It is crucial to separate male and female plants to prevent pollination of the flowering females, unless you are breeding marijuana plants.

Flowering marijuana growth stage: 6-8 weeks

Light requirements: 12 hours of light

The flowering marijuana growth stage is the last cycle of growth for your marijuana plant. Flowering occurs naturally when the marijuana plant gets less than 12 hours of light a day. The flowering stage is when resinous buds develop on your marijuana plants and you get ready to reap the fruits of your labor.

There are a number of things to do as your marijuana plants transition from the vegetative marijuana growth stage to the flowering stage:

  • First, your plants need to be pruned a maximum of two weeks into the flowering stage. If you prune any later than this it could aggravate the plant’s hormones.
  • After pruning, you need to stake and trellis your plants to enable them to support their developing buds.
  • Last, feed your marijuana plants blooming nutrients, while NOT increasing the amount of water you provide.


The duration of the flowering marijuana growth stage is typically between 6 and 10 weeks for most strains of marijuana. This is an approximate time and it could be longer for certain strains in different conditions

When the light cycle is reduced to 12 hours a day, the development of the marijuana plant increases rapidly:

  • The internodes become shorter to carry the flowers. The internode is the distance on the stem between nodes. 
  • The buds begin development.
  • During bud development the marijuana plant is in bloom and the plant itself stops growing.
  • The plant invests all its energy in the growth of the marijuana buds, and the plant develops a denser structure.
  • The buds become ripe and heavy, and are covered in resin that has a distinctive smell. At this point some pistils turn brown and some big leaves at the bottom turn yellow.

Marijuana growth stages -flowering bud stages

 

Harvesting marijuana growth stage

While harvesting is obviously not a marijuana growth stage per se, it is crucial to you, the marijuana grower. This is the point you have been waiting for – when you reap the benefits of your growing efforts.

The time at which you harvest is also vital to the taste, smell, effects and weight of your marijuana yield.

The color of the pistils will tell you when it is time to harvest. Pistils are the small white hairs on the buds. The pistils slowly become reddish brown as the plants ripen.

Here’s what to look for:

  • 0-49% of the pistils are brown: You plants are not yet ready for harvest.
  • 50-70% of the pistils are brown: Your plants are still a bit young, but you can harvest at this time if you like. If you do, the marijuana taste will be light and it will produce a mellow high. The maximum possible weight has not yet been achieved.
  • 70-90% of the pistils are brown: Your plants are ripe and ready for harvest. The marijuana taste and effect will be at the optimum. The maximum possible harvest weight will have been achieved.
  • 90-100% of the pistils brown: It is almost too late to harvest. The marijuana taste will be heavy and the effect narcotic. Harvest immediately.

Marijuana growth stages -harvest pistils

Happy marijuana growing!