Vegetative stage length: 3-16 weeks
As the sun reaches up high in the sky, your cannabis will want to as well. Make sure all of your plants are outside by the Summer Solstice.
Vegetative plants appreciate healthy soil with nutrients. Feed them with a higher level of nitrogen at this stage.
When your marijuana plant becomes a seedling, you’ll notice it developing more of 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 (3, 5, 7, etc.). A mature cannabis plant will have between 5 or 7 blades per leaf, but some plants may have more.
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 16 to 12 hours a day.
Seedling stage length: 2-3 weeks
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.
In cooler climates, growers should wait on putting plants in the ground until there is no danger of overnight frost, and plenty of sunshine. As Bill Cook, master grower at Kanna-Wise eloquently put it, “a heavy freeze is killin’ your trees.” An old gardener’s rule of thumb is to move plants outside after Mother’s Day, and they should definitely be outside and/or in the ground by the Summer Solstice.
The vegetative stage is when the plant’s growth will really take off. For several weeks, it will grow more foliage, reaching ever upwards to that glorious summer sun.
There are also cannabis plants that aren’t light-sensitive, called autoflower varieties, that will automatically flower on their own at a particular point of their maturity independent of how much light they’re getting. These plants tend to have much shorter life cycles, which is appealing to some gardeners.
Spring to early summer: seedling stage
For the final stage of a female cannabis plant’s life, most of its energy will be put into producing flowers. The flowering stage happens in three phases:
If you aren’t working with exclusively female plants, you’ll need to get rid of the males before they have a chance to pollinate the females (and wreck your harvest). “Even feminized seeds can have up to 10% males in the mix so it’s important to inspect your plants every day as they start to show their sex. Also important to note is that a stressed female plant can produce male branches or ‘hermaphrodites’, so even if you know she’s a girl, you have to check daily,” advised Sara Rotman, a veteran grower and founder of Wellfounded Botanicals.
Summer to early fall: vegetative stage Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
A photoperiod plant will continue to live its best vegetative life until the light-to-dark ratio starts to tip in favor of darkness. When photoperiod plants start getting 12 hours of darkness, they will move into their final phase — and perhaps the most exciting for growers — the flowering stage.