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How Long Marijuana Plants Take to Grow

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Are you not sure how long marijuana plants take to grow? Well, the first thing we recommend is to have patience, something that applies to pretty much everything in life. Plants need enough time to grow and develop correctly, and time is what can tell a nice productive plant from a pile of branches lacking in both foliage and yield.

Today we’re going to talk about normal growth times and the different stages that your plants will go through. Maybe some of these questions sound familiar to you;

  • How long does cannabis take to germinate/flower?
  • What can I do to make my plants flower earlier?
  • Can I speed up the growth?
  • Which is the fastest, highest yielding plant?

These questions are probably best answered with the age old phrase, time is gold. Obviously a lot of the answers are quite subjective and we can’t give any absolutely concrete times, but we’ll do our best in this article to provide you with a general idea of how long a marijuana plant takes to grow.

Firstly, we’ll begin by dividing the plants’ life cycle into a series of phases:

Germination:

Germination is defined as the period and process through which the seed changes from a seed to a sapling.

If you’re planting cuttings, then the germination period is known as the cloning and rooting period.

Germination techniques are varying in method, although the one we tend to use the most and is the most recommended involves damp kitchen paper as a base for the seed; many people use other methods, like damp cotton, straight into the earth or a jiffy, or in water.

Some growers even use germination stimulators that work with the seeds initial metabolism and reduce the germination time to about a day in most cases.

Of course, time is relative. It will depend not just on the strain, but the actual quality of the seed itself. Some determining factors are the age of the seed, how fertile it is and how it has been kept.

Saplings tend to take around 24-72 hours to sprout, although sometimes it can take 5 days and in extreme cases it can take up to 15 days. Make sure to pay attention to the water and humidity conditions, as well as the temperature which should be at around 21-24ºC.

Growth Period:

This is also called the vegetative phase. It’s the main period of growth that your plant will go through, and probably the most important.

After managing to get your sapling to sprout and transplanting it (into soil or a jiffy), the growth period begins. Just like the name says, your plants will grow the most it’s ever going to grow and stretch upwards during this period, allowing it to get the correct shape and size to proceed to the next stage; flowering.

Like many of you probably already know, your plants will need more light during the growth phase than any other phase. Generally, 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness are recommended per day. A proper balance between light and dark is the key element to a successful growth period. The light is obviously very important in as far as photosynthesis, but those hours of darkness are incredibly important as well, as during that time there’s an exchange of essential elements in your plants’ metabolisms.

This period will take more or less time depending on the seed, strain and growing method. Autoflowering plants will be much faster than feminized plants and indoor crops are generally much faster than outdoor crops. Also, if you use a stronger light your crops will generally grow faster than those with less powerful bulbs.

It’s difficult to put a number on how long the growth period takes due to environmental and external factors (fertilizers and the grower’s expertise) that can interfere with crops. Generally, indoors autoflowering plants take about 3 or 4 weeks (21 to 25 days) and around 6 to 8 weeks, maybe more, for feminized strains.

Outdoors regular and feminized seeds tend to take around 8 to 9 weeks, but by growing indoors you can mess around with the timings to make them begin flowering earlier.

Flowering:

This is your cannabis plants’ last period. When it starts will depend obviously on the growth period, but the plant must also have the necessary characteristics developed to allow it to grow buds.

This means that sometimes, a month after germination your plant might still look weak or small, which means that you’ll have to let it continue its growth period for more time.

It’s also important to note that autoflowering strains will flower at their own whim; you’ll need to change the light period once they start showing signs. However, seasonal seeds will need to be helped into the flowering phase by a change in light period. To be exact, you’ll need to switch them to a 12/12h light period which induces your plants into the flowering phase.

I know we said that the growth phase’s timing was relative, but true relative is how long a flowering period can take. There really are no rules apart from certain ones preached by seed banks about their strains, although in most cases these rules are simply guidelines.

The important thing to keep in mind when trying to figure out when the flowering period is coming to an end and you need to wash out the roots is how the buds look. Although times stated by seed banks can give you a general idea, the best way to find out is to watch your bud grow until they’re buried in pistils.

Once they’ve developed that fair, the harvest time will be indicated by the maturity and oxidization of the pistils and trichomes, which become that nice amber/honey color.

Indoors, autoflowering strains will generally finish up at around 8 weeks of flowering, and feminized versions can take longer depending on the growth period, and it’s normal for them to take anywhere between 10 to 12 weeks, and in a lot of cases even more.

Drying and Curing:

This stage isn’t even classifiable like the plant’s life cycle, although we can tell you that it’s a process that will take a while and it’s just an important as the plant’s periods when it comes to gett ing top quality taste, aroma, effect and potency.

First, you’ll have to differentiate between drying and curing; the first thing you’ll need to do with your freshly-cut harvest is dry it.

Basically, you’ll have to place your harvest, cut and trimmed, in a dark, cool and dry place in a drying mesh or sock (don’t forget to clean your plants roots out thoroughly towards harvesting time). All you’ll have to do is move the buds around the mesh or sock every day so they don’t become inclined to one side or another.

This process can take a while depending on placement and terrain; from two to four weeks. The sign of a properly dried bud is being able to bend it without breaking it, but while also hearing that nice crispy sound.

After the drying process comes the curing process, like a good cheese.

It simply involves placing all of your buds in a container and leaving it to sit with a periodic opening to let the air flow. Curing can be done in different containers; plastic, glass or wood, although wood is faster than glass and glass is the most recommended as it doesn’t emit or contain any sort of toxic substances.

The container in which you deposit your harvest will need to be kept in a dark, cool and dry place. The only thing you’ll need to do will be to open the container for about five minutes a day so that the humidity can leave your bud, and you end up with a perfectly chlorophyll-free product.

This process can take anywhere from two to six weeks. The main indication of a proper curing is that the bud crunches when pressed in slightly, if you bend the stem it breaks water than bends, and the intense green color should fade, as well as the leafy green smell.

Conclusion:

According to these estimates, marijuana takes about three months to grow completely for autoflowering versions, and four to five or more months for feminized strains depending on crop method and expertise. Don’t forget that drying and curing will take a month or two more.

We’re going to insist on the fact that depending on how you grow your plants as well as the strain you choose to grow, each phase will be longer or shorter, and therefore so will the entire life cycle. Feminized strains will take longer to be harvestable, and autoflowering strains will take less time. There’s also a new version called the “fast version” that the Sweet Seeds seed bank has developed. Also, indoor crops will take less time to be harvestable than outdoor crops.

And don’t forget that patience is a virtue for every grower out there!

Author: Kiko Nieto, Growbarato Collaborator
Translation: Ciara Murphy

Everyone's wondered how long marijuana plants take to grow at some time, and the answer is quite relative but we'll do our best to give you a general idea!

The Cannabis Cultivation Timeline

An overview of the 5 stages of cannabis cultivation.

  • 1. Getting started
  • 1.a. Photoperiod plants
  • 1.b. Autoflowering plants
  • 2. 5 stages of cannabis cultivation
  • 2.a. Stage 1: germination — 1–7 days
  • 2.b. Stage 2: seedling — 2 weeks
  • 2.c. Stage 3: vegetative phase — 2–8+ weeks
  • 2.d. Stage 4: flowering — 6–12 weeks
  • 2.e. Stage 5: harvest, trimming, drying and curing — 1–2 months
  • 1. Getting started
  • 1.a. Photoperiod plants
  • 1.b. Autoflowering plants
  • 2. 5 stages of cannabis cultivation
  • 2.a. Stage 1: germination — 1–7 days
  • 2.b. Stage 2: seedling — 2 weeks
  • 2.c. Stage 3: vegetative phase — 2–8+ weeks
  • 2.d. Stage 4: flowering — 6–12 weeks
  • 2.e. Stage 5: harvest, trimming, drying and curing — 1–2 months

Growing cannabis comes with a lot of uncertainties. That said, cannabis cultivation itself can be broken down into five distinct stages, regardless of which seeds you’ve selected.

GETTING STARTED

Before you just start throwing seeds into soil, consider what kind of grower you want to be. Are you running an indoor operation, or working in the great outdoors? Do you have the supplies fit for your growing environment? Have you made sure to pick seeds that’ll thrive where you’re planting them, indoors or out? Speaking on that last point, any aspiring grower should know the difference between photoperiod and autoflowering cannabis plants. There are a few key differences to note.

PHOTOPERIOD PLANTS

The main marker of a photoperiod plant is the potential for indefinite vegetation—as long as you keep the plants on an 18/6–24/0 light/dark cycle. We’ll talk more about that later, but it means these plants can withstand more mistakes in the growing process. It also means you can ensure your plant produces the best crop possible once you initiate flowering. All you need to do to make the switch is adjust the light cycle to 12/12. This becomes even more useful when you’re able to make unlimited clones of your optimised plant. The main drawback is that it’ll take around four months to get a substantial yield. However, you’ll have a larger and usually more potent plant once you’re there.

Carson Microbrite Plus Pocket Microscope

AUTOFLOWERING PLANTS

The way these differ from photoperiod plants is written in the name. Regardless of whether you feel the plant is ready, it’ll start flowering at a certain time depending on the strain’s genetic programming. In one sense, these plants are easier for novice growers because there’s less to think about in regards to light coverage and cycle adjustment. On the other hand, due to the limited vegetation time, you have fewer opportunities for mistakes. This isn’t ideal for first-timers, but the fact that it only takes two months from germination to harvest is definitely appealing. Autos tend to produce lower, milder yields than their photoperiod counterparts, but modern advances are bridging the gap.

5 STAGES OF CANNABIS CULTIVATION

Now that you’re familiar with the distinctions between photoperiod and autoflowering strains, we can begin to break down each stage involved in cannabis cultivation.

STAGE 1: GERMINATION — 1–7 DAYS

Even when your plant is a mere seed, the work you put in will dictate its success or failure. Germination is the stage when the first root cracks out of the seed’s shell, which takes between 1–7 days. The wet paper towel method is a classic approach here, but you start out with the major setback of tiny fibres all over your new root. You can plant directly in the soil, of course, but you need to ensure temperature and moisture are dialled in.

If you want to keep all your seeds safe and clean, we recommend the Royal Queen Seeds Starter Kit. With that, they can enjoy clean, undisturbed germination. Once they get to 2–3cm high, you can remove them from the starter and place them in a suitable growing container.

STAGE 2: SEEDLING — 2 WEEKS

Breaking through the germination stage, plants enter the seedling stage next. At this point, they’ll need about 18 or more hours of daily light. After two or so weeks of proper care, though, they’ll be well on their way to robust growth.

This is the point where it starts to look more like a cannabis plant. There will be one ridged blade per leaf at first, but the blades will get closer to their typical 5–7-finger stage by the end of this period. Until they get the full 5–7 blades, though, the plants are considered seedlings. Along with the increasing blade count, a vibrant green colour is another mark of a healthy plant. To keep them healthy, the two main things to keep an eye on are water and cleanliness. Seedlings are still fragile, so only light watering is necessary. Cleanliness is equally vital due to their disease and mould vulnerability. The perfect home for cannabis seedlings is a propagator, ideally with 70% RH and temps 20-25°C, under either white CFL lights or LED’s.

STAGE 3: VEGETATIVE PHASE — 2–8+ WEEKS

Vegetative growth is normally associated with a transplant at some point as plants outgrow the starter medium be it a Rockwool block or paper cup filled with soil or coco. Continued development of the root zone and robust branching are the top priorities for the grower. High RH of 50% is ideal and cooler temps 20-24°C can promote more females if growing regular seeds.

Autoflower cultivators have even less time to play with than photoperiod growers as most autos will race into flowering after just 2-3 weeks of vegetative growth. It’s for this reason that many auto growers plant their autoflowering seeds directly into the final container. The clock is ticking with autos from the moment of germination.

Photoperiod strains can be kept in vegetative growth indefinitely so long as 18+ hours of light and suitable conditions prevail. This is what allows indoor growers to keep mother plants for years and why outdoor grower’s plant in springtime. Indoors or outdoors 18+ hours of light facilitates taking cuttings too.

This is the stage to pot up photoperiod plants into final containers, at least a couple weeks before switching to bloom or prior to Summer outdoors.

While the photoperiod strains can be kept in veg weeks or even months to allow for all kinds of pruning and training to boost yield like topping, FIM, LST or even a ScrOG the Auto grower is somewhat limited by time.

STAGE 4: FLOWERING — 6–12 WEEKS

At this stage, the focus of the grower and plants switches to the production of buds and the grower is already dreaming of a frosty marijuana harvest in the near future. RH needs to be reduced to 40-50% and temps kept between 20-28°C.

Cannabis plants will first give you an indication of their sex in the early phase of bloom. Typically within the first two weeks of flowering females will develop pistils or “hairs” to confirm their femininity.

If you see “nanners” or anything resembling a cluster of grapes protruding from flowers or anywhere on the stem then you have a male cannabis plant. Should you see both hairs and nanners then you have a hermie to remove right away.

Photoperiod strains are induced to bloom by the hours of light they receive; indoors the grower changes to a 12-12 light-dark cycle to artificially promote flower growth.

Outdoors Mother Nature dictates the grower’s schedule and flowering will only commence in Summer/Autumn as the hours of daylight naturally diminish, making for a longer more gradual flowering period. Weed growers in the Northern hemisphere don’t refer to October as “Croptober” for nothing.

Of course Autoflowering strains don’t follow the rules due to their Ruderalis genetics, so they will begin to bloom in about a month post-germination. Auto’s prefer to stay in 18+ hours of light for flowering and will be more productive on a light-dark cycle that would inhibit photoperiod strains from blooming at all.

Flowering generally lasts 7-10 weeks for indica and hybrid photoperiod cannabis strains, while the more Sativa dominant strains can take 10-14 weeks to fully ripen into primo head stash.

Autos really only flower for 30-45 days with a much more sudden transition into flowering, choosing feminised autos is a wise choice for novices that don’t want a seeded stash.

It’s always best to evaluate if a cannabis plant is ready to harvest by taking a closer look at those resin dripping buds. Using an inexpensive scope to zoom in on those resin heads to make sure they are milky and amber rather than clear removes all the guess work.

Once you confirm you’ve got a ripe marijuana crop on your hands it’s time to break out the trimming scissors and get harvesting. After two weeks slow drying in paper bags or hung up, at room temp and approximately 50% RH, you’ve got a stash.

STAGE 5: HARVEST, TRIMMING, DRYING AND CURING — 1–2 MONTHS

HARVESTING

Harvesting is the most rewarding part of the cultivation process for many growers. Watching your plants grow over several months is mesmerising, but finally harvesting the fruits of your labour truly is the peak of the experience. The flowering phase of the grow cycle typically lasts between 7–11 weeks, after which it’s time to strip your plants down of their buds. However, you don’t want to do this too early and prevent your flowers from fully maturing. Likewise, you don’t want to wait too long. Timing harvest is a crucial step, and there are multiple signs you should look out for to know when the time is right.

One of the best ways to truly tell if your flowers are ready for harvest is by getting up close and personal with a magnifying device. This visual advantage will enable you to detect minor changes that wouldn’t be noticeable to the naked eye. Some growers choose to use a jeweler’s loupe, which is essentially a pocket-sized magnifying glass encased in a piece of metal. Others choose to use devices such as digital microscopes, which provide greater detail.

Ultimately, the most important use for your magnifying glass is to detect the progress of your trichomes, and therefore, the proper time to harvest your buds. Trichomes are small mushroom-shaped glands that produce resin which contains the vast majority of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Looking for shifts in trichome appearance is the most accurate way to determine the stage of maturity of your crop. Trichomes are hard to miss and appear as a white frosty substance that covers the buds and sugar leaves. Zooming in on these structures will allow you to know how far along your plants are, and whether they are ready for the chop.

Earlier on in the flowering phase, trichomes will appear translucent, meaning they are still developing and should be left to mature. When approximately 60% of the trichomes develop a milky look, they are ready to harvest. It’s at this stage where they will produce the most significant high . However, some growers wait until up to 90% of trichomes move past this milky look and become amber, as this will cause the buds to develop a more stoning and sedating effect.

Another sign that your buds are maturing is when the pistils of the flowers change colour. Pistils are small-hair like structures that grow out of the calyxes, and are the reproductive organs of the female cannabis plant. They are the site where pollination occurs—if male pollen were allowed to land there. Pistils appear bright white during the early stage of the grow cycle, and eventually shift to an orange-brown colour.

Aside from the buds themselves, another way you can tell your plant is approaching harvest is by examining the colour of the leaves. Provided you haven’t overfed your plants during the final stage of flowering, a yellowing of the leaves will signal that your plant is reaching peak maturity, and that its nutrients are being fully utilised by the buds. By flushing out nutrient salt buildup with pH-balanced water for a couple weeks before harvest, a smoother, more pleasant smoke is guaranteed from each plant.

Now that you know when to start harvesting your buds, it’s time to learn how to trim them.

WET TRIMMING

You can trim your cannabis plants in one of two ways: wet or dry. Both have their own advantages, and each grower will differ in which one they prefer. Wet trimming refers to trimming off the sugar leaves surrounding the buds immediately after harvest while the plant still has a high water content and feels “wet”. This method is the most common, and arguably the easiest, as it doesn’t require a large room to dry out plants beforehand. However, wet trimming is literally sticky business. The resin from the flowers will cover both your hands and your scissors, but there is an upside to this. By scraping the resin from your scissors every now and then, you’ll quickly build up a supply of “scissor hash”, allowing you an early taste of your harvest.

DRY TRIMMING

Dry trimming takes place after your entire stash has been dried, and little water content remains within the buds and leaves. Trimming dry buds is definitely easier on your scissors since they won’t become as inundated by clumps of resin. However, accurately manicuring dry buds can be somewhat of a hassle too, making for a potentially less visually appealing final product. Moreover, dry trimming does require a fair bit of space. Growers usually hang entire branches of buds from a line of string within temperature-controlled rooms to let them air-out until sufficiently dry.

CURING YOUR BUDS

Now that harvesting and trimming are complete, it’s time to cure your flowers. Curing is an essential process that removes the last of the residual water from the buds, minimising the chance of mould and greatly prolonging shelf life. Curing also enhances the taste and quality of the smoke, making for a smooth and potent experience.

If you opted to use the dry trimming method, then your flowers will be ready to cure straight away. If you chose wet trimming, then your flowers will need to be properly dried before you go on to cure them.

  • To do this, spread them out over some cardboard, newspaper, or, even better, a wire drying rack. Whichever you choose, make sure they are spread out over a large surface area and exposed to as much fresh air as possible. Aim for a steady room temperature of 21°C and a relative humidity of 50% to ensure a longer but gentle drying process to maintain as much flavour as possible.
  • Now we can move on to curing. For this, you’ll need airtight glass jars to minimise mould from taking hold. Fill each jar so it’s ⅔ full, leaving adequate room for air. This is the perfect environment for excess sugars and chlorophyll to be broken down, a process which is key for those smoother hits of smoke.
  • For the first two weeks of curing, open each jar once or twice per day and remove each bud, checking for any signs of cobweb-like mould. If you detect anything, remove this bud from the jar and place it in the bin. Opening jars this regularly will also serve to replace the air within the jar, keeping it fresh.
  • After a few weeks, the need to check your buds as much will reduce; the drier they become, the less chance there is of mould striking. At this stage, you’ll only need to check around twice per week to expose your buds to fresh air. After a few weeks, your buds will be cured; however, some growers choose to go a few weeks further to develop pristine and high-quality flavour. You can smoke-test you buds as the weeks go by to see if the current taste suits your preference.

For more info on drying and curing your herb, check our blogs Top Tips To Successfully Dry And Cure Your Fresh Cannabis Buds and How to Cure Your Cannabis Buds.

Royal Queen Seeds produces some of europe’s best cannabis seeds, ensuring hobby growers everywhere have access to the finest marijuana strains around.

Royal Queen Seeds produces some of europe’s best cannabis seeds, ensuring hobby growers everywhere have access to the finest marijuana strains around.

From germination to curing, understanding each stage of the cannabis growth cycle is vital to achieving a healthy cannabis crop.