Just like all living things, cannabis plants go through a series of stages as they grow and are ready for harvest; If you’re planning on growing your own cannabis it’s vital you know the different stages and understand what your plants need because the different stages require different nutrients, amounts of lights and conditions.
So, growing cannabis can take as little as 8 weeks when growing autoflowers or up to 6 months if you’re growing photoperiodic plants outdoors. Despite the big differences in their life cycle, both autoflowers and photoperiodics go through the same stages and will develop the same, so here is a guide to teach you the four stages of a cannabis plant’s life cycle.
The first stage of a cannabis plant’s life cycle starts when you begin the germination process; Up until this point, your cannabis seed is dormant and waiting for the right conditions to start growing.
Depending on the quality of the seeds, the germination process may take from 2-10 days. It really doesn’t matter how you prefer germinating your seeds, as long as you provide the right conditions, the taproot will begin to appear.
Once the taproots come out of the seed shell, you can go ahead and plant it; At this stage, it’s just a matter of waiting until the seedling comes out of the soil, and once it does, you should see two tiny leaves called cotyledons which are responsible for absorbing the light your plants need for your plants to survive.
During the seedling stage, the light cycle should be 18/6, this will allow your plant to photosynthesize and, once your plant is strong enough to develop further, you’ll see that the first pair of leaves (after the cotyledons) only have 1 finger or blade (aka apex), and after that, you’ll see the typical cannabis leaves starting to form.
The first pair of true leaves usually develop 3 fingers and as your plant develops, it will continue developing more, even reaching up to 12 fingers or more depending on the genetics.
Now, a cannabis plant is considered to be in the seedling stage until it starts growing true leaves, once it starts developing 3-fingered leaves (or more), your plant is officially in the vegetative stage.
Have in mind that seedlings are quite fragile, it’s common for beginner growers to overwater and this can result in mold or a lack of oxygen in the substrate so make sure you don’t drown your babies.
As said above, once your plant develops the first pair of true leaves, it’s officially in the vegetative stage, at this stage your plants should start growing exponentially and once it completely develops 3-4 pairs of true leaves, you can go ahead and start plant training if desired.
Remember that as your plant grows, the roots are also getting bigger so make sure you increase your watering gradually.
In this stage you’ll also need to start feeding your plant, it doesn’t matter if you prefer mineral or organic nutrients, as long as you’re providing a higher amount of Nitrogen (N) and lower amounts of Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), your plant will thrive.
Pre-Flowering and Flowering Stage
After a couple of weeks or months, depending on what kind of cannabis plant you’re growing, you will have to change the light cycle to 12/12 so your plant can enter the pre-flowering stage which is when your plant will show its sex.
This only applies to photoperiodic plants because they depend on the light cycle to trigger flowering, autoflowering strains grow and flower under the same light cycle, either 18/6, 20/4, or 24/0 so if you don’t want to deal with this, it’s recommended you look into feminized autoflowering seeds.
Now, depending on the type of genetics you’re growing, your cannabis plant may be male or female but if you’re not a breeder you only want to grow female plants which are the ones that produce buds.
Either way, a couple of weeks after the pre-flowering stage, the buds will begin to take form and this means you’re officially in the flowering stage, at this stage you should provide higher amounts of Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), and lower amounts of Nitrogen (N) because your plant won’t be developing much foliage or branches, needing only P and K which is essential for bud development.
If you’re a beginner and haven’t dealt with cannabis before, it’s highly recommended that you start with good-quality genetics so your grow cycle goes as smooth as possible, so you may want to take a look at renowned seed banks such as Fast Buds or any other one that you can find where you live.
Interesting related article: “What is Cannabidiol?“