There are 4 different stages of the Cannabis life cycle and each stage has different nutrient and light requirements. We will get into more specific details about these requirements later, but for now, let’s take a moment to familiarize you with the 4 plant stages of Cannabis propagation.
Germinating Seeds:1-2 weeks
If you read our Genetics 121 article, you already know that a Cannabis plant starts with a seed. Beginning with quality seeds is important, and the seeds you use should be hard, brown, striped or spotted. Healthy seeds will also be free of cracks and holes. Green or white seeds are underdeveloped and typically will not germinate.
Germination? What’s germination?
Germination is the technical term for the first stage of plant development. During this stage the seed is placed in water and the initial root (or taproot) “pops” from the seed, and this can take anywhere from 24 hours-7 days. Sometimes you’ll hear growers colloquially referring to germination as their seeds being “popped.”
After germination, the seed can be planted. What you will see next are two rounded leaves that will sprout to capture sunlight for your plant’s initial development. Soon after, the first of the iconic Cannabis “fan leaves” will appear. You now have a seedling!
Editor’s Note: Seeds don’t actually need to germinate before they are planted. However, germinating the seed outside of its growth medium allows the grower to determine if the seed is viable before they use valuable soil or growth medium on the seed.
- Germination is when the root “pops” from the seed.
- You want hard, brown seeds that are free of cracks and holes.
- Green or white seeds tend to be non-viable.
- When the classic “fan-shaped” leaves appear, you have a seedling.
Seedling Stage: 2-3 weeks
Your Cannabis plant is considered a seedling as it begins to develop its first fan leaves. Fan leaves typically have 5-7 “fingers” but may have more. Your plant is considered a seedling until it begins developing fan-like leaves with the maximum number of “fingers”. During this stage the seedling will be short with dense foliage. Be sure not to overwater at this stage as the roots are still relatively small and don’t need as much moisture as they will later.
Editor’s Note: They are called “fan leaves” due to their resemblance to palm fans.
Seedlings typically need 18-24 hours of sunlight. Disease and mold begin to be a significant threat at this stage as well so be sure to check out our lessons on pest management.
- Fan leaves: 5-7 “fingers”
- Be careful not to overwater.
- Healthy seedlings are short with dense foliage
- Be on the lookout for signs of pest infestation
- Plants require 18-24 hours of sunlight
Vegetative Stage: 2-8 weeks
You’re going to see accelerated growth during this stage as we will have transplanted the plants into larger pots and they can really get growing! This is also the stage where you’ll begin training your plants and adding an appropriate fertilizer for enhanced growth. Plants can also be sexed during this time, so we can get rid of the males. The vegetative stage is also going to require increased watering. Remember: Cannabis is thirsty!
- Plants are transplanted into larger pots and growing faster.
- Increased water requirements, make sure soil stays moist!
- Nutrient supplements or fertilizer as appropriate.
- Plants can be sexed at this time.
- Plants require 13-24 hours of sunlight.
Flowering Stage: 6-8 weeks
Now what we’ve been waiting for: Flowering. This is the final stage of the Cannabis grow process and the stage where all your work pays off. The shortened lighting time of this stage is what stimulates flowering in Cannabis strains that are not autoflowering. Trellising is important during flowering because of the added weight of your buds. There are also nutrients available to assist blooming at this stage. When the buds have reached full maturity, you’re ready to harvest!
- Shortened light exposure time.
- Trellis plants to keep them upright.
- Blooming additives can be used.
- Plants require 12 hour light cycle to flower.
This article has focused on cultivation, but there are a few more steps to get to your finished, smokeable product! Freshly harvested bud will not make a good smoke. You will need to give your buds some time to dry and cure after the harvest, and we will cover both those processes in a future article!
However, now you know the basics of Cannabis cultivation. Be sure to check out our other educational articles covering every step of the cultivation process for the beginning to advanced grower!
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About the Author
Chris DeWildt is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and Western Kentucky University. He worked in education and publishing for ten years before joining the team at Growers Network. In addition to editing the GN blog, Chris also works on the Canna Cribs series.