5 Cannabis Growing Stages (+ How to Care For It)

Cannabis is a very fast-growing plant that can easily become invasive if not kept in check.

cannabis | Plant Gardener

There are many ways to grow your cannabis plants:

You could choose to cultivate marijuana indoors (such as in an indoor tent), outside (in the ground or hydroponically), or aeroponically. 

Just as Sunflower growth stages, the cannabis plant has 5 distinct stages of growth:

Germination, Seedling, Vegetative growth, and Flowering, and Harvesting.

Hint: Germination is the process where a seed absorbs water and begins to grow. 

This starts the embryonic stage of plant growth where the first root (radicle) grows down into the soil in search of water and minerals. 

The embryonic shoot will also send out a white section called the cotyledon which is responsible for absorbing nutrients from the seed’s endosperm for early growth.

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The cotyledon will also produce a small amount of chlorophyll which gives the plant its first green color. 

The stem and leaves will not yet be visible at this stage. The seedling phase generally lasts around 2 weeks but can vary depending on the strain of cannabis, growing conditions, and other factors.

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Cannabis Growing Stages

The cannabis life cycle starts with germination followed by seedling, vegetative growth involving males and females, flowering characterized by female flowering clusters or colas, harvest involving manicuring dried flower/bud material away from leaf material.

This is followed by curing where the fresh flower is kept in the optimum environment so it may develop desirable qualities over time. We will look at each of these stages in turn.

Stage 1: Cannabis Seed Germination (3 to 10 days)

Germination is the process of using water and temperature changes to activate embryonic seed cells which results in new root growth that helps anchor the plant onto its growing medium for support during early development. 

Seeds that are viable germinate only under specific conditions of temperature, oxygen, moisture, and light or dark periods known as otoplasty/photomorphogenic responses which trigger embryonic seed cells to begin cell divisions resulting in a plant embryo. 

Germination occurs when seeds are exposed to moisture (often dew or rain), heat (sunlight or warm conditions), and oxygen (air). 

There are three types of germination: hypogeal (below the soil), epigeal or supracotyledonary (above the soil), and subterranean (germinates below ground but the stem pops up above the surface).

Stage 2: Seedling of Cannabis (2 to 3 weeks)

The seedling stage is the first growth phase for a cannabis plant. Newly germinated seeds will send out a white root tip called a radicle that grows rapidly in search of water and minerals to help the young plant grow. 

The embryonic shoot will also send out a white section called the cotyledon which is responsible for absorbing nutrients from the seed’s endosperm for early growth. 

The cotyledon will also produce a small amount of chlorophyll which gives the plant its first green color. The stem and leaves will not yet be visible at this stage. 

The seedling phase generally lasts around two weeks but can vary depending on the strain of cannabis, growing conditions, and other factors.

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Stage 3: The Vegetative Phase (3 to 16 weeks)

The vegetative growth phase is when the plant begins to grow more rapidly and produces its first set of true leaves. 

These are the compound leaves with a blade, petiole, and stipules. The stem will thicken and branch out as the plant matures. In cannabis, the vegetative growth phase is where males and females begin to develop. 

Females will start to form small flowers called “buds” while males produce pollen sacks called “bananas”. Male plants will release the banana sack’s pollen into the air to be dispersed by wind or insects. 

Cannabis reproduces sexually through cross-pollination, where female flowers are fertilized by male pollen.

Stage 4: The Flowering of Cannabis (8 to 11 weeks) 

Flowering is triggered when a plant reaches sex maturity which can depend on factors such as genetics, photoperiodism/light exposure, nutrient availability, and environment amongst others. 

The amount of hours of uninterrupted dark is also important for flowering with 12 to 14 hours per day being ideal in most situations. 

Late-night darkness triggers biochemical changes in cannabis that involves hormone production and signaling systems.

This results in above-ground parts dying back and hormone changes that ensure structural changes enable the plant to focus its energies on producing seeds and flowers. 

Flowering in cannabis is often referred to as “bagging” because flowers or bud sites resemble bags without a flat top where sugar leaves were located.

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Stage 5: Harvesting Cannabis (Week 8+)

Harvesting involves cutting down plants at their stem base and manicuring away excess fan leaves, leaving only the flower/bud which contains psychoactive resin glands called trichomes that hold THC and other cannabinoids. 

A proper cure begins with drying the freshly harvested material by letting it sit in an environment of around 12% humidity, the temperature of 70F (21C) degrees for around 7-10 days depending on the size of buds. 

Drying time is important to prevent mold and bacteria growth. After drying, the buds are then “cured” by placing them in airtight glass jars at a temperature of around 66F (19C) degrees with 55-60% humidity for another 14-21 days. 

curing allows the terpenes and cannabinoids to fully develop and reach their maximum flavor and potency.

When to harvest a Cannabis plant

Generally, cannabis plants should be harvested when the majority of trichomes (the resin glands that contain cannabinoids) have turned from clear to cloudy or amber in color. 

At this point, the plant will have begun to produce cannabinoid acids, which are converted into psychoactive cannabinoids after drying and curing. For most strains, this will occur around 8-10 weeks after the plant has been germinated.

However, some strains of cannabis are known for their high THC content and should be harvested earlier, when the trichomes are still mostly clear. 

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These strains are typically used for recreational purposes, as they provide a more powerful high. 

For strains that are grown for their CBD content, on the other hand, it is best to wait until the trichomes have turned amber, as this Indica-dominant cannabinoid has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties

In general, it is best to experiment with different harvesting times to see what works best for you and your specific cannabis strain. By doing so, you will be able to achieve the desired effects that you are looking for.

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Storing your Cannabis seeds

Now that you have your cannabis seeds, it is important to store them properly so they can germinate and grow into healthy plants.

Here is a detailed guide on how to store your cannabis seeds:

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1. Keep your cannabis seeds in a cool, dry place.

Ideally, you should store your cannabis seeds in a refrigerator or freezer. However, if you do not have access to either of these, you can also store them in a cool, dry place such as a cupboard or drawer. Make sure that the temperature remains consistent and does not fluctuate too much.

2. Keep your cannabis seeds away from direct sunlight.

Exposure to sunlight can damage cannabis seeds, so make sure to keep them away from direct sunlight.

3. Keep your cannabis seeds in a sealable, airtight container.

Make sure to not open the container unless you are transferring or sowing the seeds! If you need to use a syringe, for example, make sure to take out only as many seeds as needed and then immediately put them back in the airtight container when done. 

This will ensure the maximum potency of your cannabis seeds when it is time to germinate them or plant them into your garden. 

You could also invest in a humidity pack that comes with its own airtight containers which would be very convenient if you plan on storing your cannabis seeds for a long period of time.

4. Do not touch your cannabis seeds with bare hands after you have handled them.

If you have to handle your cannabis seeds – whether it is for further study, for storage purposes, or just simply looking at them closely before sowing – make sure to do so with clean hands.

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This means avoiding touching the seed with your fingers and palms as much as possible. 

Touching your cannabis seeds with bare hands could potentially contaminate them which would damage their quality.

5. Label your cannabis seeds properly before storing them inside their airtight containers

This will help you easily identify what kind of strain each set of cannabis seeds belongs to and avoid mistakes during germination (such as using a male plant’s pollen sacs on feminized cannabis seeds). 

You can use paper and pen or any other labeling system that you feel comfortable with.

The Life Cycle of Cannabis

Cannabis life cycle


Plantlife cycles typically consist of four stages: germination, seedling, vegetative growth, and flowering. The seeds germinate and produce a root system along with the embryonic shoot. 

These develop into the primary leaves and stem above ground and help anchor the plant in its environment as it begins to search out light by bending towards light sources. 

The underground roots that initially absorb water and nutrients become secondary roots that provide structure for the plant as it grows towards natural light sources such as the sun. 

As growth progresses, stems become woody as additional layers of bark from around new wood grow to protect emerging tissues from damage such as insects chewing on stems. 

It is during this stage that plants begin to bear flowers and seeds in response to hormones that are stimulated by increasing day length. 

When the plant has grown beyond its ability to obtain adequate light, it becomes fully mature. It begins the process of senescence where the plant prepares for winter by shedding its leaves and slowing growth.

This happens while rooting systems continue producing new shoots designed for next year’s growing season. 

All plants begin life as a germinated seed that grows into a completely new generation through the stages of development mentioned above.


Discover the journey of cannabis growth with our comprehensive guide. From seedling to harvest, explore each stage’s intricacies and essential care tips. Whether you’re a novice or experienced grower, unlock the secrets to cultivating healthy and thriving cannabis plants. Elevate your gardening game with PlantGardener’s expert insights.

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Now that you know the different stages of cannabis growth, you can better care for your plants.

Make sure to keep an eye on your plants and adjust your care regimen as needed.

By following these simple tips, you will be able to grow healthy and happy cannabis plants.

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