When growing cannabis, it is important to have a basic understanding of the stages it will go through during its life. It is the foundation that will help you understand what your little beauties are currently doing, and what their requirements are likely to be.
Cannabis is an annual plant, meaning it goes through its entire life cycle, from seed to seed, within the space of a year. In the case of cannabis, this is actually closer to 4-10 months. The first phase of its life, is germination.
Germinating refers to the act of sparking growth within your cannabis seeds. When a seed germinates, the seed’s embryo breaks through the shell of the seed to form a root. This root fixes itself in your growing medium, allowing it to then push itself upwards. As it grows taller, two embryonic leaves will form to start receiving light. This whole process can take anywhere between 12 hours to 2 weeks. Once germination is complete, the cannabis plant will enter the seedling stage of its life.
Now that the cannabis plant is receiving light through its embryonic leaves, it will focus its energy into producing a more substantial foliage. It will start to produce 3 fingered leaves, making it start to look more like a cannabis plant. As the seedling continues to grow, more and more of these leaves will start to form.
Depending on the strain, you may find that some seedlings have quite a weak stem, and struggle to deal with the weight. If this is the case, you can prop it up using a thin wooden stake and a little bit of thread until it has a stronger structure. The seedling stage often lasts 1 to 3 weeks; you will know it is done when your cannabis plant has created 4 to 8 new leaves during this time.
The vegetative stage is one of the major phases of cannabis growth. This is the stage where the plants really flesh out, and focus on maximum growth before they flower. During this time of their lives, cannabis plants will require a lot of energy, and need a lot of light and nutrition to produce it.
It is during this stage that the plant really takes on the stereotypical form of a cannabis plant, and will grow rapidly in both height and width, producing a thicker stem with many more branches and fully fingered leaves. This growth will maximize the plant’s ability to produce flowers with its increased surface area for light exposure, and structural integrity - which is, at the end of the day, the reason for growing cannabis.
The sex of the cannabis will also begin to be distinguishable towards the end of this stage, allowing for the male plants to be removed from the grow area before they have the chance to release their pollen – if left with the female plants, you will get a yield of seeds instead of bud!
The whole vegetative stage will usually take anywhere between 1 to 5 months to complete.
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This stage is somewhat of a sub-stage, which takes place, as the name suggests, just before the cannabis plant puts its effort into flowering. During this time the cannabis continues to flesh out, shifting its focus fully into branch and node development - in order to support the biggest load it can. You will know this is happening when you start to see calyx beginning to form at the nodes (where branches meet stem). This phase of the life cycle can last from up to 1 day to 2 weeks.
This is the stage you have been waiting for, and is the last major step of the cannabis life cycle. It’s time for your green goddesses to produce their bud! During this phase the sex of your cannabis will be clearly visible, and if you see any missed males cropping up, make sure to remove them quickly and carefully, before they have the chance to disperse their pollen. A male plant will produce little clusters of balls, filled with pollen; whereas the female plants will start to put their efforts into producing their flowers with little white pistils. This entire stage can take anywhere between 1 to 4 months depending on the strain of cannabis being grown.