The Cannabis plant life cycle – Cannabis stages week by week

This article is about the Cannabis plant life cycle, divided into stages week by week. You’ll find information about the plant’s growth at each stage, some of the plant’s basic needs and what to watch out for! Learn how to grow weed from seed to harvest!

Table of contents

Cannabis growth is divided mainly in seed germination, seedling, vegetative, and flowering stages. Each one has its own environmental and nutritional needs, even different photoperiods. Let’s find out all about weed plant stages…

Storing your Cannabis seeds

This is how the life of a Cannabis plant begins. A viable seed looks brown with some stripes, dry and hard to the touch. If it feels weak or it’s white or light green, it’s probably an undeveloped seed and it won’t produce a healthy plant.

Keep your seeds in a dark, cold place, for example, in the fridge inside a plastic bag for better conservation. When the time of germination comes, get your seed out in ambient temperature. You can better your germination chances by putting your seed no more than 12 hours in a glass of water; if it floats it’s probably not viable, although it may germinate anyway. If it sinks, it’s probably because it’s viable and full of life, ready for germination. Don’t let it in the water for much longer, as the seed needs to breathe and it may drown and die.

cannabis seeds sealed bag
Cannabis seeds PH: Ulrike Leone

Cannabis seed germination (3 to 10 days)

For germinating, Cannabis seeds need warm temperature, humidity, air, and water. Place them in a dark, warm, and humid place, for example between two plates in a damped napkin. 

When the seed opens up and starts showing the first white tap root, it’s time to put it in its next growing medium (soil, coco, etc) in a small pot. This root starts to develop and eventually the plant produces the first two oval leaves, called cotyledons. Now it’s a seedling!

Cannabis Seedling stage (2 to 3 weeks)

Factors that lead to the healthy growth of Cannabis seedlings

  • Warm temperature, around 22 – 27º C
  • Relative humidity: around 65 – 80%.
  • Low light intensity, blue spectrum preferred
  • Adequate light distance (hand test)
  • Light/Photoperiod: 18 hours of light / 6 hours of darkness.
  • Nutrition: a low dosage of nutrients for start, then increasing
  • Small pot size: Once germinated, place your seed/seedling in a small pot or cup with drainage for better results
  • Watering: Water your seedlings with a sprayer to avoid overwatering
  • pH levels: between 6 and 7

Here’s how the seedling stage begins: when the seed opens, the first pair of small round leaves that appear are called “cotyledons”. After that, the little Cannabis plant starts producing serrated leaves, not the characteristic digitate leaves, only single serrated leaflets. As the seedling grows, new leaves with more leaflets start to develop until the plant produces digitate leaves with serrated borders we can all identify as Cannabis fan leaves. When these leaves appear, the plant enters into the vegetative stage. This process may take up to three weeks.

Cannabis seedling
Cannabis seedling with round leaves (cotyledons) and small serrated leaves. PH: rexmedlen
Cannabis seedling first leaves
Cannabis seedling first leaves. PH: Scotty Frey
Cannabis seedling first leaves. PH: Alicia M

Cannabis seedlings growing conditions

Cannabis seedlings like relatively moist conditions. Temperatures should remain warm and lights should be placed near the plants and moved up as they grow. Finally, these baby plants need little amounts of nutrients and their needs will grow as the plant gets bigger and stronger.

Always check lights, airflow, limit the watering to its minimum and keep them in a small pot for a few days instead of planting it in its final container. This helps the root system to develop easier and stronger, with less risk of overwatering and drowning your little plant. Check your seedlings are receiving enough light, or else they’ll grow very tall and weak, with few leaves and a stretched white stem.

Cannabis vegetative stage (3 to 16 weeks) – pics week by week

Factors that lead to the healthy growth of Cannabis in the vegetative stage

  • Warm temperature, around 22 – 26º C
  • Relative humidity: around 40-60%
  • Increased light intensity / blue spectrum 
  • Adequate light distance: hand test
  • Good airflow, extraction and CO2 intake.
  • Light/Photoperiod: 18 hours of light / 6 hours of darkness
  • Nutrition plan: Apply nutrients as needed – set a feeding schedule and follow it    
  • Bigger pot size: Once germinated, place your seed/seedling in a small pot or cup with drainage for better results. Transplant if needed to avoid becoming rootbound.
  • Watering: Water your plant regularly, avoid overwatering and watch for good drainage
  • pH levels: between 6 and 7
Cannabis vegetative stage - week 3
Cannabis vegetative stage – week 3 PH: Alicia M
Cannabis vegetative stage - week 4
Cannabis vegetative stage – week 4 PH: Alicia M
Cannabis vegetative stage - week 4
Cannabis vegetative stage – week 4 PH: Alicia M
Cannabis vegetative stage - week 5
Cannabis vegetative stage – week 5 PH: Alicia M

In the vegetative stage, a healthy Cannabis plant grows in height and size as much as it can with the given conditions. Now the plant grows only leaves and stems. Meanwhile, it may show pre-flowers to indicate sex but the buds will only start growing when the days grow shorter, in Autumn, or the photoperiod is changed to 12/12.

How long does the vegetative stage take?

Most growers vegetate their indoor plants for 4-8 weeks, depending on the desired plant size. Cannabis plants are, depending on their strain, able to start flowering from the 4th week of the vegetative stage, but those plants will be smaller. Giving your plants more vegetative time will result in bigger plants and more likely to produce higher yields. In indoors, you must change your lights timer to a 12/12 hours schedule to trigger the flowering stage. By week 6 from seed, some Cannabis plants are able to start showing their gender by growing preflowers.

Male, female or hermie?

At this point, you should know (soon) if your plants are male, female or hermaphrodites. If you are growing with the intention of harvesting Marijuana buds, you should only allow female plants to grow and kill the males and hermies ASAP. Male and hermaphrodite plants soon start to pollinate the female plants and you’ll end up with lots of seeds and very little buds. As said before, only female plants produce buds, male and hermaphrodite won’t do it!

Flowering stage (8 to 11 weeks) – Pictures week by week

Factors that lead to the healthy growth of Flowering Cannabis plants

  • Warm temperature, around (18 – 26º C) 
  • Relative humidity: around 40-50%.
  • Higher light intensity, red spectrum preferred
  • Adequate light distance: hand test
  • Light/Photoperiod: 12 hours of light / 12 hours of darkness.
  • Nutrition: a higher dosage of flowering nutrients
  • Bigger pot size: Transplant to its final pot before starting the flowering stage
  • Watering: Water as needed
  • pH levels: between 6 and 7

Flowering stage indoors

To enter the flowering stage in indoor crops, the photoperiod must be changed to a 12 hours of light / 12 hours of darkness schedule.

It’s extremely important NOT TO INTERRUPT the hours of darkness (lights off) for the plant to start flowering correctly. If this dark period is interrupted, the plant gets “confused” and flowering may be delayed or worse, the plant may revegetate (go back to veg stage) or start producing hermaphrodite flowers. You definitely don’t want that to happen!

Flowering stage outdoors

Growing outdoors, plants will start the flowering stage when the days grow shorter, usually when Autumn is coming.

Autoflowering strains don’t need a photoperiod change to start flowering, their vegetative stage lasts around 4 weeks and then it changes stages automatically.

Cannabis plant during the flowering stage
Cannabis plant during the flowering stage PH: Alicia M

How long does the flowering stage take?

The duration of the flowering stage varies among different strains.
The flowering stage usually goes from 8 to 11 weeks, depending on the strain. It’s usually divided into weeks or three stages. The flowering period for Indica strains is typically around 8 weeks, but it may take up to 10 weeks. Sativa strains may take up to 10-12 weeks. Typically, hybrid strains will take up to 6-10 weeks to fully develop.

Flowering initiation – week 1-3

From week 1-3 plants stretch and grow in size and height. Plants stretch and double their size in this phase. The female Cannabis plant starts blooming by producing pre-flowers, their pistils look “white hairs”.

Cannabis Flowering stage initiation
Cannabis Flowering stage initiation – week 2 PH: Alicia M
Cannabis Flowering stage initiation - week 2
Cannabis Flowering stage initiation – week 2 PH: Alicia M

Towards the end of the third week, the plant starts forming its bud sites in the plant nodes (where the main stem and the branches meet). Look for clusters of female preflowers.

Cannabis plant early flowering stage
Cannabis plant forming bud sites – week 3 PH: Alicia M
Cannabis early flowering bud sites
Cannabis plant forming bud sites – week 3 PH: Alicia M

Mid-Flowering –  week 4-5

From week 4-5 plants stop growing in size and start growing, fattening their buds and darkening their pistils. It’s important to keep a good feeding schedule in order to fatten the buds and help the plant grow strong aromatic components.

Cannabis Mid-Flowering - week 4
Cannabis Mid-Flowering – week 4 PH: Alicia M
Cannabis Mid-Flowering - week 4
Cannabis Mid-Flowering – week 4 PH: Alicia M
Cannabis mid-flowering outdoors
Cannabis mid-flowering outdoors PH: Alicia M

Late flowering / Ripening – week 6 to harvest

In the last few weeks, buds gain the most weight. They are sticky to the touch and can be very smelly. You are very close to reaching your goal = harvesting.

In this stage of the Cannabis plant, pistils may show white, cream and brown colors. They also start curling inwards and they get covered in trichomes. Similarly, trichomes also change colors and you should pay close attention to these changes because they are one of the best clues for knowing when is the best time for harvesting.

Cannabis late flowering - week 7
Cannabis late flowering – week 7 PH: Alicia M
Cannabis late flowering - week 8
Cannabis late flowering – week 8 PH: Alicia M

Remember you’ll need to do flushing prior to harvesting, so calculate your times in advance! 

Flush for better results!

Flushing involves watering your plants with no nutrients added to “flush” all the salt excess from the roots. It may be done one or two weeks before harvesting (in soil) and in one day, two or more, depending on your feeding schedule and crop size. During this period between flushing and harvesting, plants use most of the nutrients they’ve been building up and the result is a much tastier and aromatic weed. If you don’t flush, those buds may have a bad and strong flavor and smell and may feel harsh on your throat when smoked.

Set reminders with the Grow with Jane app to start monitoring trichomes and pistils changes around week 6-7 with a magnifying glass or loupe to determine the best moment for harvesting. 

Cannabis bud harvested loupe trichomes
Cannabis bud loupe trichomes PH: Lea

For more information and growing tips on the Flowering stage of Cannabis plants, read our full article.

When to harvest a Cannabis plant (Week 8+)

Around week 8 of the flowering stage, buds will start fattening quickly. Likewise, you’ll see that trichomes and pistils are maturing and changing colors. Usually, when trichomes turn from transparent to a milky / white-ish color (and maybe 5-10% of them turn amber), your plant is ready for harvesting. In conclusion, it’s up to each grower the harvesting moment, depending on the effects and flavors desired. 

Cannabis bud harvested trichomes
Cannabis bud harvested trichomes PH: Alicia M
Cannabis branches buds harvesting
Cannabis branches buds harvesting PH: Alicia M
Cannabis branches buds hanging drying
Cannabis branches buds hanging drying PH: Alicia M

We hope this guide helps you understand the Cannabis plant stages and life cycle. Now you know how much time each stage takes and what to expect.

Read the following article to learn how and when to harvest

Read the following article to learn exactly when to harvest your flowering plants, how to tell if they are ready by looking at trichomes and pistils, how to dry and cure your buds, and more! All explained in a simple way, with pics and a Step by step harvesting guide.

Remember to download and try our Cannabis growing journal app, Grow with Jane! You’ll find lots of tools for planning and tracking your Cannabis crop through their stages, calculators, reminders, photos and much more coming soon! And it’s free!!

Grow with Jane App Home view

Grow with Jane, the app for cannabis home growing.

Track your activities and trees.

Plan ahead by setting repeatable reminders.

Get smart insights customized for your crop.

Share your work with a community of like-minded individuals while learning to grow better.

Get Grow with Jane

30 thoughts on “The Cannabis plant life cycle – Cannabis stages week by week”

    • Hello Butch! To Harvest a tree or trees in the Grow with Jane app, go to your tree view, then to the menu in the “More” icon and mark your tree as harvested by selecting the “Harvest” item. To add weight to a harvested tree, go to the navigational footer, tap in the hamburger menu to open the “MORE” view. Tap on the “Harvest” item from the list and tap on the weight icon to log your harvest weight.
      Thanks for contacting us!

      Reply
    • Hi Katherine, for pots with soil, I recommend flushing with clean, room temperature water. Regarding the amount of water needed, a good rule is to calculate 3 times the volume of the pot. For example, if your pot is 5 liters, you can flush with 15 liters of water per pot.
      An easy way of doing this is carefully placing each plant in a shower or bathtub and add the water gradually to the soil, without drowning the plant. The excess of water will slowly drain from the bottom of the pot. A good visual sign is that, in the beginning, the water coming from the bottom of the pot will be dark and will gradually turn to a lighter color. If you don’t have a bathtub, you can do it inside the tent. Place a container under the pot for collecting the excess water, be careful or this may result in a bit of a mess. By running this process once in each plant, most of the salt buildup should flush away from the substrate.
      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  1. Does a feminized plant die after harvest and flowering?

    Does a female plant die after harvest and flowering?

    To continuously harvest is both a male and female plant needed?

    Reply
    • Hi! Yes, Cannabis is an annual plant. Although it may revegetate, usually after flowering the female plant is harvested and dies. To have a continuous harvest without buying or getting new seeds, you may cross male and female plants or make clones (cuttings) from a female plant and grow new plants from them. Thanks!!

      Reply
  2. I use the app but the website as added value is money.
    This should be the first thing to pop up on google, no one talks in depth enough about the veg cycle.

    Awesome knowledge!!!

    Reply
  3. Hi-Alicia, great article thanks!
    I am amateurly growing from a seed I found in a nug from a dispensary (don’t know the strain or type) and just mainly been playing around to see if I could get it to grow a little. I only have natural light and supplemental lamp light for 18 hours a day. I now am in about my 5th week and it is about 19 inches tall with only 5 and a halfish sets of leaves (looks very tall and sparse compared to your photos) and I can see what looks like female indicators at the intersections of the stems. Now that I am thinking it is a female plant I am trying to see if there is any way to actually get some smokeable weed.

    I am wondering if you have any suggestions for putting this particular plant into the Flowering Stage. It is already very tall and I see that it might double in size once getting only 12 hours a day of light. I was thinking I will repot it in a large pot and maybe look into tomato grow cage, let me know if you have any other suggestions!

    Reply
    • Hello Ashton! To be sure if your plant is a female, check the nodes (where the branches meet the stems) for signs of preflowers. Here’s an article I wrote about how to determine your plant’s gender, what and where to look for https://growithjane.com/determining-sex-cannabis-plants-male-female-hermie/
      For putting your plant in flowering stage, make sure you have proper cannabis nutrients to feed her and be consistent with that feeding schedule. Bat guano with high levels of P and K works great for flowering too. Repot your plant in a larger pot, filling with worm castings and perlite. The tomato cage works great to guide the plant and hold it, go for it.
      Change the photoperiod to 12/12 and make sure there are no interruptions in the dark hours, this may stress out the plant and delay flowering.
      I hope this helps and you’ll soon be harvesting your own buds.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Have a nice day and happy growing!

      Reply
  4. Hi! I’m a first time grower and although I’ve made a few errors, I think I’m doing ok. You are so knowledgeable, I’m very glad I found you!
    Fingers crossed my babies will continue to thrive.

    Reply
    • Hello Lisa! Congratulations on your first grow and thank you so much for your kind words! I’m really happy to be helping the growing community. I know there’s a lot of information and things to do but everyone can grow their own! 🙂
      Continue reading one article at a time, according to the stage your plant is in right now, and soon you’ll be harvesting your own grown!
      Thanks again for reading and commenting. I hope you find our app useful for planning and tracking your grow.
      Have a great day and happy growing!

      Reply
    • My plant is 10 weeks old and not much flowering going on. The feeding chat I’m following gives me until 12 weeks and the 12th week is just flush. If my plant passes the 12 weeks and not much flowering. What should I feed it?

      Reply
      • Hello Safiya, some strains take 4-6 weeks of vegetative growth and then 10 weeks only to flower, so a 10 weeks old plant may have ahead several more weeks of flowering. Knowing the strain you are growing may give you a guide of how long the flowering stage may take.
        Both flowering dates and feeding charts are approximate. A 12 week feeding chart may be great for autoflowering strains and some Indicas but insufficient for many photoperiod strains, especially Sativa dominant strains, which take longer to develop. So, if your plant seems to have several weeks ahead, you can just keep giving her the last dosage (week 10-11 in your chart) until 1-2 weeks before harvesting. Then you switch to watering without nutrients, only water. Also, consider flushing your plant if you’ve been growing with strong chemical fertilizers.
        If you see signs of overfertilization such as brown tips on the leaves of very dark fan leaves, it’s time to lower the dose or start flushing.
        Here’s an article I wrote on how to know in advance when to start preparing for harvesting, with pictures and instructions. https://growithjane.com/how-to-harvest-a-cannabis-plant/
        I hope this helps.
        Thanks for reading and commenting!

        Reply
  5. Hi this is my second time trying to grow. I started this plant on August 2. I changed the pot but I need to put it in a bigger pot. Is it too late? What stage is my plant currently in?

    Reply
    • Hi! If your plant is still producing new leaves and stems, it’s still in the vegetative stage. You can safely transplant it to a bigger pot. Consider adding organic matter, such as compost or worm humus and some inert materials, such as perlite and/or vermiculite to your soil mix, as this helps the plant to grow healthy roots and recover faster from transplant. Thanks for reading! Happy growing!

      Reply
  6. Hello, first outdoor grow is looking good. 2 of my girls are are full of trichomes and clear, pistols Hairs are turning brownish in color. How many days b4, the trichomes start turning amber and cloudy? Thanks for the Awesome info, and timelines.

    Reply
    • Hello Freddie! Congratulations on your first outdoor grow! There may be several days to a couple of weeks until trichomes reach cloudy and amber colors, so be patience and continue to look for changes! The actual moment for harvesting varies upon each grower’s choice and strains. Pistils may turn brown even if the plant is not ready for harvesting, for example for environmental reasons, so it’s very important to check the trichomes. Thanks for contacting Grow with Jane!

      Reply
  7. Hello, I am growing autoflowering seeds, I always make PH 5.5-6.5 is it good? because you said 6.5-7.0. I have 1000watt quantum board on a heigh of 1.20meter (is it good distance) it has dimmer control so how to control it? start from 50% of light and then increase in vegetative stage and 100% of light in flowering stage? Also some growers told me to raise humdity to 70-80% in vegetative and 50-60 in flowering stage. Sorry for my bad English. Wait for your respose Thank you very much <3

    Reply
    • Hello! Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m sorry, that was an error. For soil mixes, we recommend a 6.0–7.0 pH, for soilless and hydro 5.5–6.5 pH. Some growers get excellent results with pH 5.5 to 6.5 in soil mix. This is just a guide, you should always watch for color changes on the leaves and growth rate. These are the best indicators if there’s something wrong with pH it will mess up nutrient uptake. If your plants look good, green and healthy, there’s no need to correct pH levels. When they start showing deficiencies, then it’s time to check and adjust.
      Each LED panel has its own specs, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions on dimmer control and distance for better results. It sounds like a good distance, maybe you can lower it a bit more. Always watch for light burn, it may happen even with LED panels. Some signals are scorched pistils, leaves pointing upwards or with borders curled up like a taco, and some plants even get their top leaves bleached. In this case, increase the distance between lights and canopy.
      High humidity levels (above 70%) in the vegetative and flowering stages may increase the chance of growing mold, bud rot and attracting other pests. There’s no need to raise humidity and it may be harmful!
      Happy growing! =)

      Reply
  8. This is by far the most best piece of information I’ve come across, wish you could have also touched on propagation methods as well.

    Reply
    • Hi Dipolelo! Thank you so much for reading and sharing your feedback! Now I’m writing new content about nutrients and pests, but I’ll be writing about propagation methods soon.
      Stay tuned!

      Reply
  9. This is an awesome reference! Thanks so much for the info… especially for us first timers!

    My plants are in week 6 and looking great and fairly bushy. I’m also training them and putting in a canopy net. During the vegetation stage, should I be trimming or pruning to encourage more growth or not?

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hello Mike! Thanks for leaving your comment! I’d suggest starting with a low-stress pruning technique called “Lollipopping”, which involves removing leaves from the bottom of the plant, so she focuses her energy on growing bigger buds in the canopy.
      Some tips before starting:

      – Start lollipopping your plants at least 2-3 days before switching to the flowering stage.
      – First of all, work with sharp trimming scissors or shears, depending on the size of the branch, previously disinfected with alcohol, to avoid infections.
      – Only trim bottom leaves below the net. It depends on the size of the plant and the environment, but maybe 2-3 nodes from the bottom are enough for a small plant. Those leaves are probably not receiving any light anyway so budding sites there would produce small “popcorn” buds.
      – Start small, do not remove all leaves at once, this may cause stunted growth and lower yields.
      – Trim some upper leaves in the middle of the plant, especially if they are laying on top of a budding site and preventing light from reaching said bud or if you find water patches on those leaves.
      – Prune any small or dying bottom branches or leaves.
      – Be extra careful not to damage any bud sites.
      Warning: every leaf is valuable for the plant so it’s better to defoliate in a progressive way rather than cutting all the leaves at once. As plants do not grow more leaves on the flowering stage, almost every leaf you cut it’s not growing back and the plant needs those for functioning.

      Properly done, lollipopping is an effective technique to maximize yields. It’s very useful to track dates and take photos of the process to learn and check the results.
      Happy growing!

      Reply
  10. Hi. First time trying to grow from seed.

    First three seedlings fell over and shoot separated from the root exactly at soil level.

    Too much water?

    Reply
    • Hi Fred! Sorry, we can’t do that here. We have a Growing Community where you can post pics, ask questions and share your experiences https://social.growithjane.com/ You are welcome to join!
      To get personalized and private Grower Support, send your question as an in-app message in the Grow with Jane app. There you can add your pics so we can take a look and give you private feedback. If you’ve already been using the app we can see your Growlog and give you better diagnostics based on your tracked actions and photos!
      Download for free at https://growithjane.com/ and contact us, we’ll be happy to help!
      Have a nice day and happy growing!

      Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.