How to harvest Cannabis plants indoors: a guide for beginners

Table of contents

Updated May 2021

In this article, you’ll learn how to harvest a Cannabis plant, how to dry and cure your buds. When to harvest and how to set a drying space. Avoid common mistakes and enjoy a good yield.

The flowering stage seems to be coming to an end and you are eager to harvest your plants as soon as possible. Harvesting is a crucial moment in cannabis cultivation. It is very common for beginners to get too ahead and try to chop their plants too early. The plant gives signals for us to know exactly when she’s ready to harvest.

Before Harvesting a Cannabis plant

Prepare your plants 

  • Check for pests and discard damaged parts (fungi, severe insect infestation).
  • Cut out big fan leaves, especially if they had pests.
  • Flushing: When growing with mineral nutrients, flushing is recommended. Start 2 weeks before harvesting.

Flushing Cannabis plants before harvest

Flushing a Cannabis plant is basically to run a lot of water through its growing medium (soil, for example) to get rid of the excess of salt and mineral nutrients. This action forces your plant to use up any amount of nutrients previously absorbed. The result will be buds with better flavor and aroma. The excess of fertilizer in your Cannabis plant may result in buds that are harsh to the throat when smoked.

Flushing with clean, room temperature water will help to get rid of fertilizer excess in the soil.

How to flush your indoor Cannabis plants

Place a container (bucket or similar) under the pot for collecting the excess water, be careful or this may result in a bit of a mess.

Regarding the amount of water needed, a good rule is to calculate up to 3 times the volume of the pot. For example, if your pot is 5 liters, you can flush with up to 15 liters of water per pot. Start small with 1-2 liters and see how the plant reacts. An easy way of doing this is carefully placing each plant in a big bucket, barrel, shower, or bathtub and add the water gradually to the soil, without drowning the plant. The excess 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. By running this process once in each plant, most of the salt buildup should flush away from the substrate. Discard the runoff water.

When to stop fertilizing before harvest

Two weeks before harvesting is usually a good moment to start flushing your plants and watering with water only (no fertilizers) until the harvesting moment.

When to stop watering before harvest

Depending on the size of the pot, you can stop watering 1-3 days before harvesting.

Cannabis plant ready for harvesting
Cannabis plant near harvesting date

Prepare your drying space

  • Dark room or tent
  • Temperature: Around 20º C
  • Relative humidity: 50%
  • Airflow

When to harvest your Cannabis plants

Cannabis strains have their own particular flowering time, which may go from 8-12 weeks for most breed hybrids, and even less in the case of fast autoflowering strains. It is important to use this information as a guide to starting checking our plants, but dates may vary along with cultivation methods, environmental factors, etc. When the harvesting date approaches, it is recommended to start checking the buds for pistils and trichomes ripeness to determine the best harvesting moment.

To know when to harvest we’ll look at pistils and trichomes:

Pistils are those little “hairs.” They start white and as the plant ripens, they get darker and curling until they are brown. 

Trichomes are little resin glands (that “frost”) and they also change color as they ripen. They look like little lollipops.

How to tell if your plant is ready to harvest

A simple way to determine harvesting time is to look at pistils’ evolution.
Pistils start as a pair of white hairs and they start grouping to make the buds.
– Buds with white pistils sticking out are very young. Don’t harvest yet!
– After that, pistils start turning orange, brown, or even pink and they stay “upright”.
When harvesting time is near, there’s a majority of orange or brown pistils and they have curled inwards the buds. This may also happen due to environmental factors even when the Cannabis plant is not yet ready for harvesting. It’s a good indicator to start looking at the trichomes: that’s the perfect way to know if the plant is ready.

Sweet Cheese Cannabis Plant Flowering
Sweet Cheese Cannabis Plant Flowering near harvest

You can see and track these changes without any equipment, just observation by the naked eye.

The best way to determine Cannabis harvesting time is given by the trichomes.

Trichomes are little resin glands and they also change color as they ripen. They look like little “lollipops” sticking out
– Trichomes start clear and transparent. and some days later they turn milky white.

harvest cannabis pistils orange mid flowering

When trichomes become milky-white and some of them are amber, that’s the best time to harvest.

Harvest cannabis plant white trichomes - Grow with Jane

If the trichomes are all amber / brown, it’s probably too late!

Look at the trichomes with a magnifying glass or loupe and their color will tell you the best moment to harvest.
In this photo, trichomes are already milky white and pistils are orange. Ready to harvest!

When to harvest looking at Pistils

50% brown 50% white pistils – young, light marijuana

white pistils - don't harvest yet

70-90% brown/orange – ripe marijuana

pistils orange mid flowering

90-100% brown – sharp, heavy marijuana 

When to harvest looking at Trichomes

pistils orange near harvest

How to check trichomes: with a magnifying glass or microscope

Clear trichomes – wait a bit longer

trichomes transparent - don't harvest yet

Milky trichomes – near harvest 

trichomes white macro

All Amber trichomes – overripe 

trichomes amber macro

We prefer to look at the trichome evolution because it’s a more accurate method. Pistils may change color because of environmental modifications such as high humidity and not necessarily because the plant is ready to harvest. 

How to harvest a Cannabis plant step by step

Tools

  • Shears or scissors 
  • Isopropyl alcohol or alcohol 70% (to clean your tools)
  • Plastic gloves (it gets messy and sticky)
  • Plastic tray to put branches
  • A drying rack / box / tent / hangers

Before starting, set your workplace. Clean your tools and hands, wear plastic gloves when touching the plant and keep rubbing alcohol on your tools if it gets too sticky.

According to the plant’s size 1 hour.

How to harvest a Cannabis plant indoors

  1. Cut the plant and its branches

    Depending on your plant’s size, cut out all the branches first or cut the plant at its base and then cut out the branches one by one. Cut out big fan leaves, especially if they show signs of pests (insects, mold, fungi). Place those branches in plastic trays. harvesting cannabis buds

  2. Divide branches into buds

    Divide the branches into smaller twigs or individual buds. Depending on the size of the buds and the relative humidity of your drying space, you can leave them bigger or smaller. Work on a clean surface as a big table and be tidy.harvest Cannabis buds

  3. Dry in a dark ventilated place

    Make sure the room is dark and the exhaust fan is running if drying in a tent. If the buds are laying on a surface like a drying rack, rotate them every now and then so they keep their shape. Drying may take 10-14 days.drying cannabis buds hanger

  4. Trimming buds before or after drying

    You can trim or keep the sugar leaves with trichomes if desired. This step may be done before or after drying.manicure buds harvest_

  5. Curing: put buds in jars

    When the drying process is ready (10-14 days), put your buds in sealed jars, and start the curing process. You can also weigh your yield before curing, as most of the moisture in the buds will have disappeared by then. For the first 2 weeks of curing, open the jars once a day for an hour, and seal them after. This process may take from 3 weeks to months.buds harvest jars Add Weed

Don’t forget to tag your jars with strain and harvesting/curing dates! You can log information such as harvesting dates and weights in the Grow with Jane tracking app!

Harvesting is a great moment in every grower’s journey. Now you know how to tell when are buds ready to harvest and how to do it. If you have more questions, please tell us in the comments. We hope you have a great harvest and soon be enjoying your own!

Congratulations on your harvest!

How to dry Marijuana

There are many ways of drying Cannabis after harvesting: using drying racks, boxes, hanging the individual branches, or hanging the whole plant to dry upside-down with a wire or similar.

Turn on a fan and aim it right beneath the buds if there’s no airflow.
Make sure the room is dark, and the exhaust fan is running if drying in the growing tent.  
Keep humidity around 50% and the temperature around 20º C.
The drying process may last 10 and 14 days.
Look at them every day and make sure no mold is growing. If you find some, cut that bud and throw it away before it grows all over your buds.

drying rack cannabis
Drying rack cannabis. PH: Alicia M

How to cure Marijuana

To cure your Cannabis buds, keep them in glass jars or similar and open it once a day until they are cured.  
Exposure to oxygen and light causes THC degradation. To protect your precious buds, keep them in sealed containers, in a dark place.
Temperature around 20ºC
Humidity 58%-65%

A jar with cannabis buds
Jar with cannabis buds

31 thoughts on “How to harvest Cannabis plants indoors: a guide for beginners”

  1. This was very helpful and made me understand why my flowers weren’t smelling like they were suppose to. I was trying too fast.. thank you and keep writing..

    Reply
    • Hi Billy! I’m glad you find it helpful. Harvesting times vary with each strain so observation and tracking are key for success.
      Thanks for your comment, stay tuned for more articles coming soon!

      Reply
  2. Great read. First timer here. Im on week one of 12/12 and getting excited! Growing a single Bruce Banner plant with a 600W LED, now running red lights. Many white pistols showing throughout. Plant is about 18” tall. How far should my light be from the top of my plant? Growing in a roughly 3’ x 3’ x 6’ grow tent. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Robeed! I’m glad you find the article useful! We recommend checking the manufacturer’s site or email them to see the recommended growing area and height for each stage. There are different technologies in “LED panels” and each one has different requirements, wattage does not tell much about it as it does in HPS lights. Some panels branded as “600 w” recommend 35-45 cm for flowering, but it’s better to check for your specific model. LED panels may cause light stress on plants even if they do not emit a lot of heat. If you see the leaves discoloring, pointing up, or adopting a “taco” shape, move the lights up. Otherwise, just move it up as the plants grow to keep the same distance.

      Here’s an article I wrote about the flowering stage with pics week by week, tips on temperature, humidity and more. I hope it helps!
      https://growithjane.com/flowering-stage-cannabis-plants/
      Have a nice day and happy growing!

      Reply
  3. hi first timer i have a beauty unknown strain from a seed i saved years ago pics on my profile i think anyways we have been in vegetative state for over a month could i put her into a 24 hr light cycle for a week or 2 to help her grow or am i chancing her hermaphriditing and next question where should i clip my clones from and how do i do that sucessfully all help appreciated

    Reply
    • Hi Elee! A plant from a regular seed won’t flower until you put it under 12 hours of light and 12 hours of complete darkness. What happens if you leave it in a 24 hr light cycle is that it will remain in vegetative stage. This is good for “mother plants” if you want to take cuttings from it and make clones. Hermaphrodites may occur due to genetics and/or stress. Try to avoid extreme growing conditions and give your plants enough space, light and nutrients to minimize this chance.
      Clones taken from the bottom of the plant are said to root more quickly than clones taken from the upper parts of the plant. Those clones should be kept under at least 18 hours of light until rooting with high humidity levels and warm temperatures.
      If you need further help with those clones, grower support and personalized advice, please download our free growing app https://growithjane.com/ and write an in-app message. We’ll be happy to help! As Grow with Jane app user, you also access our growing community where you can share photos, ask questions and more. https://social.growithjane.com/
      Thanks for commenting, have a nice day!

      Reply
  4. great reads I am at the harvest stage, I fear I’ve waited to long how fast will the plant degrade ie; how long before there is little to no effect from the reson…excuse my spelling , thanks for the solid science

    Reply
    • Hi David, there’s a few weeks “window” for harvesting. After that, the effect decreases but it takes a lot for “no effect”. It’s up to each grower when to harvest.
      If you need grower support and personalized advice, please download our free growing app https://growithjane.com/ and write an in-app message. We’ll be happy to help! As Grow with Jane app users, you also access our growing community where you can share photos, ask questions and more. https://social.growithjane.com/
      Thanks for reading and happy harvest!

      Reply
  5. Hi there. I am a newbie to indoor growing and I have a question. So my top buds are 50-60% amber. Do I flush the entire plant just to trim off these colas that are almost ready for harvest?

    Reply
    • Hi Teresa! You can always cut the upper colas if they are already amber (50% sounds like a lot) and keep the rest until it’s done.
      If you need grower support and personalized advice, please download our free growing app https://growithjane.com/ and write an in-app message. We’ll be happy to help! As Grow with Jane app users, you also access our growing community where you can share photos, ask questions and more. https://social.growithjane.com/
      Thanks for reading! Happy growing!

      Reply
  6. This article was very help thank you a lot in a first time grower with about 19 females I started growing fir fun and quickly became serious lol rn I have roughly 9/10 of my girls via your article is officially due for harvest again 420blessingand thanks

    Reply
  7. i just started the dryig process i had a six and a half footer lol im a first timer so i have a few questions if anyone can help me i trimmed all the big sugar leaves off and i hung everything upside down now if anyone can assist me pls email me asap thanks

    Reply
    • Hi John, congratulations on your harvest! All you need to do now is cut the branches/twigs into individual buds in order to place them in jars. Check for humidity levels and inspection your buds for signals of mold or fungi. If you need grower support and personalized advice, please download our free growing app https://growithjane.com/ and write an in-app message. We’ll be happy to help based on your needs! As Grow with Jane app users, you also access our growing community where you can share photos, ask questions and more. https://social.growithjane.com/
      Thanks for reading and commenting! Happy growing!

      Reply
  8. Heya i am for the first time here. I found this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and aid others like you helped me.

    Reply
  9. Took me time to read all the comments, but I seriously enjoyed the write-up. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am positive to all the commenters right here Its always good when you can not only be informed, but also entertained Im sure you had fun writing this article.

    Reply
  10. Hi, As with most readers I am a first timer. I live in Ontario Canada so the growing season is reasonably short.
    Two plants growing outdoors, one looks male and one looks female. I have been told I should cut the male down so that it does not pollinate the female, and create a ton of seeds. But then again I can use the seeds as I started with two small plants given to me. Is it best to not let them pollinated for quality of the buds?

    Your website is the best I have seen for helping me to reap the benefits of my first harvest. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Rick! The decision of growing or cutting a male plant is up to each grower and their intentions. If you want to harvest some buds but also want seeds, you can grow the male plant outdoors and “leave nature to do it”. Another option is to take the male plant to grow indoors and harvest the pollen yourself to pollinate only a part of the female plant, not the whole. For example, you could manually pollinate only one branch of the female plant and leave the others to grow buds. The plant will concentrate its energy on growing the seeds but the other buds may develop nicely as well. Leaving the plant to be naturally pollinated outdoors may create, as you say, a ton of seeds. Also, mind that cannabis pollen travels by wind up to 5 km around so it may unintentionally pollinate other people’s plants (and most people do not want that).
      I hope you have a great harvest and also be able to continue to grow more plants. Thanks for your kind words, we’ll be publishing more articles soon.
      Happy harvest!!

      Reply
    • Hi Paris, thanks for sharing your experience. First, mind that it’s normal that buds dry and shrink a bit as a part of the process, but if you feel they are “too dry” and brittle, there’s a problem. This could happen for many reasons, it could be excessive drying due to very low relative humidity in your drying environment. If this is the case, try keeping humidity around 50%. Mind that high humidity levels may cause rot and fungi so keep ventilation on.
      Another reason could be that buds are drying or hanging more days than needed. This depends mainly on the size of the buds and the environment, but maybe you can put some buds in jars some days in advance and see if there’s any difference. To get the idea if they are ready to be jared and cured, take a twig and try bending it, if it bends easily, it’s still not ready and if it snaps, it’s dry and ready to cure!
      There are products called “humidity stabilizers”, little packs that go in the curing jars to help stabilize humidity levels at 62% to 55%, recommended for curing. So if the buds are too dry, this would help to keep them at the ideal humidity levels.
      I hope this helps, we recommend keeping track of drying and curing stages and taking notes to get better at the process. You can do it with our free app, Grow with Jane.
      Have a nice day and happy harvest!

      Reply
  11. I’m a newbie and growing to extract CBD. I have three auto flower plants that appear to be ready for harvest based on your wealth of information!
    The majority of the trichomes on all three plants are solid amber, sticky with resin, and have an earthy aroma.
    Do I follow the same steps above regarding hanging, drying, and curing before I extract the CBD? I found a fairly simple extracting method that uses a double boiler and grain alcohol to isolate the CBD.
    I have three other plants; non-auto, that are nearly four feet tall with thick, dark, and light green leaves so they seem to be very healthy. Two germinated on April 12 and the other on May 4. However, none of those three show signs of beginning to flower. Maybe I am spoiled because the three au-flower plants flowered very quickly!
    Do you have suggestions as to how I can (or should) accelerate the three Non-flower plants?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Mark! Yes! As you say, it is recommended to follow the drying steps to get better results before making extractions.
      Regular (non-auto) plants need long dark periods in order to start flowering and they may grow in the vegetative stage for months (all spring and summer). Indoors, you change this giving them 12 hours of light and 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness. Outdoors, this is more difficult with big plants. Some growers cover their plants at night in an attempt to get them to flower but it’s not 100% effective. If you have potent outdoor lights that you can turn off at night, that may help.
      I’d recommend starting by giving them flowering nutrients (feeding via foliar and watering) so when the flowering response is triggered, they already have all the nutrients they need for rapid growth.
      Here are some tips for the flowering stage https://growithjane.com/flowering-stage-cannabis-plants/
      I hope you get the best extractions. Let us know how it’s going!
      Have a nice day and happy growing!

      Reply
  12. Hi, I just want to say thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! It’s taking the “trial & error” part out (for the most part 🙂 I do have a question regarding the drying. I realize it’s going to be different depending on plant size etc. So what should I look for to know if it’s good @ 10 days or need to wait?

    Reply
    • Hi Shelley! Thank you for your encouraging words! To get the idea if your buds are dry, ready to be placed in jars and cured, take a twig with buds and try bending it: if it bends easily, it’s probably still not ready and if it snaps dry, then it’s ready to cure! Also, buds must feel a little more brittle. Buds that feel spongy and fluffy need more drying. If all buds have more or less the same size and trim, they are probably going to be ready at the same time. If you keep some big colas and some popcorn buds drying aside, the smaller buds are going to be ready before the big colas. You can do both, just give each one the right time to dry and cure. 10 days sounds like enough but it always depends on the plant and the environment. Opening the jars periodically helps to get rid of extra humidity in case there’s some and prevents the rot and mold from developing on your buds. Follow those steps and take notes of each step and you’ll get perfectly cured buds! Next time, you’ll have an idea of what to expect in drying and curing times.
      Congratulations on your harvest!

      Reply
  13. Very very accurate and informative. Really liked how to I’D the best time to harvest ie: when pistils and tricomes are the best color. Thank you so much.
    Yours forever,
    William Bud Thom

    Reply

Leave a Comment

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