Growing weed isn't easy — and you can't do it whenever! That's why Elevate Holistics has laid out the best seasons for growing marijuana. Knowing how to care for your cannabis plants at each of the four distinctive stages of their life cycle will provide a healthy, productive garden. When it comes to how long it takes to grow cannabis, there really isn't a simple answer. Learn more about marijuana cultivation as we explore some of the general time-frames for different stages of the cannabis growing process.
The Best Seasons for Growing Marijuana
You can grow your weed – stick it in a pot, sprinkle water, and just like that, you’re a proud weed grower. Okay, it might not be as straightforward as it sounds; there are steps and processes to ensuring your homegrown weed comes out healthy and potent. One key ingredient is the season; yes, there are seasons for growing marijuana. Here at Elevate Holistics, we understand the effort and skill of growing marijuana plants, and we’ll tell you all about it. Below, you’ll find more details about these seasons and how you can get the best results for growing pot.
What is Weed Season?
You’ve probably heard the term “weed season,” but you’re not sure what it means. It describes the period when you can grow your marijuana outdoors, including the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
As mentioned earlier, there are seasons for growing weed, and you have to pay attention to them if you want quality yields. In the northern hemisphere, growing pot can begin as early as March or as late as May, while flower harvest starts in September and can continue till November. Planting can even kick-off as early as April, with farmers and gardeners planting seedlings indoors.
In the southern hemisphere, it’s the other way round – seed planting takes place from September to November, and harvest time is March to May. But in the tropics, it is possible to harvest outdoor marijuana all year round. Other factors influencing the ideal growing season are temperature, altitude, rainfall, and other environmental conditions, apart from season and location.
Why Does the Planting and Harvest of Cannabis Happen at Specific Times of the Year?
Seasons for growing marijuana differ by region, but regardless, you should aim for maximum light during the summer and maximum growth before fall begins. Like other crops, farmers and gardeners usually plant as soon as the weather is warm enough and the days are long enough.
Typically, climatic conditions vary by region, so the best seasons for growing marijuana are not uniform. In California, the growing season is warmer, and farmers there can plant outside early and harvest later compared to New York, where the growing season is shorter.
Some marijuana plants are photoperiod; they respond to the amount of light they get, affecting their yield and quality. As a result, timing the outdoor planting of your marijuana is critical. When the days get shorter and the nights longer, a marijuana plant will switch from the vegetative phase to the flowering stage. With the coming of the fall season, marijuana will begin to flower as hours of darkness reach 12 hours per night.
Some varieties of marijuana known as auto-flowering plants, or day-neutral marijuana, are not light sensitive. Unlike the ratio of light to dark hours required by photoperiod plants, they automatically switch from vegetative to flowering depending on the maturity period. Many auto-flowering varieties are ready to be harvested in less than ten weeks after planting.
Are There Different Growing Seasons for Different Strains?
Generally, marijuana varieties adapt to their local environment, and farmers and gardeners create strains suited to the local climate. Indicas tend to stay shorter and flower faster than sativas. Equatorial sativas are known to have the longest flowering time, but if they are grown too far north or south, they may not survive long enough to ripen.
Growth Phase and Development of Marijuana Plant
Like every plant, marijuana growth and development happen in phases, and outdoor marijuana growers try to time the growth and development of their plants for optimal plant development. When growing marijuana plants, you have to be aware of the different growth phases and what each period requires.
Early Spring: Germination Stage
Germination is the first stage in the life of your marijuana plant if you’re growing from seed. It takes 3-10 days to develop and needs 16 hours of light daily. When your seed pushes through the soil and sprouts, you will notice two tiny, round leaves, the first of many. These leaves will deliver energy from sunlight to the seedling and fuel further growth.
If you’re wondering the best time for germination, it is generally advisable to time it so it coincides with the spring equinox.
Also, if you’re growing from seedling instead, you don’t have to worry – your plant would have already germinated.
Spring to Early Summer: Seedling Stage
Growing marijuana plants requires close attention. Think of seedlings as baby plants. This stage lasts for 2-3 weeks, and the plant needs 16 hours of light daily. Like all babies, your seedling is delicate and needs lots of tender care. At this stage, the plant will begin to develop traditional cannabis fan-shaped leaves. Note that a healthy seedling should be a vibrant green color.
You may become eager and decide to give your plant plenty of water. That’s fine, but be careful not to overdo it; its roots are still small and don’t need much water. Instead, give it plenty of light, keep its environment clean and pay very close attention because, at this stage, your plant is vulnerable to disease and mold.
In cooler climates, growers prefer to keep their plants indoors where it is safe and warm; they wait till the plant is between 6 inches and a foot tall and strong enough to handle the environment outside. Even in warmer weather, growers opt to start their seedlings indoors to keep them safe from pests, disease, and mold.
Summer to Early Fall: Vegetative State
The vegetative phase lasts 3-16 weeks, and your plant needs 16 hours of light a day, including 6 hours of direct sunlight outdoors. At this stage, growth goes into overdrive; the roots grow deep, and more leaves develop. For weeks, the foliage will grow outward into a sizeable bush and upwards towards abundant sunlight. When these happen, you have to start topping and training your plants to maximize yield and provide more even light distribution to the leaves.
As your plant develops large root systems, you will need more water and nutrients to fuel growth and development. Healthy soil is necessary; it will provide a good base for your plant to sit in and soak in the water and nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy.
Growers prefer to grow female marijuana plants because they are richer in cannabinoids; as a result, they separate the males from the females. The vegetative phase is the best time for separation because this is when they begin to show sex organs.
Fall: Flowering Stage
The flowering stage is the final growth phase for marijuana plants, it happens for 8-11 weeks, and your plant needs 12 hours of light daily. This is where you see the fruits of all your hard work – The buds. There are three phases in the flowering phase:
- Flower initiation: This happens in weeks 1-3 when you notice the development of white, hairy pistles, which signify the coming buds. The plant will continue to grow but at a slower pace than the rapid growth of the vegetative state.
- Mid-Flowering: The plant will stop growing in weeks 4-5, and the buds will appear.
- Late flowering/ripening: from week six onwards, watch the pistils; when they go from white to brown, the buds are ready for harvest.
How Long Does It Take to Grow Marijuana?
You can go from germination to flowering and harvest in 4-8 weeks, depending on the variety you’re growing and where you’re growing. Due to differences in seasons for growing marijuana, growth time may differ. The quality of your buds and the health of your plant throughout the growth process depends on your knowledge of the marijuana growth stages and the lifecycle of your plants.
Go from Germination to Bud with Elevate
Like a marijuana plant needs care and attention to reach maximum yield, we believe consumers need the best guidance to get the best results from marijuana planting and consumption. That’s why we’re here. At Elevate Holistics, we have answers to the cannabis-related questions you have, and we would love to share them with you. Growing marijuana is an art, and we’ve mastered the art of tending to both the plant and the consumer. Everything you need to reach full yield is just a click away.
Reach out to us today and schedule your very own grow consultation to help perfect your cannabis growth.
From Seed to Harvest: The Life Cycle of Cannabis
Knowing how to care for your cannabis plants at each of the four distinctive stages of their life cycle will provide a solid baseline of knowledge and healthy, productive gardens.
It can take four to eight months to grow a cannabis plant. During this time, it goes through four distinct stages: germination, seedling, vegetative, and flowering. It is essential for cannabis growers to understand each stage in the life cycle so they can properly care for their plants. Each phase requires different nutrients, hours of light, and type of light. There are also different tasks that can help make each stage more successful.
It all begins with a seed. If stored in cool, dark conditions, a cannabis seed can remain viable for years. The best seeds are hard and dry and will be light to dark brown in color. Underdeveloped seeds tend to be soft and either white or green. It’s very unlikely these seeds will germinate.
The seed lies dormant until it is exposed to warmth and moisture. You can germinate your seeds by planting them in a moistened seedling starter mix, covered with plastic and placed on a heat mat. It is important to use a seed-starting mix instead of potting soil.
There is enough nutrition in a seed to feed a sprout for about two to three weeks. Any additional fertilizer can burn your plants at this tender age. Once planted, a seed can take five to 10 days to sprout.
Once your seeds have sprouted, the two seedling leaves will be the first to appear. Place a fluorescent grow light about two inches from the top of your plants for 18 hours per day. You don’t need a powerful light for them in the beginning. When the true leaves appear, your little plants can officially be considered a seedling.
The seedling stage of a cannabis plant can last three to six weeks.
The seedling stage of cannabis plant lasts three to six weeks, depending on environmental factors and the strain you’re growing.
During this time, your seedlings are focusing their energy on growing roots and foliage. Because the roots are so small, be careful not to overfeed or overwater. Use a fertilizer high in nitrogen and be sure to dilute it so you don’t harm your plants.
Fluorescent lights still work well at this point. Set your timer so the lights are on for 18 hours and off for six.
Seedlings are susceptible to pests and disease at this age, so this is a good time to apply a preventative neem oil treatment. It’s much easier to prevent spider mites and powdery mildew than to treat them while your plants are so young. If they do get infested or infected at this age, the stress on your plants will likely produce a smaller harvest down the line.
The vegetative stage of a cannabis plant can last one to four months.
After a few weeks as seedlings, your cannabis plants will outgrow their starter pots and start demanding more food and light. The roots and foliage grow rapidly during this stage, which allows the plant to take in more nutrients and carbon dioxide. Don’t be surprised if your plant shoots up two inches in one day!
If you don’t already know, this is when you’ll be able to identify whether you are growing an indica or sativa. Indicas tend to be short and bushy, while sativas are lanky with less foliage.
You will also be able to identify the sex of your plants. About four weeks into the veg cycle, pre-flowers start to appear. By six weeks in, you should be able to determine whether those new buds are male or female. Most growers remove the males from their garden, so they don’t pollinate the females and cause seeds to form.
When growing indoors, the vegetative stage can last one to four months, or even indefinitely in the case of mother plants. You control the length of this phase by the number of hours of light you give your plants. As long as they receive 18 hours, they will remain in this stage.
During the vegetative stage, you’ll need to trade in your fluorescent lights for a metal halide or powerful LED. This blue light mimics the light in spring and sends the message to grow roots and foliage to prepare for the flowers.
If you haven’t already, transplant your cannabis into larger pots and start feeding them more. As they grow, be mindful you will need to increase the PPM of your nutrient solution and transplant them into larger pots as needed.
At this age, your plants need high levels of nitrogen and modest amounts of phosphorus and potassium. Silicon is also beneficial at this stage because it helps to build strength in the stalk and stems, which you’ll need to support those big buds that will soon grow.
As your plants grow taller and fill out, you’ll need to start pruning and training them. This focuses their energy on growing large colas, opens up the plant so light can reach all the leaves, and prevents fungal diseases by increasing air flow.
The general rule of thumb is to flip the lights to 12/12 and trigger the bloom cycle when your plants are about one third of the size you want them to be at harvest.
The flowering stage lasts six to 10 weeks, depending on the strain you’re growing.
You imitate autumn in your garden when you reduce the light to 12 hours on and 12 hours off, and switch to a red high-pressure sodium bulb. This triggers your cannabis plants to start blooming so they can procreate before they die at the end of the season.
The flowering stage lasts six to 10 weeks, depending on the strain you’re growing. During this time, dense buds covered in a sweet-smelling, sticky resin will form on your plants. This resin is where the THC and terpenes are, and so growers do whatever they can to grow the stickiest colas possible.
Your fertilizing schedule will change during this stage. Start feeding your plants minimal amounts of nitrogen, moderate amounts of potassium, and high amounts of phosphorus. This is the time to add bloom boosters and sugars to your regimen.
Be on the lookout for nutrient deficiencies or toxicities during this phase. Brown leaf tips can signal nutrient burn, while yellowing leaves may indicate a nutrient deficiency. It is normal, however, for the lower leaves to turn yellow towards the end of the flowering cycle, when your plants feed on themselves for more efficient nutrition.
Keep feeding your plants until about 10 days before harvest, and then stop fertilizing and flush your crop. This clears your plants of excess nutrients and is crucial to making sure your end product is smooth instead of harsh.
As your buds grow large and dense, environmental conditions and poor air flow can cause bud rot. If you don’t catch it in time, you can lose all of your plants. Keep a close eye on your buds as harvest time approaches. Inspect your buds often and harvest immediately if you see signs of rot. If you catch it early, you can cut the rot out of your buds and salvage most of your crop. You’ll know your cannabis is ready to harvest when the pistils, or the hairs, turn the color of rust and the resin changes from clear to a milky white.
If you understand the life cycle of cannabis, you’ll be able to care for your plants the right way in each stage of their life and anticipate problems before they occur. You’ll be a better grower and have top shelf smoke to prove it.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Cannabis Plants?
T here are a lot of reasons to give growing your own cannabis a try. Regardless of whether you’d like to grow the herb for medicinal or recreational purposes, tending to your own cannabis plants can be rewarding for weed growing newbies and green thumbs alike, and may even be more affordable in the long run than purchasing marijuana at your local dispensary.
- Growing Marijuana: The Beginner’s Guide
- How to Grow Marijuana for Personal Use and Avoid Dispensaries
- How to Properly Distance Cannabis Plants in a Grow Room
- Closing the Yield Gap for Cannabis: A Meta-Analysis of Factors Determining Cannabis Yield
However, growing cannabis is not exactly like taking care of a potted plant, and one thing a houseplant certainly does not need is a deft hand to guide it through its grow cycles. After all, daisies will bloom if you can at least remember to give them some water and sun. Cannabis? Not so much.
To grow cannabis that can be consumed for its intended purpose, you’ve not only got to lead the plant through its many stages from germination to curing, but your plants require both attention and time. Which begs the logical question, how long does it take to grow marijuana plants? Let’s dig in.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Weed?
The very short answer is – that depends on whether you’re growing indoor, outdoor, greenhouse, coco, or hydroponic weed. Grow times for cannabis plants vary widely, but on average, expect about three-to-five months for indoor grows. However, there are many factors that could add or subtract from that range, including whether you choose to grow from a clone or a seedling, the target yield (how much consumable product) and the growing method you’ve chosen.
A very loose breakdown of a growing timeline could look like this:
Basic Cannabis Cultivation Timeline:
- Seed germination: 1-7 days
- Vegetative stage, when the plant is growing just stems and leaves: three weeks to eight weeks or more
- Flowering stage, when buds start to appear: five weeks to sixteen weeks or longer
- Harvesting, drying, and curing: two to four weeks
But the number one determinant of growing time depends on whether you’re growing sativa, indica, or hybrid cannabis strains. Let’s take a look at some average grow times for each.
Cultivation Time for Different Cannabis Plants
For those looking to grow cannabis more quickly or achieve higher yielding strains, indica is the way to go. With a shorter flowering period – about eight-to-twelve weeks – plus a generally higher end yield, growers often prefer them because they can be cultivated in more frequent cycles indoors, while outdoor growers can time several growing cycles before the weather turns cold.
Another benefit of growing indica seeds is that they tend to grow shorter and bushier than sativas, making them a better fit for indoor setups or growing in a backyard garden.
This cerebral and uplifting cannabis variety poses more challenges than growing indica. In addition to their longer ten-to-twelve week flowering period, plants grown from sativa seeds tend to produce a smaller yield (although this is certainly not true of all sativa strains).
Sativas can also grow to be very tall, up to 20 feet in an outdoor setting, which makes them difficult to conceal from neighbors in an outdoor grow setting. Even when confined inside, they may still grow long and lanky, a challenge for anyone trying to manage a small grow space.
A genetic mix of both indica and sativa strains, the growing time for hybrid marijuana strains may vary depending on which way the genetics lean.
Since hybrid seeds are a true blend of both sativa and indica, cultivators often prefer to grow them because of their higher output, generally faster growing time, and consumer appeal.
On average, hybrids tend to grow faster in the vegetative stage like a sativa, but may have a shorter flowering period like indica, about six-to-ten weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cannabis Plant Growth
What is the fastest you can grow weed?
One seed company says they have a strain that can go from seed to harvest in 49 days. Before you buy seeds from any company, be sure to do your own research on quality and reputability, and make sure you’re getting a strain that suits your consumption habits and preferences.
Is there a way to speed up cannabis growth?
There are a couple of hacks that could speed up cannabis growth, including growing autoflowering hybrids, growing from clones instead of seeds, growing hydroponic weed, and changing up the stressors put on the plant (although this option is probably best left to more experienced growers).
Do you have any experience growing cannabis at home? How long did it take you from seed to harvest? Share your stories in the comments below.
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
Erin’s work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let’s Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedIn, WordPress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.