Like all living organisms, cannabis goes through a series of stages as it grows and matures. In order to grow cannabis successfully, one must have a general knowledge of these stages and the differing needs at each point in the lifecycle. Different stages of growth require different amounts of light, nutrients, and water.
The lifecycle of a cannabis plant can be categorized into four primary stages from seed to flower:
The first stage of life of any plant, including cannabis, is known as germination. When you first receive a seed, your plant is waiting dormant, until the addition of water brings it to life. Your journey will begin by germinating your seed, which takes 3-7 days.
After germination, your seed will have ‘popped’, releasing the tap root that will eventually develop into the main stem of the plant. Once this has happened you are ready to plant the seed in your growing medium. Within the next 72 hours, you will see the stem of the seedling grow upward and reveal two rounded leaves, known as the cotyledon leaves. These two leaves will take in the necessary light to develop the root system. As these roots develop, in a couple of days you will start to see the first “Fan Leaves” – the iconic serrated leaves of a cannabis plant. As soon as the first fan leaves are observed, your small plant can officially be considered a seedling.
Over the next two weeks in the seedling stage, your plant will start to produce more of the traditional cannabis fan leaves. The seed will initially produce fan leaves with only one ridged blade. Once new growth develops, the leaves will develop more blades (1, 3, 5, 7, etc.). A mature cannabis plant will have between 5-7 blades per leaf, but some plants may develop even more. This stage will last around two weeks, or until the plants begin to develop fan leaves with the full number of blades on new growth. At this point, your plant would be considered to be in the vegetative stage.
The vegetative stage is when your cannabis plant will really start to take shape. Growth is rapid during this stage, and it is not uncommon for plants to grow several inches in a day or overnight. The fan leaves, foliage, and roots are beginning to develop and grow rapidly. Your plant’s water needs will jump drastically, as will the nutrient requirements. This is an exciting time for any grower! The cannabis plant will remain in the vegetative state until the light exposure moves from 18 hours per day to 12 hours per day. This will happen gradually if growing outdoors, or indoors it can be triggered overnight at any time with a simple timer change on the controlled light source. Once the light cycle changes, the plant will begin to produce buds in the flowering stage.
The flowering stage is the final growth stage of the cannabis plant. Flowering occurs naturally when the light cycle is shortened to 12 hours of light per day. During this stage your cannabis plant will start to produce resinous buds. At first you will start to see pistils forming at all of the available budding sites on your plant. Shortly after, you will start to see the sugary trichomes starting to form at the budding sites and the base of fan leaves. Over the flowering stage these buds will continue to grow larger, heavier and denser, until you are ready to harvest.