Understanding the Cannabis Life Cycle

Have you ever wondered how marijuana makes the leap from a leafy green plant to a fragrant and potent cannabis flower? The answer lies in weed plant stages, or what’s commonly known as the cannabis life cycle. Even if you’re not learning how to grow marijuana, understanding the inner workings of our favorite leafy green can lend insights into how to recognize top-quality cannabis when you see it. So whether you’re growing cannabis (or merely enjoying it), buckle in for a tour of the cannabis harvest cycle!

weed plant stages

Cannabis Flower: A Life in Four Parts

When you open a container of fresh, fragrant, and potent cannabis flower, you’re interfacing with the very end of a long and fascinating life story. That rich and resinous cannabis bud began its life cycle anywhere from three to roughly nine months ago. That beginning was just one of four stages in the plant’s growth: germination. Let’s cover each growth stage in turn.

Weed Plant Stages: Germination

A healthy cannabis seed looks like a hard, dry brownish ball. To begin its life cycle, it must germinate, or be exposed to sufficient water, heat, and air to “pop.” After roughly three to ten days, a viable seed will split open and send out a taproot, which will become the main stem of the cannabis plant.

Weed Plant Stages: Seedling

This crucial stage describes the young cannabis plant’s first two to three weeks, when it’s just starting to sprout its trademark fan-shaped leaves and developing what will become a sturdy root structure. Cannabis plants are particularly vulnerable to mold and other maladies, so if you’re learning how to grow marijuana, be sure not to make the rookie mistake of overwatering! Once the plant’s new leaves show the full number of “blades” or “fingers” (typically five or seven), it’s time to move on to the next growth stage.

weed plant stages

Weed Plant Stages: Vegetative

This stage, typically spanning three to sixteen weeks, is one of the most exciting, with the plant’s development rapidly picking up speed. At this stage, experienced growers will have carefully transplanted the marijuana plant to a larger pot, as well as initiating topping and training practices to manage and redirect growth while eliminating dead or unnecessary leaves. While it was important not to overwater seedling plants, vegetative plants tend to take a lot of water, increasingly applied further from the stem so as to reach the rapidly expanding root structure.

Weed Plant Stages: Flowering

Here’s where the rubber really meets the road! This final stage of the cannabis flower growing cycle is where the dense flowers we’re after finally appear. Typically lasting between eight and eleven weeks, it’s characterized by female plants first sending out pistils or “pre-flowers,” which look like white hairs. Next the plant will stop growing and focus all its resources on fattening up the flowers. Finally, the density of the trichomes—the gooey, resinous glands which produce crucial compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes—will increase. Seasoned growers will judge the exact moment of harvest based both on the color of the trichomes, which transition from clear to white to amber, and the color of the hair-like stigma, which change from white to orange.

weed plant stages

The Cannabis Flower Life Cycle: Wrapping Up

How can this knowledge help you make great cannabis purchases? Study a given flower closely. Are the trichomes and stigma vibrant and colorful? Is the flower fragrant and resinous, or crumbly and dry? Carefully tended cannabis flower—like the kind we offer at our Des Moines and Seattle dispensaries—is fresh-smelling, potent, and free of pesticides, mold, and other contaminants.

We carry a truly expansive selection of Washington’s very best cannabis flower, along with a full range of other cannabis products. Peruse our current flower selection and more on our Des Moine online menu or Seattle online menu.

If you have any other questions about weed plant stages or how to grow marijuana, we’d love to help! Ask us anytime.

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