The last stage in the life cycle of a cannabis plant is the most important for growers (and everyone who gets to enjoy the harvest). The flowering stage begins after a period of reduced exposure to light. It represents the period in which a plant becomes sexually mature and ready to spread its genes. Both female and male plants have a flowering stage, but male cannabis plants usually mature earlier than female plants, sometimes up to a couple of weeks earlier.
When the plant reaches the flowering stage, it will start to produce large amounts of sticky resin on the outside of the leaves. The resin focuses on the reproductive parts of the plant, also known as "the buds." This resin contains the highest percentages of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in the plant. To highlight its importance, THC is the active ingredient most sought after by smokers and drug users. The specific potency of the plant (the percentage of active ingredient in the resin) will be determined by the time the plant has spent in flowering. It also depends on whether the plant has been pollinated and fertilized or not.
Duration of the flowering stage
By now, you are probably eager to harvest the buds that are forming. The duration of the flowering stage can vary depending on the cannabis strain you are working with and the control you have over its growing environment, however there are some standards:
- Most cannabis strains have a flowering period that falls somewhere between 6 and 10 weeks, although given the right variety and the right conditions, this could last even longer.
- For practical purposes, you can divide the flowering stage into a couple of different sections. The first is the phase that occurs just after the plant finishes the vegetative stage. During this time, you may notice some development of the sprouts. Many growers like to call this the pre-flowering stage.
- Most growers begin the flowering period with a change in lighting. After changing the light cycle to 12 hours on and 12 hours off, the rate of development of the plant increases dramatically, and the internodes are shortened so that they can form the construction that the cannabis flowers will carry. An internode is located on the stem. Represents the area between two nodes where the leaves will emerge.
- During this time, the temperature should remain between 68 and 77 degrees, with a humidity between 50% and 70%, a light cycle of 12 hours of orange-red light per day and a fertilizer rich in nitrogen, as required necessary. You should start to see bud-like structures right after the pre-flowering phase, which probably lasted around two weeks. They will continue to develop, but not as fast as before. You will also start to see early flowers.
When you notice that the buds develop, the plant will be in flower and will stop growing.
The plant will now invest everything in the growth of its buds. The buds are heavy, covered in resin and you can smell them. Some pistils turn brown, and some large leaves at the bottom turn yellow.
At this time, the temperature should remain between 68 and 77 degrees, with a humidity of around 50%. There should be a 12 hour light cycle of orange-red light per day. A fertilizer with K (potassium) and P (phosphorus) can be used in normal amounts, but no more nitrogen!
About 10 days before the plant matures, you should stop fertilizing. You can identify maturity when the buds are dense, shiny, and smelly.
Until now, everything was green. However, at this point, the pistils turn brown, the large leaves turn yellow in great numbers, the buds expand and gain weight, and the development of the calyces slows down. Depending on the type of cannabis and its flavor, you can start harvesting.
Harvesting is not really part of the life cycle, but it is a crucial point in the life cycle of your marijuana plants. When you harvest, you determine the taste, smell, effects and strength of your marijuana.
The best way to decide when to harvest is by looking at the pistils. Pistils are the little white hairs on the buds that slowly turn brown / red when your weed matures.
Life cycle in indoor crops
On average, the indoor life cycle takes around 3 months from seed to harvest. If you start with cuttings, it will take 2 to 3 months. The length of the life cycle also depends on the flowering time of the growing strain. Some varieties take 7-8 weeks to flower, while others take 9-10 weeks. There are even varieties that take up to 15 weeks to finish flowering.
The flowering stage begins as soon as the light cycle is changed from 18 hours of daily light to 12 hours of daily light. This is an easy way to tell when your buds are ready for harvest. Although environmental factors in your grow room affect flowering time, it is no more than 5 days. Although flowering time may not be the most accurate way to determine harvest time, it is a good guideline.
Vegetation or growth time depends on the size you want your plants to reach before forcing them to flower. The more plants you place per square meter, the shorter the vegetation time will be.
It's best to force your plants to bloom when the tips of the leaves touch each other. As your plants continue to grow for the first 2-3 weeks of the flowering stage, make sure your plants do not exceed their growing space.
"Indica dominant varieties have a shorter flowering time than Sativa dominant varieties"
Life cycle in outdoor crops
The life cycle of plants outdoors is much longer than that of indoor plants. This is because, growing outside, you can't control the light cycle, so you have to let Mother Nature do her work. Depending on the local climate and the variety that grows, it will take 6 to 9 months from seed to harvest.
Marijuana plants react to the amount of light they receive. In the case of the exterior, the process can vary since the grower does not control the sun.
In August, when the days get shorter, your plants "know" that winter is coming, so they start to bloom. During the beginning of the flowering stage, female plants are pollinated by the males so that they can produce seeds to reproduce.
From the day your plants begin to receive less light, it will take 2 to 3 months before they are ready for harvest. Most of the varieties will be ready in October or November.
"Don't choose a long-flowering strain if you live in a climate where winter starts early."
You can germinate your marijuana seeds indoors to start with strong plants and place them outside when the colder weather is over.
To get the most out of a short growing season, try this tip:
- Germinate your plants 2 months before the winter ends. Once you think the colder temperatures are over, place your plants outside, but don't transplant them immediately. Keep them in a pot for a month. That way when the weather is very cold or windy, you can easily place your plants indoors for a day.
There is an exception in both the indoor and outdoor life cycle: autoflowering strains. These varieties take a maximum of 90 days from seed to harvest and are not sensitive to the light cycle.