The Life Cycle of a Cannabis Plant | 4 Major Stages

Life Cycle of a Cannabis Plant Marijuana Seeds South Africa

Growing Cannabis can be confusing at first, especially when you have no idea what to expect. You think you’ve done everything right, and then comes the harvest, and you don’t get as much as expected. Learning about the life cycle of cannabis can greatly help you with cultivating the best crop possible.

Cannabis plants go through quite a bit during their lifetimes, during which there are some major milestones. When you understand these stages, you will be able to take of your plants much better. You will be able to notice health issues, and remedy them before your plant is seriously harmed.

The Seed Cannabis Seed Life Cycle of Marijuana Plant

As is with most other plants, it all begins with a seed.

With any regular cannabis seed, there is just no way of telling what sex the plant will be. This presents the main problem with growing cannabis seeds, as there is no way to be certain if the seed that you plant will produce the amounts / quality of cannabis that you want.

This is important since the female cannabis plant is the only that produces the flower or bud that can be harvested and consumed. The male plant does not do this, and could actually just harm your crop if grown with female plants.

The main purpose of the male cannabis plant is to pollinate all nearby female cannabis plants (2km radius outdoors). This doesn’t sound bad, but it can be. Once a female cannabis plant is pollinated, it will start to produce seeds. She uses all energy on this process, and stops using energy to produce and feed the buds that you want.

A pollinated female plant will have a reduced harvest, with lower quality bud, as euphoric properties given by the female can also be ruined.

Feminized cannabis seeds are now commonly available, and is the go-to option for many. Planting a feminized cannabis seed will have a 99.9% chance of being a female plant – This certainly improves the odds of producing the bud you are seeking to harvest.

Seeds can stay remain dormant until they are exposed to light and water. Seeds are hardy and can survive well in cool, dark places as long as they have a stable temperature like in a cellar or fridge.

You must protect your seeds because they can die – this means that they won’t ever germinate. You can stop this from happening by carefully storing them – because extreme temperatures are the easiest way to damage the seeds. Temperatures that hit below freezing could kill the seeds.

Moisture levels have to be kept as low as possible when you store your seeds. Fungus loves moisture, and this harms the seed. Moisture of course, can also cause the seeds to sprout too early.

When you are ready to germinate your seed, you will need to expose it to warmth and moisture. The moisture enters the seed through the shell, via tiny openings called micropyles. These openings can get clogged by handling seeds with bare hands, making it difficult for the seed to germinate.

Once the seed receives heat and moisture, it will begin to sprout.

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Seedling Stage Cannabis Seedling Life Cycle of Marijuana Plant

During this stage, two embryonic leaves begin to open up from the stem. This is so the plant can receive sunlight that it needs to get out of its seed casing. These embryonic leaves don’t look anything like an actual cannabis leaf that you are used to seeing.

Sometimes the casing can struggle to fall off at this point – You can assist it by gently removing the shell casing with a tweezer.

The next set of leaves that grow will have the rounded points that make it stand out in a class all its own. It so recognizable, almost everyone within the cannabis community uses it to show their lifestyle.

During this stage, as the leaves start to spread out from the plants top, the roots are also growing to meet and satisfy the plants’ growing appetite.From this point, the plant will continue to grow until the buds begin to flower.

The Seedling phase can last for 1 – 3 Weeks, depending on various factors such as:

  • Light quality
  • Light duration
  • Humidity and Airflow
  • Feeding amounts
  • The Cannabis Strain
  • Grow Medium

Don’t worry if you seedlings seem to be taking long – The plant is being a plant, and knows what it is doing. You just need to focus on growing a healthy plant.

As the plant starts developing its roots and foliage, it is going to transition into the vegetative stage. If you plan to transplant to a bigger Pot or different Medium, this is the time to do it.
Note: You should Not transplant an Autoflowering seedling. Autoflowers should be planted directly into the final grow Pot and Medium.

Vegetative Stage Cannabis Vegetative Stage Life Cycle of Marijuana Plant

During this stage your cannabis plant starts growing those big jagged leaves that we all know. Your plant will produce more foliage as it’s able to absorb and process more carbon dioxide and nutrients.

The roots to grow and expand, and the plant grows taller. You will be able to see your plant grow. A healthy cannabis plant can grow 5 cm in one day. The plant will grow up to 60 – 90cm about six weeks. And even taller, depending on the strains’ grow traits.

The duration of the vegetative stage depends on the light that the plant is exposed to. If you grow outdoors, then it depends where you live. If you grow indoors, you can keep the plant in this stage for as long as you’d like. The vegetative stage typically lasts for 4 – 8 Weeks.

Alot is happening to the plant during this stage. For one, it is rapidly developing stalk and leaves. Your plant is producing a structure that is capable of supporting the heavy buds that are to come. During the vegetative stage you are also able to see noticeable differences between cannabis strains.

Temperatures should be kept at 20 – 25 degrees Celsius, with humidity content of about 50 to 70 percent. The plants need to have about 18 hours of white light daily and fertilizer when needed.

During the vegetative stage you do not need to do much, but it is important to pay attention to the light exposure. Your plant will stop growing upwards when it begins getting less light each day, and this triggers the pre-flowering phase.

Flowering Stage Cannabis Flowering Stage Life Cycle of Marijuana Plant

This is the final and most important stage of the Cannabis’ Life Cycle. As mentioned above, this stage begins when the plant is not being exposed to as much light. The flowering stage is when the plant becomes sexually mature, and is ready to spread its genes.

Both the male and female cannabis plants have flowering stages, but the male matures sooner than the female, by at least a few weeks.

Up until this point, the entire plant was green. During this time, the pistils are going to turn brown, the big leaves are going to turn yellow, and the buds are going to get heavier and expand.

During this phase your plant starts producing huge amounts of sticky resin on its leaves. This resin contains the cannabinoids that you seek, namely the THC.

If a female is pollinated, she will then produce seeds with a much degraded quality of bud as well. Many try and avoid this by all costs. Either removing males completely as soon as detected, or by using only feminized seeds. This will ensure a female only crop.

When the female is not pollinated, the plant will produce sinsemilla – Meaning “with no seeds”. These plants produce huge amounts of resin and fake seed pods, which bot contain the highest amounts of cannabinoids.

NOTE: It is possible to have a hermaphroditic plant, which means your plant will have both sets of reproductive organs. These plants are able to pollinate themselves, and this can ruin your entire crop. You have to find and destroy any hermaphroditic plants.

The flowering stage can last for around 6 – 10 Weeks, but there are genetics that can go for longer.

The plant will start to produce buds which means the plant is flowering. You may really keen to harvest these buds, but you have to wait, and it can take some time.

The plant will stop growing, as it is investing all of the energy into producing those beautiful buds that you have so eagerly been cultivating. Your plant will need Potassium and Phosphorus based nutrients during this stage.

These buds will be covered in resin, heavy, and you will be able to smell them. Some of the pistils are going to turn brown, and some of the larger leaves on the bottom will turn yellow. These buds will produce milky white, thin, long pistils or hairs that will start emerging in the next 8 – 10 weeks.

Try to keep the temperature around 20 – 25 degrees Celsius with about 50 percent humidity. The plant still needs about 12 hours of light daily. If you fertilize regularly, you need to stop doing this about 10 days before the plant is completely mature. You will know the plant is mature when the buds are smelly, glimmering, and dense.


Knowing the best case scenarios enables you to detect and fix problems that may arise. But with that being said, there are problems that you could encounter that just cannot be fixed. You might have a plant that won’t grow no matter what you do, but knowing what to try and expect will certainly help.

Understanding each stage’s behaviours and needs, will arm you with the knowledge to cultivate successfully, increasing your chances of the best harvest possible.


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