When growing cannabis plants, you must know how to identify their flowering stage.
Being aware of these things helps you determine the needs of your plants. Their needs vary over time, depending on what cannabis flowering stage they are in.
Hence, you’ll also maintain healthy plants and reap a bounty harvest after a few weeks.
If it’s your first time growing cannabis plants, it’s important that you get proper guidance in familiarizing the flowering stage of weed to aid you in providing for their needs.
Certainly, you don’t want to let your plant grow the wrong way!
Fortunately, we’ll guide you about the cannabis flowering stage, plus give maintenance tips to keep your flowering cannabis plant healthy.
The First Signs of Cannabis Flowering Stage
When your weed plants are at their pre-flowering stage, you’ll notice a SUDDEN INCREASE in growth. The greenery is growing larger as it prepares to carry its buds on its bud sites.
After a few days, you’ll see white hairs or pistils emerging from the center where the future bud sites sit. However, you may also see some weed plants carrying green pollen sacs, signaling that they are male plants.
In this case, you must separate them from female plants. Having males in the growing environment can cause the strains to breed and produce seeds instead of flowers.
Approximately a week after this stage, pre-flowers exhibit their hairs in the inter-nodes, and you might notice signs of real flowers.
The flowers will then develop more white hairs as they grow larger and chunkier, while trichomes start to grow in numbers.
At this point, you can already anticipate what your cannabis would smell like.
After witnessing these first signs of the cannabis flowering stage, you’re already entering the phase where buds grow and ripen.
Signs of a Flowering Autoflower Cannabis
All the things we’ve mentioned earlier were signs you can observe among cannabis strains that grow with photoperiod.
Generally, for autoflowers, flowering stages follow a similar pattern to photoperiod strains. But, the main distinction between them is speed.
Autoflower strains tend to grow quicker. In this sense, pre-flowering happens automatically after a few weeks of vegetative growth.
Hence, you can already see signs in as early as five weeks after the vegetative stage, unlike other strains that would take eight weeks or more.
Pre-flowering occurs for a week instead of two or three, while bud flattening follows in the next few weeks.
There are no significant disparities between autoflowers and their photoperiod counterparts. But, their difference in speed would also mean that you can harvest buds from autoflowers earlier than other strains.
Ways to Trigger the Flowering Stage
If you try growing indoors, it’s relatively easy to trigger the flowering stage of cannabis plants. You only need to change the lighting schedule in your greenery.
Basically, you need to follow the 12/12 light cycle. Yet, even if this is the norm, other strains may require more or less time in darkness.
Surely, you can control the light when the plants are growing indoors. But can you also trigger the flowering stage when they’re growing outdoors?
It may sound impossible to adjust the lighting schedule when you’re growing outdoors. But there’s actually a way to go around it.
When your cannabis plants are growing outdoors, you can place a blackout sheet over your plants or greenery for 12 hours every day.
Whether you’re growing cannabis indoors or outdoors, it’s essential that they get enough light and darkness for them to thrive and grow.
If this cycle is interrupted, it might delay the cannabis flowering stage. It may also turn your plant into hermaphrodites, especially if you’re not using feminized seeds.
Timeline and Stages of Cannabis Flowering
The marijuana flowering stage consists of three main stages, and it occurs for up to 8 weeks (or more). These include pre-flowering, mid-flowering, and late flowering stages.
But why do we need to familiarize the flowering stages of cannabis?
Every flowering stage of cannabis plants means they have different needs for them to thrive.
Unlike in the vegetative stage, flowering cannabis plants are more PRONE to nutrient deficiencies and pests that can affect the buds.
Hence, it’s important to pay enough attention to changes you observe in your flowering cannabis plants for you to provide proper care.
These are critical in making the best out of your cannabis buds, especially when it’s already the season to harvest them.
Stage 1: Pre-Flowering Stage (Week 1-3): Growth & Development of Pistils
During the first three weeks, your plants will experience the pre-flowering stage.
As previously mentioned, the pre-flowering stage begins when the cannabis plant receives exposure to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness (also called the 12/12 light cycle).
But, for autoflowers, cannabis plants can start their pre-flowering stage even with 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness, given that they don’t rely on photoperiod to grow and develop.
Autoflowers will start their flowering cycle whenever they reach a specific size, age, or a number of plant nodes.
Hence, it’s a good strain to take care of for beginners and growers who don’t have much time to pay attention to their plants.
But, it’s still essential to know the changes regardless of the type of cannabis plant you’re taking care of. As growers, knowing that your plants start flowering brings lots of excitement.
Early Flowering Stage
During the early flowering stage, there are no big changes that drastically happen to your plants.
But, as mentioned earlier, you’ll notice that the plants start to grow in speed, also known as flowering stretch. They continue to grow and stretch their loads before they actually start flowering.
In this stage, it’s important that you’re feeding your cannabis plant with enough nutrients and giving them enough space to grow.
Week 1-3: Transition Stage
During the transition stage, the flowering plants tend to double (even triple) their size as they prepare to nest some buds.
They need to GROW BIG AND STRONG to support the buds that will grow over the next few weeks.
Their energy is focused on increasing the size and amount of buds they will develop. They no longer aim for seed production since pollen sacs are absent in their environment.
As your cannabis plant develops its bud sites, it’s important that you feed them with enough food that contains essential nutrients for its growth.
If you don’t introduce the right nutrients or feed them food with lesser nutrient content, you might stunt their growth, which results in smaller and fewer bud sites.
You can also consider training plants using the low-stress training method (LST). In doing so, you must bend the stems of your marijuana plant gently to spread them away from the center.
Performing LST during the first three weeks of your plant’s growth will help increase bud sites and bud production.
It’s also important to distinguish male plants from female plants. Female cannabis plants must be separated from their male counterparts to avoid breeding.
During this stage, you’ll notice pistils or white hairs sprouting from your female plants. Typically, they accompany a single leaf that sits on top of the main colas.
PRO TIP: When you spot pollen sacs in one of your weed plants, remove them immediately. Any plants growing pollen sacs are males. You only want female plants in your greenery to grow flowers, not seeds.
Stage 2: Mid-Flowering Stage (Week 3-8): Emerging of the Buds
Once your marijuana plant crosses the mid-flowering stage, low-stress training is no longer necessary.
At this point, your plants continue to increase their size and bud sites, yet it’s also the stage where your plant’s growth slowly halts.
Their energy is more directed towards caring for their buds and bud production.
Week 3-4: Buds Form
As the actual buds start to form, the growth of the female cannabis plant starts to slow down. Potentially, it is almost twice as big as it was in the seedling stage.
During this phase of the marijuana flowering stage, you’ll notice that the white hairs look as if they’re piercing through the budlets.
You can also start smelling the distinct smell of Mary Jane, and you can already anticipate what the final product will smell like.
This flowering stage can also be delicate for your weed plant. Hence, it’s important that you also spot changes, specifically in terms of its color.
Within three to four weeks of flowering, you must see a vibrant green color among your plants.
Any type of change in color may be a sign of two issues: nutrient deficiency or nutrient burn.
- Nutrient deficiency can cause sudden discoloration and rapid loss of blades in your weed plant. When you notice such symptoms, you must treat them IMMEDIATELY by providing them with food containing enough nutrients they lack.
- Nutrient burn, on the other hand, is characterized by yellow or brown coloration found on the tips of the leaves. In this case, you must wash out excess nutrients with pH-balanced water. When a nutrient burn is not treated immediately, the marijuana plant can no longer produce its own nutrients.
NOTE: Yellow or brownish blades, as well as rapid loss of blades at the bottom part of the plant, may not be a sign of nutrient burn. This is a normal occurrence due to the lack of sunlight penetrating that area.
Week 4-6: Buds Swell
As the plants will transition towards the fourth to the sixth week of the cannabis flowering stage, you can observe the buds swell. They continue to grow fat every day during this phase.
The white pistils that shoot out from the buds will also grow in numbers, and the energy of your plants is directed towards fattening the buds.
At this point, you no longer need to perform low-stress training among your flowering cannabis plants. You should focus more on keeping the buds upright as they grow heavier.
When you see your plants growing too close to the lights (when growing indoors), super-cropping is NOT the best option to resolve the issue.
Forcing your plants to bend at a 90-degree angle while nearing the late flowering cycle might stress your plants out and affect their growth negatively.
Instead, you must do a strategic defoliation process to address your issues on very leafy cannabis. This helps in exposing the bud sites to light while still keeping enough blades.
Week 6-8: Buds Ripen
Six to eight weeks during the mid-flowering period, the growing buds ripen, and its pistils turn dark from white.
It’s also at this point where the vegetative stage stops. There are no more signs of vegetation seen among the flowering cannabis.
As the female plants mature, their energy is directed towards growing RICH and POTENT marijuana buds.
Your plants don’t need too much food during this cannabis flowering stage. Instead, you must let them relax until it’s already time for harvest.
Matured plants also get too sensitive to certain nutrients, and they react negatively when absorbing unnecessary nutrients.
Self-pollination is one risk, especially when the plant is fed with nitrogen. During this stage, your flowering cannabis no longer needs it to grow buds. Hence, it’s used for other functions.
Another issue you might come across in this flowering phase is fox-tailing, where extra buds develop on the bottom or sides of existing buds.
In some instances, you might observe bleaching or burns caused by extreme heat or light damage. That’s why it’s important to regulate the environment of your flowering cannabis without stressing them out.
Stage 3: Late Flowering Stage (Week 8+): Flushing & Harvesting
If there’s a pre-flowering stage during the first weeks after vegetation, there’s also a late flowering stage, eight weeks (or more) after the buds have ripened.
At this point, you’re all set to harvest the fruits of what you’ve worked for in the last months. But, before you can do that, you still need to do a few things:
- Observe signs that the buds ready to be harvested
When your flowering cannabis is ready to harvest, they exhibit signs like pistils turning orange and trichomes turning amber due to the heavy loads of THC.
These signal you that it’s almost time to reap what you sow. Yet, it might also tell you that you may need to give them a few more weeks before you harvest buds.
But, you must be careful about how you handle your marijuana plants at this stage. They are very delicate and are prone to bud rot and other illnesses.
You must also help your plants by providing support as their buds grow heavy.
When you’re already preparing to harvest, you must flush the soil of your weed plants right away. Flushing during pre-harvest is essential to fix any nutrient lockout problems.
It’s believed that stoners can taste the nutrients, especially when they’re using a vaporizer, and it also appears to be harsher. Flushing is also said to enhance the flavor of marijuana, but there’s no scientific basis to prove such claims.
In order to flush nutrients out of your plant’s soil, you must use pH-balanced water. Depending on the timeline of the cannabis flowering stage, you might need to keep flushing for up to two weeks before harvest.
Another factor that determines the perfect time to flush is the medium where the plant grows. If you housed the marijuana in a hydroponic grow room, flushing would be shorter as it retains fewer nutrients.
Things To Do After Harvest
The three essential things you must do when you have already finished harvesting are:
You don’t only end up chopping the entire plant in your grow room. You still need to do these three steps to ensure you have the best buds.
In trimming, you have two options to choose from: wet and dry:
- Wet trimming means that you need to remove the leaves after chopping down your plants. This method allows you to easily trim the leaves off, and it’s less prone to molds.
- Dry trimming, on the other hand, would only require you to trim after the drying process. With this, you have more control over the drying speed to ensure that it doesn’t dry quickly, hence, losing more chlorophyll and producing good flavor.
The drying process is essential in determining the actual flavor of your buds. It helps in PRESERVING and ENHANCING them as it’s trying to get rid of chlorophyll.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that the temperature is only between 20 to 22°C while keeping the relative humidity at 60%. This may last up to 15 days, depending on the trimming method.
Once you’ve dried the cannabis buds, it’s already time to cure them. During this process, you must store the buds in airtight glass jars to retain their moisture and preserve the terpenes.
The curing stage can take up to four weeks or more, depending on the strain you’re working with and your preference.
Properly curing your buds will ensure that the buds stay fresh and minimize the risk of mold attack. It will also last you long for up to two years.
Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Flowering Cannabis Plant Healthy
When you grow marijuana, you don’t only stop with knowing how to identify its flowering stages. It’s also important to know how to maintain your plants properly to keep them healthy.
Knowing what stage your cannabis plant is in its growth period is nothing when you don’t respond to their needs at a certain timeline.
As previously mentioned, that’s the MAIN PURPOSE of learning how to identify the major stages of flowering cannabis. You want to monitor its growth so that you can nourish them with the right nutrients and care.
But what exactly does a growing marijuana plant need?
What the Growing Cannabis Plant Needs
Like other plants (and humans), cannabis also has its basic needs. At every stage, it needs change. Hence, it’s important that you give them their essentials to grow properly.
When you grow marijuana, these are the things you need to provide, especially during the flowering stage:
- Light – Light is probably one of the most essential ingredients when you’re trying to introduce flowering to your plants, especially for photoperiod strains. It’s important that you respect the 12/12 light cycle and not interrupt it even for a second, as it will result in light contamination.
Light contamination is something you want to avoid because it will slow down the budding process of your weed. It may even go back to its vegetative stage, or worse, turn your cannabis into hermaphrodites, where both female and male flowers grow in a single plant.
- Temperature – Temperature is another thing you should regulate in your plant’s growing medium. Ideally, the temperature should not go below or beyond the 18 to 26°C range for your marijuana plants to thrive.
If you go under 18°C, your plant’s growth will slow down, and it may cause irreversible damage. Going over 26°C, on the other hand, also accompanies several issues, including loss of moisture, burnt leaves, extreme dryness, and the growth will completely stop.
- Humidity – Humidity goes hand in hand with temperature. Hence, it’s also vital that you monitor the relative humidity in your plant’s growing environment. Ideally, it should be kept between 40% to 50% to avoid the development of mold and fungi.
- Nutrients – Like in people, nutrients play a vital role in the growth of marijuana plants. That’s why it’s essential to nourish them with the exact type and amount they need for every phase of growth. The primary nutrients they need are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
As they start flowering, potassium and phosphorus supplementation should be greater than nitrogen. The secondary nutrients they require, on the other hand, are magnesium, calcium, and sulfur. Lastly, they also require micronutrients for their nourishment, like zinc, manganese, iron, boron, chlorine, cobalt, copper, molybdenum, and silicon.
Hence, you need to purchase different fertilizers for the seedling stage, vegetative stage, and flowering stage. You can also add these nutrients via liquid and foliar other than the typical fertilizers.
- Water – Essentially, you must water your plants every day with chlorine-free or filtered water to make sure that they are clean, safe, and dry. To know if it’s already time to water your plants, you can stick your finger in the soil and feel if it’s dry or still moist. It’s vital that you don’t overwater the marijuana plants and provide a good drainage system in its growing environment.
- Ventilation – Airflow is also a vital component that a plant needs during the flowering stage. It gives them enough space to breathe and grow, as well as avoid the development of mold, fungi, and rot. For indoor growers, you can increase the ventilation by adding an exhaust fan to your greenery. You can also consider installing a dehumidifier if that fan doesn’t solve the problem.
- pH levels – Controlling the pH levels of your soil is crucial in retaining the nutrients needed by the plants to grow. The ideal pH level should not go below or beyond 6 or 7. Higher pH levels might wash away the nutrients your plants need or might keep them from absorbing them.
- Growing medium – The size of the growing medium says a lot about the growth of marijuana plants. When you have a wide space for your plants to grow, they also have the freedom to grow larger. If your germinating seeds are still placed in a small container, it’s important that you transfer them to a bigger medium, specifically before the flowering stage begins to avoid stress and damage to your cannabis.
6 Common Mistakes When Growing Marijuana
If it’s still your first time growing marijuana, you should already anticipate that you’ll commit mistakes.
But, it’s also VITAL to also know the common mistakes growers make when taking care of a marijuana plant.
This way, you can avoid these lapses with your own vegetation. You’ll be able to know what things you need to avoid when growing cannabis.
Particularly, there are six common mistakes people make when it’s their first time growing and caring for weed plants:
- Poorly regulated environment – In the plant’s environment, things you must control are temperature and humidity. Going below or beyond the optimal range can cause stress to your plants. That’s why it’s important that you monitor these numbers time after time.
You can use a hygrometer to measure the daily minimum and maximum readings. You can also use the vapor pressure deficit method to have a precise calculation of the combination of temperature and humidity for optimized flowering.
- Incorrect lighting – Proper exposure to light intensities is essential for growing cannabis. Hence, placing them too far or near them can cause problems. It’s important that you understand the proper lighting set-up for your plants. They should receive around 600-900 Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density (PPFD) light levels.
- Poor pH, nutrient burn, and deficiencies – pH and nutrient levels shouldn’t be too high or low in your growing plant’s environment. If you’re using pH and EC meters, it’s vital that you check and recalibrate them regularly to make sure they provide accurate readings. Faulty systems may cause irreversible problems that are damaging to your cannabis.
- Not smelling the plants – The odor of your plants can tell whether you’re good quality weed seeds. In this case, you would want to smell a pungent grow tent during the flowering stage. On the flip side, not smelling anything at all may be a sign of health issues for your plants that you must address right away.
- Mold development – Before harvest season, the buds are prone to mold, fungi, and rot. If you’re not attentive enough to their appearances and not regulating humidity properly, all your effort will be put to waste.
- Not removing male plants – By not removing the males, you’ll end up getting seeds and not buds to smoke. Hermaphrodites might also appear within the environment. So, you might want to eliminate them as well.
6 Tips for a Bountiful Cannabis Harvest
Those common mistakes are the culprit of having a bad harvest. You either get fewer buds or low-quality weed. Luckily, we have six helpful tips to aid you in combatting those mistakes and giving you a bountiful cannabis harvest:
Tip #1: Perform Plant Sexing Early
During the seedling stage, it’s still difficult to identify the sex of the plants. But, when they enter the flowering stage, it’s easier to distinguish the male from the female.
As the first signs of flowering appear, you have to identify which one is which so that you can separate them from each other.
This way, you can also ensure that you don’t get marijuana seeds and unsmokable weeds at the time of harvest.
Tip #2: Ensure Healthy Plants Before Flowering
Before you introduce the 12/12 light cycle for the flowering stage to occur, it’s vital to ensure that the plants are healthy and strong.
For outdoor growers, you need to pay close attention to the changes in the season. If you’re living in the Northern hemisphere, expect the days to shorten after late June.
In this case, weeks prior to that, you should already work hard to feed and train your plants.
Although they can still combat issues they encounter during pre-flowering, their energy is more directed towards growing rapidly in size and not too much on recovery.
NOTE: Stop training and transplanting your plants whenever you observe signs of flowering. These activities can cause stress to your plants, which may result in diminished weed quality and the production of hermaphrodites.
Tip #3: Gradually Transition Your Plants
Changing the growing environment of your plants in a snap can stress them out.
That’s why, when you’re already transitioning to the flowering stage, you must make adjustments in temperature, humidity, and lighting bit by bit.
This is the beauty of growing plants indoors. But, if you’re growing outdoors, the only thing you can control is the type and amount of nutrients being fed to them.
Tip #4 Give the Best Growing Environment
Once your plants enter the flowering stage, it’s important that you give them the best growing conditions.
By saying so, we mean that you should control the numbers of the temperature, humidity, and lighting correctly. You must remember not to go under or over as it may cause you a lot of problems.
Additionally, pre-flowering and harvest-ready plants prefer orange and red lights. If you’re growing them indoors, it will help if you install these colored lights to help them thrive.
Tip #5: Provide Proper Nutrition
For every stage of flowering, the plants require different types of nutrients. Primarily, you want to feed them with essential nutrients whenever they’re growing and fattening their buds.
Generally, you need to feed them with potassium and phosphorus when the signs of flowering become profound.
But, you must watch out for signs of nutrient burn or deficiency; feeding them too little or too much can cause you issues.
Tip #6: Trim the Foliage
Trimming excess foliage that seems unproductive helps the plants direct their energy toward the developed bud sites.
It is also an essential step in ventilating the plants and allowing more light to penetrate other areas of the greenery.
Additionally, you should trim yellow and dead leaves.
What Are Cannabis Terpenes?
Terpenes are naturally-occurring compounds in the trichomes of a female Cannabis plant. It is the main constituent of essential oils and is in charge of the aroma element of Cannabis.
These so-called trichomes have resin glands where terpenes are created.
The role of terpenes is vital in the growth and survival of Cannabis plants.
Inducing a particular aroma is one of the critical roles of terpenes, as these organic compounds boost color and pigmentation in its leaves and provide that unique flavor of Cannabis.
The Cannabis terpenes created to improve the plant’s attractiveness to some creatures scare off others that can impart damage.
Cooperatively with cannabinoids, terpenes can show an entourage effect.
Terpenes, when combined with cannabinoids, lead to the “entourage effect,” which brings about positive and beneficial effects to the user.
They improve the flavor and aroma of cannabis products and give additional therapeutic benefits.
They are also used in several applications, such as beverages and creams, with the terpenes giving off distinct scents and feel.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are so many things to learn when it’s your first time growing and taking care of flowering cannabis.
But familiarizing these tiny details is key to having a great harvest and good quality weed. It may require a lot of effort to learn, yet it’s going to be totally worth it in the end.
If you still have some confusion in mind, don’t worry! We’re not ending this guide just yet. We’ll try to answer a few more questions concisely before wrapping things up:
How Long Does It Take to Grow a Cannabis Plant?
Generally, growing a cannabis plant could range between 10 to 32 weeks (3 to 8 months) before you can harvest them fully.
The vegetative stage is probably the phase that determines how long your plant is going to grow, as it happens for up to 16 weeks.
Germinating seeds only need 3 to 10 days until the roots develop, while the seedling stage happens for up to 3 weeks.
For flowering, on the other hand, indoor growers can control when the plants should transition to this stage. This can even happen only a few weeks after the vegetative stage.
Outdoor growers can similarly manipulate the flowering stage by employing light deprivation techniques. TIP: If you want a quicker timeline, choose to work with autoflower or clone seeds.
When Is the Best Time to Grow Cannabis Plants?
If you’re living in the Northern hemisphere, you should ideally start getting your seeds between February and April.
By the end of April, you should’ve started germinating seeds. But, some growers like to start in February or March to get bigger plants. The spring equinox is also a good indicator of this.
However, it’s also important to note that all these still depend on the weather conditions. Hence, as growers, you must be attentive to the changes in the weather, especially when growing outdoors.
How Long Does a Marijuana Plant Live?
Marijuana plants are annuals. Hence, they only live for a year in an entire season.
How Do I Know if My Cannabis Plant Is Flowering Too Early or Too Late?
The strains you’re working with can greatly determine the cannabis’ flowering timeline.
Sativa strains have shorter flowering periods compared to Indica strains. On the other hand, hybrid strains flower for up to 10 weeks.
In this case, it’s important to ask the breeders what strains the seed is in order for you to determine if your plant is flowering too early or too late.
How Do I Trim Cannabis Plants BEFORE Flowering?
There are four common techniques growers use when trimming marijuana plants:
- Foliage thinning
- Trimming for harvest
Foliage thinning happens when you’re taking out excess and dead leaves from your plants. It’s essential in helping the plants increase their bud production.
It will also help ventilate the greenery and allow light to penetrate. Conversely, this reduces the development of moisture and the risk of mold, fungi, and rot.
Topping, on the other hand, involves trimming the center stem of the plants to help control their size and horizontal spread.
Lollipopping is when you’re cutting the lower branches so that the undercarriage doesn’t grow too leafy. This helps the plant redirect its energy to the top layers where the buds are nested.
Finally, trimming for harvest involves either wet or dry trimming. As previously mentioned, wet trimming means you’re cutting the leaves before drying, while dry trimming is cutting and trying the entire plant.
Should I Trim Cannabis Plant DURING the Flowering Stage?
No, trimming during the flowering stage can cause stress to your plants, which results in several issues.
It’s better to leave it as is or look for other ways to maintain foliage. It’s also that you trim your plants earlier.
Learning how to grow marijuana plants can be challenging. But, as we’ve said, it’s going to be worth it in the end.
Being familiar with the growth period and flowering stages of your plants will help you determine the types of care they need for them to thrive and grow.
Knowing these would also help you AVOID the common mistakes most people make when growing weed.
By being attentive to the slight changes, especially during the delicate phases of their growth, you’ll be able to yield the BEST results.
This proves that all the effort you spend to learn how to take care of your plants will pay off during the harvest season.