As times are changing, the cannabis market is too–and in a big way. With many states legalizing recreational use and implementing medicinal marijuana programs, the demand is skyrocketing. There’s never been a better time to learn the art and practice of growing, caring for and harvesting cannabis. How long does it take to grow your plant? Honestly, the answer varies depending on the strain of cannabis, your grow environment (outdoor/indoor), and your crop yield goals. Despite these many variances, still, on average, the growth period for most marijuana plants is somewhere between three and five months (12-20 weeks). There are plenty of steps that go into growing your own crop, and by the end of this article you will be an expert. Remember these steps when considering your very own marijuana grow and planning for the time that it will take from germination to harvest.
It’s Not Going to Magically Grow on Its Own!
Below is a list that describes some of the general needs for beginning your grow. Some of this can actually be worked around depending on the setup you’re using:
- A Grow Tent – Grow tents are ideal for beginners looking to grow indoors because they offer the grower ability to limit or expand the area they wish to grow in. The tent also will aid in controlling smell, protecting your plants from pests and reducing the possibility of light loss. Check out our guide for growing weed in closets!
- Potting Soil and Nutrients- You’ll want soil that drains well but also has proper water retention. The roots need water but it shouldn’t be so much that they are not able to get enough oxygen.
- Garden Pots- Fabric pots work best as they make it almost impossible to overwater your plants.
- Grow Lights- Light is the main source of food for your plant, especially if you decide to grow indoors. LED lights are the most efficient and effective natural light replacement for growing plants without the sun. So how many grow lights do you need and at what wattage? On average, a single plant needs at least 1 sq ft to grow and the recommended wattage per sq ft is 50 watts. For example, if your grow room/tent is 2 sq ft X 2 sq ft, you will need 200w worth of LED lighting.
- Timer- The ultimate babysitter for your indoor plant. You can set the timer to control your lights, thus simulating the natural sun times that a plant would receive outdoors.
- Rotating Fan- Get the air in your tent circulating!
- Inline Fans and Ducting- If growing indoors this is the best way to mimic an outdoor environment. Having the man made air circulation will reduce the chance of mold and bud rot.
- Thermo-Hygrometer- This tool is used to measure humidity. Learning to use this simple gadget will aid in providing a controlled environment for your plant.
- Watering Can/Spray Bottles- The spray bottles can be used for misting. Your plant needs to be hydrated.
- String, Gloves and Duct Tape- String can be used to support your plant if it becomes lopsided. Duct Tape will be used to patch any holes in the tent and it can be used to help repair any broken stems. Gardening gloves always come in handy–use them often as they help protect your plants from bacteria coming from your hands.
- Pruners or Sterilized Scissors- For harvesting and trimming.
If you plan on growing outdoors you won’t need as many tools, but to be safe, check out our indoor grow room supplies checklist!. The outdoor plant relies on natural light instead of grow lights. The outdoor plants growth has a lot to do with what time of year you start your grow.
Weed Plant Growth Stages + Time Frames
Germination Stage – This stage can last as little as one day, but it can take as long as up to a week. Please be patient, this is just the beginning.
Vegetative State- This state will happen at 3-8+ weeks in the plants growth. During this state your plant is growing rapidly and you can begin to see the differences characterizing sativa strains (taller) and indica strains (short and bushy). This stage requires 18-24 hours of light for both indoor and outdoor plants.
Flowering Stage- The flowering stage starts to happen around 5-10+ weeks. This is the most important stage in your plants’ growth because it the last stage before harvesting. This stage requires less light than the previous vegetative state–roughly 12 hours of light exposure.
Germination Stage – Week 1
This stage is the beginning of the rest of your life! Just kidding, but, this stage is the beginning of your plants’ life. Germination should take no longer than a week. For germinating, your seeds will require moisture and a temperature that mimics (or is) springtime. There are plenty of different ways to germinate: You can use the paper towel method (plain, single ply paper towel, seed goes between two paper towels and moisten with a spray bottle), germinate directly in water (should only take two to four days until you notice the seeds “tail”), or you can do it directly in soil (ensuring minimal contact with the seed and the new root is protected by the soil). Make sure you have as little physical interaction with your soon to be plant as possible during this stage. Too much manipulation and you could risk damaging the seed and the rest of the growth process. Take a look at our guide on the best ways to germinate weed seeds!
Vegetative Stage – Week 2 – Week 16
Your plant should be growing like a weed at this stage (no pun intended). This state is the most promising for a grower. You will start to notice the growth of your plant, some plants may even grow up to 2 inches in a single day! It will be easier to point out characteristics of a sativa strain or an indica strain. A sativa strain tends to be taller, while indica strains often are shorter and bushier. Typically this state lasts for at least 3 weeks before you will notice any sort of bud growth. At this state your plant needs light for 18-24 hours, both indoors and outdoors. How long you keep it in the vegetative state after 3 weeks is completely up to you. The longer you keep it in the vegetative state, the more buds your plant will yield. Before you decide how long you want to keep it in the vegetative state, make sure you have enough room and enough light to ensure the buds will be getting the proper nutrients and care. If you are growing outdoors your plants should be in the vegetative state from late spring to late summer. This is when days are longer and your plants are receiving at least 18 hours of natural light.
Flowering Stage – Week 8+
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the most important stage! You get to decide (unless you are growing outdoors) when a plant goes from the vegetative state to the flowering stage. When you are ready for your plant to go into this stage, you will switch up the amount of light it needs. The plant goes from needing 18-24 hours of light to only needing 12 hours of light. If your plant is growing outside, this should start to happen late summer/early fall when days are getting shorter. The flowering stage will happen from 5-10+ weeks. During the flowering stage your plant is stretching, forming buds and fattening up. Do your research on the type of strain you are growing and how long you should expect your plant to be in the flowering stage. It is very important that at this stage you are able to figure out if your plant is female or male. Only female plants can produce buds. If it is a male plant, it will produce a sort of pollen sac. The male plant needs to be removed from the female plant immediately because it will want to pollinate as soon as it is able. If the male plant is around the female plant long enough for pollination to occur, it will cause the female plant to have seedy, unsmokable buds. To eliminate the risk of pollination completely, you can purchase feminized seeds online from a reputable seed bank.
Time To Harvest!
Sweet harvest time, also known as the best part because by this point you’ve successfully grown a pot plant(s). There is normally a 2-3 week harvest window and the longer you wait the more potent your weed will be. Longer is not necessarily better; if you wait too long, it can cause unpleasant flavor and a decrease in potency. If you start noticing the stem broadening, pistils (long, hair-like growth on the plant) turning red, resin on the buds browning or the leaves start to yellow, it is time to start harvesting. You will carefully cut your plant at its base, hang the plant upside down and ensure that it is in a dark space that is not too humid. The drying process will take around 4-10 days, but it can be quicker, especially if you try drying weed in an oven. Keep an eye on your plant during this time because it can get moldy, that is why you keep the humidity levels around 50%. If you have been growing outdoors, then you will most likely be harvesting outdoors as well. Harvesting outdoors is similar to harvesting indoors as long as it has already been carefully planned with the seasons. Fall is generally the perfect time for harvesting outdoors (low humidity, less sunlight). Check out our guide on how to harvest weed step by step!
To Cure or Not To Cure:
You should always be curing your weed, it is an important step and it shouldn’t be overlooked. Curing typically takes between 3-6+ weeks. When you cure your weed, you are essentially ridding it of useless units (sugars,etc.) that are produced by the drying process. These units can leave a harsh and unpleasant taste. Curing can also enhance the “high”, extend the shelf life and preserve taste. To cure you will need to place your dried buds in air tight containers and be sure to keep them in a cool dark place. The humidity levels inside your mason jars should stay between 60-65% humidity (you can check this with a hygrometer). If there is too much moisture, remove the lid and let your buds air out for a couple of hours. After roughly three weeks, your buds will be cured. Just remember, cure longer, the quality of your bud will continue to increase for up to 6 months.
Total Time It Takes to Grow Weed:
The average time it will take to grow and use your own weed is approximately 4-6 months.
- Week 1: Germination Stage
- Weeks 2-3: Seedling Stage
- Weeks 3 – 8+: Vegetative Stage
- Weeks 8-12+: Flowering Stage
- Additional 1-2 Weeks to Harvest
- Additional 3-6 Weeks to Cure
How to Grow Weed Faster – Methods to Speed Up The Weed Growth Process
If you think 4-6 months sounds too long, thankfully there are few ways to speed up the whole process with your grow!
Autoflowering strains are strains of weed that can take as little as 10 weeks from the germination stage to harvest. Autoflowering strains don’t need the signals (light) that other strains need in order to begin the flowering process. The autoflowering strain will begin flowering after 3-4 weeks in the vegetative state. An autoflowering strain can be the way to go if your growth goals are time sensitive. Take a look at our highest yielding autoflower seeds!
Using 24/7 Light:
Keeping your plant exposed to light consistently can shorten the vegetative state by up to 30%. That being said, this will only work for certain strains and can actually cause other strains to die.
If you switch from soil to hydroponic growing (growing plants in water instead of soil) you may be able to shorten the vegetative state by up to a couple of weeks.
Covering Your Outdoor Grow:
This applies to outdoor growers. You can cover your plant to force blooming by mimicking the 12 hours of light needed to flower. Doing this can actually help your plant to become bigger (because of the amount of sunlight they get in the middle of summer) as opposed to letting it naturally bloom during the fall.
Time Well Spent:
Growing your own weed can be extremely rewarding. In the end, the amount of time it takes to grow your weed varies from start to finish, with 4-6 months being the average amount of time needed from germination to harvest. Growing can be a trial and error process, but with these tips you can shorten the learning curve and hopefully get some great results right away. Whichever method you decide, be it indoor or outdoor, good luck and happy growing!