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A cultivation worker preparing a cannabis plant seedling for transfer.

Stages of Cannabis Growth: From Seed to Harvest

Cultivation is equal parts art and science. It requires a deep understanding of the stages of cannabis growth and the needs of the plant at every phase of its lifecycle. Each presents unique requirements and challenges to overcome.

When met with knowledge and care, these challenges should lead to a successful harvest. In this article, we’ll explore the distinct stages of cannabis development, from the germination of a seed to the final act of harvesting the mature plant.

Learn about the anatomy of the cannabis plant.


A full grown cannabis plant in the flowering stage.
A full grown cannabis plant can take 4-8 months to reach maturity depending on different factors.

How long does it take to grow a marijuana plant?

The timeline for growing a marijuana plant, through all stages of cannabis growth, typically ranges between 4 to 8 months. The time required can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the strain, growing conditions, cultivating indoors or outdoors, and whether you’re starting with a clone.

After germination, which takes 3-10 days, you move to the cannabis seedling stage for 2-3 weeks, followed by the vegetative phase lasting 2-8 weeks. The pre-flowering and flowering stages generally take an additional 7-10 weeks. Finally, the harvesting stage requires preparation and the actual collection of the mature plant’s flowers.

Cannabis Growth Timeline

  • Germination stage: 3-10 days
  • Seedling stage: 2-3 weeks
  • Vegetative stage: 2-8 weeks
  • Pre-Flowering stage: 1-2 weeks
  • Flowering stage: 6-8 weeks
  • Harvest

Germinating Seeds (1-7 days)

Germination is the first chapter in the life of a cannabis plant. This critical stage involves sprouting the mature, dormant seed in a controlled environment. A mature cannabis seed should be hard, dry, and light brown or dark-brown. If your seed is immature it will be soft and white to green in color.

Proper germination requires warmth, moisture, and gentle handling. A successfully germinated seed will crack open, revealing a tiny root known as a radicle, which will eventually grow into the cannabis plant’s main root system.


Cannabis plants sprouting from the soil.
Making sure conditions are optimal is your best way to encourage seeds to sprout.

Can you speed up germination?

While germination is a natural process, certain techniques can speed up germination of cannabis seeds. Providing an optimal environment that includes consistent moisture, warmth, and darkness can encourage seeds to sprout more quickly.

Techniques such as soaking seeds in water for 24 hours or employing the use of a germination station can help speed up this initial stage of cannabis growth. Most importantly, never move, change or disturb your seed during the germination process.

Closeup shot of cannabis seedling.
In this stage, the plant first develops its trademark serrated leaves.

Seedling Stage (2-3 weeks)

As the radicle pushed the plant from the soil, it enters the seedling stage. This period is marked by the growth of the first set of leaves, uniquely shaped like a single pair of rounded cotyledons, embryonic leaves that appear first from a plant seedling. Followed by the growth of the iconic serrated cannabis leaves.

During this stage, seedlings require around 18 hours of light to encourage healthy growth. A stable environment with moist soil, and mild humidity, free from extremes of temperature is crucial.

Cannabis plants in the seedling stage.
Cannabis plants in the seedling/vegetative stage.

Vegetative Growth Stage (2-8 weeks)

The vegetative phase is where the cannabis plant grows significantly. This stage is characterized by the development of a thick stem, numerous branches, and foliage. Light continues to be vital.

During this phase the plant still needs long hours of light to sustain growth. Nutrient needs also escalate. Nitrogen is particularly important for developing the plant’s structure and foliage.


Pre-flowering Stage(1-2 weeks)

Pre-flowering is a transitional phase. Here the plant begins to exhibit its sex with the appearance of pre-flowers. It’s a very important time for growers who prefer cultivating sinsemilla (seedless cannabis) as male plants can be identified and removed to prevent pollination.

In this phase, subtle changes in the plant’s development signal the upcoming shift to the flowering stage.

What does the pre-flower stage look like?

In the pre-flower stage small growths called calyxes appear at the nodes of the plant, which are the points where the branches meet the stem. In this stage, identifying the sex of your cannabis plant is crucial.


A Male cannabis plant, isolated on a black background.
Male plants should be removed as soon as they are identified.

How to tell if your plant is a male or female

Sexing your cannabis plants is a critical step in the cannabis pre-flowering stage. Males will exhibit pollen sacs that develop in the joints of the plant, while females will produce two small bracts that eventually form the stigma and pistils where the buds will grow.


Extremely macro of the cannabis hemp plant with trichomes.
The pistil and bract; calyx will eventually form the flower on a female plant.

It’s essential to identify and separate male plants to prevent them from pollinating the females. If the pollen sacs on a male or intersex plant break open, pollen will fertilize any nearby females and ruin the potential of their trichomes.

A cannabis plant in the flowering stage.
A cannabis plant flowering stage is triggered by changes in the light cycle.

Flowering Stage (6-8 weeks)

The flowering stage is where the plant’s energy is primarily directed towards creating flowers (or buds). In this phase, light cycles are adjusted to simulate the shorter days of late summer/autumn, prompting the plants to produce flower.

This stage demands a change in nutrients, with phosphorus and potassium becoming more crucial to bud formation. Growers should also be vigilant against environmental stressors that could affect yield and potency.

How to tell when a cannabis plant is ready to bloom

When a cannabis plant is ready to bloom, you’ll notice a change in growth and the development of distinctive white or orange pistils at the nodes, where the branches intersect with the main stem. This marks the onset of the flowering phase.

Additionally, the plant’s white hairs will begin to darken and curl inwards. Growers often switch to a 12/12 light cycle, mimicking the shorter days of late summer to trigger flowering. Paying attention to visual cues so you can recognize the transition from the vegetative to pre-flowering and flowering stages of cannabis growth.

What to do when cannabis plants flower early or late

When cannabis plants flower out of schedule, it’s usually due to environmental stress or lighting issues. If plants flower early, take a look at your light schedule, especially if growing indoors, to ensure they are not being exposed to a 12/12 cycle prematurely.

For late bloomers, extending the light exposure to 18 hours a day may help revert the plant back to its vegetative state. Make sure to monitor and maintain stable environmental conditions to avoid stressing the plants, which can lead to early or late flowering.

When does flower grow the most?

Flower grows the most about midway through the flowering stage. This period, often called the “flowering stretch,” produces a rapid increase in bud size and density.

Proper light, nutrients, and water during this phase are needed to maximize growth. In the final weeks, bud development will slow as the plant begins to mature, focusing its energy on resin and cannabinoid production rather than growth.


A Revolution cultivation technician working during harvest.
Once harvested, it’s time to dry and cure your flower.


Harvest is the culmination of all your efforts. Timing the harvest is involves observing the maturity of trichomes and pistils to ensure maximum potency and flavor.

When your plant is ready for harvest, the pistils on the flower cola turns from white to reddish orange and trichomes change color – first from transparent to milky then to opaque, and finally amber.

Once harvested, your flower should be properly dried and cured, which will greatly enhance the final product’s quality. Cannabis is typically dried by hanging the cola and branches upside down at a humidity level of between 40 and 50%. The plants should remain hanging for a week to two weeks. This step is necessary to prevent fungus and bacteria from growing.

Curing is considered optional. This process involves aging your flower in sealed, airtight containers in a cool (between 50 and 60 °F) and dark place.

How long does a marijuana plant live?

The lifespan of a marijuana plant can vary greatly. While most annual cannabis plants complete their life cycle in a single season, living approximately 4 to 10 months, some strains, particularly those bred for perpetual harvest or “clone mothers,” can live for several years under optimal conditions and with proper care.

When should you grow?

The best time to grow marijuana depends on whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors. Outdoor growers should plant in late spring, after the last frost, to take advantage of the full growing season, allowing plants to be harvested in early fall.

Indoor growers have the flexibility to start at any time of the year, as they can control the environmental conditions.

Notable dates for growing marijuana outdoors

Important dates for outdoor cultivation revolve around the specific climate and region. Generally, seeds or clones are planted after the last frost of spring. Most growers aim to transplant seedlings outdoors in late May or early June.

Pre-flowering typically occurs as the days start to shorten after the summer solstice. Harvest dates range from late September to November, depending on the local climate and strain.


Cannabis plants in the flowering stage at the cultivation center grow room.
Cultivators who use science and deliberate methods get the best results.

Final thoughts

Cannabis plants have specific needs at each stage of growth. While the stages are usually consistent, there are variations depending on strain, growing conditions, and desired outcomes.

As a grower, you need to be adaptable and pay close attention to your plant/s. The process of growing cannabis can get very complex but its rewarding for growers who invest the time and scientific understanding into their cultivation practices.


Medical Cannabis Home Cultivation Guide

General Cannabis FAQ

Cannabis, often referred to as marijuana, is a plant that has been used for thousands of years for various purposes, including medicine, textiles, and recreation. The plant contains compounds known as cannabinoids, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well-known. THC is primarily responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects, while CBD is recognized for its potential therapeutic benefits without causing a “high.”

Many countries and U.S. states have decriminalized or legalized the use of marijuana for medical use, recreational, or both. The legal status changes frequently as legislation evolves.

In the U.S., states vote to regulate marijuana use on an individual basis. While it remains illegal at the federal level, numerous states have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational use.

The following states have legalized medical, recreational, or both:

  • Alaska – Medical
  • Arizona – Legal
  • Arkansas – Medical
  • California – Legal
  • Colorado – Legal
  • Connecticut – Legal
  • Delaware – Legal
  • District of Columbia – Legal
  • Florida – Medical
  • Hawaii – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Illinois – Legal
  • Louisiana – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Maine – Legal
  • Maryland – Legal
  • Massachusetts – Legal
  • Michigan – Legal
  • Minnesota – Legal
  • Mississippi – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Missouri – Legal
  • Montana – Legal
  • Nevada – Legal
  • New Hampshire – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • New Jersey – Legal
  • New Mexico – Legal
  • New York – Legal
  • North Dakota – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Ohio – Medical (Possession decriminalized)
  • Oklahoma – Medical
  • Oregon – Legal
  • Pennsylvania – Medical
  • Rhode Island – Legal
  • South Dakota – Medical
  • Utah – Medical
  • Vermont – Legal
  • Virginia – Legal
  • Washington – Legal
  • West Virginia – Medical


Outside of the U.S., countries like The Netherlands, Canada, and, more recently, Thailand have legalized cannabis on a national level.

Always check local laws and regulations in your specific location.

In states where marijuana has been legalized, you can purchase products at licensed dispensaries. Revolution products are available at Enlightened, Revolution, and partner dispensaries in Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, and Maryland. Find a dispensary near you.

Keep in mind that dispensaries may cater to medical patients, recreational consumers, or both, depending on local laws.

Always ensure that you are buying from a reputable and licensed establishment to guarantee product quality and safety.

The effects of cannabis vary widely depending on the strain, dosage, method of consumption, an individual’s endocannabinoid system, and more.

Some commonly reported effects include:

Psychoactive Effects: Euphoria, mood elevation, cerebral stimulation, stress relief, calming effects, and relaxation.

Physical Effects: Pain relief, body buzz, anti-inflammation, anti-nausea, energy boost or sedation, and appetite stimulation

*Medical Benefits: Cannabis is believed to have a range of therapeutic effects and alleviation of symptoms related to conditions like epilepsy, PTSD, and more.

*Marijuana is not approved by the FDA to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The primary difference lies in their intended use:

Medical Cannabis: Used as a treatment and alleviation of symptoms for specific health conditions. Medical strains might be cultivated and processed to have higher CBD content or other therapeutic compounds. Medical cannabis requires a physician who usually prescribes or recommends it as a treatment option.

Recreational Cannabis: Used without a medical justification but for personal enjoyment and fulfillment.

The process varies from state to state but typically involves the following steps:

Doctor’s Recommendation: Schedule an appointment with a physician who is authorized to recommend medical marijuana. Discuss your health conditions and reasons for seeking cannabis as a treatment.

Application: Once you have a doctor’s recommendation, you’ll usually need to apply for a medical marijuana card through a designated state or country agency.

Proof & Identification: Provide necessary identification and proof of residency as required by your jurisdiction.

Fee Payment: Most jurisdictions require a fee for the application and issuance of a medical marijuana card.

Card Issuance: Once approved, you will receive your medical marijuana card, allowing you to purchase cannabis at designated medical dispensaries.

If you’d like more detailed information, please read our state-specific medical card guide here.