Cannabis is an annual plant. This means that cannabis goes through its entire life cycle within a year. Generally speaking, most strains of
cannabis complete their life cycle, from seed to death, in 4-10 months.
Cannabis is one of the few annuals that tend to have separate male and female plants. However, it is not unknown for a cannabis plant to turn into a hermaphrodite, (a plant with both male and female organs), in times of stress. This is especially the case in the wild, where cannabis strains do not have human intervention or care.
The life cycle of the cannabis plant consists of:
This is the very beginning; the kindling of new life within a seed. All that is required to start germination is water, air and heat. The seed will use this to produce food and start its rapid growth. As the seed germinates the first shoot will grow and break out of the shell, this is the tap root. After this the plant will begin to grow, forcing its way upwards. When it produces its first two leaves known as the cotyledons, this should force the seed shell off the plant and open the way for them to catch light. This is the primary task of a newly germinated seed, to obtain as much light energy for food as possible through its new leaves.
Read more about how to germinate cannabis seeds.
Once the plant has its cotyledons it will focus on developing its next set of leaves. These will look more stereotypical; with larger serrated edges and the elongated “finger” look that is typically associated with the plant. The main focus of this stage is to produce those initial few leaves, but also to build a strong, expansive network of roots in order to facilitate future plant growth. This stage usually ends when the cannabis plant has fully developed its first few sets of leaves. It will have a stem thickness of around 4-6mm and be 3-4 nodes high.
Read more about the seedling stage.
This is the main growing phase of the plant. It will turn from a small seedling into a large, beautiful cannabis plant. It is in this phase that the plant will require all the light and nutrients it can use, but be careful not to overfeed it nutrients, as this is a common rookie error. As long as the plant has what it requires, it will start by continuing to grow upwards towards the light, producing new leaves whilst thickening its branches and stems. When it begins to reach a certain level of maturity it will start to focus its efforts bulking outwards instead of upwards, creating more branches and nodes. Finally, calyx will start to form around the nodes of the plant; this is the final part of the vegetative period and it is an indication that the plant is ready to flower.
Read more about the vegetative stage.
The flowering period starts towards the end of summer when the plant gets less light as the days get shorter. This is an indication to the plant that its life cycle is nearly up and it needs to think about reproduction. It is now that the males will start to produce pollen and the females produce flowers (buds). Should the females' flowers come into contact with the male pollen, they will begin to produce seeds within their buds. Once these are made the buds will open in order to allow for the cannabis seeds to disperse by natural means and start the entire cycle all over again.Cannabis cultivators tend to worry about their females getting pollinated because crops that produce seeds are not very good for smoking. The best way to overcome this is to move your males to a completely separate place as soon as you identify them. This is in order to stop any risk of contamination. If you wish to keep a plant aside in order to create new seeds, then do this away from you main crop. A female that has not been pollinated and contains no seeds is known as a Sinsemilla, (Spanish for “without seed”) and will produce much better weed.
Read more about the flowering stage.
The harvest is not a natural part of the cannabis life cycle per se, but for the grower this is the most crucial and anticipated part of the grow. This is when the cultivators reap the rewards of their effort and obtain their marijuana, ready to be dried and cured. It is very important to get the timing just right here. Too early and the overall yield can be greatly reduced, too late and the quality and THC content will begin to decline.
Read more about the harvest.
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