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Stages of Marijuana Growth
(from Seed to Harvest)

By Jennifer | November 16th, 2019

This is our guide about the stages of marijuana growth.

In today’s guide you’ll learn:

  • How & how long marijuana plants grow
  • The different stages from seed to harvest
  • Important growing factors
  • The many uses of cannabis
  • Lots more!

This knowledge-packed-guide will kickstart your growth adventure! 

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Get a head start by learning the basics

Marijuana itself is a highly talked about subject these days, while more and more states are hopping on board the legalization train.

What about growing it, though?

This is something we found difficult in the beginning; however, now we’ve made a success of it, we’re here to open the doors on growing.

If you already have a green thumb or are intending to start from scratch, it’s important to know the basic stages involved in growing marijuana.

This will give you a head start in hopes that your first experience will be a successful one.

From seed to harvest, the plant goes through an intriguing process. It’s time to break it down and see what it has in store.

How Long Does It Take to Grow Weed?

Knowing the answer to this will enable you to make the definitive plans for growing weed. The exact length of time depends on a variety of factors, of course. The main factor to look at first is whether you intend to grow indoors or outdoors.

indoor vs outdoor marijuana grow time

Indoor Growing Time

When growing indoors, your average growth time, from start to finish, will be anywhere between 3 and 5 months. 

During this period, and depending on your setup, you’ll look after your seeds under a highly-controlled environment.

Because of the control, you’re offered here, you’re able to watch over a wide selection of seeds/strains at one time.

Outdoor Growing Time

Growing indoors opens you up to a lack of control. You’ll throw your lighting and other systems to the wayside, and you give most of it up to Mother Nature.

In this setting, it’ll take 4 to 8 months, depending on the growth factors listed below.

You might be stuck growing less variety here, but growing outdoors affords you the chance to pick seeds that have long been suitable for the environment.

Further, your yield can be much greater in the expansive outdoors.

Other Important Growing Factors

Aside from the choice of indoors and outdoors, take into the following areas:

  • Seed varieties
  • Strain characteristics
  • Indica vs. Sativa
  • Potential yield

Growing Factor 1: Seed varieties

Believe it or not, the different types of cannabis are now well into the thousands, and some take longer to grow than others.

The two main categories we produce at Marijuana Seed Breeders include:

  • Feminized seeds
  • Auto-flowering feminized seeds

Feminized Seeds

Feminized seeds are the most-used option because they’re easy to grow and can produce strong, resilient plants with similar effects to auto-flowering seeds.

Depending on whether they’re grown outdoors or not, their growth time has a wide range of up to 32 weeks.

Auto-flowering seeds

For those needing small plants that can grow in a shorter amount of time, auto-flowering seeds will be your best option. These plants are compact and less potent than their counterparts above.

Grow time will take around 12 to 16 weeks for this selection.

Growing Factor 2: Strain Characteristics

Based on the seeds you choose, these strains will carry different growth characteristics.

A few factors are at play here

  • Height
  • Growth speed
  • Bud quality

A plant’s height is going to determine where you can plant it and what will be around it. While some may stay as squatty, compact bushes, others will be tall and lean. The former will usually have a shorter growing period.

Regardless, you’ll want your species to thrive and have enough space to do so. This will be especially important come flowering time when some plants really take off — we cover this in the flowering section below.

Where the buds are concerned, some plants will have denser more aromatic buds while others can be on the subtle side. Higher-quality buds will take longer to grow. 

Indica vs. Sativa

The two main distinctions made between strains are Indica and Sativa.


Indicas tend to be shorter and fatter in stature. The bushy, dense growth usually doesn’t surpass around 152 cm/60 inch. 

Their size enables them to be ready in as little as 3 months.

The smell is usually quite strong, which might make them better for indoor growth.

Overall, these strains offer a relaxing full-body experience.


On the other hand, Sativas can grow from 180 cm/72 inch up to nearly 300 cm/ 120 inch

They have a more narrow, loose-leaf look to them with a fruity or floral smell.

Sativas can take up to 2 to 4 months longer to grow.

They produce a more psychoactive, energetic head high, as opposed to Indicas.

Potential Yield

Is a high-yielding harvest and variety more important than the time it takes?

If you choose to grow multiple strains at once, this could be a longer process, but it also provides more marijuana.

The more you grow, the higher your chances are of a better yield overall.

You’ll be harvesting plants at different times, however, and that’s something to consider.

If you choose to stick with a small yield and faster-growing plants, this could cut your supply by a lot but also cut the time it takes, thus, the labor as well.


How Marijuana Plants Grow — Essential Elements for Growth

With the above factors taken into account, including whether you’ll grow indoors or out, you should now build in knowledge on how marijuana plants grow.

If it’s your first time growing, you might imagine plopping the seeds in and watering them with care.

These two things are important, but it’s more complicated than that! 

Three basic elements are crucial for the process:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Light
  • Water

From the ground, the roots take in water and transfer that precious liquid to the leaves, with the help of the stalks.

The leaves are then ready to remove carbon dioxide from the air, while also taking in light (energy).

Oxygen is then produced. Factors like humidity, temperature and soil quality also play a role here. 

Once you learn the balancing act of managing optimal conditions for your plants, these factors will come like second nature to you.

Understanding what the stages of growth are, completes the picture.


Stages of Growing Marijuana

There are six important stages in the growth process, starting with a simple seed and ending with cured cannabis buds in storage. 

Depending on these stages, the plant will require different amounts of water, light and nutrients:

  1. Seed
  2. Germination
  3. Seedling
  4. Vegetative
  5. Flowering
  6. Harvesting, including drying, curing and storing

Do keep in mind that the length of these steps is dependent on a plant’s location (indoors or out) and the species. We’ve stuck with indoor/greenhouse controls for the example here.

Stage 1: Seed (Choose Wisely)

This is where it all begins! Because of this, it’s important that you choose a trusted supplier with high-quality seeds.

In general, your seeds should feel both dry and hard, and be brown in color.

Different shades of brown are common, but if you receive a softer, greener seed, this means the seed isn’t development and probably won’t grow.

Stage 2: Germination (3–7 Days)

This is technically the first step in the growing process and is also known as “popping” your seeds. This is the initiation from a seed to a “seedling.”

For this to happen, your original seed needs:

  • Water
  • Heat
  • Air

Once you build a moist, warm (between 70℉  and 90℉ /21℃ - 32℃) environment for your seeds, your patience will come into play. It doesn’t take much but a small space and some basic supplies.

You’ll find that some will germinate quite quickly, while others move at a snail’s pace.

When a single sprout appears, you know the seed has germinated (popped), and it’s time to transplant it to a happy growing medium (its soiled growing area).

The roots will then start to form with a few fanned leaves, which constitutes a seedling.

Stage 3: Seedling (2–3 Weeks)

You have a baby plant on your hands, so remember to talk kindly to it because they appreciate that!

You’ll now notice the leaves will start sprouting. How fast this process occurs is influenced by a variety of factors, including airflow, water amount and strain. 

During this stage, the seedling will need around 18 hours of light per day.

As the seed progresses, you’ll notice more fingers showing up on the leaves, whereas a baby seedling will only have one, rigid blade, initially. Most species will grow between 5 and 7 fingers in total, per leaf. 

Once this occurs, you know your seedling has reached the next step. Try to focus here on raising a resilient species versus the exact amount of time it takes. Taking this approach from the beginning ensures a more successful grow.

Tip: Be careful not to overwater at this stage as seedlings are sensitive to mold.

Stage 4: Vegetative (Outdoor 3–16 Weeks*)

Your seedling is now in a larger pot and has developed leaves and roots. At this time, you’ll start “training” your plants. This means you need to be focused on plant nutrition, which includes a good, nitrogen-rich soil.

For light, you’ll continue in full sun outdoor.

Take notice of the thicker, taller stalks with new branches popping up. As your plants grow, you’ll spread your watering out from just the soil and stalks to the leaves. The more it branches out, the more ground you need to cover. 

During this stage, your baby plant, at less than 25 cm/10 inch tall, will grow up to a whopping 250 cm/98 inch.

You’ll feel very proud of your baby plant!

*Unless you have an airplane hangar at your disposal, you can skip this stage when growing indoors ;-)

Stage 5: Flowering (8–11 Weeks)

You’ve nearly at the end of the process, and this may feel like the most anticipated step — waiting for those buds to appear! For this to occur, three main things will need to happen:

  • Scale back light from 18 hours to 12 per day
  • Add nutrients, including phosphorus and potassium
  • Stop pruning as it disturbs the hormones at this point

Some buds come with a purple, blue color. Others are more orange. You’ll even find little crystal-covered beauties. 


Stage 6: Harvest (1–3 Weeks)

Ah, yes, the part where you enjoy the fruits of your labor. Once the buds are fully developed, you’ll be reaching harvest time.

How do you know when this stage has arrived, though? On a grown cannabis plant, you’ll notice little resinous glands/hairs called trichomes springing out from the buds. 

The THC and CBD cannabinoids are located within these glands, so it’s critical you take care of them. After all, that’s where you’ll find all the psychoactive and medicinal properties. When fully grown, these guys will change color from a clear, milky hue to being more opaque or even amber. 

Aside from this, there are three steps in the harvesting process:

  • Drying: You’ll start by cutting the trunk from the roots. Do this as close to the base as possible and divide the branches, so the drying process is easier. The plants will be left alone for another 4 to 5 days, hung up in a dry environment.
  • Curing: After the plants are completely dried, you’ll remove all the beautiful buds and place them in containers, preferably glass. They’ll stay here for 2 to 3 weeks as they cure. This stage allows for the drying process to continue and produces a smoother smoke.
  • Storing: Once cured, the buds are ready for storage. This also means it’s time to partake!


How to Use Marijuana

Most of us are aware by now that one can consume cannabis in a variety of ways. How you use it will depend on your personal preferences and needs. 

These include:

  • Smoking
  • Using a vaporizer
  • Oils and balms.
  • Edibles (yum)
  • Tinctures

Smoking Weed

Smoking is old news! But, did you know there are multiple ways to do this?

You have the classic bong scenario, which is a water pipe that’s usually made of glass. 

There’s a small handheld pipe that includes the bowl, which holds the bud and the pipe piece itself.

Lastly, a classic joint-style session includes just that, where cannabis is often mixed with tobacco or rolled on its own.


Vaporizers, on the other hand, are relatively new on the scene. They’re most recommended for medical reasons because they draw out the cannabinoids without burning them and are electronic and smokeless.

Oils and Balms

If you’re into cannabis for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, you might be interested in using it in oil or balm form. Many topical formulas are available that include cannabis oil mixed with other ingredients like aloe vera or beeswax. 


Do you prefer to eat your way to high heaven? Edibles provide you with that option. You’ll find them in your local dispensary, or you can make your own. 

They’re appreciated for their long-lasting effects and come in many forms, including candied gummies and chocolate bars.


This form is similar to essential oils you’d find at your health food store.

Here, instead of adding something like lavender or tea tree to alcohol, cannabis is added, which forms the base for the tincture. You then place a few drops of the liquid under your tongue, and the effects are nearly immediate.

Tinctures can include other herbs as well, which makes them a good option where natural remedies are concerned.


Time to Grow

There you have it: the stages of marijuana growth!

From seed to harvest, marijuana goes through a lengthy process as it changes and develops along the way. 

As you can see, the time it takes for the entire growth period to occur depends on a wide variety of factors, including the strain and where it’s grown.

You can have a mama plant in as little as two to three months, or it may take as long as seven.

Now that you understand how it works, you should have a better idea of the basics required of you as a grower.

With the proper lighting, nutrients and space, you may have a greener thumb than you thought. Just don’t smoke too much of a heavy strain while you’re tending to your new baby marijuana plants!

We hope you found our guide useful.

Be on the lookout for upcoming articles that detail the above stages in greater depth.

Article by:


I have a passion for nutrition, organic supplements, and (mental) health. After learning about the beneficial properties of marijuana, I dedicated myself to writing articles that will teach you everything there is to learn about this miraculous plant. I'm looking forward to sharing with people how they can incorporate the benefits of marijuana into their healthy lifestyle: you don't have to smoke to consume marijuana.

Henk Bob

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