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Cannabis Life Cycle: How Long Does it Take to Grow Weed Indoors?

Added 21 January 2022

There’s no looking back once you start growing cannabis. 

Truth be told, growing is more addictive than the herb itself. 

But, there are so many questions lingering in your mind before you start. 

Are you going to save anything growing cannabis, or are you better off buying from a dispensary?

This is a common question, but the answer depends on the time required to grow and harvest buds. 

The problem is that there’s no set answer carved in stone.

It also depends on where you’re growing. 

For instance, growing outdoors will take a considerably long time, and the yields, of course, will be more. But, on the other hand, growing indoors will let you harvest in a relatively short period, although the yield will be less. 

In addition, growing autoflowers will further reduce the time required to grow cannabis indoors. 

In short, the time required depends on a variety of factors, like your choice of strain, growth objectives, equipment, and growing environment. 

To get the entire picture, you need to understand how the plant grows in each of its growing stages, how various factors affect its growth, and how you can boost its growth if you want to. 

In this article, we go into detail about each of these things. 

Factors that Affect Growth

Factors influencing growth time

As mentioned above, many factors affect the growth of your plant. So, let’s take a look at the most common factors below:

  • Temperature: Ideally, the temperature for growing healthy cannabis plants is 68°F to 86°F during the day and 55°F to 68°F during the night. Even minor fluctuations out of these ranges can significantly slow down your plant’s growth.
  • Root system size: Similarly, the size of the plant’s root also affects its growth. For example, if the roots are too big for the growing medium, your plant will eventually stop growing or producing buds. Conversely, if the roots are small, you will have to be more patient because the plant will be slow.
  • Stress factors: Cannabis is demanding, and even minor issues like overwatering, nutrient abundance, constantly changing environment, and pests can affect its growth.
  • Strains: Some cannabis strains take longer to grow than others, so your strain choice also significantly affects the cannabis growth time.
  • Your knowledge of the plant: Lastly, your understanding of growing the plant also affects the timeline. If you run into a problem and ignore it or make mistakes during the growing process, your plant will take longer to grow.

Keeping these factors in mind, let’s take a deep dive into the cannabis growing process.

Average Growing Time for Cannabis Plants

Some cannabis plants take 3-4 months to grow, while others may need 2-3 months. It all depends on the type — autoflowers or photoperiod strains you choose. 

But on average, you can expect your photoperiod cannabis plant to grow in 14 to 20 weeks. If you want to reduce the time, go for autoflowers. However, note that the yields will also be less than photoperiod strains. 

This time range is not clear enough, so let’s break it down into the plant’s growth phases.

Here is what an average growing time for each phase of the plant looks like:

  • Equipment setup: 1 day to 2 weeks
  • Sourcing seeds or clones: 1 day to 4 weeks
  • Germinating seeds: 12 hours to 8 days
  • Seedling phase: 1 to 4 weeks
  • Vegetative phase: 2 weeks to 6 months
  • Flowering phase: 2 to 3 months
  • Harvesting phase: 1 to 3 days

The time to grow cannabis varies because there are differences in growing techniques, strains, and more. In essence, each decision you make during the growing process alters the growth period. 

Below is a detailed description of how the plant grows to give you a clear idea of the expected timeline for your plant.

  • Equipment Setup

Gather all equipment

If you’ve already researched the type of equipment you need, the process can be as short as one day. But, stuff like lights, carbon filters, grow tents, etc., can take time. 

Not only do you have to spend time researching the spectrum when buying lights, but it may also take a while to get it shipped. 

In addition, the time varies on the type of system you choose. For example, hydroponics growers will need different equipment than those growing in soil. 

If you plan to buy a pre-built hydroponics system from your nearby retailer, you’re ready to move to the next stage in a day. However, if you plan to DIY your hydroponic setup, you will need a couple of weeks for the parts to get delivered, set it up, and conduct test runs. 

If you want to hasten your cannabis plant’s growth, we recommend using pre-built systems as they are quick to set up. But, on the other hand, nothing beats DIY-ing your unique cannabis setup.

Typically, you will need anywhere from a month to 45 days to source all equipment, so it’s best to plan the next steps after receiving everything you ordered. 

  • Sourcing Seeds or Clones

Seeds or clones

Most growers start with seeds, but if you’re lucky enough to get clones, go for them because they cut the waiting considerably faster. It won’t take more than a couple of days if you’re taking a clone from someone in your area. You can also source local seeds from growers or friends in your area. 

However, if you’re planning to buy seeds shipped internationally, it will take anywhere from 30-45 days. In this case, you can order your equipment and seeds at once to reduce the waiting time. 

If you’re going for clones, ensure the mother plant is healthy, or it’s all just a waste of time. 

So, we recommend researching and finding the best strain from your nearest supplier if you want to get done with this stage as quickly as possible. 

  • Germinating Seeds

Germination

You’ve got the equipment and seeds ready. Now, it’s time to grow the plant. 

Typically, seed germination takes a few days, and some seeds can even sprout within a day. Many growers plant the seeds directly in the soil, but there are various ways to speed up the germination process. 

For starters, soak the seeds in plain water for 24 hours and transfer them to a kitchen towel. You can then seal the towel in a ziplock bag or any other airtight container to increase humidity and encourage germination. The moisture present in the towel will soften the shell and help the seeds germinate faster. 

Sometimes, the seeds may not sprout even after 7-10 days if the environment is too cold. If you’re facing this problem repeatedly, invest in a heating pad for seeds to provide adequate warmth for the seeds. 

Once the seeds develop tap roots (the white root at the end of the seed looking like a tail), you can transfer them to small pots. You can transplant them to bigger pots once the seedlings grow a few nodes and leaves. 

Some growers plant their seeds in large containers to avoid transplanting them; however, transplanting the plants at a later stage helps them grow better, so it’s up to you. 

  • Seedling Phase

Seedling

Your cannabis plant is beginning to grow now. In the seedling phase, the cotyledons begin to take shape, and you will see the first cannabis leaves grow in a leaflet form. 

This phase takes 1 to 4 weeks to grow, but if your seedling takes too long, you can administer low-strength nutrients after the third set of leaves sprout to hasten its growth.

  • Vegetative Phase

Vegetative stage

The vegetative phase is completely under your control — you get to decide how long this phase will last. 

How so? The vegetative phase depends on your system’s light cycle. The sooner you change your light cycle from 18/6 to 12/12, the faster your plant will go into the flowering stage. 

Once you reduce the light and provide only 12 hours, the plant will switch to the flowering stage since it senses that the season is changing. 

Typically, most growers let their cannabis plants grow in the vegetative stage for about 4 to 10 weeks. This period depends on the strain, your knowledge, and the size you're expecting.

Note that the size of the plant in the vegetative stage will affect the yield at the end. It is safe to say that the bigger the plant, the better the yields unless you end up with a plant that grows lanky stems with very few buds that occurs when the lights are placed far away from the plant.

In some cases, the grower may want to switch to the flowering stage faster because of space constraints. For example, if you're growing in a closet, you have no choice other than to switch to the flowering stage in the third or fourth week of the vegetative stage.  

Some growers force their plants to switch to the flowering stage during the second or third week of their vegetative stage, and some switch to 12/12 immediately after germination; however, the plant will not grow much and will likely yield less than an ounce of wet cannabis.

Cannabis plants also grow in the flowering stage and stretch double their size at times. If your plants have no space to grow, you can train them through several techniques such as LST, topping, Scrog, trellising, crimping, tying, etc., to boost the yield. And in tandem with these techniques, you can reduce your vegetative stage by a week or so. 

In addition, use an appropriate number of lights according to the plants — using too much or inadequate light can affect the size of the plants in both the vegetative and flowering stages.

Some growers are forced to switch their plants to flowering quickly because they lack light. For example, if you have only CFL lights, spending too much time in the vegetative stage doesn’t make sense as the results won't be satisfactory.

Some growers switch their light cycle to end the vegetative phase in 2 to 3 weeks, but we don’t recommend doing so. Ending the vegetative phase too soon can result in a smaller plant and fewer buds — unless that is your objective.

We recommend keeping your cannabis plant in the vegetative stage for at least a month before switching the light cycle. This would result in a sizable harvest because the more light your plant absorbs during this phase, the bigger the buds will be.

  • Flowering Phase

Flowering

As mentioned earlier, you can move your plant from the vegging phase to the flowering stage by simply changing the light cycle to 12/12. 

But during this phase, your plant will consume less nitrogen than before. So, you need to balance the NPK solution ratio to have higher phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen. 

During this time, your cannabis plant will also reveal its sex. Some strains take up to 20 days in the flowering phase to indicate their sex. 

To know whether your plant is a male or female, look for a couple of white hairs or pistils coming out of the nodes. Only female plants produce pistils, whereas males produce small balls or pollen sacs. 

If you have a male plant, you need to extract it carefully and move it to a different grow site to avoid pollination of the female ones.

As the plants grow further in the flowering phase, you should watch the pistils. Most growers harvest their plants when at least 70% of the pistils turn amber. If you notice many white pistils standing upright, wait for some more time as the plants aren’t ready yet. 

Harvesting the plants earlier will produce buds that are slightly more psychoactive while waiting for too long will yield buds that produce a body high. This isn’t a proven fact, but it’s best to harvest mature cannabis plants rather than young ones. 

You can also flush the plants just when you’re about two weeks away from flowering; however, it’s not necessary to flush the plants if you’ve used organic fertilizers.

  • Harvesting Phase

Harvesting

Finally, you get to the harvesting phase. This phase’s growth period depends on your strain’s yield, height and quality, and your expertise in harvesting. 

Cannabis pistils

As mentioned already, check out the color of the pistils before harvesting. Most amber pistils will curl up as you can see in this pic above — a classic sign that’s it’s ready to be harvested. 

Trichomes

For more accuracy, you can also observe the color of the trichomes (resin glands that look like mushrooms or lollipops) with a jeweler’s loupe. If most trichomes are clear, wait for some more time; however, if they are cloudy or milky, you can begin harvesting the plant. If you see too many amber-colored trichomes, the buds are over-ripe. 

Use clean shears or scissors to harvest the buds. Cut down the branches first and then start separating the buds. You can either trim the buds now, called wet trimming, or save them for later, known as dry trimming. 

In addition, you can trim them with your hand or a trimming machine. It may take about a day to trim half a pound by hand, while a trimmer can shave off an ounce per hour. 

Choose the one that suits you best. A trimmer is a great investment to speed up the process, but hand trimming is the superior option if you want to be meticulous. 

  • Drying

Drying

Drying is a slow process that depends on the environment. The buds need a well-ventilated space to get started. A fan or two with a light breeze blowing on the buds will work fine but don’t overdo it with too many fans, or you’ll end up with extremely dry buds. 

Whether you tape the buds and hang them to a drying rack or stack them on a laundry drying basket, make sure you place them in a dark area with humidity ranging from 50 to 60%. 

Depending on their size, it may take anywhere from 6-14 days to dry the buds. It may also take more time if you have too many buds to handle. 

  • Curing

Curing

Do not try to speed up both the drying and curing process because the quality of your cannabis depends on these two final steps. Many growers get tempted to skip the curing process and try to use their buds before curing them, but it’s a costly mistake as you’ll ruin the taste and end up with harsh buds that are hard on the throat. 

To cure the buds, get mason jars and fill them with buds until 3/4th of the way to leave some room for the buds to breathe. Leave the jars open for 24 hours. Keep opening the jars for a few minutes every day for the next week. Finally, close the lids and leave them undisturbed for at least six weeks. 

The temperature should be around 70°F with the humidity ranging from 60 to 65%. You can store the jars in closed cupboards, and adding a few Humidipaks (humidity controlling packets) will keep the humidity constant. 

Of course, you’ll have to check the buds occasionally (at least once a week) to see if they are doing well from the second week. 

Although six weeks seems like a lot of time to cure buds, the buds will only get better with time. For best effects, many growers cure their buds for 3-4 months, but you can start using them after six weeks. 

Ways to Quicken Your Cannabis Plant’s Growth

So, as you can see, it may take up to 14 to 16 weeks and more to harvest your cannabis plants. But what if you wanted to get some buds a bit faster?

Grow autoflowers.

Unlike photoperiod plans, autoflowers do not rely on light to start flowering. This means that the plant will start flowering automatically, depending on its size and time. Therefore, the plants will begin flowering if you don't manually switch them from the 18/6 to the 12/12 cycle.

Many autoflowers start flowering in just four weeks after germination, while some may take up to five weeks. Some may finish their entire life cycle in just ten weeks, while other autoflowers may need up to 12 weeks, which means that you can save at least 6-8 weeks compared to photoperiod plants.  

Auto flowers also require less space in comparison to photoperiod plants. However, they will yield less. If you plan well, though, you can grow more autoflowering plants in the same space and harvest them perpetually to get more yield.

You can do other things to speed up the process and get buds faster. Remember, patience pays well when growing cannabis, and it’s best to wait for the plant to do its thing. However, if you have to get buds quickly, you can do so in a few ways. Here are a few things you can do about that.

  • Choose a fast-growing strain: Choose strains that grow fast, like Indica strains. Or you can simply choose an auto-flowering strain as they grow quickly.
  • Minimize the vegetation phase: To cut downtime, you can switch to a 12/12 light cycle as soon as possible. This will result in smaller plants and buds, but this technique won’t affect you much if you’re okay with smaller buds.
  • Start with clones: Sourcing the seeds and germinating them can take a lot of time; instead, you can simply clone your cannabis batch. Just ensure the mother plant is healthy and available in your local region. The process doesn’t change much except, instead of germinating the seeds, you have to keep your clone in water or growing medium to sprout roots before planting it.
  • Provide ideal growing conditions: The best way to optimize cannabis cultivation is by providing ideal growing conditions. So, as per your cannabis system, always provide the recommended conditions. In addition, we recommend doing thorough research for each decision you make; use online forums to discuss the same. 

Summary: How Long Does it Take to Grow Weed?

There’s no specific answer to the question — how long does it take to grow weed?

Remember your goals, the type of strain you are growing, and how fast you want it to grow. Accordingly, provide the plant with the right conditions to keep it on track and minimize the phases. 

For instance, if you are using a hydroponic system, switch to a 12/12 light cycle once the plant has grown enough instead of waiting for the plant to grow big. Or simply use clones instead of seeds to quicken the initial stages of the plant’s growth.

Whether your cannabis plant takes two months or nine entirely depends on your system, strain, and skills. Use this article as a guide to help you get the best out of your cannabis cultivation.

 






Comments

nedreynolds
nedreynolds

Wow... where was this when I needed it.
Easy to follow and so complete.
Well done.
FIVE thumbs way up!