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When do Cannabis Plants Start to Smell?

Created by
JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 6 September 2020

That lovely, aromatic smell of a sticky cannabis plant ready for harvest will get any grower's ganja sense tingling. Let's take a look at when cannabis plants start develop their scent and how you can follow your nose along the way.

When Do Cannabis Plants Start To Smell?

What does a cannabis plant smell like?

Anyone who likes cannabis will know that the smell is one of its most attractive features. Cannabis plants produce a delicious blend of pungent flavours that are impossible to miss, and will leave you looking forward to harvest day even more. 

Cannabis Terpenes Can Also Be Found In Lemon, Pine, Lavender, Black Pepper

As weed becomes more popular across the world, recognizing that distinct skunky smell floating through the air is quite a common occurrence. Cannabis comes in all kinds of flavours, all with their own unique smell. From lemon to pine, to lavender and black pepper, there are some distinct aromas which can be found present in all sorts of strains of cannabis. 

The smell of strong cannabis is a love/hate thing and as a grower, you might be wondering when your plants will start smelling so you can prevent it from reaching unwelcoming nostrils. This article was written to show how to look for those tell tale signs that your cannabis plants are about to explode with flavour.

Why does cannabis smell?

A cannabis plant's smell changes as it grows. When plants are very small they do not give off a smell but most people know this does not last for long. Once a cannabis plant is fully grown its smell can be overwhelming to even the most experienced grower.

But, where does the smell come from? The potent odor being released by your plants is created by various components in the terpene oils that are developing in the trichomes of the plant.

Terpenes Are Found Inside Trichomes

The following terpenes are those most commonly found in cannabis and are responsible for their irresistible aroma.

  • Myrcene 
  • Limonene 
  • Linalool
  • Beta-caryophyllene 
  • Pinene 

These terpenes can often be found in other plants as well. Limonene, for example is also found in lemons, as the name suggests. These terpenes also come with a number of medical and therapeutic benefits.

Terpene Extracts

Cannabis smells and flavours have been described in many ways. Most cannabis strains smell entirely different to one another because of the different levels of certain terpenes present in the plant. Myrcene is predominantly what gives cannabis it's strong earthy smell but the intensity of other terpenes is what makes weed smell more lemony, piney or floral, amongst others.

TerpeneAromaAlso Found In
MyrceneMusky, EarthyMangos, Thyme
LimoneneCitrusLemons, Oranges
LinaloolFloral, SweetLavender, Mint, Rosewood
Beta-CaryophylleneSpice, Clove, WoodBlack Pepper, Cinammon, Oregano
PinenePinePine Trees

Vegetation

Cannabis plants start to smell during the vegetative cycle. The leaves of the plant do have a scent but it is not the same as the smell that comes from the flowers. It sounds quite obvious spelling it out, but weed leaves smell much more weedy and flowers smell much more floral.

Don't expect your plants to smell like dank weed as soon as they break the surface of the soil. The first signs will come after week 3 of vegging, depending on the strain.

You can learn what weedy means by putting your nose close to the plant and giving it a good whiff. Rubbing a leaf in between your fingers will also release it's scent and you can instantly notice that classic weed leaf smell.

As a plant begins to develop it's preflowers around the internodes after a few weeks of flowering, the smell will become much more fragrant. It still won't be nearly as potent as later on during flower, but you should notice some hints from these small preflowers.

If you do pick up on any unusual, strong smells during the vegging stage it could mean you have an underlying problem somewhere. Environmental inconsistencies such as high humidity can cause problems such as rot, which will not produce a nice smell.

Look out for odd smells during flowering as well. These can be slightly easier to miss as the bad odor could be masked under the smell of the buds.

Note: You may notice smells more strongly in the morning or during hot hours of the day when there is increased enzyme activity in the plant. 

Smells Develops As A Cannabis Plant Matures

Flowering

As a cannabis plant develops its flowers, the smell will start to get stronger and stronger. After around 2 weeks into their flowering cycle, they have a noticeable aroma which will intensify as buds start to grow.

Part of the flowering process is the development of trichomes, which can be found growing on and around bud sites. When more of these grow as a plant reaches the peak of it's flowering stage, the flowers will be at their most pungent.

As the trichomes begin to ripen, there are changes in the composition of the terpenes. Towards the end of the flowering cycle a cannabis plant will usually have a very aromatic, earthy smell. After the trichomes have reached peak THC content and begin to degrade, the smell can mature into something a lot more weedy or piney.

Many growers like to produce weed that has pungent smells however, the intensity of a cannabis plant's smell is not related to how strong it is, so don't get confused. A strain can have almost no smell after curing but still be super potent.

Flushing at the end of the flowering cycle will remove any nutrient build up in your plants, making them smell even better. Flush for 2 weeks before harvest so you end up with the cleanest bud. You will notice how the smell becomes cleaner and more fresh.

Note: If you are concerned about the smell of your cannabis plants spreading to unwanted locations, make sure you invest in a good carbon filter. Carbon filters actually remove odors from the air, making them the most effective way of controlling the scent of your garden when it really starts to smell. Ensure you have a carbon filter set up that can handle size of your fan and grow space. 

Before and after Harvest

Before you harvest your garden will probably smell fantastic. It can be quite disappointing after you harvest to notice that the smell drastically changes and suddenly does not have the same vibrancy to it.

This is perfectly normal as the plant begins to break down the chlorophyll. Drying and curing slowly is important because if chlorophyll degrades too quickly it will remove some of the terpene flavours with it.

Chlorophyll Begins To Break Down After Harvesting

The smell of your final product will probably still be less intense than it was when it was on the plant. Some strains won't have much smell even after being well cured but this is not necessarily a bad thing. If it has a grassy smell after curing then it could be that it was dried too quickly.

Setting the correct ventilation, humidity and drying for the right amount of time will affect the final product a lot, so make sure you learn about the post harvest process.

Conclusion

You will probably be smelling your plants regularly anyway because it is such a joy in itself to just experience their development. Gauge the smells of different strains over time and see if you can pick out their aromatic characteristics.

We hope this article helped you learn more about what different cannabis smells means and how to tell when these smells are present in your garden. Drop us a comment with your favourite cannabis smells, we'd love to hear from you!

External References

Terpene Synthases from Cannabis Sativa. - Booth, Judith & Page, Jonathan & Bohlmann, Joerg. (2017)

Trichomes of Cannabis Sativa L. (Cannabaceae). - American Journal of Botany. Dayanandan, P. & Kaufman, Peter. (1976)

This article was updated August 2020.






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