Growing Stages of Weed – Learn How Much Time You Need to Grow Marijuana

Learning about the different growing stages of weed is essential in learning how to grow marijuana. As a cannabis plant matures, it goes through a number of growth stages with different needs at each point.

While every strain has its own particular needs and growth schedule, some basic rules will serve you well across the spectrum of weed varieties. Below, we look at how long you can expect to wait for your marijuana plant to mature between seed and harvest, as well as the different stages and what to do at each one.

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small cannabis plants

How Many Months Does It Take a Plant to Mature?

You can expect to wait about three to eight months between planting your seed and harvesting your bud. This process is faster when you begin with an autoflower or clone seed.

You’ll note that there’s quite a bit of uncertainty in that time range. That’s primarily due to the vegetative stage. Among the four phases discussed below, the vegetative stage is the third and can last between three weeks and four months.

A Note on Indoor Vs. Outdoor Grows

Growing indoors allows you to control the plant’s growth rate more closely. However, it’s more expensive, less green, and requires the proper space and tools.

On the other hand, outdoor grows puts you at the mercy of the weather. If all goes as planned, you’ll harvest in the autumn when the sunlight diminishes. You can still have some control over the plant’s growth rate by using a technique called light deprivation.

Either way, your cannabis plants are annuals and will only live one year. Each year they produce seeds that you can use to grow more plants the next year.

The Growth Stages of Weed

Marijuana grows in four different stages:

  • Germination (lasts 3 to 10 days)
  • Seedling (lasts 2 to 3 weeks)
  • Vegetative (lasts 3 weeks to 4 months)
  • Flowering (lasts 8 to 11 weeks)
Growing Stages of Weed


Phase 1: Germination

Indoor light cycle: 18 hours a day

Outdoor light cycle: 6 hours a day of direct sunlight

This cycle begins when you place your seed in the soil. A cannabis seed should be hard to the touch, with no moisture.

When it’s sprouted its roots, it’s time to place it in soil. At this point, the plant’s taproot will begin growing downward while the plant’s stem will grow upward. You’ll notice two round cotyledon leaves unfolding from the seed as well; these are there to absorb sunlight to allow the seed to grow.

The stalk will continue to rise as the seed develops. When you see the first fan leaves, you’ve moved on to the next phase.

Phase 2: Seedling

Indoor light cycle: 18 hours a day

Outdoor light cycle: 6 hours a day of direct sunlight

Your cannabis plant has become a seedling when you notice the first iconic fan leaves. New leaves will grow odd numbers of blades — usually 3, 5, 7, etc. — with 5 or 7 being the most typical number.

Don’t give a plant too much water in this stage. Its roots are small and don’t require much water to grow. In fact, mold and disease are common causes of death during the seedling phase, so avoid too much moisture and be sure to give it enough light.

Even if you’re doing an outdoor grow, it’s not a bad idea to do this part of your grow cycle indoors with artificial light to get through this phase.

Phase 3: Vegetative stage

Indoor light cycle: 18 hours a day

Outdoor light cycle: 6 hours a day of direct sunlight

When you hit the vegetative stage, the plant’s growth becomes more pronounced. This phase lasts between 3 and 16 weeks, or 3 weeks to 4 months. When this phase begins, transplant your cannabis plant into a larger pot, which will allow the roots to develop and leaves to grow quickly.

Begin topping your plant during this phase. You should water farther out from the base of the stalk as well since the roots have expanded outwards during this phase and need water from a wider radius. This helps them take on water more efficiently.

During this phase, it’s important to give your plant enough nitrogen. Make sure to give it the recommended amount of food.

Plants begin to show their sex during the vegetative stage as well. You can expect this a few weeks past the start of this phase. Discard the males as needed. This is important to prevent them from pollinating the females.

Phase 4: Flowering

Indoor light cycle: 12 hours a day

Outdoor light cycle: 6 hours a day of direct sunlight

The final growth stage is when resinous buds begin to sprout. This usually happens 8 to 9 weeks after starting your plant. Some sativas may take longer.

For outdoor grows, flowering will happen when the sun starts to fade in the autumn. For indoor grows, trigger flowering by reducing light to 12 hours a day.

Stop pruning during this time. Pruning during the flowering stage can interfere with necessary hormonal processes. Do use trellises as needed to support the plants and promote airflow.

Keep track

As you hone your growing skills, be sure to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. This will help you save time and money during future grows by avoiding past mistakes. For more information on how to perfect your growing skills, check out our guides.

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JJ Smoak

Brooklyn native, accent-having, travel lover, wordsmith and bud enthusiast. Versed from the streets of NYC, mixed with some world influence, writer/editor and medical user extraordinaire, JJ is here to tell you like it is and guide you to the finest. Brooklyn's favorite feminine stoner, your neighborhood contributor, wrapping leaves like a bandage and bringing you along for the ride.

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