Jack Frost Landscapes & Garden Center blog for updates on sales and products as well as gardening tips and tricks, recipes, crafts, and more! Explore how to begin growing marijuana plants by comparing seeds versus cuttings, and learn how to acquire the seeds you need. How to care for your cannabis seedling When you’re growing cannabis, you want to keep your plants strong and healthy through every stage of the growing process — and that includes the seedling
Stages of Growing Cannabis
Cannabis, weed, marijuana, kush, ganja – whatever you want to call it, it’s now legal to own and grow in the state of Virginia. So what does this mean for those interested in growing it?
Growing Cannabis for the first time can be quite overwhelming. A quick Google search will lead you to hundreds of results with more information than you can ever sift through. There’s so much to learn – lighting, pH, soils, training methods, curing, and so much more. Where does one start?
It’s really easy to fall down the rabbit hole of information online. The sheer amount of information can almost hinder you when you’re first getting started. I think it’s easiest to just get started and learn as you go.
Starting with gaining a general understanding of the stages of growing Cannabis is a great place to begin before you try growing for the first time. It will help you have a decent idea of what to expect along the way.
How long does Cannabis take to grow?
How long Cannabis takes to grow can vary based on the variety of the plant and conditions it is grown in. On average, from seed to harvest, it takes anywhere from 10-32 weeks (about 3-8 months). It’s a quicker process if you start with a clone (rooted cutting) or an autoflower seed. The biggest variability in how long a marijuana plant takes to grow will happen in the vegetative stage—after the seedling phase and before flowering.
Stages of Growing Cannabis
Every plant begins with a seed. Cannabis seeds should be germinated just like any other seed. They can take anywhere between 3-10 days to germinate, although it can happen in as few as 24 hours or as long as 2 weeks. To germinate, you can place the seeds in a damp paper towel, which you should then place in a dark place, such as inside a drawer. Check on them after a few days to see if the primary root, called the radicle, has emerged. This will look like a little white “tail” coming out of the seed. Once germinated, move them to damp soil.
Alternatively, you can place the seeds directly in damp soil to germinate and grow, without having the trouble of moving them. For this method, I would recommend a seed starting mix. These are usually lighter and fluffier than traditional potting soil, which gives your fragile germinating seeds a start on the right foot. We carry Coast of Maine Sprout Island Blend Organic Seed Starter Mix. It has additional perlite that aerates the soil and helps prevent damping off. It also has mycorrhizae, worm castings, lobster meal, hen manure, and kelp to get your plants off to a healthy start.
2. Seedling Stage
Once your seed has germinated, it’s now time to move the germinated seed from its paper towel to a growing medium. If you started them in a seed starting mix, you will want to move them from the seed tray to a larger pot with a high-quality potting mix, such as the Coast of Maine Stonington Blend Grower’s Mix. This is a super soil, that works especially well for growing Cannabis. It contains mycorrhizae, kelp, alfalfa meal, fish bone meal, worm castings, perlite, manure, peat, coir, and lobster compost that feed your plant throughout the growing cycle, with no need to use additional nutrients.
Plants are considered seedlings for about 2-3 weeks after germination. During this time, the plant should be moved to a spot with direct sun, if growing outdoors. If growing indoors, set your grow lights to run for 16 hours a day.
3. Vegetative Stage
After the seedling stage, Cannabis plants move to a vegetative stage. This is the time when the plant focuses on leaf production. It will not produce flowers at all during this stage, as the plant needs to grow plenty of leaves to take up enough photons (sunlight) to create the necessary energy to produce large flowers. The vegetative stage can last anywhere from 3 to 16 weeks, depending on the variety.
During this stage, indoor plants need 16-18 hours of light per day, and outdoor plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight (“full sun”), plus several hours of indirect sunlight. They will also need plenty of Nitrogen during this point, as Nitrogen is the nutrient that promotes healthy leaf growth.
The flowering stage is the last stage of the Cannabis plant life cycle. This is the time when your plant will stop putting as much energy into leaf growth and will instead focus that energy on creating the flowers (buds), which are used for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Stages of Flowering – Source: Katie Plummer
Cannabis is triggered to flower when the hours of light it receives are reduced. If you’re growing outdoors, you’re at the whim of the seasons and will have to wait until the sun starts to go down in fall for it to flower and then harvest. If you’re growing indoors, you get to play mother nature and can force your plant to flower at any point. When you’re ready for plants to start the flowering stage, change your lights to a 12/12 cycle ( 12 hours with the light on and 12 hours with it off ). You will see signs of flowering in 1-3 weeks . On average plants will be ready to harvest after 8-11 weeks of flowering.
Your plant will be ready to be harvested once flowers are compact and the pistils turn orange/brown. These pistils look like “hairs” coming out of the flowers.
To dry your Cannabis, hang sections of the plant upside down in a dark, cool space, such as a closet. You want to aim for 55-65% humidity and 60-70°F in the spot that you’re drying your plants in. Prolonged periods of light, friction from handling, and humidity/dampness can degrade resin glands, so you will want to avoid all of these.
During the drying process, plants lose roughly 75% of water weight, which increases the cannabinoid to weight ratio. It also helps equalize moisture content, preserve cannabinoids, and shed chlorophyll.
Cannabis is ready to trim once the stem snaps when bent, typically after 3-7 days of drying.
After your plant has dried, it’s time to trim! Trimming makes your fingers very sticky, so wear gloves if this is something you want to avoid. Simply trim off the larger leaves and stems. You can leave smaller sugar leaves if you’d like, as these still contain a good amount of cannabinoids and terpenes that provide the medicinal properties of Cannabis. It’s all personal preference of exactly how much you trim off. And you can save all the trimmings to make edibles, tinctures, salves, and more.
Curing is an essential part and the last stage in growing Cannabis. It helps the buds achieve full aroma. Curing is as simple as placing your freshly trimmed buds in a glass jar with a lid, like a mason jar. You’ll then want to place the jar in a cool, dark place, such as inside a drawer or in a cabinet.
During the first week of curing, you will want to “burp” your jars. This means you should open the containers once or twice a day for a couple minutes to allows moisture to escape and replenish the oxygen inside the container. After the first week, you only need to burp containers once every few days.
You should allow buds to cure for at least 2 weeks, but some people choose to cure for as long as 6 months. This helps stop the loss of moisture and to preserve flavors and aromas.
How to Grow Marijuana from Seed
If you’re in a location where cannabis (another term for marijuana; short for the plant cannabis sativa) is illegal, growing it is probably illegal too. Bringing in seeds or cuttings to your location can very well be a felony, and reputable sellers won’t ship to you.
You can probably purchase and grow hemp seeds and plants, which have a negligible amount of THC, but these plants won’t produce the psychoactive effects of plants that contain higher levels of THC. Check with your seller to be certain you’re getting what you think you’re purchasing. If you buy seeds for CBD-only hemp plants by mistake, you can end up being very disappointed post-harvest.
How to acquire seeds or cuttings
You can usually find cannabis seeds for sale at most dispensaries in areas where growing cannabis for personal use is legal. You may also find growers who sell cuttings/clones. You can expect to pay $50 to $100 for a pack of ten seeds. When shopping for seeds or cuttings, read the labels and any other information the manufacturer provides on its website or in its catalog to make sure you’re getting the right seeds or cuttings (the strain) for the plants you want to grow.
One way to get your mitts on some seeds is to collect seeds when you find them in flowers you purchased, or get some from friends if they’re collecting.
- Feminized seeds: Nearly all seeds sold by reputable companies are feminized, but make sure they are. These seeds are specially treated to grow into female plants.
- Auto-flowering or photoperiod: Auto-flowering plants are easier, because they enter the flower stage after a certain number of weeks regardless of the light/dark cycle. If you’re a beginner, seriously consider going with auto-flowering plants.
- Genetic background: If seeds are from a well-established strain, such as O.G. Kush, Bubble Gum, or a cross-breed, the genetic background should be stated.
- Blend: The blend represents the percentage of the three species — sativa, indica, and ruderalis. All auto-flower strains contain some percentage of ruderalis, which is responsible for the auto-flowering nature of the plant.
- Yield indoors: The number of grams of bud per square meter of plant when grown indoors.
- Yield outdoors: The number of grams of bud per plant (after drying) when grown outdoors.
- Plant height indoors: Shorter than when grown outdoors.
- Plant height outdoors: Taller than when grown indoors.
- Time to harvest: Approximate number of weeks after germination the flower should be ready to harvest.
- Potency: Percentages of CBD and THC.
- Effect: The type of experience you can expect when consuming product from the plant.
Know the laws about buying cannabis
- In some European countries, laws prohibit growing cannabis, but seed is legal, which is quite confusing. You’re allowed to buy and eat cannabis seeds because they’re non-psychotropic, but you can’t buy them to grow cannabis. Other countries in Europe, such as Germany, have their own seed laws.
- In Canada, where cannabis is federally legal, seeds can be shipped across provincial lines.
- In the U.S., in some states in which cannabis is legal, you can purchase seeds from some dispensaries or other locations to grow plants as long as you keep them in the state. Other states may bar selling to non-licensed growers. Shipping or transporting seeds across state or international borders is illegal, although a few reputable online seed stores ship to individuals with success.
Cuttings are typically treated in a similar manner as seeds in legalized locations. They may be available from some dispensaries or outlets for pick up or delivery with a fee. They’re prohibited from crossing U.S. state lines or international borders. You can buy individual plants and mix and match strains. Prices vary and are often determined by plant size.
Buy cuttings (clones) only from a reputable source who understands proper back-crossing of strains for stability. Back-crossing involves pollinating a plant with one of its parent plants to promote sexual stability, so that when you have a female it won’t hermaphrodite into a male during flowering.
Both seeds and clones are often able to be purchased from commercial locations already in your state.
In the U.S., transporting any part of the cannabis plant over state lines is illegal. This applies to seeds and clones and, technically, even to tissue samples.
How to germinate cannabis seeds
Germinating seeds requires a dark environment that is around 70 degrees. There are many ways to germinate seeds (in soil, in a wet paper towel, in starter plugs) You can also sow them directly into soil in a garden or container, as long as the soil is light and fluffy, so the roots can easily grow down and the stalk can break through the soil. Plant the seeds about 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep and cover them loosely with soil.
Most importantly, seeds need a moist environment; they won’t germinate if they get too dry. You can use a heat mat to increase the success of germination in colder climates.
How to transplant marijuana plants
When transplanting any plant, whether it started from seed or a clone, handle it gently, being very careful not to damage the roots. Center the plant in the pot, and plant it deep enough to cover the root ball completely in soil. If the plant is root bound, you can gently tease the roots apart to encourage outward growth.
Pack your soil or other grow medium down around the roots well enough to support the plant while new roots grow, but not so tight that the soil restricts outward root growth. Water the soil around the roots.
About This Article
This article is from the book:
About the book authors:
Kim Ronkin Casey has been a communications professional for more than 20 years and recently took a year-long leap into the world of cannabis as the communications manager for one of the leading dispensaries in North America. She now consults for companies in the industry on internal and external communications. Joe Kraynak is a professional writer who has contributed to numerous For Dummies books.
How to care for your cannabis seedling
When you’re growing cannabis, you want to keep your plants strong and healthy through every stage of the growing process — and that includes the seedling stage.
The seedling stage can be an especially vulnerable time in the growing process. The cannabis seedling is in need of a lot of TLC to grow into a healthy cannabis plant.
In the seedling stage the cannabis seedling is in need of a lot of TLC to grow into a healthy cannabis plant. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
But what does that TLC look like? What steps do you need to take to support your cannabis seedlings through the seedling stage and as they grow into mature marijuana plants?
Let’s take a deep dive into how to care for your baby marijuana plant so you know exactly how to take care of your growing seedling and make sure it grows into a healthy, mature cannabis plant.
What happens during the seedling stage?
Before we jump into how to care for your cannabis seedling, let’s quickly cover what happens during this grow stage.
The growing process has four key stages: the seed germination stage, the seedling stage, the vegetative stage, and the flowering stage. Once the cannabis seeds germinate and are placed into their growing medium (like a potting mix), they start to root into the soil as the stem grows upward, sprouting two cotyledon leaves, which help the plant absorb light and continue to grow.
As the plant grows, it starts to produce more fan leaves — and those leaves continue to develop the ridged edges that you’ll immediately recognize as the marijuana plant. As more leaves grow, more ridged edges develop until finally, the plant is fully grown with each leaf reaching its maximum number of edges (which can be anywhere from 5 ridges per leaf to upwards of 10).
This stage — moving from germinated cannabis seeds to cannabis plants with the maximum number of ridged edges per leaf — is the seedling stage.
The seedling stage is an incredibly important part of the growing process; because the cannabis plant is still young and fragile, proper care is essential if you want to lay the foundation for a healthy mature plant.
But what does that care look like? What are the key things to know when it comes to how to take care of marijuana seedlings?
Choose the right container
Your cannabis seedling needs space to grow. But too much space and too little space can both create problems for your plant.
If you try to grow your seedling in a container that’s too large, the root system won’t be able to absorb all the water in the soil. If you start growing your seedling in a container that’s too small, the roots won’t have space to extend and will start to wrap around themselves, which will also impact their ability to absorb water.
Choosing the right pot is an essential part of caring for your growing plant. You need a pot that’s going to give the root system space to grow, but not so much space that the roots won’t be able to absorb all the water in the soil. You should also make sure the pot has drainage holes to get rid of any excess water that could overwhelm the plant.
Choosing the right pot is an essential part of caring for your growing plant. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Be mindful of how much you water your cannabis seedlings
When it comes to watering your seedlings, you want to give them the water they need to thrive. But too much water can actually have a negative impact on the growth process, so it’s important to be mindful of how much you water your seedlings.
The root system of a seedling isn’t elaborate; the roots are small and don’t need much water to grow. Misting the plants with water once or twice a day should be plenty to give them the hydration they need to grow.
If you’re not sure how much water is too much water, keep in mind that you want the growing medium (AKA the soil) to be damp and moist — not soaked and oversaturated.
Know the signs of nutrient deficiencies
A nutrient deficiency can cause serious issues for your growing plant, so part of proper care is knowing how to spot the signs of a nutrient deficiency.
Nutrient deficiencies can come from a variety of places. “Hot” potting mixes that contain too many nutrients could cause nutrient toxicity. On the other end of the spectrum, under-watering can cause a deficiency in the key nutrients your plant needs to grow.
Some red flags that signal your seedling may have a deficiency in nutrients (or nutrient toxicity) include:
- Dark coloring (cannabis seedlings should be a vibrant shade of green)
- A burned appearance on the tip of the leaves
- A curling on the tip of the leaves
- Yellowing leaves
If you notice any of these issues with your plant, it could be the result of too many or too few nutrients. You’ll need to adjust your growing strategy to support your plant’s health.
Choose the right lighting
Like any plant, seedlings need light in order to grow and thrive. But not all light is created equal. If you want your seedling to grow into a healthy cannabis plant, you need to expose it to the right type of light.
If you’re growing your seedlings outdoors, they’ll need to be exposed to as much sunlight as possible. Keep them in the sun from sunrise to sunset; the more sunlight exposure they get, the better.
If you’re growing your seedlings outdoors, they’ll need to be exposed to as much sunlight as possible. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
But growing your seedlings outdoors can be tricky. Because you can’t control sunlight, there’s no way to ensure your cannabis seedlings are getting the light they need to grow properly. A cloudy day can prevent your seedlings from getting enough light and throw off your entire growth process.
Growing your seedlings indoors with artificial light gives you more control over the process, making it easier to ensure your plants are getting enough light each day. If you’re growing with artificial lights (compact fluorescent lights that emit cooler, blue spectrum light are especially effective), aim to give your plants 18 hours on and six hours off each day.
Keep your environment at the right temperature and humidity
Environmental conditions are essential to growing healthy cannabis seedlings, and some of the most important conditions to control are temperature and humidity.
The temperature in your grow environment shouldn’t exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, otherwise the seedlings may grow too tall. (You should also plan on lowering the temperature at night to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.)
You should also aim to keep humidity in the grow environment at a higher level, typically around 70 percent. That way, the plants can absorb moisture from the environment to develop stronger roots without getting weighed down by over-watering.
Get out there and grow your seedling into a full-grown marijuana plant
Watching your cannabis seeds transform into seedlings is an exciting part of the growth process. And now that you know how to care for your cannabis seedling, you should have everything you need to transform your seedling into a mature, healthy, and flowering cannabis plant.