Cannabis Cultivation Life Cycle

cannabis cultivation
Written by Cara Wietstock

This plant has a short life cycle compared to some other plants, but that doesn’t mean that cannabis cultivation is easy.

During its life cycle, cannabis goes through a few major milestones. Knowing about these milestones will help even a novice grower understand what’s happening in their grow room. It will also help if there are any issues with the plants. Having knowledge of what the plants should look like will help us stay aware in case of contaminants or issues. This cannabis cultivation journey goes from seed to harvest. However, plants can also be grown by clones taken from plants in the vegetative stage. Let’s learn more.


Each single cannabis seed is produced by two parents through sexual reproduction. These seeds will carry both male and female genes. Each seed also holds a little plant waiting to be activated by moisture. Seeds don’t last forever, but most can be woken up after being exposed to some heat and water. Seeds are pretty hardy but they won’t last forever. They survive best in a cool, dark place; but below freezing temperatures are also dangerous for cannabis seeds.

Exposing the seeds to moisture and light and activating them is called germination. Germination is the activation of a series of hormones within the seed that begins the growing process. We’ve all seen photos of one root breaking through the shell of a seed, this is exactly what happens. A green stalk with two leaves will shoot up out of the plant as a response to heat and moisture.


Eventually the seed will break and the seedling will be ready to be planted. At this point the leaves at the top of the plant will be developing and the root systems will begin to develop. When new leaves grow the plant will fully begin its growth cycle. This stage is defined by the stable root system and the development of real leaves. A plant can remain in seedling stage for three to six weeks. This time varies due to the particular strain that is being cultivated and the environmental factors. In these early stages it is most important to pay attention to how quickly foliage develops.


The development of larger fan leaves marks the beginning of the vegetative (veg) stage in cannabis cultivation. At this stage the plant is able to absorb and process more nutrients. The roots will continue growing stronger and the plant will start to grow taller. Light exposure is the most dominant force in the veg stage. For this reason, the veg time of an outdoor grow will depend on the plant hardiness zone where the cultivation is located. Indoor growers can keep plants in veg as long as they’d like.

cannabis cultivation


Flowering is when all the big, beautiful, smelly nugs start growing. This stage begins when light exposure is reduced. When light is reduced the plant becomes sexually mature. Male plants tend to mature before female plants. During flowering the plant begins to push out sticky resin. The amount of time a plant spends flowering is directly related to the plant’s potency. It also depends on whether or not the plant has been fertilized. The amount of time that a strain should flower is also related to the strain that is being grown. Most strains range between six to ten weeks. But do remember, that some strains can flower even longer. Harvest the plant once the pistils have grown from transclusent to orangey brown.


These are just the very basics about the life cycle of a cannabis plant. Each stage also requires immense knowledge of various methods of nutrients, feeding cycles, light cycles, environmental factors, and more.

What do you want to learn about cultivation? Let us know in the comments!

About the author

Cara Wietstock

Cara began working in the retail cannabis industry of San Francisco, CA in 2011 and continued in that sector for years. In 2015 she dedicated herself to writing full-time. Her passion for the written word and deep respect for the healing properties of the plant have brought her to Terpenes and Testing magazine. She now helps keep us on the cutting edge of scientific cannabis discovery as the Editor-in-Chief of the print publication.

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