Home-Growing 101 Part 2 – The Life Cycle of Cannabis

Written by Caleb Summeril

If you are attempting to grow your own cannabis for the first time, it’s important to understand the life cycles of the plant. Knowing the various stages of the life cycle of a cannabis plant, and key considerations to support each cycle, is imperative to producing a successful crop. You don’t need to be a botanist to grow cannabis but with a little knowledge and knowhow, you can develop a green thumb with little effort.

Seeds and Germination

The first step in successfully growing cannabis is to sprout a seed. You can get around this step by using a clone or transplanting a seedling from a nursery, but if you want to experience the entirety of the cannabis plant’s life cycle, I’d recommend attempting to germinate a seed on your own.

Germination is the process of turning a seed into a sprout. This can be done in a number of ways but can be as simple as placing a few seeds on a damp paper towel and setting them in a warm location for a few days. You will want to keep the paper towel damp at all times, but you’ll have a little sprout in no time. Once you have a sprout, you can transplant the sprout into your growing medium.

Germination stage time: 5-10 days

Lighting considerations during germination: not really a concern. Heat and a damp environment are essential.


The next stage of the life cycle is the seedling stage. This is where the sprout turns into a little seedling and starts to grow roots and establish itself in its growing medium. The first set of leaves will appear at this stage, known as cotyledon leaves, and begin to absorb light to facilitate continued plant growth. As the plant continues to grow in this cycle, the first sets of fans leaves will develop. These are the typical cannabis shape the plant is known for.

Seedling stage time: 2-3 weeks

Lighting considerations during seedling stage: 18 hours light, 6 hours dark.


The vegetative stage comes after your plant has developed its basic root structure and fan leaves. This is the stage where the plant will see the most rapid growth and development and plays a crucial role in its ability to hold and produce ample flowers. You will want to provide adequate water and nutrients during this stage to encourage strong growth and development. We will look at some ways to provide needed nutrients in the next part of this series, but extra nitrogen in the form of fertilizer is always recommended.

Vegetative stage time: 8-12 weeks

Lighting considerations during vegetative stage: 18 hours light, 6 hours dark. Some indoor growers will provide constant 24-hour light during this stage.


If you have provided your plant with all of the nutrients, water, and environmental conditions to grow happy and healthy, you will soon begin to see signs of a hard-earned harvest during the flowering stage of the cannabis plant. This is the final stage of plant growth and happens naturally in the fall when a change in light triggers the plant to begin producing flowers. Specific nutrients, pruning techniques, and trellising are techniques that can be used to help encourage healthy flowers.

Flowering stage time: 8-12 weeks

Lighting considerations during flowering stage: 12 hours light, 12 hours dark. This triggers the biological process for the plants to begin to bud.


After your plants have reached the peak of the flowering stage, they are ready to be harvested. This can be done by hand if you only have a few plants, or by machine if there is a full-scale growing operation. There are drying and curing considerations for after you harvest that can impact your final product, and we will explore these in more detail in the next part of this blog.

Image source: Matteo Paganelli courtesy of Unsplash

About the author

Caleb Summeril

Caleb Summeril writes creative copy, stories and songs from the mountains of Colorado. When not working on words, he can be found on global gallivants which fuel future endeavors. Learn more about his writing services at calebsummeril.com

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