Like all flowering plants, cannabis goes through a series of distinct stages before it’s ready to harvest. From seed to flower, let’s take a look at the major lifecycle phases of the typical cannabis plant.

Seed Germination

Unless you’re dealing with a plant clone or cutting, every new cannabis plant starts from a seed. However, seeds are dormant. They require the right environment—warm conditions with plenty of moisture and air—to germinate.

Germination occurs when the seed splits open and begins to sprout. This can take anywhere from five days to two weeks. The sprout represents the taproot and its appearance means the seed is ready for planting.

Seedling Phase

Once a germinated seed is transferred to soil, it’s taproot will begin to grow down and a small stem will begin to grow upwards. This is known as the seedling phase. At this stage, the plant will need lots of light (up to 24 hours) and a moist environment, but be careful not to overwater the delicate seedlings.

The small stem will eventually become the main stem of the plant. As the stem grows, it will begin to produce leaves with just a single leaflet. As the plant continues to grow, it will produce larger and larger leaves. After two to three weeks, the plant will begin producing full-sized leaves which are usually between 5-7 leaflets per leaf depending on the strain and variety of cannabis.

Vegetative Phase

Once the plant is producing full-sized leaves, it enters the vegetative phase. This is the phase where most of the plant growth happens and takes anywhere from several weeks to several months depending on how large you’d like your plants to get.

This is also the stage where growers transplant their plants to larger pots to accommodate new growth. Growing plants in the vegetative phase will require about 18 hours of light, ample airflow, nitrogen-rich nutrients, and more water than the seedling phase.

Flowering Phase

The final phase of the cannabis life cycle is the flowering phase. This is the phase in which dense, cannabinoid-rich cannabis flowers form and mature.

The flowering phase can be triggered by cutting back the amount of light your plant receives from 18 to 12 hours. Flowering plants require special care including additional fertilization and even trellising to support the weight of dense cannabis buds.

After flowering, the plant is ready for harvest.

Closing Thoughts

Growing cannabis is a major investment—it requires significant time and care. Protect your investment with accurate and reliable cannabis testing. Encore Labs is an ISO/IEC 17025 certified lab located in Los Angeles, California that provides comprehensive cannabis testing for cannabis flower as well as edibles, concentrates, extracts, and other cannabis-infused products.