After many weeks of carefully tending to your plants and waiting in anticipation, you’ve finally reached the flowering stage. This process is not only a visually breathtaking portion of the cannabis experience, but is vital in the development of your garden. Below, we explore the flowering stage and provide recommendations for newbies and experienced growers alike on how to help ensure your plants produce connoisseur-quality cannabis.
What is the Cannabis Flowering Stage?
The flowering stage is the period during which your cannabis plants produce their buds—otherwise known as cannabis flowers. To better understand this crucial period, it’s important to first know how it fits into the larger context of growing as a whole.
Home gardening consists of four main stages, which we’ve outlined below.
- Germination stage: (approx. 3-10 days) Germinating your seeds is the very first step in cultivating cannabis plants. During this stage, your seeds will sprout a taproot. This helpful guide provides more in-depth steps on how to successfully germinate your seeds.
- Seedling stage: (approx. 2-3 weeks) Once your cannabis plants have been placed in the soil they will begin to sprout. The bottom end or “tail” of the seed will fasten itself into the soil and begin to take root. At first, the seeds will sprout two small leaves. Additional leaves will grow from these leaves themselves, and when your plant has a total of seven leaves, the vegetative growth has officially begun.
- Vegetative stage: (approx. 3-16 weeks): During this stage, your cannabis plants focus their energy on growing strong and large. Throughout this period, they will grow only stems and leaves.
- Flowering stage: (approx. 8-11 weeks) Finally, the flowering stage! This is when your cannabis plants will develop their characteristic, resin-rich buds—otherwise known as flowers.
It should be noted that 8-11 weeks of flowering is a good, rough estimate, but ultimately, this timeframe will vary depending on the type of strain you’re cultivating. Nutrients, lighting, and environmental conditioning are other important factors to keep in mind when cultivating your plants. Paying special attention to these variables and attuning them accordingly will help mitigate the risk of issues and help you produce the most potent buds possible with cannabis home growing. Throughout this process, try to keep an eye on your plants’ general health, signs of pests, and any other potential challenges.
Visual and Aromatic Cues of the Flowering Stage
The cannabis flowering cycle follows the germination and vegetative stages. During this period, your plants’ pistils, which appear as small, usually white, hairs, will begin to transform into buds.
Resinous leaves known as “sugar leaves” will also begin to fan out around your plant’s buds over the next several months. These small leaves will contain fragrant, milky trichomes as well as delicate terpene. They will also help protect your plant. While two to three months is the average length of the flowering stage, some strains can be ready to harvest in as little as one month—while others can take up to four.
Several cues indicate it is time for the critical period of flowering to begin when:
- Your plant has reached a height of twenty inches
- Or your plant has developed thin, white hairs at the intersections of its stem and individual branches.
- Your plants begin to produce pungent smells.
Photoperiod vs. Autoflowering Strains
One of the most important variables to keep in mind during the flowering stage is the strain variety you’re growing. Namely, are your plants photoperiods or autoflowering?
Autoflowering plants, or non-photoperiod plants, will require no adjustment of light cycles in order to flower week by week. They will simply, as the name implies, flower automatically with a 24-hour cycle. However, many growers still recommend an 18/6 cycle for autoflowering strains if possible.
Feminized seeds are one category of photoperiod seeds. Unlike regular seeds, feminized seeds will produce only female cannabis plants.
Photoperiod plants also require specific lighting cycles to enter their flowering period. We’ll take a more in-depth look at how to achieve appropriate lighting cycles throughout the cannabis flowering process below.
Why is Light Crucial for the Flowering Phase?
The flowering time of a female plant is activated by altering your plant’s light exposure. Throughout the vegetative growth stage, your plants should receive the proper amount of light. The type of lighting can be either natural sunlight if you’re growing cannabis outdoors, or high-intensity artificial bright light each day.
Special attention to lighting should be paid throughout the flowering stage as well. This typically involves switching to a 1:1 ratio lighting schedule, which means 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of dark every day. Some cannabis growers make this switch instantly, while others give their female plants several days to adjust by transitioning out of the vegetative stage with six hours of darkness per day and increasing the amount slowly by one to two hours each day.
Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to have consistent and uninterrupted stretches of darkness for your female cannabis plants. You may want to research light-blocking equipment if necessary. Indoor growers need to keep the “dawn” time consistent from one day to the next, as consistency is key to producing the best cannabis strains.
Nutrients for the Cannabis Plant During Flowering
Nutrient management plays a large role in mitigating the risk of disease as well as improving the general health and cannabinoid potency of your plants. Below, we’ll cover the most common issues and basic steps.
Nutrients Before the Flowering Stage
During the vegetative stage, your marijuana plants should receive grow fertilizer, which contains:
- Nitrogen (N)
- Phosphorous (P)
- Potassium (K)
Once the flowering stage begins, your plant’s energy will shift towards developing buds. As such, it’s typically important to minimize the amounts of nitrogen while increasing potassium and phosphorous. This will make a huge difference in your trichome production, as you’ll see your ratio of amber trichomes rise with appropriate care.
Many gardeners recommend using “PK” fertilizers or nutrient solutions, which are also known as “bloom fertilizers.” That said, some growers continue providing grow fertilizer for the first three weeks of the flowering stage, while others switch to bloom fertilizer as soon as the lighting cycles change. The pH numbers in your growing medium will also influence the range for nutrient uptake.
Typically, the latter method produces less significant growth, but there won’t be any detrimental effects on your buds.
Another key consideration is the amount of fertilizer you use. A good rule of thumb is to simply stick to the amounts listed on the packaging. If your plants seem to be suffering at all during the flowering stage, consider other factors that may be negatively contributing to their growth before increasing the amount of nutrients.
When it comes to plant nutrients, there really can be too much of a good thing: Over-fertilizing your plants can create an unappealing taste in the dried buds.
The Importance of Air Quality in the Grow Room
Humidity fluctuations and air quality are good things to keep in mind throughout the flowering stage. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important variable as it helps your plants grow more efficiently while improving their tolerance to heat.
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on general airflow throughout the flowering stage. Now that your plants are large and strong, they may be somewhat close together, especially if you have a smaller growing space. Regardless, air should be able to flow freely through the plants. This can be achieved using fans, which imitate the natural breeze of an outdoor environment. However, make sure your fans are never directly pointed at your plants, as this will reduce humidity levels.
The Four Sub-Phases of the Flowering Stage:
As always, maturation times will vary depending on the marijuana strain(s) you are cultivating.
- Phase one: The pistils that develop during the end of the vegetative stage indicate your plant is in its “pre-flowering stage.”
- Phase two: The second phase of the flowering stage typically lasts one to three weeks. During this period, you’ll see further development of your plants’ pistils. In addition, bud production will also begin. This means the flowers themselves, also known as “calyxes,” will begin to develop, as will supportive leaves and resin glands called “trichomes.” Finally, buds will appear at the “internodal space” between each node. Buds will also begin to fill the space between nodes, which is also known as “internodal space.”
- Phase three: The mid-flowering stage of cannabis growth lasts from weeks four to five. By now your buds and trichomes are dense and thick. Cannabinoid production will occur both within and around the flowers. Your plants will also accumulate a good deal of their final weight during this phase, which typically lasts from two to five weeks. Keep an eye on heat levels during this time, as too much can cause your buds to stretch. This is known as “fox-tailing” and reduces their potency.
- Phase four: The final stage of the bloom phase occurs when your plants have reached their final maturity levels. As your cannabis plant transitions to stage four, you’ll notice its white hairs deteriorate, darken, and begin to curl. The bulbous trichomes will turn white while the resin will take on an amber color. This indicates each cannabis bud is at peak potency and peak maturity. When approximately 70 % of the pistils have darkened, it is time to harvest your buds. Many growers stop providing any nutrients during this phase and hydrate their plants with neutral pH-balanced water. Water without nutrients is important, as it helps flush any remaining nutrients from your plants and improve the taste of your buds. At this point, it’s plant harvesting time, and You are ready to begin the drying or curing process. For more information, take a peek at this guide on efficient harvesting and proper curing.
A Final Note on Bountiful Flowers
One of the biggest differences between sub-par yields and bountiful gardens often comes down to the quality of the seeds. Reputable seed banks, as a general rule, are one of the best places to begin your cannabis wellness journey. In short, planting premium quality seeds remains one of the most significant variables in the growing journey.
To help ensure your home garden produces plants with vibrant buds and stellar, delicate trichomes, we recommend using Growers Choice Seeds. We are passionate about the art of home growing, and provide a 90% germination guarantee on all our seeds. We also carry a large variety of strains with various flowering times. Finally, we prioritize providing a wealth of educational information to accompany our high-quality seeds.
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