The full life cycle of a marijuana plant

Video by: Cannabic Grower 

Cannabis is grown as an annual plant, meaning it will take up to an entire year before the plant completes its full lifecycle. Seed planted in the spring grows tall and strong throughout the summer. The plant reaches its peak in the fall, when it reaches the flowering phase, and depending on the gender; it will produce seeds by the end of fall. If not harvested, the plant will eventually fade away, leaving behind the seeds, which will once again sprout upon the return of spring, starting the cycle all over again. In nature, every life cycle consists of various stages. A cannabis plant generally consists of germination, seedling, vegetative and flowering stage. In this article, we will dive into each of the stages explaining the activity and duration of the particular stage.

In a hurry? Read the summary.

Featured article: 

Best Led Grow lights for indoor growing

How to get weed out of your system fast?


When spring starts, the temperatures start to get higher, and the climate goes through a transformation, as the weather becomes rainier and the sun shines more often, it creates the environment for a seed to sprout.

Once the outer shell of a cannabis seed is exposed to a sufficient amount of moisture, heat, and oxygen it activates the release of hormones such as cytokinins, gibberellins, and auxins. Cytokinins increase the formation of cells while the gibberellins increase cell size, together with the nourishment of the seed, expands the embryo. Soon, the seeds outer shell splits open, by a downward growing rootlet and a sprout with seed leaves. The rootlet assures a connection with the soil, while the spout searches for light. The plant has now created two different feeding channels, one through the soil and one through the air.

The germination occurs before the seedling stage and can last anywhere between 12 hours to 3 weeks.

Read also: Where does marijuana come from?

Seedling growth

After the first embryonic leaves occur, the plant will use tiny rootlets to draw in water and nutrients to start producing other leaves. These roots will also serve as an anchor, providing the plant stability in the growing medium. Soon the plant will grow its first marijuana leaves characterized by the three rounded finger points. As the seedling continues to grow more marijuana leaves are formed. Soon, they will start to bush upwards along the stem.

Seedlings should receive 16-18 hours of light to maintain strong and healthy growth. If not obtained, the stems may appear weak. In such case, it is important to locate the weak stems and reinforce them by tying a small thin wooden stake to the stem.

The seedling stage can last between 1-3 weeks, depending on factors such as gender, species, strain and the environment. By the end of the seedling stage, the plant will drop off the old bottom leaves but have between 4-8 new leaves.

Vegetative growth

The plant continues to grow more mature, and as it does that, different parts of the plants take on specialized functions. The roots will expand its reach in search for food and water within the soil, while the stem distributes the energy while at the same time using it to create buds, flowers, and leaves. The plant needs plenty of food and water and between 16-24 hours of light daily. It needs this enormous amount of supplies to produce a stronger and thicker stem, which is the backbone of the plant, not to mention the leaves and roots also become bigger and thus more efficient.

Eventually, in this stage, the plant will also reveal its gender. When this happens, you will know it is about time for the plant’s pre-flowering stage. Depending on so many aspects including strain type, seed quality, plant gender, and it can take anywhere between 1-5 months for the plant to hit this next stage.

Read also: Where does cannabis grow naturally? 


At this stage, the cannabis plant will show traces of pre-flowers, this occurs typically after the fourth week of veg. stage. The cannabis plant has distinctive flowers depending on which gender they represent. Preflowers will be either male or female.

Once the plant reaches this stage, it will not focus on developing heights anymore. Instead, it will use all the energy in order to produce more branches and nodes. During this stage, the plant will also show a calyx which will appear between the branch and the stem.

The pre-flowering stage is relatively short and can last between 1 day to 2 weeks.


The fall signals plants that the annual life cycle is reaching its end. This causes a shift in the plants’ function. Whereas before, the plant focused on leafy growth, it will now start to form flowers, hence the stage name.

If you are growing indoors, you will need to adjust your lighting settings accordingly to the fall season. Most commercial producers trigger the flowering stage by dividing the 24 hours into 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light. However, if your plant strain origins from more tropical regions, you can adjust tilt the light/darkness balance to more light.

As mentioned before, Cannabis plants have male and female flowers. The sex of the plants will become more obvious in this stage. The male and female act differently when both genders are in bloom. The male plant produces little balls clustered together like grapes, while the female plant produces little white/cream pistils looking like hairs in a pod. Each of the plants will continue to fill out more as their flowers grow and grow.

If the female flowers are left unpollinated, it will get frustrated and will develop more resins and buds, thus increasing THC production in order to attract the pollen from the male flower so it can complete its lifecycle. The un-pollinated female flower is also called sinsemilla. If the sinsemilla succeeds to get her self-fertilized with the male pollen, it will produce seeds.

The male plant will produce pollen which will soon get released and shed, usually carried out by wind, it will then fertilize the female flowers it will come across on its journey. Completing its life purpose, the plant will soon after start dying.

The flowering stage is one of the longer phases of the plant’s lifecycle. It can take anywhere between 4-16 weeks for the marijuana plant to bloom.

Seeding stage

This stage is only viable for the fertilized female plant as an aftermath of the male pollen encountering the sinsemilla. Once the unpollinated female plant is fertilized, the seeds grow within the female bud. The seeds reach their full maturity after 2-16 weeks. When this happens, the female plant pistils may change color before bursting the seedpods, sending them to the soil below. The fallen seeds will remain under the soil until the spring launches the germination stage and thereby starting another life cycle.


Here is a summary of what the article covered. We talked about the different life stages of a cannabis plant

marijuana life cycle


  • Spring climate causes the seed to burst out in a rootlet and spout.
  • Rootlet assures first connection with soil, creating a feeding channel within soil.
  • Spout start searching upwards toward light.
  • 12 hours to 3 weeks.

Seedling growth

  • The plant will start growing leaves and roots to enhance feeding channels
  • It requires 16-18 hours light daily
  • The seedling stage can last between 1-3 weeks
  • The plant will have between 4-8 new leaves by the end of this stage

Vegetative growth

  • The plant continues to grow more mature
  • The plant needs plenty of food and water and between 16-24 hours of light daily
  • Shows first signs of gender
  • Takes anywhere between 1-5 months


  • First pre-flowers occur after the fourth week of veg stage
  • Height growth ceases
  • Focusses production of more branches and nodes
  • Lasts 1 day to 2 weeks


  • Fall conditions trigger the stage
  • Leafy growth is substituted with flowering growth
  • 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness is needed
  • Genders are revealed clearly
  • Male and female act differently
  • Male produce pollen
  • Non-pollinated female intensifies bud and THC production to attract pollen
  • Pollinated female produces seeds inside buds
  • Flowering stage lasts 4-16 weeks

Seeding stage

  • Only viable for the fertilized female plant
  • The seed grows into maturity within the bud
  • It takes 2-16 weeks before the seed reaches full maturity
  • The female changes color as a sign to seeding reaching full maturity
  • Female plant dies, leaving behind seeds in soil for next spring

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.