Cannabis Flowering Stages – Quick Guide

Having a good understanding of cannabis flowering stages is a crucial part of properly caring for marijuana plants. The last weeks of the plant’s growth, prior to harvesting those buds, are known as the flowering stages.

Great care throughout all stages of growth

Knowing more about how certain basics of growing, such as nutrients, trimming or lighting intricacies influence your plant can really benefit the ultimate result of your labor. Doing things right during the flowering stages of marijuana plants has a direct effect on the amount of flowers as well as their density and size.

Cannabis is no less attuned to the change of seasons than any other plant. When the days are getting shorter, this will be its clue to start producing some kind of “offspring”. Flowers for female cannabis plants, and seeds in the case of male cannabis plants. Seeing both? Then you have a hermaphrodite plant.

The final growth spurt

Flowering means the marijuana plant will ultimately stop focusing its efforts on growing, but not before throwing in one last growth spurt. During this last stretch, certain strains can easily double in size. Keep in mind they’ll most likely be needing some extra space when you’re growing indoors. While providing adequate space is one of the main points to remember when your cannabis reaches the flowering period, the other important thing is to attune the nutrients to its specific needs. We’ll be going further into the nutrient requirements for each flowering stage below.

Before your cannabis plants makes it to the flowering stage, it could be a good idea to take some time to look into training techniques. Low-stress training involves guiding the branches along a support system. It moves the top branches to maximize light exposure to the lower branches.

Cannabis flowering stages: Early flowering

Transitioning into the early flowering stage can have a touch of overlap with the initial growth stage. After all, cannabis is a plant that reacts heavily to its environment and should be cared for appropriately, so don’t be shocked if it takes a few extra days for initial signs of budding to crop up. Occasionally, stunted flowering can be blamed on poor lighting cycles, but we’ll touch on that later.

This initial flowering stage is vital for discovering the sex of your plants. Much like the biological roles played by different sexes in the animal kingdom, the world of cannabis plants also relies on male and female plants for propagation. Early flowering is marked by your plants growing wispy tendrils, known as white pistils, where the larger fan leaves meet the main stem. This is a clear sign of a female plant that will produce what you’re almost certainly after.

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Male plants, on the other hand, will produce pollen sacs instead of pistils and will pollinate female plants accordingly. If you’re trying to produce nothing but seeds, good news! If you’re instead looking for a full harvest, now’s the time to separate any frisky male plants from the mix. Once everyone is separated, it’s time to switch over to a 12/12 schedule of light and darkness if you’re not growing auto-flowering plants.

This early stage is when the majority of your plant’s identifying characteristics will develop. Expect to start spotting resin glands and small supporting leaves, with the latter primed to play a crucial part in judging your nutrient balance in your plants in the very near future. Early flowering will become tight, dense clusters before too much longer and this phase will run its course in anywhere between one and three weeks.

Early flowering – overview

Sex and separate your plants unless you want to chew on seeds while you wait for another crop to mature!

Adding phosphorus, carbohydrates and potassium to your nutrient mixture from this point on can help your yield. Start slow and watch the tips of your leaves for changes, though; If the tips discolor heavily, you’ve got a sure sign of nutrient burn and need to cut back on feedings.

Cannabis flowering stages: Peak flowering

By the time the third or fourth week rolls around you should expect to see first signs of real budding. This beautiful moment is a perfect time to celebrate, but don’t go overboard and start snipping samples off quite yet. Leaving a plant mostly intact will pay off in the long run.

At this stage, you’ll start to notice more pronounced resin glands and a familiar odor. This is a sure sign your plant is producing its namesake cannabinoids in proper amounts, but different strains will all carry their own quirks to become accustomed to. Expect anywhere from two to five weeks of peak flowering. Week four or so should be when the plant has stopped growing and has instead transitioned to pumping energy into its flowering stage. If not, I’d double check my light and water levels. Too little light or humidity can push your plant back into its vegetative state.

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The transition into the late flowering stage requires becoming acquainted with how the cannabis plant signals its transitions. This is a much more subtle change, compared to the odor overload you’ve gone through in the preceding weeks. If you notice a brown or amber tinge to the pistils and brighter or milky white trichomes, you’re probably almost ready to reap what you’ve sown.

Peak flowering – overview

Since this is the stage where growing has definitely stopped, you may have to support parts of your plant you previously tied down, especially if the buds are heavy.

Balancing humidity, heat and proper ventilation is the name of the peak flowering game. Letting a growth light touch your plants if you’re growing indoors is a sure-fire way to burn your yield early and without any fun involved, so make sure to keep 12 to 36 inches between your plants and your lighting rig.

Once you’ve grown a few crops and know what to watch for, consider trimming away excess leaves during the flowering stage. While they offer nutrient stockpiling power they can also pull nutrients away to store for later seasons that just aren’t going to happen. If you’re worried about cutting away too much, I would focus on dead branches and leaves, which are always a waste of energy.

Cannabis flowering stages: Late flowering

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Late flowering is when all your hard work pays off. The resin glands on your cannabis plant will start to deteriorate along with its bud hairs. More importantly, the pistils will start to change color into deeper and darker browns. If you see dark reds and browns alongside physical curling of the pistil, it’s definitely time to start harvesting. If they’re more of an orange and have only started to curl, give them some extra time!

Other telltale signs are more subtle. A few leaves will turn yellow, but this shouldn’t be the case with the entire plant. The buds will be sticky to the touch and crystallization will be in full force, too. THC levels peak when these crystals spread over the buds. Waiting too long to harvest can see those THC compounds break down into CBD’s. On the upside, CBD’s don’t deteriorate in the same way and your time window won’t be as narrow.

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While short, the late flowering stage is one of the most vital as it signals just how much time you have left to make final preparations. Expert growers often transition to plain water feedings through this stage to ensure the taste of the cannabis isn’t thrown off. I’d start looking into proper harvesting and drying procedure as well, but that’s another issue entirely.

Late flowering – Overview

Checking for proper coloring in resin glands probably requires better eyesight than any of us have. Go for a strong magnifying glass or a jeweler’s loupe if you have one.

Using pH-balanced water during the flushing process helps keep your plant from reacting negatively in its most crucial stage of growth. I strongly suggest starting around two weeks before harvest, unless you’re a fan of strong funky flavors. No, not the good kind.

Don’t be afraid to tie your buds closer to your lighting setup if they prove too heavy to support themselves. Just make sure to watch out for light burn, as always.

By Felis Cannabis

Hi, Felis Cannabis here. This little corner of the web is my scratch pole. The legalize movement is growing, but not fast enough for me to give up the incognito status just yet. ;-) Let's keep at it! We should have the right to use any plant we choose.