Cannabis Seedling Life Cycle
A seedling is a young plant or rather that plants growth stage. This growth stage is every naturally grown plants first life cycle and it is also the most fragile and the most dangerous of them all.
In general their life cycle starts when the seed cracks open and ends as soon as the first true leafs appear. Basically a seedling is a plant embryo that sits in a protective layer (the SEED Shell) and start growing when moisture penetrates that protective player. After that initial seed cracking that young plant tries to find sunlight by growing upside down from where the gravity is pulling the seed. This happens because seeds are usually found under ground or under leafs or other material and to get light and in that sense power to grow this plant tries to find its way upward. Seedling at this point grows completely on the power that is stored in the seed because it is not photosynthesizing yet and so there is no energy production. When that little plant reaches trough the ground and finds light the process of leaf opening is started. As soon as those seed-leafs are opened the plant starts photosynthesizing and its true life has started!
How autoflower seedlings differ from other plants?
Autoflower seedlings just like regular cannabis and other plant seedlings have those seed-leafs and cannabis plants differ from other plants like grass and pine species because they have two seed-leafs (dicotyledons). These seed leafs are usually a bit bigger than other specie seed-leafs and if you have seen a lot of plant seedlings you can distinguish cannabis youngsters from other plants. But in general they look like any other seedling and up till the first or second true leafs appear there is little evidence that this young plants is actually from the cannabis genus.
How the growth differs from later growth stages?
Cannabis at this growth stage grows slowly and focuses most of the energy to root growth in order to cover more ground in search for nutrients and also to stabilize itself in the ground. Basically anything that this young plant does is there because it is programmed to survive and that is why you should be careful not to damage this delicate plant. At this start growth stage cannabis plants don’t use almost any nutrients from the surrounding environment and use up all the elements that were present in that seed when it was formed.
Nutrients, watering, humidity, light and temperature?
because Seedlings use elements from the seed itself you don’t have to give any added nutrients to your growing environment and give them plain water. The watering should be regular but they must not dampen the growing medium too much as too wet (soggy) growing environment increases mold and other bacteria risk but in general you must water more frequent at this stage of growth but also give relatively small amount of water. I like to water my seedling with a hand held humidifier because this allows me to not only water the ground but also moisten that young plant itself and that is convenient because those youngsters need somewhere from 60 to 80 % humidity to flourish!
Cannabis seedlings can grow in almost any light schedule but light schedule as well as intensity and color can affect how fast you seedling develops. I usually keep my seedling under fluorescent lights that run 24/7 as I have found out this increases the growth a bit. In general it is really hard to measure any actual changes in plants if you give them 1 hour less light or keep them in a bit colder than average room only while they are at their seedling phase but thinking about the factors that are involved in that young plants growth we can deduct that:
- Seedling need warm temperature (29 or above C) – This is because cannabis seeds in nature sprout in the spring when the temperatures are warm and the plant can properly photosynthesize.
- Seedling need 24 hour light period – Young plants need as much light as they can get and that will help them develop faster and give you bigger end yield!
- They need very humid environment (60%-80%)– seedling germinate in damp environments and for the first few days they need to retain that wet environment to not dry out and to be able to kick start their life.
- Seedling need no outside nutrients!
- They need 6.5 to 7.5 PH plain water!
Because seedling phase is the first one any errors or environmental troubles can greatly impact the end yield as if you lose just one growth day at the seedling phase you can in fact lose a lot of growth because when the leafs and plant are small they can’t gather a lot of energy and for every energy unit gathered trough photosynthesis that plant grows the same unit of cells!
So when we make some fictional calculations we can see the difference!
Imagine that each cell that can photosynthesize can produce 1 unit of energy and a new cell needs 60 units of energy to develop and all new cells grow at the end of the day and also every minute one cell produces this one unit of energy. In this experiment it means that every hour of light can produce one new cell from one cell.
Let’s start with one cell and two light cycles 24 hours and 12 hours:
- 1. day – 1*24*1 = 24
- 2. day – 24*24*1 = 576
- 3. day – 3456*24*1 = 13824
- 4.day – 13824*24*1 = 331776
- 5.day – 331776*24*1 = 7962624
- 1. day – 1*12*1 = 12
- 2. day – 12*12*1 = 144
- 3. day – 144*12*1 = 1728
- 4.day – 1728*12*1 = 20736
- 5.day – 20736*12*1 = 248832
And at this, my make shift experiment, the difference between the 12 and 24 hour light cycle is significant and the 12 hours cell count is just 0.3 % from the 24 hour cycle cell count.
This experiment is in no way scientifically correct but is just a way to show how much better it is for a seedling to get more light and you must provide the best environmental conditions that you can or your total yield can greatly diminish.
A humidity dome is a device that lets you increase the humidity of a particular area of your grow room by enclosing it in see-trough plastic and not letting in any outside air. These domes help with humidity and also temperature control and not many growers use them for seedlings but they should, because, in them you can easily increase or decrease that humidity percentage, and you just have a greater overall control of that grow environment!
In the end I must admit that seedling phase in any plants life is important and it is specially important in cannabis plants because every gram of those end buds is so valuable and it doesn’t matter if you grow short-day cannabis plants or autoflowers, you need to treat them equally!
Growth Cycle and Timing
Below you will find a step-by-step schedule for each phase of the process from planting the seed to enjoying the first smoke.
FROM PLANTIN’ SEED
TO SMOKIN’ WEED
Day 0: Soak the Seed
Whether planting indoors or outdoors, most people find improved germination rates by first soaking their seed in water for 24 hours. When the seed sinks to the bottom, it’s ready for planting!
Day 1: Plant your seed
For outdoor growing, put your seed 1-2″ into the soil during the planting season for your region–no later than July for the Northern Hemisphere.
When indoors, plant the seed in your 1-gallon pot, 1″ into the soil
Day 3-7: Seed sprouts – Vegetative Cycle Begins
Make sure your plants are getting plenty of intense light. Generally speaking, the more light the better. Inadequate lighting results in smaller, often leggy seedlings.
If indoors, place your fluorescent bulb at least 3” from the top of plant at all times with your timer set to 15-18 hours of light per day.
Water only when soil is dry–the pot should feel noticeably lighter than after watering.
NOTE: Indoors, you can keep your plant in this vegetative cycle for as long as you like—though we don’t recommend indefinite vegging, we know folks that have kept individual plants alive for years, with occasional sun exposure, root-pruning, and a minimum of 13 hours of light on them each day.
Day 31: Vegetative cycle minimum length
This is about the earliest in the plant’s lifecycle we want to ‘flip to flower’. A full month (or longer) of vegetative growth will allow your plant the time it needs to build a robust root system, while nurturing an improving relationship with the microbes and mycorrhizae present in the soil.
Flowering begins automatically when the plant receives less than 12 hours of light per day–indoors or outdoors.
At this point, if growing in a 1 gallon pot, you will want transplant the herb to a 7 gallon pot. Although there are many theories on when to transplant, this is the earliest we recommend. You’ll want to add enough soil to fill your pot, but leave enough room for the roots and soil from your vegetating pot. Check out this video for a quick tutorial on transplanting.
Your plants will automatically enter their flowering stage when your garden starts receiving 12 hours of daylight per day. In the Northern Hemisphere this is typically during September, but the exact time will vary based on your climate and location.
Day 31+ : The first 2-6 weeks of the flowering cycle your plant will grow taller and ‘stretch’; it’s not uncommon for strains to double in height from their vegetative stage.
Generally speaking, Sativa varieties stretch taller and flower longer than Indica varieties. Keep this mind and allow for plenty of head room.
Plants begin to start producing flowers, pistils emerge
Day 94 – 111: The vast majority of plants are ready to harvest 8-11 weeks after pilstils emerge
We like to harvest when buds are showing at least 10% amber trichromes.
Check out our harvesting guide here.
Harvest and Bud Washing
Optional: Before beginning, gently remove all the big fan leaves off the plant.
Cut branches off the plant a few at a time in 12″ (or so) lengths–this will help ensure they fit in the wash bucket. We use5-gallon Home Depot buckets and recommend them for their affordability and ease.
Wash the stalks. Click here for a short Bud Washing video tutorial!
Hang the stalks to dry in cool, dry, clean space, as free of dust and other pollutants as possible. It helps to have a little air flow, but we don’t want any fans pointed directly at the hanging branches. Generally speaking, we want to keep temps below 72*F, and relative humidity below 55%, but above 45%.
Pro Tip: Using a fan to keep air softly moving in your curing room? Try using an air filter instead. They work well to keep unwanted air-born nasties–including mold, pathogens, pollens, and dust off of your beautiful buds.
5-10 Days after harvest
We want to cure on the line until the buds are dry on the outside, but not yet dry on the inside; typically 5-10 days from harvest. When the outside of the buds are completely dry to the touch, take your untrimmed branches and place them into clean paper grocery bags for continued drying and curing.
Why Paper Bags? The keys to a good cure are time, darkness, temperature, and humidity. The paper helps slow down the drying process and keep the cannabis dark, while allowing the cannabis to breathe and cure properly. Clothespins may help keep bags closed and buds clean. We store our paper bags right there in the same room we’ve hung the buds in for this stage.
4-7 days in Paper Bags
Check on the buds daily while in the bags, lightly shuffling the produce/bags to ensure excess moisture isn’t being trapped anywhere. Usually anywhere from 4-7 days in a paper bag is all that is needed before cannabis is ready for trimming and jarring.
How do we know when it’s ready? After 4-7 days in the paper bags , we’ll want to start doing the “Slow Snap Test”.
Slow Snap Test: Take a bud and carefully begin bending it backwards ‘against the grain’ of the branch from which it grew. We know buds have dried adequately when they begin to snap cleanly off stems. We don’t want super dry here–more of a bend, bend, then snap. When that happens, it’s time to trim and jar.
Once you’ve performed the Slow Snap Test and your buds are popping off cleanly, it’s time to trim!
Trimming is the process of removing undesirable parts–often those parts devoid of trichomes, from the plant. In dispensaries, it’s common to find commercially-grown cannabis trimmed to the point where only bud is left, with very little (or any) sugar-leaf left intact.
Many High-Brix growers enjoy very ‘lightly’ manicured cannabis, finding the ‘sugar leaves’ to be some of the tastiest parts of the plant for consumption. In this post-prohibition age, why cut off all that good stuff?
Pro Tip: There are many methods for trimming cannabis. As long as you’re gentle and not using a trimming-machine to do the work, you’ll end up happy.
Put buds in jars
Now it’s time to place your manicured buds in jars for long-term storage. If buds were removed too soon from their paper bags, you may have some condensation build up in the jars. Jars with moisture will need to be burped, or a host of issues (including mold and fungus) can arise. We know many folks who burp their jars, whether they can see moisture or not, for a week or so following initial jarring. The bottom line: A good cure takes time–and is well worth the wait.
1 Week after jarring:
Congratulations! If you’ve managed to wait this long without trying your harvest, good on you! You’ve made it. Your cannabis has now been properly grown, loved, washed, and cured. Prepare for jealous friends, and connoisseur-grade cannabis. Time to enjoy it!
Pro Tip: Keeping jars in a cool, dark place for storage and curing helps ensure the highest quality. The longer the buds age, the better the smoke gets. Try setting some high brix produce aside and trying it 6+ months–you won’t be disappointed.
The life cycle of a cannabis plant, from seed to store
A cannabis plant approaching maturity is photographed at the CannTrust Niagara Greenhouse Facility during the grand opening event in Fenwick, Ont., on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. ( Tijana Martin / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
TORONTO — Licensed cannabis producers are ramping up production to address shortages that have plagued the pot market since legalization in October, but the time required to grow the average marijuana plant means consumers likely have a few more weeks to wait.
Cannabis lives up to its nickname and grows like a weed, but the plant needs as many as 18 weeks to progress from seed to harvest before it even moves on to processing and packaging.
Licensed producer CannTrust walked The Canadian Press through their cultivation and processing facilities to get a close look at the process. Here are the various life stages of the cannabis plant: from seed to plant to processing and packaging.
Most commercial cannabis growers skip the seed stage and grow new plants from cuttings of established ones, as seeds take longer and are prone to genetic variation, which can affect product quality.
Cuttings are taken from so-called "mother plants" grown for the purpose of genetic cloning. The moniker stems from the fact that they must be female — male plants produce pollen and seeds but female plants produce the coveted cannabinoid-filled flower.
"Every plant in the greenhouse is a female plant," said Michael Camplin, general manager of CannTrust’s Niagara-area cultivation facility. "There are no males allowed in this facility."
Growing a new plant from cuttings produces genetically identical plants, allowing producers to generate cannabis from a certain strain with particular characteristics, he said.
"It’s called a mother plant because it’s producing basically children," Camplin said. "It’s producing young plants that will have the same characteristics as the mother."
Small cuttings are taken from the mother plants and planted into a moist starter cube in a low light and high humidity environment.
"They’re literally babied along," Camplin said.
After two weeks, the roots start to sprout through the starter cube and the seedling is transplanted to a larger cube. After an additional two weeks of growth, the young cannabis plant is moved to a slightly larger base.
3) Vegetative state
Once beyond the seedling stage, the plant enters the vegetative state and is encouraged to grow up and out. This is done by controlling the amount of light the plant receives.
If the plant receives 18 hours of daylight or more in a given day, it will continue to grow without producing any flower, Camplin said.
Getting the plant to produce flowers involves convincing it that autumn is approaching, which means cutting back on the light cycle.
"Marijuana plants are very light sensitive, and they are triggered to go into flower when the day length shortens in nature, as the summer starts to turn into fall," he said. "The days get shorter, and the plant knows that it’s time to reproduce."
Mimicking the change in seasons by shortening the daylight period to 12 hours will prompt the plant to flower and produced the desired bud.
The time needed for a plant to flower depends on the strain, but it can range from as little as seven weeks to as much as 10 weeks, Camplin said.
Once the flowering plant has reached the desired stage, it is time to harvest. The plant’s flower or bud is coated in tiny, glistening hair-like glands called trichomes that contain the active ingredients in the plant called cannabinoids. The best-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, known as THC and CBD. Trichomes also contain terpenes, the fragrant oils which produce a unique taste and smell.
The plants are cut and cannabis buds are mechanically separated from the stems and leaves, before being inspected and then trimmed by hand, Camplin said.
The fresh cannabis flower is then dried on racks for up to two weeks. The buds are then stored in loosely closed plastic bags in large bins, which help to control the humidity, for two weeks.
"That equalizes the moisture level, and every day they’re opened and stirred — or burped as they say in the drying room — and closed back up," Camplin said.
Keeping them in the closed bins also help the buds retain the terpenes, he said.
Once the drying is complete, the bud is graded by size. Larger buds are usually preferred for dried flower sales while smaller buds are often earmarked for oil, he said.
7) Testing and processing
At this stage, the cannabis is tested for quality before it is cleared for the manufacturing process, said Chris Lucky, CannTrust’s vice-president of supply chain and manufacturing. On average, it takes 10 to 11 days to get the lab results back.
Once the buds pass the appropriate tests, the pot is then either packaged for sale or put through an extraction process to produce cannabis oil.
The buds chosen to produce oils are put through an industrial-sized grinder and then baked. Similar to when cannabis is smoked, the heating process activates the ingredients within the bud that provide the medicinal effects, Anna Jakobsmeier, CannTrust’s director of extraction and refinement, said.
"We’re manipulating it to now provide the medicine," she said.
The baked cannabis is then placed into an extraction machine that uses heated and pressurized carbon dioxide to separate the cannabinoids from the plant.
"You’re removing the cannabinoids, as well as some other components of the plant, but you’re leaving behind the actual dried product," she said.
The resulting liquid containing the cannabinoids is mixed with a carrier oil known as Medium Chain Triglycerides or MCT oil. The oil is then bottled or put into capsules and packaged for sale.
9) Packaging and Labelling
The finished products are packaged and labelled as per Health Canada’s guidelines, which include strict limits on the use of colours, graphics and logos.
Products destined for Canada’s adult use market receive an excise stamp, which indicate that the product was produced legally and that applicable duties were paid. Each product must have a stamp corresponding to the province or territory where it will be sold.
Complications with the stamp were blamed by many pot producers for causing a bottleneck in the supply chain, contributing to the shortage. Problems cited by producers included a delay in receiving the stamps, as well as the need for glue to affix the stamps, which slowed down the process.
Cannabis is a brand new industry, and companies are learning and refining the processes as they go, and incorporating automation to speed up the process where possible, Lucky said.
"Everybody is learning the processes. There’s a lot of things we have done as an organization, and industry across the board, in terms of how we can automate."
This is a corrected story. An earlier version stated that MCT oil contained coconut oil.