The Stages of the Marijuana Plant


After the coldness of winter subsides, spring air begins to warm, stirring activity in the embryo of the seed. As water is absorbed, the embryo's tissues swell, splitting the seed along its edge. The embryonic root appears, sheds the shell of the seed, then begins its downward growth.

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As the roots grow and take hold in the ground, the top of the germinated seed begins to grow its stem upwards. Once the roots anchor themselves in the ground and begin receiving water and nutrients, the embryonic leaves, also known as cotyledons, unfold. The cotyledons are a pair of small, oval leaves that turn green with chlorophyll and help absorb the light energy to keep the plant growing. The process of germination usually take between three and ten days.


The formation of the second pair of leaves begins the seedling stage. The second set develop opposite of each other and usually have just one blade. They differ from the cotyledons by their larger size, spearhead shape, and serrated edges. The third set of leaves usually have usually have three blades and are larger than second set.

As the seedling develops more and more sets of new leaves, each set is larger than the last and has a higher number of leaves per blade until, depending on variety, they reach their maximum number. This is usually seven leaves per blade, but may be as many as nine or eleven leaves. The seedling stage is complete when the plant has reached this maximum leaves per blade, usually within four to six weeks.

Vegetative Growth

The vegetative phase is the plant's period of maximum growth. The plant grows only as fast as its leaves allow by collecting solar energy and producing the building blocks required for new growth. As the plant develops more leaf tissue, the plant increases its capacity for growth. With optimal growing conditions, Cannabis can grow as much as six inches a day, although the rate is usually closer to one or two inches.

The number of blades on each leaf decreases around the middle of the vegetative growth phase. Then, the alignment of leaves on the stem changes from being opposite of each other to alternate of each other. The internodes (stem spaces between sets of leaves, which had been increasing in length) begins to decrease and the growth appears to be thicker. The natural vegetative phase is usually completed in the third to fifth month of growth.


When a plant begins to preflower, for a quiet period of one to two weeks, growth begins to dramatically slow down. The plant begins to divert its energy from green growth to seed production as is encoded in its genes.


Cannabis is dioecious, meaning each plant produces either male or female flowers and is considered either a male or female plant.

Male plants usually start to develop flowers about one month before females. First the upper internodes elongate and a few days later, male flowers start appearing. The male flowers are pale green or red/purple in color and appear as tiny balls hanging from the plant. These balls develop in dense clusters that release clouds of pollen dust. Once pollen falls, the males lose vigor and begin to die.

Female flowers consist of two small, fuzzy white stigmas attached at the base to an ovule which is formed from modified leaves that surround the developing seed. Female flowers develop tightly together to form dense clusters or buds. The flowers continue to bloom until pollen fertilizes them and they begin producing seeds. Flowering usually lasts about two months, but may take longer depending on the plant's strain, if it has been pollinated, and if the weather is unseasonably mild.