What is the Flowering Stage?
First comes love, second comes marriage…
The life cycle of a marijuana plant is not complex – through the process of <germination>, your tiny seed develops its taproot, which then becomes a seedling before entering the vegetative stage, a period of rapid and necessary growth. Once your plant is good and g*d damn ready, it will enter the final and most crucial stage to gardeners cultivating cannabis for medical or recreational use – the flowering stage, aptly named as it’s during this phase your plant will start to showcase the resin-covered flowers necessary for harvest.
How Long Does the Flowering Stage Last?
From the moment you plant your first marijuana seedling in soil (or maybe you opted for a hydroponic set up, whatever…), you’re waiting in anticipation of the flowering stage, the length of which can vary depending on the strain of cannabis you choose to plant. On average, however, you’re looking at about two to three months, though some can be ready for harvest in as little as a month, while others can take over four.
How do you know your plants are ready for flowering? That’s the million-dollar question, and while gardeners worldwide will all have their own little tells, typically, there are two cues that will dictate whether your plant is about to start producing buds –
- The plant reaches a height of 20 inches
- The plant starts to develop little white hairs or “pistils” near the nodes, or where the stem and branches intersect
The Phases of the Flowering Stage
During this critical time in every young plants’ life, you can expect your cannabis to go through the following sub-phases:
- Phase 1: Early development – when white hairs or “pistils” have begun to sprout at the nodes of the plant, where the branches meet the stem. This in a clear indicator that your plant is ready to take things to the next level.
- Phase 2: Pistils continue to develop, and calyxes – the “flower” of the plant – begin to develop, along with support leaves and trichomes (the glands that produce the sticky resin). Buds will also begin to populate the “internodal space” between separate nodes.
- Phase 3: The buds should be dense and thick, with cannabinoid-rich resin building up in and around them. This plant should be ready to harvest within two to five weeks. Keep a close eye on the heat during this period – too hot and your buds can stretch (called fox-tailing), making them airy and less potent.
- Phase 4: Pistils will begin to observably deteriorate, darkening in color and curling. Trichomes will become white and you should notice any resin present begin to take on an amber hue. At the point when about 70% of the pistils have darkened, you can harvest your cannabis.
Fact: The later you harvest your cannabis crop, the less THC will be present, as the content of this cannabinoid tends to be lesser as plants approach the late stage of maturity. This might be the goal if you’re after a more sedative high, as CBD content tends to be higher during the later stages of maturity.
Marijuana Needs to See the Light
The flowering stage is activated by alternating the plant’s exposure to light, unless its an <auto-flowering> variety, which is another article altogether. To trigger flowering, your plant will need to go from receiving between 18-24 hours of light to a 1:1 ration, 12 hours of light to 12 hours of absolute darkness. If the plant receives any light during those scheduled periods of dark, it can cause confusion and stress, potentially ruining your hard work.
Tip: Many experienced growers recommend keeping your crop on a schedule and maintaining any carrying over any changes in light schedule from the vegetative stage to the flowering. I.e. if during the vegetative stage light begins at 6 am, the 12 hours of light should start at the same time during the flowering stage.
Here’s another tip we find kind of important – the distance between the lamp and the crown of the plant needs to be closely monitored once you’ve started germination and on into the flowering stage. Ideally, you’ll keep your light source two feet above the tops of the plants at all times to avoid overheating or your precious plants.
As you may have gathered, to get the potent and high-quality cannabis you want to use takes a little more work than your average garden. Feeding your plants is no different. During the flowering stage, you’re going to want to provide different levels of nutrients than you have been throughout the grow process to ensure they’re getting what they need, and less of the erroneous stuff.
The vegetative stage calls for a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K). When you’re ready to start flowering, you’ll want less nitrogen and more of the other two. “PK” fertilizers are known as bloom fertilizers because they guarantee your plants are going to be taking in the nutrients they need to make the most of this flowering stage.
Tip: Growth occurs quickly during the first two weeks of the flowering stage. While some growers stick to administering an N-P-K mix up to at least the third week of this phase, others switch to PK as soon as the light changes. If you opt for the latter, you’ll likely see less growth but little to no harmful side effects. It’s particularly useful if small-space growing.
Bonus Tip: Don’t over feed your plants! Though it’s a common practice to flush your plants two weeks before harvest, too many nutrients in the plant can leave your buds with an awful taste.
The Air in There: Air Quality & Marijuana
Fact: the more C02 your plants can take in, the faster they will grow, and the better they will be able to tolerate the heat and humidity in the grow room.
Your marijuana plants need to breathe, and closely crowded, bushy, and dense plants can suffer from humidity-related damage, mold, or even developing a pest problem. Whether you opt for a simple oscillating fan (never point it directly at your plants) or a complex exhaust system, it’s essential that air be able to move around the plants, circulating C02 and oxygen, as well keeping humidity at bay.
Note: During the vegetative stage, the humidity in the room should be between 60-70%, where it should be lowered to around 40% for the flowering stage. Expert growers tend to prefer doing this at the start of the grow period using a dehumidifier, as this method gently stresses the cannabis, encouraging better resin production.
Flush Your Plants for Flavor
A pro-tip if ever there was one, every grower from beginner to master should flush their marijuana plants before harvesting them. Why? A plant that has not been flushed of excess nutrients will have a strong, bitter flavor once it has been dried and cured.
Flushing is a simple process that involves running clear, distilled water through your grow medium, be it soil or hydroponics, to flush out any nutrients present in the soil, forcing your plant to use up whatever it has stored. About two weeks before you’re ready to harvest, flush your plants once, then again after about 15 minutes for maximum effect.