How Long Does It Take To Grow Cannabis Indoors?
Cultivating top-quality cannabis indoors is not entirely without some challenges. It is a tedious and arduous process that takes months of dedication. And, while there is no clear-cut answer as to how long it takes, each particular strain and the type of seed grown from can give a rough estimate.
Moreover, several factors could prolong the period. On the other hand, a better understanding of these dynamics let one optimize the conditions. As a result, the growth rate could be enhanced. Effectively, this shortens the time it takes from germination until such time that the buds could be harvested.
Factors Affecting Growing Speed Indoors
For those planning to cultivate cannabis indoors, perhaps one of the most crucial questions to ask is how long it take for the plants to grow and be ready for harvest. The quick answer is approximately 5 to 7 months. However, this just is a general estimate. The specific answer would depend on several factors such as the desired yields, the strain of the plant, and grow style to name a few.
Genetics. As the “nature and nurture” postulate suggests, both the genes and the environment determine the development of the plant. It is not certain which of the two plays the more crucial role but what is clear is that in cannabis plants, the genetic coding or strain of the seed largely determines its growing speed. Despite its growing conditions, Indica varieties tend to flower faster compared to Sativa. Ruderalis, on the other hand, is an auto-flowering strain that is so short-lived it can produce buds within weeks of germination. It is also worth noting that the quality of the seeds will also affect the speed and success of its germination. Hence, it is essential to choose excellent seeds right from the start then enrich it further with optimal growing conditions.
Temperature.Cannabis plants best thrive in temperatures between 20°C to 30°C during the vegetative phase and 18°C to 26°C during the flowering period. Mismanagement of temperature levels can lead to the proliferation of molds and stunting of growth. Temperature and lighting problems are often related can be resolved by proper ventilation, and simple adjustment of the distance of the grow lights from the plants.
Lighting.In the absence of natural sunlight in indoor setups, artificial lighting systems provide plants with the energy needed to carry out photosynthesis. The rate of growth depends on this process which, in turn, depends on the type of bulb and intensity. Adequate amounts of light and appropriate types of lighting can significantly boost growth. Conversely, too much or too little light, as well as using unsuitable bulbs could impede growth. For instance, under extreme lighting conditions, the plant undergoes stress and in turn, focuses its energy on trying to survive rather than producing buds. Hence, one of the best ways to boost plant growth is to provide it with optimal light conditions.
Nutrients.Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are essential nutrients for plant growth. Additional macronutrients like calcium, magnesium, and sulfur also play a vital role throughout the life cycle of cannabis. Providing these nutrients in adequate amounts significantly boosts growing speed, overall foliage development, as well as terpene and cannabinoid production. On the other hand, providing improper amounts of these essentials may cause nutrient deficiency if inadequate and nutrient lockout if it is more than what is necessary. These problems can negatively impact the plant’s growth.
Grow Techniques.Such techniques differ based on the medium used for planting. For outdoor setups, soil mediums are most often used. On the other hand, indoor cultivation offers a wide array of choices when it comes to growing methods. A well-known method that hastens the growing period by 2 to 3 weeks is the hydroponics – a soil-less growing technique. In a hydroponic setup, the roots of the cannabis plants are submerged in nutrient-rich water where it directly receives the nourishment it needs for growth. Hence, the plant focuses its energy on faster bud and foliage growth instead of constantly searching for nutrients in the soil.
Stress Induction.While a healthy dose of stress can aid growth to some extent, excessive stress exposure can significantly inhibit the growth and development of an organism – be it a plant or animal.
In cannabis cultivation, the plants are intentionally subjected to mild stress training such as topping or FIMing to force it to become stronger. However, excessive amounts of stress result in stunted growth. Hence, this technique must be used with caution.
How Long Before Seeds Become Smokable Buds?
Growing cannabis from seeds to mature plants takes approximately 5 to 7 months – but that is not the end of it yet. It is merely a part of the bud procurement process. Turning seeds to smokable buds involve planning and preparation of the garden, tending to the plant as it grows, harvesting it, and applying post-harvest processing. Overall, depending on the factors mentioned earlier, the entire process can take over 9 months of patience and dedication. Not to mention, it could also include periods of anxiety when problems that require immediate attention occurs.
|Entire Bud Procurement Process|
|Preparation||0 to 4 weeks|
|Growing from Seed to Buds||12 to ~44 weeks (~11 months)|
|Germination||1 to 7 days|
|Seedling Phase||1 to 4 weeks|
|Vegetative Phase||3 weeks to 24 weeks (6 months)|
|Sativa||At least 3 weeks|
|Indica||At least 3 weeks|
|Ruderalis||2 to 3 weeks|
|Pre-flowering Phase||2 to 3 weeks|
|Flowering Phase||7 weeks to 16 weeks (4 months)|
|Sativa||10 to 16 weeks|
|Indica||7 to 12 weeks|
|Ruderalis||3 to 4 weeks|
|Drying||10 to 14 days (2 weeks)|
|Curing||1 to 4+ weeks|
|Jar method||At least 4 weeks; up to 6 months|
|Water Curing||5 to 7 days|
|TOTAL||~50+ weeks (12+ months)|
|Cannabis Growth Cycle (Seeds to Flowering Stage)|
|Sativa||~27 weeks (~6 to 7 months)|
|Indica||~23 weeks (~5 to 6 months)|
|Ruderalis||<12 weeks (<3 months)|
Providing optimal indoor growing conditions for cannabis plants require extensive planning and preparation. This involves preparing all the necessary materials and equipment beforehand.
Purchasing The Equipment
Depending on the location, supplier, and desired setup, purchasing all necessary gardening equipment can take up to 14 days or even 4 weeks when delivery time is factored in. Larger equipment is needed when setting up large gardens. These items take significantly more time to be delivered if ordered online.
Furthermore, the needed materials will vary depending on the growing technique used. Employing a hydroponic system would require bulky aerators, opaque tanks, and piping system among others. Meanwhile, growing in soil needs pots or plant beds, soil mix, and other usual gardening tools. Of course, huge light setups are necessary too. Buying all the essential items could undoubtedly take time, especially since doing a little research on the best brands and kinds to buy is imperative.
Choosing The Seeds/Clones
Similar to requisitioning of equipment, time to source top-shelf seeds or clones will depend on the cultivator’s location. Ordering from a seed bank within the country can take anywhere from 2 to 10 days. Seeds sourced overseas can take up to 4 weeks to arrive.
Clones can be taken from any mature cannabis plant to be used for direct growing. However, it takes special skills and expertise to be able to grow cannabis from clones. Hence, seeds are recommended for first-timers.
Seed or clone selection is made even more complicated by the fact that there are thousands of cannabis strains to choose from. But in general, the three species to choose from are sativa, indica, and ruderalis. In sourcing the seeds/clones, it is essential to have background knowledge about the growth characteristics of each strain.
- Sativa. Cannabis sativa is a lanky plant that reaches up to 5 meters tall. Its slender leaves, long widely-spaced branches, and clustering flowers are some of its distinct characteristics. It is generally hard to grow sativa plants indoors because of its towering height. It spends little time in the vegetative phase (~3 weeks) but longer periods in the flowering stage (10 to 16 weeks).
- Indica. The indica strain grows shorter compared to sativa. Once fully developed, it only measures up to 2 meters tall. It is known for its bushy stature, narrowly-spaced branches, and broad, rounded leaves. Indica is generally preferred by indoor cultivators because of its short stature and shorter flowering time of 7 to 9 weeks. This means it matures more quickly as opposed to sativa strains.
- Ruderalis. Ruderalis is the smallest and fastest growing of the three cannabis species. Hence, it also produces the least amount of resin. However, autoflowering strains are also favored by indoor growers because it produces buds in as little as 3 months after germination regardless of the season. This means it could be cultivated all year round for more harvest.
The cannabis life cycle is relatively straightforward with only 3 main stages: germination, vegetative and flowering.
Growing weed indoors allows control over parameters that affect growth such as light, nutrients, and ventilation. The length of time spent in each stage also varies based on the flowering mechanism of the strain and the lighting schedule.
The cannabis seedling generation takes from 12 hours to 8 days depending on the viability of the seeds and the method of germination used. Some seeds can germinate within the day; others take as long as 3-5 days. In most cases, darker colored seeds are chosen for germination because pale seeds are not mature enough to sprout.
The time it takes for the seedling to grow lasts for 1 to 4 weeks depending on its quality. Good, viable seeds naturally shed husks faster and grow the first set of leaves earlier. The better the quality of seeds, the shorter the seedling phase will be. Using clones instead of seeds allows the grower to skip the germination and seedling stage altogether.
The vegetative phase is the period at which the plants grow the structures necessary for survival. On average, the duration takes at least 3 weeks and could last even up to 6 months depending on the genetics of the seedling and the preferred light schedule of the cultivator.
- Auto-flowering. Despite its short life span, autos still spend considerable time on the vegetative stage. Auto-flowering varieties require a minimum of 2 weeks in the vegetative stage before transitioning to the flowering phase.
- Photoperiod. Photoperiod strains have longer vegetative stage. It takes at least 3 weeks for the plants to mature. However, some opt to extend this period by up to 6 months. The extension allows sufficient time to further enhance the traits, resin production, and yield.
The length of time until the pre-flowering stage will also vary based on the strain and growing methods. For instance, sativas spend less time in the vegetative stage than indicas. Plants grown in a hydroponic system also tend to develop faster than those planted in soil mediums.
Weed enters the pre-flowering stage once the cultivator shifts the light-dark schedule from 18-6 to 12-12. This period lasts for 2-3 weeks.
- Auto-flowering. These plants bloom 2 to 3 weeks after germination regardless of the light schedule it is exposed to. The pre-flowering stage for autos is characterized by the appearance of buds with white pistils.
- Photoperiod. Photoperiod strains pre-flower at least 8 to 10 weeks after germination and can last for 4 to 6weeks. However, this can be shortened by reducing the indoor light exposure. Lowering light exposure from 18 hours a day to 12 hours a day triggers pre-flowering for photoperiod strains.
On average, the flowering stage lasts for 5 to 12 weeks depending on the strain. It is during this phase that the white pistils gradually turn orange as an indication of plant’s maturity.
- Auto-flowering. The flowering stage for autos occurs within 5 to 7 days. Prepare to harvest a week after the appearance of the white pistil.
- Photoperiod. Photoperiod strains spend 7 to 12 weeks on this stage and go through three sub-stages during flowering (early bloom, mid-bloom, and late-bloom). Approximately 4 to 6 weeks after pre-flowering, the pistils will start to turn pink or orange. It is only until the 7th to 12th week that majority of the pistils will turn dark-orange or brown. This is an indication that the buds are ripe enough for harvest. Indicas mostly spend 7 to 12 weeks in this phase whereas sativas could take as long as 10 to 16 weeks.
After harvesting buds, it should be dried for more or less 7 days or 2 weeks. This stage plays a pivotal role in defining the potency and the overall flavor and aroma of the buds. The process must not be rushed or cut short. Otherwise, the buds could be attacked by molds – thereby making it unsafe to consume.
Drying must not be done under direct sunlight. Instead, the buds should be hanged in a drying rack and placed in a closed room with an ideal temperature of 21°C and a relative humidity level of 50%. One way to test if the buds are ready for curing is the snap test. Try breaking the stem of the buds. If it appears brittle and snaps off crisply, then that means it is sufficiently dried.
The period for curing varies substantially because it depends on the cultivator’s preference and technique used. It could take up to 6 months, but it is a step that should neither be skipped nor expedited as curing spells the difference between a foul-tasting and exceptional bud.
- Jar Method. To cure cannabis using this method, place the dried buds in a sealed mason jar and open once or twice daily to release moisture. If the buds stick together, open the jar for longer periods – at least 12 hours for further drying. Reduce the frequency of opening as time progresses. The buds can be cured in the mason jar for up to 6 months. It is advised to sample the product at different times during curing to identify how long it takes to get the desired flavor and aroma. After that, it must be vacuum-sealed to preserve the taste and smell.
- Water Curing. Alternatively, opting for water curing takes less time to complete and produces the same result. It only takes 5 to 7 days to rid the buds of nutrient residues using this method. However, the buds may lose some terpenes in the process – thereby rendering it less aromatic than jar-cured buds.
Reaping The Buds Of Labor
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how long it will take cannabis plants to grow from seed to harvest-ready buds as many factors could influence its rate of growth. But generally, autos take 3 months or less to mature from germination. On the other hand, photoperiod strains take as long as 5 to 7 months or more, with the time variation caused by genetics, environmental conditions, and personal preferences in growing techniques. However, it is possible to expedite the process by providing the plants with optimal growing conditions.
Despite the ambiguities surrounding cannabis’ time frame of growth, one thing is certain: cultivating and procuring marijuana requires putting in a lot of time and effort. But once it is time to harvest and savor the dense, aromatic buds, all the trouble will be well worth it.