At Green Tree we have 200+ strains that we grow ourselves. Let me tell you, this is no easy task. It requires space, time, precision, equipment and of course, love💚. But boy, is it satisfying to harvest those big, sticky buds! Although the entire grow process is fascinating, in this post we’re going to focus specifically on the flowering phases – the exciting part – of the grow.
Week 1: Plant Transition From Vegetative to Flower
The first week of the flowering cycle, the female plants will be in a transition stage. Instead of receiving light for 18+ hours a day like they do in the vegetative cycle, the time under lighting is drastically reduced. The vegetative cycle mimics the summer season and translates to the plants that they have plenty of time to grow. Because of the reduced amount of time the plants get under light, it spurs the flowering phase as the plants are tricked into thinking winter is not far away. The plants have to focus their energy on developing buds at a rapid pace in hopes of being pollinated by a male plant before they die in the winter.
Although the plant has officially entered the ‘flowering phase’, it will not have an increased need for growing nutrients. A person should not abruptly change their plant’s nutrient schedule and use flowering nutrients from one day to the next. Once flowering starts, it is usually recommended to continue to give growing nutrients for at least one more week.
Week 2: “Sexing” Plants
During week 2, the first white pistils will grow on the female cannabis plants. These fine, wispy white hairs develop at the locations where the big fan leaves meet the main stem. These white hairs are what later become the buds of the plant, called colas.
If the cannabis plant is male, the plant will grow pollen sacs instead of white hairs. This is the time when a person can ‘sex’ their plants which means to separate the males from the females. It’s very important to sex the plants during this time period because male plants could pollinate the female plants causing them to grow seeds in their flowers, something a grower never wants to happen as the final product quality will be severely impacted.
Usually at week 2, when the plants start to flower and initiate the first signs of growing buds, increasing flowering nutrients is essential to help plants reach their maximum yield potential.
Week 3: First Signs of Real Buds
The cannabis plants will be much larger than they were 3 weeks earlier, some strains doubling in size. The stretching of the plant will gradually slow down and eventually stop so the plant can focus its energy on creating flowers to try to procreate before the “winter” comes and they end their life.
This is why the first 3 weeks are known as the ‘stretch phase’. While the plants are working very hard to gain size and height in time for ‘winter’, they will also grow many new leaves, mostly at the top of the main colas. Plants do this to make themselves stronger and sturdier so they can support the big buds yet to come.
Where some white hairs were previously, there should now be the first signs of real buds developing. The smell won’t be too potent yet because of a lack of resin glands and trichomes on the plant at this time.
During this phase, the female plants start focusing more energy on growing flowers is a very critical one. It’s important that they get appropriate nutrients and dosages. If a plant has deficiencies such as yellowing leaves or loss of leaves, it may need more nutrients. If a plant is overfed, causing “nutrient burn”, it could show up in the tips of the leaves as discoloration.
Week 4: Growth Stops and Plants Focus on Their Buds
At this week in the flowering stage, the cannabis plant will most likely have stopped growing. The plants are now focusing all of their energy into growing buds and are hoping to be pollinated by a male to create seeds that will germinate in the spring. If you’ve properly sexed your plants the bud sites will just start getting larger and larger instead. Even though there are still white hairs sticking out from the buds, the buds themselves become larger with each day and as the buds grow more and more, the plants will produce more trichomes. This causes the odor to become much more pungent.
The plants may require structural support after the increase in bud size, as they may start to tilt or fall due to the weight gain.
Week 5: Buds Grow More and More
The buds all over the plants have become thicker. There may be new buds in new places, like near the main cola. Cannabis plants get fatter and fatter every day. This is a good sign that the plant is in full flowering mode. The odor will be very strong at this point.
Some of the plant’s white pistil hairs may turn into a darker amber or brownish color. Meanwhile, the trichomes of the plant may be becoming opaque as well. Signs like dark hairs and milky white trichomes are good signs that the plants are not too far from harvest time!
Week 6-8: Flushing and Knowing When to Harvest
Not all cannabis plants are the same. Some require more flowering time than others. Though many varieties are ready to be harvested in these last 3 weeks, most are not ready to be harvested before week 8.
Flushing is key to a good harvest. Flushing is the act of administering plain, pH-balanced water into the soil to remove any existing nutrients after the plant stops being fed. When the nutrients are removed from the soil, it forces the plant to use up the remaining nutrients in the plant itself. Similar to humans storing fat for energy when food is scarce, the plant will use what it has in reserves. Ultimately a grower wants the plant to have no nutrients, or “fat”, left when harvested. Having no nutrients is important as it could taint the bud come harvest time and have a gross, chemical taste when smoked.
To know when a plant is ready to be harvested, microscopes or jeweller’s loups are used to check the plant’s trichomes. If the trichomes turn from clear to milky white, then it might be time to harvest. If many trichomes are still clear, it means it’s too early for harvest. You can tell when THC content in the buds has hit its max, if the trichomes are opaque and amber colored.
We find the growing process fascinating here at Green Tree Medicinals! How about you?