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Growing Marijuana from Seed to Plant: An Easy Guide

The magic of marijuana cultivation begins with a simple seed. As beginner or seasoned home growers, we are presented with an array of choices from regular seeds to auto-flowering cannabis seed, and choosing the best cannabis seeds is the first significant step. Growing marijuana from seed to plant is a series of stages, each requiring different conditions and care. This guide is designed to support you through the growing process - from germination stage to harvesting your own weed. We'll explore the best methods, including the popular paper towel method, and delve into the science of cannabis cultivators. By the end, you'll be ready to cultivate your own cannabis, whether you're an indoor grower with a grow tent, or an outdoor plants enthusiast.

Understanding the Stages of Cannabis Growth

marijuana planting by hand

Understanding the stages of cannabis growth is a fundamental part of cultivating your own marijuana plants. Here, we break down the process into digestible pieces:

  • Seed Germination: This is the first stage of the marijuana plant's life cycle. To germinate your seeds, you can use the paper towel method, where seeds are placed between wet paper towels and kept in a dark place. A warm place with a room temperature of about 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for this process. Within a week, you should see a small tap root emerge from each germinated seed.

  • Seedling Stage: Once the seed has sprouted, it enters the seedling stage, which lasts about 2-3 weeks. During this period, your young plants will develop their first true leaves. This stage demands a lot of care. Seedlings should be moved to a growing medium such as peat moss or seedling pellets, and they should be given much light, about 18 hours a day under a grow light. Keep them in a good place with a relative humidity of around 70% to ensure they don't dry out.

  • Vegetative Stage: This is the phase where your plants do most of their growing. They need lots of light (around 18-24 hours a day), water, and nutrients. The vegetative stage lasts between 3-16 weeks, depending on the kind of plant (sativa plants, for example, have a longer vegetative phase). At this stage, you will transfer the young plants to a larger pot if necessary, and maintain the environmental conditions in your indoor grow room or grow tent. Keep an eye out for the formation of white hairs at the top of the main stem - this indicates the beginning of the flowering stage.

  • Flowering Stage: In this phase, female cannabis plants begin to produce buds while male plants produce pollen. However, most indoor growers choose feminized seeds to ensure they only get female plants, which are the ones that produce the THC-rich flowers desired for personal use. The flowering stage requires a change in light schedule, with 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness each day. This stage can last anywhere from 8 to 11 weeks.

  • Harvesting: The best time to harvest is when most of the white hairs on your marijuana plants have darkened and curled in. A magnifying glass can be used to check the color of the trichomes (small, crystal-like structures on the buds). When about half of the trichomes have turned from clear to a milky white color, it's generally a good time to harvest.

  • Drying and Curing: After harvesting, the drying process begins. The buds need to be dried in a dark, well-ventilated area with a relative humidity of about 50%. After drying, which can take 1-2 weeks, the buds are typically cured in glass jars stored in a cool, dark place for a few weeks to a few months.

Understanding these stages will help you cultivate healthy plants and yield the best results, whether you're a beginner or experienced grower.

Choosing the Best Seeds and Germinating Your Marijuana Seeds

marijuana hemp seeds

The journey of transforming marijuana seeds into potent cannabis flowers starts with choosing the best seeds. With myriad strains available, you have a wealth of options, each with its unique properties, flavors, and effects. Here's a detailed guide to help you select the best seeds for your cultivation:

  • Type of Strain: Cannabis strains can be broadly classified into Sativa, Indica, and hybrid. Sativa strains are known for their energizing effects, making them ideal for daytime use. Indica strains provide a sense of deep body relaxation and are best suited for evening use. Hybrids are a blend of Sativa and Indica strains and can be either Sativa-dominant, Indica-dominant, or balanced. Each strain comes with its own growth characteristics such as height, flowering time, and yield. Research the strains available and choose one that aligns with your personal preferences, cultivation skills, and the conditions you can provide.

  • Seed Type: There are three main types of marijuana seeds - regular, feminized, and auto-flowering. Regular seeds can develop into either male or female plants and require you to identify and separate the males to prevent them from pollinating the females. Feminized seeds are genetically modified to produce only female plants, which are the ones that generate the high-THC buds. These are often the go-to choice for indoor growers. Auto-flowering seeds are easy to grow as they automatically transition from vegetative growth to flowering stage based on their age, regardless of the light schedule. They are a fantastic option for novice growers or those looking for a quick turnaround.

  • Seed Health: Good quality seeds are a prerequisite for a successful cultivation journey. Healthy seeds are usually dark brown with a glossy finish and a hard shell. Avoid seeds that are light in color or have a greenish hue as they are immature and less likely to germinate successfully. Equally, stay away from seeds that are cracked, feel soft or look shriveled, as these are unlikely to be viable.

  • Seed Source: Where you get your seeds is as important as the seeds themselves. Buy your seeds from a reliable source, such as well-established online seed banks, to ensure you get exactly what you’re paying for. Look for providers that offer a germination guarantee for peace of mind.

Germinating Your Marijuana Seeds

Once you have your perfect seeds, it's time to kickstart their journey. Germination is the process by which a new plant begins to grow from a seed. Here's a step-by-step guide to one of the most popular and effective methods - the wet paper towel method:

  1. Preparation: Start by gathering your materials – your cannabis seeds, two clean plates, and paper towels. Use filtered or bottled water to wet the paper towels.

  2. Position Your Seeds: Lay one of the wet paper towels on a plate and place your marijuana seeds on it, keeping them at least an inch apart. Cover them with the second wet paper towel.

  3. Provide the Right Environment: Cover the seeds with the second plate to create a dark, humid environment. Cannabis seeds need warmth and moisture to germinate. Keep the setup in a warm and dark place. The ideal temperature should be between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

  4. Wait and Check: Check your seeds daily to ensure the paper towels remain moist. If they're drying out, spray them with some water.

  5. Transplanting: After 3-7 days, your seeds should start to open, and you'll see a tiny root emerging. That's the taproot, which will grow downwards into your growing medium to anchor the plant and absorb nutrients. When this taproot is about a quarter to a half-inch long, it's time to gently move your germinated seed into its growing medium.

Remember, the taproot is delicate and should be handled with extreme care. A pair of tweezers can be a useful tool for this delicate operation. Be sure to plant the germinated seed taproot down into the soil to ensure the seedling doesn't have to reorient itself.

Following these steps can set you on the path to successful marijuana cultivation. As with any gardening project, patience, and attentiveness can go a long way in growing healthy, thriving marijuana plants from seeds.

Vegetative and Flowering Stage: The Marijuana Plants Life Cycle

The vegetative stage of the marijuana plant's life cycle is a period of rapid growth, akin to adolescence in humans. During this phase, your cannabis plants focus their energy on becoming bigger and stronger, developing a sturdy branch structure that can support heavy buds in the flowering stage. This phase typically starts when the plant has developed three to five sets of true leaves and can last from 3 weeks to 5 months, depending on the strain and the growing conditions.

Here's what happens and what you need to pay attention to during the vegetative stage:

  • Lighting: At this stage, your marijuana plants need a lot of light - typically, 18-24 hours per day. This extensive light exposure triggers photosynthesis, enabling the plants to produce the energy they need for their vigorous growth.

  • Nutrient Needs: During the vegetative stage, marijuana plants need a nutrient mix high in nitrogen and potassium, as well as a complete mix of secondary nutrients and micronutrients. This will support the development of healthy and robust branches and leaves.

  • Watering: Water your marijuana plants thoroughly, but ensure you don't waterlog them. The top inch of soil should be allowed to dry out between watering to prevent problems such as root rot and fungal infections.

  • Growth: Your marijuana plants will grow rapidly during this stage, often doubling or tripling in size. Regular pruning can help control the growth and create a bushier plant with more branches and thus more bud sites.

  • Temperature and Humidity: The ideal temperature range during the vegetative stage is 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit, with relative humidity between 45-55%.

Flowering Stage: The Blooming Phase

After the vegetative stage, the marijuana plant enters the flowering stage, the final phase of its life cycle. This is when your cannabis plants start developing the resinous buds that we all appreciate. The flowering stage typically lasts 8 to 11 weeks, depending on the strain and the growing conditions.

Here's what happens and what you need to pay attention to during the flowering stage:

  • Lighting: Switch your light cycle to a 12/12 schedule, meaning 12 hours of light and 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness. This light schedule mimics the natural conditions of autumn, prompting the plant to flower.

  • Nutrient Needs: As your plants enter the flowering stage, their nutrient needs change. They require less nitrogen and more phosphorous and potassium, which aid in bud development.

  • Watering: Continue watering your plants thoroughly, allowing the top inch of soil to dry out between watering. Some growers gradually decrease watering frequency in the last two weeks before harvest to enhance the flavor profile of the buds.

  • Bud Development: Over the course of the flowering stage, you will see your cannabis plant develop small white hairs (pistils) that eventually transform into swelling buds. In the final weeks, the buds will gain most of their weight.

  • Temperature and Humidity: Ideal temperatures during the flowering stage should be slightly lower than the vegetative stage, around 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and relative humidity should be lowered to about 40-50%.

Understanding these two crucial stages of the marijuana plant's life cycle is key to successful cultivation. By providing your plants with their ideal conditions and needs, you can maximize their growth and yield potential. Whether you're a novice grower or a cannabis connoisseur, cultivating your own cannabis plants is a rewarding experience that begins with germinating your best seeds and ends with harvesting the fruit of your labor.

Harvesting, Drying Process, and Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor

marijuana harvesting by a man

Harvesting is a crucial part of the marijuana plant's life cycle, and timing is everything. Harvest too early, and you'll miss out on THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. Harvest too late, and those compounds may start to degrade. The best time to harvest is when the majority of the pistils (the white hairs on the buds) have darkened and curled in, and when the trichomes (the tiny, crystal-like glands on the flower) have shifted from clear to a milky white color. A magnifying glass can be of great help to closely observe these changes.

  • Cutting and Trimming: Use a sharp, clean pair of scissors to cut the main stem of the plant. Next, trim away the larger fan leaves and then the smaller sugar leaves, being careful not to cut off the dense, trichome-rich buds.

  • Wet Trimming vs. Dry Trimming: The process can be done either immediately after you harvest (wet trimming) or after the plants have partially dried (dry trimming). Wet trimming is easier and can prevent mold during drying in humid conditions. Dry trimming preserves the flavor and aroma of the buds and is preferred when the air is dry.

Drying Process: The Crucial Transformation

After harvesting and trimming your marijuana plants, the next step is to dry them. Proper drying is essential for enhancing the potency, flavor, and overall quality of your buds.

  • Hanging to Dry: Hang your trimmed plants or branches upside down in a room with good air circulation, low humidity (50% is ideal), and a temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep them out of direct sunlight, which can degrade the cannabinoids and terpenes.

  • Monitor the Drying Process: Drying should be slow to allow for the best results. Too fast, and you may end up with buds that are dry outside but moist inside, leading to possible mold issues. Too slow, and they could start to rot. The process usually takes 7-14 days.

  • Check for Dryness: You'll know your plants are dry enough when the smaller stems snap rather than bend, and the buds feel dry to the touch but not brittle.

Curing: The Flavor Maker

After drying comes the curing process, which is like aging a fine wine. Curing helps to further enhance the potency and flavor of your marijuana.

  • Jar It Up: Transfer your buds into airtight glass jars, filling them ¾ full to allow some air exchange. Store them in a cool, dark place.

  • Burp the Jars: Open the jars for a few minutes each day to let the buds “breathe” and release any moisture. This is called “burping” your jars.

  • Wait and Enjoy: Continue the burping process for about two weeks, and then reduce to once a week. The longer you cure your buds, the smoother and more flavorful they will be. Most growers aim for a curing period of 2-4 weeks, but some connoisseurs will cure for 6 months or more.

Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor

Once your marijuana is dried and cured, it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Whether you prefer smoking, vaporizing, making edibles, or creating your own cannabis-infused products, you now have a supply of high-quality cannabis that you've grown from seed to harvest. Not only does this give you control over the process, but it also allows you to truly appreciate the effort and passion that goes into producing marijuana.

Growing your own marijuana can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and at ARCannabisClinic, we can guide you through every step of the way, from choosing the best seeds to enjoying your final product. Check us out at ARCannabisClinic for more information and guidance.


Embracing the role of cannabis cultivators, each with a favorite strain, is a great way to enjoy this versatile, annual plant. From the thrill of seeing the first true leaves on your cannabis seedling to the satisfaction of dry trimming your homegrown buds, every stage offers its own rewards. With patience, the right conditions, and a bit of green thumb, anyone can transform viable weed seeds into thriving, healthy cannabis plants. In the United States, growing marijuana for personal use has been a growing trend among novice and commercial growers alike.

But remember, always follow your local laws regarding the cultivation and use of cannabis. For medical patients in particular, a great place to get started is the ARCannabisClinic, a trusted marijuana card doctor network that helps patients navigate the complexities of the medical marijuana world. Visit ARCannabisClinic to learn more about how medical marijuana can benefit you.

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