Cannabis is an annual plant, meaning that a single season completes its life cycle. The precise length of the life cycle is dependent on the plants variety and growing conditions, specifically during the photoperiod. The following sections describe each phase of the cannabis plant’s natural cycle of life.
The process of germination usually takes between three and ten days. After the frigid winter season subsides, warm spring air arrives, rousing activity in the embryo of the seed. The seed absorbs water, causing the embryo’s tissues to swell until the seed splits along the edge. At this time, the embryonic root appears and shed the shell of the seed. It then begins its downward growth.
As this occurs, the roots grow and anchor themselves into the ground and the top of the germinated seed begins to grow its stem upwards. After the roots take hold, they begin receiving water and nutrients. This causes a pair of small, ovular, embryonic leaves known as cotyledons, to unfold. The cotyledons turn green with chlorophyll and help absorb the light energy to keep the plant growing.
The seedling stage occurs with the formation of the second tier of leaves. This second set differs from the cotyledons by their larger size, spearhead shape, and serrated edges. As the seedling develops more sets of leaves, each set has a higher number of leaves per blade and grows larger than the last until, depending on variety, they reach their maximum number. This stage is complete when the plant reaches the maximum leaves per blade, a process that usually takes four to six weeks.
The vegetative phase is the plants period of maximum growth. This phase determines the eventual yield. The plant increases in size by collecting solar energy; producing a strong cellular structure and providing the leaf tissue necessary for new growth. With optimal growing conditions Cannabis can grow as a whopping 6 inches in a day! More realistically however, plants will grow a steady 1 to 2 inches per day.
The pre-flowering phase occurs as growth begins to slow. During this period of one to two weeks, the plant begins to divert its energy from green growth to seed production.
Cannabis is a dioecious, meaning each plant produces either male or female flowers and is considered a male or female plant. The upper internodes elongate and a few days later, flowers will appear. Male flowers are either pale green or reddish purple in color and appear in dense clusters of tiny balls hanging from the plant. These male flowers release pollen and afterwards lose vigor and die. It is common for male plants to start developing flowers about one month before females.
Female flowers consist of two small, fuzzy white stigmas attached at the base to an ovule which is formed from leaves that surround the developing seed. Female flowers develop tightly together to form dense clusters of delicious bud. 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.