Growing your own weed takes time and energy, but when you obtain your first harvest, you’ll know how rewarding it is. Growing weed isn’t hard science, When it comes to how long it takes to grow cannabis, there really isn't a simple answer. Learn more about marijuana cultivation as we explore some of the general time-frames for different stages of the cannabis growing process.
How Long Does It Take for Marijuana Seeds to Sprout?
Growing your own weed takes time and energy, but when you obtain your first harvest, you’ll know how rewarding it is. Growing weed isn’t hard science, especially if you have previous experience with growing plants, so if you learn the basics the rest will quickly follow.
This article focuses on the germination process of growing weed, and the most common germination methods, as well as some tips for success. Whether you’ve chosen indica or sativa, or regular or autoflowering seeds, germination is crucial to the plant’s growth process and the start of its lifecycle, so keep on reading for some helpful tips and information.
How Do Weed Seeds Work?
Weed seeds are the small oval-shaped fruits of the cannabis plant. They’re covered in a subtle membrane, albumen, which keeps the center of the seed healthy until it’s time for germination. At the center of the seed you can find the embryo from which the new plant grows from. This embryo contains the plant’s genetic code and is the place from where the taproot starts forming.
Similar to other plant seeds, cannabis seeds are the fruit of the pollinated flowers of female weed plants that don’t contain any psychoactive effects. However, they can be consumed as food since they’re the source of a lot of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial proteins.
Pros and Cons of Using Cannabis Seeds
When it comes to cannabis cultivation, germinating cannabis seeds is one of the methods you can choose. This method of cultivation has a lot of benefits, but also a few downsides.
Some of the benefits of cultivating marijuana seeds include:
- The presence of the taproot from the germinating seeds provides more support in the initial growth stages of the cannabis plant.
- You don’t inherit pests from the mother plant.
- As a result of the expansion of the cannabis market, you can choose from a huge variety of high-quality seeds from a lot of seed banks all over the world.
- Seeds can be stored for a long time without going bad and still germinate.
On the other hand, the downsides when using cannabis seeds include:
- Having to wait until the plant reaches the flowering stage in order to differentiate whether it’s a male or a female plant.
- Seeds can take a while before they pop (germinate).
- Germinating seeds is harder for newbie growers since it requires more skill.
Cannabis Seeds vs. Clones
Compared to cannabis seeds, cannabis clones are an example of asexual propagation, or replicating from a single parent. The cutting is taken from a stable mother plant and is grown into a genetically stable ang genetically identical plant under the right conditions. The benefits of using clones for weed cultivation include:
- Ensuring that the gender of the new plant is female.
- Knowing which traits your plant will have.
- The cultivation process is several weeks faster compared to a seed that needs to sprout.
- The clone is less delicate than the seed is at the beginning.
- Growing clones is easier since you only need to “plug and play”, so beginners will find this process easier.
How Are Marijuana Seeds Grown?
You can grow marijuana seeds both inside and outside, depending on the conditions, space, and resources available. Generally, growing marijuana indoors requires a dedicated space and equipment, like fans, grow lights, and heating pads. This method is more private and gives you better control, but at the same time, it’s more expensive and demanding. Growing outdoors is the easiest and cheapest way to grow, provided that there’s enough sunlight – at least 6 hours of light daily. The downside is that you’ll be limited to the growing season even though outdoor marijuana yields a lot more weed because the plants grow bigger. If growing outdoors isn’t an option for you, or you want to grow all year long, you can always invest in some quality lights.
Marijuana plants usually start out as a seed, but some growers use clones as well. Basically, a clone is a cut-off from a plant that’s used to grow another plant. Growing weed from seeds is a little more convenient, especially if it’s your first time growing weed, plus, seeds give a stronger plant.
Before the seeds turn into a beautiful marijuana plant, they need to be prepped for transplanting, or in other words, they need to germinate.
What Is Seed Germination?
Seed germination is the process when a plant starts sprouting from seed and continues growing from there. During the germination process, the food reserves present within the seed are converted into sugars that the plant uses to increase in size, causing its root to start breaking through the shell. This is the first sign that they have germinated.
Once emerged, the root is crucial to the plant’s survival as it provides the necessary nutrients from the environment. After this process, the germinated seeds are ready to be planted in the growing medium of your choice.
The simplest and most common one is soil, but in recent years, hydroponics are also becoming popular – Rockwool cubes and coco, especially. The downside of these growing mediums is that you need to be well-versed in pH levels and maintain the optimal pH and nutritional status of your plant at all times.
Germinating Your Cannabis Seeds
There are three most common germination methods.
Soaking Cannabis Seeds in a Glass of Water
This is the simplest method and it’s especially helpful for older seeds as it helps to wake them up, or even seeds with hard shells. The process is pretty straightforward: you need to fill the glass with lukewarm water and soak the seeds. At first, they should float in the water, and sink to the bottom after a few hours have passed. If some of the seeds don’t sink, you can try pushing them gently to the bottom.
After you’ve soaked the seeds, put the cup of water in a dark and warm place, and leave them for 36 hours at most. The seeds that have started sprouting will have a tiny white root sticking out. If, after 36 hours some seeds have no signs of sprouting, we recommend you put them in a warm and moist place to encourage the germination process.
The Paper Towel Method
This method is probably the most popular one among weed growers. You’ll need a kitchen paper towel and two plates. We recommend you use a nonporous paper towel (usually the cheaper brands), as this will retain moisture for longer. Here’s a brief step-by-step guide:
- Moisten two sheets of paper towel and put them on one of the plates;
- Carefully place the cannabis seeds over the wet paper towels;
- Fold the damp paper towels over so that the seeds are well covered;
- Cover with the other plate to create a dark space, but make sure to leave some room for oxygen, i.e. don’t align the plates perfectly;
- Check on the seeds often, about every 5-8 hours, and if you notice that the paper towels have dried even a little, spray them immediately to maintain the moisture.
If all goes well, the seeds should take 24 hours to start sprouting, but if they haven’t (this might happen with old seeds), leave them for up to 72 hours and check on them constantly so they don’t run out of moisture. With this method, you’ll need to be patient, as some seeds just need a little more time.
Germinating Seeds in Potting Soil
You can also mimic nature’s way by germinating marijuana seeds directly in a growing medium. This method allows the seeds to sprout in potting soil and continue living there without the need for transplanting. The upside of this method is that the marijuana seedlings will get used to its home environment from the beginning and it’ll be easier to thrive.
To do this, you need to put the seed about ½ inch deep in moist (not wet) soil. Put some soil over the hole to cover it and press lightly. The seed will germinate under the surface and, in about 4 to 10 days, it should slowly spring to the surface.
So, How Long Until They Germinate?
As you can see, the germination of cannabis seeds depends entirely on the type of seed and the chosen method. A rule of thumb is that it takes approximately 24-48 hours for the seeds to start sprouting, however, there can be some exceptions to this rule, of course. Just remember that moisture and warmth are very important and remember to check on the seeds often.
What Do Marijuana Seeds Need for the Germination Process?
Seeds need the ideal environment to break through and start germinating. Seeing as this process is one of the most important steps in growing your marijuana plants, here’s what you need for achieving the best germination rates:
- High moisture levels – your cannabis seeds need a lot of moisture (about 80%) to help them expand, however, be careful not to add too much water, and always make sure you use clean tap water;
- Warm temperatures – the marijuana plant is a warm-season plant that thrives in springtime, so ideally, you should put the cannabis seeds in a warm place and maintain the temperature between 68°-72° Fahrenheit or 20°-22° Celsius;
- Minimal interference – you’ll need to avoid touching the germinating seeds while they’re going through the process because the taproots (cotyledons) are very fragile and prone to breaking. If you must handle them, wash your hands first, or use clean gloves.
Remember that when the seeds are healthy, they will respond well to this basic setup and you won’t need to do or add anything extra to help your cannabis plants grow.
A Few Don’ts for Successful Marijuana Seed Germination
Even though seed germination is a relatively straightforward process, knowing a thing or two beforehand can help you avoid making mistakes and make the most of your seeds.
- Don’t let the germination container dry out. Moisture is very important to kickstart the process, but maintaining the moisture is even more important. Whichever method you choose to germinate the seeds, we recommend you check up on them daily to ensure that there is enough moisture. This especially applies when you use a heat source to achieve warmth as it may cause the water to evaporate faster than normal.
- Don’t leave the seeds to germinate for too long. This means that you shouldn’t wait for the taproots to grow very large, as they will be very delicate and make the subsequent transplant more difficult for you. Plus, leaving them for too long means that they’ll be exposed to air which puts them in danger of oxidation and further damage. Therefore, make sure they’re about ½ -1 inch long at most.
- Don’t plant the seeds too shallow or deep. This is a common mistake that weed growers make, but it’s easy to be avoided. When you plant the seeds too deep, the seedling won’t get enough air and it may suffocate deep beneath the surface. On the other hand, if you sow the seeds too close to the surface, it will result in weak and underdeveloped stems. Your best bet is to plant the seeds at about ½ inch depth.
- Don’t germinate seeds in the same container. Cannabis seeds need plenty of room to grow, so if you plant several in the same pot, they will compete for light, nutrients, and space, resulting in little branching and weaker roots. This will, in turn, affect the quality of your plant. So, unless the container is big enough, you should give the seeds enough room to thrive.
So, How Long Does It Take for Marijuana Seeds to Sprout?
Seed germination is an essential step in the process of growing your own weed. The average time for marijuana seeds to germinate mostly depends on the type of seeds and the germination method. However, the usual time frame is between 24-48 hours. The most important elements that support seed germination together are warmth, moisture, and peace. Finally, having patience and being diligent will help you achieve the best results. And if you’re looking for more info on marijuana grow times, check out our post talking about how long does weed take to grow.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Cannabis Plants?
T here are a lot of reasons to give growing your own cannabis a try. Regardless of whether you’d like to grow the herb for medicinal or recreational purposes, tending to your own cannabis plants can be rewarding for weed growing newbies and green thumbs alike, and may even be more affordable in the long run than purchasing marijuana at your local dispensary.
- Growing Marijuana: The Beginner’s Guide
- How to Grow Marijuana for Personal Use and Avoid Dispensaries
- How to Properly Distance Cannabis Plants in a Grow Room
- Closing the Yield Gap for Cannabis: A Meta-Analysis of Factors Determining Cannabis Yield
However, growing cannabis is not exactly like taking care of a potted plant, and one thing a houseplant certainly does not need is a deft hand to guide it through its grow cycles. After all, daisies will bloom if you can at least remember to give them some water and sun. Cannabis? Not so much.
To grow cannabis that can be consumed for its intended purpose, you’ve not only got to lead the plant through its many stages from germination to curing, but your plants require both attention and time. Which begs the logical question, how long does it take to grow marijuana plants? Let’s dig in.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Weed?
The very short answer is – that depends on whether you’re growing indoor, outdoor, greenhouse, coco, or hydroponic weed. Grow times for cannabis plants vary widely, but on average, expect about three-to-five months for indoor grows. However, there are many factors that could add or subtract from that range, including whether you choose to grow from a clone or a seedling, the target yield (how much consumable product) and the growing method you’ve chosen.
A very loose breakdown of a growing timeline could look like this:
Basic Cannabis Cultivation Timeline:
- Seed germination: 1-7 days
- Vegetative stage, when the plant is growing just stems and leaves: three weeks to eight weeks or more
- Flowering stage, when buds start to appear: five weeks to sixteen weeks or longer
- Harvesting, drying, and curing: two to four weeks
But the number one determinant of growing time depends on whether you’re growing sativa, indica, or hybrid cannabis strains. Let’s take a look at some average grow times for each.
Cultivation Time for Different Cannabis Plants
For those looking to grow cannabis more quickly or achieve higher yielding strains, indica is the way to go. With a shorter flowering period – about eight-to-twelve weeks – plus a generally higher end yield, growers often prefer them because they can be cultivated in more frequent cycles indoors, while outdoor growers can time several growing cycles before the weather turns cold.
Another benefit of growing indica seeds is that they tend to grow shorter and bushier than sativas, making them a better fit for indoor setups or growing in a backyard garden.
This cerebral and uplifting cannabis variety poses more challenges than growing indica. In addition to their longer ten-to-twelve week flowering period, plants grown from sativa seeds tend to produce a smaller yield (although this is certainly not true of all sativa strains).
Sativas can also grow to be very tall, up to 20 feet in an outdoor setting, which makes them difficult to conceal from neighbors in an outdoor grow setting. Even when confined inside, they may still grow long and lanky, a challenge for anyone trying to manage a small grow space.
A genetic mix of both indica and sativa strains, the growing time for hybrid marijuana strains may vary depending on which way the genetics lean.
Since hybrid seeds are a true blend of both sativa and indica, cultivators often prefer to grow them because of their higher output, generally faster growing time, and consumer appeal.
On average, hybrids tend to grow faster in the vegetative stage like a sativa, but may have a shorter flowering period like indica, about six-to-ten weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cannabis Plant Growth
What is the fastest you can grow weed?
One seed company says they have a strain that can go from seed to harvest in 49 days. Before you buy seeds from any company, be sure to do your own research on quality and reputability, and make sure you’re getting a strain that suits your consumption habits and preferences.
Is there a way to speed up cannabis growth?
There are a couple of hacks that could speed up cannabis growth, including growing autoflowering hybrids, growing from clones instead of seeds, growing hydroponic weed, and changing up the stressors put on the plant (although this option is probably best left to more experienced growers).
Do you have any experience growing cannabis at home? How long did it take you from seed to harvest? Share your stories in the comments below.
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
Erin’s work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let’s Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedIn, WordPress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.