Eventually trichomes will become mostly cloudy. At this stage they hold the greatest levels of THC and will produce the most intense psychoactive effects. This is the point when most growers will want to harvest their crop.
Harvest time is the most rewarding and exciting aspect of cultivating cannabis for many growers. After months of witnessing your plants slowly morph from seedlings into fully bloomed plants, it’s almost time to reach for the trimmers and proceed to dry and cure your bounty. However, it’s important to remain patient and not become too hasty. There are numerous signs you need to be aware of and look out for on both the macro and micro levels to make sure your flowers are truly ready.
This is where a little cannabis anatomy can go a long way. Becoming acquainted with cannabis pistils will help you to identify when it’s time to start snipping flowers. Pistils are hair-like structures upon cannabis flowers that emerge from the calyx and can easily be identified with the naked eye. Pistils contain the reproductive organs of the female cannabis plant and will develop a seed if pollinated by a male. These structures are white early on in the flowering phase and turn to darker colours of red, brown, and orange as the flowers move closer to harvest.
Trichomes are important anatomical parts that offer signs for harvest time, although on a much more micro level. Trichomes are minute mushroom-shaped glands that occupy the flowers and sugar leaves, and produce the valuable resin that contains cannabinoids and terpenes. Trichomes are too small to be properly assessed with the naked eye, therefore magnifying tools are required to get a closer look.
There is a large debate surrounding exactly when to harvest buds. There are general guidelines for each cannabis subspecies in regards to the optimal time. Indica strains are usually ready after 8 weeks of flowering, and sativa strains after a 10-week period of flowering. Autoflowering strains often take approximately 10 weeks after the seedling stage. Although these guidelines can be helpful in estimating when harvest time may occur, more attention to detail is required to make sure you are spot on with your timing.
Harvesting cannabis flowers at just the right time ensures optimal quality. Doing so too early can reduce both yields and potency, and doing so too late can result in THC degradation and a far more narcotic and sleepy high.
Further down the flowering timeline, trichomes will begin to display a more cloudy appearance and milky colour. When these resin factories are only half cloudy, flowers are still not fully formed and will have a low odour profile. There’s still some time to wait.
Under magnification, trichomes will appear clear and have crystal-like look during the early stage of flowering, signifying low potency and underripe flowers.
If most of the pistils are still visibly white, then it’s too early to harvest and your plants should be left to mature for a little longer. Growers should wait until at least 50% of pistils have turned darker to ensure near maximal THC levels. Begin trimming flowers when 60–70% of pistils have turned dark for the highest levels of THC. Those growers looking for a more stoning and physical high should wait until 70–90% of pistils have changed colours, as more THC will have converted to CBN at this stage.
The most fulfilling part of growing your own cannabis is the harvest!
Quick Summary: Buds are ready to harvest when hairs have darkened and curled in, revealing the solid bud underneath. Harvest buds on the early side for more of an “up” mental/psychoactive effect (trichome heads appear milky white under a magnifier). If buds are allowed to continue maturing, the white trichomes begin to turn amber/golden. The greater the number of amber trichomes, the more buds produce a “down” body/couchlock effect.
These 6 buds are in the harvest window. Buds are ready to harvest when most of the “hairs” have darkened and curled in and you can see the solid bud underneath.
This harvest tutorial is part of our “how to harvest cannabis” series:
Note: It’s recommended you flush your cannabis plants in the last week or two leading up to harvest time if growing in soil or coco, and for at least a few days in hydro. Click the following link to get more info on flushing before harvest: https://www.growweedeasy.com/flushing
If you are feeling excited about harvesting your marijuana plant, pull buds off the plant that look the most done and dry them and check the potency for yourself.
With some strains, you may see a bunch of new pistils appear right when you think you’re getting close. This is normal, but it happens more than 3 times you’ve eventually got to just make the decision and chop. Learn how to speed up the time to harvest. You may also be interested in what’s causing buds to take forever to mature?
(note: the trichomes of some strains turn purple or pink instead of amber/gold/yellow)
These buds still have many weeks to go!
With some strains, it is much harder to tell when the time is right. Different strains can look different ways at harvest. For example, some strains can keep most of their pistils white even when they’re ready to be harvested.
Harvesting cannabis at the right time is just as important as how you grow the plant. Harvest marijuana buds too soon and you lose potency and yields; too late and you can end up making a batch of sleep medicine. Learn how to harvest at the perfect time, every time! Here's what you need…