Introduction To Growing Cannabis

Growing cannabis is quite simple if you break it down to its basic elements. Whether you are growing weed indoors or outdoors, all plants need light, water, air, nutrients, a growing medium, and heat.

Oh, and a little TLC never hurts!

In order to learn how to grow cannabis, one should first understand the lifecycle of marijuana.


Cannabis is an annual so the plant completes its life cycle in a year and then dies. It continues the circle of life by dropping seeds at the end of the plant's life for the next season.

A common cannabis germination method is to soak the seed overnight. This triggers hormones that signal the cells to go forth and multiply. The coating splits, a rootlet grows downward, and a sprout with seed leaves pushed upward towards the light. A new life begins.

Seedling Growth

The single tap root grows downward and branches out as the stem branches upward above the ground. Tiny rootlets draw in water and nutrients and the root system help anchor the plant. Seedlings should get about 16-18 hours of light for healthy growth.

Vegetative Growth

As the plant matures the roots take on specialized roles. The center and mature roots contain a water transport system and may also store food. The tips of the roots elongate and push farther and farther in the soil searching for more food and water. These roots are extremely delicate and must be handled as quickly, gently, and carefully as possible if doing any kind of transplanting.

Growing weed outdoors exposed to wind and rain will result in the growth of strong cellulose in the walls of the stem which supports the plant. Growing weeds indoors will result in weaker stems that will often need to be staked, especially during flowering.

photosynthesis graphic

As the leaves grow the plant starts manufacturing carbohydrates for food. The green chlorophyll in plants combines carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, with water and light. Water is drawn up from the roots through the stem into the leaves.

Tiny pores underneath the leaves called stomata breathe in CO2 (which humans breathe out) bringing it into contact with water coming up from the roots. Stomata also allow the the leaves to exhale water vapor and oxygen (what we breathe in). A pretty darn symbiotic relationship between plants and humans if you ask me.

As you'll recall from growing seedlings in egg cartons in the second grade, this is photosynthesis.

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Growing cannabis plants from seed will begin to show its gender after about the fourth week of vegetative growth.

The male cannabis plant develops tiny, smooth sacks of pollen. The male plant make excellent hemp as it has extremely low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

male cannabis plant with pollen sacks, female with pistils

The female cannabis plant develops little V-shaped white hairs called pistils. Make sure the pistils have distinctly formed to ensure you don't misidentify the gender.

Pre-flowers will emerge around the fourth or fifth branch internodes.

When growing cannabis for medicine and/or recreation, the male cannabis plants are carefully removed from the female plants as soon as they are identified. This prevents the male plant from pollinating the female plants. Once a female plant is pollinated, she will focus her energies into developing seeds which means much lower THC levels in the bud and less potent marijuana.

When a female plant is not pollinated she does not develop seeds. Therefore the growing cannabis buds that are harvested will have peak resin production and be without seeds or "sinsemilla".


Healthy, growing cannabis plants will mature and move into its flowering stage. The male cannabis plant will release his yellowish, powdery pollen from his bell-shaped pollen sacks if allowed to reach his flowering stage.

Male cannabis plants are generally taller than females and have strong stems but very low levels of THC. This makes the male plant ideal for hemp but very poor for medicine and recreational use. The male cannabis plant has sporadic branching and fewer leaves. This allows the plant to use wind and gravity to carry pollen far and wide to receptive female plants.

The female cannabis plant is celebrated for her heavy, potent resin production and robust THC yields in her flowers (bud). Female cannabis plants will channel all her efforts into producing resin in her buds as long as she is not pollinated and producing seeds.

Buds put on much of their harvest weight as they swell the last two to three weeks of growth. But some sativa plants such as the Thai varieties can flower for four months or longer.

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