Flowering Stage

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There is nothing quite like seeing the colas form and engorge the first time you grow. Hell, I still get absurdly excited and giddy with joy every time.

Alright, it’s the growing stage you’ve been waiting for. There is nothing quite like seeing the colas form and engorge the first time you grow. Hell, I still get absurdly excited and giddy with joy every time I lay my eyes on my plants when they are flowering, and I’ve grown a lot of cannabis throughout my life.

By now you should be feeling better about growing and have gotten some of those early jitters out of the way. Which is good because flowering, while the most fun growth phrase, often causes the most stress and maintenance.

But first things first... Remember, when I said you could mess with the sex of your plant and turn it into a hermaphrodite? This is one way to. Though on several occasions I’ve had my timer mess up and turn the lights on in the middle of the dark period for a couple hours and for a couple of days and never had this occur.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to visit your plants when the lights are off. If I have to, I just use barely enough light for me to see and make it quick. This is a risk that I’m comfortable taking, mostly because I’ve messed up in the past and exposed flowering plants to way more light and I feel it never really caused a problem. *knock on wood* However, a better option is to use a green light because this will not affect the plant even in flowering.

You’ll start seeing the bud sites forming when little white hairs called pistils/stigmas. You’ll want to focus your lights on them. Sometimes you’ll see bud sites hidden in all the foliage, feel free to try and tuck some of the leaves back for better exposing light to the buds below. 

After switching your light schedule to 12/12 your plant will go into mini-stage called pre-flowering or “the stretch”. This only normally last a couple of weeks, but your plant will pack on the most height here. When buying seeds, most companies will label the strain under one of three heights and this will help you estimate how much you plant will grow in pre-flowering.

 Usually indica and autoflowering strains. The plant will probably only at most put on about half the height it is now. So if it’s 12 inches then expect it to put on 6 inches more in pre-flowering.

Average: Usually hybrid strains. The plant may potentially double its height. So a 12in” plant may become 24in”.

Tall: Usually sativa strains. A plant may double or triple it’s size. So a 12 in” plant could reach 36 inches after it’s pre-flowering is over.

You will see “pistils” appear in pre-flowering, but you will not see flowers forming until the plant has stops stretching.

Skipping Pre-flowering
There is also a theory (hypothesis) out there that you can essentially skip the pre-flowering stage by giving 24 to 36 hours of darkness before going to 12/12. Cannabis plants have two group of receptors for detecting light changes: Phytochrome Red and Phytochrome Far-Red. When the lights are on in veg these two are balanced, but when the lights are off Far-Red receptors start to turn into Red receptors.

Once the ratio between Far-Red and Red receptors become askew enough your plant starts to flower. The thought is if you give 24 or more hours of darkness the Far-Red receptors will convert to Red receptors faster than they would have under normal 12/12.

I’ve never tried this, but the idea seems sound and it could help growers whose plant grew a little bit too big in veg for whatever reason.

Indoor growers will want to switch the lights to 12/12 and this is probably your last chance to dramatically move the light schedule around. When I say that I mean: maybe your veg lights come on at 6pm. But it’s perfectly OK to switch the lights on time to 6am when moving over to flowering. Electricity rates are sometimes lower during the night, so having the lights on then could save you money. Also, consider that your house is usually hotter during the day and if temperatures have been getting too hot, have the lights on at night instead.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to visit your plants when the lights are off. If I have to, I just use barely enough light for me to see and make it quick. This is a risk that I’m comfortable taking, mostly because I’ve messed up in the past and exposed flowering plants to way more light and I feel it never really caused a problem. *knock on wood* 


When growing outside, your plants will naturally switch to flowering once the days start getting pretty short. Outdoor growers still need to worry about light leaks at night. No matter how bright the moon and stars might be on a clear night you’ll never have to worry about it being too much. However, be on the lookout for porch lights, street lights, just man-made lights, as not only can they prevent a cannabis plant from flowering they can even revert her back into veg.

Remember that in vegetation we want our temps between 70-85°F and our humidity 60% and higher. When we switch to 12/12 lights we want to bring our range down by 5°F (65-80°F) and get our humidity to under 50%. Keeping our plants cooler in flowering better simulates their natural environment, and in turn. 

Many growers think this helps with the aroma, and more importantly, potency. Keeping you humidity low will help prevent mold when the colas get dense and hold a lot of water. 

You want your plant’s leaves to be a medium green color. Think somewhere between a slightly darker lime green and slightly lighter pine/forest green. As the plant matures it’s normal for some leaves to die, especially when you move into late flowering. But anytime you see spots or upper and middle leaves changing colors you most likely have a problem that needs to be addressed.

You’ll want to watch and make sure your leaves’ tips don’t curl under or up as this can signify issues related to over- or underwatering and/or temperatures. 

Cannabis is obviously a skunky plant with a rich palette of aromas, but you want to always be on the lookout for funky or rotting smells. It’s normal for the plants to smell dankier the closer to harvest, but it’s always good to keep an eye out for bud rot and mold.

Grow rate
It will take a couple grows before you develop an eye for growth rate and like humans cannabis growths faster or slower depending on age. It’s always good to see if there are grow logs on the strain you’re growing, especially if they are video logs. This is why it’s a good idea to pick a popular strain the first few time you grow.

Avoid Streching
You’ll want to watch for stretching and want the length between the nodes to stay fairly close together. Sativa strains will have more space of course, but certain deficiencies actually make the plant stretch. As well this could mean your lights are too far away. A tall and skinny plant is at risk of injury.

Nasty Bugs
Always keep a lookout for bugs. An insect or two is usually ok, I will always get a ladybug which I leave because they eat insects that can actually hurt my plant. Spots and eggs on the bottom of leaves are a giveaway and you’ll want to keep an eye out for those.

Have an eye out for mold because even if you don’t smell it, it may still be there. You’ll have to worry about this in flowering because the flower will get dense and hold a lot of moisture. In veg, it’s recommended to have a fairly high, humidity however. It’s always good to keep an eye out for powdery white mildew both on your plants, as well as on your grow container and in your tent.

Dealing with problems in veg doesn’t really cause me much stress anymore because I currently only grow photoperiods, and that means I have all the time and room I need to get my plant back into shape. I could basically remove all the leaves and as long as the plant doesn’t die from it they will all grow back. You don’t get this in flowering. Once you’ve made the light on/off switch your plants go on a timer. So whenever you see a new issue, you need to be diligent and figure out how to fix it.

You will see yellow leaves and probably will pull more than a few dead leaves off in flowering. It’s really very common for that to happen the further you get into flowering. It’s fall after all, that what leaves do. The combination of low nitrogen (which you don’t want a lot of in flowering) combined with a lack of light penetration makes those bottom leaves susceptible to yellowing and dying, and that is completely fine. If you see that in veg there is an issue, and if you see the yellowing/dying leaves move up the plant in flowering then there is most likely an issue as well.

Make sure to look at other growers plants when they are in different stages. Again, as long as you properly handle plant issues and have leaves on your plant then the buds will come. Every time I see a cannabis plant on the news, grown by a friend, on websites that sell seeds, etc. they are never perfect. I see nute burn, too dark of leaves, worrisome red stems, yellowing, etc.

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