Trulieve is a leading provider in medical and recreational cannabis and CBD products. Visit our website or one of our 180+ cannabis dispensaries You just picked up a new strain that you've been waiting to try. The moment you get home, you rip into the package and take in its smell. When you dive in When it comes to preserving the genetics of cannabis plants, pollination is key to any grower. Thanks to this natural process for cannabis you can gather new seeds of …
420 Blog Series: A Cannabis Plant’s Journey from Seed to Sale
It’s almost time for one of the biggest days in cannabis. 420 is symbolic with all things cannabis, and in celebration of such a high-ly anticipated day, we’re taking a look at how cannabis transforms into something that can bring so much relief and comfort to patients across the generational spectrum.
For the next three weeks leading up to 420, we’re covering everything from seed-to-sale, how it happens, and why every step, no matter how minor, plays a huge part in delivering quality medicine to patients.
This week is focusing on the cultivation side of the journey and understanding each growth stage of the cannabis plant right up until it’s time to harvest.
It Starts with a Seed
First things first is choosing the best seeds. Everything from breeding to genetics is considered to provide patients with a variety of cultivars and cannabis products with a range of therapeutic benefits.
There are three kinds: male, female, and hermaphrodites, which produces both male and female flowers during the vegetation stage. To a cannabis grower, the only seeds that matter are female seeds because they’re the ones that produce flowers with resin and create the buds sold in any medical or recreational market.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to define by the naked eye which seeds are male or female. Growers can, however, buy feminized cannabis seeds- seeds selectively bred to only grow female plants. Otherwise, you must wait until the plants are in their first flowering stage to identify which ones will be female.
Germination (3 to 10 days)
The first step in the growing process is allowing the seeds to germinate. They must be kept continuously moist and placed in a warm, dark space. Within a few days, or sometimes even 24 hours, a white taproot will emerge, signaling it’s ready to be transplanted into its next growing medium. As the root systems slowly develop, the plants will produce their first few tiny fan leaves and officially become seedlings.
Seedling Stage (2 to 3 weeks)
Cannabis seedlings are fragile and handled with extreme care. They need close to 18-24 hours of light every day and fertilizer rich in nitrogen. In fact, every stage has different light, temperature, nutrients, and water requirements. Just like with any other plant, proper cannabis care and maintenance cannot be overlooked or done half-heartedly.
Cannabis seedlings don’t need too much water either since the root systems are still so small. The plant is highly vulnerable to disease and mold in this stage, and overwatering will increase this risk.
This is also the time when the cannabis plant begins growing its famous fan leaves. As it continues to grow, the leaves will develop more blades, eventually reaching 5 to 7 blades or more once it hits full maturity, with most of this growth occurring in the next stage.
Vegetative Stage (3 to 8 weeks)
The vegetative stage is where you’ll really see the cannabis sprout up. It’s also the time when growers can officially identify which plants are male or female.
As mentioned before, only the female cannabis plants will produce the buds used for medical and recreational purposes. Male flowers can only pollinate the female plants, but if that happens, the female plants will stop using their energy to produce resin, full buds, and THC, and turn it toward making more seeds. It only takes a little pollen to mess up an entire crop and make the flower unusable.
Growers take extensive precautions to avoid pollination. The first sign many will notice are the pollen sacs male cannabis plants grow in the crux of the branches. In contrast, female plants will produce wispy pistillates with a faint, white coloring. After the male plants are identified, each one is carefully removed from the grow room and destroyed.
Another important maintenance step with cannabis plants in this stage is topping. Topping off the plants helps them grow in bushier. If left alone, the plant will focus on the one main stalk and have one giant cola growing at the top. Some smaller colas will appear, but they’ll be of poorer quality, resulting in an inadequate yield. Topping redistributes some of the energy to the side branches, forcing the plant to grow out, create more bud sites, and produce a higher yield of exceptional quality.
Flowering Stage (8 to 12 weeks)
This final stage of growth is when all the good stuff happens. It’s when resinous buds begin to form, trichomes start showing up by the handful, and cannabinoids develop to create flowers with top level potency. The potency level also depends on how long the plant remains in the flowering stage before being harvested.
During this time, the plants need to spend an average of 10 to 12 hours in the light and total darkness. They require medium humidity, mildly warm climate, and generous levels of potassium and phosphorus.
Growers must pay close attention to the overall appearance of the cannabis plant in this stage to know when it’s time to start harvesting. As the next section will explain, missing the mark can impact every aspect of its medicinal benefits.
When harvesting cannabis plants, timing is everything. Cutting them too early or too late will impact the flower’s smell, taste, terpene profile, and potency. Each plant must be observed with a critical eye as growers look for clues showing they’re ready to harvest.
Two common ways to tell are when more than half of the pistils are an orange- brown color and begin to curl. The other is when the trichomes appear cloudy, milky white as opposed to looking crystal clear.
Different cultivars may take a longer or shorter amount of time, but the average time is normally 7-9 weeks after the first signs of flowering. An indoor grow facility also makes it easier to control overall growing conditions, avoid unfavorable environmental elements, and plan for multiple harvests throughout the year.
It’s Not Over Yet
And to think, this is all merely the first phase of the cannabis plant’s journey from seed-to-sale. There’s still plenty more to cover and will show why such meticulous attention to the finer details can make or break months of hard work.
Next week focuses on the second phase; curing and why this step is crucial to ensuring you get the best flower possible. Make sure you subscribe to keep up with our blog updates and for the latest Countdown to 420 deals!
I Found a Seed in My Bag of Cannabis. Can I Grow It?
You just picked up a new strain that you’ve been waiting to try. The moment you get home, you rip into the package and take in its smell. When you dive in deeper, you spot something buried within the bud. It’s small, round, and has an outer casing.
Congratulations, you’ve found a seed. More specifically a bagseed, as the seeds found in packaged or bagged flower are commonly called.
Maybe congratulations aren’t quite in order. Depending on where it came from, who you ask, and if the seed is viable or not will affect your level of excitement.
While finding a seed in your stash is not ideal for truly exceptional flower and much less common than it once was, it is a pretty ordinary occurrence. Anyone who has been smoking cannabis for some time has undoubtedly come across a bagseed. Sometimes you’ll notice one when grinding down some flower or you’ll see it pop, spark, and crackle as the heat of your lit bowl pops the precious kernel within.
Ok, so you found a bagseed. Now what?
Is Bagseed Good or Bad?
Seeds found in finished cannabis flower can develop for a number of reasons. A nearby male plant can accidentally pollinate a flowering female. More commonly, though, they’re a sign of stress and can be attributed to high temperatures during the final stages of flowering or an exaggerated spike in climate or environment.
Seeds can also form in plants with genetic disorders or instability, like hermaphrodites–plants that develop both male and female reproductive parts. Generally these conditions are viewed as negatives, and for that reason alone, temper your expectations with any plants you start from a bagseed.
If found before lighting it on fire, the first thought from excited smokers is: “Let’s grow some weed!” But before you jump in headfirst, ask yourself a few questions to help decide if it’s worth the time and energy to grow the seed.
Was the Seed Found in Good Cannabis?
The first and most apparent question you should ask yourself is whether you enjoy the cannabis that the seed turned up in. If you don’t like the flavor, effects, or even the looks of the bud, then it’s probably not worth growing.
Strains like the legendary Chemdog wouldn’t be possible without adventurous smokers planting and proliferating the seeds they found in a bag.
Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a mature seed in some really nice herb. Strains like the legendary Chemdog wouldn’t be possible without adventurous smokers planting and proliferating the seeds they found in a bag of kind bud.
So don’t discount your bud just because there’s a seed or two in it. While not ideal, it could be the origins of the next great cannabis strain.
Are You Ready to Grow?
Growing cannabis takes a certain level of commitment. Plants need nurturing for months in the right environment with a close eye for detail. All this takes investment. Whether it’s time, energy, or financial resources, you’ll have to commit to the whole process if you want to produce something you’re proud of.
Fear not! If you’re simply curious to learn how cannabis grows and less concerned with the overall outcome, you can plant a couple of bagseeds outside and see what the result are.
If you’re ready for a more serious approach, make sure you have the space for a proper garden and pop the seeds to see what fruit they bear. That is, if the seeds you found are viable.
Is the Seed Viable?
If you like the strain and you’re ready to grow, then it comes down to whether or not the seed is viable, or able to successfully germinate. For a seed to be viable, it must be mature enough to have a completely formed genetic blueprint and it must be strong enough to “pop” through its hard casing and sprout its crucial tap root.
Immature seeds tend to be light in color and have a soft outer shell.
Stress on a plant and unstable environments can produce bagseeds, and often, a bagseed’s viability is questionable at best.
There are a few indicators that will give you a sense of whether the seed is worth germinating. Immature seeds tend to be light in color and have a soft outer shell.
Visual signs like tiger stripes–dark stripes that resemble tiny roots or veins on a leaf–are generally good. A seed with a solid shell will withstand a little pressure when pinched between your fingers. If it crumbles or cracks, the seed will be effectively destroyed, but don’t agonize over your loss.
In some cases, even if a seed isn’t completely mature, there’s still a chance it could be viable. But often these are extremely weak, take long to develop, and express other unfavorable characteristics. Growers usually discard weak plants to free up space in their limited gardens.
However, I’ve watched seeds that I had zero faith in their ability to germinate turn into strong, healthy plants–but that isn’t common.
You might also find a mature seed that has been physically damaged through poor handling, like rough trimming. In those cases, it probably isn’t worth the effort to try and germinate the seed.
But if the seeds you found look decent or even questionable, you might as well germinate them and see what sprouts.
Time to Germinate
Viable or not, there’s only one sure way to find out. Once you’ve decided you’re going to see what those beans can do, it’s time to germinate. Germination is the incubation period that encourages seeds to sprout and develop into a new plant.
There are a number of different ways you can germinate cannabis seeds, but they all require the same things to be successful: water, heat, and air. For a complete, step-by-step guide, check out our article How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds.
Even if your seed sprouts fast and grows vigorously, it has roughly a 50/50 chance of being female and producing seedless, cannabinoid-rich flowers.
Remember, once a seed germinates, the real work begins. Sexing, selecting, vegetative growth, flowering, and the eventual harvest all lie ahead.
How Do Cannabis Plants Pollinate to Produce Seeds?
Anyone who starts out growing cannabis should know that there are two ways of going about planting: with seeds acquired from banks of cannabis genetics, like Dinafem; or from cuttings, that is, fragments removed from a mother plant for a reproductive purpose, to replicate its features.
In this way, plants have two forms of reproduction: one asexual, corresponding to cuttings, layering or grafting; and another sexual, characteristic of seeds and based on pollination. It is, precisely, pollination that we are going to stop and look at, as it is a way to sustain, or even improve, the genetics of cannabis plants. Many are actually familiar with it by accident, much to their chagrin.
What happens is that growing conventional cannabis tends to eliminate all the males as soon as they display their sexual characteristics, which means that females do not pollinate, essentially remaining virgins, so that they put all their energy into the production of resin, instead of seeds. The result is a cannabis that has traditionally been called “seedless,” one much more potent than that offered by pollinated marijuana.
Step 1: Identification of males and females
To begin the pollination process, first we first need plants of different genders; that is, male plants, responsible for producing pollen, and female plants, recipients of this pollen and producers of seeds.
Growers can determine a plant’s gender when it reaches its pre-flowering period, which occurs between the fourth and sixth week of growth. Far from needing any magnifying glasses, microscopes or extensive botanical knowledge, one simply needs to pay a little attention and look at the stems of the newest leaves. More specifically, in the area where they join the main stem.
In these parts, female plants develop “pre-flowers” that resemble a pear-shaped ball, from which grow two small hairs, usually white, commonly called pistils (though, actually, the pistil is the whole set of the stigma, calyx and ovary). They develop in a V shape, and in later stages group up, forming our precious buds. If you cannot locate them, don’t panic. This just means that your plant has not yet reached sexual maturity, so you’ll have to wait a few more weeks to determine its gender.
If you have a male plant, you will find the same little ball, but without the white hairs. Instead, it develops kinds of little bags, whose function is to later contain the pollen. Among other differences males feature, distinguishing them from females, is that they are usually taller, their branches are more irregular, and they have fewer leaves and internodes.
Once you have discerned the sexes, the next step is to select the most appropriate plants to carry out the fertilisation.
Step 2: Selection of the best plants
If this is the first time you are pollinating cannabis plants, it is best to avoid experiments. That is, don’t try to create a new strain, or mix them, as this requires painstaking work more appropriate for specialised genetic banks and veteran growers. If you try to, your combination could be successful, but it also may might be a real flop, and you could waste a whole crop by creating genetics that are highly unstable. To avoid an unnecessary fiasco, at least until you get the hang of pollinating cannabis, it is best to select males of the same genetic as your females.
This does not mean that those chosen to pollinate will be the largest plants. Rather, the selection of both males and females will depend on their capacity to adapt to their growing environment, those that are the most vigorous and productive. For example, those that have adapted best, suffered least, are the most potent, have developed the most, and required the least nourishment. Details should also be sought in the plant’s structure; for example, those that present short distances between nodes, and other traits important to growers, such as their smell, taste, and resistance to mould and pollutants. Once the selection has been completed, separate the males in a different and sealed space or cabinet in order to prevent any type of pollen contamination.
One must remember that the male contributes about 25% of the plant’s final genetic material. Hence, until the crossing is carried out the grower will not know the final composition of his seeds. But what one always looks for, in order to get as many as possible, is a strong male with lots of flowers at the tip, and buds presenting dense pollen, as the prime objective is for a single male to be able to impregnate the greatest possible number of female plants.
Step 3: Obtaining pollen
As a reference point, from the point at which the male begins to flower until its first flowers open, releasing pollen, some two to three weeks transpire. In just 10 days, however, one can begin to see those “little eggs” (which are nothing but male flowers), while the first stigma of the female plant also come into view.
The development of the male’s flowers is progressive. First the flowers gradually turn yellow, changing from their original green colour. When the first male flowers begin to indicate that they are about to open, it is a good idea to turn off the fans in your grow room, while maintaining the air circulation, to keep the humidity from rising. Moving air can lead to the loss of pollen from the first flowers that open. About 10 days later most of the male plant flowers have yellowed, and then you’ll have to reduce your watering, without drying the plant, but without excess water either, as moisture helps flowers open faster.
When the male plant is mature, the flowers open their sepals, exposing the stamens and releasing pollen into the air. This is when you should proceed to pollinate, because if you wait three or four days the pollen can significantly lose its fertility. Remember that when the moisture level exceeds 75% the pollen starts to die quickly, so it is best to keep it as dehydrated as possible.
Step 4: Cutting the male flowers
Pollination can be done by cutting parts of the male plant at the peak of their maturity, or using the whole plant to spread the pollen on the female plants. If you choose to cut it, to handle it better and carry out a more controlled pollination, you must take into account a number of conditions. Don’t overdo it with the scissors: just cutting some flowers will be enough to produce hundreds of seeds.
With tweezers, select the most mature flowers (which will present a more intense yellow colour) and leave them one or two days in a glass bowl or plate, in order to let the pollen dehydrate. Another option is to hang the flower upside down and let the pollen fall into a container, if you don’t want your table spattered with yellow powder. After that, tap the flowers gently with tweezers so that the rest of the pollen falls and the stamens are devoid of powder.
Step 5: Conserving the pollen
To maintain the properties of the pollen every grower has his own tricks, but all are based on achieving the maximum dehydration of these particles. Conserving them calls for controlling the humidity and temperature, as these variations can damage their reproductive qualities.
Also, if you have acquired a generous amount of yellow powder, you can also store it in the freezer in order to carry out future pollinations. Yes, pollen can be frozen, and stored for months. To do this you just need to use a good jar, and keep it from getting damp when you take it out of the cold. One way is to leave the jar at room temperature a few hours before opening it. This is important, because if the pollen comes into contact with moisture, the whole process will be ruined.
Step 6: All ready to pollinate in a controlled manner!
Females are ready to be pollinated after their early flowering stage, and when they have developed large heaps of flowers forming buds of a decent size. The best time to pollinate the female is when the flowers have fully-formed stigmas (the little white hairs), as long as possible, usually four or five weeks after the beginning of flowering, or 25 to 35 days, always depending on each strain. There are even strains that can be pollinated 20 days after flowering has begun.
But remember that the times for male and female are different, because the male flowers before the female does: as a general rule male plants tend to mature about two weeks earlier than females. With this temporal divergence, day 30 of flowering to pollinate the female is day 45 for the male, which is how long it takes to have the greatest amount of pollen: the more pollen the male has, the more likely it is to pollinate the female, and the greater the final number of seeds.
The application of the pollen is very simple: if you have cut flowers and saved the pollen, with the help of a brush, a cotton ball, or even your fingers, sprinkle it on the feminised plant. Do this repeatedly for two or three days.
In this regard, it is important that the pollen not reach the buds of the lower parts of the plant, or its willowy parts. Nor is it advisable to pollinate complete buds, but rather the parts that retain the white, most receptive stigmas. It is also useful to prune all the flowers that have not been pollinated, as in this way the energy is concentrated on the buds that really matter to you, and the plant does not waste resources on parts you are not going to use. In this “artisanal” way, for low volumes, you will obtain several hundred seeds without any problem.
Step 7: What if I want a lot more seeds?
You must remember that there is nothing better than fresh pollen taken straight out of male flowers. So, another form of pollination is to directly grab a male plant and shake it on the females. You can use a small stick to tap the branches of the male so that its pollen falls on the buds and produces fertilisation with the help of gravity.
It is important to turn on your fans before shaking the plant so that the pollen goes everywhere before falling to the floor. The temperature of the room where pollination occurs should be 24° C, with humidity no greater than 65%, as the hotter it is, the less oxygen per cubic meter of air, allowing the specks of pollen to remain suspended in the air longer.
The pollen, once it touches the stigmas of the female plant, still takes 3 to 5 days to reach the calyx and the ovary, and for fertilisation to occur. So, once you have carried out the first pollination, return the female plant to its place, irrigate it after 3 or 4 days, and pollinate it again, just in case. As what we are after is the greatest pollination possible, some growers finish the process by shaking the females too at the end so that all the pollen that has stuck to the leaves can reach the buds below. In this way thousands of seeds can be obtained per plant, rather than the hundreds of seeds achieved manually.
Step 8: Harvesting seeds
If the process has been carried out properly, in just a few days you will see the seeds begin to grow inside the calyx of the female flowers. Once the plants have been pollinated, most of the seeds will take 4-6 weeks to fully mature (always depending on the strain). At the end of flowering period they will be ready to be harvested, so that you can enjoy another pleasant cannabis harvest. This is just when the seeds begin to darken, going from green to brown or dark grey, and the calyces begin to open so they can easily get out.
You can test the seeds to determine whether they are mature, and how hard their hard shell is, by taking one and pinching it between your fingers to see if it breaks. Seeds with stripes and other patterns are usually a good indicator that they are mature, but remember that not all strains produce stripes on their seeds. And bear in mind that the seeds of different genetics can be of different sizes: some strains can offer you seeds that are smaller than normal, and this could be misinterpreted as a sign of immaturity.
And, as always, remember that one of the basic rules is to use sterilised tools, and keep good records on the dates and details of the strains you have decided to work with. With these simple tips, you can now get down to work and start pollinating your cannabis plants.
Dinafem Seeds The Dinafem team comprises cannabis experts and growing specialists eager to share their knowledge and expertise with the entire cannabis community. Don’t hesitate to give us your feedback on our posts. We’ll be happy to answer your queries and, above all, to learn new tricks and techniques.
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