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Cannabis Light Periods – What do I need to know about marijuana light cycles? (length of sunlight hours each day)

If you're growing a cannabis plant grown from a random seed ("bagseed"), unless you somehow have an auto-flowering seed, you will need to understand about cannabis life stages and how they are affected by light periods.

If you don't understand light periods, your plant may never start making buds! The light schedule experienced by your plant will actually change its life stage. Learn more…

Cannbis plants have two life stages:

1.) Vegetative – Seedling or clone leads to Vegetative Stage

  • Give 18-24 hours of light a day (indoors)
  • Cannabis grows only stems and leaves
  • Give at least 12 hours of uninterrupted dark each day (short days)
  • Cannabis starts growing flowers/buds

The first stage, "Vegetative" begins when marijuana plants first sprout, at the beginning of their life.

Most indoor growers give their cannabis plants 18-24 hours of light a day during the vegetative stage. The exact number of hours needed to keep a plant in the vegetative stage is dependent on the strain, but 18+ hours/day will keep basically all cannabis plants in the vegetative stage.

Outdoor growers plant their seeds in Spring when the days are naturally longer. In the wild, cannabis seeds naturally germinate in the Spring.

For an indoor grower, when a plant is about half the final size you want it to be, you should change it over to the "Flowering" stage. This is the stage when your plant starts growing buds.

You do this by changing your light so that it only shines for 12 hours a day, and the other 12 hours a day your marijuana plants are kept in TOTAL darkness.

After 2-3 weeks of the 12-12 light schedule, most cannabis plants will show the first signs of their gender (they either are a female plant which starts growing buds, YAY! or they are a male plant which start growing balls/pollen sacs, NO!).

Boy cannabis plants don't give you any usable amounts of THC, so most growers toss them on sight. These male plants can also impregnate (pollinate) your female plants, which causes your female plants to produce seeds and less buds.

So unless you're planning on breeding, it's important that most growers destroy male plants as soon as you notice them growing grape-like balls where their buds would normally be.

Unfortunately, about 50% of all regular (unfeminized) cannabis seeds are male (though this varies from strain to strain, and from environment to environment). Fortunately for small growers, you can purchase feminized (all-female) seeds so you don't have to worry about male plants if you don't want to. Learn more about buying seeds.

When does a cannabis plant start budding?

Marijuana plants have an internal process that allows them to detect how long they receive darkness each night. This is because they are a "photo-period" plant, specifically a "short-day" plant which means these plants start making flowers/buds when days start getting short.

In the wild, as the days get shorter and nights grow longer, a marijuana plant "realizes" that winter is coming and will start budding/flowering. It "knows" it's approaching the end of its life cycle so it frantically starts making buds in time before winter.

When growing marijuana outdoors, a grower doesn't need to do anything to induce flowering because the sun will take care of things on its own. It's just important to make sure that there are no lights shining on your plants during their night period (which will disrupt their dark cyle).

However, when growing weed indoors, a marijuana gardener will have to fool their plants into "thinking" winter is coming to induce flowering and kickstart the creation of buds.

This is done by changing the plant's light schedule to 12-12, where the weed plants gets 12 hours of light a day and 12 hours of total darkness.

You'll get the best results if the start and end time for the light is exactly the same each day, which is why most growers end up getting a timer to flip their lights on and off, like an automatice light switch.

I tend to set my timer to shine line from 8pm-8am. This gives me time to check on my plants at night when the lights first come on, and I can also check them quickly in the morning before I go to work. It also keeps things cooler since the lights go on at night.

But ANY 12 hour period will work, as long as you remain consistent.

Check out my cannabis grow light guide for more info about picking out suitable lights!

Photoperiod dependent strains vs. auto-flowering strains

So all strains of cannabis that respond to light in this way (where the light period effects what stage they're in) are called "Photoperiod dependent" strains.

"Auto-flowering" marijuana strains pretty much ignore how much light they get each day. Generally you don't run into these unless you buy them particularly from a cannabis seed bank.

Germinate Marijuana Seeds

There are two well-known ways of germinating marijuana seeds. One is to put the seeds in a glass of distilled water for 24 to 48 hours. The other is to putting them between two plates with moist tissue. Although both germination methods work fine, we encourage you to germinate your marijuana seeds between two plates with moist tissue/paper. We have come to the conclusion that the germination rate is higher in that case, since we are constantly testing the germination rate of the marijuana seeds we sell. We are talking about thousands of seeds tested on germination.

Keep the following rules in mind before starting the germination process.

  • Do not touch the seeds with your bare hands, use gloves or soft forceps.
  • Only use distilled or bottled water. Tap water or water from a well will drasticly decrease germination rate.
  • Do not use air-tight humidity domes for germination. They prevent the vital air circulation and will cause mold, wasting your seedlings.
  • Germinate your seeds at a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit) and avoid temperature fluctuations.

Germinate marijuana seeds between two plates and moist tissue

The equipment you will need:

  • Two plates that are the same.
  • Tissues, paper or other water-bearing material (ph neutral).
  • Clean distilled ph neutral water at room temperature.
  • Disinfected gloves (those white ones that doctors wear).

The germination procedure

1. Place some moistened tissues on the first plate. Make sure the tissues aren‘t too wet so drain any excess water from the plate. As stated previously, the water needs to be at room temperature.

2. Now put your marijuana seeds on top of the moist tissue, giving each seed as much space as possible.

3. Put some more moist tissues on top of the seeds, so they‘re completely covered.

4. Now put the second plate upside down on top of the first plate.

5. Put the plate with seeds in a warm, dark environment where no temperature fluctuation will occur.

It usually takes up to 72 hours for the first marijuana seeds to open and show root. In some extreme cases seeds might take up to 10 days before they show root.

When the length of the root emerged from the seeds is about 2.5 cm / 1 inch you can transfer them into your growth medium of choice (soil, rockwool or cocofibre for example). Be carefull here, don‘t touch the seeds with your bare hands and keep them out of direct sunlight.

Create a hole in the medium for each seed, insert the seeds with the root downwards so they are 0.5 cm / 0.2 inch below the surface, just enough to block light.
Cover the seed with 0.2″ of soil and firm lightly

The seedlings usually emerge from the growth medium in 24 to 72 hours after you have planted the germinated seeds. When they do, it is time to put them under (sun)light and start growing.

If you are planning to grow outside, you should place the germinated marijuana seeds on the windowsill for 2 weeks so the can get used to the sunlight and temperature fluctuations.

Any further information on growing marijuana can be found in our marijuana grow guide.

10 Easy Annual Flowers to Start From Seeds

Whether you like to start your flower seeds indoors to get a head start on spring or sow them directly in the garden, many annual flowers have seeds with high germination rates and quick maturation rates to bring you armloads of summer blooms in your sunny or shady landscape. These annuals include giants for expansive gardens, petite flowers for container gardens, and vines for vertical drama.

Here are some of the easiest annuals to grow from seed.

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Sweet alyssum seeds may germinate in as little as four days, maturing quickly to produce masses of tiny fragrant flowers for your spring garden. Start them indoors five or six weeks before​ the last frost, or outdoors after frost. You don’t need to cover the seeds, just sow them thickly and press them lightly into the soil with your finger. Use a spray bottle to keep the seedbed moist until the plants germinate.

Sweet alyssum grows 3 to 9 inches tall and makes for a good edging and bedding plant. If you shear the plants back after the first bloom, a second flush of flowers follows. The flowers often fade, though, in the heat of summer. Some gardeners remove them in the heat of summer, then replant when the weather cools in the fall.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9; usually grown as annual
  • Color Varieties: White; pink, purple, and apricot cultivars also available
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Celosia or Cockscomb (Celosia argenta, C. cristata)

This annual doesn’t enjoy the popularity of sunflowers or marigolds, but celosia’s unusual blooms that may resemble brain coral or feathers deserve a featured spot in every sunny garden. Although the seeds are tiny, they have a quick and high germination rate, and the plants may even self-sow in favorable areas. Start the seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Sow three to four seeds per pot. Press the seed lightly into the soil to ensure contact and keep moist.

The celosias commonly planted as garden annuals are usually somewhat complicated hybrids of two or more species, but the cultivars are generally categorized into four groups:

Plumosa Group: Often called feather celosias or cock's comb, this group has feathered, bright red flowers.

Cristata Group: Cultivars in this group have crested flowers with convoluted ridges that resemble brain corral. Flowers can be red, purple, or pink.

Childsii Group: This group, rarely sold at garden centers, has rounded flower heads that resemble twisted balls of yarn.

Spicata Group: Cultivars in this group cylindrical pink or rose flower heads with e a metallic sheen. 'Flaming Series' cultivars are members of this group.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; usually planted as an annual
  • Color Varieties: Bright red, pink, purple
  • Sun Exposure: Bright red, pink, purple
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus, C. bipinnatus)

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Cosmos flowers are as tough as nails from the day they germinate until fall’s first frost. Plant them once, and then watch each year for the ferny foliage that will let you know the self-seeded plants have volunteered in your garden again. Sow them directly in the sunny garden anytime in the spring; the plants know when to germinate, so these flowers are truly a no-brainer for beginners.

There are two forms of annual cosmos: C. sulpherous is an upright daisy-like flower that grows 1 to 3 feet tall, with yellow-orange flowers. C. bipinnatus has delicate threadlike foliage and daisy-like flowers of pink, red, or white. It can grow to 4 feet. Both plants are natives to Mexico.

  • USDA Growing Zones: True annual; grown in all zones
  • Color Varieties: Yellow (C. sulphureus); red, pink, white (C. bipinnatus)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil

Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus)

Hyacinth bean is a beautiful flowering vine that’s easier to grow than a weed. This plant will cover your chain link fence or pergola for the summer, without self-seeding everywhere or becoming a nuisance. Push the plump seeds just under the soil’s surface when day temperatures average 75 degrees Fahrenheit and keep them evenly moist until germination occurs, about 10 days later. The vines will be a source of interesting pods and flowers for the vase by late summer.

The seeds inside the bean pods can be collected in the fall for spring planting, but be aware that they are toxic unless thoroughly cooked.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; usually grown as an annual
  • Color Varieties: Rose purple, white, pink
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)

Although impatiens seeds are tiny, avoid buying the pelletized version of the seeds covered with a substance that makes them easier to handle. This coating slows down germination considerably. Impatiens need light, warmth, and moisture to germinate. Sow seeds directly on top of the soil indoors about two months before the last frost. The well-branched plants will light up your shade garden all summer. Planting directly in the garden is less practical, since the plants take quite a long time to mature into flowers—about 3 months.

For some time, impatiens vanished from garden centers because of downy mildew, a devastating fungal disease that killed virtually all seed stock plants. Recently, however, several disease-resistant cultivars have been developed, so you can once again use this plant freely in your shady garden beds.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; usually grown as an annual
  • Color Varieties: Pink, red, purple, salmon, orange, white, bicolors
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

Marigold (Tagetes spp.)

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Most of the familiar garden varieties of marigolds fall into one of three species:

African marigolds (Tagetes erecta): These have large pompom flowers. The plants can grow to 4 feet, and the flowers can be as much as 5 inches across. Colors are various shades of yellow and orange.

French marigolds (Tagetes patula): French marigolds have the longest bloom periods, and the plants tend to be short and bushy. They have purple-tinged stems with double flower heads in yellow, orange, and mahogany, about 2 inches across.

Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia): These look much different than other bedding marigolds, with lacy leaves and small, single, daisy-like flowers. They come in yellow and orange.

If you’ve had trouble growing marigolds from seed in the past, try growing some of the French varieties, which are more disease-resistant than the American types. ‘Queen Sophia’ is an All-America winner to try. Seeds germinate in less than a week in warm, moist soil. It takes about 8 weeks for plants to bloom from seeds, so you may want to start them indoors.

  • USDA Growing Zones: True annual; used in all zones
  • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil; prefers rather barren soil

Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea)

Don’t be intimidated by the hard seed coats of morning glories. Just soak them overnight in warm water, and plant the swollen seeds under a quarter-inch of soil indoors two weeks before your last frost. Make sure the transplants have something to cling to when you set them out. Are you a night owl and not a morning person? Just swap morning glories for moonflower seeds and get the same results.

Morning glories grow quickly when planted directly in the garden, but for a headstart on blooms, you can start them indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date.

  • USDA Growing Zones: True annual; grown in all zones
  • Color Varieties: Purple or blue with white throats; cultivars in white, pink, red, magenta also available
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Common Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

What’s not to like about nasturtiums? They’re edible, they scramble over eyesores in the landscape, they have interesting foliage and brilliant flowers, and they thrive on neglect. The size of peas, nasturtium seeds are easy to handle and plant. But they don’t like transplanting much, so stick them in moist soil in a sunny spot as soon as the danger of frost is past. Or, start them indoors about four weeks prior to the last frost.

Nasturtiums are a complicated group featuring many cultivars derived from hybrids of different Tropaeolum species. There are both low mounding types and vining varieties within this group, so carefully research the types of seeds you buy to make sure you get what you want.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11; usually grown as annuals
  • Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow, creamy white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Poor to average soil that is slightly acidic

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

There’s a reason these flower seeds are included in every pre-packaged children’s garden kit you’ve ever seen. Sunflower seeds are raring to go as soon as a child’s pudgy finger pushes them into warm, moist soil. These seeds are best started directly in the ground outdoors, as the seedlings get large and gangly fast in a little jiffy peat pot. If you must start them indoors, give them a strong light source to keep them stocky.

Different sunflower varieties have different growth habits, from about 3 feet to as much as 10 feet—make sure to buy the variety appropriate for your needs. Leave the flower heads in place after they fade to provide food for birds.

  • USDA Growing Zones: True annual; grown in all zones
  • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, red, mahogany, bicolors
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Dry to average moisture, well-drained soil

Zinnias (Zinnia spp.)

If you like the look of dahlias but don’t want the fuss, grow zinnias. This is the way to go if you want an entire cutting garden of ruffled blooms from one packet of seeds. Zinnias are eager to germinate and perform in your summer garden, but the trick in getting them to grow is to give them warm conditions. They will wither away from damping-off fungus in your cold spring soil. Plant them outside about the time you set your tomatoes out when evening temperatures average 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You can start them indoors a month before​ the last frost if you desire earlier blooms.

The many cultivars of zinnia are derived from one of several species:

Zinnia elegans (common zinnia): Plants 1 to 4 feet tall on hairy branching stems produce flowers ranging from daisy-like single blooms to dense pompoms (depending on variety).

Zinnea angustifolia (creeping zinnia): With many low-growing varieties, creeping zinnias also have narrower leaves than the common zinnia.

Zinnia grandiflora (Rocky Mountain or prairie zinnia): This group includes small narrow-leaved plants about 6 inches tall with yellow-orange flowers.

Zinnea haageana (Haage's zinnia or Mexican zinnia): These are narrow-leaved plants up to 2 feet tall with 1-inch flower heads containing yellow rays and orange center disks.