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Harvesting times for marijuana plants vary, depending on the strain, how they are grown, and other environmental factors. Harvesting marijuana plants is similar to harvesting fruits and other produce.

For example, when harvesting grapes, the longer you wait to harvest, the more potent and ripe theycan get. In the case of marijuana, the longer you take to harvest it, the higher the level of cannabinoids such as CBD and THC it can produce.

However, taking too long to harvest can actually degrade the THC levels of your buds. Harvesting too early can reduce the potency and yield of your garden. Knowing the perfect time to harvest can provide you with buds at their peak freshness.

Our cannabis harvesting guide provides you with a timeline of the harvesting process, so you know how long to wait before you cut down your buds to prepare them for the drying and curing process. We will show you exactly how you can have a successful harvest every time.

For New Growers: What to Expect

Timing is an important aspect of knowing when to harvest marijuana plants. If you are a new marijuana grower, then you have to be equipped with as much information as possible to perfectly time when to start cutting down your buds.

If you harvest the marijuana plant too late, the THC level can be quite high and have a stronger taste than can be tolerated by many. If you go beyond the peak harvesting time, the cannabinoids such as THC and CBD can start to degrade.

If you harvest too soon, you won't allow your cannabis plants to fully ripen. Cannabis buds that are prematurely harvested can have a less-than-desired potency level, aroma, and flavor. With so much room for error, it is important to know the signs of a mature plant.

Let us take a look at the various ways of determining the ideal time to harvest your marijuana plants. Some factors that are essential to knowing when to harvest are the flower buds’ resin colors, pistil colors, leaf colors, and flowering time.

When Is It Time to Harvest the Marijuana Plants?

After your marijuana plant is done with the flowering phase, you may see deterioration in plant health. The pistils may begin to turn red. You may notice the stem broadening. The resins on your marijuana buds may begin to get dark and brown in color. The marijuana plant leaves may start to get yellow. If your marijuana plant has gone through the flowering stage and you notice any of these things, you will know it is time to harvest.

Timing the Cannabis Harvest

Now you know when to expect cannabis harvest time by noticing the resins, leaves, and pistils after the flowering stage! This can help you determine when your plant is ready for harvest.

Some marijuana growers have various differences of opinion as to the ideal time to harvest marijuana plants. Some growers may harvest earlier while others may harvest later depending on their desired bud quality

Let’s take a look at different factors that you should pay attention to determine the appropriate time to harvest.

Flowering Time: What to Look For 

Each type of marijuana strain has its own flowering time. In addition, the time it takes to go from planting to harvesting a plant depends on a variety of factors including the grow medium, strain type, and cultivation method.

Cannabis life cycles vary between as little as six weeks to as long as 16 weeks. That is a wide window of time to consider. On average, cannabis growers can wait between nine to 12 weeks to go from planting to harvesting.

Generally, for indica strains, you would attempt harvesting after the plant has gone through about eight weeks of flowering. Sativa strains take up to ten weeks to complete their flowering stage. Autoflowering strains takeabout ten weeks from the seedling phase to the bud phase.

Fan Leaf Color

Cannabis fan leaves are the largest leaves on the plant. While they do not have nearly as many trichomes on them as cannabis buds do, there are still many uses for fan leaves.

A change in fan leaf color is the most obvious color change during the flowering stage. During the vegetative stage, yellow fan leaves can indicate a nutritional deficiency.

During the flowering stage, yellow fan leaves can be normal since most of the energy is being directed to bud growth. If your fan leaves are turning yellow, it may be time to harvest.

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Pistil Color

Pistils are hair-like growths on your buds. Generally, most of the pistil is hidden under the bracts, small leaves on the buds. The stigma is the visible part of the pistil that can change color over time.

Early in the flowering phase, pistil hairs have a white color and can darken to a red, orange, or brown color as it nears the harvesting phase. When looking at the pistils on your buds, you would harvest when they are just about 50% to 70% change in color.

If you want buds with a stronger potency can wait to harvest until 70% to 90% of the pistils have changed color. At this point, some of the THC will have converted to cannabinol (CBN), a cannabinoid with sedative and relaxing effects.

Trichome Color

Trichomes are the resin glands found mainly on cannabis buds and at a lower concentration on sugar leaves.

If the trichomes are clear and colorless, then you would wait before harvesting. If most of the trichomes are milky white, then it is time to harvest. Waiting too long to harvest and allow the trichomes to develop an amber color and can produce a more sedative high.

It is important to get a magnifying glass to take a closer look at your marijuana plants’ trichomes to make the appropriate determination whether to harvest or not.

Magnifying Tools

Not only can you use a magnifying glass, but there are other tools such as a jeweler’s loupe or even your smartphone’s camera that are helpful in seeing the difference in pistil and trichome colors more clearly.

Your tool must be able to examine resin, the color of the pistils, and the resin gland size to tell if the plant has matured or if it has degraded

Other Factors

You can determine when to harvest your marijuana plants by paying closer attention to timing. Harvesting times will vary, depending on a variety of factors, but more importantly, the type of marijuana strain that you have used.

Make sure that you know beforehand the type of strain and the properties that determine its growth, flowering and harvest.

Marijuana Plants Autoflowering

Autoflowering strains are not dependent on any changes to lighting when switching to its flowering stage. They automatically switch from their vegetative stage to the flowering stage after a certain period of time, which varies depending on the strain.

Therefore, it is much easier to forecast the harvesting timing for autoflowering strains. Once you see the seedlings appear above the soil, you should expect to harvest within ten weeks. When this time comes, you will likely have been looking forward to the harvesting time. You would have been able to keep your marijuana plants healthy and happy.

After the Harvest

After the harvest, it is time to dry and cure the buds to reduce moisture levels and refine their aroma and flavor. Drying cannabis can take about a week to allow the buds to reduce its moisture levels and risk for developing mold.

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Curing can take a few more weeks or longer to improve the buds’ overall quality. After all of this, you can finally partake in your cannabis buds. Store them in an airtight and UV-protected container in a cool and dark place to extend its longevity.

Enroll in Online Cannabis Cultivation Training

Do you want to learn more about the cannabis growing process? Are you ready to take your cannabis yield to the next level?

Whether you're a new or seasoned grower, Cannabis Training University can provide you with a comprehensive online-based curriculum covering every aspect of the cultivation process from planting to harvesting your buds.

Our online training program gives you 12 months of access time and 24/7 access to all course content (e-books and HD videos) so you can learn at your own pace and at your own time.

Learn about the harvesting of marijuana plants and so much more at the Cannabis Training University so you have a higher yield every time.