Cannabis seedlings require the right amount of water, light, and nutrients. Learn how to handle them to get the strongest marijuana plants. When cannabis seedlings have grown their second or third set of serrated leaves they are usually hardy enough to flourish in direct sunlight. Learn when that is and how to do that now. What do I need to know about light cycles and flowering my marijuana plants? Plants keep getting bigger and bigger with long days, and start making buds when you give them long nights.
Cannabis seedling stage
Keeping your marijuana happy and healthy comes down to how carefully you care for them through each stage of a marijuana plant’s life. Factors such as how much light should seedlings get should be carefully considered as these are especially important in the younger stages of your plant’s life when they are at their most fragile condition.
A marijuana seed that sprouts will split along the seam that joins the halves of its husk. Driven by gravity , the tail grows longer rapidly, screwing its way down into the soil until the root can supply sufficient leverage to raise the husk containing the two seed halves upright.
From that position, the two halves fold out to act as biological solar panels that gather energy and begin a marijuana plant’s first chlorophyll production even as the tiny taproot sprouts hairlike feeder roots that stretch outward to strengthen its grip in the soil.
In this article, we take a look at the ways to protect your seedlings through their most delicate stage of life.
Our guide to the seedling stage for marijuana plants:
What are seedlings?
The key thing to do during this stage is simply to pay attention and keep tabs on every development or change that occurs in your marijuana seeds. When they sprout, the seeds’ seams will split and allow a white tendril to poke through within several hours of this split. This tendril will grow very quickly, moving downward until it’s deep enough for it to hold up the rest of the plant (namely the stalk and the seed husk).
The husk, now split into two, emerges from the ground and functions as a sort of makeshift leaf – in other words, it absorbs energy that can be used to produce chlorophyll within the plant. While you see the stalk growing upwards, you can also be sure that more roots are sprouting and growing downwards at the same time.
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The first two leaves, completely unique from any future leaves that will grow, pop out of the middle of the seed’s split. These leaves are called sucker leaves and mark the beginning of more leaf growth.
Two-lobed leaves will then grow from the middle of the sucker leaves. These two-lobed leaves usually resemble chicken feet, since they have three lobes. After the three-lobed leaves come two leaves with five lobes, and then two more with seven. Seven-lobed leaves are the ones everyone recognizes as the marijuana leaves.
Two lobed leaves will then grow from the middle of the sucker leaves. These two-lobed leaves usually resemble chicken feet, since they have three lobes. After the three-lobed leaves come two leaves with five lobes, and then two more with seven. Seven-lobed leaves are the ones everyone recognizes as the marijuana leaves.
If you were able to keep your marijuana plants healthy throughout its entire sprouting stage, they would most likely go through a very productive vegetative stage. Protecting your young plants is about more than just survival: it’s about investment in your future harvest.
Also read the article How to germinate marijuana seeds for more about germinating tips
This article covers the various elements you will need to keep a constant eye on to ensure the well being of your seedlings. These elements are protection, water, nutrients, heat, and sunlight.
How to protect seedlings
You will need to protect your young plants from more than just discovery by the authorities. Even if you live in a location where growing marijuana is legal, you have plenty to worry about with protecting your seedlings.
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You should keep your plants in some sort of protected area, such as a rooftop, and shelter it using some sort of a transparent, plastic dome or bubble. These domes can keep your seedlings from being eaten by insects, rodents, or other pests, and they are easy and cheap to make yourself.
Simply slice a clear plastic bottle in half, then recycle the top half and keep the bottom half. You should cut small slots around the edges of this half so that your young plant will have some airflow. Place the dome over your little plant, completely covering it. This will have the additional bonus of insulating your plant in case an unexpected frost occurs. In my free Grow Bible, you will find more DIY hacks for your grow.
In addition to insulation and protection, your seedlings will need the most important elements on Earth: water and sunlight. You have to constantly keep the soil and the seedling moist around the clock, and you need to make sure they are receiving plenty of sunlight.
If you live further north, you could have some more trouble with this since your spring days will be shorter than latitudes further south. One big problem that can happen to outdoor growers is their seedlings not receiving enough sunlight. When this happens, the plant stretches taller and taller in an attempt to reach more sunlight, and then it is too tall to hold itself up any longer.
If you want to keep your grow small I can advise a solution like a Pot for Pot. They offer an all-in-one box with everything your plant will need.
If you have space and resources, you can try sprouting your cannabis seeds inside of a closet to begin with. Using the proper equipment in this environment can give your young plants plenty of sunlight, giving them enough energy to sprout large, healthy leaves right from the beginning.
This type of growing would also ensure that their stems won’t get too long and weak; rather, they will be short and strong. You will be able to avoid the hassle of stabilizing tall, weak stems with sticks. If they don’t do this while the plant has leaned to the ground, it could begin to rot.
That being said, if you start to grow your seedlings indoors, transplanting them later will be necessary, which presents its own difficulties and safety concerns for your young plants. Ultimately, it depends on which option is best for you.
How much water do seedlings need
One common problem that occurs when trying to care for a seedling is giving them too much water. It is actually less of an issue having to do with too much water, but actually has more to do with too little oxygen reaching your plant’s roots. This happens most commonly with seedlings being grown in containers since water can only go so far as the walls of the container.
If your plants are being overwatered, you will most likely see symptoms such as drooping leaves. There are plenty of ways to avoid this, however, as long as you keep reading for a better understanding. Your planting situation is the most important factor that comes into play when considering how you have managed to overwater your plants, and how you can fix or avoid the issue.
Overwatering your seeds
Your pot is too big for your seedling
Since a young plant’s tiny roots absorb much less water than their more mature counterparts. If you water as much as the container can hold, these tender roots will not be capable of taking it all in. This situation occasionally referred to as “overpotting,” leads to overwatering. So how do you prevent this situation from happening?
The best thing to do is to begin your seedling’s life in a smaller container to begin with. Once they have grown a fair amount, you can move them to a bigger container. If it’s too late and you need to fix the issue, simply direct your watering to a specific area: a little circle right around your plant. Once the topmost inch of soil is dry again, you can do another round of watering. You can only begin watering normally.
If you plan well enough in advance, you can have a separate container for each of your marijuana plants’ stages of life. If your plants will be living in containers for the entire growing season, you will need to know in advance the size of your last container.
In other words, you will have to have a good idea of how large you would like your plants to become. Because roots grow more rapidly when they are left in one container for a long time, fewer transplants mean a larger size plant (and therefore container). Take that into account when planning your container sizes.
Your pot is too small for your seedling
You can plant seedlings in very small individual containers, such as a solo cup. You can’t keep them cooped up in a solo cup forever, though since their roots will quickly outgrow the small space. If your plants are left in a small container for too long, they will become “root bound.” This means that the roots have wrapped themselves around the outside of the cup, keeping water on the inside from escaping.
Why is being root bound such a bad thing? It can lead to some pretty big problems, including overwatering, nutrient deficiencies, wilting, and more. You can avoid this problem simply by changing the size of their containers as frequently as necessary. (Use these containers)
If your plants’ container does not have an efficient drainage system (i.e. holes punched in the bottom of the container, plus the right kind of soil), overwatering will quickly become a problem that could be life-threatening to your plants.
One way to keep this from happening is to start growing your plants in a soil that drains well from the very beginning. Soils that are clay-based, for instance, retain water and, therefore, should be avoided.
You can also begin with a smaller container, which would help prevent the issue that was mentioned above. Make sure your container has lots of holes where water can drain from.
If you ever notice that water isn’t draining as fast as it should, you can add perlite to your soil to increase the oxygen content. Don’t water your plants quite as often until you notice them drinking more, or try using a Smart Pot instead of a normal pot.
If you follow these tips and are careful about watering your plants, you should be able to avoid overwatering them altogether.
If you’re sure you haven’t been watering your plants too often or too much and they are drooping or wilting, the culprit could actually be a lack of water. Sometimes people who know about the common occurrence of overwatering seedlings have overcompensated, therefore actually watering their plants less than is required.
The roots of your plants need to constantly be able to access water. Plants lose the water they have absorbed through their leaves in a process called transpiration. They do this by sucking up the water from the roots like a straw. If this process keeps going and the roots down below are not receiving enough water, the plant will undergo some serious problems.
If you are able to visibly notice your soil separating away from the container it’s in, you probably have an underwatering problem on your hands.
If your soil is enriched with nutrients and you underwater your plants, the effects will be even more devastating. Your plants will turn a dark green color and will have twisted new growths of a strange color. In this case, the only thing you can do is give your plants more water to re-establish their roots and begin growing once again. If they receive enough water to fight these effects, they will probably be able to combat this situation.
What kind of nutrients
Giving your plants nutrients can come with its own issues. If you give your plants too high a dosage of nutrients, for example, it will turn into nutrient toxicity. Your plant’s leaves will have tip burn and turn darker in color.
Nutrient toxicity can be caused by using a “hot” soil or a type of soil with a lot of nutrients. As long as you are watering your seedlings enough, they should be able to grow out of nutrient toxicity that comes from using hot soil.
Some soils are “slow-release,” such as Miracle-Gro. Avoid these soils at all costs, as they will not help your plant be healthier – in fact, it makes them even more susceptible to nutrient toxicity.
If you provide your seedlings with nutrients when they are too young, they might have a sort of nutrient overdose. As long as your initial potting mix is high quality, you shouldn’t need to worry about adding any more until after a minimum of a few weeks.
If you feed your plants with a large amount of nutrients all at once, you could end up with nutrient toxicity in less than a day. If you’re using a nutrient schedule that comes with the store-bought nutrients, half the amount it says and see how your plants react before adding any more.
When can seedlings be put under lights or in the sun?
Not sure whether to grow your cannabis seeds in the sun or under lights? This article explains how much light you need, how to prevent your seedlings from falling over, and when to plant them outside.
“When can cannabis seedlings be put under lights or in the sun?” is a common and sensible question that is often asked by novice cannabis enthusiasts after germinating seeds indoors under lights.
For those who are growing indoors, cannabis seedlings may be put under lights as soon as they emerge from the soil or growing medium.
How much light for cannabis seedlings?
When using HID lighting (usually a metal halide lamp), young seedlings should be kept at least 50cm from the bulb.
With compact fluorescent lamps (usually 100w or more), a distance of around 15cm should be maintained between the top of the young seedlings and the bulb.
If using normal fluorescent tubes (18-36w), seedlings can be kept within a few centimetres of the light source.
Cannabis seedlings growing under lights should always be given a gentle breeze from an oscillating fan (a small household fan on the lowest setting is fine), as constant gentle movement will strengthen their stems significantly.
Are your cannabis seedlings falling over?
If cannabis seedlings grow tall and then fall over, this is almost always a result of growing in an environment with static air.
Seedlings intended for outdoor growing should be kept by a sunny window for the first week or two after emerging from the soil.
When they have grown their second or third set of serrated leaves (after the the round cotyledons that initially emerge from the seed) seedlings are usually hardy enough to flourish in direct sunlight.
When to plant your cannabis seedlings outside?
If outdoor temperatures are suitable, seedlings may be acclimatised to direct sunlight by giving them progressively longer daily exposure to outdoor conditions.
Starting with about three hours outside, at the sunniest time of day, seedlings can be given an extra hour of outside exposure each day, so that within about two weeks they can be left outdoors permanently.
Laws and regulations regarding cannabis cultivation differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.
Cannabis Light Schedules: Vegetative Stage vs Flowering Stage
Cannabis plants keep getting bigger and bigger with long days, and start making buds when you give them long nights.
Cannabis is a “photoperiod” plant, which means the amount of light received each day decides when the plant starts flowering or making buds. This article explains how much light a day your photoperiod cannabis plants need to grow and start budding, so you get to a happy harvest day. What about auto-flowering strains?
Vegetative – Seedling or clone leads to Vegetative Stage –
Give 18-24 hours of light a day
Flowering – Flowering (Budding) Stage leads to Harvest –
Give 12 hours light & 12 hours dark each day
Seedling or Clone
While not technically a “stage,” all grows start with cannabis seeds or clones.
Plant your seeds or clones when you’re ready to start growing! What are clones? https://www.growweedeasy.com/cloning
Some outdoor growers start their plants indoors to give them a headstart before putting plants outside.
If you’re growing cannabis outdoors with seeds, you should wait until a few weeks after the spring equinox to put your seeds outside. In the northern hemisphere this means seeds go outside in-or-after April, In the southern hemisphere seeds go outside in-or-after October.
For growers starting with cannabis clones, generally you should wait a few weeks longer than with seeds. Cannabis clones are more prone to flowering early outdoors than seeds, so you might want to put your clones out in late Spring or early Summer. (What are clones?)
If you live in a cold climate, you must also wait until after the last frost before putting your plants outside. Freezing temps will kill cannabis plants. Strain choice is very important. Some strains flower earlier than others. For outdoor growers in cold climates, it’s important to make sure you grow a strain that is matched up with your local weather, so that plants are ready for harvest before temperatures drop.
The vegetative stage is one of the most important parts of the life of your cannabis plant.
The vegetative stage is the growing stage of the plant. When in veg, cannabis plants grow bigger and taller, growing only stems and leaves. As a grower, you are able to control the size and shape of your plants in the vegetative stage using simple training methods.
During the entire vegetative stage the plant does not produce buds at all. It only grows stems and leaves. During the vegetative stage plants tend to grow very fast, especially when conditions are right.
What keeps cannabis in the vegetative stage?
Short nights keep cannabis plants in the vegetative stage. You can keep a cannabis plant in the vegetative stage for basically forever as long as the plant continues to get short nights (shorter than 1s-12 hours, depending on the strain).
Cannabis will stay in the vegetative stage as long as the plant gets short nights (less than 11-12 hours of darkness each day)
Whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors, you must make sure your cannabis plants get at least 13 hours of light each day to stay in the vegetative stage. If your plant gets a few long nights, it may start budding before you want.
The plant can receive as much as 24 hours of light a day while in the vegetative stage. Many indoor growers provide 18-24 hours of light a day (known as 18-6 or 24-0 light schedules) during the vegetative stage to encourage faster vegetative growth.
Don’t want to worry about light schedules? For growers that don’t want to pay attention to light schedules, there are auto-flowering strains of cannabis, which will automatically go through their whole life in about 3 months no matter what light schedule is provided. For some growers, an auto-flowering strain may be more simple than a traditional (photoperiod) strain.
Most indoor growers provide 18-24 hours of light a day (known as 18-6 or 24-0 light schedules). Giving your cannabis plants more hours of light each day in the flowering stage will encourage faster growth.
Lingo: When a grower provides 18 hours of light a day and 6 hours of darkness, this is commonly known as the 18/6 light schedule. For 24 hours a day, this is referred to as the 24-0 light schedule.
As long as your plant is getting plenty of light a day, your plant will automatically stay in the vegetative stage from late spring until late summer. Every strain is a bit different.
Cannabis starts budding when plants get at least 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night. After plants start budding, they must continue to get long dark nights until harvest or they may revert back to the vegetative stage.
Indoors most growers put their plants on a 12-12 schedule to initiate flowering. Outdoors the plant will naturally start budding in late summer when nights are growing longer and longer as winter approaches. Just make sure plants aren’t exposed to light during their dark period!
What is 12-12 Lighting?
The indoor grower will need to artificially induce flowering/budding in plants by changing the light schedule so the plant receives only 12 hours of light a day, and 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness.
Once the plant is changed over to the flowering (12/12) light schedule, there is generally another 6 weeks-5 months (average 2.5 months) before the plant’s buds are ready for harvest.
Outdoor growers wait until their cannabis plants start naturally flowering on their own, usually after mid-summer when days start getting shorter than 12 hours.
It’s important to make sure plants aren’t exposed to light at night during their dark period, even street lights or spotlights, as this can prevent cannabis plants from flowering properly.
Growing Indoors? Not Sure When To Switch To Flowering?
So indoor growers have a choice to flower their plants whenever they want… When is the best t ime to start flowering your cannabis indoors?
The real answer is that it’s a matter of personal preference and also depends on what end result you’re looking for. There are two major considerations when choosing the right time to switch to 12/12, the age of the plant and the height of the plant:
Age: Some growers feel that a marijuana plant which has been grown from seed will not produce as many buds or have enough resin production if the plant is not given at least 60 days in the vegetative stage to mature before it’s changed over to the flowering stage. This is not true. many growers initiate flowering soon after germinating a seed in order to keep plants small and short. This is often called “12-12 from seed.” Just remember, no matter what you do, a young cannabis plant will not start flowering until it is 2-3 weeks old. Even if you put a seed on a 12-12 schedule from the beginning, it will not start properly budding for about 3 weeks. When growing with cannabis clones, age is not an issue and growers can switch directly to flowering once your clone has established roots. This is because even though a clone may be small, it’s still a ‘mature’ plant since it is made of a piece from a mature plant. Rooted clones tend to grow much faster for the first few weeks than plants grown from seed. In any case, age is not much of an issue, and you should switch your light schedule at the time that best fits your needs.
Height: A general rule is that your marijuana plant will double or triple in size during the flowering stage from the point where you first change over the light schedule to 12/12. Some plants will grow more, some will grow less, but a good rule of thumb is to change your light schedule over to flowering when your plants have reached half of their final desired height. Bending, known as “LST” or “low stress training” can be used to control colas that get too tall. Simply bend too-tall colas down and away from the center of the plant. Some growers will even slightly break or “supercrop” branches to get them to bend at a 90 degree angle. For those growing in a small space, height may be the primary concern. However, there are many techniques available to grow a short, bushy weed plant or basically train your cannabis plant to grow into any shape you want.
Here’s an example of LST to keep a plant short:
In optimal conditions if height and space is not an issue, you would probably want to vegetate your cannabis plant for 60 days or more before switching it over to flowering. This gives your plant plenty of time to grow big (so you get bigger yields), and allows new growers to dial in their grow before plants enter the sensitive flowering stage. In the vegetative stage, it is easy to recover from problems, but problems are a lot more serious in the flowering stage, where mistakes can dramatically hurt your final yields.
Giving cannabis plants more time in the vegetative stage, and taking time to train them to fit your space, will give you the best final yields. However, if space is tight, then it’s better to switch when the plant is half the final desired height, or even to just attempt to flower your cannabis plant straight from seed.
After the vegetative and flowering stage are over, it is time to harvest your plants!