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When to Harvest Cannabis Plant: Complete Guide

cannabis harvesting

Getting your cannabis plants to peak maturity can be hard work. At this point, you may be asking yourself two questions:

  • Which flowering phase is the perfect time to harvest?
  • What time of year should I start the harvesting process?

The ideal harvest time depends on the hemisphere you’re in and when you planted your cannabis seeds. If you harvest too early or too late, you may lose the strain’s quality and potency.

Luckily, the plant’s trichomes, pistils, and seed bank can help you determine the most fruitful cannabis harvest window.

Keep reading to learn everything a grower needs to know about when to harvest cannabis.


How to Know When to Harvest Marijuana

Many cannabis growers use different methods to determine the ideal harvest time. Here are the three most common methods.


When to Harvest Looking at Seed Bank Reference

You can determine the ideal time to harvest cannabis plants based on seed bank references. There are several key indicators to consider.

For example, the seed bank’s flowering time can provide helpful insights. Seed banks often include an estimated flowering time for each strain. This estimate can give you a general idea of when your cannabis plant may be ready to harvest.

Additionally, pay attention to the seed bank’s harvest window. Seed banks often provide the optimal harvest window for each strain, which may detail how long you must wait from the flowering stage to find the ideal harvest time.


Harvest Time Looking at Pistil Color

The pistils of cannabis plants typically turn white and stick out during the early flowering stage. This means the plant isn’t yet ready for harvest. As the plant grows, the pistils will change color.

They may transition into shades of brown, red, and orange, indicating the plant’s maturity. Once the flowering period ends, the pistils darken and curl while the fan leaves turn yellow. There won’t be any more white pistils at this point, meaning the plant is ready to harvest.


When to Harvest Looking at Trichomes Shape

Examining the trichomes of a cannabis plant with a microscope can also help you assess its harvest readiness. First, select a bud that represents the plant’s overall maturity. This bud may be in the top or middle of the plant, as this area matures earlier than the rest.

Each color indicates a different maturity stage.


Clear Trichomes

Translucent or clear trichomes point toward an early flower phase. The plant isn’t yet ready for harvest as the cannabinoids are still developing in the plant material.


Milky White Trichomes

The trichomes will turn cloudy or milky white as the plant ripens. This means that the THC levels are rising as the plant reaches its peak potency. If you want an energetic effect, it’s best to harvest during this stage.


Amber Trichomes

Fully mature plants will have amber trichomes, but it may not be as obvious in an autoflower plant. In fact, some autoflower plants never turn amber at all.

Amber trichomes point to the degradation of THC as it transforms into CBN or other essential cannabinoids. If you want a relaxing and soothing effect, it’s best to harvest during this stage.


How Often Do You Harvest Cannabis?

How often you harvest cannabis should depend on how you cultivate the plant.

Indoor setups allow you to control the light setup, so you may opt for 18-6 during the vegetative stage and 12-12 during the flowering phase. The flowering period may last 8 to 12 weeks, after which you may harvest the entire plant at once.

Outdoor-grown cannabis plants rely on the sun’s natural light cycle. They begin flowering in late summer or early fall as the days become shorter and nights become longer. You may harvest your outdoor cannabis plants once they’ve fully flowered.

Many outdoor growers prefer to use a technique called “continuous harvest.” This method grows multiple outdoor plants in varying growth stages, resulting in a staggered and consistent cannabis supply. This allows growers to harvest some plants every few weeks in a continuous harvest cycle throughout the growing season.


when to harvest cannabis


Flushing Before Harvesting Cannabis Plants

Many growers use a technique called flushing to get rid of chemicals and excess nutrients from plants before harvest time. This technique improves the final product’s smoothness, taste, and quality.

The specific strain, plant size, and nutrient regimen can influence the duration of the flushing period. It typically lasts a few days, about two weeks before harvest. We recommend using pH-balanced water for irrigation, as a 6-6.5 pH level is optimal for the nutrient uptake of cannabis.


Preparing to Harvest Weed

Before harvesting cannabis, you must take several key steps for preparation. First, you’ll need to determine the perfect harvest time by looking at the maturity of the trichomes and pistils. You’ll also need to gather supplies like gloves, trimming scissors, and drying racks.

It’s always better to clean your designated area before dry-trimming or wet-trimming buds. We recommend leaving your plants in the dark before harvest, as it maximizes production in the resin glands.

You must also cut down the plants or branches and trim excess fan leaves or sugar leaves. This will allow for better air circulation while you grow weed at home. Finally, let the trimmed buds dry in a dark, well-ventilated space or a drying room.

Once the buds are dry, burp them to release excess moisture and transfer them to airtight containers. To remove extra moisture from the precious buds, you can also try dry trimming the fan leaves before harvest.


Supplies You Need to Harvest Marijuana

To harvest marijuana, here’s a list of supplies you may need:

  • Sharp-trimming scissors or shears
  • Gloves
  • Fans to circulate air
  • Airtight containers
  • Drying racks or screens
  • Parchment paper
  • Ph-balanced water
  • Magnifying glass
  • Humidity and temperature monitoring tools
  • Trimming machines


How to Harvest Cannabis Plants

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to harvest cannabis.

  • Determine the optimal harvest time based on the maturity of the pistils and trichomes.
  • Prepare sharp trimming scissors, gloves, clean containers, and drying racks.
  • Cut down the entire plant or individual branches using clean and sharp scissors.
  • Remove excess fan leaves or sugar leaves and trim the buds close to the main stem, leaving the desirable cannabis flowers intact.
  • Hang trimmed buds upside down on drying racks in a dark and well-ventilated drying space for about 7-10 days.
  • Transfer dried buds to airtight glass jars or containers for curing cannabis. Remember to burp them first to release the remaining moisture. Cure for 2-4 weeks before reducing the frequency of burping.


Try a Progressive Harvest When Lower Buds Aren’t Fully Ripe

You can also try a progressive harvest when lower buds aren’t fully ripe. This allows you to harvest the mature top buds while giving the lower buds more time to develop.

First, assess the maturity levels of the buds on your cannabis plant. Determine which ones are fully ripe and which need more development time. You can do so by examining the pistil and trichome color.

Begin by harvesting the mature top buds that have reached the desired level of ripeness. These buds should have milky or amber trichomes and fully-developed pistils.

After harvesting the top buds, support the lower branches to prevent sagging or breaking. You can use stakes or ties to keep the branches upright and maintain good airflow.

Allow the lower buds to develop by providing more light, nutrients, fresh air, and water. This will give them extra time to mature and reach their full potential.

You must also regularly check the lower buds for pistil and trichome color changes. Keep a close eye on their development to determine when they are ready for harvest.

Once the lower buds have reached the desired level of ripeness, you can harvest individual buds or the whole plant in small sections, especially if dealing with large plants. Use the same techniques for cutting, wet trimming or dry trimming as in a regular harvest.


What Happens If You Harvest Too Early

Harvesting too early can negatively affect the quality and potency of the strain. Here are some potential consequences of harvesting cannabis prematurely.


Reduced Potency

The primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, THC, is produced in the trichomes. Harvesting too early doesn’t give trichomes enough time to develop. This can lead to a less potent effect due to lower levels of THC.


Immature Flavor and Aroma

Terpenes are responsible for the aroma of cannabis. These also develop during the later stages of the cannabis plant’s growth. Harvesting too early can result in a lack of terpenes, leading to a less enjoyable experience.


Harsh Smoke or Vaping Experience

Prematurely harvested buds do not undergo physiological changes and chemical conversions. As a result, they can produce a harsh smoke or vaping experience. This is often characterized by a strong throat hit and an unpleasant taste.


Reduced Yield

Harvesting early means the buds haven’t had enough time to expand and multiply. This can result in smaller yields compared to when plants reach their full potential.


Missed Development Opportunities

Cannabis plants go through various stages of rapid growth. That includes the flowering period, where important chemical and physiological changes occur. Harvesting too early deprives the plants of the chance to complete their natural life cycle.


marijuana harvest


What Happens If You Harvest Too Late

Harvesting cannabis too late can also have negative consequences. Here are some potential effects of missing the optimal harvest time.


Decreased Potency

As cannabis plants mature, the levels of THC and CBD can start to degrade. They may also convert into less desirable compounds like CBN (cannabinol). This can lead to decreased potency and a shift in the desired effects of the harvested buds.


Loss of Terpene Profile

Terpenes, responsible for the flavor of cannabis, can also degrade. Harvesting too late may result in a loss of the desired terpene profile. This creates a less flavorful and aromatic final product.


Increased Sedation

As cannabis plants grow, the cannabinoid profile can shift towards more sedative effects. If harvested too late, the buds may have higher levels of sedating compounds like CBN. This results in a more relaxing or sedating experience rather than desired.


Overripe Buds

Waiting too long to harvest can cause the buds to become overripe. They may develop an excessive amount of amber-colored trichomes. This indicates that the cannabinoids are starting to degrade.

Overripe buds can have a harsh or unpleasant taste. They may even create a “couch-lock” effect, making consumers feel too lethargic or sleepy.


Reduced Yield

As plants age, they can also start to deteriorate, making buds shrink and causing yield decline. The buds may become looser, less dense, and more susceptible to mold, pests, or other issues.


Tips for Harvesting Cannabis

Here are some insightful tips to keep in mind when harvesting and growing cannabis:

  • Time your harvest based on mature pistils and cloudy trichomes.
  • Use sharp scissors or shears for clean and precise cuts while trimming.
  • Wear disposable gloves to ensure cleanliness and avoid contamination.
  • Harvest in a well-ventilated area to reduce odor.
  • Hang trimmed cannabis buds upside down for proper drying.
  • Track relative humidity and temperature during the drying process.
  • Store harvested buds in airtight containers for curing.
  • Burp the containers often during the curing process.
  • Label and date your harvested buds for future reference.
  • Properly dispose of plant waste to avoid attracting pests or unwanted attention.




How Do You Know When Your Cannabis Buds Are Ripe?

If cannabis buds are ripe, the mature pistils may have turned from white to reddish-brown or amber. Examine the trichomes with a magnifying glass to ensure they’re milky with some amber.


What Do Trichomes Look Like When They’re Ready to Harvest?

Trichomes that are ready to harvest will appear mostly cloudy or milky. They may have some amber hues depending on personal preference and desired effects.


What Do Over Ripe Buds Look Like?

Overripe buds may have excessive amber-colored trichomes. This indicates that the cannabinoids are starting to degrade. It can result in a potential loss of potency and undesirable flavors.


When Should I Stop Watering Before Harvesting?

You can stop watering your plants 1 to 3 days before harvest, after flushing, in the final days of harvest, you can further stress your plants by stopping watering.


How Long Should I Dry My Cannabis in Harvest?

Drying cannabis takes around 7-10 days after harvest. The drying time can vary depending on environmental factors and bud density.


Should Cannabis Be Harvested All at Once?

It’s not necessary to harvest cannabis all at once. Some growers choose to perform a progressive harvest approach based on the plant’s maturity. They harvest mature buds while allowing lower buds more time to develop.


How Long Does It Take to Fully Harvest Weed?

The full harvest of cannabis can take several weeks. This includes the time needed for different plants to reach their optimal maturity.


What Hour of Day is Best to Harvest Weed?

The ideal time of day to harvest your weed is in the morning once the dew has evaporated. This allows for optimal terpene preservation.


Is It Best to Harvest Weed at Night?

Harvesting cannabis at night isn’t necessarily better or worse than during the day. Still, it’s to harvest during daylight to ensure better visibility and control.


harvesting cannabis


Wrapping Up With When to Harvest Marijuana

Knowing when to harvest marijuana helps achieve optimal potency, flavor, and quality. Observing the pistils, trichomes, and other indicators lets you learn the ideal time to harvest.

Harvesting too early can result in lower potency and immature flavors. Meanwhile, harvesting too late can lead to degraded cannabinoids and terpenes. Proper timing ensures that the buds reach their full potential.

Additionally, a suitable growing medium and drying and curing environment contribute to a successful harvest. By following this guide, you can enjoy the best results from your marijuana harvest and perfect the growing process.

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