Question

How do I know when my cannabis plants are ready for harvesting?

Answer
By Lee G Lyzit | Last updated: January 3, 2023


cannabis pistils and trichomes demonstrating different stages of harvest readinessLeft: you can rely on pistil color as one indicator of harvest time. Middle: peak THC levels have been reached when a majority of trichomes turn milky. Right: waiting for trichomes to turn amber will produce a more lethargic high.


The average length of cannabis’s flowering stage is around eight weeks. The duration to maturity will vary for different plant varieties, therefore, the eight-week average should only be used as a rough guideline. As the marijuana plants approach the sixth or seventh week of flowering, a grower should start to monitor the visual signs of maturity.

There are two common methods used to determine when a cannabis flower is ready to harvest: employing a magnifying glass/microscope or by looking closely at the flower’s pistils.

Method #1: Determine Ideal Cannabis Harvest Time by Examining Trichomes

If possible, use a magnifying glass, microscope, or jeweler's loupe to determine the appropriate time to harvest your cannabis flowers. Many growers choose a magnifying tool with a magnification power between 10x and 30x.

With one of these devices, a gardener can closely examine the trichomes (the small mushroom-like glands that contain most of the cannabinoids) and decide on when to harvest based on their color and/or concentration. As the cannabis flowers start to ripen, the trichomes will turn from translucent (clear) to milky to, eventually, an amber color.

For most hybrid marijuana plants, the peak THC percentages will be when the trichomes are mostly milky in color. In other words, most growers wait until most of the trichomes have become milky to harvest. This usually means there are also a fair amount of amber and clear trichomes. The idea is to maximize the amount of “ripe” trichomes.

That being said, some growers prefer harvesting their marijuana flowers for a desired effect.

Flowers harvested earlier (when trichomes have developed, but the majority are still translucent) will produce a more energetic effect for most users.

Flowers harvested later (when the majority of the trichomes have turned amber) will produce a more lethargic effect for most users.

The use of a magnifying device allows growers to accurately determine when to harvest depending on their personal preferences.

Method #2: Determine Cannabis Harvest Time by Pistil Color

If a grower does not have access to a magnifying tool, the old school “red hair” method can also be used to determine when to harvest. As the pistils (tiny white “hairs”) on the flowers mature, they change from a white color to a reddish-brown color. Before the days of relying on magnifying tools to determine maturity, it was common for growers to harvest when most of the pistils on the cannabis flowers became red.

With the naked eye, the grower should closely watch their flowers until the pistils start turning from white to red or brown. As the cannabis flowers reach maturity, more of the pistils will become red or brown. A good rule of thumb is to harvest when a little more than 50 percent of the pistils have turned red or brown in color.

This method is good for beginners who do not have access to a magnifying glass or microscope.


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What Can Be Done With Marijuana Fan Leaves After Harvest?

The large fan leaves contain cannabinoids, albeit at a far less concentration than the flowers.

Due to the low percentage of cannabinoids they contain, many growers dispose of the fan leaves. Personally, I like to make a coconut oil extract with my fan leaves. I do this by heating water and coconut oil in a large pot (I use one of my water bath canning pots).

The amount of water and coconut oil will vary depending on the amount of fan leaves you have. After the coconut oil has melted completely in the water, add the fan leaves, and cook over low heat for three to five hours.

You do not want to heavily boil the leaves; a light simmer is sufficient. After cooking, strain the water/coconut oil mixture through cheese cloth to remove the leaf material. The remaining mixture can be placed in the refrigerator for separation.

After 12 hours, the coconut oil will separate from the water and become hard. Discard the water and scrape the bottom of the hardened coconut oil to remove any sludge left by the plant material.

The resulting cannabis-infused coconut oil can be used for making capsules, baked goods, or as a topical ointment.

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Written by Lee G Lyzit | Grower, Writer

Profile Picture of Lee G Lyzit

Lee G. Lyzit has been involved in the cannabis industry for nearly 20 years. His passion for natural healing motivates him to learn as much as he can about the miraculous cannabis plant. Lee’s knowledge of cannabis gardening stems from his own extensive cultivation experiences and his past work as a hydroponic shop owner and manager.

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