How do I know when to harvest the buds on my cannabis plant?

Q:

How do I know when to harvest the buds on my cannabis plant?

Thanks,
Richard A.

A:

Thank you for your question. 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 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.

If possible, use a magnifying glass or microscope to determine the appropriate time to harvest your cannabis flowers. A magnifying glass or microscope allows a gardener to observe the development of the trichomes (the small mushroom-like glands that contain most of the cannabinoids). 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 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.

A mixture of cloudy and amber cannabis trichomes.

For most hybrid plants, the peak THC/CBD concentration will be when the trichomes are mostly milky in color. Put another way, most growers wait until the majority 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 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 glass or microscope allows growers to accurately determine when to harvest depending on his or her personal preferences.

Read also: When to Harvest Cannabis Plants: The Different Stages of Trichome Development

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 this method, the grower should closely watch his or her 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. I hope this answers your question.

Keep on Growing,
Lee G. Lyzit

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Written by Lee G Lyzit
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Lee G. Lyzit has been involved in the medical cannabis industry for nearly 15 years. His passion for natural healing drives him to learn as much as he can about the miraculous cannabis plant. Lee breeds his own strains of cannabis to create concentrated glycerine and coconut oil extracts. Aside from cannabis education and consumption, Lee enjoys playing music, gardening, hiking, and cross-country skiing.

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