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

By Dylan Osborn
Published: September 4, 2020 | Last updated: July 21, 2022 06:00:35
Key Takeaways

When is the perfect time to harvest your cannabis buds? The answer is really based on your personal preference, and the type of high you would like to receive from your harvest.

If you have grown cannabis before, you know how important it is to harvest your buds right at the perfect time.


Harvesting just a week too early will cause your buds to a have very low potency of THC and minimal desirable effects. Harvest a little too late, and the THC will have degraded to THC-A, giving you a really strong couch lock feeling after consuming it.

So, the question is, how do you know when the buds are at the perfect time to be harvested?


There are a few different signs that you can look for on the buds themselves to tell if they are ready, one of which is looking at the development of the pistils.

At first, the pistils on the cannabis bud are white and are standing straight up. As they mature, they turn a brownish orange color and curl in towards the bud.

You will also notice the bud starts to slow down in growth as it matures and will fill out around the branch.


The final and most decisive method is using a microscope to look at the trichomes on the buds themselves. You can tell by their color if they are ready or not for harvest.

Different Trichome Stages

Milky trichomesAbove: milky trichomes.
Most growers use a jeweler’s loupe or some sort of micro lens with around a 120x zoom capability to look at the trichomes. You can start checking on them after about 3-4 weeks into the flowering stage.


When trichomes first form on the cannabis buds and leaves, you will notice they are clear and almost look like they are made of glass. This is the very first stage of their development, and is when they are the least potent.

After a few weeks, you will notice the trichomes start to turn a milky color and look cloudy on the inside. This is when they are full with THC and will give off an energetic high.

Amber trichomesAbove: amber trichomes.
After another week or so, the trichomes will begin to turn amber in color, which means the THC is starting to break down into THC-A. The more amber trichomes there are, the more of a couch lock high you will get from the buds.

So, to answer the question of “When is the perfect time to harvest my cannabis buds?” The answer is really based on your personal preference, and the type of high you would like to receive from your harvest.

Most people tend to harvest when the trichomes are 70-80 per cent milky and the rest are amber, as this gives the perfect mixture of both highs.

However, there are also people who prefer to harvest at both ends of the spectrum of trichome development, so take this opportunity to experiment and see what you like best!

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Flushing Your Plants

Now that you understand the different stages of trichome development and how they affect the high your buds produce, it is time to talk about flushing your cannabis plants.

This is the very last step in the process before harvesting your buds, and it is by far the most important in producing a high quality bud.

Flushing consists of only providing plain pH’d water to your plants for a duration of 7-14 days, in order to flush out any buildup of minerals and salts.

Properly flushed buds will provide a smooth and tasty smoke, while unflushed buds are extremely harsh. A proper flushing can turn poorly grown cannabis plants into top shelf bud, and a poor flush can completely ruin a perfectly grown crop!

The Perfect Time to Harvest

You might be asking yourself, “When should I start flushing my plants so they are at the right stage of trichome development once finished?” Well, first it is important to note that the longer you flush the better. So, always start earlier than you think you should, because you can always flush more.

If you start too late, you risk missing your optimal harvest point. From experience most growers have found that once completely cloudy, trichomes turn amber at a rate of about 4-5 per cent per week. So if you wanted to harvest your plants when they were 90 per cent milky and 10 per cent amber, you would want to start your flush right around the time your trichomes become 100 per cent milky.

Now that you understand the mechanics behind harvest cannabis, it is time to test out the process and see what ratio of milky to amber trichomes is best for you. That is all I have for now, but as always, thank you for reading and happy growing!


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Written by Dylan Osborn | Greenhouse Grower, Owner of GreenBox Grown

Profile Picture of Dylan Osborn

Dylan Osborn is a greenhouse grower with more than five years of experience. He has a passion for teaching others how they can grow cannabis from the comfort of their home. Dylan is the founder of GreenBox Grown, creator of the most Affordable Cannabis Growing Starter Kits.

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