Sativa Grow Cycle: Simplified for Growers

Sativa Grow Cycle Simplified for Growers

Table of Contents

Marijuana or cannabis just like any other plants have almost the same physiological needs such as sunlight, water, nutrients, and others. They may not bear fruits or become tall trees yet they do undergo different life stages just like all the plants there is.  

Understanding all these different stages in a cannabis plant particularly the sativa grow cycle will increase your chances of a successful harvest as you will easily memorize what to properly do in each stage. There are four general life stages of a plant: seed, seedling, vegetative and flowering. But for the sake of simplifying the grow cycle, even more, we divided it into seven stages.

Seed Stage

Seeds are what the flowers or buds of a female plant produce when it gets pollinated by a male plant. Marijuana flowers stop producing tetrahydrocannabinol to divert all its energy to produce seeds. The seed formed in this pollination will bear the genes of both parents, the male, and the female.

This seed could randomly become male or female plant when they grow except when they are feminized. Feminized seeds are produced by a process of inducing a gender change in a female marijuana plant to become male and produce pollen. If the pollen of this male plant that used to be female pollinates a female plant, the seeds produce will be 100 percent female due to the female genes of both parents, even the male parent because it used to be female. Cannabis plants may produce a different number of seeds per plant.

A cannabis plant may even undergo a hermaphrodite condition when a female plant produces a male flower that produces pollen and pollinates itself and the other plants around it. This gender change is caused by a panic mode in the cannabis plant whenever its survival is at risk. Feminization also follows this same principle.

Seeds could be harvested manually by waiting for the plant to dry. Cannabis dies as soon as the seeds mature and they scatter the seeds naturally. Once you have harvested your seeds, you may keep it in a dry and clean container for more viability or longer storage life. You may store a seed indefinitely if stored in a cool and dry place and away from direct sunlight.

Cannabis sativa seeds almost look the same as all the other seeds from the other strains. Therefore, it is important to keep a note of your stock of seed by marking their strain, gender, date of procurement and other important information.

Germination Stage

Germination happens when you place a seed in a germination medium. The most popular germination medium for seeds is by putting it in between layers of wet paper towel and is kept in between flat pans. These layers of paper towels must be wet by using distilled water as the chlorine of tap water may damage it. New seeds are easy to germinate while old seeds are hard to germinate or they may not germinate at all.  

It is good practice to germinate only the amount of seeds that you could still keep in your growing area even if they grow to their fullest potential height and width. Some marijuana plants could grow up to more than 6 feet in height and 3 feet in diameter. If you could imagine this, that is one plant per square meter of your precious growing space. 

If you have a growing area that is only 20 square meters and you are not counting the alleys and the vacant spaces that you need for utility, then you should only germinate 20 seeds. Germinating 30 seeds will leave you with 10 plants that will not have enough space when all of them fully grow up. You may instead germinate 22 seeds with two for security.

Different marijuana seeds will germinate at different rates. You will find your seed to be fully germinated and ready for transplanting ones it has grown roots and a leaf or two. You may simply tear off the paper towel that covers the seeds and transfers it to a seedling cup or to a large pot where the plant will stage throughout its entire life especially for autoflowering plants as they have very sensitive roots and are not easily transplantable.

Seedling Stage

The two leaves that will appear during the seedling stage are called embryonic leaves. Right from the seedling stage, you have to make sure that all conditions for the growth of marijuana plants are met such as proper soil type, climate control, lighting, and others. Seedlings may take different lengths of time to develop even if they come from the same batch of seeds.

Vegetative Stage

In the vegetative stage, your plant will have bigger leaves and a stockier trunk and new nodes and branches will appear. Nodes are where the leaves and stems intersect and you would notice an increase in the growth rate of your plants in this stage. Cannabis sativa could grow as tall as 8 feet and you will find an increased growth rate in the vegetative state.

Pre-flowering Stage

During the pre-flowering stage, you could determine whether your marijuana plant is male or female unless you germinated them from feminized seeds as they will be 100 percent female. Male plants produce sac structures called bananas on the node regions. Female produce colas that look like hair strands that will become flowers or buds later on.

Upon identification of a male plant, you must separate it immediately or have it disposed of unless you are wishing to produce seeds for this batch of plants you have. A single male plant amid your female plants could pollinate all of your female plants accidentally. If you are not using feminized seeds, you should also be on the lookout of hermaphrodites among your plants by looking for male pollen sacs.

Flowering Stage

Once your plants are almost beyond their flowering stages which you will know by checking the strain on you have and their average life stage durations, you may then prepare yourself to put your plants into the flowering stage.

If you have photoperiod plants or marijuana plants that require a drastic decrease in the amount of time that the plant is exposed to light in a 24-hour cycle, you should decrease your light cycle from 18 hours down to 12 hours. This is crucial because your plants will only continue to grow leaves and stem without producing flowers. If you have autoflowering plants, you do not need to make any changes in your plants’ light cycle and you may keep it under the light for 18 hours daily. Cannabis sativa is photoperiod and not autoflowering.

During the flowering stage, your plants will need more nutrients too and you may opt to apply dry amendments of fertilizers to your crops such as bat guano, bone meal, and others. Your plants will then exhibit a change in their colas by producing long, white hairs that are called pistils.


Harvesting is all about timing. It is best to know for sure that your buds are indeed ready for harvesting. Not harvesting soon enough will make your buds mature further and make them lose their trichome heads by falling off. When this happens, most of your bud’s cannabinoids such as THC and CBD is already gone.

To expect the trichome heads of your buds, you should use a handheld microscope to check the trichomes that come out of the ripe cola buds. If you observe them to have changed from milky to having an amber color, then it is good for harvest. Some growers even suggest that if you see even half of the trichomes have turned amber or opaque, that is enough signal for you start your harvest as this produces buds with the highest potential THC content for a bud of that particular marijuana strain. Cannabis sativa is known to have more THC in all of the marijuana strains there is.

You do not harvest buds by pulling it off the plant. You should rather cut off the whole trunk as close as possible to the roots. Cut off this long trunk into shorter branches to be easier to hang and dry.  You could trim the stems and leaves too while you leave the branches with the buds to dry. Sativa plants could grow up to 8 feet and so you must make more cuttings of the trunk to make more manageable.


It is best to keep dried buds into screw-top mason jars. Do not overfill the jars in order to facilitate airflow in between the buds. You should keep these jars in a clean, dry and cold storage that is away from direct sunlight with a temperature between 10-20 degrees Celsius. Keeping your buds in damp and hot storage will trigger the growth of molds which will damage your buds and may even become a health hazard if inhaled or smoked by an unknowing consumer.

The sativa grow cycle is similar to most plants but it is empowering to know the basic steps that you must do in every stage of the plant’s life cycle.

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