When Is The Best Time To Harvest Cannabis?

When To Harvest Cannabis

Cannabis is ranked as the fifth most valuable crop in the United States, with total legal marijuana sales expected to exceed $33.5 billion in 2023. This green undoubtedly plays a big role in our modern-day society, but understanding the technical side of growing, harvesting, and producing it might be quite perplexing.

Key Takeaways

  • Many factors can play a role in determining when your cannabis is ready to harvest, including the stage of plant growth, the color and maturity of trichomes and pistils, the light cycle, and temperature.
  • Once 80 to 90% of trichomes have turned into a milky white color, you've met the ideal time to harvest.
  • You can also determine harvesting time after half of the pistil hairs on the plant have turned brown.
  • Buds that are firm and tight, as well as leaves that are curling and turning yellow, are another sign of a ready harvest.
  • Green leaves, lack of a potent aroma, and underdeveloped pistils and trichomes are all signs of plants that are not yet ready to harvest.
  • Cannabis plants that are harvested too soon will yield lower amounts of THC and CBD.
  • If you wait too long to harvest, the THC and CBD will transform into CBN, and users will be left with a sedative effect.

If you want to make the most of your crop, you need to completely understand the ins and outs of harvesting cannabis plants. From seedlings to full-grown flowers, the process can be complex, but it establishes the foundation of the entire industry.

Keep reading, and we'll let you know how to determine the right time to harvest your crop.

See Related: Indica vs. Sativa: Everything You Need To Know About These Cannabis Strains

#1. What factors can affect when to harvest cannabis?

If you grow cannabis, you know the utter importance of harvesting your green on time. If you want to make the most of your plants, you need to know when is the right time to harvest, as well as know how to identify went that time comes!

Whether you have outdoor or indoor plants, sativa or indica strains, or a large field or merely a couple of individual plants, harvesting at the right time can ensure your hard work doesn't go to waste.

You deserve to rest easy knowing that you fully comprehend the fundamentals of harvesting cannabis plants. And the first thing you should be familiar with is the factors that can inevitably affect your harvest date.

The stage of your plant growth

First and foremost, one of the biggest factors that will determine when you harvest cannabis plants is the stage of plant growth.

During the vegetative stage, the plant mostly focuses on building its base structure. It produces healthy leaves and stems, and this is when the majority of the actual growth happens.

As the plant transitions into the flowering stage, the buds start to form. During this stage, the resin production of the plant increases as well.

Later on, the plant leaves will turn yellow and curl as the ideal harvest window approaches.

close up of green marijuana plants drying cannabis cultivation cloudy and amber trichomes potted plants own cannabis plant own marijuana plant harvested weed wet trimming entire plant growing cannabis harvest time

The color and maturity of trichomes

The cannabis flowers and leaves have cells known as trichomes on them. What starts out as little spheres eventually turns into mushroom-like stems.

And these are perhaps the most important parts when determining the peak ripeness of your plants.

The exact size and characteristics of these cells will vary from strain to strain. However, they tell a very important story about the plant in front of you.

These trichomes aren't just important for determining if your cannabis is ready to harvest. They also contain THC, the primary psychoactive element in cannabis, as well as terpenes. They're responsible for that "high" feeling that comes with cannabis use.

Whether you smoke green or enjoy indulging in gummy edibles, these tiny stems are behind the effects you chase. These small structures are also responsible for any unique effects that come with your strain of cannabis.

Because they are so small, they are primarily visible through the lens of a magnifying glass. It's hard to truly observe them with just the naked eye!

But by observing trichomes, you can most accurately determine when to harvest marijuana plants.

The color and maturity of pistils

Pistils are a vital aspect of cannabis buds. These fine hairs initially grow white until later in the plant's life when they transition into a deeper brownish-orange color.

Like trichomes, they play a major role in letting you know when you should reap your marijuana plants.

Environmental factors

Other external factors such as light cycle, temperature, and humidity also play a role in when you should harvest your crop.

Playing around with the light your plants get can lead them to flower earlier, while optimal temperature and humidity will encourage your plant to stay healthy and grow in a timely manner.

Pests and disease are other negative factors that might affect your cannabis harvest.

#2. Key signs that your marijuana plants are ready to harvest

Knowing the factors that play into your crop's harvest date is only part one.

You need to know how you can use these attributes to your advantage!

Trichome color

Trichomes are the first thing that you should consider.

As your cannabis buds continue to mature, the trichome heads will turn to a white color and may even appear to look like plastic. White trichome heads can indicate a high amount of CBD and THC.

Once your plants mature even further, the trichome color will transition into a rich, amber, or golden color. Though amber trichomes do have less THC, their produced effects are more of a relaxing body high.

The key is to harvest cannabis when 80 to 90% of the trichomes have turned milky white, and 10 to 20% are amber color. This is the true sweet spot for optimal harvesting.

More specifically, you can break down the percentages to this ideal ratio:

70% white trichomes
15% amber trichomes
15% clear trichomes

This is arguably the best method of determining harvest time. All you need is a cheap pocket microscope to thoroughly inspect the trichomes (even your phone will suffice).

However, keep in mind that not all trichomes will change color at the same time. If you're harvesting multiple plants, you might notice that some seem more mature than others.

Bonus: How Different Are Indica vs. Sativa Edibles?

someone in PPE walking rows of indoor cannabis plants growing environment grow weed resin glands fan leaves sugar leaves more experienced growers mason jars local climate bud shape final stage cannabis strains harvest marijuana

Pistil color

Pistil color is the second primary determining factor of your crop's readiness to harvest. The trick here is to wait the perfect amount of time for the pistils to change color.

Pistils are actually the reproductive organs of female cannabis plants. Most growers prefer to have female cannabis plants, as they will yield no seeds and bigger buds.

Though pistils begin as a white color, they will eventually turn red, brown, or orange as they mature. The optimal time to harvest is when half of the pistils have turned brown.

If there are still a lot of white pistils, it's too early to harvest. You should also remember that if there is a higher percentage of already-changed pistils, then the batch might be more potent.

Here's a better way to break down the pistil hair method when harvesting plants:

  • When 40% of the pistils have turned brown, the ideal harvesting window has opened. The plant itself will be able to produce enough THC for an energetic high, but hasn't quite reached the peak of possibilities.
  • Once 50 to 60% of the pistils are brown, the plant is likely at its best and can offer an abundance of THC.
  • Once you start to push 80 to 90% of pistil hairs being brown, you've waited for too long. The THC has likely turned into CBN, which will only produce a sedative effect, not a high effect.
someone holding a dropper jar in a field of weed dry trimming fan leaves sugar leaves overripe buds peak maturity bud production growing medium medical marijuana card flowering cycle outdoor weed cannabis growth

Bud size and density

There are many various aspects of a cannabis plant. Though trichomes and pistils can play a huge role in harvest, there are other telltale signs that you shouldn't ignore.

One such sign is the buds themselves. Though going off the characteristics of the plant's buds alone isn't enough, it can still help you determine if it's time to harvest.

The buds of the cannabis plant should be firm and tight.

Aside from the buds, there are other aspects of the plant that you can take into consideration. Once the optimal time to harvest approaches, the leaves of the plant will likely curl and dry, turning from a vibrant green color to a dull yellow.

This is a natural occurrence, as the plant tends to take in less water at this point in its life.

General smell

Luckily, there are many ways to check if your cannabis is ready. And around three to five weeks before the best harvest date, your plants will start to smell.

This will happen during the flowering stage and will have a distinctive smell.

#3. Signs that your cannabis plants are not ready to harvest

If you want to understand the best time to harvest cannabis, you need to know when not to harvest cannabis.

For starters, the majority of the pistil hairs will still be white. If they are still white and tend to stick straight out, that means the marijuana plants aren't fully formed or matured and are not ready.

Clear trichome color is another sign. Immature plants have trichomes that haven't turned into that notable milky white or amber/golden colors.

If the buds are lightweight and still feel airy, that's another sign of a not-yet-ready harvest. They should have ample destiny and shouldn't feel too light or underdeveloped.

Plants that are still overly green without yellowing leaves, as well as a lack of a potent aroma, are the final signs of immature plants.

cannabis plants growing indoors with stick supports outdoor marijuana plants most cannabis plants harvest weed harvesting marijuana growing weed plant's trichomes cannabis strain multiple harvests seedling stage

#4. What happens when you don't harvest on time

There are many reasons why you should focus on harvesting weed at the right time. If you want to make the most out of your crop, ensuring that you harvest your green at the right time is essential.

You can either harvest cannabis too early or too late. Each of these scenarios can bring less-than-ideal results.

In the case of a too-early harvest:

If you harvest cannabis plants too early, they won't have fully matured, and they won't have the same abundant qualities as ripe cannabis. For example, they'll likely have lower levels of THC and CBD, meaning their effects won't be as potent.

Plants harvested too soon will give a softer and more active high, meaning users will miss out on the entire sensory experience. The trichomes will be underdeveloped, and these hold the bulk of a cannabis plant's power!

If you harvest your crop too late:

Conversely, weed can also be harvested too late. If you wait too long, the THC and CBD of the plant will transform into CBN.

The associated high will be nothing more than a narcotic and heavy effect, making users feel sedated.

Keep in mind that these effects are not the same as those of cannabis indica strains. Late harvests will lack a potent, aromatic flavor that can capture your senses.

Wrapping Up

Knowing when to harvest cannabis isn't as complicated as it might seem. With these guidelines in mind and a few tricks up your sleeve, you'll be able to enjoy your most successful crop yet!

Keep Reading: What's The Difference Between Delta 8 And Delta 9?


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