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autoflower harvest signs

When is my cannabis plant ready for harvest

The most fulfilling part of growing your own cannabis is the harvest!

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Harvest time is the most rewarding and exciting aspect of cultivating cannabis for many growers. After months of witnessing your plants slowly morph from seedlings into fully bloomed plants, it’s almost time to reach for the trimmers and proceed to dry and cure your bounty. However, it’s important to remain patient and not become too hasty. There are numerous signs you need to be aware of and look out for on both the macro and micro levels to make sure your flowers are truly ready.

Harvesting cannabis flowers at just the right time ensures optimal quality. Doing so too early can reduce both yields and potency, and doing so too late can result in THC degradation and a far more narcotic and sleepy high.

There is a large debate surrounding exactly when to harvest buds. There are general guidelines for each cannabis subspecies in regards to the optimal time. Indica strains are usually ready after 8 weeks of flowering, and sativa strains after a 10-week period of flowering. Autoflowering strains often take approximately 10 weeks after the seedling stage. Although these guidelines can be helpful in estimating when harvest time may occur, more attention to detail is required to make sure you are spot on with your timing.

A slight knowledge of cannabis anatomy is required to make an accurate assessment of ripeness and of when your cannabis flowers are ready to be gathered. Below we explain how several parts of the cannabis plant that display signs that drying and curing are just around the corner.

FAN LEAVES WILL TURN YELLOW

It doesn’t take much anatomical knowledge to identify this change. Fan leaves are the large and wide leaves that serve as energy-forming solar panels for your plant. During the vegetative phase, yellow leaves aren’t a good thing and often point towards nutritional deficiencies. However, if your plant is loaded with flowers, fan leaves will begin to turn yellow and die as much of the resources are directed towards the buds. This is an easy to spot and surefire sign that harvest time is close.

PISTILS WILL BEGIN TO TURN RED

This is where a little cannabis anatomy can go a long way. Becoming acquainted with cannabis pistils will help you to identify when it’s time to start snipping flowers. Pistils are hair-like structures upon cannabis flowers that emerge from the calyx and can easily be identified with the naked eye. Pistils contain the reproductive organs of the female cannabis plant and will develop a seed if pollinated by a male. These structures are white early on in the flowering phase and turn to darker colours of red, brown, and orange as the flowers move closer to harvest.

If most of the pistils are still visibly white, then it’s too early to harvest and your plants should be left to mature for a little longer. Growers should wait until at least 50% of pistils have turned darker to ensure near maximal THC levels. Begin trimming flowers when 60–70% of pistils have turned dark for the highest levels of THC. Those growers looking for a more stoning and physical high should wait until 70–90% of pistils have changed colours, as more THC will have converted to CBN at this stage.

TRICHOMES WILL TURN MILKY WHITE IN APPEARANCE

Trichomes are important anatomical parts that offer signs for harvest time, although on a much more micro level. Trichomes are minute mushroom-shaped glands that occupy the flowers and sugar leaves, and produce the valuable resin that contains cannabinoids and terpenes. Trichomes are too small to be properly assessed with the naked eye, therefore magnifying tools are required to get a closer look.

A jeweller’s loupe is a small hand-held magnifying device that can be used to get up close and personal with trichomes. Additionally, a digital microscope will provide a clearer image of the state of your trichomes, but at more of a cost.

Under magnification, trichomes will appear clear and have crystal-like look during the early stage of flowering, signifying low potency and underripe flowers.

Further down the flowering timeline, trichomes will begin to display a more cloudy appearance and milky colour. When these resin factories are only half cloudy, flowers are still not fully formed and will have a low odour profile. There’s still some time to wait.

Eventually trichomes will become mostly cloudy. At this stage they hold the greatest levels of THC and will produce the most intense psychoactive effects. This is the point when most growers will want to harvest their crop.

If left longer, trichomes will turn from a cloudy colour into an amber one. Gathering at this stage will produce a more narcotic and physical high.

The most fulfilling part of growing your own cannabis is the harvest!

Ready-To-Harvest Cannabis Picture Gallery

Harvest cannabis buds at the right time for the highest potency, yields, and best effects!

Cannabis buds can come in all shapes and sizes! Although variety is the spice of life, it can make it a little confusing to know when to harvest your buds based on how your plants look. But if you harvest when buds are ready, you’ll get the best yields and potency, so it’s a good idea to try to harvest at the right time if you can!

We have a full harvest tutorial, but this article is mostly just a picture gallery 🙂

When buds first appear on your plant, they look like little round puffs of hair. Each bud is made up of many white hairs (“pistils”) that stick straight out.

Not Ready

Baby buds (budlets) look like a ball of white hairs. These buds have many weeks to go!

Still Not Ready

As the marijuana plant buds get closer to harvest, they thicken, and those white pistils start to darken and curl up. You’ll notice your buds are slowly getting thicker and denser. However, if you still have a lot of straight white pistils, like this bud, you know you still have a few weeks to go.

Ready to Harvest!

You’re in the weed harvest window when most of the pistils have darkened and curled in. However, sometimes it’s a little challenging to identify when buds are ready since each plant is different, and buds can look very different at harvest time. So today, I want to share lots and lots of pictures of many different cannabis buds that are ready to harvest so you can see the full gamut of variation!

A bud is ready to harvest when most of the hairs darken and curl in

These Cannabis Plants Are Ready to Harvest!

Without further ado, here’s the gallery of “ready for harvest” cannabis buds!

Some buds kind of look almost white at harvest due to either lots of trichomes or the buds themselves may be pale. This type of coloring is how strains like “White Widow” got their name 🙂 If you look closely, the actual pistils/hairs have all darkened and curled in, so this bud is ready to harvest!

A few more examples of pale buds that are ready to harvest

This cannabis bud keeps putting out new white pistils right when it looks like it’s about ready to be harvested! Some plants keep doing this over and over during the flowering stage, and you may eventually have to decide to make the chop. This picture is right before the grower decided to harvest this plant. Learn more about what to do if your plant keeps making new pistils.

Here’s that plant from a little further away for context

This strain grows in a similar way, and this bud is also ready to harvest even though there are lots of new white pistils

This bud has many tiny new sugar leaves and new pistils on top. It also has a top-heavy “fist” shape. These are common symptoms of heat or light damage, especially if they only appear on the parts of the plant close to the light. If this is happening, look at the older parts of the buds to decide when to harvest. Even though there’s a bunch of new white pistils on top, this bud is ready right now because the rest of the bud looks ready!

Since the non-damaged parts of the plant are ready to harvest, this plant is ready to harvest now. All the new pistils are from heat or light damage, and should be ignored! Learn more about why this happens!

Examples of Outdoor Buds that Are Ready to Harvest

These outdoor buds are ready to harvest! Sometimes outdoor buds look a little different than indoor. For instance, they’re often leafier (though not always!)

What About When Pistils Are Pink or Purple?

Sometimes it’s harder to know when to harvest with certain strains because the pistils might be purple or pink from the beginning instead of being white at first. For example, the pistils on this plant came in pink, and as they got closer to harvest, they curled in, and they darkened slightly to an orange hue.

You need to do your best to try to harvest when most of the pistils have darkened and curled in as best you can tell 🙂

Ready to Harvest Auto-Flowering Buds

Auto-flowering strains of cannabis are a special strain variety. Autoflowering plants start flowering (making buds) after about 3-4 weeks, and are usually ready to harvest 2-3 months from germination. This is different from standard photoperiod strains, which need to receive 12-hour dark periods every day to start flowering and develop buds properly. Learn more about why growers put plants on a 12/12 light schedule.

For the most part, autoflowering buds are the same as photoperiod buds. Some of the newer autoflowering strains have buds that are indistinguishable from their photoperiod counterparts. But some autoflowering buds tend to be a bit leafy looking. Here are some examples of different autoflowering buds that are ready to harvest.

Auto Lemon OG Haze plant that’s ready to harvest

Black Cream Auto plants just before harvest

What If Buds Appear “Burned”?

This bud was too close to LED lights and got burnt, and is ready to harvest. Anytime you see a completely “burned” looking bud without any green leaves left, it’s time to harvest before the quality of the bud starts degrading further.

This plant also got burned from a too-close LED light. When a marijuana plant is damaged this extensively, harvest immediately to prevent further yellowing from spreading to the buds!

Nothing terrible happened to this plant, the grower just wanted to let it go a little longer. However, a plant is usually ready to harvest by the time the sugar leaves are turning yellow.

What About Trichomes?

Looking at the buds themselves is very important, but if you want to ensure the best potency, you also want to look at the glittery trichomes on your buds under a magnifier. By combining looking at the buds with looking at the trichomes, you can pinpoint the perfect time to harvest with any strain!

Read Full Marijuana Harvest Tutorial – with more information and additional tools to help you check if buds are ready

How to Dry and Cure Buds – this process is necessary to ensure a good taste/smell, to prevent headaches, and to increase potency compared to fresh buds

See a picture gallery of "ready to harvest" cannabis buds, with explanations for the buds that are weird or hard to tell!