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When To Harvest Cannabis - Growers Guide

When To Harvest Cannabis - Growers Guide

Harvesting cannabis at its peak is crucial for maximum potency and quality, a key step for both beginners and experienced growers. Knowing the right time to harvest your cannabis plants is as important as properly curing. Harvesting is the first step in the harvesting, trimming, storage cultivation cycle, Let's get into how to do it right.




When to Harvest Cannabis

Harvest your cannabis when 50% to 70% of trichomes turn milky, 50% pistils turn amber and your buds become firm and vibrant in color. This combination of signs suggests your cannabis is at optimal potency and quality. There's more to the story than just when to harvest, more importantly, why. 

Why Its Important To Harvest On Time

When you harvest cannabis on time you maximize the potency, aroma, and value of your bud. As shown below in the trichome development chart, THC, CBD and other cannabinols change over time.


when to harvest chart


Why Cultivators Disagree on When to Harvest 

Experienced growers differ on when to harvest because of what effects they want to grow for.

  • Early Harvest - Tends to produce a more energizing and mentally stimulating effect.
  • Later Harvest - Usually offers a more calming and serene experience.

Timing your cannabis harvest window affects bud size and potency. While waiting longer can result in larger buds, it may slightly reduce the overall cannabinoid content. That's why most growers prefer to wait until the buds have reached their peak development before deciding to harvest.

Effects From Not Harvesting On Time

Effects On Potency

As THC reaches its peak potency, it degrades into another cannabinoid known as cannabinol. Oxygen and UV light accelerate this process as the plant loses vitality in its later stages of life. The same transformation occurs in stored cannabis flowers, where THC slowly converts into CBN.

CBN offers a heavy sedative like feeling, which some patients may find valuable. However, this effect is not the same as the sedative properties of indicas. 

On the other hand, harvesting too early can have less than ideal effects. Cannabis buds start with little to no THC content; smoking an underdeveloped bud can be unpleasant.

Market Value Implications of Harvest Timing

Harvesting cannabis at its peak maturity optimizes the crop's weight and market value. A well-timed harvest ensures the buds are dense and resinous, attracting higher prices and greater demand in the market.

Factors Influencing When To harvest

Many plant factors can change the ideal harvesting time. To be an effective cannabis harvester you have to understand how each effects the timing.

Strain Characteristics

Different strains have varying maturity times. Indica dominant strains usually mature faster than sativa dominant ones. To be the best marijuana grower, it's crucial to understand your type of cannabis and its development cycle.

Trichome Development 

Monitoring trichome development is crucial. Trichomes change from clear to milky to amber as they mature, serving as a key indicator of harvest readiness.

Flower Density

The density and size of the flowers also affect harvest time. Dense buds typically take longer to mature than airy ones.

Uneven Flower Maturation

Flowers on a cannabis plant may mature unevenly because of differences in light exposure. Top flowers are usually more potent, while lower ones may have fewer trichomes.

Environmental Conditions

Factors like temperature, humidity, and lighting impact cannabis growth and maturation. Understanding these conditions is vital for successful cultivation.


Trichome Development Stages-2
Trichomes changing from clear to amber as they become ready to harvest.


Timing Your Harvest With Trichomes

your plants are ready to harvest when 50% to 70% of the trichomes turn milky-white or cloudy. As the plant develops, the trichomes undergo a slow color transformation from transparent to a white hue resembling milk. You'll often see weed growers use a jewelers loop or usb microscope to examine their buds trichome color shift.

Not all trichomes will change color simultaneously; this process occurs gradually over time.

The presence of milky-colored trichomes suggests that resin production has reached its peak. Essential compounds such as THC, CBD, and terpenes have reached their highest levels.

Picute of Ready Trichomes

Here is a picture of what trichomes may look like when they are ready to be harvested. Take note of the ratio of cloudy and amber trichomes.

pictures of trichomes ready to be harvested

Timing Your Harvest With Pistils

Harvest your marijuana plants when about 70% of pistils have turned amber or orange. Pistils or "hairs" begin as white and gradually turn amber and brown hues signifying a fully developed bud. These thin, white pistils stick out from the flower's base, trying to catch pollen to make seeds.

Going beyond 90% can result in harvesting past the ideal window.


Checking when to harvest using CBG

The plants have reached their potential potency and ready for harvest when CBG levels reach zero. CBG lab testing is an accurate way to know when to harvest cannabis. 

Cannabigerol (CBG), often overlooked, plays a crucial role in harvest timing. A precursor to THC and CBD, CBG levels during the flowering phase are a critical indicator of maturity. Higher CBG levels suggest that the plant is still converting CBG into THC and CBD, indicating that it's not yet time to harvest.

picture of a ready to harvest bud and an over ripe bud

Flower Density Changes

Your cannabis buds will become more firm towards peak potency. Gently squeeze your buds during growth to monitor how spongey they are.

Bud Color Changes

Healthy mature marijuana buds will look full of life with vibrant greens, reds or purples, dependent on strain.

Over Ripe Bud Characteristics

An over ripe bud will begin to turn brownish in color as it begins to finish its life and die. The over ripe buds do contain some THC and CBD but most of the cannabinol has converted to CBN. Avoid mistaking overly matured buds for bud rot, a fungal infection that impacts cannabis, dealing with bud rot.


A Beginners Guide To Harvest Timming

Most new growers tend to harvest too early, the anticipation can be overwhelming. We've all been there. Here are some beginner friendly techniques for knowing when to harvest cannabis. 

Beginners Tip #1 - Wait:

New growers might have the desire to harvest early and lose out on valuable potency and trichome development. As a newer grower wait an extra week or two after you think you want to harvest. 

Don't worry - waiting an extra week to harvest your plants won't damage or reduce your grow. Since weed buds maintain their size for two to three weeks post peak potency.

Beginners Tip #2 - Examine trichomes of a clipping:

When examining the trichomes on your weed, take a clipping of a sugar leaf instead. It's easier to examine than trying to inspect the whole bud on the stalk.

Beginners Tip #3 - Harvest before the sun or before the lights:

With the grow lights off or at night cannabis spends its time producing resin. Once the lights come on and the sun comes up it begins the photosynthesis process. This can create a less than ideal taste and flavor profile.

inspecting trichomes to know when to harvest cannabis


Advanced Harvesting Techniques

Techniques like staggered harvesting allow you to harvest the top portions of the plant which mature faster. This gives the lower flowers additional time to develop potency and trichome density. Utilizing technology such as handheld microscopes and DSLR cameras for trichome assessment enables growers to accurately assess bud characteristics.



Once you understand the factors involved and believe your plants have reached ideal maturity, it's time to harvest. The cannabis harvesting process involves several steps and requires specific tools. 

Equipment and Tools for Harvesting

Equipping yourself with the right tools is key to a successful harvest. From precision pruning shears to advanced curing racks, choosing the correct equipment can streamline your harvesting process.

Essential Harvesting Tools

Pruning Shears or Scissors: You'll need these for snipping the cannabis plant and removing sugar and fan leaves.

Gloves: To protect your hands from resin and sticky trichomes.

Harvesting Containers: Use airtight containers or mason jars to store your harvested buds.

Curing Racks or Lines: A clothesline to hang cut plants is recommended.

harvesting cannabis at the right time



Post Harvest

Post-harvest processing is as crucial as the harvest itself. Proper drying, curing, and storage techniques are essential to preserve the potency, flavor, and aroma of your cannabis. Drying slowly in a controlled environment ensures that your buds retain their cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

Curing, if done correctly, can enhance the overall quality and shelf life of your product. Understanding and implementing these post-harvest processes can significantly elevate the quality of your cannabis.


Give YourSelf A Hand!

Whether it's your first harvest or 100th, cannabis harvesting is both challenging and rewarding. Determining when to harvest marijuana is a blend of art and science.  With practice and experience, you'll become a master at harvesting cannabis, producing potent and flavorful buds.