Learn When to Harvest Cannabis Plants for Optimal Potency

Growing cannabis can be a rewarding experience, especially when you’re about to harvest your hard-earned crop. As a grower, you want to ensure that you are harvesting your cannabis at the right time to maximize potency. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of proper cannabis harvest timing, key indicators for harvesting, and some techniques for harvesting cannabis plants.

The Importance of Knowing When to Harvest Cannabis

Harvesting cannabis at the right time is crucial to obtaining the best quality and potency. If you harvest marijuana plants too early, your buds may lack potency and taste unpleasant. On the other hand, if you harvest too late, you risk losing some of the plant’s essential oils and cannabinoids, resulting in a less potent product.

Factors Affecting Harvest Time

Various factors can affect the optimal time to harvest cannabis, including the strain, the growing environment and conditions, and the desired effects. For example, some strains mature faster than others, and environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and light exposure can influence the growth rate of most cannabis plants.

Cannabis Life Cycle and Harvesting Stages

To determine when to harvest cannabis, it’s essential to understand its life cycle and its various stages.

Clone Stage

The clone stage is when you have new seedlings or have taken clones from a mother plant. They are small and delicate. Where you get your clones and seeds from could affect the quality of the harvest. And, of course, your skill level.

Vegetative Stage

This stage is characterized by rapid growth, with the plant focusing on building its structure and increasing its size. During the vegetative stage, cannabis plants require more light and nutrients to support their growth.

Flowering Stage

The flowering stage is when the plant starts to produce buds. Depending on the strain, this stage typically lasts between eight weeks and 7-12 weeks. During this time, cannabis plants require less light and may show signs of nutrient deficiencies as they focus on bud production.

Pre-Harvest Stage

This is the final stage before harvesting, the last flowering phase, and the period where the plant’s energy is concentrated on the buds. In this stage, you may notice changes in trichome development, pistil coloration, and leaf degradation – all critical indicators for determining the optimal harvest time.

Key Indicators for Harvesting Cannabis

Several indicators can help you decide when to harvest your cannabis plants. These include:

Trichome Development

Trichomes are the tiny, crystal-like structures that cover the buds, containing cannabinoids like THC and CBD. As the plant matures, trichomes will change from clear to cloudy to amber. The best time to harvest is when most of the plant’s trichomes are cloudy, with some transparent trichomes turning amber.

Pistil Coloration

Pistils are the hair-like structures on the buds that change color as the plant matures. They start as white and green color, then darken to brown, red, or orange. When around 60-70% of the pistils have changed color, it’s generally a good time to harvest.

Leaf Degradation

The fan leaves will turn yellow and fall off as the plant matures. This is a natural process, as the plant redirects nutrients to the buds. When you see many yellowing leaves, it may indicate that harvest time is approaching.

Different Harvest Windows for Desired Effects

Depending on the desired effects, you can harvest your cannabis plants at different times within the harvest window.

Early Harvest

If you prefer a more energetic and cerebral high, you can harvest your cannabis plants slightly earlier when most of the trichomes are still clear but not yet turning cloudy. THC levels are at their peak before degrading into other cannabinoids like CBN.

Peak Harvest

For a balanced high with optimal potency, you harvest marijuana when around 60-70% of trichomes are cloudy and some turn amber. This is the peak harvest window, providing a good balance of THC and other cannabinoids.

Late Harvest

If you’re looking for a more relaxing and sedative effect, you can harvest your cannabis plants when most of the trichomes have turned amber. At this stage, THC has degraded into other cannabinoids like CBN, known for its sedative properties.

Harvesting Techniques

When it comes to actually harvesting marijuana from your cannabis plants, there are two popular techniques: wet trimming vs dry trimming.

Wet Trimming

Wet trimming involves removing the fan leaves and trimming the sugar leaves while the plant is fresh immediately after cutting it down. This method is faster and makes it easier to remove the leaves, as they are still turgid. However, it can lead to quicker drying, affecting your buds’ overall taste and quality.

Dry Trimming

Dry trimming removes the leaves after the plant has been hung to dry for a few days. This method can result in a slower drying process, which may improve the taste and aroma of the final product. However, trimming the leaves can be more challenging, as they become brittle when dry.

Hand Trimming

Hand trimming refers to the manual technique of carefully removing leaves and shaping the buds with the help of scissors or shears. Small-scale growers and enthusiasts commonly favor this approach, as it provides greater precision and gentle handling of the buds. By hand trimming, the delicate trichomes are preserved, leading to a superior final product in terms of quality.

Nonetheless, with the price of marijuana dropping recently, many growers are seeking ways to save money by adopting automated processes. While hand trimming your plants offers many benefits, it can be labor-intensive and time-consuming, particularly for larger harvests of indoor plants. As a result, many growers are exploring cost-effective alternatives, such as machine trimming, to balance efficiency and maintain product quality.

Machine Trimming

Machine trimming has come a long way in recent years, with technological advancements allowing for more efficient and precise automated trimming processes. Large-scale operations can streamline trimming by utilizing specialized equipment, saving time and labor costs. As the price of marijuana has decreased due to market saturation, commercial growers are often faced with the need to cut costs, making machine trimming an increasingly attractive option.

While earlier automated trimming methods may have lacked precision, causing potential damage to cannabis buds and trichomes, modern machine trimming has significantly improved in quality. Many growers now opt for a combination approach, using machines for the initial trim and finishing by hand to ensure the best possible results. In this way, growers can balance cost-efficiency and product quality, adapting to the ever-evolving demands of the cannabis market.

You can learn more about the difference between hand trimming vs machine trimming here.


Knowing when to harvest cannabis is crucial for obtaining your plants’ best quality and potency. By understanding the cannabis life cycle, monitoring key indicators like trichome development and pistil coloration, and choosing the right harvesting technique, you can ensure a successful harvest date that meets your desired effects. Remember, practice makes perfect – the more you grow and know when to harvest cannabis, the better you’ll become at identifying the optimal harvest time.


How do I know when my cannabis plant is ready to harvest? Look for key indicators such as trichome development, pistil coloration, and leaf degradation. When most trichomes are cloudy and some turn amber, it’s generally a good time to harvest.

How long does the flowering stage last before harvesting? The flowering stage typically lasts between 7-12 weeks, depending on the strain. Monitoring key indicators can help you determine the optimal harvest time.

Should I harvest my cannabis plants early, at peak, or late for desired effects? It depends on the effects you’re looking for. Early harvests provide a more energetic high, peak harvests offer a balanced high, and late harvests deliver a more relaxing and sedative effect.

What’s the difference between wet trimming and dry trimming? Wet trimming involves removing leaves immediately after cutting down the plant, while dry trimming is done after the plant has been hung to dry for a few days

If I use an automated bud trimming machine will it ruin my harvest?

Absolutely not! It all comes down to how well you prepare your flower for harvesting. Most growers dry-trim their flowers and those who use the machines properly, will experience minimal trichome loss. The two biggest things we see are when growers don’t dry their product enough and or they use a dirty machine. There are so many variables that go into a perfect harvest. You can view our video about hand trimming vs machine trimming here. 

What is the importance of flushing cannabis flowers before harvest?

Flushing cannabis plants involves stopping the use of nutrients and feeding the plants with plain water for 1-2 weeks before harvest. This process helps remove excess salts and nutrients from the marijuana plant, resulting in a smoother smoke, better taste, peak potency and reduced harshness.

Scroll to Top