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Leafly’s guide to growing marijuana

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to grow marijuana! Growing weed is super easy—it’s called “weed” for a reason—so don’t worry if you haven’t grown anything before. Our clear, easy-to-digest guide will help growers of all kinds, especially first-time ones.

Whether growing indoors or outdoors, growing marijuana is a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging and takes a certain amount of time and money. We’ll walk you through all the steps of growing, from preparation, to seed germination, plant growth, and harvesting. We’ll also go over best practices for growing and how to troubleshoot common problems. 

There are many myths and traditions about growing weed, so it can be hard to sort good, sound advice from hearsay. An abundance of cannabis growing information has been passed down by word of mouth because the plant was illegal for so long, so there’s ample information on indoor growing and how to get the most out of a small space by maximizing harvests and training plants.

These are all good resources, but not all growers want to put in that amount of time and effort to get a ton of weed. Some growers just want to have fun, grow a little weed, and smoke something they grew themselves.

There’s also much to be learned about growing weed from the world of gardening. Outdoor growing is less labor intensive and less costly, and there are many tips and tricks from the gardening community that can be applied to growing weed. 

Whether you’re interested in growing marijuana indoors or outdoors, both approaches are great and are addressed in this guide.

Below is a list of all topics in our comprehensive guide—any question you have on growing weed, you’ll find it in one of the pages below. Not sure where to start? Browse through the whole guide to see how easy it is to grow your own marijuana.

Enjoy, have fun, and learn a tip or two—growing weed is therapeutic and relaxing, and there’s nothing better than smoking weed you’ve grown yourself.

Marijuana growing guide for beginners

How to grow weed: Basics of growing marijuana
4 stages of marijuana plant growth
Marijuana plant anatomy
How to grow weed indoors
How to grow marijuana outdoors
Cannabis seeds 101: How to grow marijuana from seed
How to clone cannabis plants
Marijuana seedling and plant care
How to harvest marijuana plants
Troubleshooting common cannabis plant problems
Buyer’s guides for cannabis seeds and growing equipment
How to grow marijuana using hydroponics, aeroponics, or aquaponics

How to grow weed: Basics of growing marijuana

outdoor sungrown weed
(Dante Jordan/Leafly)

Let’s start with some basic ideas on growing marijuana: what the plant is, how the plant grows, and how long it takes.

Cannabis is a warm-season annual—it thrives in temperate climates, such as Northern California’s famed Emerald Triangle, and it grows and dies each year, having to get planted again the following year. 

It will take about 10-32 weeks to grow a weed plant, depending on the method you choose and how big you want plants to get. 

Before you start growing, you’ll have to determine whether you want to grow indoors or outdoors (more below). You can grow weed pretty much anywhere—it just depends what space, equipment, and resources you have available.  

Marijuana plants start out as either a seed or a clone. Seeds will need to germinate to grow into a seedling. A clone is a cutting taken off a weed plant that you can then grow into another plant, and it will have the same genetic makeup. 

After the seedling stage, a weed plant enters the vegetative stage, which is generally the longest stage of its life. Here the plant will be a main stalk, branches, and fan leaves—no buds yet. 

The magic happens during the flowering stage, when weed plants start to grow buds. Plants enter this stage about two months before harvesting. 

At harvest, you’ll cut down your plants, trim, dry, and cure them, and then your homegrown buds will finally be ready to smoke.

What does a marijuana plant need to survive and thrive?

It’s important to understand what a weed plant, like all plants, needs in order to survive. 

Weed is a photoperiod plant, meaning the daily amount of light it receives will determine when it flowers—when it starts to produce buds. Outdoors, this happens when the daily amount of light reduces as summer turns to fall, and indoors, growers can control this by changing light from 18 to 12 hours a day.  

Weed plants of course need water, and the amount of water they need will change as they grow, and also depends on your local climate and weather. 

Nutrients will need to be added to your weed plants so they can grow strong and be healthy. 

You’ll need to provide an environment with optimal temperature and humidity that will allow weed to thrive. Generally, this is between 55-85°F, with a relative humidity between 50-70%. 

Weed plants also need wind or airflow, which you can simulate indoors with fans, and which will occur naturally outdoors.  

Indoor vs. outdoor marijuana growing

People often wonder: What is the best way to grow marijuana? It’s not a question of if you can grow weed, but how you grow it in your particular area and setup. Again, it’s called “weed” for a reason—it grows just about anywhere. 

If you have some experience gardening and growing veggies, you will probably find that growing cannabis is fairly easy. And even if you haven’t grown anything before, don’t let that dissuade you.

So your homegrowing journey starts with the question: indoors or outdoors?

Growing weed indoors

(irina88w/iStock)

Even if you live in an apartment or a house without a backyard, you can grow weed inside. You don’t need a separate building or huge operation, but you do need a dedicated space for your plants, and it will be more expensive than growing outdoors because you’ll need some equipment. 

You’ll also be spending a lot of money on utilities powering all those fans and lights. The upside is you can grow whenever you want all throughout the year—you won’t be dependent on the sun and the seasons, and if it gets too hot or too cold, you can just add an AC or a heater. 

Indoor also gives you privacy and security. Even in a legal state, you may want to keep your crop concealed from neighbors and thieves. 

Expect to grow some killer weed—indoor is known for its potency and quality.

Growing weed outdoors

Growing outdoors is the cheapest and easiest way to grow, but you need the proper space to do it, and the space needs to be able to get ample sunlight throughout the growing season. You’ll need a backyard or plot of land, and you’ll need to keep the plants away from nosy neighbors. Keep in mind that this plant will smell while it’s growing, especially during the flowering stage.

Growing weed outdoors is friendlier on the environment because you’ll be using the power of the sun, but keep in mind that weed needs full sun, or at least 6 hours of light a day. Be sure to check out the sunlight in your potential grow area—having space doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great for growing. Typically, a spot facing south is best because it’ll get the most amount of light. 

The main drawback to growing outdoors is that you’re limited to the growing season, which typically runs from spring to fall in the Northern Hemisphere. Unless you live in the tropics, it’s usually too cold for weed outside of these seasons.

Expect to have a lot of weed come harvest time—with the extra space outside, outdoor plants tend to get pretty big.

When you’ve decided on where you’re going to grow, check out our resources on:

How to choose a marijuana strain to grow

(Yarygin/iStock)

At the end of the day, you want to grow a strain you like. A single plant can yield between a half-pound and a full pound of dried buds, depending on how big your plants get, so you’ll have a lot of it come harvest time. 

The last thing you want is to put a ton of time and effort into growing weed and end up with a strain that doesn’t taste good to you. Everyone has different tastes and preferences, and strains affect people differently, so start with what you like.    

If you’re looking for aroma and flavor, try growing a strain with a great terpene profile, even if it’s low in THC. If you want symptom relief, check out Leafly’s strain database and find one that meets your needs—you might want something with a particular THC to CBD ratio. 

If you wish to grow a strain simply to process into a concentrate, you’ll want something that produces a lot of resin. Some people even pick a strain based on its looks, potency, or because it’s an icon.

Factors to consider when picking a strain to grow

Some strains are harder to grow than others, some grow better in certain climates, some are more resilient to drought, mold, disease, and insects, and some are more suited for indoor growing rather than outdoor. 

Also, some strains are easier to grow than others: If you’re new to growing, you’ll probably want to start off with something simple, easy, and forgiving. 

When you buy seeds or clones, it’s a good idea to talk to the grower or breeder of the strain to get a sense of these factors: 

Availability

The legality of cannabis in your state will determine whether you can buy seeds or clones at the dispensary. Even if you can, you’ll be limited to genetics that are only produced in your state, as seeds and clones can’t cross state lines.

Seed banks exist outside of the US and can sell seeds for “souvenir purposes,” but it is illegal to bring seeds into the US. Customs will seize any cannabis seeds they find in packages or on a person.

Climate and environment

Certain strains benefit from open space and are easier to grow outdoors. For example, sativas tend to grow taller than indicas and have a more open bud structure, making them better in warmer and more humid climates.

Cultivating indoors or outdoors will also affect which strain you choose. Other strains need more attention and are more susceptible to pests. These usually benefit from a climate-controlled environment. 

It’s a good idea to talk to other growers in your community to see which strains do best in your climate.

Garden space

Cannabis can be grown successfully in small or large spaces, but know how much space you have to work with before you start building out a garden. For example, if growing in a small space, consider growing indicas, which tend to grow shorter and bushier.

Length of time to grow

Some strains take longer to mature than others. If you want a quick turnaround, aim for strains that take 8-9 weeks to flower instead of 12. Autoflower cultivars will be a lot shorter.

Difficulty of growing

Difficulty equates to more care and attention, which can involve a more complex nutrient regiment, more training requirements, and perhaps paying more attention to environmental factors. These all take time, patience, and research to master, especially if you don’t have much growing experience.


Pat Goggins and Patrick Bennett contributed to this article.

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