When we say the vegetative stage of cannabis, we mean that this is the phase where the plant starts growing and gradually prepares for the flowering process.
Just like every other plant, cannabis goes through several critical developmental stages. The vegetative stage is where leaf growth happens. This also is when we see an increase in the strength of both the branches and the stem as the plant prepares for the production of buds.
Any cannabis starts in the seedling stag. And we usually consider the beginning of the vegetative stage when the first leaves appear.
One of the most important aspects of the cannabis vegetative stage is adequate care for your plants. As the requirements for both nutrients and light (but also temperature and humidity) play a capital role in the development.
Before we talk about the vegetative stage, we should first say a few words about its predecessor, the seedling stage.
The Seedling Stage
Although the seedling stage isn’t officially a part of the vegetative stage, they are closely connected as one happens after the other.
Once the seed germination and planting are completed, the seedling appears from the soil. You can recognize it by its distinctive two leaves, called cotyledons.
These cotyledon leaves are responsible for providing energy to the new plant. It usually takes about two or three weeks for the seedling to get big enough. That is when true leaves start emerging.
True leaves differ from cotyledons by appearance, as they have the distinctive “fingered” design, an essential characteristic of any cannabis plant.
Once the fingered leaves appear, this officially marks the start of the vegetative stage.
The Vegetative Stage
Even though you might not think the change mentioned above in leaves is fundamenta. This is a huge deal for your plant.
Once the plant goes through the seedling stage, the real growth begins to happen. You will quickly notice the effects of photosynthesis on the development of your plants.
When the vegetative stage kicks off, your plants will require additional nutrients, most notably nitrogen.
Your plants will also require greater water since it’s essential for proper development.
Nutrients and water combined with adequate light (usually an 18/6 light cycle does the trick) will help the plant thrive and grow as it should.
As for the temperature and humidity, you also need to be adjust them for this new stage of growth.
Once the vegetative stage begins, the relative humidity should be around 60% to 70%. And as the stage progresses, humidity should lower it to about 50%.
You can keep the temperature stable throughout the vegetative stage. 25 degrees celsius will give your plants the required warmth.
If you meet all of these conditions, you’ll notice that fan leaves will start to appear on the plant regularly. And you will quickly be able to see the strain’s unique characteristics.
If you are growing Indicas, they will have a stocky and bushy appearance, while Sativa leaves are far less dense, and they also grow much taller compared to pure Indicas.
Once the plant has around five nodes, this is the perfect time to start with various low stress training techniques since the plant is now strong enough and can handle it in this stage of development.
Another aspect to consider is limiting the plant’s water and nutrient intake during the first weeks of the vegetative stage. This typically applies for the first five weeks, where too much water can interfere with growth, while too many nutrients can cause what’s known as nutrient burns.
An adequate level of light, temperature, humidity, and nutrients will make the ideal conditions for your plant to grow properly. This will directly increase the overall yield.
A plant that grows well during the vegetative stage will have strong root and stem systems that will help the plant to support the weight of the buds once flowering commences.
Vegetative Stage and Autoflowers
As you are probably already aware, autoflowering varieties of cannabis don’t require a change in light to start flowering.
You can keep these strains under the same lighting conditions during the entire length of their life. Theu are typically kept under 18/6 and sometimes even 24/0.
What allows autoflowers to grow in such a manner because they contain Ruderalis genes, a subspecies of cannabis that automatically grows in harsh and inhospitable climates.
Even though they don’t require a change of light, these strains also go through all of the stages of development. Still, unlike regular photoperiod strains, autoflower strains enter different stages solely dependent on their age.
All of this means that you cannot prolong the duration of the vegetative stage of autoflower varieties like it’s possible with photoperiod plants since they will enter the flowering stage when they are old enough.