When to harvest marijuana plants according to trichome ripeness

You have worked hard over the past weeks! Maybe you have spend some money in a growing tent or in cannabis seeds ;  after a long time and hard dedication, you have finally arrived at this crucial moment.

How to know when to harvest your marijuana plants?

We will see here which is the best moment to harvest your marijuana plants at their psychoactivity peak, and try to understand what happens in our plants during the last weeks of flowering. In this way, you will be able to harvest your plants depending on the desired effect.

The marijuana harvest window is an aspect that, unfortunately, is rarely taken seriously; other times, what happens is that the grower just don’t have enough patience to wait for a few days to ensure highest levels of THC.

Some cannabis strains are better when harvested at their THC production peak, while others will be better if harvested a few days later.

Marijuana trichomes

Marijuana trichomes

Regarding trichomes and what they tell us, Robert C. Clarke – in his book “Marijuana Botany” –  states:

When resin trichomes are near their THC concentration peak, they have a translucent colour since the plant is still producing resin in the trichome glands.

At this moment, THC production is at its peak, while CBD levels are still low and stable, since molecules quickly become THC.

Terpene – aromatic molecules – production is also at its peak, developing gorgeously aromatic floral clusters.

Many growers harvest their cannabis plants at this moment because they prefer a more clear and cerebral psychoactive effect.

At this moment, THC has few sedative effects due to low CBD and CBN levels.

What does it all mean?

If you are growing mostly Indica hybrids, it is better to harvest your plants when the resin glands are completely developed but not fully ripen – before they turn amber – unless you want to be glued to your sofa.

The harvest time depends mostly on marijuana strains and phenotypes, and can vary from several days to a few weeks between different cannabis varieties.

If you extend too much the flowering period of an Indica strain, it will dramatically affect its taste and effect. Fortunately, extending only a few days the flowering stage don’t usually cause major issues for most people.

It is recommended to observe close-up shots taken with a HD digital camera; however, a small hand-held microscope is cheap and works greatly. It is almost like being in a worls of aliens when we observe our cannabis buds with a fifty magnification lens!

Space Bomb Marijuana

Space Bomb Marijuana

If growing mostly Sativa hybrids , make sure that all resin glands are fully developed and 30% of them are amber before harvesting your plants.

If you extend the flowering period, you take the risk of decreasing both the taste and the typicall sativa  “high” – stimulant – effect. However, there are always exceptions: the Haze strain has 3 different harvesting times, all of them after a long flowering period. Each grower must learn what he and his patients understand as “high effect”.

We haven’t discussed the yields, since we understand that if your plants are at the third stage of flowering and have completely developed resin glands, then they will yield at their full potential.

While there will always be few variations, you can use the following rules to better identify the harvest window of your plants according to the ripening stage of their trichomes:

1) When the bulbous heads of the trichomes are fully developed but still translucent, plants will produce a “high” and stimulanting effect, less sedative. It is the perfect moment to harvest strong Indica strains.

2) When these bulbous heads turn milky is probably the best moment to harvest most available hybrids.

3) When 70% of these trichome heads are milky and 30% amber, it is the perfect time to harvest mostly Sativa hybrids and long flowering strains (like Haze). It is also the best moment to harvest plants for making hashish.

As an example, let’s see what happens with Jack’s Cleaner marijuana : if harvested after 56 days of flowering, all trichomes are translucent (only a few of them are turning milky). At this moment, the effect is very stimulating, “up and high”, clear. It produces visual effects and its acid citrus taste is very intense.

The same plant, harvested only a week later – 63 days of flowering – shows milky trichomes, and 30%-50% of them have already turned amber.

Picture 4 - Marijuana finishing its flowering

Picture 4 – Marijuana finishing its flowering

If harvested at this moment,the effect will be heavy and intense, and the acid citrus taste becomes sweeter, reminiscent of the sweet smell of fermented lemons, similar to Lemon Heads sweets. The effect is now body relaxing and sedative, being a perfect smoke for relaxing before going to spleep.

It is alsmost an example of plant harvested too late. However, in this way we take profit from all the medicinal properties that the plant has during this late stage.

Another example is Killer Queen. After 49 days of flowering, it has chocolate taste and smell and that mentioned high and stimulant effect . If harvested after 60 days of flowering, it becomes “Super” Killer Queen, with both a skunky smell and a more strong effect, almost hypnotic.

The main mistake here is harvesting your plants when thricomes are not fully developed; most growers who follow the aforementioned rules will probably harvest their plants with milky, completely developed trichome heads.

Harvesting too early means less potent buds, with less essential oils and terpenes, so your buds will taste like grass or hey, even when correctly dried and cured.

Vortex marijuana from TGA SubCool

Vortex marijuana from TGA SubCool

A good option is harvesting the more ripe buds – which are usually those from the upper parts of the plant -. This allows the lower parts of the plant to have more light, thus increasing both the final weight and density.

If you have a digital camera with Macro function, you can take close-up shots and use a photo-editing software to zoom the pictures and observe the trichomes.

These tips will help you to improve the results of your favourite marijuana varieties, as well as to set the appropiate harvest window of those strains that you are growing for the first time.

Subcool.

August 7, 2014 | Harvesting and Processing
59 Comments


59 comments on “When to harvest marijuana plants according to trichome ripeness

  1. bobby trip

    i uselessly harvest cloudy a few clear ,this time i decided to wait till i see like 25 percent amber..but if this is exactly how the trichromes have the effect exactly how your aying then i owld want both..few clousy mostly clear for day time buzz energised ,and some amber for nite watcch tv stare at it for a while as my mind wondering and my eyes get heavy ,,i have 4 different strains growing right now i will do half and hlaf,,i think it may be a great idea harvet top foot or so lower the light and get some of the popcrn buds grwo enough to fill a bowl harvest the rest..ty for the info im going try it see what happens ..ty once again for the knowledge .knowledge is power

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi bobby,

      Of course, everything depends on the effect that you are looking for. For example, I usually harvest Sativas with less amber trichomes than Indicas, since I want a more stimulant and energetic effect. Harvesting your plants in different sessions is also a common practice, since not all trichomes ripe at the same time.

      Thanks for your confidence, do not forget to keep us updated on your advances!

      Best vibes!

  2. kevork

    Hi What color of trichomes of dr krippling incredible bulk when you have cancer?

    thanks

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi kevork,

      The more amber the colour, the more potent the effect. Still, if you want a clearer effect, harvest your plants with cloudy trichomes. If you want to know the exact harvesting point that suits your needs best, you can harvest your plants gradually, starting with the clearer trichomes and finishing with amber ones. This way you will know which state of ripening is the best for your treatment.

      Hope it helped, thanks for your confidence.

      Best vibes!

  3. bobby trip

    tyvm..i see my typing earlier was shit lol..i was a bit high when i wrote it ,,..i appericate the great info ..i will be keeping my eye on anything else you might be talking bout with my medicine ty.

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      I’m glad we helped you, mate.

      Best vibes!

  4. kevork

    thank u for your advice:)

  5. SHELLYA

    HELP Please. I have a crop that has seeded. Today is day 43 of flowering. Is it better to harvest them early or wait another couple weeks? I will be making it into extract, so it needs to be as potent as possible.
    Thanks

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hello SHELLYA,

      If you want a product as potent as possible, waiting a couple more weeks would be the best choice, since you would allow trichomes to ripe a litle bit more. If you mak the extraction now, your product will be very clear in colour, but the quality of its organoleptic and psychoactive properties will be lower.

      Another option, if you know the source of the pollen, is harvesting those seeds and try them. If your crop has a long flowering period you could wait until the seeds are formed (about 4-6 weeks), harvest the seeds and process the plant.

      Hope it helped, thanks for your confidence.

      Best vibes!

  6. Glen Bringman

    Yes bit of a noob at growing. My plant is a bout 3-4 weeks into flowering and they are showing amber like colors on the flowers. It’s 100% organic and i have 2 250watt lights on them, they dont seem to look like they are growing much bigger or fatter. Is that a problem?

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Glen,

      I need to know a couple more things about your plants…
      When you say they show amber colours on the flowers, do you mean on the trichomes?
      Once in flowering (3-4weeks) almost all plants stop growing in height and start to get gradually fatter. What photoperiod do your plants have now?

      Thanks for your confidence, hope I’ll be able to help.

      Best vibes!

  7. John

    Your information about THC being a biosynthetic precursor for CBD is incorrect. This was theorized in the 70’s but was debunked in the 90’s. MJ botany was written in the 80’s. Due to the advent of liquid chromatography and some genetic studies done in the last two decades, we know the plant produces CBDA and THCA from a common precursor cannabigerolic acid or CBGA, and that relatively little THC and CBD are found on unheated Cannabis materials whether fresh or well cured. Allowing Cannabis to mature longer does nothing to increase the ratio of CBD to THC except for the fact that some THC does degrade. This is a fairly requisite and rudimentary fact that anyone passing themselves off as a Cannabis expert should know.

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi John,

      I completely agree with you, but I can’t find the part where we say THC is a precusor for CBD. We know for years that THC does not degrade into CBD. We know that unless whe have decarboxylated plant material we’ll find the acid forms of cannabinoids. We know that there are “THC strains” and “CBD strains”, both producing both cannabinoids with different ratios, and we know that cannabinoid degradation obviously causes variations in these ratios. Perhaps there is a part that leads to misunderstandings, perhaps it is me who does not correctly understand your comment, but I honestly can’t find it. Will be glad to re-write it if there is some confusion regarding this issue.

      Thanks for your help and for your comment,

      Best vibes!

  8. c breezy

    i have an outdoor grow. very small only two plants. they are pretty good size tho. anyways my concern is that they dont get a whole lot of light. they get like an hour and half of direct sunlight from 10am till 1130. then its little bits here and there thru some trees. and then they get like 3.5 more hours of direct evening sun from 4pm to 730ish. with the season coming to an end and the earth changing its axis the sun is gettin less every day. Can the amount of light they are recieving still yeild a decent harvest in quantity and quality? and should i remove the fan leaves a few weeks prior to harvest to give it as much light as possible?

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hello c breezy,

      The more sunlight hours, the better the harvest. Still, you can have pretty decent harvests with the sunlight hours you have. Perhaps you could move your plants now to another spot with more sunlight? Removing fan leaves is a commonly used technique (called defoliation), you can try to remove only those leaves which shade your lower buds. I usually remove all of them a few weeks prior to harvesting, basically to make the trimming process easier.

      All the best!

  9. Mark R

    You can download a macro cam to your smart phone, and also several magnifying apps for free, for viewing the trichromes

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Mark R,

      Yesterday I saw one of these apps, they are ok but using magnifiers is much more recommendable (at least much more than the app I saw). Still, they can be useful if you don’t want to spend money.

      Best vibes!

  10. Jt

    When looking through digital microscope trichinosis don’t look clear or milky. They look just white. Is my scope strong enough

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Jt,

      Normally, a 60x-10x magnifier is enough to see the trichomes. If they’re white, it means they are almost fully ripe. As soon as you see them turning amber, it’s time to harvest your plants.

      Hope it helped,

      Best vibes!

  11. crackster

    im on a 9 to 10 week flower. when would you say to start checking the trichomes for ripening?

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi crackster,

      I usually start checking them as soon as I see half the pistils turning orange. If you’re on a 9-10 week bloom, you should start cheking them by week 8 and start flushing your plants (in case you do so) as soon as you see the first amber trichomes.

      All the best!

  12. Stephen sativa indica

    How can i tell the difference between sativa and indica

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Steven,

      Indicas are compact and bushy plants with thick leafs and broad leaflets. They normally come from mountainous areas and have a more relaxing and sedative effect. Their bloom is usually shorter than Sativas and they develop more compact buds.

      On the other hand, Sativa plants grow much taller and have very thin leaves, with flexible stems and a much longer flowering period. They come from tropical areas and their effect is psychoactive, stimulating and uplifting.

      Hope it helped! 😉

  13. Homerina Bond

    Thank you

  14. Steve

    Will harvesting the buds at different times risk stressing the plant causing it to hermaphrodite?

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Steve,

      Many times, and especially when growing really large plants, people harvest the plant at different times since, normally, the tops of the plants are done quite sooner than the lower parts. There’s no problem at all.

      Best of luck!

  15. steelman

    thanks for the advice…really appreciate it

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi steelman,

      Glad it was useful!

      😉

  16. Allen

    I have an indica plant 5 weeks into flowering and most of the white hairs as turned amber and I have no way to check the trimones. How can I tell when I need to harvest???

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Allen,

      Sometimes the hairs of the plants turn orange/brown some weeks before being ripe. You should really try to take a look at the trichomes with a magnifying glass, or take a close picture of the bud and then zoom it in with your phone/computer to check them. It is truly the best way to know if your plant is ready.

      Best of luck!

  17. WelovetheHerb

    What i always do to check since effect is slightly different in different strains and hybrids. I take 1 bud when all trichs are cloudy and keep rubbing it against some metal plate so all trcihs will stick to it. Than i take a razor and slice of the trichs put them in a bong and take a puff and see if the effect already fits my personal preferences. If it is too speed i give them another week and have another try.

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi WelovetheHerb,

      It is a good idea, similar to making a little bit of charas to test the product. Once you’ve found the effect that you want, and if you want to preserve this certain cannabinoid profile, try to store your buds/concentrates in the freezer (the effect may vary as the curing process advances, and freezing the material helps to avoid this degradation of cannabinoids and terpenes).

      Thanks for your comment!

  18. shauna

    first I read to leave sativa till 30% amber, then I read harvest sooner for energetic effect, less time to become seditive effect, which is it, I’m confused, more amber trichomes means it turns out more like indica?

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi shauna,

      The more time you have your plants, the more sedative the effect. If you want cerebral effect, grow Sativas and harvest with milky trichomes. If you want narcotic effect, grow Indicas and harvest with amber trichomes.

      Hope it helped!

  19. kreso

    hey man whats up?
    i have white widdow and some trichs are milky… others are clear and i was wondering should i harvest now or wait to get more milkeys… thanks in advance
    peace

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Kreso,

      As long as you can, try to harvest your plants with at least all trichomes milky (the ideal should be 20-30% of amber trichs too).

      All the best!

  20. kreso

    i use a pocket microscope to determine so i think i wont miss the window… thanks for the advice it is more than helpfull and best of luck my friend 🙂

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi kreso,

      That’s perfect, mate. Using a pocket microscope is ideal to determine the best moment for harvesting.

      Best! 😉

  21. Mountain grower

    Something to consider, when checking color of trichomes the first or older ones on top outer edges will amber up first, you really need to look under and inside the buds to check color not just the tops. Happy harvesting to all.

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Mountain Grower,

      Very nice appreciation, thanks for your comment!

      😉

  22. Colin

    Would you say temperature (-20c to 25c) plays as big a role in product degradation as air and light exposure?

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Colin,

      Low temps are supposed to accelerate the maturation of buds (and trichomes), although they can also lead to low yields if too low. Using greenhouses and heaters for greenhouses greatly helps to prevent this problem.

      All the best!

  23. Confused Grower

    Hello,

    I’ve been desperately roaming the web for weeks now in the search for what turns out to be an illusive clear answer to :
    How do I know for sure – according to trichome color – the peak period of CBD production in CBD rich and 1 to 1 CBD/THC strains, please ?

    Some say early harvest, others say late… All this just adds to the confusion. To be honest, I am lost.

    I am just looking for a harvest at maximum CBD production.

    What would you advise, please ?

    Where can I find truly reliable literature on the subject, please ? If you have any idea, I’d more than appreciate.

    Thanks for your time and advice.

    Have a great day

    Kindest Regards

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Confused grower,

      A very interesting question. From what I’ve read, CBD can be found at very early stages of the plant, well before flowering. We also know that amber trichs mean that THC is already degrading into CBN, but CBD levels seem to remain stable (at least, much more stable than THC). An interesting point is the interaction between CBD and CBN. It seems like high CBN content improves the anti-inflammatory effect of CBD, so perhaps harvesting with amber trichomes (THC is degrading into CBN) would yield a very similar CBD content than harvesting with milky trichs but you’d get a more suitable cannabinoid profile to combat pain.

      I’ll continue researching on this subject, will post any useful info I find!

      Best!

  24. Simon king

    Hey, 2nd time grower, growing indica, not sure of the strain if it’s hybrid or plan indica… which makes it differcult to know the exact time to harvest. I’m at 51 days and she looks really good. But still no sign of amber in the trichomes, it’s also hard to tell this milky colour rather than glass? I have a very good digital camera but still it’s confusesing I get it’s experience and simply being conferdant, but my 1st grow I chopped to early and it was very disappointing and weak, didn’t taste good ether. Can I upload a pic of her to you and get your opinion please on whether harvest is days or weeks away… Thanks

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Simon King,

      First of all, take into account that plants do not ripe at the same time, I mean, normally buds with direct sunlight mature faster than shaded buds. From what you say, I think you should wait and continue checking the trichomes. You’ll soon see that all clear trichs will become milky in a few days; when you see almost all milky trichomes, even some amber one, it is the perfect time to harvest.

      Sure you can upload pics here!!

      All the best!

  25. Eric B

    I started October 17th and it’s January 11th. I have a sativa hybrid OG Kush and it’s an auto. I got a few questions… first she’s looking fantastic and under a digital microscope 80-90% of her trichomes are milky or half milky. I was going to start her flushing to get the nutes out but you raise questions for me now. There’s like only a small percent amber on the trichomes. Like hard to find them but I can spot them looking around. When do I start flushing??? It’s in a hydroponic dripper from GH. She’s only getting low micro and flowering nutes. Very healthy very thick, and under a 300W LED light panel. I did stress the auto by one prune on the 4th node but she looks great :). Did I mention she looks great???

    Sum it up… how do I time the flushing 3-14 days period with the trichomes??? I think she’s ready for flushing but I don’t want to do it too early. I have pictures of trichomes all over her and even the lower flowers are the same mostly milky but I still see clear here and there…

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Eric B,

      Latest research is showing that amber colour is more related to cannabinoid degradation rather than ripeness. The ideal would be start flushing when you see almost all trichomes milky and some clear. In this way you’ll harvest your plants with a majority of milky trichomes, which are supposed to be at their peak of cannabinoid content.

      SInce you’re using a hydroponic system, flushing your plants will be much easier, in few days they’ll probably start showing nutrient deficiencies, which means you’re flushing properly. I’d flush for no less than 10 days.

      Hope it helped, we’re glad she looks great! 😉

  26. Josie

    Hello! I have a midnight kush at 53 days and she is 90%+ indica. She is clear and milky and a little Amber. But still has tufts of white hairs retracted. I would like to give her another week to get some good colors on her Bc she has purple but is so snow covered she is pale. I’m wondering if I should let her dry out big time then chop. And can u tell me if my 400
    Watt hps and 300 watt led (vipraspetra 510) will make my yeilds good? Thanks

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Josie,

      Some plants continue developing white hairs even when they’re ripe, that’s why normally harvest time is determined by the colours of the trichomes. You should flush the plants before harvesting with water, although there is no problem on letting them dry before chopping. You should have very nice yields with your 400W HPS and your 300W LED system. Do you have them in the same grow tent/room?

      Best!

  27. kush men

    im growing gorilla glue 4 .. is there a day count that is best for this batch ? i have it set for 62 days ..

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi Kush men,

      I’ve been growing the GG#4 for some months now and 9 weeks is just perfect. Probably the best resin yielder I’ve ever seen, prepare yourself for tons of trichomes! If you make resin extractions you’ll be a happy man!! 😉

      Best!

  28. flow

    I have learned alot,thank you all

    1. Dani Alchimia Post author

      Hi flow,

      We’re glad, thanks!!

      😉

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