Cannabis Plant in the Vegetative Stage Part Two: The Plant

by Alex Robles

What’s happening my fellow cannabis enthusiasts, thank you for joining me for the second installment of this series about cannabis in the vegetative (veg) stage.  In the first part I talked about the “Pot” and everything I put in it for my plants.  In this next part I’m going to tell you about a few of the things I expect to see from a plant in veg.  I’ll also quickly cover the seedling and link to the macro/micro nutrients the plant needs.  I’m not going to talk about “Super Cropping” or “FIMing” because I don’t want to over complicate the topic with some semi-advanced techniques.  I will talk a little about “topping” and “training” because sometimes the plants get bigger than we planned for and we may have to cut them back or make them bend to our will.  Just as last time, I’ll be linking to different articles to help explain some of the information.

The Seedling

When I put a cracked seed in dirt it’s usually going into a red party cups with a clear party cup over it to act as a humidity dome. I’ll lightly water around the seed/sprout, making sure not to wet the whole top layer yet.  Too much water will kill a young seedling before it gets a chance to impress you.  Every day I’ll get a spray bottle and mist the inside of the dome with seltzer water or R.O. water to keep it moist.  The first smooth round leaves that appear on a seedling are called cotyledon (kädəˈlēdn) and they look nothing like a cannabis leaf.  But every leaf after that will have the familiar cannabis characteristic of a serrated leaf blade.

Here’s more information about sprouting seeds:

Clear party cup as dome

Growers Note:  Some seedlings might curl or shrivel up about 10-15min after I take the humidity dome off for the first time.  The reason for this is because it’s not use to the drier faster moving air.  If this happens don’t panic, spray the dome with water and put it back over the plant.  They’ll usually recover in 20min-1hr.  What this tells me is that I need to baby it and ease it into the ambient air.  I’m going to do this by removing the dome a couple times a day for at least 20min or more at a time, depending on what it can handle.  I’ll do this for a couple (2) of days, and then I’ll leave the dome off completely because I can’t baby this thing forever.  It’s either going to stand straight up and thrive or curl up and die.

The Plant in Veg

I consider a plant to be in veg when it’s got at least 3-4 nodes (leaves and branches grow out of the stem on areas called nodes) or 10 days after cotyledon leaves show up.  It shouldn’t need a humidity dome anymore because the root system it’s building will help it uptake water instead of absorbing it from the moist air.  It’ll also start pushing out more broader leaves to help with photosynthesis.  It always helps me as a cultivator (grower) to do my research on the strain that I’m growing.  That way I’ll know what to expect and the best practices to use when growing it.  I have no problem getting on the internet and asking fellow growers that I respect about it.  This will also make growing it a lot easier, more fun and interesting.  If it’s a mystery clone or seed, I’ll educate myself on the different characteristics of the Sativa and Indica plant and how hybrids work.

Since the vegetative stage is the main growing phase of the cannabis plant, it will begin growing in all directions.  You’ll notice it start to make leaves and branches at a steady and regular pace and start to get taller.  The fan leaves will get bigger because they’re trying to absorb as much light and CO2 as they can.  Those stems and branches will thicken up as the plant moves through the veg stage preparing for the weight of the flower (bud).  The root system will also begin to spread out in search of food and water.  Click here to link to Part One.

Growers Note:  When the plant get to be about 6-8 inches tall (15-20 cm) I’ll transplant it into a bigger pot.  If the seedling is new to me (unknown sex) I’ll put it in a 1gal pot to sex it.  If it’s a clone it’ll go straight into a 5gal since I know what it’s going to be and do.  Click here for a refresher on cannabis strains.


The veg stage is when I start to shape the plant to a size that I can manage.  My growing conditions will always be the one telling me how big I can let a plant get.   Maybe the cannabis has grown taller than a fence line or it’s gotten too tall for that grow closet/room.  Whatever the case, it needs to get shorter and I’m going to do one of two things for that.

I can “Top” the plant by cutting the top off of the main branch that’s taller than I want it to be.  At the same time I’ll top any other branch that I think will get too tall and I’ll usually use those cut tops to make clones.  Once I cut the branch back, an interesting thing is going to happen.  By cutting off the top of that branch, I’ve forced the plant to use it’s energy to grow more lateral (side) branches, so it’ll get bushier instead of taller.  When I cut the top kola (terminal bud, apex bud)  of a branch, the node just below the cut will make two new branches which will now be the new kolas or apex buds.

Two new branches after topping.

Growers Note:  If I have to top a plant in flower before harvest, the bud that gets chopped down is immature.  An immature flower will usually be harsh to smoke and it won’t taste good.  I’ll use this flower for making topicals or edibles.

Click here to find out “How I make a clone in cup of water”.


The other thing I can do to control the height of a plant is to train the branches to grow horizontally, this is better known as “Low Stress Training” (LST).  When I do this, all I’m doing is gently pulling and tying the branches down so they get used to growing in that direction.  It’s called low stress because it’s suppose to be less stressful and traumatic than topping, FIMing and super cropping.  Usually the branches are tied down to bamboo stakes or weighted down with something.  The cool thing that happens when the branches are growing out instead of up is that the number of bud sites increases.  This is because the lower parts of the branch that usually get less light, now gets more light.  So those bud sites that would typically make little popcorn buds, will now make bigger, denser buds.

Growers Note:  Don’t tie the branch too tight, you could cut into them.


A plant in veg is going to be hungry for all three of the primary nutrients, which are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) , better known as NPK.  Cannabis thrives with high levels of N and equal or lower levels P and K when it’s in veg.  I urge you to Click here to read the Nutrient Guide on this site to better understand why your plant need these things. It could also help diagnose deficiencies that may come up.

Bottled Nutrients

If I’m going to use bottled nutrients (a.k.a  mineral salts/conventional farming practices) I’ll choose one that’s high in N but the P and K levels will be equal to or lower than the N (i.e. 20:20:20 or 18:10:10). Usually the manufacturer will have a feed chart or feeding cycle for their nutrients but if I have any questions about it I’ll call them. A reputable nutrient company should have no problem answering my questions and educating me about their products.

Growers Note: I write down my questions before I call the manufacturer so I don’t forget anything while I have them on the phone.  I haven’t used a bottled nutrients line in a few years, so I couldn’t recommend any particular line.

Check out these articles:


When I use organic methods (no bottled nutrients/mineral salts) I make sure to start with a good soil that has the nutrient levels clearly marked on the bag.  I’ll add amendments to that soil to bring the nutrients up to where I want them for a plant in veg.  Again, I want high N with equal or lower P and K, I like it at 18:15:15.   I also need to understand which soil amendments are the best sources for which nutrients and how to use them.  For example bone meal is a good source of nitrogen, usually 10%-12%.  When it’s top dressed it helps repel deer and rabbits and lasts about 2 months.

Check out these articles about choosing a soil and making teas:

The more time I spend in my garden, the more I realize that there are very few mysteries behind growing cannabis as long as I’m willing to take the time to learn.  Once again, I hope this information helps fill in some of blank.  If you have any questions or if you want something explained in more depth, just email me.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the site and as always

Click here to listen to “In My Grow Show” podcast.


Grow, Learn, Teach

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