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Why Some Buds Keep Making New Pistils


by Nebula Haze

If you're lucky, your cannabis plants buds will all be ready for harvest around the same time as their neighboring buds. However, some cannabis strains naturally finish their buds at the top of the plant first, while other cannabis strains do the opposite. When buds are at different stages of maturity depending on their location on the plant, it can be hard to know when to harvest!

It's okay to harvest your cannabis plant in parts!

Most growers choose to harvest the entire plant at once, but some cannabis strains make that difficult. For example these buds are at very different stages of development even though they're on the same plant at the same time!

What to do if only parts of the plant are ready to harvest, while others still have a ways to go

When parts of the plant mature faster than others, it's completely okay to harvest in parts starting with the most mature buds. Then you can harvest the rest of the buds as they appear ready.

Many growers accept that some buds are going to be at different stages of development and just try to harvest the plant when most buds look the most ready. That might even be a good thing since you get to try out the slightly different effects from harvesting buds at different stages!

But sometimes you'll have a case where a marijuana plant keeps making more and more new pistils right when the plant seems just about ready to harvest. Often you can tell something is not quite right...

When is it not normal to keep getting new pistils?

It's not normal when your plant is making new pistils only on the parts of the buds that are closest to the light. This can stress the buds by heat or because the light levels are too high.

Note: If your plant is also growing weird, round leaves, it's possible your plant is revegging.

Never-ending pistils is most likely to be heat or light stress if the buds seem to be losing their round, pointy shape from the new growth.

Buds growing in strange shapes can be a sign of heat or light stress. This plant got new buds growing with white pistils right as the rest of the buds started looking done. Each new bud or "foxtail" is covered in lots of new sugar leaves because the plant is actually growing brand new buds like towers or mini colas emerging from the old ones.

New white pistils and lots of sugar leaves growing in strange shapes is a sign of heat or light stress

Another very common sign of heat or light damage is when buds are becoming fist-shaped because of new growth, especially if it's happening mostly on the parts of the buds closest to the light

Example of heat and light stress - the extensive new growth at the top of the bud is caused by the grow light being too close!

In the following example, the cannabis bud has been damaged by both too much light and too much heat. Although the rest of the buds on the plant appear almost ready to harvest, this bud closest to the light keeps putting out more and more white pistils as new buds grow on top of the old one.

Example of a cannabis bud that has been damaged by both too much light and too much heat

Sometimes you see long and thin foxtails on the sides closest to the light. Luckily, buds formed as part of foxtails or heat stress are just as good to smoke as any other buds, despite their unusual shape :)

Fox-tailing caused by heat

If you see these symptoms, you should be looking at the older parts of the buds to decide when your plant is ready to harvest. Don't pay attention to the newest growth because it will look immature even if the plant is ready!

What to Do If It's Heat or Light Damage

  • Look at older growth to decide when to harvest, not the newest parts
  • Control the heat if you can! Getting the top canopy a few degrees cooler can make a huge difference in your efforts to stop foxtailing!
  • Even if the temperature is okay, move your grow lights further away if possible because sometimes bud damage is caused by light burn. Light stress without heat is most common with HPS and LED grow lights that are kept too close
  • Any buds formed this way are still perfectly good to use for smoking, vaping, edibles, etc. For cosmetic purposes some people reshape buds during the trimming process, but it's a matter of personal preference!
  • Consider giving your plant shorter days (longer nights) to "hurry" it to finish flowering. By giving plants a 11/13 or 10/14 light schedule (13-14 hours of complete darkness/day), you will encourage your plant to finish flowering sooner. 
     

When is it Normal for Buds to Put Out New Pistils?

It's important to remember that it is normal for some strains to put out new waves of pistils two or three times during the flowering stage, even without heat or light damage.

Sativa strains tend to do this the most, though it can happen to many different types of strains. Sometimes the new growth may even look like fox tails, but if it's happening evenly all over the plant chances are it's normal and caused by the strain :)

Fox tails and new white pistils are normal if they're staying small and happening evenly all over the buds. This type of fox tail is caused by the strain, not heat or light stress. You see this most commonly on Haze and Sativa strains.

New white pistils growing evenly on the bud

Speaking of Sativas, did you know that some Sativa and Haze strains will usually not make any amber trichomes? If you're waiting for trichomes to turn amber before you harvest a Sativa strain, you may be waiting a long time. If your plant has been flowering for more than 3 months, sometimes it's best to wait until the trichomes are mostly cloudy and go from there, without waiting for any amber trichomes.

If your Sativa keeps putting out more and more pistils in a healthy way, and you want to "hurry it along," you can reduce the number of hours of light they get a day from 12/12 to 11/13 or even 10/14. Giving plants longer nights during the flowering stage causes them to mature faster, and it may be needed to get Sativa strains (some of which come from the equator) to "finish up" in a reasonable amount of time.

Learn more about cannabis foxtails! 

 

More Examples of Heat-Damaged Cannabis Buds

One of the things that many growers immediately notice about heat damaged buds is they keep growing tons of new sugar leaves. Since the plant is no longer in the vegetative stage it won't make regular fan leaves anymore, but it still will desperately try to grow new leaves to power the growth of these new buds. 

Some strains naturally grow more sugar leaves than others but when there's tons of them and the sugar leaves themselves look odd like this (and the odd growth happens mostly to buds closest to the light) you know for sure it is not normal!

Foxtails growing huge new sugar leaves

In the picture below, the grow space wasn't even hot at all. The buds started foxtailing because the LED grow light was too close and the plant started getting light burn. Your plants can be burned by too powerful light even if it's the right temperature.

Example of a foxtail being caused on a cannabis plant because the LED grow light was too close

This fist shaped bud keeps putting out new pistils on top as a result of heat damage. The rest of the plants already looks completely ready to harvest! In this case, ignore the top pistils and harvest the plant :)

Example of fist-shaped bud putting out tons and tons of new white pistils as a result of heat damage

Here's another example of a fist-shaped bud with tons of new white pistils and sugar leaves on top as a result of stress. This case was caused by an LED grow light being kept too close even though the temperature was good.

Example of bud with lots of new growth and white pistils - an example of light burn damage

These buds were also affected by LED grow lights being too close. Notice the odd-shaped buds near the top of the cola. In contrast, the lower buds were shaped normally.

Example of cola that has been damaged by an LED grow light being kept too close

When I first started growing I didn't realize what was happening when I saw fox tails and strange bud shapes on my cannabis plants. I didn't realize my plants were trying to tell me something! Now that you know what your plant is saying with its bud shapes, you know what to do! 

 


 

Jump to...

Cannabis Temperature Tutorial

5 Secrets to Controlling Heat in the Grow Room

What to Expect in the Flowering Stage: Week by Week

Tips to Growing Top-Shelf Buds