When Are Marijuana Buds Ready to Harvest?

Updated Apr 11, 2020

by Nebula Haze

Table of Contents

Intro: When to Harvest Cannabis (for the highest potency)

1st Harvest Method: Look at Buds

2nd Harvest Method: Look at Buds Under a Magnifier (Trichome Method)

Summary: Tips & Hints


This harvest tutorial is part of our “how to harvest cannabis” series:

Intro: When to Harvest Cannabis (for highest potency)

When should we harvest the buds from a cannabis plant? That is the eternal question… I’m sure the answer we’re all thinking is “Not soon enough!”

(How far are your plants in the flowering stage? Check out the flowering stage timeline!)

Unfortunately for us impatient growers, harvesting at the right time is just as important as how you grow the plant. Harvest too soon and you lose potency and cannabis yields; too late and you can end up making a batch of sleep medicine.

These 6 buds are in the harvest window. Buds are ready to harvest when most of the “hairs” have darkened and curled in and you can see the solid bud underneath.

Buds of 6 different cannabis strains that are ready to harvest

Choose the most precise harvest time by looking at glittery trichomes under a magnifier. Trichome heads start out clear and glassy. At this point, buds are not very potent.

The trichomes on this cannabis plant are still small. As the buds mature the trichome "heads" will start looking fat and heavy.

As buds mature, trichome heads turn milky white. They kind of look like plastic. These white trichome heads indicate the highest level of THC and CBD.

If given more time, white trichome heads turn amber/golden (for most strains). Amber trichomes have less THC but produce more of a relaxing/body/anti-anxiety effect.

Cannabis buds harvested with more than 20% amber trichomes may make you feel sleepyQuick Summary: Buds are ready to harvest when hairs have darkened and curled in, revealing the solid bud underneath. Harvest buds on the early side for more of an “up” mental/psychoactive effect (trichome heads appear milky white under a magnifier). If buds are allowed to continue maturing, the white trichomes begin to turn amber/golden. The greater the number of amber trichomes, the more buds produce a “down” body/couchlock effect.

This bud with all-white trichomes has reached the highest level of THC/CBD. Wait another week or two for trichome heads to turn amber/golden for more of a relaxing effect.

 

You only need 3 things to determine the best marijuana harvest time:

  1. The knowledge of when to harvest – You get that today!
  2. Eyes for visual inspection – You’ve probably had these for a while!
  3. A magnifying tool (optional but recommended) – Makes the glittery, resin-filled trichomes on your buds easier to see; although not 100% necessary, this lets you time your harvest perfectly to get the exact effects you’re looking for. See reviews of different magnifiers.

When it comes to magnifying tools for growing, the 3 most popular options are…

  • Jeweler’s Loupe – This is the cheapest and most low tech way to get the job done. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to get the best insight into how your buds are doing unless you have really great eyes, though the one I linked to is the best that I’ve tried. Will definitely get the job done in a pinch!
  • Your Camera Phone – Many modern smartphones have excellent cameras that can take clear pictures of trichomes. Try to use lots of natural light, hold the phone very still, and zoom in for the best images.
  • Digital Microscope – A digital microscope is one of the best tools to determine the right harvest time. A digital microscope costs a bit more than a loupe and many models need a connecting laptop, but they will get you face-to-face with your trichomes and allow you to take video to re-examine afterward or get a second opinion. You’ll be almost uncomfortably close to your trichomes!

Use a magnifier to see trichomes clearly

This harvest tutorial will fully cover the two main techniques growers use to identify the right time to harvest marijuana plants.

Note: It’s recommended you flush your cannabis plants in the last week or two leading up to harvest time if growing in soil or coco, and for at least a few days in hydro. Click the following link to get more info on flushing before harvest: https://www.growweedeasy.com/flushing

First, we’ll show you how to identify harvest time by checking the pistils (the ‘hairs’ on your buds). The pistil method isn’t nearly as accurate as checking the trichomes (the ‘glitter’ on your buds), but it’s definitely a good place to start since you can just look at the buds and get a general idea. Then we’ll get into trichomes.

The following marijuana harvest pictures will guide you, so you know when to harvest your marijuana buds using ‘The Pistil Method’.

See More Pictures of Buds That Are Ready to Harvest!

 


 

1st Method to Identify Harvest Time: Pistil Method

 

Not Ready for Harvest Pictures

When the vast majority of pistils (hairs) are still white and sticking out straight, this plant is not ready to harvest.

Way too early to harvest

The white pistils / hairs mean this plant is not ready to harvest - Auto Mazar Cannabis Bud day 37

These buds still have many weeks to go!

Example of cannabis bud that is not ready to harvest yet - the pistils / hairs are still mostly white and sticking straight out

Both potency and yields are extremely low at this stage

This bud is only 6 weeks old, and the white pistils show it still has several weeks to go

Still Not Ready for Harvest Pictures

We’re waiting for most of the white hairs to darken and curl in. Some of the pistils are starting to turn color on the following buds, but there are still too many white pistils. These buds have at least a few weeks to go before they’ll reach their highest levels of THC. The good news is your buds will get bigger and denser in that time!

Most of the pistils (hairs) on this bud are still white, so it needs more time to ripen.

You can see this bud is not ready to harvest because almost all the pistils and white and sticking out.

Does it feel like you’ve been waiting forever? Learn what causes marijuana to take a long time before being ready to harvest.

Ready for Harvest Pictures

Harvest when 70-90% of hairs have darkened for highest levels of THC.
Harvest when 90-100% of hairs have darkened for a more calming,
anti-anxiety effect as some THC turns to the more relaxing CBN.

With some strains, you may see a bunch of new pistils appear right when you think you’re getting close. This is normal, but it happens more than 3 times you’ve eventually got to just make the decision and chop. Learn how to speed up the time to harvest. You may also be interested in what’s causing buds to take forever to mature?

Ready to Harvest – On the Early Side (more “up” effects, lower yields)

This cannabis plant has new white pistils growing evenly on all the buds. It's ready to harvest, but on the early side.

Example of a ready to harvest marijuana bud (note: this is on the early side of the harvest window)

Cannabis cola grown from seed to harvest under a 315 LEC grow light - early side of harvest window

This bud could be harvested now, but it hasn't quite reached its maximum size or potency.

This Bubblelicious cannabis bud is at the beginning of the harvest windowThis purple bud is on the early side of the harvest window. Although the pistils / hairs have darkened, they are mostly sticking straight out. In this case, wait a little longer until hairs curl in more and reveal the solid bud underneath. Also look to the color of hairs on the lower buds as they’ll likely be a better indicator of harvest readiness.

This purple bud is ready to harvest - all the pistils have darkened, and most have curled in

Ready to Harvest – Middle of Harvest Window (only a few white hairs)

Example of a Moby Dick cannabis bud cola that's ready for harvest. This marijuana strain is by Dinafem and tends to produce dense buds.More buds ready for Harvest

This cannabis bud is ready to harvest - all the white pistils have turned orange and curled in. You can clearly see the bud underneath.

All the pistils have darkened and curled in - this cannabis cola is ready to harvest!

A marijuana cola grown under a ViparSpectra 300W LED grow lightExample of a marijuana bud grown under a 315 LEC grow lightThis pretty marijuana bud is ready to harvest now

This marijuana cola is ready for harvest - all the pistils have darkened and curled in

 

Ready to Harvest – On the Late Side (more of a “down” or body effect)

This cannabis cola is ready to harvest

This marijuana bud is finished and ready to harvest!Example of cannabis bud that is ready to harvest!

Auto-flowering Sour Diesel cannabis plant by Dinafem

 

Ready to Harvest – Special Cases (when to harvest even with lots of white pistils left)

This cannabis bud was burned by LED grow lights being too close. The "new" growth is just a trick, because usually when you see a bud getting burned like this the plant is ready to harvest.

If all the leaves on a plant die (for example if it gets sick or stressed), the yellowing and discoloration starts spreading to the flowers. If this goes on too long, it can damage the overall quality, potency, smell, and appearance of buds. If you have a sick plant in the late flowering stage that keeps getting worse, keep a close eye on buds and harvest before they get too damaged.

Even though there are still plenty of white pistils on the following bud, the plant is dying (and keeps getting worse) so it’s a good idea to harvest soon.

This autoflowering Sour Diesel plant still has white pistils / hairs, so it seems like it needs more time before it's ready to harvest. however, the whole plant is dying so it's a good idea to start thinking about harvesting before the bud quality, potency and appearance is affected further

Heat or light stressed plants may keep growing lots of new white hairs on top of mature, older buds. In that case, look at the older parts of the bud to determine when to harvest.

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!

Too much heat and light can cause other problems. Notice the yellow “banana” sticking out of the top middle bud in the next picture. This is a stress response. The plant is making a last-ditch effort to pollinate itself and make seeds before the plant dies. If your buds start popping up with bananas everywhere, it’s time to harvest. Otherwise, you start losing potency/smell and buds may get seedy.

This plant suffered from extreme heat and light burn and should be harvested.


See More Pictures of Ready-to-Harvest Buds!


 

With some strains, it is much harder to tell when the time is right. Different strains can look different ways at harvest. For example, some strains can keep most of their pistils white even when they’re ready to be harvested.

You can get some good information by talking to someone who has grown your strain before, such as the breeder. The breeder or growers who’ve grown your strain before can often provide extra insight into what to look for at harvest. You can also search online for pictures of what your strain should look like when it’s fully ripened.

Next, we’re going to go over the 2nd (and MUCH more accurate) method of checking your cannabis plants to see if they’re harvest-ready…

 

2nd Method to Identify Harvest Time: Trichome Method

(how to harvest cannabis using the accurate method)

This harvest method tends to be more precise than looking at the pistils of your cannabis plant.

Look at trichomes under a magnifier to harvest cannabis buds with the desired THC levels

Milky white trichomes on this cannabis plant show it's ready for harvest!

With this method, you look at the glandular stalked trichomes on the buds under a magnifying glass. Trichomes are the mushroom-looking growths on cannabis that are responsible for it being so popular!

In some places, these trichomes are called resin glands. These trichomes are the ‘crystals’, or ‘frosty stuff’ you see accumulating on your bud/leaves. They’re also what makes weed so sticky.

The trichomes you’re trying to see look like little mushrooms. You may also see tiny, clear hair-like trichomes without the mushroom head but these don’t affect potency so you can ignore them. You are interested in the trichomes that have a little ball on top. This is where a lot of the THC and other good stuff in cannabis is located. Since these trichomes are what contribute the most to bud potency, being able to tell when they’ve reached their highest levels of THC will help you be able to choose the exact right time to harvest your marijuana.

Cannabis trichomes are difficult to see with the naked eye, so you’ll need a jeweler’s loupe or other way to magnify the image in order to use the “trichome method” for determining harvest time. Conversely, some cameras can take ‘macro’ shots that are clear enough to see what stage the trichomes are in but they can be pricey…

Jeweler’s loupes are relatively cheap to buy online, at a hardware store, or sometimes a jewelry store.

A view of marijuana trichomes through a jewler's loupe

If you put the loupe right up to your buds, you’ll get a better view of the trichomes, letting you better determine their color and shape.

Although a jeweler’s loupe can make trichomes appear bigger, sometimes it’s not big enough. I know I end up squinting a lot when I’m trying to use one, but they are a heck of a lot better than nothing!

Get a Jeweler’s Loupe on Amazon.com
Although it’s cheap, this is one of the best-rated jeweler’s loupes in the under $20 price range. It’s the one I use. However, please note that although it says you get 40x magnification, you don’t get nearly as much as that. However, I’ve found that with just about every jeweler’s loupe; they advertise more magnification than what you get. That being said, for a lot of growers this will get the job done!

A digital microscope typically takes video and produce bigger and more clear pictures of trichomes than a jeweler’s loupe or other small magnifiers. Not only can you see the trichomes better, but you can record video of them to look over after the fact. These are still pretty cheap, costing $30-50, and they will give you better results than most other methods for determining harvest.

Example of a digital microscope

A digital microscope lets you see the trichomes up close and personal. You must hook it up to a device with a screen to see the pictures, such as a laptop or computer. A USB microscope can also be attached to most Android smartphones with an OTG adapter (if OTG is supported, and you probably need an OTG-compatible camera app). Some Apple products support OTG adapters, but not all. Luckily, most iPhones have a nice enough camera you won’t need it. It’s really nice to be able to see the trichomes on a screen and take pictures or video to examine afterward. It can be difficult to really evaluate the trichomes when you’re thinking about getting everything in focus.

Here’s a guide breaking down when to harvest marijuana buds based on color of trichomes.

(note: the trichomes of some strains turn purple or pink instead of amber/gold/yellow)

Click me to see weed harvest pics up close and personal, learn how to tell if your marijuana is ready to harvest by looking at trichomes
Click to open picture of “When to Harvest Your Marijuana” guide

Clear trichomes look kind of like glass – Not ready to harvest. At this point, buds are not very potent.

The trichomes on this cannabis plant are still small. As the buds mature the trichome "heads" will start looking fat and heavy.

The trichomes in the next picture are also mostly clear, but it can be difficult to tell the difference between clear and cloudy if you haven’t really looked at trichomes before. However, in this example, I don’t even really need to look at the trichomes to know these buds aren’t ready yet. I can clearly see several white pistils sticking straight out in the photo. The only two darkened pistils haven’t even curled in yet.

What if you can’t tell the difference between clear and cloudy trichomes? (these ones are all clear)

The trichomes on this cannabis bud are mostly clear, so we know it's not close to harvest. But even if you're not sure from looking at the trichomes you can see that the pistils are all still white and sticking straight out. That lets you know that your buds aren't ready so you don't even have to worry about the color of the trichomes!

Here’s that bud from further away. Nearly all the pistils are white and you can’t really see the solid bud underneath. From just looking at the bud, you can tell there’s still several weeks to go. So don’t worry about trichome color just yet. Assume they’re clear for now until buds start looking closer to harvest.

You can see this cannabis bud is not ready for harvest even without looking at the trichomes! Since the pistils haven't even started darkening and curling in, it's telling you outright that it's still got a while to go!

As buds mature, trichome heads turn milky white. They kind of look like plastic. These white trichome heads indicate the highest level of THC and CBD.

Cloudy trichomes indicate the highest levels of THC and CBD

Milky white trichomes on this cannabis plant show it's ready for harvest!

This bud with all-white trichomes has reached peak potency. Wait another week or two for trichome heads to turn amber/golden for more of a relaxing effect.

If given more time, white trichome heads turn amber/golden (for most strains). Amber trichomes have less THC but produce more of a down/body/anti-anxiety effect.

Cannabis buds harvested with more than 20% amber trichomes may make you feel sleepy

I can’t tell the difference between clear and cloudy trichomes!!!

It can be hard to tell the difference between clear and cloudy trichomes. Especially if you don’t see both types of trichomes at the same time. This is completely normal, and it takes a little experience before it becomes easy.

However, when in doubt, look at this picture gallery of buds that are ready to harvest to compare against the trichomes. If you combine both methods you’ll get the best results. Although looking at your buds isn’t the most precise way to know when to harvest, it does give you a really good idea. Try to take everything together. If your buds just have white pistils sticking out, you know for sure that it’s nowhere close to ready, so you also know that the trichomes on the buds aren’t all cloudy yet. It’s only when your buds are getting close to looking harvest-ready that trichomes are going to have something to tell you.

 When you’re not sure, use a combination of looking at the pistils and trichomes!

Note: It’s usually a good sign to see lots of trichomes, but trichome production doesn’t always indicate quality. Many classic strains give you outstandingly potent buds even though buds aren’t dripping in trichomes. On the flip side, there are some strains that grow frosty buds yet have low potency. Trichome-encrusted strains are extremely popular these days, especially in the USA, but many of my favorite strains (like Liberty Haze or LSD) produce incredible effects even though you only see a moderate amount of trichomes. It’s tempting to want to grow the “prettiest” strains, but I highly recommend choosing strains for effects rather than appearance!

Learn everything you could possibly want to know about cannabinoid levels in your marijuana, and what you need to do as a grower to control the potency of the buds you grow.

 

Summary: Tips & Hints

Here are some general rules about harvesting marijuana based on trichomes and the color of the hairs / pistils. If you follow these rules, you’ll know how to harvest weed perfectly every time!

  1. If white “hairs” are almost all sticking straight out and trichomes are all still translucent (clear) then your plant is too young and not ready for harvest. Harvesting now will result in low yield and non-potent harvests.
  2. The beginning of the harvest window opens when your plant has mostly stopped growing new white “hairs” or pistils and at least 40% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in.
  3. The highest level of THC is when many/most of the trichomes have turned milky white / cloudy (when viewed under a magnifier). Trichomes that are milky have the highest levels of THC are “ready to harvest” and contribute to more euphoric and psychoactive effects. At this point, 50-70% of the pistils have darkened.
  4. Some Sativa & Haze strains have trichomes that never really turn amber. If they’ve turned mostly white and don’t seem to be progressing further, it may be time to harvest!
  5. The most “couchlock” or sedating effect happens towards the end of the pot harvest window, when the trichomes have become a darker color (usually amber/gold). The best results from amber trichomes come from indica strains. The amber/yellow trichomes contribute to a ‘body high’. Some of the THC has converted into less psychoactive CBN, which has calming and anti-anxiety effects. With some strains, the trichomes will even turn red or purple! I like to harvest around when 20% have turned amber. At this point 70-90% of the pistils have darkened. Harvesting later will increase the sedating effects, but may also start reducing the psychoactive effects.
  6. When trichomes start looking grey or withered, the harvest window has passed, and buds will make you sleepy without many psychoactive effects. Usually it takes several weeks (4 or more) from the beginning of the harvest window for this to happen. It’s much easier to harvest too early than too late!

Want more of a speedy ‘in-your-head’ effect? Harvest your buds earlier, when only 40% of hairs have darkened and curled in and more than half of the trichomes are part clear/ part milky or mostly cloudy/milky.

For the “strongest” marijuana buds with the most psychoactive effects, and the highest levels of THC, harvest when almost all trichomes are cloudy/milky.

For more relaxing, anti-anxiety buds, wait until at least some of the milky / cloudy trichomes have darkened to amber. More amber = more relaxing, though the effects may be somewhat less psychoactive. Remember, curing your buds properly for at least 2 weeks to a month will also give them more of an anti-anxiety effect.

When growing your own marijuana plants, you can certainly sample buds off your plant at different stages to get an idea for what your preferences are. It’s okay to cut off pieces at a time!

The hardest part of growing cannabis for many new growers is waiting for the right time to harvest.

There is a strong tendency for new growers to harvest the plant early due to excitement.

Unfortunately, this often results in low yields and low-potency buds.

If you are feeling excited about harvesting your marijuana plant, pull buds off the plant that look the most done and dry them and check the potency for yourself.

Harvesting the buds in stages (starting off slowly with small batches) can really help abate the excitement.

When in doubt, listen to your gut. Using both methods together will help you pick the best time to harvest, but only YOU know how you want your buds to turn out. This means that even the best methods are just general guidelines. But hopefully, you’re now closer to getting your bud the way you want it.

Happy growing!

This harvest tutorial is part of our “how to harvest cannabis” series:

Flushing > Harvest > Trimming Drying & Curing

 


 

Learn how to cure buds without guesswork!

Learn how to dry and cure your buds perfectly every time with this cheat sheet to curing!

 

Now you’re ready to harvest your own plants!

The cannabis in the ViparSpectra LED grow light tent - just before harvest

Cannabis plant grown with CFLs

White Rhino plant grown in a hydroponic setup

Another shot of those two main-lined cannabis plants

 


 

Jump to…

Flushing For Better Buds 

How To Get To Harvest As Fast As Possible

How Do THC, CBN & CBD Relate to Marijuana Potency?

Better Taste, Better Smell

How to Grow Cannabis in 10 Steps

 


 

Cat and Dogs May Nibble on Your Plants!!!

Some cats and dogs love eating cannabis plants! They may lick or chew your plants around the leaves or buds, often at the absolute worst time. Many clones and small plants have been lost to these surprising cannabis pests 🙂 Once your pet gets a taste, you may have a monster on your hands. So if you have pets, make sure you keep them far away from your marijuana plants!

Some Cats & Dogs Love Cannabis – Protect Your Plants!

Some cats love to eat pot plants, so keep your pets away from your cannabis garden!

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