Everything you need to know about growing cannabis at home

How to Harvest Cannabis Plants: Best Methods for Beginners

by | Jul 4, 2022 | Cannabis, Finishing

If you are harvesting cannabis indoors at home, it is important to know how to do so correctly. There are many different ways of harvesting your plants and it is important to choose the best method for you. Time the harvest right and make sure not to overdo it as harvesting too early can yield a lower quality product and also produce a lower yield. We will explain when the best time to harvest is for the effects you are looking for from your plants. After harvest time, you will need to dry and cure them properly in order to ensure they will be ready for smoking after only a few weeks but these topics will be covered in later articles. Let’s take a look at the best way to harvest your marijuana plants.

Why is it important to time your harvest properly for cannabis plants?

Cannabis harvesting is a critical part of the cannabis growing process. It’s important to time your harvest right for several reasons including that you will get better quality cannabis bud and you can avoid unnecessary plant stress and save money on electricity, nutrients, etc. Timing your harvest just right will allow the plant to give you the effects you are looking for, whether it is “couch-lock” or a more focused energized high or something in between, the timing of your harvest is critical for the effects you desire. This will prevent you also from harvesting too late which will allow you to turn your lights off, not have to feed your plant(s) water or nutrients, and even possibly turn off some of your fans, which can all save money in the long run.

Is there anything I should do to prepare my cannabis plants for harvest?

There are a few things you can do to help prepare your cannabis plants for harvest. Stop using any nitrogen-based fertilizers and only use phosphorus and potassium-based fertilizers in the last week or so as these elements encourage bud production. You should also make sure to keep the humidity in your grow room around 50% and reduce the temperature to about 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit in the last few days before harvesting.

Despite what other growers may say, there is no need to flush your plants with only water and not use nutrients. This is based on false science, called “bro-science” within the cannabis community, and has no basis in facts. Some growers may argue that it can take away excess salts in the root system but there are already products that can do that and there has been no evidence that it will affect the taste. There is also no need for 24-28 hours of darkness before harvest as this is bro-science also and is not necessary to follow either. The thought behind this is that the longer your plants are in darkness the fewer terpenes have evaporated due to your light. Although this may be true to a very slight degree, it is negligible and is also not supported by facts. Turning your lights off will and not providing nutrients will also leave you with smaller buds as they need light and nutrients to grow those last couple of days or weeks. If you would like to flush a week or two before harvest with only pH’d water and to turn your lights off 24-48 hours before harvest you are more than welcome to as it will save on costs but do not feel the need to do it for the benefit of your plants.

If you are harvesting an outdoor plant please see our link to budwashing below. This is an extra step that is necessary for outdoor grows to remove any dirt or insects from the plant.

Lastly, make sure you have an area that is suitable for drying. Many people use their tent for drying but sometimes the temperature and humidity may not be in the proper range so it is important to figure out your drying space beforehand. If you need to buy a humidifier/dehumidifier, hangers to hang the plants, a portable AC unit, or anything else to prepare your space and keep your optimal temperature and humidity range at 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 60% relative humidity, you should buy them before you harvest.

What is the best method to tell if your cannabis plant is ready for harvest?

There are a couple of popular methods you can use to determine when your cannabis plant is ready to be harvested. Let’s take a closer look at them below.


The most common and well-known method to determine when your cannabis plant is ready for harvest is by checking the trichomes. The trichomes are small mushroom-like glands that produce and secrete resin, which contains cannabinoids and terpenes. They are the sticky resin that makes your buds “frosty”. When you look at them with a magnifying glass, microscope, or jewelers loupe, they will appear either clear, cloudy, or amber.

Clear trichomes indicate that the plant is not ready for harvest and will have a lower potency although it will have a more heady and energetic high. Cloudy trichomes indicate that the plant is starting to mature and the buds are beginning to form, so it is getting closer to being ready for harvest. Amber trichomes mean that the plant is ready for harvest and has reached its highest possible potency while also giving you a more narcotic effect.

You can either harvest your cannabis plant when the trichomes are all cloudy or wait until about 20% of them have turned amber because harvesting right before they turn an amber color will give you a slightly more heady buzz. If harvesting early, make sure to dry and cure buds properly so that it does not lose their potency. If you would like a more relaxing nighttime smoke, we recommend letting the trichomes turn even more amber.

The best way to determine if your plant is ready for harvesting by checking the trichomes is with a jewelers loupe or microscope because it will allow you to see all of the trichomes and not miss any early signs that indicate whether they are cloudy or amber. However, many people use their naked eyes as well so it is up to you. You can also use a magnifying glass but it will only show the trichomes that are on the surface, not allowing you to see all of them like you would with a jewelers loupe or microscope. Many smartphones now also have cameras that are powerful enough to see the trichomes too.

***Please note that you should be checking the trichomes on your buds/colas and NOT on your sugar leaves as they turn amber much faster.***


Another method to determine harvesting time is by looking at the pistils of your plant. The pistil method uses how many and where the pistils are on your buds/colas as an indicator for harvesting.

When female cannabis plants start flowering or budding (the process of forming a cannabis flower) they will grow thin white hair-like pistils in the buds. The more pistils appear, the closer you are to harvesting but it is still not advisable to harvest until about 60%-70% of the white pistils have turned brown or red because they could be very harsh if harvested too early. The more brown pistils you have the more of a couch-lock or indica effect you will produce from your cannabis although it is not advised to harvest before 60%.

Just like with trichomes, you can use either your naked eye or a magnification device to look at the pistils. If using a magnification device, make sure it is of good quality so that you can see all of the pistils clearly.

***It should be noted that there are other methods, such as using the buds and leaves as indicators, for when to harvest but these two are the most popular. We highly recommend using trichomes to determine when to harvest.***

How should I harvest my cannabis plants?

There are several different harvesting methods for cannabis plants. Each harvesting method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you’re looking to get out of the experience, flavor, potency, yield, etc. No matter which harvesting method you choose there are a few things that should always be done first:

  1. Make sure the soil is moist, not wet.
  2. Remove any dead fan leaves from the plant (you can compost these) to make harvesting easier and cleaner since you won’t have to worry about removing them later on.
  3. Make sure that your harvesting tools are ready, such as sharp scissors or pruning shears work best for flowers, while pruners may be needed for harvesting leaves and cutting thicker stems.

Harvesting your plants should be done in the evening or at night since harvesting during hot sunny days can cause potency to decrease and develop harsh flavors (and other unwanted responses) due to heat stress and excessive sun exposure. When indoors harvest just before you would normally schedule the lights to come on.

Some people like to cut the main stem and hang the entire plant for drying while others prefer to break down the plant into individual branches and hang them. It is all personal preference although the whole plant method should take a little longer to dry. Beware not to remove all the fan leaves either (unless already shriveled, brown, and dry) as they contain a lot of moisture and will help with the drying process.

Experienced cannabis growers can even harvest different parts of the plants at different times. This means that if the upper part of the plant has the appropriate amount of brown pistils or amber trichomes while the lower part does not, then they will harvest only the upper part of the plant while leaving the rest to grow and mature. This method is fully dependent on if you have the space for it because if you’re using your grow tent as a drying space, then it would not be ideal.

What is the next step before smoking it?

After harvesting you can now start the drying phase. Drying is an essential part of harvesting that can take up to one to two weeks or longer depending on the harvesting method you used and the conditions in your drying space. It is important that your cannabis plants are completely dry (buds snap off cleanly when broken) before storing them for any length of time as stored buds can develop mold over time if they’re not dried properly.

Thank you for reading our article, should you have any questions or if you are done harvesting please see our articles on drying, curing, budwashing, and bud rot.

To learn more about growing cannabis at home consider checking out our guides on: Getting Started, Troubleshooting, and Optimizing your Grow or search our Knowledge Base.

We strive to help your plants thrive.