What Does a Cannabis Plant Look Like?: Anatomy, Different Parts, Life Cycle

Marijuana or Cannabis has been used for thousands of years for medical and recreational purposes. Millions of people are consuming it daily, and CBD is actually a billion-dollar industry around the world. Many countries have legalized Cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes, but still, a lot of people don’t know exactly how does a cannabis plant look like.

Well, the appearance of a marijuana plant depends on various factors, but there are some common characteristics that can be found in every cannabis plant. You can read this post till the end as we have shared everything related to the appearance of a cannabis plant and what different important parts of the plant hold in the proper growth and development of the plant.

Different Parts of The Cannabis Plant

The Stems and Leaves

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The stems and leaves of the cannabis plant are among its most recognizable features. The stems are typically green and cylindrical, dotted with nodes that are evenly spaced along their length, and it is from these nodes that leaves and flowers extend.

The leaves of a cannabis plant are generally dark, fan-like green, possessing saw-toothed edges that can either be sleek or velvety, dependent on the variety. These leaves hold essential importance, for they take the responsibility of nourishing the plant through photosynthesis.

The Flowers

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For those seeking the psychoactive effects of the cannabis plant, its flowers are of utmost importance. Typically small and compact, they tend to grow in clusters along the branches and are often covered in a dense coat of trichomes, the tiny resin glands that contain the psychoactive compounds.

The hues of these flowers can range from green to light brown, and they emit a pungent fragrance, often described as earthy, skunky, or musky. Once dried, they can be consumed through various means, such as smoking, vaporizing, or in edibles.

The Root System

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The root system of the cannabis plant plays a pivotal role in maintaining its health and growth. The roots absorb water and nutrients from the soil and secure the plant while also shielding it from potential threats, such as predators and diseases. The roots are generally white or light brown and tend to be thicker at the base of the plant. As the plant grows, the roots expand and delve deeper into the soil.

The Fan Leaves

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The fan leaves of a cannabis plant are the large, flat leaves often associated with the plant. These leaves, located at the top, support the plant through photosynthesis. The size of the fan leaves varies depending on the type of strain you are growing, ranging from a few inches to several feet. They are usually green and shaped like an extended hand with fingers.

The Colas

The colas of a cannabis plant are the central clusters of flowers at the top of the plant, usually larger and denser than the other flowers and often possessing the highest concentrations of psychoactive compounds.

The size of the colas also depends on the type of cannabis plant you are growing. They generally have a greenish-brown colour and are covered in a dense layer of trichomes.

Difference Between A Male and Female Marijuana Plant

Just like humans, a marijuana plant can be male or female, and it is important to identify the gender of the plant to be sure of the outcome. Both of these plants serve different purposes, and it completely depends on your objective of cultivation if you want the plant or not. Right from the seeding stage, the gender of the marijuana plant can be identified pretty quickly.

It can be done only by a professional grower, and it is not an easy thing to do. Below we have shared some key features and differences between the male and female cannabis plants that can help you in finding the gender of your plant.

Credits: wikihow.com

Male Marijuana Plants:

  • Produces pollen to fertilize female plants.
  • Grows taller and has fewer branches.
  • Not grown for recreational or medicinal use.

Female Marijuana Plants:

  • Produces buds high in THC and CBD.
  • Shorter and bushier, with more leaves and flowering sites.
  • Grown for recreational and medicinal use.

To determine the gender of their plants, cultivators have the option of growing clones or cuttings that are identical genetically to the parent strain. Additionally, feminized seeds can be obtained through a specialized breeding procedure.

Different Stages of A Cannabis Plant Development

Germinating Seeds (1-7 Days)

To germinate marijuana seeds, they must be mature. Mature seeds are shiny, light to dark brown, dry and hard, while immature seeds are soft, white or green. To start the growth process, seeds must be kept in a wet and dark place. Light and moisture exposure will stimulate the hormones and speed up growth.

The first thing to grow will be a single root called the radicle, followed by the stem and two rounded cotyledon leaves that gather energy from sunlight to help the plant grow. Once the roots develop, the first true leaves will grow, and the plant will be in its seedling stage.

Seedling Stage (2-3 Weeks)

During the seedling stage, marijuana plants need sunlight, moist soil, and mild humidity to grow well. It’s important not to overwater the plant at this stage because it has a small root system. The plant will develop more traditional-looking cannabis leaves with 3 to 13 fingers, starting with just one finger.

The first set of leaves will have serrated edges and grow in pairs on the stem. A healthy seedling should be short and thick with vibrant green leaves. The growing environment must be clean and free of excess moisture to prevent disease or mould.

Vegetative Stage (2-8 Weeks)

During vegetative growth, a cannabis plant enters its next stage of development after developing 7 pointed leaves. In this stage, the plant grows taller, has a thicker stem, and produces more branches, leaves, and nodes. Root systems become more established to prepare for flowering. Growers will begin topping and training their plants.

The growth of plants is based on their ability to transform light into photosynthesis. Cannabis plants need increased water, nutrients rich in nitrogen and potassium, moist air, and lots of soil space to grow 2-3 feet tall. The growth of indoor plants should be kept on an 18-hour daylight cycle with a 6-hour night period.

The plants should be kept in well-drained soil, and drying should be allowed between watering to prevent drowning.

Pre-Flower Stage (1-2 Weeks)

To determine the sex of a cannabis plant, look for pistils or small green sacs full of pollen at the nodes. Female plants have two pistils on buds, while male plants have pollen sacs.

Intersex plants (Hermies) have both and should be removed to avoid pollination and ruining the harvest. During flowering, the plant’s growth will halt as the light per day decreases, and the plants will produce more psychoactive agents (THC) in the form of Sinsemilla with no seeds and high concentration of resin and THC.

Flowering Stage (6-8 Weeks)

The flowering stage in cannabis plants occurs when they receive less than 12 hours of light each day and require 10 to 12 hours of complete darkness. To determine when the plant is ready to be harvested, the colours of the pistils and trichomes must be monitored. The colours change from white to reddish-orange, transparent to cloudy to opaque and finally amber.

Harvesting the plants when half of the trichomes are opaque provides the highest amount of THC and the lowest levels of CBD. The ratio of white to red hairs inside the pistils also indicates the type of high the Cannabis will produce – a euphoric THC high or a calmer CBD-stoned feeling.


After harvesting Cannabis, the branches are cut into smaller sections and hung upside down to dry in a cool, dark room for 7 to 14 days with a humidity level of 40-50%. This prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi.

The curing process, which is optional, involves ageing the dried Cannabis in airtight containers at 50-60°F for 1 to 3 weeks, opened once a day to release gases and absorb the fresh air. Curing is said to improve flavour, burn quality, and reduce harshness.

Final Words

So, this is all about the different parts of a cannabis plant, and we hope now you know what a cannabis plant looks like. As we have told above, the appearance of not only marijuana but every plant depends on various factors, and that is why you must pay attention to its growth and development if you are growing it yourself.

We will keep this post updated with more information about the cannabis plants, so keep visiting if you want to know about it. Also, if you think we have missed something, then do let us know about it. If you want assistance in growing cannabis plants or you have any questions related to it, then do connect with us via the comments below.

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