The life cycle of the cannabis plant covers the following four phases:
- Propagation: when a new plant grows from a seed, cutting, or tissue culture
- Vegetative: when plants produce leaves, stalks, and shoots
- Generative: when plants produce flowers, fruits, and seeds
- Harvest: when plants are gathered and dried before curing
To achieve healthy cannabis plants in high yields, maintaining a proper balance between a plant’s vegetative and generative growth stages is vital. Growers can use crop-steering techniques to cue their plants to lean more heavily in one direction or the other.
During the vegetative stage, plants are focused on early root and plant development. Growers must maintain proper water content in the root zone without over- or under-saturating the substrate. When steering the plants vegetatively, cultivators are able to promote rapid growth by eliminating stressors and allowing plants to absorb as much water as possible while also ensuring they receive adequate nutrition. They achieve this balance by keeping electrical conductivity (EC) low, and using every irrigation event (shot) as a signal that encourages the plant to take advantage of available resources and grow as much as possible.
During its generative stage the cannabis plant focuses on maximizing flower, resin, and flavor production. While growers apply more shots throughout the day in this phase, water content is typically maintained at lower levels than during the vegetative phase. When steering generativity, growers apply targeted stressors – including increasing EC in the irrigation and the substrate to control water uptake – to promote more compact growth with a greater focus on the parts of the plant that support reproduction.