Plants are fascinating. When the weather is right, you can put a seed in the ground, and by the time you come back a few weeks or months later, it has grown into a beautiful plant.
Although it might seem simple on the surface, the growth cycle includes many complex processes. So just how do plants grow and develop, and what are some plant care tips for each stage of its growth?
Plant Growth Stage 1 - It’s all in the seeds
The magic of plant growth begins with a seed. Depending on the plant, seeds can look completely different in size, shape and colour.
Just think about the last seeds you saw in a tomato, pepper, or watermelon. Each seed looks completely different, but all of them can be used to grow plants.
Today, we often plant seeds by hand or use large farming equipment. However, that was not always the case. Throughout history, plant species were spread by animals who would eat their seeds, travel over large distances, then poop out the seeds in a new location.
A wide variety of seeds are easily available for purchase online or at local garden stores. We even have seed banks around the world which store seeds for very long period of time, at cold temperatures, in order to preserve as many plant species as possible.
Selecting seeds from a -18°C (0°F) storage. (Source)
Plant Growth Stage 2 - Germinating into the first signs of life
The first few days of a plant’s life are referred to as the germination stage. This period of time is when the seed is activated and starts the growing process.
When growing in soil, germination begins once the seed has been planted in the ground. The water in the soil is what activates the seed, telling it that it’s time to grow.
The germination process can also easily be started simply by wrapping the seeds in a damp paper towel. These dark and wet conditions are perfect to start the growing process, and you will quickly see the seeds crack open or “pop”, and the first white roots will begin to crawl out.
One common misconception is that seeds should germinate 100% of the time. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
The successful germination rates for seeds are highest within one year of being harvested from the mother plant. The longer you wait between collecting the seeds and planting them, the lower your chances are of successfully making them pop.
Plant Growth Stage 3 - Rocking that vegetative growth
If you started your seeds in a damp paper towel, you will now have beautifully germinated seeds that are starting to show their roots. Now it’s time to put them into a growing medium, which can be soil, rockwool, or coco coir, among many other options.
Once your plant has been transplanted into a medium, the fun part of the growing process begins. Your plant will establish its roots and begin the vegetative growth phase. In this stage, the plant becomes taller with beautiful leaves.
Each seed has enough nutrients and energy to last for the first week or two. In this time, the seedling will break through the top of the growing medium and you’ll be able to see the sprout and first two leaves.
As your plant grows above ground, the roots continue to stretch out below the surface. This increases the amount of water and nutrients that the plant can access in order to fuel the plant’s growth.
If you are growing outside, and assuming you experience consistent rainfall, this is the part where you can sit back, relax, and come back a few weeks or months later to see a large plant waiting for you.
Indoor growers have a bit more work to do in order to make sure that the roots have sufficient water and nutrients at all times.
If they do not have enough water, you will see the leaves of the plant begin to curl. If your plant does not have enough nutrients, the green colour of the plant will become lighter and more yellow.
Yellowing leaves due to nutrient deficiency. (Source)
When growing microgreens, salad greens, carrots, or any other non-flowering fruits and vegetables, this is where the growing process ends. Keep an eye out for when the produce looks ripe, then harvest and enjoy!
Plant Growth Stage 4 - Bloom/Flowering/Pollination
Growing a plant that has to flower? No problem, there’s just one more step.
Tomatoes, melons, peppers, and cannabis are a few of the many flowering plant varieties which exist and have to go through a pollination and flowering/blooming stage. There are three types of pollination:
Flower Pollination - Certain plants, including tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, have the same flower pollination process. This procedure just requires the pollen to be ‘shifted’ within the same flower, as the plant is self fertile. This is often accomplished by the wind, or bees and animals moving through the garden.
When growing these plants indoors, growers often shake these plants by the stem to encourage pollination. This is the easiest form of pollination because each flower already has the pollen it needs.
Multi Flower Pollination - Some plants like cucumbers, melons, and squash have both male and female flowers on the same plant, and thus require multi flower pollination.
Now we must move the pollen from the male to the female flower in order to yield a crop. With indoor growing, this is often accomplished by dipping a small paintbrush or cotton swab into one flower, and transferring the pollen-covered tool to another flower.
Hand pollinating using a paint brush. (Source)
Cannabis Flower - With cannabis, the entire plant is either male or female. In order to produce cannabis seeds, you need both plants to be side-by-side.
To produce sensimilla, the seedless buds that cannabis patients consume, the male plants are identified and removed as early as possible, and only the female plants are kept and grown.
Cannabis is photosensitive (reactive to light) and will not begin to flower until it senses 12 hours of darkness. Indoor growers will need to place their plants in a completely dark room and set their timer for 12 hours!
Plant Growth Stage 5 - Seed Production
You can now consume your hard work and store a few seeds from your bounty.
Put the seeds in a jar of water, and let this ferment for at least five days (this kills any virus that might be on the seed). Once a thick layer of scum has formed and the best seeds have dropped to the bottom, remove the scum layer and rinse the remaining mixture in a strainer. Then spread the seeds to dry in a cool, well-ventilated room for at least two weeks.
For cannabis seeds, don’t soak them and avoid contact with air, light, bacteria or moisture, as all of these can cause early germination or damage to the seed.
Storing and organizing seeds in Tic Tac boxes
DIY wooden seed box
Store the seeds in a cool dry place, then plant and repeat for an endless supply of wonderful, delicious plants!