The Different Trichome Development Stages (2023)

Understanding the trichome development timeline is key to producing high-quality, intentionally balanced experiences for the cannabis consumer. Trichomes are the resin glands or sticky outgrowths on the surface of buds, stems, stalks, and leaves of a cannabis plant. The Greek root of the word trichome translates to “growth of hair,” which appropriately describes their fuzzy, hair-like appearance.

They function as part of the plant’s natural defense system but are prized for producing and storing aromatic terpenes and cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) that are largely responsible for the smell and effects of cannabis. At each trichome stage, the plant will contain different ratios of cannabinoids like CBD and THC, which is why trichomes are one of the most reliable ways to identify when a plant is ready to be harvested and further processed with commercial trichome extraction equipment.

The Different Trichome Development Stages (1)

How to Examine Trichomes

Because growing cannabis is an extremely delicate process, it is vital to carefully observe trichome development during a plant’s flowering process. By observing the color and opacity of trichomes, growers can often determine the best time to harvest for designated types of consumer experiences. However, it can be very difficult to identify when a trichome is cloudy versus clear. There are numerous stages trichomes go through and first-time growers will benefit from referencing an experienced growers’ trichome color charts and harvest charts.

Trichomes can be as small as 10 micrometers and as large as 500 micrometers. Because of their minuscule size, trichomes are best observed through a device that can magnify between 30 and 120 times. Under the microscope, trichomes appear like tiny hairs on the surface of the cannabis plant. Growers should focus on the trichomes that resemble the shape of a mushroom, as these are the trichomes that contain the majority of psychoactive and medicinal compounds that make cannabis such a unique and desierable plant. This type of inspection will help the grower to accurately gauge the trichome stage a plant is in and whether it is ready to harvest.

The Different Trichome Development Stages (2)

Capitate-Stalked Trichomes that are mostly cloudy or milky in color.

3 Different Types of Trichomes on Cannabis

There are three types of glandular trichomes relevant to the maturity and chemical balance of cannabis plants. Understanding the nuances of trichome types is essential to successful harvests. The three types of trichomes that growers should focus on are bulbous trichomes, capitate trichomes, and capitate-stalked trichomes.

Bulbous Trichomes

Bulbous trichomes are minuscule bulbs that are evenly distributed across the entire surface of the plant and contain very little THC. They are only 10 to 30 micrometers in size, so they must be identified with a microscope. These trichomes create the crystal-like sheen and stickiness for which high-grade cannabis is known.

Bulbous trichomes can be identified by their one-cell stalks and gland heads that swell with plant oil. Some research suggests bulbous trichomes exist to alert plants of insect intruders and protect the plants from sunburn. Many cultivators use bulbous trichomes as an early indicator for harvesting.

Capitate Sessile Trichomes

These trichomes are more abundant and slightly larger than bulbous trichomes, measuring between 25 and 100 micrometers. Capitate sessile trichomes are typically only visible with a microscope. They can be identified by their mushroom-shaped structure attached to the plant without a stalk and are often located on the underside of sugar leaves and fan leaves.

These trichomes produce cannabinoids throughout the lifecycle of a cannabis plant, but at much lower levels than capitate-stalked trichomes. These trichomes are thought to be most suitable for edible cannabis products and cannabis-infused liquids. In fact, many cultivators and processors set out to turn their trichomes into profits by separating this variety for edibles.

Capitate-Stalked Trichomes

The largest and most abundant of the three trichome types, capitate-stalked trichomes are also shaped like mushrooms and are characterized by their large bulbs at the head of the stock. These trichomes can be seen with the naked human eye and are found on the surface of female cannabis plants far more than their male counterparts.

Capitate-stalked trichomes are rarely seen on sugar leaves, fan leaves, or stems and can be up to 500 micrometers in size. As the flowering stage of a cannabis plant progresses, capitate-stalked trichomes dramatically increase in density. Interpreting the maturity of these trichomes is crucial because they produce the highest quantity of desirable cannabinoids and terpenes.

The Different Trichome Development Stages (3)

Examples of clear, milky, amber, and mixed trichomes.

4 Stages of Trichome Development

Trichome formation and maturation change the potency and THC/CBD balance of a cannabis plant. There are four stages of trichome development to which growers must be privy in order to produce cannabis products used specifically in the medical marijuana industry as well as the recreational industry. During each stage, the trichomes change color, which is why a trichome chart is an essential point of reference for new growers. Throughout their development, trichomes appear clear, milky, amber, and mixed in color.

Because new flowers can grow on top of each other, flower clusters near a single plant can develop at different stages of trichome development. Choosing to harvest only the top of a plant can help growers get the most out of their harvest. Cannabis strains such as California Gold, Space Cookies, and Nebula are known for their brilliant trichome development.

Clear Trichomes

Clear trichomes are the first to appear on the cannabis plant during its transition from the vegetative state into the first week of the flowering process. Under magnification, the trichomes will appear either clear or opaque. During this stage, the plant is still forming THC and is not yet ready for harvest.

Harvesting buds too early in trichome development will produce a faint and potentially uncomfortable consumer experience. However, the appearance of clear trichomes throughout the lifecycle of a cannabis plant is a sign of healthy growth because cannabis plants are always forming new trichomes and producing more chemical compounds.

Milky Trichomes

When a trichome begins to appear cloudy, the THC levels are beginning to reach their ideal potency and flavor. At this stage, the plant is not fully matured; buds will appear small and lack the rich aroma consumers expect. When cloudy trichomes are covering the plant, THC levels are much higher than CBD levels, which means the psychoactive effects of cannabis are most prevalent.

If harvested during this stage, many cultivars will produce a more uplifting experience. Trichomes remain milky for about two weeks during the lifecycle of a cannabis plant. Growers may choose to harvest the buds at this time if they plan to pair the strain with CBD oil.

Amber Trichomes

Trichomes will begin turning amber in conjunction with milky trichomes. A plant that is covered primarily in amber trichomes will have higher levels of CBD, as much of the THC in the plant will have naturally converted to cannabinol (CBN). Growers can determine this stage by observing the lack of little white hairs on the bud.

During this stage, the hairs will appear a dark orange or brown color. This often reduces the psychoactive effects of cannabis consumption and creates a much more relaxing and sleep-inducing experience for the consumer. The medical marijuana industry often leans toward cannabis harvested at this stage because of its ability to manage pain and treat insomnia. Many Indica-dominant strains require growers to harvest the buds when at least 60 percent of the trichomes have turned amber.

Mixed Trichomes

For most cannabis harvests, growers look for a certain ratio of cloudy trichomes to amber trichomes. Many expert growers believe that the best time to harvest a plant is when the trichomes are 70 percent cloudy and 30 percent amber. Buds harvested with this ratio of trichome colors are frequently processed in the retail industry to create stimulating and cerebral effects for the recreational consumer.

Cultivating impressive trichomes is an essential part of a successful harvest, but those trichomes must be protected during processing. Due to the trichome’s delicate nature, their preservation requires delicate handling with a dry-sift, solvent-free trichome extractor that can operate as a stand-alone machine or with the addition of pulverized dry ice — using ‘180 Micron’ screens to provide the highest yield and quality possible to benefit businesses and customers alike.


What are the stages of trichome development? ›

There are essentially four stages of trichome development, as shown above: Clear, Cloudy, Amber and Mixed. Each of these stages have various consequences on the strain effects, and can be great indicators of when to harvest.

How long does it take for a trichome to develop? ›

When do Trichomes appear? Trichomes become more prominent during the third or fourth week of the flowering stage of your plants. At this phase, you should have already started inducing the needed nutrients that your plants need to improve trichome production and effectiveness.

How long are trichome stages? ›

Milky Trichomes

If harvested during this stage, many cultivars will produce a more uplifting experience. Trichomes remain milky for about two weeks during the lifecycle of a cannabis plant.

What do fully developed trichomes look like? ›

After a few weeks, you will notice the trichomes start to turn a milky color and look cloudy on the inside. This is when they are full with THC and will give off an energetic high. After another week or so, the trichomes will begin to turn amber in color, which means the THC is starting to break down into THC-A.

Where do trichomes develop? ›

Trichomes are uni- or multicellular structures that originate from epidermal cells of above-ground plant tissues. Trichomes can be classified morphologically as either non-glandular (hairs) or glandular.

Can you speed up trichome development? ›

Good Lights

Proper lighting is the most effective way to increase trichome production. As you may know, cannabis produces trichomes to protect the plant from UV rays, this means the more light and more spectrums you provide your plant, the more resin it will produce.

What percentage of trichomes should be amber before harvest? ›

Cloudy Trichomes

Soon, 50 to 70 percent of the trichomes will turn cloudy or amber. At that point, it's time to harvest for strong, highly euphoric buds.

Does cold weather increase trichome production? ›

Heat and Trichome Production

When growing, keeping the temperatures as low as possible will help encourage production.

How many days before harvest should I stop watering? ›

Stop Watering 1-3 Days Before Harvest – After flushing, in the final days of harvest, you can further stress your plants by stopping watering. You want to allow the plant to start to wilt just a small amount, because then the plant “thinks” it is dying and as a last-ditch effort, it will increase resin development.

How long after trichomes appear Can I harvest Autoflower? ›

They begin to grow buds rich in cannabinoids and terpenes. Some high-yielding strains can even reach full maturity in 5-8 weeks. Overall, autoflowering takes about 8-14 weeks from seed to harvest.

How long should I flush my buds? ›

If you're growing in soil, begin flushing between one and two weeks before harvest. If you're growing in coco, flush your plants for up to one week prior to harvest. If you're growing in hydro, your plants only need to be flushed for one to two days.

What color are trichomes when ready? ›

This milky or amber is color is what shows you the cannabinoids have reached full maturity and have begun to degrade. When about 20% of the trichomes on a bud begin to turn amber or milky, this is the time to harvest.

What do trichomes look like when ready to flush? ›

Your plant should have clear trichomes with a few that have turned milky. This signals it is ready to be flushed. When growing in soil, you'll generally want to flush 1-2 weeks before harvest.

When should I start flushing my trichomes? ›

Generally, flushing cannabis normally takes place two weeks before it is harvested. If the plant has an 8-week flowering period, flushing should start 6-weeks after the beginning of the flowering stage when trichomes begin to form a cloudy white color.

What is the most important trichome? ›

The most treasured trichomes are the capitate-stalked trichomes. Capitate-stalked trichomes are similar in structure to sessile trichomes, with a disk of secretory cells that produce cannabinoids and terpenes, in addition to a trichome head where the precious compounds are stored.

What are three functions of trichomes? ›

Trichomes play an important role in plant growth and development by protecting them from UV light, insect predation, and excess transpiration. The phytochemicals secreted by GSTs provide protection against pathogens and pests, and also attract pollinators (Wagner, 1991; Wagner et al., 2004; Schilmiller et al., 2008).

What are trichomes explained? ›

Trichomes are defined as unicellular or multicellular appendages, which are an extension of the above-ground epidermal cells in plants [1]. These appendages play a key role in the development of plantsand occur in a wide variety of species [2].

Do trichomes develop after harvest? ›

The resin inside is now producing high levels of terpenes, flavonoids, and key cannabinoids like THCA and CBDA. Milky trichome heads are worth harvesting, although there is still another level of ripeness to go. Once trichome heads begin to turn amber, they're in the final phase of development to reach peak ripeness.

What are trichomes called? ›

Trichomes (/ˈtraɪkoʊmz, ˈtrɪkoʊmz/); from Ancient Greek τρίχωμα (tríkhōma) 'hair') are fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae, lichens, and certain protists. They are of diverse structure and function. Examples are hairs, glandular hairs, scales, and papillae.

What is trichome structure and function? ›

Like root hair, trichomes are also polar-growing cells and constantly interact with different environmental cues (Dai and Chen, 2012). Trichomes are highly specialized epidermal cells and serve as an excellent material for studying cell fate, differentiation, and specialized metabolism through single-cell omics.

What nutrients increase trichome production? ›

As previously stated, moderate levels of nitrogen and phosphorus work best to sustain trichome growth to the maximum level. Dumping nutrients on your plant during the second half of the flowering cycle can result in reduced cannabinoid and terpene content, thereby lowering your bud quality in both flavor and potency.

How do you get denser buds and more trichomes? ›

Increasing the amount of CO₂ in your grow room can help you grow bigger, denser buds. By doing so, you'll help plants photosynthesise faster and encourage them to take up more nutrients and water.

Does UVB increase trichomes? ›

UV Light and Plant “Sunscreen”

Trichomes are reflective and can shield the plant from harmful UV rays. For this reason, UV radiation can increase the trichome density. Since THC is produced and stored in cannabis trichomes, UV light also increases THC content.

Should all hairs be orange before harvest? ›

At the absolute minimum, you should wait until 50% of the trichomes are cloudy and 50% of the hairs have changed color. Again — do not harvest if fewer than 50% of the trichomes have turned milky. And do not harvest if fewer than 50% of the pistils have turned brown/orange.

What should pistils look like at harvest? ›

We already have a comprehensive guide on how to use pistils to determine when to harvest cannabis; but in summary, the white pistils will begin to change colour during the flowering phase. Once the majority of pistils have started to turn orange, brown, and red, then you are ready to cut down those prized buds.

Does the amount of trichomes determine potency? ›

The amount of trichomes may represent the potency of the plant, although scientists differ on this opinion. The genetics of the plant determine the type of chemicals created but not the amount. The potency (amount) of cannabinoids is attributed to the environmental factors (soil nutrients, wind, light).

Does ice water increase trichomes? ›

Water with ice-cold water

Presumably, the idea is to shock the plant's root system and cause enough stress to promote trichome production without ruining your harvest. You'll want to give your cannabis plants an ice bath as close to harvest as possible.

How do you fatten up buds before harvesting? ›

To some degree, more light translates to fatter buds and higher yields (you'll need to pay attention to the distance between your grow light and plants or your plant may suffer from light burn). Increasing light intensity is the most effective way to fatten up buds.

What is the best temperature for flowering stage? ›

Manipulate temperature and humidity

In the flowering stage, temperatures in 65- to 80-degree range are ideal. At night, most plants prefer temperatures between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Colors like pink and purple come out when nighttime temperatures are at the low end of the scale.

Can you wait too long to harvest? ›

Waiting longer to harvest gives the trichomes ample time to develop. But the longer you wait, the more highly intoxicating and sedative your flower will become. This is especially true for indica strains, but even sativa strains can become sedating.

What if I harvested too early? ›

Harvesting too early can cause you to lose some of the plant's potency, creating a different and potentially less pleasurable consumption experience. Waiting just a week can produce significantly better results.

Can you overwater during flowering? ›

Overwatering during flowering

During the bloom period, some leaves might fall off the plant, and you'll need to prevent them from remaining inside the pot, as if they mix with soil and moisture, they could rot and give way to harmful fungi, which can contaminate the roots and attack the plant's metabolism.

Will buds grow during flush? ›

Plants, however, do not stop growing when they are being flushed. Rapidly expanding buds can be seen even while the flush is removing nutrients.

Does flushing fatten buds? ›

It's also important to note that you can see an increase in both bud size and terpenoid production after the flush, because your plants have more energy to devote to swelling buds and terpene production. They're not having to spend energy to intake the nutrients you're normally feeding them.

Can I harvest without flushing? ›

Failing to flush can also cause your product to suffer from other negative side effects, such as black ash and an unpleasant chemical taste and smell. The truth is, not flushing nutrients before harvest can seriously compromise the quality of your high-value crops.

How fast do trichomes turn color? ›

How fast do trichomes change color? This variable largely depends on the strain. Some transitions occur within 5 days of flowering, while others take up to 2 weeks. Make sure to check your trichomes every day.

How do I make my trichomes stronger? ›

The more hours of light, the more trichomes your girls will produce. Ultraviolet light is especially helpful despite the fact that trichomes may block out some UV light. In fact, UV light encourages the plant to produce more trichomes to protect it from UV light. UVB lamps are best for indoor grows.

What is the best terpene enhancer? ›

#1 Best Terpene Enhancing Nutrient - FlaVUH by Ventant Plant Science. #2 Best Terpene Enhancing Nutrient - Terpinator by Rhizoflora. #3 Best Terpene Enhancing Nutrient - Terpenez by Grow Solutions.


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