Tips for Harvesting Cannabis for Maximum Potency

Ashley Priest

Posted by Ashley Priest on 08/09/2023 in Medical Marijuana


When it comes to getting the most from harvesting cannabis plants, you want to harvest them at the right time. Knowing when to harvest requires knowledge about the specific strain of cannabis you’re cultivating.

Strain lineage gives you essential insight and information about the strain you’re growing, such as whether a specific strain grows better indoors, outdoors, or in greenhouse environments. Certain plants require different types of nutrients and care. Strain lineage also gives insights into flowering time and yield. When the plant is flowering, harvesting cannabis at the right time makes all the difference in flavor, potency, and work.

Cannabis doesn’t always grow, by the book. Some plants may mature faster than others. Some parts of the plant, like the tops, can be ready for harvest, while lower buds may still need another week to reach their peak. Let’s look at a few ways to tell when your cannabis is ready to harvest for peak potency.

How to Tell When Cannabis Has Reached Peak Potency

There are a few ways you can tell that your cannabis plants are ready to be harvested. There’s only one sure way to tell you’ve reached peak potency. As mentioned, different plants require different amounts of time to mature properly. One way to know when your plants are ready to harvest is to keep track of their growth cycles. 

Knowing when you started germinating and when you switched to the flowering cycle can help you determine an estimated time for harvest. Cannabis plants will also let you know when they are ready to be harvested. They do this by displaying a couple of characteristics. Leaves will begin to turn yellow, trichome coverage should be extensive, and 70 to 90% of the hairs on your plant should be reddish or dark brown. 

The best way to know when your plants have achieved peak potency is to use a small microscope. Examining a small piece of the bud under a microscope shows where THC is at the developmental stage. You want to know the majority of your specimen is covered in cloudy trichomes, an estimated 80 to 90%. To achieve a more sedative-like and relaxing effect from your cannabis, wait slightly longer until the trichomes display a golden or amber color. More on this below.

Different Stages of THC Maturity within Trichomes

Every plant is as unique as each of us. However, some pretty solid signs are given by trichomes that let you know when peak THC potency has occurred, as well as other aspects. Let’s take a quick look at the four stages of trichome maturity.


When your trichomes are clear, it is too early to harvest as they are yet to be filled with resin which equals little to no potency.


This is what some may call the sweet spot when it comes to trichomes. When at least 50% of the trichomes are cloudy or smoky in appearance, your harvest will be at peak potency in terms of THC concentration. This is ideal when many choose to harvest their plants.


Amber-colored trichomes indicate that THC has reached peak potency and has started to degrade to CBN. If you are after a heavier couch-locked type effect from your cannabis, this is a great time to harvest; however, at this time, your THC content will be lower than what it was when the majority of trichomes were cloudy or smoky in appearance. 


If you are looking for a good balance between cerebral and physical body effects; many advise you to harvest when there is an equal balance of cloudy and amber-colored trichomes. 

Harvesting Cannabis Before Peak Potency

When you harvest cannabis plants before peak potency, a few things can happen. Most notably, if you harvest too early, your cannabis will not have an intoxicating effect due to the lack of THC. Harvesting too early will cause harvested bud to be rich in cannabigerol (CBG). Unless this is what you’re trying to accomplish, don’t jump the gun and harvest your cannabis too early. 

Harvesting at the first sign of milky trichomes with a combination of most of your plant hairs turning dark red or brown can lead to an increased flavor profile. This increased flavor profile essentially helps the cannabinoids present work better due to terpene interaction with cannabinoids. Good cannabis isn’t always about high THC. A broad spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes can work synergistically together in what is called the entourage effect. 

Harvesting Cannabis After Peak Potency

If you wait to harvest cannabis until after peak potency, you could have a larger yield and more sedative-like cannabis. This is because cannabinoid profiles rapidly change during the ripening process. What was CBG a week ago is now THC. Within days, THC can turn into CBN. After cannabis reaches its peak potency, the THC degrades, becoming cannabinol (CBN). CBN is said to have neuroprotective properties, help promote sleep, and work as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiemetic, and more. Some research even suggests that CBN can help protect a cell’s mitochondria.

When it comes time to harvest, having a plan beforehand is essential. Just winging it can end up compromising your results. Have a microscope handy during those last days of flowering to closely monitor your plant’s progress. When harvesting outdoors, remember that weather is essential to your plants’ readiness. Harvesting cannabis early in the morning or while your plants are blacked out may also help improve the final flavor profile of your harvest. Now you’re equipped with the power of precision to harvest your cannabis plants at their peak potency.

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