What is a Marijuana Plant

At ILGM we want everybody to become a master marijuana grower! Unfortunately, it's not legal to grow marijuana in all states. We don't want anyone to break the law and advise to review your local cannabis legislation. ILGM cannot advise on legal matters. Stay safe!

The Plant Kingdom is the foundation of almost every single ecosystem on the face of the Earth. Without plants, there would be no life on Earth.

Animals and humans, depend on plants for food. Plants, however, are not held down by the same restrictions. They transmute their food through the process of photosynthesis, requiring only water, C02, and sunlight.

Plants of the Cannabis genus are no exception. But what characteristics identify cannabis? How do the mechanisms of photosynthesis function within the plant itself? These questions are simple but significant. In order to properly grow marijuana, we must first understand how it works, down to each constituent part.

Plant growth

Marijuana plant growth
Marijuana plant growth – Image powered by Leafly.com

The sum growth of a plant occurs through cell division and cell elongation. Division is when the plant cells split apart and create copies of themselves, while elongation is when the cells expand outwards and become bigger.

The most cell division in a plant occurs at the crown, the tips of the roots, and at the fringes of any leaf nodes. If a plant is growing at all, it means that cell division is occurring in these areas, often at astounding rates. If you had the patience to  watch a plant for a day, you could actually see it grow.

New cells created through cell division then undergo cell elongation and absorb water from the xylem and swell up to significantly larger sizes. A healthy plant being cultivated in a well- provided for environment can easily grow up to 3 inches in a day.

Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link for tips on how to grow your own marijuana

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    New cells start out being unspecialized— which means they can grow to meet a variety of needs for the plant, depending on what’s required. For example, a newly divided cell at the end of a petiole might become a leaf cell, one of the building blocks of photosynthesis.

    There are many types of cells, which we can organize into groups of tissues. To make things simple, we can divide cells into three primary groups: ground, vascular, and dermal tissues.

    Most of the cells of a plant are ground cells, called parenchyma. These are the functional parts of an organism. For example, leaf cells are made up primarily of parenchymal ground cells, with the exception of the stomata and the veins.

    The next set of tissues are the cells systems responsible for transportation of nutrients and water within the plant— vascular tissue. Xylem carries water and minerals up from the roots to the rest of the plant, while phloem carries the products of photosynthesis from the leaves to anywhere else they’re needed. Sugars produced in the leaves, for example, are required for energy in other parts of the plant. Vascular tissue is what makes it all work.

    Finally, the external outer layer of plant cells— the dermal tissue. This is the protective layer, which guards against pests, parasites, high heat, and cold.

    The dermal tissue includes cell wall, waxy outer layers, and also the stomata, the locking door mechanisms of the plant, which allow it to breathe in and out, absorbing CO2 and evaporating water.

    The marijuana root system

    The marijuana root system
    The marijuana root system – Image powered by Royalqueenseeds.com

    What humans imagine when they think of plants is usually just the tip of the iceberg. With a wild cannabis specimen, for example, only half of it is visible.

    Underground, a root system extends tendrils out beneath the visible stem, sometimes reaching the size of the rest of the plant itself. These extensive root systems are what allow plants to survive droughts and dry times, as well as reach out more widely for nutrients in the soil.

    The good news— a cultivated, domestic plant can survive with a denser, smaller root system. A cannabis plant will thrive in a pot or hydroponics system, as long as the grower is careful to provide it with all the water, light, and nutrients it requires.

    Roots absorb water and nutrients, keep the plant safe in the soil, and store extra nutrients. A healthy root tip is white and covered with tiny hairs. If the tips of your roots are brown, it’s probably an indication of an unhealthy plant. If this is the case, you might want to double-check the soil levels, or see if you can find any symptoms of root disease.

    Evaporation is the foundation for water and nutrient uptake in a plant. Extra water is evaporated through the stomae in the leaves while, below the ground, water presses up against the roots and creates pressure.

    The combination of root pressure below and evaporation above create a suction system in the plant that helps promote the flow of nutrients and water from the bottom to the top. Download my free marijuana grow guide for more information about growing marijuana at this link.

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      Stems: the nutrition highway

      Stems the nutrition highway – Image powered by Bigbudsmag.com

      The stem is the primary structural axis of a plant. This is the highway over which nutrients and water are transported throughout the plant, as well as what keeps it standing straight and reaching for the sun.

      As discussed earlier, leaves meet the stem at the node, whereas the rest of the stem (between nodes) is known as the internode. The height of a given plant is determined by the number and length of its internodes. Remember, once a plant begins to flower, it produces buds, and the number of internodes will not change.

      Like the leaf, the stem contains xylem and phloem, which run all the way down to the root. Xylem transport water and minerals from the grasping roots all the way up to the newest leaves, bringing it all up from the soil. Originating in the leaves, the phloem transports sugar and energy all over the rest of the plant.

      Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link for tips on how to grow your own marijuana

      A solid stem is essential for any plant, but especially for cannabis. A thick stem both maximizes the efficiency of energy transportation and also ensures that the plant is sturdy enough bear a harvest of dense buds without falling over.

      One thing a grower can do to help create a sturdy  stem has to do with air flow— make sure a fan is always blowing on the plant (not too hard, especially when it’s a young plant).  This will cause the plant to thicken its stem in response to the stimuli as it grows.

      The function of leaves

      The function of marijuana leaves
      The function of marijuana leave – Image powered by Liwts.orgs

      The most important part of every plant is the leaf, where photosynthesis occurs, and therefore the source of food. Photosynthesis is conducted by chloroplast cells, which gather sunlight and store it as ATP.

      A plant leaf is comprised of a petiole (stalk), mesophyll and veins. Mesophyll is the meat of the leaf, where the cells with chlorophyll capture sunlight and convert it with CO2 into energy. Veins extend from the very tips of leaves all the way down to the roots, comprised of xylem and phloem.

      The xylem transports water and phloem transports sugar (energy). Stomata are located on the underside of the leaf. These function as the locks to the interior of the plant, opening and closing at different times to allow for the transmission of CO2, oxygen and water vapor.

      From a practical standpoint, leaves do better in sunlight. They will grow to be healthier, more robust, and more full of chlorophyll. More chlorophyll means more sugar, which means more energy, which means a better plant. Leaves in shade have a much lower threshold for sugar production than leaves in sunlight.

      Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link for tips on how to grow your own marijuana

      Nodes are the intersection points of leaf bundles.One way to help ascertain the health of a plant is to examine the nodes. The first node of a plant always sprouts single-fingered leaves, the next three-fingered leaves, the next five-fingered leaves and so on.

      The better the plant’s environment, the more fingers the leaves will have, and the healthier the plant will be. Keep this in mind while you are pruning. Pruning can be advantageous, but it is important to know what you are pruning and why.

      Because of the way leaves intake carbon dioxide and output oxygen, it’s important to note that the air directly surrounding your leaves might have a different temperature or humidity than the rest of the air in your greenhouse or growing environment. In order to help maintain a more accurate control over the environment, be sure to install fans to maintain proper air flow.

      Marijuana plant flowers

      Marijuana plant flowers
      Marijuana plant flowers – Image powered by Hytiva.com

      Like other members of the plant kingdom, it is the flowers of the Cannabis plant that serve as reproductive organs. Cannabis usually has imperfect flowers, meaning that plants are separated into male and female. Male flowers contain stamen, which are composed of a thin tube-like filament capped by a pollen covered anther. Female flowers have pistils, with a pillar-like stalk (called a style) ending in a stigma. The stigma is usually sticky or feathered so that it can catch grains of pollen.

      Cannabis plants reproduce by getting pollen from the stamen of a male plant to the pistil of a female. In plants, this style of reproduction is known as pollination. In addition to being vital for reproduction, it is the cannabis flower that contains THC and CBD, the two primary active ingredients, and the reason the plant is smoked.

      In order to maintain high levels of these active ingredients, and thus maintain a high-quality product, it is important not to let the female flowers be fertilized. After fertilization, a female plant begins to put resources into the production of seeds. Unfertilized, a plant will devote resources to producing more calyxes, teardrop nodules that typically contain high concentrations of trichomes. Those are the glands that secrete THC and other cannabinoids.

      If you want to start growing, download my free marijuana grow bible and order some marijuana seeds. All top quality marijuana seeds are available in my marijuana seed shop. We ship seeds all over the US. For any grow related question please visit the marijuana support page.


      Avatar for Robert Bergman

      Robert Bergman

      Robert Bergman is an Amsterdam-based marijuana grow expert who has years of experience from small grows to massive operations. His passion for growing lead him to develop his own Gold Leaf strain. Now, Robert is dedicated to sharing his knowledge with the world.... [Read full bio]


      marijuana grow bible
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      • Avoid Common Grow Mistakes

        57 comments on “What is a Marijuana Plant”

        1. Hey Robert,
          Having trouble reaching customer service on a issue. Could you ask them to contact me. You have my email address.
          Victoria Lail

        2. […] For the planting method, choose a few seeds and put them in half an inch of dirt inside of a small cup. Soak them in warm water. Leave the cup in a room temperature environment for approximately one week, and see if any seedlings have appeared. If they have, these seeds will most likely be successful in producing healthy marijuana plants. […]

        3. We are here to help, but again, I strongly advise you to post your quesions in the grow forum.

          All the leaves you asked about are the same thing. Sucker, Sugar, Water, Fan leaves; All the same. Perhaps someone is calling trim leaves with heavy trichomes “sugar” leaves. I don’t know.

          Fans leaves are the heart and lungs of your plant; They help to draw fluids to the flowers, the bre4athe for the plant, and provide shade. Contrary to some opinions; It does not help the plant in any way to remove these leaves.

        4. I see post about water leaf, sugar leaf, fan leaf ect. Could you please explain what each specific function is for those leaves and where they are located. Thanks.

        5. Hi, just found you. Great info. I enjoy your articles. Its been 8 years since my last grow, I’m just a” homer”. Working on SOG with 16 girls. Wow! What a change from early 00’s with the avalibilty of information. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and information. Steph

        6. Best thing for all you active posters is to join the forum and be recognized. You will get faster support there also. 🙂

        7. Sugar water is useless, unless you want every bug and pest on the planet on your plants.

          Growing in S. Africa is up to you. I have no idea what the climate is like in the Winter there. Can farmers grow Peppers, tomato’s, etc?

        8. You never remove fan leaves unless they are damaged past the point of recovery. If you remove all your fan leaves, then the plant Does Not!; concentrate on flowers; It attempts to heal itself, taking away from flower production.

        9. Does it help in any way to water your plants with sugary water? Also, in the Limpopo province in south Africa there is always a considerable amount of sun shine almost everyday in winter , now my question is is it safe to grow now in winter or should I wait a bit. Pliz help.

        10. Great post. Appreciate your words about marijuana plant. Brandsy a marijuana marketing agency to promote your product effectively in targeted market.

        11. I have a lot of South African sativa seeds,mainly the swazi variety i would like to swop seeds,can you let me know if anybody is interested thank you

        12. First off let me say that I was very skeptical about ordering beans online; But after downloading the Grow Bible and reading some of the other reviews I jumped right in & Am I glad I did! I placed my order on 1/28 & on 2/1 I received my order which was so perfectly masqueraded. Great Job & will def be doing future business. I will update post once my new ladies are up an going…Thanks again Robert

        13. Indoor growing/lighting….I am considering a 12″ by 12″ led panel with red, white, blue & orange lights . 4 different wave length to cover the various stages of growth. My question is, have you had any experience with this as this is my first attempt at growing anything in a 4by4 foot tent? Thank you in advance, I’ve waited 40 + years for this info to be free to the public.

        14. I have a few questions about lighting I have 1000 50 watts of CFLs and my buds are not growing bigger I am using the marijuana booster as directed I’m in my third week of flowering any suggestions

        15. Hello to all my fellow growers out there.
          First want to say that I very much enjoy this site. Great guides to growing some beautiful ladies. My question was about “Gold Leaf***”. Is there anymore information about her. SOG? SCROG? heat/cold tolerance? Does she like to be topped? Supercropping? When does she turn gold? How is her stretch? Or perhaps the best would be, WWRD? (what would Robert do?)

        16. Ref trimming ,, yeah i can go for that ,,, is there any main reason that the disease or nutrient imbalance always goes to shading (fan) leaves first is it becauese they are the main work house of the plants ??

        17. Hi Robert, your web site and the help you offer is amazing , I now really enjoy the growing process, nearly as much as the end product . You will be highly recommended .

        18. Hi rob just got a few questions for you. I want to purchase some white widow and super skunk from you but how long will it take to send to Australia? Also do you have any coupons you can offer to secure my business?

        19. I am in week 4.5 of flower. Got to learn to lay off the water.Just received 20og and 10ss total turnaround 18 days sent cash.I love this guy Thanks.

        20. Hi Robert,
          I grew my first plants last year, eight total. I reviewed many sources for information and in the end chose to follow both you and Nebula Haze. You both offer clear, logical instructions and insight into the growth and harvest of quality plants. I have purchased seeds twice from you and I am a very happy customer. I grew outside in the wonderful California sun and harvested over 28 oz. of quality buds. Thanks for your dedication to this topic. I look forward to continuing my education and expertise with your help.

        21. Thanks for all your positive reactions! Growing marijuana still is one of the best things to do! Using your hands, busy with nature while creating a beautiful product 🙂

          @Kyltyk @Nadine
          The opinions on trimming plants are still divided. Personally I think you should never trim large fan leaves because they produce more sugars than they use. If the leaf is useless, the plant will disregard it itself. For a better distribution of sugars (and a higher yield) you can trim the young, new foliage and stems. To get more insight on the sugar distribution I wrote this article: Distribution Of Sugars Within A Marijuana Plant



        22. Mr.Bergman..
          i have been a lover of motherearth sense I was a young teenager..I have grown Outdoors for over 30 years…..until I found your grow guild .i have never grown in doors.I studied your guild for indoors… on just some seeds that I have been Givin from close friends..I have a ( in door soil grow ) ..using your advice..I can’t waite for delivery of my white widow (fem). Seeds…i can’t garintie that when they arive in my mailbox .I can make these baby’s blow up like they should turn out…thanks for your help..and most of all.. your belife in the mother nature that have been gave to us all..keep up the great work . Mr. Bergman..p.ss. this buds for you!!:;;

        23. Along the lines of pruning while growing, how do you know which leaves to prune and which to leave. I would hate to remove the wrong thing and kill my plants. I have three healthy plant at about 30 inches in height. Very healthy looking. I have pruned some new growth at the top to encourage splitting growth, but I have not pruned anything else because I do not really know what I am doing lol this is my first grow attempt. Any info about pruning while growing would be appreciated. Oh, and great article, lots of useful info, thanks!

        24. Thanks for posting all of your good advice. You have definitely helped readjust my self taught ways, and thanks for the high quality products.

        25. I have been given conflicting advice regarding the shading leaves on plants ,, some say when the plant begins to bud, produce the flowers, that its is best to remove these larger shading leaves a) to let mor light get to the plant and B) to allow more focus from the plant on the flowers ,, others say NO dont take these off as they are the main energy providers for the bud production,,, what would be your take on it Robert ??

        26. Funny how Nebula was quick to respond. Lol I get a great deal of useful information from you AND the great genetics to make it all happen. I also get good info from Serius and Nebula but all they can do is refer u to Nirvana or some other seed bank. Thanks for all of you and your teams great work! Happy growin!

        27. since discovering your website I’ve gained valuable info on growing my own buds. and will continue to read your comments and articles. Thanks…..

        28. Hi Brad,

          If the roots of your marijuana plant are not healthy, you usually see some discoloring of the leaves. Similar to underwatering sings. I will write an article about testing the pH and EC (ppm/TDS) of your soil and post the link here. Here’s an article about water and nutrient uptake


        29. Your site was one of the first i ever found and i have been reading it ever since, all because you explain things well. Alotof people who grow weed could do with reading this article and getting a basic understanding of the science involved in plant grow. It helps make you a better grower.

        30. what i would like to know is how do you check to see if your roots are healthy if your growing in soil and how do you know if yor plant is getting the right amount of nutrients and water

        31. Nice info!

          A small correction for the biology enthusiasts – a cannabis plant doesn’t actually have a “trunk” since it’s not a tree, they have a long main stem with strong apical dominance.

          Also, one last thing – more “fingers” on the leaves doesn’t necessarily mean one plant is stronger than the other – it has a lot to do with genetics, too. Some strains will never grow 13-finger leaves no matter what conditions they’re growing in, but that doesn’t mean they’re less healthy 🙂

          Great reference and article – thanks for sharing!