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When Does Cannabis Start to Smell?

Updated September 8, 2022

One of the many things most growers know about cannabis is that it has a unique aroma. However, it is not common knowledge when the cannabis plant begins giving off this smell. Learn when you can expect your cannabis plant to start producing the aroma, as well as other information related to the aroma of cannabis.

Terpenes Cause the Smell

Before getting into when the cannabis aroma begins, it helps to understand why it occurs in the first place. All of the aromas across all cannabis strains come from organic compounds known as terpenes. Terpenes are hydrocarbons that are also in the plants’ volatile oils. In addition to causing the smell, terpenes are also responsible for the color and taste of cannabis and other plants.

In cannabis, the terpenes combine with the cannabinoids or THC to create the specific combination of smells you are familiar with. The molecules in terpenes are volatile, so they evaporate easily, bringing the scent right to your nose.

It Doesn't Smell Strongly During the Vegetative Stage

Once your cannabis seeds germinate and the seedlings start to produce their first leaves, your plant is in the vegetative stage. This stage ends when the flowering begins, which you can time by adjusting environmental conditions. Most growers will want to wait to trigger flowering until the plant is more than 18 inches tall.

While the cannabis plant remains in the vegetative stage, you should not notice any strong smells. If there is an aroma at this point, then it is likely already in the flowering stage and you simply did not notice. If that is not the case and there is a strong smell, then it may be due to an illness or nutritional imbalance.

In other words, you should not notice any strong smells from your healthy cannabis plant during the vegetative stage.

The Scent Arrives During the Flowering Stage

The aroma that you expect from a cannabis plant will typically start appearing when it enters the flowering stage. The scent is strong and the result of natural terpenes. As such, you cannot get rid of the scent.

The Scent Remains During Curing

It should come as no surprise that the aroma of cannabis plants remains throughout the curing stage. In fact, when you cure the flowers from the plant, this will ensure the scent remains. That odor can be overwhelming, but your best option is to overcome it with a reliable ventilation system.

The Scent During Storage

The scent of cannabis plants will also remain in place during the storage phase. You can minimize the invasiveness of these odors by storing your buds properly. Opt for an airtight container that you keep away from the sun. This will not only minimize the scent but also prevent the buds from drying out.

Explanations for Variations in Fragrance

Anyone familiar with cannabis, it is no secret that various strains of cannabis each have their own unique scent. It is natural to feel more drawn to some of these strains than others and this is because of the scent created by the terpenes. That is because the odor of each strain serves a specific purpose. Some terpenes help the plant attract beneficial insects while others help keep away potential predators.

Minimizing the Scent

Because the scent associated with cannabis plants is natural, you do not want to take any major action to overcome it. Directly making changes to your cannabis plant to eliminate the smell would hurt the health of the plant. Even spraying an air freshener in the general area would be bad for your health. The chemicals in those sprays can negatively affect the health of the plant overall. It can also be harmful to the health of anyone who vapes, smokes, or otherwise consumes the plant.

Instead, the best and safest method of minimizing the aroma of your cannabis plant would be to opt for a ventilation system that uses carbon for filtering. Pay attention to the CFM or cubic feet per minute when choosing the exhaust fan and filter for your grow room.

Preserving the Scent

While some people want to minimize the aroma of cannabis to avoid annoying neighbors or announcing their activities, others prefer to preserve the scent. For these growers, the scent is a key part of the cannabis plant and the buds and flowers are simply not as enjoyable without that aroma.

Since terpenes are responsible for the aroma of cannabis, preserving the terpenes lets you preserve the aroma of your cannabis plant. The terpenes will naturally begin to degrade after you harvest the cannabis, due to their volatile nature. Luckily, you can delay this process and maximize the shelf life of your cannabis without any reduction in smell or taste. Best of all, the longer shelf life can even improve the potency of the plant.

Choose the Right Seeds and Soil

Start on the right foot with your cannabis by opting for seeds or cuttings that are known for their strong scents. From there, opt for quality soil, even if it means creating your own. Ideally, the soil will be rich in microorganisms as living soil will produce stronger aromas.

Avoid Touching the Trichomes

The process of preserving your cannabis’s aroma begins during the growing process. Start by avoiding too much contact with the plant’s trichomes. If you touch the buds and sugar leaves during the growing process, this will lead to many trichomes or terpenes degrading. You also want to minimize the agitation during the trimming process, being as gentle as possible if you must touch the plants.

Maintain Ideal Conditions

You can also maximize the desired cannabis aroma by ensuring the plant grows in the proper conditions. One of the functions of trichomes is to provide protection against excessive light exposure. This means that you can boost the production of trichomes by using UV-B lights during flowering for two or three weeks. You can also improve terpene production by lowering the temperature slightly at night by around 5 degrees Celsius.

After the buds have flowered six or seven weeks, avoid high temperatures. This includes lowering the nighttime temperature by 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. During this stage, you should also keep humidity under 50 percent relative humidity to maximize terpene production. You might be able to give terpene production an extra boost by dropping humidity below 30 percent for the final weeks. This increased production is a stress response. At the same time, it also helps prevent bud rot.

Choose Nutrients Carefully

To further encourage the cannabis plants to produce the aroma, opt for the right supplements and nutrients. You can find supplements that were specifically created to boost the aroma of cannabis buds. Alternatively, just ensure you only use nutrients with low nitrogen during flowering and never use chemical nutrients. You should also restrict the nutrient quantities overall during the final six weeks of flowering.

Flush Before Harvesting

Before you get ready to harvest your cannabis plants, you should flush the plants. This will remove extra nutrients that accumulated while growing. The result should be smoother smoke that not only tastes better but also burns evenly since the flavor and aroma cuts through better.

The ideal timing for flushing depends on how you grow your cannabis. In the case of soil-grown cannabis, flush it using pure water two weeks before you harvest it. For hydroponics, flush ten days before harvesting. If you use a soil-based growing system that is organic, you will not have to flush the plants long. Instead, give the plants pure water a week or more before harvesting. When flushing, white or light gray ash lets you know the flushing was thorough. If the ash is black, it was not good.

Opt for Wet Trimming

Growers can harvest their cannabis via wet or dry trimming. Dry trimming involves drying the plant after harvesting it, then trimming it once it is dry. Unfortunately, dry trimming results in a loss of trichomes or terpenes as they fall off easily. You will also have to touch the buds more to get a proper trim with dry trimming. Because of those challenges, you should opt for wet trimming if you want to preserve the aroma.

Dry and Cure Properly

To further preserve the desired aroma of your cannabis plant, take care when drying. Thoroughly drying the cannabis will ensure an amazing aroma and flavor while simultaneously preventing mildew and mold. Most growers will find three to seven days is long enough to thoroughly dry cannabis. Sometimes, you may need up to 14 days. You want the twigs or stems to be dry enough to snap with ease. During the drying process, the ideal temperature will be between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit with relative humidity around 50 percent.

Properly curing the cannabis will further increase the effectiveness of the cannabinoids as well as its aroma and taste. Cure the buds by placing them loosely in wide-mouth mason jars that have airtight seals. Always separate strains into different jars. Try to keep the humidity at about 60 percent and the temperature at around 21 Celsius (69.8 Fahrenheit). Gently open the jars once daily in the first two weeks. After this, you can leave the jar mostly sealed. The entire process should take around two to four weeks.

Consider a Grinder

Once you are ready to use your cannabis, you can further enhance the aroma by using a grinder. This will unlock more aroma, especially compared to if you just broke the nuggets apart using your fingers.

Reasons for the Skunky Smell

To many people, the aroma of cannabis is somewhat skunky. This is due to the presence of myrcene, a specific terpene. Myrcene is also found in hops, thyme, mangos, and bay leaf and can occur in cannabis at varying levels. Myrcene is also a relaxant and sedative with anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties.

Although common, myrcene is not the only terpene in cannabis responsible for that skunky aroma. Others include alpha-pinene, limonene, linalool, and beta-caryophyllene. Alpha-pinene promotes alertness as well as memory retention. Limonene can boost mood, relive gastrointestinal reflux and heartburn, and dissolve gallstones. Linalool can relieve anxiety and stress. Beta-caryophyllene is gastro-protective.

Everyone has their own personal preference when it comes to the aroma of cannabis. However, the scent of some strains is more popular than that of others.

While some people argue that there is a difference in smell between indica and sativa strains of cannabis, others feel that this is not the case. Many experts feel that you cannot easily tell the difference between strains unless you have recently been exposed to them.

  • Aurora Indica (from Nirvana) has a diesel smell similar to fuel or gas.
  • Auto Critical Jack (from Dinafem) smells fruity and sweet with a bit of a tropical feel.
  • Blue Cheese (from Big Buddha Seeds) smells spicy, sweet, and fruity, with cheese-like hints.
  • Kalichakra (from Mandala Seeds) combines lemon and mint.
  • Liberty Haze (from Barneys Farm) has a strong diesel smell.
  • Mataro Blue (from Kannabia Seeds) has a subtle smell with floral notes and a sweet, earthy background.
  • Northern Lights (from Sensi Seeds) smells smooth with hints of spices and pinewood.
  • Pineapple Chunk (from Barneys Farm) smells sweet, with some buds smelling incredibly similar to pineapple.
  • Pink Plant (from Eva Seeds) smells like eucalyptus and fruit trees.
  • Super Lemon Haze (from Greenhouse Seeds) has a lemony scent, with some plants combining sweet, sour, and citrus.
  • Sugar Pop (from Philosopher Seeds) is sweet and earthy.
  • Wonder Woman (from Nirvana) has a skunky smell.

Interestingly enough, even a single strain of marijuana can have numerous smells. A study published in PLOS One by Avery Gilbert and Joseph DiVerdi found that our perception of cannabis strains is affected by various scents. They found that cannabis smokers associate various smells with different strains to the point that the strains can be divided into groups. They also found that the smell influences perception of the strain, including price and potency.

Wrapping Up

Cannabis will start giving off its aroma during the flowering stage. The aroma depends on the strain to a large degree and there are ways to both minimize and maximize the odor, depending on your preference.

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