Grow legal cannabis in South Africa. All that you need to know about starting your personal medical or recreational cannabis grow without a license.

Back in the day, if you were lucky, you’d get your hands on a decent grow book and follow that to the letter. Nice and eazy lemon hazy. But now there’s frankly an overwhelming amount of info available on how to produce potent weed that drips with dankness. This also can make it difficult for new growers to figure out where to begin. So let’s take a look at the essentials of how to grow legal Cannabis in South Africa.

Let’s first start with some important growing tips for success…

Do I need a license to grow legal cannabis in South Africa?

You do not need a license to grow cannabis for personal adult use in South Africa. Weed has been decriminalized for responsible personal use. Trading or selling it is however still strictly illegal and personal growing limits have not been defined yet. So cops can still be tricky. Here’s our detailed license guide.

Genetics matter!

Whether you are aiming to grow a few grams or a few kilos, it’s not worth while investing loads of time and energy into something that will be average at best due to it having mediocre genes. There are endless local and international options out there and we’ve put together a great guide of some of our favorites here.

The endless selection of options can lead some to collect more seeds than they know what to do with. Start with a couple and take it from there as it’s futile to hoard more seeds than you can practically grow.

Cannabis Seeds South Africa ad

Keep it simple

You can go full MacGyver with your grow if your heart desires. Complicated grows however have more reasons to fail. A simple clean grow is a happy grow and you will fast learn to value practicality over novelty.

Shut your mouth

There will be a point when you are brimming with pride and can’t help but show off your plants to a friend. Please resist this temptation. There are countless tales of people narc’ing growers to get themselves out of a tight spot with the law. Having your bud stolen just before harvest is also a very real possibility. Keeping your grow on the down low is essential,  so don’t become your own worst enemy by having a big mouth.

Don’t love your plants to death

A little love goes a long way, too much though will leave you with sick or dead plants. Cannabis is super easy to grow and thrives when given some care. Your passion may however get in the way of success if you are too eager with water, nutrients or fiddling. With many of the symptoms of overdoing it being similar to the symptoms of too little care, you can quickly snowball into a pattern of endlessly correcting what should be a simple and rewarding experience.

Get the right grow gear

You can keep it as simple and local as possible. Some make their own composts and DIY solutions that produce unbelievable quality weed. Most growers however prefer to simply pick their grow supplies up from the local nursery or grow store. The convenience of ready made soils, nutrients and other hydroponic supplies bring you the best of both organic and chemical gear locally. As well as every other grow accessory that your heart or pocket could desire.

We highly recommend GreenThumb Hydroponics and Grow Guru for excellent products and irie vibes.

Grow Guru Hydroponics South Africa

Cultivars for days

I’m not going to even attempt to deal with the bazillion cultivars (aka. strains) out there. What it all boils down too is that there are basically three varieties of weed that have been crossed and very selectively bred into a vast array of options.

Grow Cannabis South Africa Sativa vs Indica vs Auto

Cannabis Sativa vs Indica vs Auto

  • Sativa – Tall plants with often low to medium density bud, these are the longest growing strains (5 to 8 months) and are mostly grown outdoors. Typically favoured or being lower in THC and higher in CBD which gives them a more functional high. Swazi, Malawi Gold, Durban Poison and most Haze strains are well known Sativas.
  • Indica – Medium plants with medium to high bud density, these are short growing strains (4 to 6 months) and are favoured by indoor and outdoor growers alike. The sort of stuff that will get your properly baked due to usueally being high in THC and low in CBD. Nortern lights, Grandaddy Purple, most Kush and Afghani strains are well known Indicas.
  • Ruderalis/Autoflowering – Small to medium plants with low to high density buds, these are the shortest growing strains (3 to 5 months) and are favoured mostly by indoor growers. Made by cross breeding the auto-flowering properties of northern European low THC cannabis into just about every other Indica and Sativa out there, these strains can be tricky to grow given their low tolerance to stress.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to look at the simple steps of growing dank buds.

How to grow legal cannabis in South Africa

Stages of growth

Cannabis is an annual plant that consists of female, male and occasionally hermaphrodite plants. It is the ripe flowers/buds of the female plant that are sought for recreational and medicinal use. Males and hermaphrodites are both undesirable as they easily pollinate female plants. Leading to shitty pip riddled weed. With little practical use other than for making seeds or hemp. First prize is to grow large seedless buds that are free of pests of fungi. This can be easily accomplished by meeting the plants changing needs during it’s three primary stages of growth… seedling, vegetative and flowering.


This will be the first couple of weeks of your plant’s life. Whether it is germinated from a seed or is a small clone (cutting from a female plant) young plants are very sensitive to elements such as heat, humidity, nutrients and watering. Clones prefer a very humid low light start until root growth is established, while seedlings love to be in full light as early as possible. They will thrive in temperatures between 20c to 30c, on a diet of plain water and should be receiving more than 12 hours of light a day.

The initial growing medium or soil should not contain high nutrient levels, or be excessively moist. Too much of either will stunt or kill plants. Once your clone or seedling has grown its third set of leaves, you can begin adding very light doses of nitrogen based liquid nutrients once a week.

Grow Cannabis South Africa Seedling Growth

Cannabis Seedling Growth


After a couple of weeks your plant will begin to explode with growth. It will easily double or triple in size each month of this stage, growing loads of leaves and becoming quite hungry for nitrogen to ensure good green growth. Being transplanted into a nutrient rich big pot or good spot in the ground will go a long way to keeping things on track. Supplements such as dolomite lime, bone meal, volcanic dust, mycorizzhae, kelp, guano, worm casting, black strap molasses, humics/fulvics and amino acids are worthwhile investments to ensure a bumper harvest as they provide a buffet of elements that bolster plant growth and resilience. You can expect a distinctly dank odor to start permeating from the plant.

I highly recommend having a bottle of high quality nitrogen orientated liquid nutrients on hand to keep up with the plants growing appetite. Weekly feeding may be necessary, but always start with a light dose and increase gradually from there. You can usually follow the nutrient brands feeding guide for tomatoes and other fruiting or flowering annual plants. A good pest control solution will also be essential to deter rodents, red-spider mites, white flies, aphids and other common garden pests.

Auto-flowering plants should be given particular care during this stage as they are very sensitive to re-potting and high nutrient levels.

Grow Cannabis South Africa Vegetative Growth

Cannabis Vegetative Growth


This is the most exciting growth stage. By now plants will have started to show their sex. Females will develop thin white pistils in green calyxes, while males will grow clusters of pollen sacks. Hermaphrodites will have both. These male or hermie plants should be removed as soon as identified. Their pollen will fuck up your crop as pollinated female plants will put all of their effort into growing seeds. Seedless female flowers are prized due to non-pollinated plants. Putting all of their effort into growing thick buds instead of fat pips.

Grow Cannabis South Africa Male Female Hermaphrodite

Cannabis Male Female Hermaphrodite

The flowering stage will begin when plants receive 12 hours of less of light per day. This photo-period dependency is what triggers the breeding cycle, creating branches packed with flowers. This occurs during late summer and autumn as the days shorten and nights lengthen. Auto-flowering strains will flower under any light conditions and ignore the 12 hour rule. Flowering will last 2 to 4 months depending on the strain and you will need to gradually move to a phosphorous and potassium based liquid nutrient as the plant moves its focus away from growing leaves to growing flowers. Again, start light and take it from there.

Care should be taken to avoid getting the buds wet. Excessive humidity can easily encourage fungal infections that will make the buds rot to dust or unhealthy for consumption. This can make treating for late stage pests a real issue as most treatments are liquid based. Being proactive rather than reactive can make all the difference. Herbicides and pesticides should be checked to ensure that they do not leave unwanted residuals on the flowers.

Grow Cannabis South Africa Flowering

Cannabis Flowering


Many people make the mistake of harvesting the plants once the hair like pistils have mostly withered and gone red. This natural part of the plant cycle is a shoddy rule of thumb to judge a bud’s ripeness by. Peak THC and CDB levels are reached when the trichomes go from being clear to a mostly  milky hue. These are the sugar like sticky bits that form on the flowers and contain all the oomph that users seek. This window period is about a week long and will pass when the trichomes start becoming  amber in colour. Large plants may ripen on the upper buds first, with lower buds ripening a couple of days of weeks later. It may be necessary to harvest such plants in two or three stages.

A popular option is to flush your plants before harvest. This is the practice of feeding them with only plain water during the last week or two before harvest. Reducing any potential nutrient build up in the plant that may effect its taste due to heavy feeding.

Grow Cannabis South Africa Trichomes

Cannabis Trichomes

Done learning how to grow Legal Cannabis in South Africa, what’s next?

By sticking to the basics you will be well on your way to growing some dank bud. Please sign up to our newsletter or pop by regularly. As we will be doing more info blogs.

You can also catch us weekly on the The Hotbox Show, where we talk lank dank about growing and other local cannaculture vibes.