Why Are My Trichomes Not Turning Amber?

by Morgan

Last update:

January 19, 2023

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Are you worried about your trichomes not turning amber in color? Many growers use trichomes’ color changes to determine when the optimum time for harvesting is. If trichomes don’t turn amber, it can create feelings of unease and concern that something may have gone wrong.

Many people use trichome coloration to determine when to harvest which is somewhat of a myth when determining the proper time to harvest. Just glancing at your plants during the flowering stage is not enough to determine if it’s time to harvest plants.

Rather…

You’ll be able to tell when it’s time to harvest your crop by checking the resin glands through a jeweler’s loupe or magnifying lens.

amber trichomes uner magnifying glass
Spotting Trichomes Under Magnifying Glass

Your likelihood of harvesting on time improves when the buds contain high levels of Delta 9 THC. Varying colors of trichomes can be difficult to identify with the naked eye, especially for Sativa-dominant strains that don’t produce large numbers of trichomes.

If you have never used a jeweler’s loupe to view your precious buds up close, you are missing out. Not only can it tell you the proper time to harvest, but there is something very special when inspecting all the pistils shooting off your flowering plants.

Now that you have a magnifying glass, let’s take a deep dive into why your trichomes may not be turning from a milky white color to amber.

Reasons For Trichomes Not Turning Amber in Color 

ready amber trichomes

Did you know that trichomes not turning amber is actually quite common?

There are a couple of reasons trichomes may not turn amber. First, some strains simply won’t have 50% of the trichomes turning amber before the plant begins to mature. They might show only a few amber trichomes, often less than 30%.

If you live somewhere with cooler temperatures, prolonged harvesting time may be necessary to allow for the proper development and maturity of Amber Trichomes.

Typically it is always better to harvest on time, rather than extend the flowering time to see if trichomes become more amber by nature. This often leads to the degradation of the THC quality and is not recommended.

Although growers may want to wait for more trichomes to turn amber, it’s not practical to wait until 50% of them have done so.

If you see that 20% of the trichomes have turned amber, it’s time to harvest. This will avoid spoiling the already perfect trichomes on the plant and further degrade its quality.

When the trichomes on your buds turn from milky white to amber, it’s a sign that they’re ready to be cut.

If you wait too long, the THC will begin to break down, and your buds will lose their potency.

When your buds achieve a milky white hue, it is time to cut, dry and trim. The white milky trichomes indicate that THC levels are at their most potent levels. Waiting longer for that amber hue is a mistake. Sure they may look even prettier, speckled with amber and white, but they won’t get you as high.

Sure, if you plan on posting these on Instagram go for full-on amber, but if you want strong, potent buds, chop them down before it’s too late.

Ideal Trichome Development – Spotting the signs

cloudy vs amber trichomes

At the start of the typical trichome development path, clear trichomes are formed. Afterward, they ripen to a milky white before transitioning to amber. The majority of people harvest when the trichomes are 70% milky white, 20% amber, and 10% clear. This typically gives us our highest THC levels in cannabis growing.

With everything, including nature, there will always be outliers to the equation of determining why trichomes are not changing color as they should. A simple magnifying glass can ease your mind and will help to clue you in.

No matter what, you will always have a mixture of trichomes in various stages of development. Spotting the right ‘”mix” will tell you when you should harvest your entire plant.

Trichomes Not Turning Amber Before Harvest

Not just a few trichomes but all trichomes not turning amber before harvest can be unsettling.

If your trichomes never turn amber, it might be for one of the following reasons.

Strains  

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Trichomes are more bountiful on Indica strains than Sativa because they have a leaf surface that is more extensive. Consequently, Indicas are better for producing hashish.

Indica strains are easier to monitor for trichome development than Sativa strains because there are significantly more trichomes. For example, if only 20% of the amber-colored trichomes have turned color, it’ll be much simpler to detect against the large backdrop of other green trichomes.

However, with Sativa strains and hybrids leaning more towards Sativa genetics, there are fewer bulbous gems scattered about. This lack of density makes change harder to notice–even if you’re looking for it.

So though you may be able to spot changes as they occur on an individual level; viewing the overall landscape may give a false sense that nothing has transpired… when in reality–a lot has changed.

Also, be aware of any breeder’s notes when you purchase different cannabis seed strains. Some strains will not produce amber trichomes no matter what you do. Merely they will discolor into an amber-ish color, but this is not the correct amber shade we want.

Nutrient Schedule

grow tent for indoor gardening

Flowering is a vital growth stage for the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant produces buds and expends large amounts of energy during flowering. To ensure that the plant has enough food, you should continue to feed it until you flush.

If you stop feeding the plant too early, it may not have enough energy to produce the amber trichomes at harvest. If you think your plant may be hungry, consider giving it a light feeding of compost tea or other organic nutrients.

If you flush too early, the lack of nutrients will prevent proper trichome development. Sativas typically take a long time to flower, often exceeding the stated flowering time from the breeder. If you’re not careful, you can starve your plant without even realizing it.

Plant Genetics

Poorly-bred seeds might produce plants with genetics that inhibit trichome production. Amber trichomes are a desired trait in many cannabis strains, so most breeders have focused on ensuring that their plants produce them.

This includes purchasing seeds from reputable seed banks or cloning already genetic masterpieces.

If you’re unsure about the quality of your seeds, try doing a germination test. This will help you determine if the problem is with your plant or your seeds.

Environmental Conditions

Cannabis plants love a lot of light, but they also need a dark period to rest. During the dark period, the plant produces resins and trichomes. If your plant does not get enough darkness, it might not produce as many trichomes.

To ensure that your plant gets the right amount of darkness, make sure to give it 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness every day. flowering cannabis plants need 14-18 hours of light per day and 6-8 hours of darkness.

You should also make sure that your plant is not under too much stress. Common cannabis stresses include heat stress, light stress, and nutrient deficiencies. If your plant is stressed, it might not produce as many trichomes.

To avoid stressing your plant, make sure to keep an eye on the temperature and humidity in your grow room. Nighttime temperatures should be set at 55-65, while daytime should remain at 80. The reason for this is that it will quicken the rate of photosynthesis; by activating microbes breaking down food for the plant’s roots.

Low temperatures denature these microbes, which then causes nutrient lockout in the root zone.

You should also make sure that your plant is getting the right nutrients during phases that require lots of energy, like flowering. You can spot signs of nutrient problems when you start to see yellow leaves or fan leaves browning on their tips.

When do trichomes start to turn amber?

cannabis strain with pink and purple

The time required for the transformation from milky white to amber will differ based on the type of strain. Generally, most strains will take two weeks after turning milky to turn amber, while others may need more time. Some won’t turn amber at all and instead will wait until displaying Clear signs of senescence-like such as shriveling and shrinking.

You can start checking for amber trichomes around the 8-9 week mark, but it’s best to wait until at least week 10.

Do the trichomes on Sativa plants turn amber when they mature?

Although most Sativa strains turn amber while ripening, some might take too long to show this color change.

If THC is degraded by waiting too long, then it’s better to stay on the recommended harvesting schedule.

How can I tell if my plant is ready to harvest?

The best way to determine if your plant is ready for harvest is to inspect the trichomes. You can do this by using a handheld microscope or a jeweler’s loupe.

When the trichomes are milky white, the plant is not ready for harvest. You should wait until at least 20% of the trichomes have turned amber, depending on your strain selection.

Should I remove all fan leaves before flowering?

Yes. Thinning your foliage can definitely help improve the quality of your plants, but you need to do it correctly.

To thin properly, you should remove 20-40% of the mid to upper leaves every 5-7 days. This will open up light and produce better air exchange to the lower parts of the plant.

Is there a difference in the color of trichomes before and after harvest?

After harvesting your flowers, trichomes don’t continue to ripen like the rest of the bud; however, they will change colors as they degrade.

Trichomes start to degrade as soon as the plant is cut down, and they will turn from amber to brown or red over time. The rate of degradation will depend on how the bud is stored.

For example, if you store your bud in a humid environment, the trichomes will degrade faster than if you store it in a dry environment.

What is the difference between trichome color and maturity?

The color of the trichomes is a good indicator of maturity, but it’s not the only factor. For example, some strains will turn amber while ripening, but others might take too long to show this color change. If THC is degraded by waiting too long, then it’s better to harvest on the earlier side.

Additionally, the color of the trichomes doesn’t necessarily indicate the THC content. For example, some strains with high THC levels might have trichomes that are more clear than amber.

You will also find that lower buds or buds that don’t get as much light, will produce less in the way of trichomes in general.

What it All Means

It’s possible that your plant is not ready for harvest if the trichomes are not turning amber. You should wait until at least 20% of the trichomes have turned amber, depending on your strain selection. Another factor to consider is whether the THC content will be degraded by waiting too long. Knowing why or when your trichomes are amber or not, will ultimately clue you in on when you should harvest your plants.

Happy Growing!

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About the author 

Morgan

I discovered the benefits of Cannabis at a young age in 2002, with years of trial and error, my knowledge grew just like my plants. As my love for cannabis unfolded I began to teach and learn, trying to gain as much information and practical growing experience.

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