Frosty Buds

Understanding Frosty Buds: What Does it Tell You?

The short answer to this frost question is simple. Frosty buds are brought about by trichomes. But, what are trichomes? Trichomes refer to fine appendages or outgrowths on plants, like cannabis plants. Understanding frosty buds are crucial in understanding the potency of weed plants, indicating their readiness for harvesting.

Good-to-know Facts About Trichomes And Frosty Buds

It’s good to know the important facts about trichomes which give your cannabis buds frosty buds, including the following:

  • The word “trichomes” was derived from “trichoma”, which is a Greek word, meaning “growth of hair.” Trichomes are fine hair-like growths found in weed plants that appear like small mushrooms. They are the ones that give your buds a frosty or sparkling look.
  • Trichomes produce hundreds of cannabis compounds, called cannabinoids that are responsible for creating the frosty buds in your cannabis. Also, they produce flavonoids and terpenes, making up the entourage effect of effectiveness, potency, and uniqueness of marijuana strains.
  • Trichomes turn into frosty buds as they mature, which are cannabis plants’ defense system when they are growing in the wild. When the female weed plants begin to flower in the wild, they become vulnerable to insects and animals. So, trichomes serve as cannabis plants’ deterrent from insects and animals. Trichomes make the taste of the cannabis plant bitter. Also, the aroma they emit is too strong for them.

Four Stages of Trichome Development

There are four stages of trichome development until they become frosty buds which reflects when the cannabis plants are ready to harvest.

1. Clear And Thin: Not Ready to Harvest

When trichomes appear clear and thin, chances are your cannabis buds will not be potent because tetrahydrocannabinol or THC levels (psychoactive cannabis compound) will be lower. In addition, expect lower yields because weed buds have a lot of bulk in the last two to three weeks.

When the trichome “heads” are still small, it is another sign that the marijuana plant is not ready for harvesting. As the trichome heads are filled with “good stuff”, that’s the time when they will begin looking more fat. They will be heavy and eventually fall over.

2. Turn Milky White: Beginning of Harvest Window

When clear trichomes start to turn milky white, and when the mushroom “heads” are getting fatter, the trichomes are filled with cannabinoids, giving them characteristics of being frosty. Hence, they are called frosty buds. At the start of the harvest window, about 40 to 50 percent of the bud pistils will darken and curl inwards.

During this period, the marijuana bud is at the very start of the harvest window. You should avoid early harvesting because it hurts the potency and yields. When looking closely, half the trichomes are cloudy white. If you notice that most of the trichomes are cloudy or milky white, it means that the trichomes have already reached their peak THC levels, producing the maximum psychoactive effects.

3. Amber or Yellow: End of Harvest Window

When the white trichomes turn amber or yellow, it is a sign that THC’s psychoactive effects will be lessened. The cannabis buds at this point produce more of a “relaxation” effect or body-high. At the end of the harvesting window, almost all pistils darken and curl in.

When the trichomes appear cloudy with some yellowish hue or amber, you will achieve a great mix of body and mental effects. When 20 to 30 percent of the trichomes have turned yellowish or amber, it marks the end of the harvest window. It means that the bud is now getting close to harvesting, still producing body and mental effects.

4. Mostly Amber: Buds Already Passed Their Peak

When trichomes turn mostly amber and they are not harvested, the marijuana buds will start to lose potency. Cannabis buds harvested with more than 20 percent amber will make the user feel sleepy.

How to Observe Trichomes on Cannabis Buds

You can get a good observation at the trichomes on cannabis buds, such as using a small magnifier or jeweler’s loupe, taking a zoom-in picture, using a camera phone attachment, and using a digital microscope. You want to ensure you are harvesting once you’re sure about the frosty buds state of your cannabis plants.

1. Small Magnifier or Jeweler’s Loupe

A small magnifier or jeweler’s loupe makes trichomes look bigger. However, the main problem using magnifiers or loupes is that they do not magnify things big enough. That’s why some growers prefer other methods.

2. Take a Picture and Zoom In

Taking a clear picture of cannabis buds with a smartphone camera or DSLR camera can help you observe trichomes closely. You can zoom in the photos to see the trichomes clearly to identify their appearance and color.

Take a look at these tips when taking trichome photos using a camera:

  • When taking photos of the buds, make sure to hold the smartphone or DSLR camera steady. You can rest the camera on something to avoid movement. Minimal motion can make trichomes much less clear in photos.
  • Make sure to take the image in bright natural light to determine the real trichome color.
  • Try to take photos with and without a flash, depending on the environment
  • It’s a good idea to take pictures from different angles.
  • Use the Optical Zoom of your camera to zoom in the image before taking the picture.

3. Camera Phone Attachment

There are phones with a small lens attachment in front of the camera. This feature is used in magnifying the image to take closer pictures.

4. Digital Microscope

Using a digital microscope is the easiest way to observe the trichomes that make frosty buds or sparkling buds, wherein they zoom in close and allow taking a video to really look at the appearance and color of the trichomes. Nice pictures of trichomes or videos are taken using a digital microscope.

Tips to Increase Number of Trichomes

Because trichomes make cannabis buds potent, most cultivators are interested in ensuring their marijuana plants produce many trichomes.

Here are some tips to increase the number of trichomes in cannabis plants:

  • Use strong grow lights, such as HPS bulbs to make your cannabis plants produce more trichomes for frost buds as compared if the marijuana buds were under weaker lights.
  • You can alter the growth environment of your cannabis plants for the last two to three weeks before harvesting by keeping humidity below 30% RH and a temperature between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Stress your marijuana plants, such as super cropping, help produce frosty buds.


Now, you have increased knowledge about frosty buds. The appearance of trichomes tells if the cannabis buds are ready to harvest. Clear trichomes are not ready for harvesting. If your cannabis buds have mostly milky or white trichomes, it means that they have high THC levels and are ready for harvest. On the other hand, if trichomes are mostly amber or yellowish, it means that they already passed the harvesting window and tend to have reduced potency.

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