So, you’ve decided to start the exciting journey of growing your own cannabis and are wondering what your best options are for cannabis seeds. The options of cannabis seeds seem endless, with more choices then ever to choose from. As you search through the pages of online seed catalogs you have most likely seen companies offering different types of strains that are classified as autoflowering seeds and now you find yourself at Haute Health asking what are autoflowering seeds?
I mean why wouldn’t you take interest, autoflowering has come along way, offering a variety of strains in CBD, high in THC and often a mixture of both, they are also offering various autoflowering strains with extremely diverse and appealing terpene profiles. As autoflowering becomes increasingly popular it’s important to understand what you get from growing cannabis with autoflowering seeds and if best suits your specific growing needs. Here we’ll look at the upside and downside of autoflowering weed and if it’s something you should consider for your next grow adventure.
What is Autoflowering Cannabis
It’s all in the name when trying to figure out what makes autoflowering different then other forms of planting cannabis. Quite simply, when growing an autoflower strain, the flower automatically grows on it’s own with far less assistance then other planting methods. Traditional grow cycles require two main phases, first is the vegetative phase and second is the flowering phase. Most of the cannabis you smoke comes from what’s known as the photoperiod cannabis, which specifically requires a shift in its light cycle to activate flowering, the final state of a grow cycle. Autoflower cannabis does not require this important process, autoflower cannabis relies solely on a certain amount of time rather then external cues such as light timing.
Autoflower strains were creased by marijuana breeders combining indica or cannabis sativa then incorporating the generics from cannabis ruderails. The difference between cannabis ruderails vs indica and sativa is that it does not rely on photoperiods to flower. Photoperiods are the changes in the ratio of light and dark periods the cannabis plant uses to flower properly, when growing cannabis ruderails strains photoperiods are no longer required. Cannabis ruderails is what allows certain strains to autoflower and when crossed with either indica or sativa it releases the autoflowering characteristics, acquiring the both of best worlds. The lack of desired light comes down to the fact that cannabis ruderalis subspecies comes from cold and harsh environments such as Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia, where the plant had to grow during a shorter grow season and in colder temperatures, making it less dependent on light and it’s various cycles to produce flower.
Autoflowering VS Photoperiod Strains
Majority of strains rely heavily on the process of photoperiod to produce the flower. Photoperiod cannabis plants do not transition into the flowering phase until they are exposed to a particular light to dark ratio, triggered often with a cycle of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark. This is why most traditional strains naturally produce flower during the end of summer into fall to mirror the changing season and shortening of days.
Autoflowering cannabis strains however start their flowering cycle at around week 4, regardless of the light and dark schedule. This is due to the fact that autoflowering plants don’t need specific light cycles, allowing growers to produce multiple plants at different stages without having to worry about their lighting needs. This makes growing autoflowering marijuana outside easier as well because you do not have to worry about the time of you year your need to plant or harvest your flower.
One of the main advantages of autoflowers is that they are ready to harvest sooner then photoperiod plants, which makes up for autoflowering plants having a lower yield. Both indoor and outdoor growers can take advantage of autoflowering strains producing at a faster rate by conducting multiple harvests and making up for smaller yields.
Typically is takes around 6-8 weeks to harvest from an autoflowering cannabis plant after they have begun to sprout. This is largely down to the fact that the vegetative state of autoflowering marijuana is much shorter then those of a photoperiod plant, usually lasting only a few weeks. A photoperiod plant averages anywhere from 3-4 months to be ready to harvest after it begins to sprout. This comes down to two factors, a photoperiods longer vegetative stage and the location it is grown in.
When it comes to the yield produced by autoflowering vs photoperiod, photoperiod commonly out produces any autoflowering strain. Autoflowering strains are naturally shorter and smaller in size and yield a maximum of around 4 ounces of cannabis flower per plant. In comparison, a properly taken care of outdoor photoperiod plant can yield upwards of 5 pounds worth of cannabis flower, however plants with that much yield need almost 24/7 attention. Although autoflowering marijuana may produce a low yield, autoflowering plants quick ability to grow allows for growers to produce multiple harvests in a grow season to make up for the lack of flower per plant.
One of the major disadvantages to autoflowering strains is the fact they cannot be cloned, this comes down autoflowers not having a long lifespan. When a photopeiod plant is used for cloning a grower takes a cutting from the plant and grows more plants from a single seed, but if you cut from an autoflowering plant with the hopes of cloning they are still on the same time clock as the original plant. This means that autoflowering clones will only live as long as the original plant, which isn’t long enough to produce it’s own yield. This leaves growers only the options of seeds when trying to grow autoflower strains.
The Pros & Cons of Autoflowering
There are a number of reasons to consider autoflowering plants and there a a number of reasons why it might not be your best growing option. First let’s start with the benefits of autoflowering before we dive into the disadvantages.
Autoflowering cannabis seeds is the speedy Gonsalves of cannabis growing, making it an appealing outlet for breeders and growers. From start to finish the growing cycle of an autoflowering plant takes around 7-10 weeks, which is the average time a photoperiod takes to flower alone. The mixing of cannabis ruderails with an indica or sativa creates both of best worlds, since ruderails don’t harvest cannabis flower on their own the mix of a sativa or indica breed helps produce the flower while the fast growing attribute of cannabis ruderails remains. For many who are impatient or have a strict time frame to grow under, autoflowering is a great option.
Another advantage growers enjoy from autoflowering cannabis seeds is that they are compact and reach heights of only 60-100 cm, allowing for growers to build up and tear down as quickly as possible. Autoflowering cannabis seeds are popular with those who grow in hidden locations such as balconies, gardens and any other public locations to keep their cultivation out of sight where it might be frowned upon.
When growing autoflower strains the lighting schedule typically falls in the range of 18 hours of light and 6 hours of no light during its entire life-cycle. This allows for sufficient lighting and both energy and cost saving abilities. This is one of the biggest if not the biggest advantage of autoflowering, there is no change in the light schedule to trigger the flowering stage, allowing for ultimate flexibility for growers. Making autoflowering more appealing to growing photoperiod strains which can take up to double the time to produce a yield.
Since all autoflowering plants contain cannabis ruderails, it makes autoflowering plants tough. Cannabis ruderails is a subspeceies that is found in the northern latitudes making it resilient to harsher climates and extreme weather. They have been known to be strong and have the ability to fend of themselves, fighting off things like infestations and yield-ruining mould. It also makes them great for novice growers as they are forgiving from beginner errors.
It is common for autoflowering strains to require less nutritious soil, this comes down to their small stature and speedy growth abilities. Autoflowers don’t require as much food compared to photoperiod plants which requires a rich and complex nutritional strategy that needs to be closely monitored throughout its life-cycle.
For all the great autoflowering has to offer, there are some drawbacks.
With its small size and short life cycle autoflowering results in smaller harvests, due to it’s smaller statue autoflowering plants cannot hold as many buds as a photoperiod plants, with yields totaling around 80-180 grams a plant. The short growing period also contributes to the low yield of flower , photoperiod plants have the time to grow big and tall for a longer duration which equals a larger grow yield.
For what you save in nutrients you lose in lighting costs. Though mant growers don’t mind this obstacle with many treating their autoflowering plants to 24 hours of permanent light cycle. This will produce a lesser yield but it produces at the fastest rate possible. Compare that to photoperiod plants which require 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark to trigger flowerings, growers needs to stick to a schedule, which will save them money and produce a larger yield.
Lower THC Levels
Many growers are put off by growing autoflowers because they produce lower THC percentages when harvested, compared to photoperiod buds which can produce upwards of 30% THC for certain strains.
No Recovery Time
Since autoflowers grow as a faster pace, they speedy grow times can result in fatal errors. Due to their brevity, it leaves little to no time for them to recover from any major errors and can result in a non yielding crop. If you cut too deep or damage a large branch of bud site, there is next to no recovery for autoflowering plants. Whereas with photoperiod plants they can doing things such as prune, train and defoliate their plant until it’s in the perfect condition. Any errors to a photoperiod plant can also be recovered with the right knowledge.
Cannot be cloned
Cloning an autoflower is not worth the time, this is due to the clones being the exact same copy of of the mother plant, with the age of the clone remaining the same even after it has been cut from the autoflower plant.