One of the most righteous things about modern cannabis genetics (other than the sky-high THC counts) is the introduction of autoflowering seeds. The first hints of the autoflowering revolution popped on the scene as early as 1995, with the first commercial autoflowering strain (Lowryder) hitting the market around 2005.
If you’re wondering why we’re making such a big deal about autoflowering seeds and the plants they produce, read on. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to become an expert in autoflowering marijuana.
Before we explain autoflowering seeds, it’s essential that you understand the other side of the cannabis coin.
Photoperiod-dependent seeds (or photoperiodic for short) are your classic indica, sativa, and hybrid strains with names even the newest of noobs is probably familiar with (like Blue Dream, Sour Diesel, and Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies).
So what sets these apart from autoflowering seeds? It’s all in the name, man. But “photoperiod-dependent” isn’t the most self-explanatory of monikers.
So let’s dissect and divide in order to better understand this multi-syllabic monstrosity.
- Photo means light
- Period is a length of time
- Dependent means determined by
Put all that together (and add in a few more words for clarity) and you come up with:
Seeds whose flowering point is determined by the length of time they’re exposed to light.
These types of seeds respond to changes in light (i.e., the length of exposure) to “know” when to produce flowers. And the flowers are the things that all your growing efforts should be aimed at.
To better explain, think about the summer and fall seasons. During the longest days of summer, an outdoor plant might get 15 hours or more of sunlight. After the summer solstice, the number of hours of daylight decreases.
This is usually the “cue” for plants to begin flowering. It’s the basic growing cycle that farmers have been dealing with for 11,000 years and that you probably learned about in kindergarten (only without the big words like photoperiod-dependent).
So now that you’re familiar with the basics of regular seeds, let’s introduce the cannabis strain that made autoflowering seeds possible.
Cannabis ruderalis is a relative of the indicas and sativas that dominate the shelves at your local dispensary. Two things set it apart from the more common species:
- Ruderalis is considered feral, which means that it grows in the wild without human care.
- Ruderalis has autoflowering attributes.
It also looks quite a bit different than your average indica and sativa, but we’re not concerned about that right now. What we are concerned about is that last distinction: autoflowering attributes.
Growers from way back noticed these autoflowering attributes and thought how great it would be to cross those plants with domesticated strains (like Chemdog, Yoda OG, and Kandy Kush) to produce a unique set of seeds with the best properties of both worlds.
That’s where autoflowering seeds come in.
As we touched on in the last section, autoflowering seeds are a combination of regular indica and sativa strains with ruderalis varieties to produce mature plants that will begin to flower all on their own.
That’s because autoflowering seeds do not depend on the ratio of light to dark hours (the photoperiod) to switch from vegetative growth to flowering growth. Instead, their switch depends on age (i.e., number of days).
What that means for the average grower is that autoflowering seeds and strains don’t require as much work. Now that doesn’t mean that you can just plant the seed and walk away. There’s still a lot that goes into nursing a cannabis plant to maturity.
But it does mean that you don’t have to worry about varying the amount of light the plants get like you do with photoperiodic seeds.
How To Distinguish Autoflowering Seeds
You can’t tell an autoflowering seed from a regular seed. Similarly, once harvested, you can’t tell a Cherry OG strain from an autoflowering variety.
So what’s a discerning cannaseur to do? Look at the name.
Autoflowering seeds and the product they produce will usually have the following words somewhere in their name:
- Ryder (after the OG of autoflowering seeds, Lowryder)
For example, you might see a Diesel Automatic, a Northern Light Auto, or even an Afghan Kush Ryder. That’s how you can determine a little bit more about where your ganja came from.
And if all else fails, just ask your budtender for details.
Benefits Of Autoflowering Seeds
1) Small Stature
Most autoflowering strains only average 19 to 23 inches in height. This makes them ideal for growing in small, compact spaces (like your windowsill or end table).
2) Short Grow Time
Autoflowering seeds grow quickly, and you can often expect yields in eight or nine weeks. That fast growth means that, with the right planning, you can get multiple harvests during a season (even if you’re growing outside).
3) No Light Exposure Change
The most obvious benefit of growing autoflowering seeds is that you don’t need to vary the light exposure to induce flowering. You can keep autoflowering seeds at a 16/8 ratio (16 hours of light/8 hours of darkness) from sprout to harvest.
Disadvantages Of Autoflowering Seeds
1) Low THC Count
Because of their ruderalis DNA, autoflowering seeds typically produce buds with less THC than their photoperiodic cousins. This isn’t always the case, but if you’re on the hunt for the strongest weed, you should probably skip the autoflowering variety.
2) Higher Cost To Grow
Autoflowering seeds need a lot of light during the flowering phase in order to maximize photosynthesis and grow good buds. That can push your electricity bill higher than it might be with photoperiodic strains.
Although the size of autoflowering seeds makes them great for growing in tight spaces, their shortness of stature means you’ll reap fewer rewards (consumable bud) in the end.
Autoflowering Seeds And New Growers
Despite the cons mentioned above, autoflowering seeds are an ideal starting point for new growers. They allow you to grow a good personal cannabis crop without some of the variables (like size and light variation) that make indicas and sativas more difficult.
If you’re new to the growing game, we suggest planting a few crops of autoflowering seeds to get a feel for how things work.
Once you’re comfortable with the process from start to finish, tackle a photoperiodic indica or sativa and see if you like varying the light exposure to induce flowering. That way, you’ll know which method better suits you.
How To Use Autoflowering Seeds
1) Plant Seeds Early And Late
You can plant autoflowering seeds early in the growing season (e.g. March) and in the later months (e.g., September). Of course, it depends on what the climate is like where you live. To skip over that variable completely, consider the next step.
2) Grow Autoflowering Seeds Indoors
Autoflowering seeds are ideal for growing indoors. If you control the heat and the light, you can basically cultivate plants all year round.
3) Don’t Feed Too Much
Because they’re so small and don’t spend much time in the vegetative stage, you don’t need to feed autoflowering seeds and plants as much as you would larger indicas and sativas.
4) Harvest Sequentially
Instead of harvesting everything on the plant at the same time, you’ll be better served to harvest autoflowering plants sequentially from the top down. Take the colas first. Then let the lower buds mature for a while before harvesting.
5) Don’t Be Afraid To Overlap
If you started one crop of autoflowering seeds, don’t be afraid to plant another batch while the first is still in the vegetative stage. If you overlap in this way, you can get multiple crops in a relatively short amount of time.
Tips For Getting The Most From Your Autoflowering Seeds
If you want to get started growing your own photo-dependent or autoflowering seeds — or you’ve already got a few crops under your belt and you just want to perfect your technique — check out our super-informative guides:
There you’ll find everything you need to know to get the most out of your cannabis plants, whether they are sativa, indica, ruderalis, or hybrids.
In the meantime, here are some specific tips for producing a hardy crop of autoflowering seeds:
- Assemble all of your supplies first.
- Learn how to make compost.
- Start with the right soil.
- Keep a grower’s journal to track your plants’ progress.
- Learn how to pH-balance your water.
- Don’t overwater.
- Don’t underwater.
- Pay close attention to the leaves for signs of distress.
- Study up on the seven key stages of the marijuana plant life cycle.
- Recognize when it’s time to trim and harvest by examining the pistil hairs.
- Don’t skip the curing phase.
- Store your bud properly.
Just remember, no two environments are exactly the same (no matter how hard we try). Don’t be afraid to experiment with your autoflowering seeds and discover what works best for you and your plants.
For more information on all things cannabis and to check out our 100-percent all-natural marijuana products, visit HonestMarijuana.com today.