Not everyone in the cannabis community loves autoflowering weed strains.
According to “auto haters,” this cannabis variant can’t compare with a standard photoperiod strain’s flavor, appearance, and potency. Also, many critics don’t like that autos tend to yield less than photoperiod plants.
While these critiques have some truth to them, that doesn’t mean autos are useless. After all, if most growers didn’t see value in auto seeds, why would big seed banks keep selling them? Plus, as more breeders enter the cannabis game, the quality of auto strains only continues to increase.
Sure, autos aren’t the right call for every cannabis cultivator. However, home-growers should at least review how to grow autoflower cannabis to see whether it’s a good fit for their goals.
How To Grow Autoflowering Cannabis — Tips & Techniques For New Auto Cultivators
Why Go Auto? — Determining Whether Autoflowers Are Right For You
Before sowing a few auto seeds, you must figure out whether autoflowers meet your expectations. While auto strains are in the cannabis family, they have pros & cons that separate them from photoperiods.
The central distinction between autos and photoperiods is that the former has no “photoperiodicity.” You don’t have to worry about switching your light schedules with an auto plant.
All autoflowering cannabis strains have traces of the Cannabis ruderalis genotype, which naturally evolved in harsh areas like Russia and Siberia. Unlike typical sativa or indica strains, Cannabis ruderalis discovered a way to flower quickly without relying on a shift in daylight hours. By contrast, photoperiod cannabis needs a 12/12 hour schedule to shift from vegetative to flowering.
This “autoflowering” feature makes autos attractive for beginner growers (or super forgetful people!). Also, people living in areas that don’t get a ton of natural sunlight have an easier time harvesting fast-growing autos outdoors.
However, autos’ faster growth rate often results in reduced yields versus photoperiod plants. You may also find that auto strains aren’t as potent or flavorful as their photoperiod relatives.
Typically, people who prioritize speed & stealth will enjoy autos over photoperiod plants. Autoflowering strains tend to grow shorter and faster than photoperiods. While autos probably won’t reward as significant a yield, they tend to be easier to grow in cramped quarters. Plus, autos remove all guesswork from switching your light schedule, which may be a good perk for beginner cultivators.
How Do People Pick The Best Auto Cannabis Strain?
Once you’ve decided you want to grow autos, you’ll face a barrage of buds to choose from. Today, there are countless autoflowering cannabis hybrids on the market, so it may take a few days of research to pick the ideal candidate for your garden.
When evaluating different auto cannabis strains, please look at each hybrid’s average height, grow time, and effects. These key factors should help you determine which auto strain best fits your grow environment. You should also see what other cultivators say about each strain’s flavors and average cannabinoid profile to see if it matches your preferences.
Unfortunately, we can’t get more specific about choosing the perfect auto seeds for your set-up. Everyone has a different set of specs for growing weed indoors. New home-growers should take their time reading average grow info on popular auto strains. Always keep your grow tent’s spatial constraints in mind when evaluating which auto will do well in your environment.
What’s The Basic Method For Growing Auto Cannabis Strains?
Besides the light schedule, all of the strategies related to photoperiods also apply to autoflowering strains. Autos may grow faster than photos, but they go through the same four stages of growth:
There may be slight adjustments for specific hybrids, but most autos do well in grow tents with an average temperature of 70° F – 75° F and relative humidity of between 45 – 50 percent. Maintaining good airflow in your tent is crucial to reducing the risk of mold. Also, gradually reduce your relative humidity as you get closer to harvest.
You can grow autoflowering hybrids outdoors or indoors. These strains also perform well in hydroponics or soil pots, so you can choose whatever works best for you.
Nutrients, pH, and watering requirements are similar for autos and photoperiod plants. Autos need more nitrogen during vegetation and more phosphorus and potassium in flowering. The pH in your soil should always stay in the 6 – 6.5 range, while people using hydroponics units should shoot for a pH of 5.5 – 6.5. As for watering, new cultivators should always give less than they think is necessary as it’s far more likely you’ll overwater your girls.
In terms of lighting, autoflowers will “make it” with a 12/12 lighting schedule, but most cultivators suggest keeping your lights on for at least 18 hours per day. More light exposure typically results in extra growth and a higher yield. While 24 hours of light may be excessive, many cultivators express the best success with 18/6 or 20/4 light schedules.
Please read this previous blog post to learn more about choosing a light schedule for autoflowering cannabis.
Special requirements for different autoflowering cannabis hybrids may exist, but the above principles apply to most cases. Please double-check advice on your chosen cannabis autoflower to see if you need to make minor tweaks to your temperature, nutrient & watering patterns, or lighting schedule.
When Should I Expect To Harvest Autoflowering Strains?
Typically, an autoflower will reach maturity quicker than a photoperiod plant. Although every auto strain has a unique growth pattern, you should expect it to be ready for harvest about 2 – 3 months following the seedling phase.
Please remember this timeframe is just a general guideline! You should evaluate your strain’s specific growth pattern for a more accurate time horizon. Examining your strain’s trichomes with a powerful magnifying glass is crucial before deciding when it’s right to harvest.
Like photoperiod plants, autos will have white and amber trichomes when they reach their highest cannabinoid concentration. You never want to snip your autos when most trichomes are see-through.
Can You Train Auto Cannabis Strains For Higher Yields?
Whether you’re growing autos or photos, it’s a good idea to train your plants to increase yield. Low-stress training (LST) is the best option for beginners as it can dramatically increase yields without putting your plants at risk.
Anyone interested in growing autos should research “bending” their cannabis plants with string to increase light penetration on more bud sites. You can find out more about this strategy in our post on “Cannabis Bonsai.”
While LST can increase the ROI on your autoflowering cannabis, some argue that high-stress training techniques are a fantastic option. For instance, many people cut off the top of their cannabis plant during the vegetation stage. Known as “topping,” this high-stress technique forces your cannabis plant to grow two main cola sites. However, you shouldn’t worry about these riskier training methods until you’ve already successfully grown a few autos.
Please Manage Your Expectations Before Growing Autos
As a final note, cultivators should remember that autoflowering strains won’t give them the same yields or cannabinoid percentages as photoperiods. That’s not to say autos won’t be potent, but they may not be “strong enough” for some tokers.
It’s essential to reflect on the tradeoffs auto seeds offer growers to help manage your expectations. If you feel you’d be disappointed with a batch of autoflowering plants, you should start with easy indica-dominant photoperiod strains.
Auto strains give today’s cannabis cultivators way more options to personalize their grow operation. Please consider the info above to help you figure out whether autoflowers fit into your ganja gardening strategy.