If you desperately want a cannabis garden but don’t have the time to dedicate, autoflowering seeds could be the answer to your prayers! These special strains flower automatically rather than waiting for a specific lighting cycle. Generally speaking, your plants will begin flowering after a vegetative stage of just 2-4 weeks.
While the autoflowering phenomenon has only gained traction in recent years, strains of this nature include Cannabis ruderalis genetics, a species of marijuana first described by D. E. Janischewsky, a Russian botanist, in 1924. When you cross ruderalis genetics with indica or sativa varieties, you end up with plants that grow and flower without your intervention.
These strains are different from traditional – or ‘photoperiod’ – plants, which don’t begin flowering until they receive certain signals from the sun to show that winter is approaching. As a consequence, they require specific light schedules. For instance, it is normal to transition from a 16-8 light cycle to 12-12 to induce flowering.
In contrast, Ruderalis plants don’t need a signal – they begin the flowering process within a few weeks regardless of the light/sun schedule. Within a few months, the buds are ready to harvest.
When auto-flowering plants were first introduced, they were heralded as a fantastic method of quickly growing marijuana with minimal effort.
However, these plants were also known for having fairly low yields and THC content. As breeding techniques became more advanced, it was possible to produce autoflowering marijuana strains with significantly increased levels of THC, not to mention far bigger yields.
Strains such as Amnesia Haze Automatic produce up to 14 ounces of bud per square meter planted whereas Royal Gorilla Automatic contains up to 20% THC. With fewer disadvantages than ever before, it is no wonder that ‘auto’ plants are becoming increasingly popular.
What Is Autoflowering Cannabis?
With regular ‘photoperiod’ marijuana plants, an outdoor grower must rely on the seasons, while an indoor grower must change their lighting cycle. For instance, to force your plants to enter the flowering stage, you need to create a 12/12 light cycle. The change in light duration lets the plants think winter is coming, and it starts flowering accordingly.
As the name suggests, autoflowering marijuana strains flower automatically rather than waiting for a specific light cycle. These plants produce buds when they are ready, which means there is no reason to mess with your lighting. While the yield and potency of photoperiod weed remain higher, the gap is closing.
As it can take a little more than eight weeks from seed to harvest, you can enjoy several batches of autoflowering plants each year. While autoflowering plants are usually small and squat, even that aspect is changing. Auto Sweet Soma seeds can produce plants that grow as high as 155cm for example! You can still get small plants such as Royal Jack Automatic that seldom grows taller than 80cm if you wish.
How to Grow Autoflowering Cannabis Strains
Even when using auto-flowering cannabis seeds, it is important to ensure your plants have as much support as possible throughout the process. Ideally, you will begin your autoflower grow indoors with artificial lights you can control. This tactic reduces the likelihood of error and increases the possibility of a strong start.
Autoflowering Marijuana Seeds
It should go without saying that proper germination is pivotal to the healthy development of your autoflower marijuana plants. You can go down the traditional route of using soil or else you can try a container with a growing medium. The paper towel method is probably the easiest way to germinate your autoflower seeds.
All you have to do is take your seeds and place them in a moistened paper towel on a plate. Cover them with another plate to ensure moisture remains locked in. In most cases, the seeds should sprout in 1-4 days, although older seeds could take up to a week.
Create a small hole in a moist growing medium up to an inch deep. Transport the sprouted seed root down into the hole and make sure not to touch the root with your hands. Ideally, you won’t transplant them again, because autoflowering seeds are susceptible to transplanting shock.
While transplanting auto-flowering seeds is more complicated than their photoperiod brethren, it is a myth to suggest it is impossible to do so more than once successfully. You can re-pot an autoflower if you are extremely careful. If you need to transplant your autos to a larger pot, make sure they end up in the same soilless growing medium or soil as before and do so before their dark period when their growing medium is dry.
Avoid Early Cuttings with Autoflowering Marijuana Strains
We don’t recommend taking cuttings during the early growth stages of auto-flowering weed. As the plant will autoflower at a specific point, the age of the cutting will merge with the age of the parent plant. In other words, they will flower at the same time. Therefore, if you grow a cutting of an auto-flowering plant, the final version will be significantly smaller than the parent when it reaches the flowering stage.
Training Your Autoflowering Weed
It is best to complete the training process during the vegetative stage. It is important to act fast because this stage is only a couple of weeks long in autos. We recommend using a Low-Stress Training (LST) method such as pulling the plants down sideways to help boost upwards growth.
When they start flowering, prune them for up to a week into the flowering stage and do NOT top them.
You can’t prune an auto-flowering plant in the same way as its traditional counterpart. First and foremost, all pruning should begin early in the life cycle, or else you risk hindering its growth.
Best Lighting & Climate for Autoflowering Marijuana Plants
The fact that you’re allowing plants to flower when they should be in the vegetative growth stage means you can autoflower rather late in the season (September) or very early (March). If you go down this route, please note that the plants can only grow with adequate warmth, and exposure to excessive levels of moisture could result in rot. As a result, we recommend growing autoflowering plants indoors if possible. Ideally, your plants will grow in a room with a temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit with 55% humidity.
Plants with ruderalis genetics are tougher than those without but still require light to produce food for themselves. Many autoflower growers still believe that providing light 24/7 is best for their plants because it enables them to absorb CO2 during the photosynthesis process constantly. Ruderalis plants have grown for a long time in the northern hemisphere where they could be exposed to 24 hours of light a day on occasion.
While 24-hour lighting will result in fast initial growth, it usually slows down after a few weeks because the plant is without adequate rest. The 18/6 schedule offers a nice balance of plenty of light with ample rest, and you also save money on your energy bill! In one month, for instance, using an 18/6 schedule against a 24/0 schedule saves you 180 hours’ worth of light!
The 20/4 schedule could be a happy medium. However, the 18/6 option is the most sensible because your plants need a few hours of darkness each day for certain metabolic processes. Whatever additional yield you attain from constant lighting is more than offset by the increase in your lighting bill!
Feeding Your Autoflowering Plants
The latest generation of auto-flowering plants are bigger than their predecessors and produce a bigger yield. As a result, they need more nutrients than their first-gen counterparts. Even so, on average, an auto-flowering plant still requires fewer nutrients than photoperiod plants. Make sure you water them for the first two weeks as they begin to grow.
There is no need to add nutrients during this period. By week three, you can begin adding nutrients and increase the feeding rate weekly. Remember, the vegetative stage is short, so less Nitrogen is needed. Light feeding is ideal unless you notice a nutrient deficiency. You’ll need to alter the nutrients once the plant hits the flowering stage.
Harvesting Autoflowering Marijuana Plants
The best method of harvesting auto-flowering plants is to take the colas and allow time for the lower buds to become denser before harvest. As these plants grow so quickly, they usually don’t have time to develop a canopy. As a result, you need to keep the buds that are lower down on the plant.
These days, it isn’t unusual to find automatics that produce up to eight ounces per plant and 14-15 ounces per square meter.
Since you can grow 4-5 batches a year, it adds up to a LOT of bud! We also recommend preparing the next batch as you are harvesting. Pop seeds before you harvest your existing crop to ensure your garden is continually producing. The fact is, you don’t need to worry about changing lighting because your plants automatically flower!
Curing & Storing Autoflower Weed Strains
Many of the same drying, curing, and storing rules apply with auto-flowering cannabis plants. You can dry your buds by hanging them upside down for a few days. Store them in airtight containers but ensure there is a bit of space in each jar. Initially, open the jars once a day for a few minutes.
After a week, opening the jars once every 2-3 days will suffice. Your bud is ready for use once there is only a small amount of moisture left. Transport your weed to a sealed container and use it within a few months.
Where to Find Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds
It is relatively easy to buy autoflowering seeds online. There is an increasing number of reputable websites that sell autoflowering seeds. Alternatively, you can find them in a local dispensary, but purchasing the best autoflower seeds can be a challenge at first.
When making the decision, ask yourself the following questions:
- What level of THC and CBD are you looking for?
- What is your preferred taste and aroma?
- What kind of growing conditions will the seeds be planted in?
It is also crucial to purchase feminized seeds. Otherwise, around half of your crop will consist of male plants which could ruin everything. If you have a small grow room, purchase an indica strain because they usually grow smaller. If you have a larger space, buy sativa autoflower strains because they are typically bigger and provide a greater yield.
The Pros and Cons of Growing Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds
While it may seem like a no-brainer to grow auto-flowering marijuana at any chance you get, there are, of course, some disadvantages which come along with the host of benefits that autoflower weed strains provide. Here is a brief list of pros and cons for autoflower marijuana vs. regular marijuana.
Pros of Autoflower Marijuana Strains
The shorter growing season means you have a greater level of autoflowering varieties. Imagine having the opportunity to grow five different strains in a single season! Multiple harvests are especially useful if you enjoy the growing process and are keen to sample as many marijuana types as possible.
If you grow marijuana the traditional way, you’ll typically require a specific growing room and a separate flowering room. With autoflowering weed, you only need a single space. If you have several rooms, you can time your growing to guarantee a harvest every few weeks.
If you grow in the typical manner, you have to ensure your grow room has light-proof sealing. It is a disaster if this gets breached. In contrast, a light leakage has no discernible impact on the flowering stage of your autoflower marijuana.
As autos contain Ruderalis genes, they are tougher than other marijuana plants. Remember, they are based on plants that were able to grow in the harsh Russian weather conditions. If there is a power outage, a normal cannabis plant will have its flowering and growth phases interrupted, which could play havoc with their growth cycle; this is not a problem with an autoflowering plant.
There are auto strains with a flowering time of just five weeks! Add in a 2-4-week vegetative stage, and you could theoretically grow a strain from seed to harvest in just seven weeks. Bubble Kush Auto, for example, is ready to harvest 7-8 weeks after sprouting. Therefore, you can enjoy multiple harvests each year.
While varieties of autoflowering strains are getting bigger, you can still find versions that grow little taller than 40-50cm. As a consequence, you can plant them in a closet, tent, or even on a balcony! You could also hide such a plant in a remote field if the grass is tall enough! Also, autos don’t require a ‘support system’ to hold up long branches that could bend or break as the buds get larger.
No Messing About with Lighting
As there is no need to change your light cycle to a 12-12 schedule, you can keep a consistent lighting schedule all year round if you wish. With this possibility in mind, you can grow auto-flowering plants at different stages in the same room!
Cons of Autoflower Marijuana Strains
The gap between the yield of autos and photoperiod plants has fallen to the stage where some auto varieties produce more bud than low yielding photoperiod plants! However, on average, an autoflowering strain produces less. For instance, Royal Gorilla produces up to 550 grams per square meter indoors and 600 grams per plant outdoors. The auto version produces up to 400 grams per square meter.
You could argue that autoflowering strains are less efficient than photoperiod weed as they require around the same amount of light. However, there isn’t a huge difference anymore, and the convenience offered by autos makes any additional cost worth it.
Once again, this is becoming less of a problem. For example, Royal Gorilla’s THC content is up to 25%, while the Auto version’s THC is 20%. While the photoperiod version is still stronger, the gap is no longer the chasm it once was.
Final Thoughts on Autoflowering Cannabis Strains
The process of using auto-flowering marijuana plants is becoming increasingly popular. It is a technique that enables you to harvest from a seedling within eight weeks, and you only need a relatively small space to begin. They are more robust than their photoperiod rivals, and significant improvements in the development process mean that these plants are also producing more potent marijuana along with greater yields.
The number of reasons NOT to try autoflowering marijuana strains are decreasing by the year. Whether you haven’t got enough time on your hands to devote to a photoperiod strain, or else you like the idea of growing several types of weed each year, autos are likely the future of marijuana growing.