What are autoflowering marijuana plants?
Any gardener with experience – marijuana, vegetables, flowers, whatever – will tell you that gardening is a waiting game. Healthy cannabis plants don’t go from germination to harvest overnight; it takes weeks, sometimes months to earn an enviable crop worth your effort. You can save yourself a little time (and hassle) however, by opting for autoflowering marijuana strains over regular.
What’s so special about autoflowering marijuana plants?
A long time ago in a faraway place… called Russia… some intrepid breeders discovered that of the three varieties of cannabis – indica, sativa, and ruderalis – only the latter was able to survive and thrive in the harsh mountain conditions that offered little to no differentiation in light throughout the year.
Why is this important? By nature, cannabis is a photoperiod plant, and a change in light duration is necessary to trigger its switch from the vegetative (growth) stage to flowering, where the buds fully develop and the trichomes become sticky with therapeutic resin. Since ruderalis is commonly found growing natively in parts of the world that see light for longer durations, the variety adapted to switch from the vegetative stage to flowering once the plant reached a certain height: “autoflowering”.
We’re sure that it took a lot of trial and error, but eventually some smartypants breeder discovered that combining ruderalis with one or both of the other two varieties of cannabis could result in strains that took advantage of the autoflowering quality without taking on any of the cannabinoid content (ruderalis produces little to no THC, though it can have higher levels of CBD than its indica/sativa counterparts). Thus, hundreds of existing strains were enhanced and hundreds more were given life thanks to breeders experimenting with a genetic predisposition, and brought marijuana to the masses, so to speak.
What does autoflowering marijuana do for me?
Arguably, the addition of autoflowering genetics to a marijuana strain has made it easier for gardeners who are short on space, short on time or have little to no experience cultivating a therapy garden to get involved in the ever-evolving practice.
Autoflowering plants are space savers – since they don’t get very tall, you can pack them into a small space and not worry too much about stretch or pruning to keep them from overstepping their boundaries.
They require less light maintenance – your marijuana plant will give you visual cues when its ready to be switched from the vegetative stage to the flowering, but these can be easily overlooked by novice gardeners (even master gardeners can miss out if they’re working with a new strain). The beauty of autoflowering strains is their flowering stage is dictated by time, and whether you keep your therapy garden under a 24 or 18 hour light schedule, you’ll still end up with a high-quality medicinal bud at the end of the day.
Autoflowering marijuana strains are ready sooner – grown in their natural environment, autoflowering strains can be subject to 24-hours of light during their growth stage, so once they reach a particular height they will automatically switch from vegetative to flowering. Ruderalis strains tend to be short, usually around four feet, and most likely remain stocky and sturdy to withstand harsh weather conditions. This genetic trait carries over nicely, and, especially when paired with sativa, plants that can reach upwards of six feet, can shave some time off the total.
Do you germinate autoflowering seeds?
You start autoflowering marijuana seeds like you would any regular strain with your favorite germination method. We prefer to keep it simple and use the “Paper Towel” method, which requires little more than seeds, a dish, paper towel, water, and a little patience. Within a few days, your seeds will have developed a taproot and will be ready to be transplanted into your potting medium.
Do autoflowering marijuana seeds grow differently than regular?
There is one key difference in the growth stages of autoflowering marijuana plants as opposed to regular – autoflowering seeds don’t need you to trigger their flowering stage by changing the light schedule. This won’t give you a break on your electricity bill, but it means you don’t have to pay as close attention to the plants.
You can experiment with different light durations. Some breeders believe that 24 hours of bright light will help autoflowering seeds produce the best pot, while others are partial to 18 hours. Whatever you choose, be sure your light fixtures (HID, CFLs, etc), offer the right spectrum of light, and that you’ve installed a ventilation system that will keep air circulating and your buds from overheating.
Tips + Tricks to increase autoflowering marijuana yield
Either through experience or research online, you may discover that autoflowering marijuana plants tend to have less bountiful yields than their non-autoflowering counterparts. We can’t say for sure, but this probably has something to do with the plant not being able to reach its full height potential.
- Speculation aside, it’s possible to increase the yield of your autoflowering strains to boost your ROI even further.
- Opt for an airy grow medium – everyone will have their favorite medium in which they believe cannabis plants thrive, but autoflowering strains can really prosper when planted in breezy grow mediums that help stimulate growth during the vegetative stage, such as coco, rockwool, and vermiculite. The idea is that explosive growth during the shortened vegetative stage will result in maximum buds once your tree begins to flower.
- Avoid stressing training your autos – many breeders believe in high- and low-stress training techniques to increase yield and boost bud size. Unfortunately, autoflowering strains do not take kindly to stress, and you’ll find that rather than producing fatter colas, you may stunt the growth and end up with an even smaller yield.
- This also goes for re-potting your plants. A lot of gardeners will start their seedlings in a small container and re-pot them once they’ve reached an optimal size. The shortened life cycle of auto plants means they don’t have as long to recover, which can have an negative impact on their growth.
- Try Sea of Green – a method that involves growing, say, a dozen smaller plants instead of six larger ones, the Sea of Green (SOG) can help cut down on the long vegetative stage of regular marijuana plants. For autoflowering strains, SOG helps put the focus on the naturally smaller size of the plant and helping them reach their full potential.
Of course, the best way to guarantee a hefty, healthy harvest is to buy autoflowering marijuana seeds online from a vendor like Pacific Seed Bank – top quality autoflowering and feminized medical marijuana seeds and a deal every day.