Wondering whether growing autoflowers makes sense for you? In this post, we’ll take a look at whether autoflowering plants are worth growing, and why (not).
Obviously, some people swear by autoflowers. This is why you’ve heard of them, and why there is all this talk about them. Not to mention the big market for autoflowering seeds. But when are these fascinating cannabis plants specifically a good pick over their photoperiod counterparts?
Spoiler: it has to do with a combination of factors, such as timing, climate, light management, yield, and potency expectancies.
Basics & Light Schedules
First, some basics on autoflowering strains.
Autoflowering is a genetic trait that causes cannabis plants to automatically flower regardless of photoperiod (the length of each day). So if you have a strain that is autoflowering, it will start flowering at some point in its life cycle, whether it has been exposed to light for 12 hours or 18 hours each day.
Some even argue it’s okay to expose plants to 24 hours of non-stop light. They do so in order to have plants grow the biggest possible, resulting in the highest yield. Others say even cannabis that does not depend on signals from the light to start its flowering period still benefits from a few hours of rest and recoup.
The autoflowering trait initially comes from a strain named Cannabis Ruderalis. Through cross-breeding, most autoflowering strains are now Indica or Sativa-dominant strains. It is merely the pinch of ruderalis genes in there that makes the plants so-called ‘autoflowers’.
When Autoflowers Are Worth Growing (And When They’re Not)
Now, on to the reasons to choose autoflowers over feminized seeds/female plants. In order to make an informed decision, it is important to know when autos are perhaps a less brilliant choice.
Downsides of Autoflowering Cannabis Strains
As a general rule, autoflowers produce less. You may have a superb green thumb and do really well with them, including an impressive yield. However, typically, the yield tends to be less with autoflowers. So even if that is the case, you’re looking at an impressive yield for an autoflower. Check out some of the highest yielding autoflower strains.
They are not usually as potent as their female counterparts. Some autoflower strains log higher amounts of THC than others. The sky-high percentages (think high twenties or low-mid thirties) are found in photoperiod strains.
Next up is cloning. Does this have you interest? If so, autoflowers are not your friend. Their internal clock dictates when it is time to start flowering, regardless of plant size. Clones are identical copies of the mother plant, including the mom’s age.
So while cloning autoflowers is technically possible, the result will be rather unfortunate: a bunch of very small plants with equally small flowers. More on that here: Can you clone autoflowers? Not the best idea, however…
So far the potential downsides. Don’t tap out just yet, though. There are huge advantages to growing autoflowers. Let me toss some weight in the other scale and then you’ll be the one to judge whether autoflowers are worth a spot in your grow-op.
The main appeal of growing autoflowers is that they do not require you to track and control the light. One less thing to worry about. It makes growing cannabis just a little bit simpler, by comparison. This is why autoflowers are great for first-time growers, who may not have the best setup (yet), or don’t want the extra hassle of dealing with light schedules.
Note that just because they are a nice fit for beginners does not mean experienced growers can’t enjoy autoflowers too. Let’s say you’ve gotten quite good at it, perhaps through some trial and error, and you really know what you’re doing. Give these gals everything they need to thrive, and at the right time, will be a task right up your alley. One with a most pleasant outcome, at that.
So that’s the first reason to choose autoflowering cannabis strains: they are beginner-friendly while not excluding those with experience. (Then again – if you have the experience, you probably knew that already!)
Speed & Size
Autoflowers are perfect for stealth growing. They grow fast, and they are small. Autos don’t flower as long, so you can harvest your crop faster. Both their size and growth speed will set you up for a quicker operation than if you were to have gone with photoperiod strains. The smell, on the other hand, is not as easy to keep under the radar. That goes for any cannabis plant, I suppose.
Autos being on the clock has yet another advantage. Because they grow quicker, you’re looking at a much shorter vegetative stage (the time between planting and flowering). This is great if you’re aiming to get a harvest in before the weather turns too cold.
Whether it be due to a shorter summer season in the northern regions, or to starting later in the season, autoflowers can make it happen where and when a photoperiod plant can not. In certain climates, you may even be able to get two harvests in, from start to finish, during the growing season.
As far as outdoor growing in the Northern regions goes, the only competition for autoflowers is perhaps so-called “fast versions”. Fast version strains are feminized seeds, altered to grow and flower faster than usual. Either way, it’s good to know how to grow weed outdoors & maximize the growing season.
Recreational & Medicinal Use
Perhaps you’re wondering whether autoflowers are an option for those who use home-grown cannabis for its medicinal properties.
Absolutely. Just because autoflowers tend to be lower in THC than photoperiod plants does not mean they aren’t worth the effort. Not everyone is aiming for those astronomical potencies that have popped up left and right in recent years.
Many users are looking for a relaxed high, while medical patients often appreciate pain relief without too much sedation. Autos are an excellent choice for home growers seeking relief from insomnia, anxiety and stress-related disorders, depression, and spasticity (such as MS).
Now that we’ve gone over the pros and cons of autoflowering marijuana, it’s up to you to decide! They obviously have their limitations. In the right kind of situation, these limitations can on the contrary be their strong suit.
Personally, I enjoy working within the set schedule of an autoflowering plant. Focus on only what matters, and help the plant to achieve her highest potential.
If you live in a climate with a relatively short growing season, autoflowers are an excellent choice. That said, autos lend themselves very well to being grown indoors year-round. To crank out multiple harvests a year, look no further than some healthy autoflowering ladies.