Autoflower life cycle week by week with pictures

For some growers, autoflowers are a staple. Their fast life cycle and manageable size made them ideal for small indoor setups. 

The only caveat is that you get lower yields, but autos make up for it by allowing multiple harvests per growing season

This is because growers take advantage of their short life cycle to grow batches of autoflowers back to back, allowing for perpetual harvests.

But how short is an autoflower life cycle? To answer this question, start by reviewing our autoflower growth chart for autoflower week-by-week pictures.

autoflowering Cannabis grow stages
Cannabis stages

How long is the cannabis grow cycle on average?

Generally the average life cycle of a cannabis plant is around 4 to 8 months, but that’s not the case every time. 

This is because certain factors can affect how long it takes to grow weed. One of these factors is where you’re growing your marijuana plants.

In an indoor setup, cannabis plants generally grow a lot faster. This is because indoor growing has the ideal environment for cannabis plants. 

It provides the right lighting, humidity, and temperature levels, which are key to healthy cannabis growth.

Another factor that can affect the growth of your cannabis is how you’re growing your plants. 

It’s a known fact that using a hydroponics setup speeds up the growth of cannabis. Not only that, but growing weed hydroponically also increases plant yield.

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    The strain is the last factor that can affect the average grow cycle of a marijuana plant.

    For this reason, growers typically prefer to choose Indica or Indica-dominant strains for their garden. 

    They’re not just short plants with surprisingly high yields; they’re also fast flowering.

    Plants that bloom faster increase overall yield and allow growers to easily cultivate batches of cannabis back to back. 

    How long do autoflowers take from seed to harvest?

    On average, autoflowering strains take around 10 weeks from seed to harvest. But, there are some strains that take longer. 

    Some examples are AK-47 autoflower and Bubblegum auto which can take up to 14 weeks before you can harvest.

    It is important to note that the conditions you provide for your plants can affect your autoflower life cycle just as much as the strain you choose to grow. 

    Autoflower marijuana plant growing cycle
    Autoflower marijuana growing cycle

    A key factor for your autos’ faster growth is light. Providing a 20/4 light cycle will increase the rate at which your auto’s grow. 

    And because they’re not light-dependent, you won’t need to switch your light cycle for your autos to flower. 

    What are the advantages of a short autoflower life cycle?

    The main advantage of an autoflower’s short life cycle is that it allows growers to cultivate batches of cannabis back to back. 

    This gives them multiple harvests per growing season. If timed correctly, the overall yield you can get from autoflowers can even contend with the yield you get from photoperiod plants. 

    More so now that breeders are creating autoflowers with better yields.

    Another advantage of autoflowers is that their compact size lets you grow them in cramped conditions. 

    However, the best trait that autoflowers have is that they’re easy to grow. Their robust genetics made them resistant to most diseases and harsh environmental conditions.

    This is especially useful if you don’t have enough space for a dedicated grow room.

    This made autoflowers a prime pick for new growers who don’t have enough experience. It has also become the ideal strain for growers with a busy schedule.

    autoflower life cycle week by week guide
    A man holding two marijuana leaves

    Since autoflowers don’t need a specific light cycle to bloom, it removes the hassle of switching your plants from a vegging light cycle to a flowering one. 

    This also means that you don’t need to worry about setting up a calendar schedule for your plants. Especially if you’re trying to set up a perpetual harvest.

    Growing regular marijuana strains versus growing autoflowering strains

    Choosing whether to grow regular or autoflowering strains can be hard. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. 

    But, regardless of which type of cannabis you decide to grow, both are capable of producing quality bud.

    The main difference between regular marijuana strains and autoflowering strains is how they initiate flowering. 

    With standard feminized cannabis, they start flowering once their light cycle changes.

    That means they’re light-dependent, which is why regular cannabis strains are often also called photoperiod strains.

    The other difference is that there are two ways for photoperiod strains to initiate flowering. 

    The first is when the season changes from summer to autumn. This marks the beginning of the year where days are much shorter, meaning your outdoor plants will receive less light. 

    The second is through manually reducing the hours of light your indoor plants receive from their grow lights. From 18/6 hours of light and darkness to 12/12 hours of light and darkness.

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    Because photoperiod strains require a certain light cycle to initiate flowering, it results in a longer flowering period. 

    This increases the overall time you need to grow cannabis from seed to harvest. 

    And while indoor growing is a lot faster, you still won’t see more than one harvest per growing season.

    But, this is not the case with autoflowering strains. Their short life cycle allows growers to harvest twice in a single growing season, which makes up for their low yields compared to photoperiod plants.

    Autoflowers grow faster because they aren’t light-dependent like photoperiod strains. Instead, they initiate flowering once they mature. 

    This iconic trait of autoflowers came from cannabis ruderalis, a subspecies that grows in Eastern Europe and Central Asia which are known for their short growing season.

    Grow lights for marijuana plants
    Grow lights for marijuana

    Ruderalis adapted by having a shorter life cycle of only 10-14 weeks and flowering with maturity. 

    Both traits are present in the hybrids that growers cultivate today. However, many autoflowers also have less THC in their trichomes, which was an undesirable trait in ruderalis.

    What is the optimal light schedule for autoflowering strains and seeds?

    While autoflowers don’t necessarily need a light schedule to grow properly and initiate flowering, you do need to maintain your preferred light cycle. 

    The main reason is to avoid slowing down the growth of your plants while they’re vegging or flowering.

    The optimal light schedule is 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness for the entire life cycle of your autoflowering plants. 

    You could keep your grow lights on for the entire duration of your plant’s life cycle, but this can get expensive. 

    Autoflower grow guide: How to grow autoflowering strains week-by-week:

    Week 1: Germination and seedling stage

    The first stage of your autoflower grow cycle begins with germination. Generally, it takes 1-5 days for seeds to germinate. 

    To germinate your seeds, place them in a glass of water for 24 hours. Afterward, transfer them into a Ziploc bag with a wet paper towel. 

    auto Cannabis seedling
    Marijuana seedling in germination stage

    Once the taproot emerges from your seeds, transfer that to a cup filled with soil.

    There, your seeds will take root. It will take another 1-2 days for your seeds to emerge from the soil and break through their seed coat. 

    It’s important not to help your seedlings during this process, as it could bring more harm than good to your 1 week old autoflower.

    Week 2: Late seedling stage

    A healthy 2 week old autoflower would have a new set of leaves on top of its seed leaves (cotyledons). 

    And typically, growers would start introducing nutrients that would help with the vegetative growth of their autoflower seedling. 

    Two weeks old autoflower marijuana plant
    Two weeks old cannabis plant

    But, keep in mind, autoflowering strains don’t require that many nutrients, so you should apply them sparingly to avoid nutrient burn.

    Additionally, avoid overwatering your plants at this stage as it could drown them. As a rule of thumb, you should only keep the soil moist.

    Week 3: Beginning of vegetation stage

    A 3 week old autoflower is in its vegetative stage. At this point, your autos would have grown more sets of leaves. 

    In some cases, they now display their sex. If you’re growing feminized seeds, this wouldn’t be a concern. 

    Week 3 auto cannabis vegetative stage
    Week 3 vegetative stage

    But, distinguishing male and female cannabis plants is an important step for keeping your buds from getting pollinated. 

    To spot a male plant, look for tiny pollen sacs where the buds should be on a female plant.

    Regarding nutrients, you can now apply them at regular strength, but you should still be cautious to avoid nutrient burn.

    Week 4: Late vegetative phase

    At week 4, autoflower plants are nearing the end of their vegetative phase and are gearing up to enter their flowering stage. 

    How do you know? The first sign is the appearance of pre-flowers that start to develop on the nodes of your plants.

    Week 4 autoflowering cannabis vegetative stage
    Week 4 vegetative stage

    Many growers make the mistake of introducing bloom nutrients to their 4 week old autoflower. 

    You shouldn’t swap your nutrients until week 7 when your autoflowers have officially entered their flowering stage.

    Week 5: Pre-flowering begins

    A 5 week old autoflower will begin to develop its pistils more while it continues to grow.

    This is when growers switch to bloom nutrients, so their autoflowers focus on developing their buds instead of growing larger.

    Week 5: auto fem Cannabis Pre flowering stage
    Week 5: Pre flowering stage

    However, doing this reduces the potential yield you get from your autoflowers because the plants didn’t grow to their full potential. 

    If you want to increase your yields, continue applying grow nutrients to your week 5 autoflower plants. 

    This will result in your autos’ explosive growth, which will help with their bud development.

    Week 6: Flowering stage

    At week 6, autoflower plants are well into their flowering stage. By this point, the buds on them would become more apparent, as well as the smell. 

    The pungent odor is a sign of good trichome development in your buds.

    As your autos begin to focus on developing their buds, you can change the conditions in your grow room to help promote healthy buds. 

    Week 6 autoflower Cannabis flowering stage
    Week 6 Cannabis flowering stage

    The ideal relative humidity should be 40% with a room temperature of 75°F (24°C). Proper humidity levels keep mold from growing on your buds.

    Week 7: Flowering stage

    By week 7, most of the pistils on your autos would have developed more color. Expect displays ranging from white to light brown or red. 

    At this point, you only need to maintain the current conditions in your grow room while your autos develop their buds. 

    week 7 of autoflowering marijuana plant
    Week 7 of flowering autoflower cannabis plants

    Avoid any humidity fluctuations by routinely checking your grow room’s environment. It also won’t hurt to check for pests while you’re at it.

    Start giving your autos bloom nutrients to promote bud development when feeding your plants

    Additionally, increase the amount of nutes you feed your plants (according to the fertilizer’s instructions).

    Week 8 – 10: Flowering stage

    When tending your flowering autoflower, week 8  is all about monitoring its condition.

    Some of the leaves may start yellowing at this point, but this is nothing to worry about. It just indicates that your auto is reaching the end of its life cycle.

    week 8 to 10 cannabis flowering an auto fem weed plant
    Week 8 to 10 Flowering stage for autoflowers

    Lightly trim your plants to remove any yellowing leaves as well as leaves that are obstructing the buds. 

    At week 9, you should prepare your cannabis for flushing by not feeding them any more nutrients.

    Week 9 or 11: Flushing and defoliating

    At this point, you’re at the end of the autoflower flowering stages. From here, you need to flush your plants. 

    To do this, first, stop feeding your autos their blooming nutrients. Next, flood the soil with as much water as it can hold and wait for it to all drain out. Repeat this process for 1-2 weeks while also defoliating your plants.

    Week 9 to 11 of autoflowering weed plant flushing and defoliating
    Week 9 to 11 of cannabis flowering

    You’re flooding your soil with water to drain out the excess nutrients within it. 

    This forces your plants to absorb the remaining nutrients, which gives the buds a smoother taste.

    Week 10 or 14: Harvesting stage

    The last part of your autoflower timeline is harvesting. While the initial harvesting stage won’t take you long, the drying and curing process will. 

    Typically, it takes around a week or two, depending on the denseness of your buds.

    It’s also important to take note that not all autoflowers grow at the same time. 

    Week 14 of marijuana plant flowering
    Week 14: harvesting stage of autoflowering plants

    Each strain can take more or less time – don’t be too concerned when your plants are either behind or ahead of schedule.

    Autoflower not flowering?

    Generally, autoflowers will begin flowering after 5 weeks of growing from seeds. Ruderalis genetics give autoflowers an internal clock that tells them when to flower. 

    But there are situations wherein autos will take longer to flower or, worse, not flower at all. While this may strike many as concerning, there is a solution to this problem.

    Autoflowering marijuana plant not flowering
    Autoflowering cannabis plant not flowering

    If your autoflowers aren’t flowering, it could be because the internal clock that your plants have has failed. 

    This typically happens due to a genetic malfunction that causes your autos to continue vegging. 

    The immediate solution to this is to wait it out until your autos get the message.

    However, if your plants remain in their vegetative stage for 3 weeks with no signs of flowering, you should induce flowering manually.

    You can force your autoflowers to flower by switching the light cycle to 12/12 hours of light and darkness. 

    Doing this provides enough of a stimulus for your autos to start flowering.

    Keep in mind, if you choose to wait for your autos to flower as opposed to taking action, it will take some time. 

    Some autoflower strains will have unstable genetics, resulting in autoflower plants that think they’re photoperiods.

    It is hard to tell if this is your issue at first, since when you’re growing your autos they grow at the rate that autoflowers normally do. 

    However, after five weeks of growing from seeds, the ‘semi-autos’ will show no signs of flowering. This is your sign that you need to start flowering manually.

    For more on growing autoflowers and solutions to common issues with autoflowering plants, visit our marijuana support forum.  

    Best Autoflowering strains to grow:

    StrainGrow timeDifficultyUnique Trait
    White Widow Autoflower10-14 weeksEasyPrize-winning all around hybrid
    Bruce Banner Autoflower10-14 weeksModeratePotent
    Zkittles Autoflower10-14 weeksEasy for new growersFlavorful
    Critical Mass CBD Autoflower10-14 weeksEasyHigh CBD
    Super Lemon Haze Autoflower10-14 weeksModerateGreat yield, potent

    In summary

    Autoflowers are the way to go if you want to grow cannabis fast. Their short life cycle also lets you harvest twice in a single growing season. 

    If you’re ready to grow marijuana quickly, don’t risk it by buying poor-quality seeds. The best autoflowering genetics are at ILGM.com. Shop my store to grow the best weed.

    Happy Growing,

    Robert

    FAQs about growing Autoflowers

    How do I tell if my auto is ready?

    Through their pistils. Depending on the color of your autos’ pistils, you can work out whether they’re ready or not. If they’re all white, that means the buds are still developing. Wait until 60-70% of the pistils have turned light brown for maximum THC levels.

    How do you recognize pre-flowers?

    Pre-flowers can be seen with the naked eye. They are long, white hairs that grow on the nodes of your autoflowers. To distinguish between male and female pre-flowers, look closely at the shape of the hairs. Females are longer and narrower with a fat bottom.

    Which autoflower seeds should I choose?

    The best autoflower seeds are at ILGM. Our high-quality cannabis strains have the best genetics to prevent problems like semi-autos. We also guarantee germination.

    Avatar for Robert Bergman

    Robert Bergman

    Robert Bergman is an Amsterdam-based marijuana grow expert who has years of experience from small grows to massive operations. His passion for growing led him to develop his own Gold Leaf strain. Now, Robert is dedicated to sharing his knowledge with the world.... [Read full bio]