Pros And Cons Of Autoflower Cannabis Seeds

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Are you new to cannabis growing and looking for a fast and easy way to get started? Are you an experienced grower looking to squeeze in more harvests per year with less work? 

In either case, autoflowering cannabis seeds may be the solution. As cannabis genetics continue evolving to fulfill the needs and novelty of the marketplace, growers have more customization options than ever before.  

Does this mean they’re the best seeds for your garden?

Well, first, you need all of the information. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of autoflowering seeds

What are auto flowers again? A quick recap: 

Traditional indica and sativa cultivars (strains) of cannabis grown worldwide are photoperiod or “photo” cannabis cultivars. This means they will only flower in response to the decrease in the available hours of daylight. The decrease in lighting is nature’s evolutionary response to the changing seasons and the sun’s angle during the earth’s yearly orbit. 

As the days get shorter from summer solstice into autumn, the decreasing daylight signals the plants to cease vegetative growth and begin bearing flowers. This happens with most of the vegetable and herb crops that are traditionally farmed. 

Autoflower marijuana plant
Autoflower marijuana plant

Autoflowering cannabis cultivars, on the other hand, originated from a third cannabis species called ruderalis. Cannabis Ruderalis is native to the cold, less hospitable regions of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russia. Combining the desirable traits of ruderalis cultivars with photoperiod cannabis cultivars has produced today’s modern autoflowering cannabis plants. 

Autoflowering cannabis plants do not flower in response to photoperiod changes because of the short growing season native to those regions. They have adapted to growing vegetatively for a couple of weeks and then flowering automatically to survive the short growing season. They are not dependent on the shrinking number of daylight hours to induce flowering.

Autoflower marijuana seeds

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Advantages of autoflowering cannabis seeds

There are many pros and cons of autoflower genetics. Here are some advantages: 

Fast growing

Plants grown from autoflowering seeds are typically harvested more quickly. They are ready in as little as 7-12 weeks from germination, versus indica or sativa strains, which can grow indefinitely indoors until the light cycle is changed. It can take four months or longer to go from germination to harvest with traditional, photoperiod cannabis seeds. 

Less problematic

The cold, difficult environments that ruderalis strains evolved from have produced plants that are less affected by the pests and diseases which can plague traditional cannabis, especially when grown indoors. This ruggedness is beneficial for novice gardeners who traditionally have a harder time maintaining a pest-free growing environment since they are slower to recognize potential problems as they develop. Autoflowers give growers the advantage of having one less obstacle to overcome on their way to harvest.

Autoflower marijuana small plant
Small autoflower marijuana plants

Smaller and more compact

Smaller plants are easier to manage in an indoor environment with limited space. When your plants are small,  there is less need for training, trellising, and pruning techniques. These are often necessary when growing light cycle cultivars. Smaller plants can mean less overall work and effort to maintain your garden. They also provide more discretion in an outdoor setting. Regardless of where you grow, security and privacy are primary concerns when trying to prevent exposure to unwanted attention.

Consume fewer nutrients and fertilizer

Since auto flowering strains tend to be smaller and more compact, this generally means that they will require less fertilizer and nutrients to grow, maintain, and flower. It also means their soil recipes are pretty simple. Light-cycle cannabis strains can grow 4’-6’ or more and often require a heavier and more complex nutrient regimen due to their higher metabolism, appetite, and tolerances. Nutrient usage and management are one of the biggest hurdles to overcome for the novice growers. They often cause the most accidental damage to a crop. 

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Easier set up for perpetual harvesting

Photoperiod cannabis seeds need an altered lighting regimen to induce flowering, usually a reduction in lighting from 18 hours on / 6 hours off per day to 12 hours on / 12 hours off per day. Autoflowering cannabis does not require an altered light cycle to flower. Instead, it  ‘autoflowers’ after a short vegetative growth phase. This switch to flowering typically occurs after 30-45 days of post-germination growth.

Check out this great article on cannabis light cycles for more info.

Disadvantages of autoflowering cannabis seeds

There are many reasons why growers might not want to cultivate autoflowers. Here are some:

Smaller plants, lower yield

Autoflowering plants grow to a smaller size, so they will naturally have a smaller amount of harvested flower at the end of their life cycle. Photoperiod cannabis is more vigorous and can grow much larger plants. Bigger plants mean more budding sites and more harvested flowers at the end of the life cycle. 

Small marijuana plants
Small cannabis plants

Yield is a major consideration for many professional growers operating a cannabis business and any grower who values or measures their time, effort, and expense. Decide on your end goals before you make a seed purchase!

Lower percentage % of THC 

Since autoflowering cannabis plants are generally smaller and less vigorous growers; they would naturally have lower THC levels than photoperiod cannabis plants. This is most likely due to the lack of need by the plant to defend itself from pest predators. A lower potential THC can be a major turnoff for connoisseurs, and professional growers since the economic value of a strain is often determined by THC %.  

Cloning marijuana
Cloning cannabis

Unsuitable for cloning

Another drawback of autoflowering cannabis is the inability to make clones for your next harvest, which is common practice for larger or professional growing operations. Since they don’t rely on photoperiod to initiate flowering, any clones taken from these plants would essentially be the same age as the mother plant. Autoflowering plants won’t produce suitable clones to grow vegetatively and produce an amount of flower that’s worth harvesting. 

Autoflower plants are often smaller in size and more resilient to environmental stressors. Download my FREE marijuana grow bible and start growing auto marijuana plants.

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    Little damage recovery time

    Autoflowering cannabis plants accidentally damaged by overfeeding or improper pruning have very little time to recover and add new growth before they start flowering. This can be perilous to any growers who make mistakes, particularly novice growers, and can cause the yield to be significantly damaged or reduced. 

    With photoperiod cannabis, a grower can simply continue with the vegetative growth phase until the damaged areas have regrown and are ready to flower.

    Now that you have a deeper understanding of the pros and cons of autoflowering cannabis seeds, you can determine which method best suits your particular goals. As a grower, I have personally never grown autoflowers in my 26 years of cultivation, mostly because they had yet to evolve to where I felt they were worth my time. However, the autoflowers of today are not the autoflowers of years ago. I’ve seen the progress that has been made, and I’m definitely interested in giving them a try. I want to satisfy my curiosity!

    Healthy auto marijuana plant - a pro of autoflowering seeds
    Healthy auto marijuana plant

    Autoflowers are easier to start with, manage, and complete a cycle and harvest. They require less room and only one space for cultivation. If you are very busy and don’t have much time to dedicate to managing your garden, or you’re new to cultivation and want an easier method to get started, consider growing with these seeds. I’d recommend starting with autoflowering seeds from ILGM for the best results

    You may want to go the traditional route if your primary goals are yield and extremely high THC levels. You should also stick to photoperiod (regular) seeds if the ability to take clones for your perpetual harvest method is important. Just remember, you’ll need at least two rooms for cultivation. 

    Cannabis cultivation should be a fun and fascinating experience regardless of which type of seed you purchase. It should bring you closer to understanding nature and how it impacts your being! There has never been a more exciting time to grow cannabis when https://ilgm.com/collections/autoflowering-seeds

    More questions about autoflowering marijuana seeds:

    Are growing autoflowers worth it?

    It depends on what you hope to get from growing cannabis. You’ll have less yield, won’t be able to clone, and there’s less room for errors; however, they are best in some circumstances. If you want to be a master grower, you should try it.  A professional cannabis cultivator and connoisseur is always learning something new.

    Are autoflowers good for beginners?

    Autoflowers have an easier learning curve for someone new to cultivation and/or doesn’t have someone to help teach and guide them through the potential mistakes and pitfalls that can plague novice growers.

    What is the strongest autoflowering strain in THC percentage %?

    Currently, one of the strongest autoflowering strains in the ILGM store is our Do-si-dos autoflowering strain. It has the potential (under ideal circumstances) to reach THC levels of up to 29%.

    Avatar for Jason Bird

    Jason Bird

    Cannabis cultivation expert at I Love Growing Marijuana

    Jason Bird has been cultivating organically-grown cannabis in Portland, Oregon, since 1996 and graduated with an AAS degree in Horticulture in 1999. He became a medical cannabis cultivator in 2003 and a medical patient advocate in 2006 after a serious accident. He currently runs a hybrid business development agency bringing economic and energy solutions to cannabis business owners. He is also a cultivation columnist for Fat Nugs Magazine (fatnugsmag.com).... [Read full bio]

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