The two main types of cannabis strains are autoflowers and photoperiods, each with their own unique characteristics. Autoflowers grow quickly and are easy to cultivate, while photoperiods offer larger yields but require more experience to grow successfully. Consider your needs before deciding which type of strain is right for you.
With over 100 cannabinoids, 200 terpenes, and many other chemical constituents, cannabis is an extremely complex plant. Not to mention, the ratios of these molecules varies between strains and even plants of the same strain. Furthermore, 800 known strains exist on the market with more probable undiscovered cultivars.
Different parts of the world have contributed to these cultivars’ ancestry. Landrace strains were collected from various areas of the globe by breeders. Landraces are chosen for hybridization based on certain desired characteristics. Landraces have evolved genetic variations as a result of natural selection. Photoperiod and autoflowering genetics are two examples of this divide.
The flowering time, cultivation difficulty, and other factors of cannabis strains can all be changed by traits. One of the first decisions that growers make about their plants is whether to choose photoperiod or autoflowering cultivars. In this article, we’ll cover the key features of both types of cannabis. Then, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each one so that you can decide which is right for you.
Photoperiod Versus Autoflowering Cannabis: The Divide
The key distinction between photoperiod and autoflowering plants is how they begin flowering. The vegetative stage is the first primary phase of growth, directly following a brief seedling period. This is when plants absorb nutrients rapidly, expand their root systems, and produce large fan leaves.
After the growth stage, plants produce flowers that contain glandular trichomes. These create valuable cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabis is an annual plant, which means it sprouts from seed, blooms and withers over a season. However, autoflowering and photoperiod plants detect changes in seasons differently because they come from various environments originally.
The time frame of light exposure is referred to as a photoperiod. When their light cycle changes, these cultivars enter flowering mode—a completely natural reaction. This occurs when summer fades into fall and the days grow shorter outdoors. To start blooming indoors, growers must reduce the amount of light their plants receive. Photoperiod strains take longer to mature but have greater amounts of cannabinoids and produce bigger yields than diurnal strains.
Autoflowering varieties differ from regular plants in that they don’t need a change in light cycles to start flowering. Instead, they have genes that cause them to flower after a certain amount of time has passed. These types of plants usually grow rapidly and are easy to take care of. They also tend to be much smaller than most photoperiod strains, meaning that they generally produce lower yields.
Comparing Autoflowering And Photoperiod Cannabis
There are many benefits and drawbacks associated with both photoperiod and autoflowering strains. They vary in a variety of aspects, including speed, yield, difficulty, and even form. Both are capable of producing high-quality buds!
Let’s look at the distinctions between these cannabis forms in greater detail.
Everything About Autoflowering Cannabis
The demand for autoflowering plants is high due to their quick growth and high-quality yield. Growers like autoflowers because they germinate quickly after being planted, allowing them to produce a quality harvest fast. Their size makes them ideal for covert indoor grows and guerrilla outdoor farming. Read on to learn more about these varieties and how they may benefit you. If they interest you, check out our list of the top 10 autoflowering seeds.
All autoflowering hybrids have genetics coming from a cannabis subspecies called ruderalis. Cannabis ruderalis is native to Eastern Europe and central Asia, which means it evolved with a much shorter growing season than sativa or indica plants. Ruderalis plants had to germinate, vegetate, and flower before the first frost arrived. In general, varieties of autoflowers will go from seed planted to harvest in 8-12 weeks total. This trait is especially useful for growers who want to covert their planting and maintain discretion, as well as commercial cultivators looking for more immediate results.
Auto-flowering plants require fewer nutrients than non-autoflowering varieties, but they do need a well-aerated potting mix. To promote optimal ventilation, add perlite to the planting medium.
The smallest subspecies of cannabis is called Cannabis ruderalis var. Lowland, also known as hemp weed or hemp. It grows in low-lying areas and marshes as well as riverbanks throughout central Asia, where it originally originated. Its leaves are small and three-fingered, with two tiny backward-facing fingers. Pure ruderalis plants are only grown for breeding purposes because they have minimal buds and lower levels of cannabinoids.
By combining ruderalis genetics with high-performing photoperiod strains, breeders have created autoflowering plants that typically grow 60-100cm tall. Some cultivars can reach 130cm, however. Autoflowers are usually stocky, so growers often use training methods like low-stress training to encourage lateral growth and changing the shape of the plant.
Like most things in life, autoflowering cannabis cultivars come with pros and cons. A benefit of autoflowers is that they are typically easier to grow than photoperiod varieties; however, the trade-off is that autoflowers usually have smaller yields. Another drawback of autoflowers is reduced productivity; however, growers can still achieve an indoor yield of around 400g/m² . Additionally, since autoflowers are generally smaller plants , cultivators can fit more of them into a particular space.
Autoflowering strains are easy to grow. Like, super easy. Ruderalis was adapted to survive in colder and harsher climates, making it a hardy and forgiving plant when it comes to beginner error. Autoflowers can take a beating—they’re quite hard to kill. They are often found growing wild in soil with few nutrients, making them ideal for beginners who want an easy-to-grow plant that is difficult to kill.
- Easy to grow
- Fast life cycle
- Greater variety than before
- Covert size
- Small size equates to lower yields
- Slightly lower potency than most photoperiod strains
- Easier to overfeed
- Can’t use high-stress training techniques
Everything About Photoperiod Cannabis
When it comes to size and productivity, photoperiod strains outperform autoflowering cultivars. They’re a bit more difficult to grow than autos, but the extra effort is always worthwhile. Find out everything you need to know about photoperiod strains below, as well as our top 10 feminized photoperiods if that interests you!
Photoperiod strains require more attention than autoflowers; for instance, growers must change the light cycle to force flowering. In addition, photoperiods grow taller and need frequent pruning and shaping.
However, photoperiod strains have more control. Because these plants will continue to vegetate as long as they are exposed to at least 18 hours of light each day, indoor growers may cultivate huge plants before switching the light cycle from 12 hours on and 12 hours off to begin the flowering stage.
Growers can also create small plants that mature quickly by starting them on a 12-hour light cycle, then switched to 12 hours of darkness until harvest.
The growing traits of photoperiod cultivars vary greatly due to the genetic diversity present within the category. Botanists classify photoperiod strains into two subspecies: indica and sativa. Overall, sativa strains achieve their full potential outdoors. Some varieties can reach tree-like heights of 3m, while others only grow to around 100–150cm and thrive both indoors and outdoors.
Sativa plants tend to grow tall with more space between nodes, and produce fan leaves with slender fingers. In contrast, indica plants are generally bushier, flagged for producing more lateral growths, and their leaves feature broad fingers.
The perception that sativa plants produce an energizing high, whereas indica strains are more soothing is commonplace in the mainstream cannabis culture. While this is true to a certain extent—particularly as a result of particular terpene mixes—it isn’t always the case. Morphological features aren’t always indicative of a cultivar’s chemovar (chemical variety).
Sativa-dominant and indica-dominant strains are also uncommon. Most cannabis available on the market is a mix of both, with a sativa-dominant or indica-dominant genetic makeup. Strains take on the characteristics of the subspecies that is more prevalent in their genetic make up.
Photoperiod plants yield differently. Strain purity has a significant impact on the amount of flowers generated by cannabis plants. Indica strains generally produce more blooms than sativa ones, owing to their indica nature. If grown outdoors, growers may anticipate anything from 1 to 4kg per plant from the most productive sativa types. Indoor crops yield approximately 500-600g per m2 for small sativas.
With proper care, indica strains can produce 400-600 grams per square meter indoors. Outdoors, with the perfect conditions, they can yield between 400 and 2,000 grams per plant.
While photoperiod strains may require more care and attention, beginners may still choose them for their first grow. Even though autoflowering is a smoother entry into growing, with great success as a potential outcome.
Growers must determine how long they want their crop to veg and plan for a different light cycle. They’ll also need to maintain an eye on pruning and training in order to keep their plants under control.
Some photoperiods are able to produce enormous colas. Although this is advantageous, growers must maintain proper humidity levels throughout the flowering and drying phases to avoid mould development.
- Great production potential
- Higher cannabinoid content than autoflowers
- Greater variety of strains
- Opportunities for cloning/indefinite vegging
- More “authentic” experience
- Greater difficulty level
- Takes longer from seed to harvest
- Can be inconvenient/difficult to maintain
- Indoor growers are responsible for inducing bloom
There’s no wrong or right answer when it comes to deciding between autoflowers and photoperiod cannabis strains. It all boils down to personal preference and available resources. Photoperiod strains have a limit on space, therefore growers looking to produce in a small apartment may be better off picking an autoflower instead.
On the other side, those with a lot of space in their garden have the option to unleash a sativa beast. They might, however, choose an autoflower that grows alongside companions to keep things low-key.
Now that you’ve learned the characteristics of each form of cannabis, you should feel ready and capable of making your selection. Best wishes, and good luck with your budding!