Are you roaming the web in search of a reliable, easy-to-digest yet explicit marijuana autoflower plants grow guide (Gotcha!) Admittedly, this one was logical to assume since you are reading these lines, right?
We understand painfully well the perplexity that some of you might be experiencing right now: you’re struck by so many guidelines and yet still stuck in a scenario that makes marijuana growing seem rather complicated.
But when you are planning your autoflowering strains grow operation, all you need is a handful of practical and friendly directions that can help you make the most well informed decision. So, should you give autoflowers a try?
The truth is, there are both ups and downs on the journey of cultivating the amazing autoflower cannabis varieties.
But if growing autos ten years ago used to be rather unsatisfying in terms of yields and even potency of the green medication you get upon harvesting, nowadays things have changed dramatically.
Advanced crossbreeding techniques have made it possible to upgrade the early autoflowering varieties into modern-day beasts. They flower fast, don’t need to be introduced to a specific photoperiod (12 hours light vs. 12 hours darkness), and their structure is super compact.
However, it is not all flowers and roses, and autoflowering cannabis strains won’t possibly grow “automatically.” This means that it is still YOU who is being in charge of optimizing the growing environment for best results.
Below, we will dig deep into all the important details that will help you truly understand the needs, the demands, and the unique characteristics of autoflowering cannabis strains.
Tracing the Evolution in Crossbreeding Modern-day Autoflowering Strains
It was during the early 1940s that scientists identified and classified a wild strain of hemp Cannabis Ruderalis.
The very term “ruderalis” originates from the word “rural.” There are different types of ruderal plant species that aren’t limited to Cannabis Ruderalis but they all have one crucial thing in common.
Ruderal species have found a way to grow and survive despite the unfavorable environment they are faced with, regardless of whether the environment has become hostile because of the humans’ imprint or because of different naturally occurring disturbances and/or growth limiting factors.
Cannabis Ruderalis plants start flowering as soon as they reach three-four weeks. They do not need the specific signals of the Sun that traditional cannabis varieties such as Sativas and Indicas need to initiate flowering.
It is thanks to this amazing quality that Cannabis Ruderalis has managed to survive the harsh meteorological conditions of its homeland, Russia, where the summers are extremely short, while the winter season is painfully long.
By living such a short life, Cannabis Ruderalis plants manage to progress from vegetation to flowering before the winter puts an end to their journey.
A mysterious breeder who remains unknown up-to-date turned out to be a visionary who realized that the amazing genetics of Cannabis Ruderalis might be favorable to hobby marijuana growers. But Cannabis Ruderalis could not possibly work on its own as even if cultivated carefully indoors, it lacks the THC potency of regular cannabis varieties.
Little by little, the mysterious breeder started implementing the miracle of crossbreeding in an attempt to reap the benefits of Cannabis Ruderalis in terms of short flowering and compact structure with regular cannabis strains that possess high bud potency.
However, the early autoflowering hybrids could not possibly compete with the high yielding, potent regular cannabis varieties. Even the marijuana autoflower hybrids created in the 2000s could provide a harvest that was quite far from satisfying for the cannabis growers.
But within less than two decades, autoflowering cannabis varieties have gone a very long way. “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living” – Gail Sheehy.
Nowadays, autoflowering seeds are a staple at every dispensary or seed bank. Moreover, there are hundreds of different autoflowering hybrids available that were born after merging the genetics of Cannabis Ruderalis with some of the most beloved strains globally, such as White Widow, Northern Lights, Chronic, and that’s just to name a few.
The Pros and Cons of Growing Autoflowering Cannabis Strains at a Glance
When trying to pick the most suitable marijuana strains to grow, many of you might be wondering if autoflowers are the right choice. And indeed, marijuana autoflower plants have their strong and weak sides.
It is only based on your personal needs and preferences as a grower that you can decide whether or not autoflowering strains are the best addition to your garden.
Pros of Growing Autoflowering Cannabis Strains
When grown outdoors, autoflowering strains start to produce buds regardless of the amount of sunlight they receive.
This particular quality of autoflowers can be especially beneficial for growers who live in regions where the summer season is that abundant in sunny hours as in other parts of the world. For example, a cannabis grower in Northern Europe will be able to use much less sunlight than a cannabis grower in South Asia.
Autoflowering strains can help to achieve multiple harvests as opposed to a single one.
Since autoflowers take approximately 3 months from seed to harvest, outdoor growers can easily maintain two or even more grow operations during the season. Nevertheless, those who are faced with a very short summer season and can’t possibly grow a regular cannabis variety within such a limited period can further benefit from the short flowering phase of autos.
Indoor growers can also benefit from multiple harvests. By the time a regular cannabis strain finishes flowering, you may be well into the mid-stages of the second grow operation with an autoflowering strain.
3Autoflowering strains have a compact structure and they very rarely exceed 1 – 1.5 meters in height.
The compact size of autoflowers makes them very well-suited to closet grows or in fact, any other type of indoor marijuana grow operations when you need to deal with limited space. For outdoor growers, compact plants mean fewer worries about the privacy of their garden.
Cons of Growing Autoflowering Marijuana Strains
Growing autoflowers may result in yielding less.
It almost goes without saying that the short structure of autoflowers will result in yielding fewer buds upon harvesting. However, there are many exceptions on that note.
First, different autoflowering strains can reach a different size. That’s one more solid reason why the choice of high-quality seeds matters since you will rely on the descriptions of the strain provided by the breeders/retailers.
Next, the amount of bud you can harvest highly depends on the suitability of your grow setup. As a comparison, an autoflowering strain that possesses excellent genetics can yield about 4 ounces per single plant. Meanwhile, if the same strain is introduced to a poor grow setup, it can end up yielding twice as less, with this example, as little as 1 -2 ounces per plant.
On the other hand, if you grow an auto that possesses poor genetics, even the best grow system won’t help you get anything more than approximately 2 ounces per plant. Finally, with a little bit of experience, care, and attention, a single auto can easily yield about 6 ounces of delicious bud upon harvesting.
Growing autoflowers may result in buds of decreased potency.
As we mentioned in the very beginning, the advanced marijuana crossbreeding techniques have helped autoflowering strains walk a very long way of progress towards an increased potency. There are many autoflower strains that reach 18% of THC content.
In any case, your choice of grow lights truly matters because autoflowers can show amazing results when fed extra light, which actually leads us to another possible downside of growing autos – higher electricity bills.
Growing autoflowers may result in spending more on electricity bills.
While autoflowers don’t need to be introduced to a specific photoperiod like regular cannabis strains (the 12 hours of undisturbed light vs. 12 hours of undisturbed darkness), autos will give best results upon harvesting when they have been bathed in a minimum of 18 hours of light every day.
Yes, this means you will want to follow the 18:6 grow lights schedule that is otherwise well-suited to vegetative regular marijuana strains. But if you are about to grow multiple autos, your grow lights will inevitably spend a lot of time switched ON. Depending on the types of grow lights you opt for, this can result in much higher electricity bills than usually.
On the other hand, for outdoor growers whose top priority is harvesting more, running a light deprivation system might be needed. That’s in the case the climate zone you live in does not provide a sufficient amount of sunlight to boost the yields you’re aiming for with autos.
Autoflowers tend to be less forgiving towards your mistakes as a grower.
Autoflowering strains transition to flowering in the blink of an eye. Before you even know it, autos will transition to flowering. This can be especially tricky for indoor growers since you won’t be the one to initiate flowering, and you won’t be quite sure about the exact moment when your plant’s exit vegetation. In fact, this can be equally tricky for outdoor growers, too, and that’s because the quick transition to flowering means your autos will be less forgiving towards your possible mistakes as a grower.
As a comparison, regular marijuana strains spend more time in vegetation, and this gives you more room to experiment whether it comes to applying training techniques or simply to learn how to attend to the needs of your green ladies.
Once marijuana plants enter flowering, any damage, including mechanical damage, as well as issues caused by pests, disease, nutrient deficiencies or excesses get harder to handle, and they can lead to stunted growth, resulting in decreased yields and/or potency. And since autos spend so little time in both vegetation and flowering, your time to act and treat any issues along the way is quite limited.
How to Grow Autoflower Cannabis Plants 101
Below, you will find all the practical guidelines that will help you make the most out of growing marijuana autoflower plants, no matter of the different autoflowering strains that you may consider opting for.
TimingMatters (A LOT) when Growing Autoflower Marijuana Plants
As autoflowering strains grow quickly and vigorously, timing is everything.
Indeed, a lot can happen within just a single week when you are dealing with such fast-flowering hybrids like autos.
On the one hand, you don’t have a lot of time for transplanting. You need to act fast. To illustrate this better, you can’t predict when the plant’s genetics will trigger into flowering. For example, if your autoflowering cannabis plant reaches 5-6 inches and you get down to transplanting it from solo cups to a bigger container, there is a high chance of stressing it out. As a result, you can end up with stunted or smaller plants, as well as greatly decreased yields.
Your best move is to plant your autos directly into their final containers which means you won’t be using several different sizes of pots as with regular cannabis varieties. Typically, a 10l – 20l pots work will work perfectly fine.
On the other hand, you need to be ready to carefully and regularly re-adjust your grow lights due to the rapid growth speed of autos.
Keep in mind that different autoflowering strains will result in plants with a variably different structure.
For instance, Indica dominant autos will be bushier and growing steadily in about 1-2 inches intervals per day before they reach about 1 meter in height. Sativa-dominant autos can reach an explosive growth speed of about 5 inches in the blink of an eye. So you need to act accordingly based on the specifications of the autoflowering strain you’ve chosen.
Light and Airy Soil to Make your Autos Thrive
Autoflowering marijuana plants prefer light and airy soil. The favorable type of soil used for growing regular marijuana plants is too heavy for autos.
Using heavy potting soil for growing autoflowering marijuana plants can be extremely damaging as it can stress out the plants. The roots may end up deprived of adequate access to fresh air. Even if you use air pots which are among the best types of containers for growing marijuana, this won’t compensate for the lack of suitable, light soil to make your autos flourish.
Your best move is to opt for soil that offers excellent drainage and contains only a moderate amount of nutrients because autos do not tolerate a high dosage of nutrients either.
You can also easily mix a perfectly well suited soil for autos with inexpensive materials. You’ll need 3 parts peat moss, 3 parts compost, 2 parts perlite, and 1 part vermiculite. To make the most out of this homemade soil mix, make sure that the perlite and vermiculite are pre-wet.
Master the Best Light Schedule for Autoflowering Strains
As a rule of thumb, autoflowering marijuana plants can grow and reach maturity with as little as only 5 hours of light per day. But don’t get this wrong, though. Supplying your autoflowering green beauties with only 5 hours of light cannot possibly grant you good results upon harvesting.
For those of you who want to achieve maximum potency and optimized yields upon harvesting, go for 20 hours of light per day.
Do mind that anything from 18 to 20 hours of light per day is considered the optimal light schedule for growing autos indoors. Some growers push the autos’ light cycle as far as providing a continuous 24 hours of light per day from seed to harvest. Results may vary but the most favorable light schedules for autoflowering cannabis varieties seem to be the 18-6 and the 20-4 light cycles.
Outdoor growers can start their autoflowering grow as soon as spring kicks in. But for best results, it is still a great idea to start off indoors and transfer the autos outside at the very moment they exit the seedling stage. In order to prevent any issues related to stressing out your fragile auto babies, make sure to harden them off for 2-3 days before fully transplanting them outdoors.
As we already discussed above, both outdoor and indoor marijuana growers can find autoflowering strains very beneficial when it comes to accomplishing multiple harvests within a short period.
But outdoor growers must be well aware that they still need to take the climate’s specifications into account. To illustrate this better, it won’t be a good idea to plant your autos outdoors in the very early or late season for example, early in March or late in October, when the weather is still not favorable enough to nurture your autos and provide you with excellent results upon harvesting. Undoubtedly, your autos can still survive and make it until the end of flowering but the lack of warmth and sufficient sunlight will significantly decrease both the quality, as well as the quantity of your yields.
Do’s and Don’ts of Training Autflowering Cannabis Varieties
One of the trickiest parts of growing an autoflowering cannabis strain (and especially if this is your very first time), is, undoubtedly, the precise application of training techniques in a timely manner. But why is that so? Then again, that’s related to the rapid growth timeline of autos.
Due to the fact that autos enter flowering before you can even notice, you can easily slip and keep applying training methods when you shouldn’t. Generally, marijuana plants should be trained when they are still in vegetation. For autos, this period can be anything from 2 to 4 weeks but how can you possibly tell for sure if you’re growing a particular auto strain for the first time, right? But that doesn’t mean training marijuana autoflower plants is impossible.
To stay away from issues, you can consider topping your plants as soon as they develop three nodes.
Nevertheless, you can also try low-stress training techniques such as tying and pulling the branches sideways to promote new upward growth. Apart from the SCROG method, the Sea of Green method (SOG) is one of the best-growing styles for autoflowering strains.
Pruning is also a great option. However, we do highly recommend that you stay moderate with pruning if you still lack experience with growing autoflowering varieties. Careful defoliation will increase light penetration, and it is highly unlikely to stress out healthy plants. But then again, do limit yourself to removing only the leaves that block buds from getting sufficient access to light.
The good news is that once you monitor the development of your first autoflowering crops, you will be so much better prepared on how to act for the second autoflowering grow operation. With this in mind, we do encourage you to stick with strains from the same breeder/retailer as this is the best way to get to know their genetics, behavior, and responses.
Stay Moderate with Extra Nutrients
Feeding autoflowering strains only conservatively are your best move. Due to the genetic traits of the ruderalis subspecies, autos don’t really need higher amounts of extra Nitrogen during vegetation as regular cannabis varieties do. After all, autos spend only a very limited amount of time in their vegetative phase.
You can easily go without adding any nutes during the vegetative cycle. But if you do choose to add any, make sure to use fast-released nutrients as they will be readily available to be utilized by the plant since you don’t have much time before flowering is initiated.
The most suitable time to start adding extra nutrients is about two weeks in the grow. You need to use as little as 1/3 of the recommended dosage on the labels.
Another smart and rather forgiving way of fertilizing autoflowering marijuana plants is to use only organic dry amendments.
Your Secret Weapon for Maximized Yields: Gradual Harvesting
Okay, so you have already reached the last point of growing your beautiful autoflowering marijuana plants garden: it’s harvest time! Just one last cut and you’re ready to get down to drying and curing the juicy buds. But here comes the sweetest trick for enjoying maximized yields out of cannabis autoflowering strains, and that’s gradual harvesting.
In order to gradually harvest your plants, you simply need to cut off the main colas first and proceed with the buds situated on the lower sides sequentially. By doing so, you will allow the lower buds to fully mature, thus, increasing their potency and flavor. In about a week or so, you will be ready to fully finish harvesting.
They finish flowering fast, require little to no extra nutrients and reach compact sizes – that’s probably one of the best ways to describe the benefits of growing marijuana autoflower plants in a nutshell.
While you are just about to harvest your cannabis autoflowers crop, you can already start preparing to grow your next crop, and isn’t this amazing? But whether autoflowering cannabis varieties are the best choice for your personal needs, preferences, and experience as a grower is a superbly intimate matter.
If you’re curious to try something new, if you want to deal with cannabis plants that don’t take long to be ready for harvesting, and if you don’t want to or can’t engage in following the strict periods of undisturbed light vs. undisturbed darkness for regular marijuana varieties, then autos might be just what you’re looking for.
In any case, keep our marijuana autoflower plants grow guide handy, and enjoy the ride!