Low season? What low season? How growers are producing all-year harvests with autoflowering cannabis strains.

A picture of a cloned marijuana plant with large thin leaves
Author avatar By Derek LaRose
July 24, 2020

What is the best time of year to start growing marijuana outdoors? With autos – any time! Autoflowers are absolutely amazing in this regard. How many times have entire growing seasons been missed because the seeds weren’t planted in time? How many smaller, disappointing harvests have been reaped due to late germination and sowing? Too many. Not a worry if you grow autoflowering cannabis seeds!

Now, you’ve probably heard bad things about autoflowering strains. Perhaps you think they deliver small yields or poor quality bud? Maybe you think they’re less potent and lack flavor? Whatever you’ve heard, it’s time to rip up your preconceptions and ask some serious questions (you’re going to love the answers). Questions like: what’s the biggest yielding autoflower? What’s the fastest growing autoflower? Do autoflowers take longer outdoors? Are autoflowers less potent? And, basically, are autoflowers worth growing at all? The answer to that last question is a resounding YES – especially if you like all-year-round bud.

What makes autos perfect for the low season?

To understand what makes auto-flowering strains the best choice for the low season, we have to see what Ruderalis brings to the table.

Some people believe Ruderalis is a descendant of Indica, but we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that ruderalis is a subspecies of cannabis that grows mostly in Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, specifically in Russia. It’s considered a wild breed as it’s been left alone to adapt, grow and thrive in extreme environments – conditions characterized by long spells of darkness and cold temperatures.

On its own, cannabis ruderalis has little value to cannabis consumers, but add a little ruderalis to an indica or sativa strain and they become magic. Well, not quite magic, but that’s how auto-flowering cannabis plants can seem sometimes! 

What are autoflowers?

As spring moves into summer, the days grow longer and longer, culminating in the longest day of the year – the summer solstice (20th June – northern hemisphere). Photoperiod plants have adapted to use these extended periods of daylight to bulk out, developing sturdy stems and branches.

As we pass the solstice and move towards fall, the days inevitably get shorter. Photoperiod plants react to these shorter days by initiating their reproductive cycle – males grow pollen sacs and females produce the abundance of sticky flower we all love. As winter approaches, these sacs burst, spraying the flowers with pollen. The pollinated plants then die but leave behind hundreds of seeds to start the cycle again.

Photoperiods are annual plants. You cannot start growing them outdoors in autumn. Auto-flowering strains are different. They flower automatically after 2 to 4 weeks of vegging. From germination time to harvest, most autos take around 10 to 12 weeks. Some need as little as 6 to 8 weeks.

With autos, it doesn’t matter what time of year you plant the seeds. You can grow them in spring, summer and autumn. In warmer locations, you can grow autos right through winter.

Can autos survive low temperatures?

Ruderalis plants thrive even in the cold regions of northern Russia. Straight up indica and sativas wouldn’t stand a chance. Hybrids without the ruderalis gene need temperatures ranging from 68 to 82.4°F – anything below 68 will stunt growth and probably kill them. By infusing the genes of Ruderalis, some auto-flowering strains can grow even at 64.4°F. Some auto hybrids can produce buds in temps as low as 60.8°F!

Although autos can survive in low temperatures, they still need optimum temps to produce optimum yields. Optimize your humidity, airflow and temperature levels and your modern auto-flowering strains can produce very generous yields.

Do autoflowers take longer outdoors?

Autos can take a little longer outdoors, mainly because they’re not being blasted with up to 24 hours of light as per an indoor grow. You’re looking at 10% slower, maybe up to 30% slower depending on where you live and what sort of weather you get. You should also factor in your chosen auto strain – not all autos are alike. A more sativa-dominant hybrid is likely to take longer than an indica – always read the label, as they say.

Are autoflowers less potent (and other common questions…)?

Old school cannabis enthusiasts may remember Lowryder. It was the first auto to have commercial value. Today, its legacy is paving the way for a new generation of auto-flowering strains. You can find them in many marijuana seed banks and they are better than ever.

When breeders first created autos, the results were unspectacular. Lowryder was the game-changer, capable of producing up to 14% THC. Not insanely high, perfectly suitable casual use, but nothing like today’s, modern autoflowers.

What are the best autoflowering strains? 

Most modern auto-flowering strains can deliver plants with more than 20% THC, such as Amnesia Haze Auto – 19% to 25% THC after growing from seed to harvest in only 11 weeks. It looks and smells amazing, too – just as much bag appeal as its photoperiod cousin.

What’s the fastest growing autoflower? 

If 11 weeks is too long (that’s pop to crop, remember), you should check out Blue Amnesia Auto. This beautiful plant finishes its entire cycle in just 6-8 weeks, delivering flower with THC levels of a cool 18%.

What’s the biggest yielding autoflower? 

One of the biggest complaints (historically) about autos was their low yields. That, too, has changed. You only have to check out the profiles of Jack Herer Auto, Girl Scout Cookies Auto and Wedding Cake Auto to see the difference.

Are there any autoflowers with CBD? 

A significant change in the cannabis scene has seen the development of high CBD strains. More and more people are realizing the enormous medicinal benefits of marijuana, and we are seeing a rising demand for non-psychoactive cannabis. Homegrown Cannabis Co is leading the way in terms of autoflowering high CBD cannabis strains, with a great range that includes CBD Cheese Auto, CBD Haze Auto and CBD White Widow Auto.

Having adapted to harsh growing conditions, Ruderalis genetics have improved the growth traits of Sativa, Indica and hybrid cannabis strains in many ways…

  • They are more resilient to pests and diseases.
  • They can be planted all year round.
  • They have great yields.
  • Their flower is just as good as most photoperiod strains.
  • They are perfect for beginners.
  • They require fewer nutes, less room, less attention.

With autoflowering cannabis strains, you’ll never have to worry about planting time, harvest time or planning your grow-calendar around the seasons. Just pop ‘em, plant ‘em and crop ‘em – no matter what time of year it is.