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Indoor vs. Outdoor Weed: Which Is Better?

June 6, 2022

Contemporary cannabis comes in all shapes and sizes! Indica, sativa, hybrid, THC-dominant and CBD-dominant, pink, purple, and green—you get to choose every aspect of your experience. Another less discussed but equally relevant distinction is indoor vs. outdoor weed.

Ready to complement your existing knowledge of marijuana diversity?

No two cultivars are alike. It’s easiest to find your perfect match by considering the variety, flavor, potency, and effects. These factors play a greater role than the cultivation spot.

Why stop at finding your ideal strain, though? Optimize your 420 adventure by introducing another layer to your selection process.

Join us for a complete guide on indoor vs. outdoor cannabis. We’ll discuss the bag appeal of these two categories and touch on several cultivation-based factors. Use our overview to select the right setup and set yourself up with the best-fitting bud.

Marijuana flowering outdoors - indoor vs outdoor weed
Marijuana flowering outdoors

Indoor vs. outdoor weed: General perspective

Cultivars share numerous traits, but an even longer list of characteristics distinguishes them. Where do you even start? Let’s lay the foundation for investigating differences between indoor and outdoor weed.

We should first consider the difference between indoor and outdoor strains. All marijuana cultivars were outdoor in the past. After all, they originated in natural environments. 

The situation changed with the modern breeding industry. You can now get a cultivar that’s never seen the light of day, bred in labs to be grown at home. These hybrids require specific conditions unattainable in outdoor America.

That’s a story for another time, though.

In the case of outdoor vs. indoor weed, we’re talking about the same strain grown in two separate environments. That’s the only way to note and explain the contrasts that emerge.

Growing cannabis indoors is all about control. Cultivators replicate the optimal environments in enclosed spaces, fine-tuning all conditions to maximize output.

LED lights for growing indoors
Indoor Cannabis Plants

This method is costly and requires dedication, but it produces perfect flowers. Looking at indoor weed vs. outdoor, the former never has to face any significant environmental challenges. It grows small, dense, and sticky.

On the other hand, outdoor setups revolve around making compromises with nature. In this case, finding the best place to grow weed has to do with what Mother Earth gave you. The weather, precipitation, land composition, and quality—they all play their part.

Outdoor gardeners usually let the plant stretch taller and wilder, get bushy, and fatten under the sun. The resulting harvest isn’t lower-quality, but it looks messier.

Now that we understand the basic indoor vs. outdoor weed distinction let’s discover what it means in practice. We’ll break it down across several relevant categories.

Indoor vs. outdoor weed price

The first indoor vs. outdoor weed comparison factor is the least nuanced. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s pricier to grow marijuana in indoor conditions. 

Rookies are often shocked by the amount of equipment they need to procure! The tech for maintaining the perfect climate for growing marijuana indoors alone costs more than a complete outdoor setup, seeds included.

Is the indoor vs. outdoor weed price discrepancy so dramatic, though?

If dealing with your first setup, it is. Lighting can be expensive, nutrients for hydroponic media are pricey, and you need a ton of meters for climate control. Not to mention the grow lights! Check the how to grow cannabis indoors guide to learn what you need.

Cannabis Grow Room
Indoor cannabis grow room

There’s less shopping to worry about while learning how to grow cannabis outdoors. As long as you have a balmy climate, rich soil, and an available plot of land, the costs are minimal.

What about after the initial purchases? Is the price clash of outdoor vs. indoor weed still significant? Not as much. You have to cover larger utility bills and cash out on the nutrients, but the setup itself is a one-time investment.

The rising popularity of at-home cultivation is also good news. It’s getting easier than ever to assemble a cheap indoor grow setup, with more manufacturers entering the market and lowering the barrier of entry.

Growing weed outdoors is the budget-friendliest, but cultivating indoors is more affordable than dispensary purchases in the long run.

Indoor vs. outdoor yields

Cannabis cultivation is so often about maximizing output. As a result, the harvest question becomes central to the growing weed outside vs. inside debate.

In most cases, outdoor growers see higher yields with the same cultivar. The difference comes from two factors—natural sunlight exposure and crop size.

For one, cannabis is a high-light, hungry plant. When growing weed in a greenhouse or out in the open, it gets plenty of natural light, something that even the strongest grow lamps can’t fully parallel. The sun makes bud sites pop up and swell.

Marijuana plant stature is an even bigger factor in the indoor vs. outdoor yield size. 

Larger crops have more internodes where bud sites can cozy up. And plants get much more robust in outdoor setups. We sometimes even see double-sized phenotypes.

Voila, you get heaps of buds from full-sized crops basking in natural sunlight.

Pro tip: You can only reap this benefit in ideal conditions. Living in Vermont and considering indoor vs. outdoor weed from a tropical strain? Choose the former option for better harvests.

Kyle Kushman Harvesting Weed

Indoor vs. outdoor nugs

When looking at outdoor vs. indoor weed, you can use the bud size and shape to determine which was grown where.

As a rule of thumb, everything’s larger with outdoor-cultivated crops. That applies to the foliage and stems, and also the sticky flowers. Outdoor buds are bigger and chunkier. Those cultivated in controlled conditions appear small and dense in comparison.

Another telling sign is the stem that connects the buds to the branches. Outdoor varieties have thicker, sturdier stems than their indoor equivalents, courtesy of the wind that would otherwise blow them off.

Kyle Kushman and Parker Harvesting Cannabis Outdoors
Kyle Kushman and Parker Harvesting Cannabis Outdoors

The indoor vs. outdoor bud comparison also relates to trichome production. Indoor nugs are smaller and sit closer to light sources in perfectly controlled conditions. They tend to produce crystals vigorously. We often see resin coatings over the entire green surface.

Outdoor flowers are larger, so the same amount of trichs look modest. Wind and cold weather might also diminish the stickiness.

Pro tip: Want to achieve chunky buds while growing inside? Learn how to make buds bigger during flowering by employing the right pots, grow lamps, training, and nutrients. These skills help you achieve outdoor-sized flowers covered in indoor-tier trichomes.

Indoor vs. outdoor weed high

Proponents of marijuana grown in natural conditions often mention the feeling you get upon smoking. They speak of a clean high with outdoor buds, comparing it to a more artificial experience with indoor-grown pot. And to an extent, they’re right.

We’re mostly talking about terpenes when considering outdoor vs. indoor weed high. These chemicals impact how you feel THC, making the herb relaxing, energizing, mind-expanding… you name it.

Sunlight exposure encourages terpene production. If you compare indoor vs. outdoor weed, you’ll notice that the latter has more of these chemicals. Wait, how do terpenes affect the high?

Cannabinoids bring the brute force of marijuana, and they influence how strongly it hits you. At the same time, terpenes direct this power and determine how the effect profile feels in your body.

Higher terpene counts mean that the high from outdoor marijuana feels more straightforward, deeper, and less overwhelming. In contrast, tokers discussing outdoor vs. indoor weed report more shallow experiences with indoor-grown stuff.

Marijuana flowering indoors
Marijuana flowering indoors

Indoor vs. outdoor weed potency

Indoor vs. outdoor weed potency is a matter of many myths and misconceptions. Numerous growers operate under the impression that their outdoor yields will be weaker than the same bud batch in indoor conditions.

Simply put, that’s not true.

The idea emerged because outdoor conditions sometimes imply adverse weather. Whether indoor or outdoor weed, any plant is less potent if it doesn’t get optimal conditions. 

The situation reverses in suitable climates.

When weighing the options of indoor vs. outdoor weed, the one grown in all-natural conditions is usually more potent.

Sunlight exposure promotes cannabinoid production and heightens the power of your herb. Sun-grown buds score higher in both THC and CBD contents.

Cannabis plant growing outdoors
Cannabis plant growing outdoors

Indoor vs. outdoor cannabis flavor

The wild type of marijuana looks less immaculate than its controlled-grown cousin. Appearances aren’t everything, though. Pure sunlight and nutrient-rich soil of natural conditions produce a superior flavor profile.

The reason behind this indoor vs. outdoor weed disparity lies in sunlight exposure. Remember the terpenes mentioned earlier? They also form the aromatic bouquet, bestowing the unique and delightful flavors onto our favorite green plant.

Like cannabinoids, terpenes are the most abundant under natural light. The result is a much more flavorful and aromatic experience with outdoor crops. That’s not to say that controlled-condition colas aren’t flavorful, only that they’re less intense.

You can easily tell whether you’re dealing with indoor or outdoor weed by the flavor strength. What’s more, the former variety sometimes displays additional terpenes. You get taste notes you wouldn’t even suspect if you smoke only indoor-grown buds.

Pro tip: Modern cultivators often experiment with grow room light spectrums. Switching up from blue to red LED lights as the crop enters flowering can increase the terpene percentages.

Cannabis indoor cultivation - Cannabis grow box
Marijuana cultivation indoor

Outdoor vs. indoor weed color

The final visual characteristic for contrasting indoor weed vs. outdoor weed is their coloring. In general, outdoor marijuana tends to display darker hues than its indoor counterpart. 

If the cultivar is green, outdoor nugs appear mossy or forest, while indoor varieties stay in vivid and minty shades. In the same vein, outdoor buds of a purple herb are deep, striking, and nearly regal. The same crop grown indoors emerges more gentle and violet.

This color difference is visible throughout outdoor vs. indoor weed plants’ structures. The very foliage and stem get darker in outdoor-grown specimens. We mentioned buds first because the contrast is most evident there.

The bottom of the bud is yet another visual cue for indoor vs. outdoor weed. Buds grown in the great outdoors tend to have a light brown patch surrounding the base and reaching the stalk. Indoor flowers have a consistent green, purple, yellow, or black coloring.

These changes are a combination of light exposure and temperature. 

Outdoor crops generally receive more intense light. Speaking of the Northern Hemisphere, they’re also exposed to lower temperatures in late flowering. These two factors work together to promote pigment development, producing darker crops, leaves, and nugs.

Cannabis outdoors in sunlight
Cannabis outdoors in sunlight

Indoor or outdoor weed?

In the end, is indoor or outdoor weed better? We’re leaving you with no definitive answers.

Instead, we can offer you a list of generalizations to use while choosing where to grow. Let’s recap what we’ve discussed:

  • Indoor growing is more technical and controlled
  • Indoor growing is pricier and requires more equipment
  • Outdoor growing produces higher yields of bigger buds
  • Indoor flowers are stickier and brighter in appearance
  • The high is deeper and stronger with outdoor buds
  • Outdoor marijuana is more potent and aromatic

Your indoor vs. outdoor weed choice will have to be individual. Climate, budget, location, space, and all factors from above play a role in the best option for you.

Even if you make a decision, don’t see it as set in stone. We’d say—all cultivators should try both setups before committing to either. These systems bring unique ways to experience and appreciate the herb, and they’re both worth your attention.

Why not put your new knowledge to the test? Get marijuana seeds at Homegrown and try both canna-gardening methods. Test the results against our descriptions and tell us if you catch anything notable.

Stay tuned to our blog for more guides like this outdoor vs. indoor weed comparison. We cover topics relevant for growers and tokers, helping everybody enjoy the herb to the fullest.

About the author: Derek LaRose

Also known as Kronic from The Cannabis Kronicles, Derek LaRose is a young ambitious cultivator and a staple educator for indoor cultivation.

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