All You Need to Know About Autoflower Cannabis

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Autoflower cannabis
Author avatar By Derek LaRose
December 13, 2021
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Cultivating marijuana is easier than ever, and when it comes to autoflower cannabis, growers have many choices. These crops are available in sativa and indica options, and you can decide between multiple strains.

Autoflowering cannabis is popular among veteran and novice growers, as they’re convenient. These nifty seeds allow cultivators to focus on proper maintenance and care without strict autoflower light schedules

There are many advantages to autoflowering growing, and these seeds are currently trending. Below we discuss the hype, highlight the pros, cons, and explain the difference between auto strains and other cannabis varieties. 

We also provide you with a list of our favorite autoflowering strains, with a brief review of each. Let’s get started by discovering what makes these plants so special.

Autoflower weed
Autoflower weed

What are autoflower seeds? 

As the name suggests, autoflower cannabis flowers automatically. Unlike photoperiod varieties, light cycles don’t influence their maturity phases. To understand this, we need to look at the typical development of marijuana crops. 

Cannabis plants grow in four phases:

  • Germination
  • Seedling 
  • Vegetative 
  • Flowering 

With autoflowering cannabis, the final phase is automatic regardless of how many hours of light it receives. 

How are cannabis autoflower seeds created? 

Cannabis is split into various classifications. The first great divide is hemp, which is low in THC, and marijuana. Other classifications include:

  • Indica
  • Sativa
  • Ruderalis 

To get autoflower marijuana seeds, growers cross-breed ruderalis and popular indica or sativa strains. The latter two are typically photoperiod variants, whereas ruderalis enters the flowering phase independent of light cycles. 

Ruderalis doesn’t contain much THC, although it offers some health benefits. Combining this variant with popular indica or sativa strains offers growers the best of both worlds. 

Autoflower vs. photoperiod

OK, now let’s check the differences between autoflower vs photoperiod plants. Originally, THC-rich strains were only available in photoperiod variants. Autoflowering cannabis emerged fairly recently.

The main difference between the two occurs during the final phases of development. Let’s explore this by looking at how photoperiod crops grow. 

The first stage is germination when the seed sprouts a tiny taproot. Soon the seedling phase follows, and the plant develops a few leaves with single ridges. 

After an additional three weeks, your plant enters the vegetative stage, where the most crucial development happens. 

With photoperiod plants, growers can extend this phase to try and increase bud potency. When the crop is ready, they alter the light cycle to flower—the final stage of maturity.  

When you cultivate autoflowering cannabis seeds, the growth duration is shorter as they flip to flower automatically and are ready for harvest in 8–9 weeks. 

Autoflowering vs. feminized

Feminized seeds get genetically altered to produce an all-female crop. You can get them as photoperiod varieties or as autoflowering cannabis seeds. 

Many growers choose feminized seeds so they don’t need to separate males. The yield of these is also much larger. Combining the genetics of feminized seeds with autoflower marijuana is an incredible fusion that allows growers efficiency. 

Intermediate and advanced level growers best cultivate these seeds. The short duration between germination and harvest allows little time for the plant to recover from novice errors. 

Photoperiod varieties of feminized seeds can be beginner-friendly, as cultivation techniques are straightforward. You can extend the vegetative stage to give them time to heal by exposing these plants to stress, pests, or damage.

When you cultivate feminized autoflower cannabis, you need to apply diligent care and take preventative measures to avoid mishaps. Both feminized and auto buds have intense potency, but the former is stronger in some cases.

How to tell if your plant is autoflower

There are several ways to identify autoflower cannabis plants. If you buy your marijuana seeds from a reputable source, they label the packaging. You’ll know exactly what type of seeds you’ve purchased.

Autoflower cannabis seeds grow shorter than photoperiod strains, and their structure is bushy. Many of these plants only reach up to 2ft tall. They also mature quickly. Buds are ready for harvest within three months.

Observing them during the vegetative stage is the most obvious way to tell if you’re growing autoflowers. If your plants automatically start flowering, you’ll know that they aren’t a photoperiod. 

The final yield is also larger with photoperiod variants, especially when exposed to training during the vegetative stage. 

Are autoflowers less potent?

The potency of autoflower cannabis depends on several factors such as: 

  • Bud quality 
  • THC levels 
  • Strain 

The buds lacked potency when marijuana growers introduced autoflowers to the 420 scene. Over time, these nugs’ quality, flavor, and effects have improved enough to rival photoperiod variants. 

There are certain exceptions to the rule, but most tokers report that autoflower cannabis is equally as intense as other options.

Autoflower cannabis plants
Autoflower cannabis plants

Pros and cons of autoflower cannabis

There are several advantages and disadvantages to growing autoflower cannabis. These include: 

  • Fast life cycle 
  • Independent of light schedules 
  • Compact structure 
  • Hardy properties 
  • Minimal supplements 
  • More CBD 
  • Reduced harvests
  • Lower resistance to problems

Advantages 

When photoperiod marijuana seeds germinate, it’s the beginning of a long journey of continuous monitoring, maintenance, and environmental control. These crops take a few months to reach maturity. 

Autoflowering cannabis plants develop predictably and reach full maturity in approximately 10 weeks. This quick life cycle is convenient for growers who want to harvest sooner. 

Indoor cultivators have to invest in expensive grow lights and adhere to strict schedules with photoperiod marijuana. Autoflower cannabis eliminates this issue. You can set your cycles to 18 hours of light and 6 hours of dark from germination to maturity.

If you want to enhance your yield, opt to run your lights 24 hours a day. The results may vary from one strain to the next. 

One common factor in autoflowering cannabis crops is their compact structure. This trait is largely due to the ruderalis genetics. 

The size of these plants makes them convenient to cultivate. Growers can fit several crops into a confined space and still have adequate ventilation. They’re also resistant against most diseases and pests, making maintenance a breeze. 

Most autoflowering strains grow well on their own but flourish when sprinkled with supplements. A light dusting of Homegrown nutrients twice a week is enough to boost the health of these resilient crops. 

Many tokers don’t mind that popular recreational cultivars have low CBD levels. Medicinal users who want more cannabidiol benefits can select an autoflowering option as the levels exceed that of most indica or sativa. 

Disadvantages 

Autoflower cannabis has a few drawbacks, and you need to be aware of them before you decide to start growing them. The short life cycle of these plants comes with a trade-off of smaller harvests

The average autoflower yield is between 2–6 oz./plant in outdoor crops. These plants also produce lower THC levels, and clones are typical of poor quality.

The biggest disadvantage when cultivating autoflowering strains is how unforgiving they are when stressed. Rookie errors may result in poor yields or even loss of crops. 

How long do autoflowers take to flower?

Autoflowering cannabis plants go through four stages in their life cycle. The germination phase takes between 1–3 days. The seedling phase starts when the root is visible, and leaves develop for the next three weeks. 

Once more foliage appears, it enters the vegetative stage. Autoflowering cannabis remains in this phase for 2–3 weeks before they start flowering. It typically develops for another 3–5 weeks before it’s ready for harvesting. The total time is 9–11 weeks.

Marijuana autoflower
Marijuana autoflower

How much do autoflowering plants yield?

Yields are strain-specific, with some offering more than others. Factors like soil quality and nutrients also play a role in how bountiful the harvest is. 

Certain autoflower cannabis crops offer modest yields of 0.35 oz./plant outdoors, while others produce around 8 oz./plant. The average falls between these extremes at a range of 2–6 oz./plant. Using training techniques can optimize both the quality and quantity of the harvest.

How to grow autoflowering cannabis?

While certain cultivation techniques are standard for cultivating most types of marijuana, growing autoflower cannabis seeds requires special care. Indoor setups offer higher yields and environmental control, but outdoor cultivation for autos is also viable. 

How to germinate autoflower seeds

Germinating autoflower cannabis seeds is as simple as with any other variant. There are various methods to choose from, but we recommend the paper towel method backed by our Homegrown guarantee. You’ll need:

  • Two large dinner plates
  • Two paper towels
  • A large bowl of water
  • Marijuana seeds
  • A cloth
  • Tweezers 
  • Spray bottle (optional)

Method:

Step 1: Use the first plate as the base of the germination setup. Ensure it’s clean and dry.

Step 2: Dip one of the paper towels into the large bowl of water, and squeeze out any excess liquid as you remove it.

Step 3: Place the damp towel on the dinner plate. Dry off any water droplets using your cloth.

Step 4: Use your tweezers to place the autoflower cannabis seeds on the paper towel. Space them an inch apart, so the roots don’t damage as they develop.

Step 5: Wet the second paper towel and wring it out. Cover the seeds with it.

Step 6: Cover the setup with the second dinner plate, and place it in a cool, dry spot. Check on your seeds daily, using the spray bottle to add moisture if necessary.

Cannabis Seeds Germinating
Cannabis Seeds Germinating

Best way to grow autoflowers outdoors

When growing autoflower cannabis outdoors, you don’t need to abide by the seasons. You can cultivate these plants all year round as long as there’s no frost. 

Before you plant your newly germinated marijuana seeds, you need to prepare your grow medium. A light draining soil mixed with perlite and Homegrown nutrients. Early supplementation helps your autoflower marijuana plant grow optimally. 

Ensure that the environment is warm, with moderate humidity levels around 68%. Plant your germinated seed half an inch into the soil. Water your crops with a 6–7 pH nutrient solution, and dry the substrate before adding more moisture.

Best way to grow autoflowers indoors

Indoor growing allows you better control over many factors. Plant your marijuana seeds into a large container, so you don’t need to report them. 

In the seedling stage, autoflower cannabis requires high humidity of 80%. Once it enters the vegetative phase, drop these levels to around 50%. 

Employ a Sea of Green (SOG) technique to optimize the yield. Be careful not to subject the plants to too much stress as it could harm your crop.

The lights in your grow area need to be 27–40 inches above the canopy of your crops. This ensures optimal photosynthesis without burning the leaves. You can set your cycle to:

  • 18 hours light/6 hours dark
  • 12 hours light/12 hours dark
  • 24 hours light

These plants flourish with more light, but it’s more expensive for the grower. The ideal temperature for cultivating autoflower cannabis seeds is 68–77℉.

Monitor the pH levels of your soil, and if they’re too high or low, flush it. It’s preferable not to top or prune these plants, as it may hinder their development. 

Advanced growers can also cultivate autoflower cannabis indoors using hydroponics. These crops tend to gain more height thanks to the consistent nutrient feeds. 

Top 5 autoflowering strains

There are various autoflower strains available, and each cultivator has their own preferences. Below, we’ve compiled a list of trending favorites.

1. White Widow autoflower

White Widow autoflower is mostly indica and has THC levels that range from 16–20%. The CBD average is around 0.8%, and it’s ideal for growing both indoors and outdoors. The cultivar is award-winning and obtained a first place at the 1995 High Times Cannabis Cup. 

Trichomes decorate the buds, and the flavors are sweet, herbal, and citrus with earthy undertones. This autoflower cannabis induces an initial jolt of energy, combined with mental clarity to stimulate creativity.

Feelings of euphoria follow shortly, and a wave of calm washes over your entire body. The strain is relaxing without the heavy sensations of body melt.

Medical tokers love White Widow autoflower cannabis for the reported benefits on depression, stress, migraines, and insomnia. Cultivating this strain is a pleasure as it’s quite resilient and resistant to mold and mildew. It thrives in both hydroponics and soil. 

Typical yields for indoor crops range 10–15 oz./m2, and outdoor varieties produce 2–3 oz./plant.

White Widow autoflower
White Widow autoflower

2. Girl Scout Cookies autoflower

Girl Scout Cookies autoflower buds exude sweet fragrances of vanilla and wood with hints of spicy citrus. The flavor profile is similar, making each toke an irresistible delight. This autoflower marijuana strain is indica dominant and contains 18–20% THC. 

The CBD levels range between 0.4–0.6%, and its effects are typical of a balanced hybrid affecting you both cerebrally and physically. At first, you’ll feel joyful and uplifted with bouts of giggles.

It also boosts creativity and focus with a moderate increase in energy. After an hour, the physical aspect sets in, and this autoflower cannabis starts melting tension from your muscles. 

Many medical tokers report health benefits, and some use the cultivar to treat stress, anxiety, and pain.

Cultivating Girl Scout Cookies autoflower marijuana seeds is rewarding. The yields for indoor plants are 17–21 oz./m2, and outdoor plants offer yields of between 2–5 oz./plant. 

Girl Scout Cookies autoflower
Girl Scout Cookies autoflower

3. Blueberry autoflower

Blueberry autoflower is indica dominant and is a sugary, fruit-scented strain. THC levels are high, averaging around 19–21%. These buds induce feelings of euphoria and calm, making them great for social interaction. 

When taking a toke, you’ll detect sweet blueberry, vanilla, and subtle woody flavors. Blueberry autoflower cannabis is quite potent, and many consider it a one-hit and quit cultivar. 

Effects are long-lasting, and as the initial feelings of bliss fade, a case of the munchies hit. Growing these crops indoors typically offers harvests of 15oz./m2, and outdoor crops offer 1–2 oz./plant.

Blueberry autoflower
Blueberry autoflower

4. Northern Lights autoflower

Northern Lights autoflower is a fruity strain with spicy pine and wood scents. The cultivar offers tokers a flavorful smoke that tastes of mango and pineapple

The effects are energizing at first, accompanied by a burst of euphoria and relaxation. If you’re in a bad mood, this autoflower marijuana is sure to lift your spirits. Physically you’ll relax completely, and the case of the munchies will hit shortly before couch-lock does.

The THC levels in this strain range 12–16%, and the CBD averages 0.6%. These cannabinoids make the strain popular on the 420 scene. 

Cultivating Northern Lights autoflower is straightforward, with indoor varieties yielding 12–17 oz./m2 and outdoor crops producing 2–5 oz./plant. 

The buds are attractive and coated in sticky resin, making them hard to resist. 

Northern Lights autoflower
Northern Lights autoflower

5. Gorilla Glue #4 autoflower

If you’re looking for a sweet, sticky THC-rich strain, Gorilla Glue #4 autoflower is the perfect cultivar. The indica-dominant hybrid holds multiple awards, including the 2014 Jamaica World Cup and the 2018 Spannabis Cannabis Championship Cup. 

The cultivar offers syrupy buds drenched in resin. The autoflower cannabis has a high THC content of 19–24% and modest CBD levels of 0.7%. 

Its chocolate, coffee, and diesel flavor profile make it desirable for tokers. Its effects of calm euphoria are ideal for an evening smoke; it also has several reported health benefits.

Growing Gorilla Glue #4 autoflower is rewarding as the buds are ready for harvesting at around nine weeks. Autoflower marijuana crops typically yield 15–17 oz./m2 indoors and 2–4 oz/plant outdoors. 

Gorilla Glue #4 autoflower
Gorilla Glue #4 autoflower

Are autoflowers worth growing?

If you’re growing cannabis at home, autoflowering marijuana is worth cultivating. They don’t require as many nutrients as photoperiod variants, and you reap your rewards faster. You don’t need a large growing area as the plants are compact.

Autoflowering cannabis makes year-round harvests possible. When you use a staggered approach to planting them, you can ensure that you never run out of buds.

While autoflower marijuana may not be the ideal choice for commercial growers who prize quantity over convenience, it’s ideal for those who want to cultivate cannabis quickly and easily in a small space.

FAQs

We’ve tried to highlight the most important aspects of autoflower cannabis, but some questions may remain unanswered. Below we discuss a few of the most common ones.

Can beginners cultivate autoflower cannabis?

Autoflowering seeds offer cultivators convenience and a wide range of advantages during the growing process. It may seem viable for beginners as they don’t need to coordinate light cycles or implement strict feeding schedules

However, we recommend autoflower cannabis for growers with experience because these conveniences come with a trade-off. The short life cycle means it can’t recover from stress as photoperiod variants do.

Beginners may slip up occasionally, and these mishaps are easier to rectify with photoperiod cannabis crops. Diligent, novice growers can cultivate autoflower cannabis but must implement consistent maintenance and avoid errors.

Are all autoflower marijuana seeds feminized?

No, autoflower marijuana seeds develop without light cycles and produce both male and female plants. Many seed stores offer the convenience of selling feminized autoflower seeds or autoflower options that produce both genders. 

Be sure to check your packaging to determine if your autoflower seeds are feminized or not.

Can you grow autoflower cannabis seeds in the same grow area as photoperiod ones?

Autoflower cannabis and photoperiod variants can grow side by side, but we don’t recommend it. You won’t be able to take advantage of the automatic flowering as you’d need to use light schedules for your photoperiod plants.

Autoflower weed plant
Autoflower weed plant

Blooming autoflowers 

Autoflowering cannabis is a wonderful variant that offers growers convenience and a quick return. They’re hardy and don’t require much space or nutrients to flourish. 

The yields are smaller, but the buds are still potent and packed with cannabinoids and terpenes. These crops thrive indoors or outdoors, but the former boasts more generous harvests. 

Why not challenge yourself and give autoflowering cannabis seeds a shot? Visit Homegrown Cannabis Co. to get started today. 


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.