One thing that makes marijuana even better is growing it yourself at home. In this case, you have absolute control over all the factors that affect potency and size of yields. On top of saving precious bucks over the long term, you can also coax the most out of the plants, harvesting a pound or more of beautiful, trichome-blanketed buds.
There is no one way of ensuring a monster yield. Once you understand all the contributing circumstances, it is only a matter of tweaking those conditions for the plants to thrive. And no, you do not have to be a master grower to produce premium-quality buds.
Do you, even as a beginner, want to match what the expert marijuana growers can produce?
What Is the Average Yield of Marijuana Plants?
How much yield you can expect depends on genetics and the growing condition. On average, the per square meter yield of soil-grown marijuana is around 3.5 oz (100 grams) per 100 watts. Hydroponics increases the yield by up to 20%, 4 oz (120 grams). Outdoors, most modern hybrids can provide you with about 17.5 oz (500 grams) per plant.
Sample estimates for indoor yield:
600W is a popular choice among indoor growers.
Soil: 3.5 oz (yield per 100 watts) x 6 (the 600 watts lamp used) = 21 oz (600 grams)
Hydroponics: 4 oz (yield per 100 watts) x 6 (the 600 watts lamp used) = 24 oz (720 grams)
The figures provided are estimates only. Arriving at an exact value is impossible because so many factors come into play. Moreover, the interplay among these factors varies immensely from one grower to another.
Factors Affecting Plant Yields
By and large, six main factors determine how much buds your marijuana plants can produce:
- Plant genetics
- Outdoors vs. indoors
- Soil vs. hydro
- Skill and experience
Genetics is something you do not have control over. If the plant is naturally low-yielding due to its internal makeup, then you cannot force it to produce more buds than it can. How and where you grow the plants also need to be taken into account. Whatever method you end up choosing, there are ways to increase the harvests. That includes providing adequate light and the right amount of nutrients. Finally, executing all of these things hinges on your ability and know-how as a grower.
1. Plant Genetics
When talking about plant yields, genetics is one of the most important considerations. If you’re growing naturally high-yielding strains then they will produce more buds. Others, despite your interventions, can only churn out an average yield. For instance, autoflowering strains tend to have lower yields due to their small size and short life cycle. However, a rapid growth cycle also means that you can go for perpetual harvests, translating to higher annual yields.
Besides the size of yields, you need to think about the quality of the harvest. Sativa strains, being tall and lanky, generally have lower yields, but the upside is that they boast the highest THC concentrations. Meanwhile, Indica strains have large yields composed of dense buds, but they are typically less potent than their Sativa counterparts.
But with hybridization and inbreeding, these distinctions are becoming more and more blurred. To be sure, research the specific qualities of your chosen strain first.
2. Outdoors vs. Indoors
Where you grow your plants – outdoors or indoors – will significantly impact their growth and yields.
Growing outside usually means having the luxury of working with a larger space. As a bonus, the plants will also be flourishing under the sun, undoubtedly the best possible light source. Because you can grow more plants, you can also harvest more buds. On the flip side, you have to rely on seasonal changes and schedule the growing cycle accordingly. Furthermore, you will not have control over the environment, making the plants more vulnerable to extreme weather changes, pests, and mold. Since many external factors are involved, the yields of outdoor marijuana plants can be harder to predict.
On the other hand, growing indoors lets you manipulate the environmental conditions, including the light, temperature, and humidity. By keeping them within optimal levels at all times, you can coax higher yields. However, you most likely have a smaller growing space, which means that you can raise fewer plants.
3. Soil vs. Hydro
Indoors, you have the option to grow marijuana plants in soil or hydroponically. In general, hydro setups tend to generate higher yields than soil-based systems. As long as you don’t commit any mistakes, you can expect up to 20% higher yields.
So, what exactly is the difference between the two?
Soil offers a traditional and all-natural way of growing weed. Of the two, it is cheaper, more straightforward, and more forgiving to mistakes. These qualities make it ideal for beginners. And, soil also generates the most aromatic and flavorful marijuana buds. The downside is that soil-grown plants are more prone to pests, diseases, and weed seeds. They also tend to grow more slowly and produce lower yields.
Hydroponics entails growing the plants in an inert medium that promotes an optimal moisture-to-air ratio – and a nutrient-rich liquid. This system encourages faster growth and draws larger yields. Mainly, because the roots have direct access to nutrients and oxygen.
But, there are a few drawbacks. For one, some setups are complicated – on top of being pricey to install and maintain. Second, figuring out the appropriate nutrient ratios can get tricky. Hence, this approach may be better suited for experienced growers.
Indoor growers need to set up an artificial lighting system that mimics both the sun and outdoor seasonal changes. It entails choosing the right spectrum of light – and letting the lamps illuminate the plants for a certain number of hours in a day. In both cases, you will have to factor in the current growth stage of the plants.
When it comes to maximizing the yields, light output and intensity are your primary concerns. In essence, you want the plants to obtain as much light as possible. That is because better light access translates to improved growth, health, and productivity. Meaning, the buds produced will be superior both in quality and quantity. Conversely, plants that do not receive enough light tend to suffer from stunted growth and scant yields.
Luckily, several training methods can help optimize light exposure. And if you have a lux meter (a device that measures brightness), you can identify which areas in the growing space are getting the maximum amount of light. In turn, you can rearrange the plants as needed. Alternatively, consider shortening the distance between the bulbs and the canopy to increase the intensity or brightness.
Marijuana plants need nutrients to grow and produce your coveted buds. Remember, their dietary requirements vary across the different stages of growth. Make sure that the chosen fertilizer contains the appropriate ratios and concentrations.
During the flowering stage, for instance, cannabis plants need higher amounts of potassium and phosphorus. On top of that, they will need more macronutrients, like calcium and magnesium. Also, do not forget the pH level – make sure to keep it within pH 5.5 to 6.5 at all times. Otherwise, the roots will not be able to access and absorb certain minerals, resulting in deficiencies. These can make the plants more susceptible to infections, which could significantly lower the yields.
6. Skill and Experience
Many people tend to forget this. Understand that it is not just about the strain, growing method, or how much light or nutrients you give the plants. Like it or not, your skill and expertise will also come into play.
If you are just starting, then do not expect to obtain the same yields as a seasoned grower. Training techniques alone already take some time to master. Not to mention, you will encounter all sorts of problems along the way – from overwatering to nutrient deficiencies to pest attacks. How quickly you can diagnose and address these issues can mean a lot for your yields. If you act too late, for instance, you might already lose some of your crops.
But do not be discouraged. That is just how it is. As you gain more experience and further hone your skills, rest assured that you will have more control over your plants. In turn, that makes it much easier to boost your yields.
How Do You Estimate the Yields of Your Plants?
Although the yields are highly variable, there are a couple of ways to approximate how much buds the plants will produce. One option is to factor in the pot size. But if you are growing indoors, then relying on the grow lights may be a better approach.
A gentle reminder. The weight of your buds will decrease once they are dried and cured. To have an idea of how much weed you will end up with, multiply the weight of your freshly-harvested flowers by 0.25.
Option 1: Based on Pot Size
The final height of marijuana plants largely depends on the strain. But, it also comes down to the pot size. After all, they can only attain their maximum height and size if they have enough space to grow. In other words, make sure to use the right container to avoid limiting their growth and expansion.
Outdoors, you will usually need at least 5-gallon pots. In the best-case scenario, cannabis plants will reach at least 35 inches, and each plant should generate about 3.5 oz of dry flowers. Again, this is only a rough estimate.
Option 2: Based on Lighting
This method is more suitable for indoor cultivation. As the name indicates, it entails calculating the average yields based on how powerful your grow lights are. While still an approximation, it can be more accurate than basing on the pot size. That is especially true if you are raising several small plants instead of a few large ones.
In general, more experienced growers can expect about 3.5 oz of marijuana buds per 100 watts of high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs. Since compact fluorescent lights (CFL) produce fewer lumens than HPS lamps (meaning, they are less bright), you will need twice as much wattage to coax out the same amount of weed. Finally, beginners will take home more or less half of what advanced growers can produce.
|Lighting System||Growing Space||Average Yields for Novice Growers||Average Yields for Advanced Growers|
|200-watt CFL lamp||3.5 x 1.5 x 6.5 ft||1.5-2 oz||3.5 oz|
|250-watt HPS lamp||3.5 x 1.5 x 6.5 ft||3-5 oz||9 oz|
|400-watt HPS lamp||3.5 x 3.5 x 7 ft||4.5-9 oz||14 oz|
|600-watt HPS lamp||4 x 4 x 8 ft||5-10 oz||21 oz|
|1000-watt HPS lamp||5 x 5 x 8 ft||9-18 oz||36 oz|
How Do You Maximize the Yields of Marijuana Plants?
Several methods help increase plant yields. If you are cultivating indoors, consider going for fewer plants. It might sound counterintuitive at first, but there is a rationale behind it. And, use more powerful lamps if you still have not. Training the plants to improve their light intake is also extremely useful – and this is suitable for indoor and outdoor growth.
Of course, consider the previously mentioned factors, too. Starting with a high-yielding strain is a given. And if you want sky-high yields for indoor plants, go with hydroponics. Finally, make sure to supply the plants with just the right amount of light and nutrients.
1. Grow Fewer Plants
As you might have noticed, the yields of indoor marijuana plants largely depend on the lamps or the growing space. As a result, the yields per plant are much harder to predict than outdoor growing. It might sound confusing, but you can take advantage of this to increase the harvest. That is, by growing fewer plants.
So, how does it work?
Let’s say that you plan on using a 600-watt HPS lamp. Generally, the more plants you grow, the less light each plant will receive, translating to lower yields. In contrast, the fewer the plants, the more light energy each plant will get. Put simply, you will get higher yields if you grew a smaller number of plants.
|Number of Plant(s)||Yields Per Plant (Under a 600-watt HPS bulb)||Total Yields (Under a 600-watt HPS bulb)|
|1||16 oz (1 lb)||16 oz (1 lb)|
|4||5 oz||20 oz|
|16||1.3 oz||21 oz|
Here are some points to keep in mind:
- A single marijuana plant can already yield up to a pound of weed.
- If you only have 4 plants, you can take home about the same amount of buds that you will get from 16 plants. That has a few notable implications. For one, fewer plants are much easier to manage, which means less time and effort on your part. More than that, it also equates to fewer resources, helping cut down your monthly expenses.
- The fewer plants you have, the better you will be able to monitor and take care of them. Hence, you are less likely to encounter problems – all while keeping each plant in tiptop shape.
2. Train the Plants
Earlier, we discussed the importance of light intake on improving yields. Unfortunately, the way marijuana plants grow in nature – also known as ‘apical dominance’ – does not encourage optimal growth and productivity. Typically, they produce one large, central stem, which towers over several smaller ones. That central stalk, being taller, obtains the most light, which is why it ends up the healthiest and the highest-yielding. In contrast, the lower branches have to make do with the weak light energy. At most, they will only produce small, fluffy buds with compromised potency.
Training marijuana plants is an effective method of breaking apical dominance. Mainly, you want to induce the plants to grow in a certain way to maximize their light access. Ultimately, it means keeping the plants at the same height, resulting in an even canopy wherein each stem can receive the same amount of light – and grow like an apex cola.
Here are some training techniques that help maximize yields:
- Low-Stress Training. This method – otherwise known as “LST” – entails manipulating the plants to grow laterally – instead of vertically. It can be achieved by bending the plants to the side and tying them down. If done correctly, it will guarantee a uniform light distribution across the plant while enhancing energy efficiency.
- Screen of Green. Also referred to as “scrog” or “scrogging,” this technique is a form of LST. Likewise, it also means inducing the plants to grow horizontally. This time, what you need to do is place a lightweight mesh screen over the plants. It will keep the stalks evenly spaced and of the same height for equal light access.
- High-Stress Training or Super Cropping. Often shortened to ‘HST’, this method involves repositioning the branches to flatten the canopy. But before you can reshape the plants as desired, you need to make the stems more pliable first. That is done by slightly damaging the inner tissues of selected branches. If you want to learn more about supercropping check out our blog article, What Is Supercropping? for all the information on this subject.
3. Switch Your Grow Lights
If you want the highest possible yields, then high-intensity discharge (HID) lights are your best bet. And during the flowering stage, it means using HPS lamps. These fall under the orange-red spectrum, which helps promote prolific budding and flower production.
For the best results, make sure to position the lamps at the appropriate distance. That usually depends on the wattage of the bulbs and the dimensions of the growing space. Refer to the table below to have an idea.
|Wattage of HPS Bulbs||Dimensions of Growing Space||Distance Between the Bulbs and the Canopy|
|150 watts||2 x 2 ft||8-12 inches|
|250 watts||2.5 x 2.5 ft||10-14 inches|
|400 watts||3 x 3 ft||12-19 inches|
|600 watts||4 x 4 ft||14-25 inches|
|1000 watts||5 x 5 ft||16-31 inches|
Here are some things to keep in mind if you plan on using HPS bulbs:
- 600-watt lamps are considered the most efficient, followed by 1000-watt bulbs. They provide the highest light output per watt of electricity used.
- Since HPS lights tend to emit plenty of heat, you will have to boost the ventilation in the growing area. Otherwise, the plants may experience heat stress. On top of that, you also need to install a ballast and a reflector.
- The higher the wattage of the bulbs, the more carbon dioxide (CO2) the plants will need. Without enough CO2, after all, they will not be able to convert all the available light into energy. One way to increase the CO2 levels is to keep the growing space well-aerated, facilitating the entry of fresh CO2 from the outside. You can also use CO2 tanks and generators to increase the CO2 concentration in the grow room.
Attaining Your Desired Yields Is Possible
A prolific harvest composed of large, dense buds is the end goal of every marijuana grower. Not only is this achievable, but there are also ways to kick things up a notch. By and large, it entails understanding and meeting the plants’ needs, especially when it comes to lighting and nutrients. Afterward, it will be helpful if you find a technique – such as training – that best suits your chosen growing style.
If you are just getting started, it might take some time before you reach this level. But don’t worry, you will get there eventually. For sure, all the hard work and waiting will only make your rewards far sweeter.