The Perfect Light Schedules For Autoflowering Cannabis
Growing autoflowering strains? In this article, we explore the ideal light schedule to help your autos produce the best possible harvests.
WHAT’S THE BEST LIGHT SCHEDULE FOR AUTOFLOWERING CANNABIS?
Autoflowering cannabis strains flower based on age, rather than a change to their light cycle. Nonetheless, providing your autos with the right amount of light remains crucial to ensuring the best possible harvest. Read on to learn all there is to know about lighting for autoflowering cannabis strains.
18/6 LIGHT CYCLE
Cannabis is a C3 plant, meaning it can absorb CO₂ for photosynthesis even during light hours. And since autoflowering plants have short vegetative phases and often grow shorter than photoperiod strains, you’ll typically want to give your autos at least 18 hours of light. This allows for robust growth, without overspending on energy. Your autos love light just as much as traditional photoperiod strains, they just don’t rely on it to begin bloom.
24HR LIGHT CYCLE
Some growers will even give their autos a full 24 hours of light, arguing that this helps maximise vegetative growth. Growers who stick to 18-hour light cycles, on the other hand, argue that this gives their plants a short “recovery” period that is essential for healthy growth.
There’s no real consensus on whether autos grow better under 18 or 24 hours of light, and we’ve seen growers achieve great results with both methods. To make up your mind, we recommend playing around with both variations and sticking to what works best for you.
WHAT ABOUT A 12/12 LIGHT CYCLE?
Some growers still decide to keep their autos under a 12/12 light cycle during flowering. And that’s fine, as autos grown in these conditions can still produce a fair harvest. Just remember that the buds you harvest under a 12hr light cycle will be noticeably smaller than what you’d get under a 18–24hr cycle. Some reasons you might consider keeping your autos under 12/12 include:
- Heat concerns: If you live in a very hot climate, you might want to turn your grow lights off during the day to avoid overheating your grow room. In that case, growing your autos under a 12/12 light cycle—with lights on during the night—might be your best bet to avoid causing your plants heat stress.
- Growing autos alongside photoperiod strains: If you’re growing autos alongside feminized photoperiod strains, you’ll likely have to place your autos in the same room as your flowering feminized plants, meaning your autos will only get 12 hours of light per day.
- To save money: Running grow lights for 18–24 hours over a few months can get very expensive. If you want to grow autos on a tight budget, you might want to use a 12hr light cycle instead.
PERFORMING SOG WITH AUTOFLOWERS
SOG, or sea of green, is a cannabis training technique that can produce some great harvests. Rather than getting your plants to grow as large as possible, SOG involves growing several smaller plants in close proximity to form a uniform canopy that maximises light exposure and space.
SOG is a great technique to try with autos because it takes advantage of the naturally smaller stature of these varieties. While every grower will have their own technique for SOG, most will grow between 4–16 plants per m², depending on how big they let each plant grow.
Depending on the size of the particular strain you’re growing, we recommend using 7–10l pots and growing between 4–6 plants per m². This should make the most of your space and lighting while still providing your plants with enough airflow to avoid any mould issues. If you decide to grow more plants per m², remember to use smaller pots to control their size and avoid overcrowding your grow room.
A NOTE ON LIGHT SPECTRUM
Using the right light spectrum is super important when growing any type of cannabis plant, including autos. Because autoflowering plants have such short life cycles, you really want to maximise the quality of light, nutrients, and soil you give them.
As you might recall from science class, when you shine a light through a prism, it is broken up into different colour spectrums. Plants, which depend on light for photosynthesis, respond differently to these different spectrums. Like with a photoperiod cannabis strain, we recommend sticking to the following light spectrums:
- 6500K blue light during veg: Blue light spectrums have been shown to encourage vegetative growth, helping cannabis plants grow short and stocky while minimising stretching.
- 2700K red light during flowering: Red light spectrums are ideal for bloom because they encourage budding and a little bit of stretch, encouraging your plants to produce big, dense flowers.
EXTRA TIPS FOR GROWING GREAT AUTOS
If you’re new to the world of autoflowers, follow these simple tips for a better harvest:
- Pick a high-yielding auto: Not all autoflowers are made equal, so be sure to pick a high-yielding strain if harvest size is important to you.
- Plant in your final container: Up-potting cannabis plants always causes stress. Since autoflowers can go from seed to harvest in as little as 8 weeks, it’s best to avoid this kind of stress and always plant your seeds straight into their final pots.
- Use an airy growing medium: This helps stimulate root and foliage growth.
- Use LST: If you want to train your autoflowering cannabis plants, only use low-stress techniques. High-stress techniques like fimming, topping, and supercropping will end up doing more harm than good.
Growing autos? Click here to learn all you need to know about the right light schedule for autoflowering cannabis strains.
Best light schedule for auto-flowering strains?
How Much Light to Give Autos Each Day
Unlike photoperiod plants where you have to provide special light schedules to get the plant to start making buds, auto-flowering marijuana strains automatically start making buds and are ready to harvest in about 3 months from seed, regardless of what light schedule received.
The next question, then, is what’s the best light schedule to give auto-flowering marijuana plants each day if you are growing indoors?
Short Answer: 18/6 Schedule
18 Hours Light, 6 Hours Dark (perfect for beginners)
Most growers seem to agree that the optimum amount of light to give auto-flowering strains of marijuana is somewhere between 18-24 hours of light a day. When I’ve grown auto-flower plants, I gave them 18 hours of light a day, and 6 hours dark, at least partially because it allowed me to turn the grow lights off during the 6 hottest hours of the day (I live in Southern California where it’s hot most of the year!).
Recommended: 18-24 hours of a light a day
I’ve also seen many great growers give their autos 20, 22 or even 24 hours of light a day.
Do Autoflowering Plants Need a Dark Period?
There are growers who believe auto-flowering plants need a dark period and won’t be as healthy if they get 24 hours of light a day.
I personally haven’t seen evidence of that, and at least in my experience autoflowering cannabis plants seem to do great getting 24 hours of a light a day.
Additionally, the wild ancestor of auto-flowering plants (“Ruderalis” hemp) grows in the northern parts of Russia and may naturally experience nearly 24 hours of light a day in the summer. So it’s not crazy to think that auto-flowering strains will also do well on 24 hours light/day.
However, giving a plant fewer hours of light a day will save you on electricity, and if it does help the plant grow better then that’s a bonus! Combined with the fact that it gets hot here during the day and we have extremely expensive electricity, I always put my autos on 18/6.
I’m very happy with how my plants grow on an 18/6 schedule, but it’s definitely not necessarily the best light schedule to grow autos depending on your situation. Here are a few more pros and cons to consider:
- For hot climates, the ability to turn off lights during 6 hottest hours of the day
- Uses 25% less electricity than 24 hours of light a day (which adds up if you have expensive electricity)
- Plants are harder to stress and recover faster from problems. Often the grow light can be kept closer. This extra hardiness can make things a little easier for you if you run into problems, or if it’s your first grow.
- Cannabis plants typically grow faster when they get 24 hours light/day, especially during the first month of life.
- A good choice if it gets cold and you don’t want lights to turn off! Keeping the lights on 24 hours a day can prevent the grow space from getting as cold at night
- If plants are very healthy and growing fast, it doesn’t matter if they’re more resistant to problems
Can I grow auto-flowering plants on a 12/12 schedule?
There are situations where it may be easier to grow your auto-flowering plant on a 12/12 schedule. For example, if you’re growing flowering photoperiod plants, you need to keep them on a 12/12 schedule to keep budding. Is it okay to stick an auto in there too?
Yes, it’s okay and your auto will grow just fine on a 12/12 schedule… except for one thing. Because your auto is getting less light each day, it isn’t able to make as much energy to power growth and you’ll end up with a smaller plant and reduced yields compared to if you’d given more light a day.
One of the really great things about autos is how they’re able to give you pretty impressive yields in such a short amount of time. Part of the way they accomplish this is you’re able to give the plant 18 hours of light a day to power buds, so buds get 50% more light and grow faster than they would under 12/12. By giving your autos 12/12 you’re not using them to their full advantage. That being said, if you don’t mind reduced yields they’ll grow just fine! And it can be fun to stick an extra plant in the tent and let it do its thing!
Auto-Flowering Vegetative & Flowering Stage
When it comes to choosing the best light schedule for growing auto-flowering marijuana strains, it’s a good idea to understand what light schedules are, and how different light schedules affect the way a cannabis plant grows.
All cannabis strains, whether they’re photoperiod or auto-flowering, have two main stages of life: the vegetative (first) stage, and the flowering (second) stage. Think of them as the “children” and “adult” stages of marijuana growth. During the vegetative stage, a cannabis plant grows only leaves and stems. In the flowering stage, the plant stops growing leaves and stems and starts growing buds/flowers.
Most strains of marijuana (photoperiod strains) rely on the amount of light, or their light schedule, to determine when to start making buds. Generally, if a marijuana plant receives 14 hours of light a day or more, it will stay in the vegetative stage (it will focus more on growing leaves and stems without any buds).
Auto-flowering strains don’t rely on light schedules to determine when to flower. Auto-flowering strains will automatically leave the vegetative stage and start budding after about 2-3 weeks regardless of the light schedule they’re given.
“Auto-Flowering” strains of cannabis have different light requirements than photoperiod strains
Auto-flowering varieties of marijuana don’t rely on a change in light schedule to determine when to flower. These strains (sometimes called “Lowryders” or by their species name “Ruderalis”) will finish their whole life cycle in two to three months, regardless of how much light they receive a day. See a grow journal featuring auto-flowering strains.
Light Color Spectrum
Another consideration when growing auto-flowering plants is what light spectrum to use.
Normally with photoperiod plants, you would optimally use more blue lights for the vegetative period and more red lights for your plant during the flowering period. With auto-flowering strains, you can follow the same principle by using the blue lights before the plant has shown signs of its gender, and then switch to more red lights once you see the first signs of gender.
Blue Light for Vegetative – bluish light (like from Metal Halide bulbs or 6500k (blue) fluorescents/CFLs) is a great choice for the vegetative stage, which for auto-flowers is just the first few weeks of life
Yellow Light for Flowering – yellow/orange/red light (like from HPS bulbs or “soft white” colored CFLs/fluorescents) tend to produce the best growth and densest buds in the flowering stage. Their color mimics the reddish light from the autumn sun. It is completely okay to give your plant yellow light for its whole life. In fact, that’s what I prefer to do as yellowish light encourages stretchy growth, and I want an auto-flowering plant that grows fast!
Remember: Spectrum is much less important to yields than the total wattage of your lights! (More Light = More Yields)
HPS grow lights are the most popular grow light for the flowering stage, with good reason. They are one of the most efficient grow lights available today (as far as electricity used for density/yields produced – even more efficient than most LED grow lights), they’re cheap to start with, they’re just the right color spectrum for optimal flowering, and they’re more standardized and intuitive to use than many other types of grow lights. Learn more about finding the right size HPS for your space
However, marijuana plants are weeds, and will usually grow at least okay under either spectrum of light during either stage.
Light in any color spectrum will produce good growth and bud as long as you’re using cannabis grow lights and there’s enough brightness.
In fact, many growers use Metal Halide or other more “blue” colored lights for the entire life of the plant and still produce good results. Some growers even prefer these lights for budding.
But the best yields and density in flowering is usually achieved with reddish-yellow light. For the hobbyist grower who may be low on cash and can’t change up the lights, you may want to consider getting all flowering bulbs for autos since they spend practically their whole life in the flowering stage.
Most strains of marijuana rely on the amount of light, or their light schedule, to determine when to start flowering. "Auto-Flowering" varieties of cannabis have different light requirements…