Learn how to grow autoflowering weed with our week by week autoflower grow guide. Plus bonus tips on growing autoflowers indoors or outdoors! What are the biggest mistakes you can make when growing autoflowering cannabis? Read the basics and find out how to take care of your strain's buds. What are auto-flowering strains and what should you expect when you grow one? Learn what you need to know and get the pros and cons of auto-flowering vs photoperiod strains, and get grow tips and secrets to getting better yields/potency!
Growing autoflowers indoors in soil & outdoors
Autoflower cannabis plants are a new development in the cannabis market, and it has really exploded the last few years – even Google knows it.
Searches for autoflowering marijuana have doubled over the last single year. Why? They’re looking for information on growing autoflowers!
The autoflower grow guide:
People are getting increasingly excited, interested, and curious about it. There is a good reason for all this excitement. This isn’t a typical marijuana trend; it could be a total game-changer.
Why you should grow autoflowers
Autoflowering weed gives growers a much easier time cultivating cannabis at home.
Unlike traditional types of weed, autoflowering cannabis doesn’t require a change in the amount of light exposure on their plants to induce flowering.
Growing autoflowers has the added benefit of faster growth, especially during the vegetative stage.
The average autoflowering weed strain only needs around 10 weeks (or less) to fully mature.
Outside of having a much easier time flowering, autoflowers are also reasonably small plants that can grow snugly in any indoor grow room.
Today’s autoflowers also no longer have the pitfalls of earlier autoflowering weed plants, which suffered from reduced yields and less potency.
Nowadays, on top of competing with standard strains in terms of potency and yield, autoflowers are more resilient to drastic temperature shifts that allow you to grow them all year round.
- They are smaller.
- This means they are easier to hide, harder to spot, and are, therefore, a safer choice with a greater variety of grow location options.
- in comparison to their size, and are even more resistant to pests and insects than other marijuana strains.
- No matter what the lighting situation is like in your outdoor or indoor grow setup, they follow the growth schedule embedded in their genes. They will flower after a certain amount of time, not after the light begins to change.
All this opens up a lot of new possibilities for many growers. This article is intended to keep you informed about this development in the marijuana world.
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What is autoflowering marijuana?
There are plenty of different autoflowering marijuana strains, and no two strains are exactly the same.
Some people think of autoflower marijuana plants as lower quality than more conventional and traditional types of marijuana.
Others consider it a godsend that makes life significantly easier for us growers.
Whichever category you fall into, it may be important to learn more about it, and the different options out there.
So what is an autoflower marijuana plant?
To fully understand this, it’s best first to know a bit more about marijuana itself.
Marijuana is a photoperiod plant, which means that its life cycle (specifically the flowering phase) is influenced by changes in the timing of exposure to sunlight.
Through this logic, growers can manipulate the growth of their indoor plants with ease.
Young cuttings can be spurred to enter the flowering phase simply by giving them 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness every night for a couple weeks.
Older plants growing outdoors won’t enter the flowering phase until this same light change affects them through the natural seasonal variations.
These don’t occur until after the middle of summer.
Autoflower strains of marijuana flower when the plants are a particular age, rather than flowering in response to changes in light exposure.
This means that, regardless of the weather and sunlight patterns, they will enter the flowering phase after a certain number of weeks.
This, understandably, has opened the door for all sorts of new possibilities in the marijuana growing world.
The addition of autoflower marijuana strains comes from the crossbreeding of ruderalis plants, with a “standard” marijuana plant.
Because ruderalis plants were not cultivated for their high THC content (given the fact that the THC levels were very low), they were not grown or used by smokers very often at all.
For this reason, the dominant traits of the first autoflower strain had to include high THC levels from the “standard” marijuana strain half, and the autoflower genetics from the ruderalis half.
Check this video by Willy Groff of an autoflower in time laps
The process was difficult, and largely unsuccessful at first.
For this reason, not too long ago, growers did not readily trust autoflower strains, because of their low yields and low THC levels.
They ended up being considered a scam, of sorts.
Things have changed, however.
The autoflower strains on the market today are just as reliable as any other strain – just be sure to purchase them from a reputable source.
The THC content will also be as high as it is described in the online information provided about the strain.
With these traits stabilized, and the number of high-quality strains of autoflowering marijuana increasing all the time, the dawn of the age of autoflower has finally come.
Autoflower cannabis strains
Autoflower strains of marijuana generally have a shorter life than other types of marijuana plants.
Their quick turnaround is part of their appeal for growers who want more than one harvest per season.
An autoflower strain usually takes around 10 weeks before they are ready to harvest.
When considering an autoflower harvest, it is important to remember that it will be different from the harvest of other types of marijuana.
Certain limitations that come with the plant’s not having the time to grow as long and that includes the fact that it will be smaller.
Consequently, the harvest will be, too. Your yield can only be so high when you grow smaller plants.
Some of the highest quality autoflower marijuana strains require ten to twelve weeks for full growth and flowering, to achieve the best possible harvest.
It mostly depends on the strain you grow.
Be sure to read the information provided for that specific strain, as well as any comments and tips from people who have successfully grown the strain before.
Best selling autoflower cannabis strains from the ILGM seed bank
How to grow autoflower weed
When you grow any kind of marijuana plant, it is crucial to start the growing season, and entire life cycle, rooted in strength.
With the short life span of autoflower marijuana plants, this is especially important.
The very beginning is the time to support your plants so they have as much growth as possible.
If this is not done, you may end up with a harvest that is infinitely more disappointing than the “normal” marijuana harvest failure.
The room for error is smaller with autoflowers.
For this reason, it is often recommended that people who want to grow autoflower marijuana plants start growing them indoors, with artificial lights they can control.
Indoor growing decreases the chance for error and favorably controls each aspect of your plant’s early life.
A strong start ensures that it will get everything it needs to thrive, both now, and later on.
Autoflower marijuana seeds
Properly germinating your marijuana plants is crucial to their healthy development, as well.
This can be done naturally in soil, or in a container without any growing medium. I always germinate my seeds in water.
Most autoflower marijuana growers I know actually prefer the paper towel method.
It simply involves placing a seed within a damp paper towel, or length of toilet paper, and putting it in a container of some sort that will retain moisture and humidity.
This should cause the seeds to sprout within days.
After they sprout, they should then be transplanted to their final growing medium.
After this, do not transplant them again if you can help it as autoflower plants are small and are vulnerable to greater transplanting shock.
Autoflower weed cuttings
For now, cuttings are not a great idea with autoflower marijuana plants.
The problem is that, while you can easily take a cutting successfully, you have to remember that the plants will autoflower after a certain age.
The cutting’s age will merge with the parent plant’s age.
This means they will flower at the same time.
So if you are growing a cutting of an autoflower plant, the final plant will be much smaller than the parent, when it enters the flowering stage.
When all this is considered, cuttings aren’t exactly worth it, as these particular plants are already small to begin with.
Autoflower weed by week feeding guide
Once your autoflower marijuana plants have reached two weeks of life, you can feed them a small amount of vegetative nutrients.
Feed them higher quantities of it gradually over time, until your plants are either six or seven weeks old.
Bio Bizz feeding schedule
Don’t switch over to flowering nutrients until you have visibly noticed a stop in its vertical growing.
Even if the flowering phase started a week earlier, don’t be premature with the flowering nutrients.
Be guided, instead, by the ending of vertical growth.
Lighting your autoflowering plants
Similar to regular marijuana plants, you can decide on one of two lighting options:
- One choice is to expose your plants to 24 hours of light per day
- The other is to allow them some rest every day, and give them 18hours of light, and sixhours of darkness. It all depends on your personal preferences, as well as the strain that you are growing.
One specific go-to example is to use 120-watt LED lights for the first few weeks of growth and keep it going for 21 hours each day.
In this case, the light should be set up between 70 and 80 centimeters away from the plants.
Once you have potted the older plants, you can convert to larger LED lights, and a schedule of 18 hours of light, and 6 hours of darkness.
Should you prune autoflowering marijuana plants?
While pruning (topping, specifically) can be done in a positive and helpful way with autoflower marijuana plants, certain modifications are needed when pruning regular marijuana plants.
For instance, the pruning needs to take place very early in your plants’ lives, to avoid obstructing their vegetative growth later on.
That being said, many growers claim that pruning autoflower marijuana plants at all is a bad idea and should be avoided altogether.
They say pruning will lower the autoflowers’ harvest.
If you really want to take the risk, try doing it with an autoflower strain that has been proven to take a bit longer than the others.
This way, it has more time to recover and grow, after the pruning has taken place.
What to expect from an autoflower harvest
If everything goes well during your autoflower grow season, what can you expect in terms of a harvest?
Keep in mind that the perfect environmental elements include being around 73°F, 55% humidity, 400 watts per m2 for light, good air circulation, plenty of oxygen, and a solid nutrient regimen (among other things).
To put it bluntly, your harvest will be proportionate to the length of time that your autoflowering weed plants grow.
In simplest terms, longer growth equals a bigger harvest.
Know the perfect time to cut your autoflowers when you download my free mini harvesting guide.
- Time your harvest for Perfect Taste
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Some strains that grow for about 3 months, for example, often average around 40 grams per plant.
While longer-growing super autoflower strains might get between 150 and 500 grams per plant when grown outdoors.
Choosing when to harvest is also difficult, and equally important to all the other decisions you might make when growing autoflower marijuana plants.
You generally need to check your plant’s trichomes to see when 50% of them are amber in color.
The amber color signifies the point at which harvesting should take place.
Make sure you stop watering the plants for at least one or two days before you harvest them so that their extra nutrients go away.
Curing and storing
Curing your autoflower marijuana buds helps them turn into the delicious product that every grower desires.
If you cure them poorly, then your efforts will not pay off in great taste. Curing should be done inside an airtight container.
This is so the moisture can spread throughout evenly, and move from the middle of the bud, where it is originally held.
During the process, open the container several times per day for a few days straight.
Eventually, you should only open it once a day or longer, until the buds are thoroughly cured, several weeks or months later.
Once they have finished curing, the buds should not have much moisture left at all. A tiny amount of moisture is still good for smoking, though.
Extra dry buds actually make the smoke more unpleasant.
Smoke it within several months, to one year. After a year, it is unlikely that the product will be as pleasant for smoking.
Keep it in a dark, cool location. Freezing it can keep it fresh longer.
How to grow autoflowers outdoors
Although there are certainly plenty of downsides to growing autoflower marijuana plants, they also have some very compelling advantages, as well.
Many would argue that their true value lies in being grown as outdoor plants.
Or, perhaps even better, many might grow them for some time indoors, and then finish their vegetation and flowering stages outdoors.
This usually involves between 1 and 1.5 months of indoor growth, to maximize their vegetative stage.
Then, they are moved outdoors (assuming the temperature is not colder than 50°F).
The reason this is considered such a good thing is because you can get several harvests within one plant’s normal growing season.
While a huge plant will get you a massive harvest at the end of its growth, it takes 8 to 9 months to ever get that far.
Of course, this also leaves more room for unexpected obstacles to mess up your harvest before you even get there.
With autoflowering weed, however, you can have numerous crops growing in the same space of time.
You are, therefore, achieving smaller harvests incrementally while avoiding a long wait to consume any of the buds.
Your work is secured, and you are given several “chances” within the same amount of time, in case one crop gets somehow ruined.
Autoflower marijuana plants will always be shorter than regular marijuana plants.
This means they will not be as easily spotted as the more massive marijuana plants (which definitely tend to attract unwanted attention).
Even if you are growing them in your own personal garden on your owned property, they can still easily go undetected throughout the span of their entire growth cycle, because of their small size.
For reference, the most efficiently grown autos have one square meter each to themselves to grow to their full size (and harvest) potential.
How to grow autoflowers indoors in soil
Just like there are perks to growing photoperiod weed plants outdoors, the same can be said indoors.
Autoflowering weed plants synergize perfectly with indoor grow rooms.
Week by week, an autoflower can grow freely without having to worry about space, as autoflowers don’t take much of it.
Many autoflowering weed plants grow no taller than 40 inches.
In terms of lighting, autoflowers work well under artificial grow lights. In particular, LED grow lights are a great option for growing this type of weed.
Despite costing more than fluorescent lights, LEDs will save you on both electricity and replacement bulbs. You can choose from full-spectrum LED lights or invest in two individual LED lights.
You’d want two different types because each stage requires a specific spectrum for the best possible yields.
A blue spectrum lamp benefits autoflowers in their vegetative stage, whereas a red spectrum is best for flowering.
To get the most yield out of your plants, you can leave the lights on 24/7. This method will cost you in electrical bills, and it’s only best suited for cold climates.
The typical ratio of 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness is best for autoflowering weed plants, as it’ll save you on electrical cost and give your plants time to rest.
However, lately, many growers have tried giving their autoflowers 20 hours of light and 4 hours of darkness since it produces better yields than the 18/6 ratio but doesn’t cost as much as leaving your lights on 24/7.
Outside of choosing the right type of grow lights and picking the ideal light schedule for your plants, you need to also choose the right strain for your indoor grow room.
To know what strain is the one for you comes down to personal preference and experience. Whether you choose sativa or indica doesn’t matter as much with autoflowering weed.
But, if you’re a first-time grower, don’t mess up simply because you don’t know how to grow. Stick to an easy-growing strain.
Growing marijuana is cheaper than buying weed, but the seeds cost money.
That’s why many growers prefer to buy a single set of seeds and continue growing them by breeding.
However, breeding marijuana is a lot more complicated than growing marijuana from seeds; that’s why we don’t recommend breeding autoflower weed.
Instead, leave it to the experts – us – to breed high-quality autoflowering marijuana seeds for you.
Many people wonder whether they should breed autoflower plants due to autoflowering weed plants’ short lifespan.
Because you can grow a lot more plants in the same amount of time, naturally, that means you could use a lot more seeds. They worry about the cost of buying autoflowering cannabis seeds year after year.
If this is your worry, you are doing it wrong.
The main benefits of growing autoflowering marijuana are lower costs and an easier experience.
You need less space, less time, and likely less electricity.
Supply should not be your concern. If you focus on growing the best marijuana with the highest yield, you’ll find that you’ll have more than enough weed to last you.
If you need some help with that, learn to increase yield by scrogging in this guide.
When it comes to breeding autoflowers, do not make it harder than necessary. Buy extra seeds and grow more plants.
Pros and cons of autoflower growing
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of growing autoflower marijuana plants, instead of regular marijuana plants.
Pros of growing autoflowering weed
First of all, you have the chance to attain a higher variety of marijuana when you grow autoflower marijuana plants.
This is because of the shorter growing season.
So within one season, you can grow approximately three separate strains, and get that many different varieties of marijuana for smoking!
This is especially valuable for people who are growing just for themselves and prefer a range of highs, which can change depending on their mood or preference that day.
Therefore, growing autoflowers can help keep things fresh and exciting on the marijuana smoking front.
There is also somewhat less hassle involved — at least in certain aspects.
For example, you will not need a complicated setup with one grow room and one flowering room. That means that, even if you had the space for that many rooms, you could instead use that space to time your growing so that you can harvest every few weeks.
You also won’t have to be so careful with your lighting setup, and grow room light-proof sealing.
This is because light leakages have no impact at all on your autoflower marijuana plants’ flowering phase.
Another advantage is multi-crop systems, which are compatible systems that overlap nicely. They allow you to harvest a new crop every few weeks, and can be set up outside.
They don’t require much space in your garden and are unlikely to attract much attention if any.
In the case of power outages (which can be more frequent for people in certain locations), normal marijuana plants could have their growth and flowering phases interrupted, and their harvests consequently damaged.
You will not have these issues with autoflower marijuana plants.
It is also thought that, because autoflower marijuana plants contain genes from the ruderalis marijuana strain, they may be hardier than other types of marijuana plants.
This idea comes from the fact that ruderalis plants are very hardy, and can handle cold and other obstacles better than photoperiod plants.
These plants will also work well in indoor and outdoor areas that have height or size restrictions.
Finally, if your growing friends are already growing their own photoperiod marijuana, you can enjoy smoking your own marijuana, while they wait and wait for their own harvest to be ready.
Cons of growing autoflower cannabis
This is because you will need the same amount of light per plant although these smaller plants have smaller yields.
Light usage per gram less efficient than regular
Additionally, autoflower marijuana plants tend to be inconsistent in terms of their speed of growth, and their size. Even individual plants within one particular strain might have varying sizes and growth patterns.
This makes certain types of growing methods, like hydroponics, particularly difficult — if not impossible.
Sometimes it will be necessary to harvest one crop several times until all of the plants have been harvested because they flower and mature at different rates as well.
Some smokers of autoflower marijuana will complain that the aroma of their product is not as strong as that of regular photoperiod marijuana plants.
Whether this is a pro or con might depend on your own personal preferences, of course.
Male and female
A normal photoperiod marijuana seed has a 50/50 shot at being either male or female.
This is an unfortunate statistic for the average marijuana grower who is only interested in growing unfertilized female(sensimilla) plants.
If you get feminized seeds, on the other hand, you can expect nearly every seed to turn out female.
Autoflower marijuana seeds are not any different in regards to these ratios. Hermaphrodites can be expected in either case and should be watched out for, even if you are expecting all female plants, like when you purchase feminized seeds.
Super autoflower strains
If you have done any research into this new autoflowering trend, you have probably already discovered the term “SUPER autoflower” to describe many different seeds.
So, what are these super seeds, and how are they different from other autoflowering seeds?
The idea behind the super strains is that they are larger, but still share the same useful trait of flowering automatically.
They are stronger and hardier than regular autoflower marijuana plants, especially when it comes to resistance against mold or pests.
They were created specifically with the goal in mind of having bigger, higher-yielding autoflowering weed plants.
Autoflower weed seeds
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the autoflower marijuana plant growing process is deciding which of the autoflower seeds to buy first.
This is an especially important decision if you are a first-time grower or even a seasoned veteran who has never grown autoflower strains of marijuana before.
There are a huge variety of seed strains to choose from, so it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the options. The key is always to consider:
- What type of growing conditions the seeds will be planted in
- What ratio of THC to CBD you would like in the strain
- What taste and smell you prefer in your weed.
If you have clearly defined these main points, then you will have a much easier time choosing the perfect strain for you.
9 Mistakes To Avoid When Growing Autoflowering Cannabis
Autoflowers are too easy to grow if you avoid these 9 common mistakes. Find out if you’re growing autoflowering cannabis plants the right way in this article.
- 1. Knowing the basics
- 2. Time it right
- 3. Germination
- 4. Choose the right medium
- 5. Choose good containers
- 6. Do not transplant
- 7. Over and under-watering
- 8. Overfeeding and underfeeding
- 8. a. Macro and micronutrients
- 8. b. Ph levels
- 9. Harvest at the right time
- 10. Frequently asked questions about autoflowers
- 11. In conclusion
Autoflower cannabis has always sparked debates among growers in the cannabis community. Due to a dearth of knowledge or experience, many growers avoid growing autoflowers. Beginners are expected to only grow photoperiod plants, and while the fear of something new and unexpected is understandable, you might discover something more amazing if you just try. Autoflowers are really easy to grow but there are basic guidelines you should know, just like when growing other plants or vegetables. All plants are different and even though you can successfully harvest the first time you grow cannabis, there are common mistakes that are better to avoid. If you’re new to autoflower growing and are looking for an autoflower grow guide or want to know how to grow autoflowering strains, here are a couple of tips to have you growing in no time.
1. Knowing the basics
To set things straight, let’s begin by saying that autoflowers are really easy to grow. In fact, beginners can try growing autoflowers with little to no experience as long as they understand the basics 1 . And this is true for all plants. Can you expect to grow tomatoes if you’re clueless about using nutrients? Or, can you harvest cucumbers if you don’t even know when to harvest them? No? Similarly, autoflowers need you to follow a few basic guidelines like other plants, and you’ll do just fine if you take the time to understand them.
But what makes autoflowering cannabis cultivars so easy to grow? Well, there are a few beginner-friendly traits that set them apart from their photoperiod cousins. For one, they descend from a type of cannabis—known as cannabis ruderalis—that adapted to the harsh conditions of Siberia. All autos possess Ruderalis genetics, which endows them with impressive hardiness, good pest and disease resistance, and rapid growing times. If you’re an indoor grower, you won’t even need to adjust the light cycle to get them to flower. Now that you’re more familiar with autoflowering genetics, let’s take a look at what mistakes to avoid to achieve the best outcome possible.
After all, a plant that gives you lip-smacking buds in just 2 months deserves some research, eh? Autoflowers may scare you at first, but if you avoid a few common mistakes, you’ll harvest much more than you can imagine, and it only gets better.
2. Time it right
Timing is everything if you’re planning to grow autoflowers outdoors. Since autoflowers don’t depend on light to flower, you don’t need to worry too much. But, planting too early will generate smaller yields and planting too late affects yields too.
Frost must be avoided at all costs. Typically, most growers begin planting when spring is just around the corner. Depending on where you live, you can plant the seeds as soon as the frost clears. If you reside in a location that doesn’t receive any snow, go ahead and plant when the temperatures range between 22°C to 28°C (71°F to 77°F).
If you live in a particularly cold region, there are steps you can take to protect your plants from the threat of late frosts. Of course, starting seeds indoors will help here. Plus, doing so will help to speed up germination times. Moving them out into greenhouses and polytunnels will add an additional layer of protection as the seasonal frosts begin to wane. If you have no choice but to move them outdoors under the sky, consider covering young plants with bell cloches and mulching the surrounding soil with hay or straw as a form of insulation.
You can also leverage timing to take advantage of successive harvests. Staggering sowings by two weeks till break up the work that awaits come harvest time. It will help you space out all of that trimming, drying, and curing into easily manageable portions. Bigger plants can tolerate much higher temperatures but tender seedlings will succumb to extreme temperatures. Remember to avoid rainy seasons since the plant doesn’t receive too much light. Of course, the timing doesn’t matter if growing indoors, so sow those seeds whenever you wish!
For beginners, germinating the seeds is an important part of the entire process. To get better results, soak the seeds in plain water for at least 24 hours and wrap them in moist paper towels for a day or two. Use a ziplock bag to store the towels.
By soaking your seeds up to 48hrs and then keeping them in a moist paper towel you guarantee successful germination.
It’s important to keep the towels moist because the seeds can rot if there’s too much water. Similarly, the seeds won’t sprout if the towels are completely dry. Don’t make the mistake of directly planting the seeds, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. Once the seeds show a tap root, plant the seeds in the final container. Despite having to keep the seeds in damp paper towels, make sure they are not completely wet, too much water can rot the seeds. The best way to identify this is by smell if the paper towels start to smell like mold, immediately take them out and change the towels.
Sebastian Good gives you all the essential information about germination of autoflowering cannabis seeds.
Depending on your experience, you can also germinate your seeds directly in the medium, just make sure you’re not overwatering it because you can end up drowning your seeds. As you can see in the video, germinating in the soil is easy and doesn’t require anything extra, just be careful and you’ll see a seedling coming out of the ground in a couple of days.
4. Choose the right medium
Growing plants in hydroponic setups seem very cool, but soil is your best bet if you have no experience. Avoid using clay soils that clump up because autoflowers thrive in well-aerated soil. A soilless medium of equal parts of peat moss or coco peat, perlite, some airy soil, and sand is the best potting mix for autoflowers. If you don’t want to bother about fertilizing at all, you can even try growing autoflowers organically. There are various ways to make your own organic soil, but you can buy some in your local store to start with. Organic soil is premised with nutrients, so it’s ideal for someone that doesn’t have a lot of time. For growers that don’t mind putting in the efforts, composting and building super soil is the best soil mix for autoflowers.
There are a variety of different techniques to create healthy compost loaded with organic matter and beneficial microorganisms. If you can get your hands on enough green (grass cuttings, food scraps, coffee grounds, manure) and brown materials (cardboard, paper, woodchips) to fill a compost bin immediately, you can create a hot compost pile that will produce an excellent growing medium in as little as a few weeks. Simply add 50% green material and 50% brown material, stack them in alternating layers, and turn and water occasionally.
If growing outdoors, till the soil well and amend it with organic nutrients to produce a happy, healthy plant. But, no matter what you do while growing indoors, stay away from old used soil or sterilize it before you plant seeds to prevent diseases. If you have the luxury of a garden, you can leverage biodiversity in your favor to produce incredible auto specimens. Consider sowing companion plants such as basil, chamomile, and yarrow nearby to attract beneficial insects that will help to keep pest species away. If you live in a hot climate, low-growing ground cover plants such as winter squash will help to cast a shadow over the soil and, in doing so, boost moisture retention and reduce the amount of watering you have to do.
5. Choose good containers
Please don’t stuff seeds in plastic containers that make life hell for the poor roots. Use porous containers such as fabric pots or even Airpots to help the plants grow as much as possible. Autoflowers are typically small, but they need containers that are at least 5-8 liters in size.
Roots also need oxygen, although they need water to absorb nutrients, a lack of oxygen can damage and kill your plants.
Bigger autoflowers need bigger containers, so make sure you check the description before purchasing seeds. Root aeration is often overlooked, but it’s an important factor in determining your yields.
The appropriate pot size can also help you control the height of your cannabis plants, usually, a 12L pot will allow your plant to develop to its maximum, an auto in a 7L pot will grow up to 70cm and in a 3L pot will grow around 40cm.
If you’re growing autos outdoors in a warm climate, your containers will dry out fast—especially during heatwaves. To help improve water retention, consider applying a layer of mulch onto the top of your growing medium. Straw, hay, or leaf litter helps to produce more of a natural growing environment—how much bare soil do you see when walking through the forest? As well as breaking down and feeding soil microbes over time, these materials shield the top layer of soil from the sun and reduce water loss via evaporation.
6. Do not transplant
It’s important to start autoflowers in their final containers rather than planting them in smaller ones and transplanting them later. Sure, growing cannabis is like growing tomatoes, but autoflowers have a limited time period and can’t afford to lose days while the plant settles and searches for roots.
Some growers use small plastic cups to plant seeds. While this method may work with photoperiod plants, it’s not recommended for autoflowers. If you’re already committed the mistake of planting them in small containers, try to transplant the plant only when the soil is moist. If the soil is too wet, the roots tend to break, and if it’s too dry, transplanting becomes a pain. Of course, experienced growers do transplant autoflowers but it’s not really necessary.
7. Over and under-watering
Most plants die if you over or under-water them. Yes, autoflowers need water to grow, but it’s critical to supply it only when the plant needs it. It’s obvious that the timing is important even when the plants need water.
A way to check if the soil is dry is to use your index finger and stick it in the soil, if it comes out moist then the soil is still humid, although by doing this you won’t be able to know if the bottom is still wet so in order to get the timing right, lift the pots and check the weight. A dry pot will be easy to lift whereas container with lots of water will be heavy. The trick is to not let the soil go too dry or too wet, so water the plants only when the pot isn’t too heavy or light.
8. Overfeeding and underfeeding
Nutrients play a big role in growing autoflowering cannabis strains. Autoflowers are compact, so they don’t need loads of nutes in order to survive. In fact, autoflowers grow best when light fertilizers are used. It’s also important to feed the right nutrients at the right time.
Macro and micronutrients
For example, cannabis needs more nitrogen in the vegetative stage. In the pre-flowering stage, nutrients with more phosphorous are preferred, and in the flowering stage needs a lot more potassium than nitrogen or phosphorous. If you’re wondering what the term “N-P-K” printed on fertilizer bags means, it’s nothing but Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium. The plants also need other micronutrients along with calcium and magnesium, so it’s extremely important to get the dosage right.
Don’t make the rookie mistake of using Miracle Grow or any other fertilizer meant to grow vegetables. Autoflowers will grow well even if you do that, but since they have special needs, you might as well stick to nutrients that supply everything. From humic to fulvic acid to enzymes, you can do a lot to make the plants perform to the best of their potential.
Talking about nutrients, some growers try to make their own nutes. While it’s completely okay to do so, you should avoid doing it if you’ve never done that before. Nutrients are expensive and it’s tempting to make your own, but try to attempt that after you’ve gained some experience. Why? Because cannabis plants require a good blend containing all micro and macronutrients in exact concentrations to thrive. It’s not as simple as diluting a random fertilizer and feeding the plants. You not only risk burning the plants, but the yields will suffer drastically since the plants have no time to recover.
So, if it’s your first time, stick to commercial nutrients. And, the topic on nutrients is incomplete if you don’t talk about pH. Depending on the medium 2 you choose to grow, the pH must be regulated accordingly. Cannabis plants love acidic soil, so the pH must be maintained between 5.5 to 7 in both soil and hydroponic setups. If the pH drops below 6, the roots will not be able to intake vital nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous. Similarly, if the pH is too alkaline and goes above 7.5, the roots cannot take up micronutrients like copper, manganese, boron, etc. It’s very important to regulate the pH at all times to prevent nutrient deficiencies.
Here’s a quick table to help you understand pH better:
Nutrient Ideal PH Level for Absorption Nitrogen 6.0-8.0 Phosphorus 6.5-7.5 Potassium 6-8 Calcium 6.5-8.5 Magnesium 6-8.5
Sometimes, it just so happens that the plant refuses to respond even if you’ve done everything. In such cases, flush the plants with lots of water (at least double or triple the size of the container) to reduce any nutrient or salt buildup so that the plants can breathe again. Flushing is typically done at the end, but it doesn’t hurt the plant even if you do it in between because it reduces buildups to a good extent.
Some growers also flush during the pre-flowering stage, when the plants are transitioning from the vegetative into the flowering stage so they can start feeding from zero, as said above, this won’t hurt your plants but should be done properly.
9. Harvest at the right time
You’ve come all this way, and the end is almost near, so don’t screw this up now! Now you’re probably asking “how to tell if my autoflower is ready for harvest?” Well, after you’ve put in all the hard work, wait for the right time. Growers use microscopes to check the trichomes that usually indicate the right time, but you can harvest when at least 50 to 70 percent of the pistils are amber in color. While judging pistil colors works well for many growers, you can use trichome color as an accurate estimation for harvest time, too.
Have you ever noticed that white frosty layer on the surface of cannabis buds? They might not look like much to the naked eye, but these are tiny mushroom-shaped glands known as trichomes that produce all of the cannabinoids and terpenes that underpin the effects, aroma, and flavor of different strains. Low-cost forms of magnification, such as jewelers’ loupes, offer an up-close and personal view of these little phytochemical factories.
By assessing their color, you can get a good understanding of the maturity of your buds. Clear trichomes indicate that flowers are still too young and lack adequate levels of cannabinoids and terpenes. Aim to harvest when at least 50% of the trichomes you inspect are milky and opaque. If you wait too long, these glands will start to display an amber color, signifying the partial degradation of THC into CBN—a byproduct associated with a more physical and stoning effect.
If you wait too much, the buds tend to produce a couch-lock effect leaning more towards the Indica side while buds harvested too early generate unpleasant psychoactive effects. Also, the main colas ripen faster than the lower portions of the plant. Often referred to as popcorn buds, the lower portions stay small. However, harvesting the main colas and leaving the popcorn buds on the plant for a week more will increase yields dramatically. Be patient, and let Mother Nature do the rest for you! If you avoid these common mistakes when growing autoflowering cannabis, you’ll soon be rewarded with potent resinous buds that will last a long time if stored properly.
10. Frequently Asked Questions About Autoflowers
What’s the average autoflower size and how tall can they get?
Most autoflowers reach a height of around 50-100cm but a plant’s size depends on the genetics and growing conditions. Also, all strains are different so you will find Sativa and Indica-leaning autos; Most Indica hybrid autoflowers will stay around the 80-120cm mark but Sativa-dominant autoflowers can reach up to 175cm tall.
Can I grow my auto on my window sill?
Yes, you can, although it’s not recommended if you want to get the best results possible but if this is the only way you have, make sure your plant gets at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight a day and that you’re using at least a 10-liter pot.
Do autoflowers grow normal or smaller because of the Ruderalis genes?
The size of an autoflower can be influenced by several factors, genetics being the main one. More modern autoflower breeders breed their genetics to contain as little as Ruderalis genetics as possible, focusing on the more appealing characteristics such as size, structure, potency, and yields.
But when compared to a photoperiod plant, an autoflower has a limited lifespan so things such as stress, damage, or a bad environment can ultimately affect your auto’s height, so it’s ideal to provide optimum grow conditions to get the best results possible.
When is the best time to plant autoflowers outdoors?
This solely depends on your climate, you need to remember that autos prefer dry sunny days so if you’re planning to have just one grow cycle, you can start them 1-2 weeks into Summer, and if you’re planning to have 2 harvests, start the next one right after finishing the first one.
What yield can I expect per autoflowering plant?
The yields depend on genetics, environment, stress, growers skills, and etc.. But in general, you can expect between 50-110 grams per plant.
How long will it take for my auto to start flowering?
In general, autoflowers stay for 4 weeks in the vegetative stage, so about 4 weeks. Then your auto will start developing flowers for 3 weeks, and fattening up the buds for the last 3 weeks.
Most autoflowers take around 10 weeks from seed to harvest but may take longer depending on the phenotype and growing conditions.
This may vary according to the genetics and growing environment, have in mind that it’s just to give you an idea of what to expect, some autoflowers may take less and others take longer.
Yes, you can, although it’s not recommended because it can affect the yields. To prevent shocking your autoflowers and consequently affecting yields, it’s recommended to transplant 7-12 days after germination and if possible, use rooting cubes to prevent damaging the roots.
Can you grow autoflowering cannabis in a greenhouse?
Of course you can, you can grow autoflowers in a greenhouse all year round as long as you keep the inside temperature to a minimum of 15°C and there’s enough ventilation, airflow, and sunlight.
11. In conclusion
Autoflowers (aka self flowering seeds) are suited for beginner growers but it’s crucial you know the basics if you want to have a successful harvest the first time you grow cannabis, although you can learn as you go, it can be disappointing if you waste time and money, and end up with nothing to smoke.
Now that you know the basics and what to avoid, you’re all set up to start your first autoflower indoor grow.
If you’ve never grown cannabis before and are planning on growing our autos, feel free to ask us anything in the comment section below!
Auto-Flowering Cannabis Strains Guide
Pictures of Auto-Flowering Plants – What do they look like at harvest?
Introduction to Auto-Flowering Cannabis Strains
Auto-flowering cannabis strains are the descendants of a wild strain of hemp first identified as “Ruderalis” in Russia during the early 1940s.
These are different from most strains of cannabis, which are known as “photoperiod” strains. Photoperiod plants don’t start flowering (making buds) until they get specific signals from the sun that winter is coming, and so need special light schedules to be induced into making buds.
Conversely, Ruderalis plants don’t need any type of signal. Instead, Ruderalis plants start flowering when they reach 3-4 weeks of age no matter what’s going on with the sun or light schedules, and their buds are ready to harvest only a few months from seed.
Auto-flowering strains start automatically making buds (flowering) when they’re 3-4 weeks old. On average, plants are ready to harvest ~3 months from germination. Sometimes even less!
By living such a short life, Ruderalis cannabis plants were able to survive in Russia with short summers and extremely long winters. Unfortunately, just like other types of wild hemp, wild Ruderalis buds contain very low levels of THC. Wild Ruderalis plants were also very small and produced tiny amounts of bud, which might make them seem useless to cannabis growers.
Fortunately, a forward-thinking breeder realized that the auto-flowering capability and short growing period of Ruderalis strains might be useful to hobbyist cannabis growers, even though the wild Ruderalis plant wasn’t going to work all by itself. This unknown breeder started intermingling Ruderalis plants with famous strains of photoperiod (regular) cannabis in order to increase bud potency while carefully breeding plants to retain the auto-flowering capability.
These days auto-flowering strains, originally known as “Lowryders,” are found at most seed banks alongside photoperiod strains. Although the wild Ruderalis ancestors contained almost no THC and were tiny, most modern auto-flowering strains produce buds that are comparable in potency to other strains of cannabis due to many generations of diligent breeding.
The best modern auto-flowering strains have been bred to produce bigger and denser buds than the original Ruderalis plants. Buds have also been bred to be as potent as photoperiod strains.
Genetics Make a Huge Difference with Auto-Flowering Strains
The original Ruderalis ancestors stayed small and weren’t potent, as were the original auto-flowering strains, so the breeding history of an auto-flowering strain is crucially important.
As breeders have been able to make more specialized strains, they’ve tailored the effects and growth patterns for different needs and purposes. As a result, each strain grows differently, just like with photoperiod strains. That’s why it’s always a good idea to read the breeder’s description of a strain when buying seeds. Some auto-flowering strains get particularly tall, while others tend to stay short. You’ll get the best results if you match your strains to both your setup and each other!
These two auto-flowering plants are the same age and were grown in the same setup! Genetics makes a huge difference to your final results, so it’s important to pick the right auto-flowering strain for your goals! The small plant is White Widow Auto & the huge plant is Onyx Auto.
The following two autoflowering plants are also the same age (70 days from germination) and grown in the same environment. One plant stopped growing and started making buds after just a few weeks, resulting in a tiny plant with one bud that is just about ready to harvest already. The other plant kept growing for almost 2 months before budding in earnest, which means the plant is far bigger but the buds still need a lot more time before they’ll be ready to harvest.
These two auto-flowering plants are also the same age and and grown in the same environment! The small plant is Auto Chemdawg & the huge plant is Super Lemon Haze Auto.
I hope these two examples help show why it’s important to get the right auto-flowering strain for your goals and setup! If you want a small, fast plant you won’t be happy with your results if you purchase a tall strain, or vice versa.
Because of their short vegetative stage and lifespan, in general most auto-flowering cannabis strains tend to stay relatively short, and are ready for harvest around 3 months from germination.
The really exciting part is the auto-flowering world is evolving quickly. More and more breeders continue making new auto strains. We’re starting to see better and better yields, more nuanced potency, and a lot more variation when it comes to harvest times, plant size and growth rates.
Auto-Flowering vs. Traditional Cannabis Strains
Unlike traditional (referred to as photoperiod) strains, autos don’t need any special kind of light schedule to “tell” the plant to start budding. With a photoperiod strain, a cannabis plant needs 12+ hours of darkness a day to initiate flowering.
When growing photoperiod cannabis plants outside, flowering naturally begins when the days get shorter. For outdoor growers, this means that plants must be planted in the spring, and they grower must choose strains that will finish in time before winter.
Indoor growers cultivating photoperiod strains can initiate flowering at will by giving plants longer dark periods (usually by putting their grow lights on a timer). For indoor growers, this means the grower needs to make a light-proof grow space to allow for 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day while the plants are flowering.
For an auto-flowering cannabis plant, a grower doesn’t have to worry about light schedules. Each auto-flowering plant starts blooming after a few weeks no matter what light schedule is provided. For outdoor auto growers, there’s no need to match up the strain with your local time zone or plant at the perfect time – simply plant autos when you know you have at least 2-3 months of warm, sunny weather.
When growing auto-flowering plants outdoors, you don’t need to worry about light schedules. You just need to ensure your plant will have 3 months of warm weather (above 60°F) and your climate is likely suitable to grow auto-flowering plants. These auto-flowering plants were ready to harvest before summer was even over:
For all growers in a hurry to harvest, an auto-flowering plant will almost certainly be ready to harvest more quickly than any other type of cannabis strain.
How long until harvest?
Generally, autos are ready to harvest sooner than photoperiod plants. Most autos are ready to harvest 2-3 months after being sprouted from seed.
For the first few weeks, autos (auto-flowering plants) only make vegetative growth – stems and leaves. After their short “vegetative stage” ends, the plant will start making buds and continue to grow taller even while their buds are forming.
It’s only until a few weeks before harvest that most auto-flowering plants stop growing “up and out.” At this point, auto-flowering plants put all their energy into fattening buds, and buds can gain substantial weight during the last few weeks.
When purchasing auto seeds, good breeders will be able to tell you how long the strain will take until harvest. It’s important to note that most strain breeders will tend to provide the shortest time frame they can, and many autos will produce better yields and higher potency if left for a week or two (sometimes even three) longer than recommended.
How do I know when to harvest my plants? – Basically in addition to the visual appearance of buds, you can look at your buds under a magnifier to know exactly when to harvest for top THC potency.
Photoperiod strains usually take longer to harvest than autos. In general, photoperiod strains are ready to harvest 3-4+ months after being sprouted from seed, though the final time depends heavily on your grow style and which strain you choose. Even photoperiod plants flowered from seed tend to take longer than an auto-flowering plant to be ready to harvest, and the yields are much lower. Photoperiod plants do best when given some time in the vegetative stage before they start flowering, and aren’t as well suited to quick harvests.
Auto-Flowering vs Photoperiod: Which Yields More?
Autos generally yield up to about 4 ounces of bud per plant when taken care of throughout their life, but the amount of bud produced has a lot to do with the grow setup.
Many growers end up yielding 1-2 ounces per auto or even less, especially if starting with poor genetics or when using a sub-par lighting setup. Like all cannabis plants, autos need a lot of light to produce good yields!
In some cases, growers with a lot of experience, great starting genetics and perfect conditions can yield up to 6 ounces per auto-flowering plant or more.
For example this indoor Dutch Passion AutoMazar plant yielded above 900g (more than 30 ounces of dried bud) from just one plant under about 1000W worth of light. Normal yield for this strain is about 100g, so this – admittedly extreme example – demonstrates what a great setup and grow experience can do for your yields!
When considering yields, it’s important to remember that one of the advantages of growing auto-flowering cannabis strains is most growers can produce several harvests a year (since the lifespan of each auto plant is very short).
Photoperiod strains can have a lot more variation in yields than auto-flowering plants. This is due to the fact that photoperiod growers have a lot more control over the size and shape of the plant, which in turn has a huge effect on yields.
Outdoors, your yields depend a lot on your climate. Warm and sunny weather with many hours of light a day will produce plants with bigger yields.
Indoors, generally your setup is the biggest determining factor of your yields.
Which is more potent? What about smell and taste?
While there are currently fewer auto-flowering strains to choose from, the potency for autos and photoperiod cannabis plants is comparable. Auto-flowering buds are not significantly less potent.
However, one major difference is that many auto-flowering strains tend to have higher amounts of CBD in their buds than photoperiod strains (because Ruderalis plants are high-CBD). CBD is a cannabinoid that is known for having medical properties as well as reducing anxiety.
But in general, a modern “Blue Cheese” auto has been bred to have similar bud characteristics as a “Blue Cheese” photoperiod plant.
Things have come a long way since the original low-potency “Lowryder” auto plants!
Smell, Taste and Visual Appeal – When it comes to smell & taste, the same rules apply. While there are fewer auto-flowering strains to choose from (though the list is growing each day), the smell and taste of each strain is similar to their photoperiod counterparts.
The one visual difference I’ve seen is that auto-flowering buds tend to be a little bit leafier (grow more leaves among the buds) than photoperiod strains, which means they may need a little extra care during trimming to get rid of all the leaves.
It’s important to note that some photoperiod strains grow in the same way, and I don’t believe that extra leaves during the budding process is necessarily a bad thing. If anything, the extra leaves seem to power the growth of buds, causing them to swell up more in a smaller amount of time and less light that photoperiod strains.
Are auto-flowering strains better for medical marijuana?
An important characteristic for medical marijuana patients is that auto-flowering buds tend to contain higher levels of CBD than photoperiod strains.
CBD is a cannabinoid that is known for having medical and anti-anxiety properties. Most photoperiod strains these days are high THC, low CBD, and it can be hard to find high-CBD photoperiod strains. Learn more about THC vs CBD.
This makes auto-flowering buds an attractive choice for some medical marijuana patients who are looking for higher CBD cannabis strains. There are also auto-flowering strains that are bred principally to be high in CBD. It’s difficult for many growers get clones of one of the famous high-CBD photoperiod strains, and auto-flowering strains can make it easier for some patients to get access to CBD.
When I grew auto-flowering strains, the buds felt more medicinal (as opposed to recreational) than the majority of strains I’ve grown. Even in higher doses, the effects weren’t as “racing” as some of the really high-THC, low CBD strains. The buds all made me feel very pleasant and helped melt away stress, without being overwhelming. I think some people might actually prefer the effects of auto-flowering buds, even if they’re not patients, and I believe autos may be a great choice for some medical marijuana patients.
How big will each plant get?
Autos tend to stay short naturally. In fact, in most conditions it is difficult to produce very large auto-flowering plants because they have such a short lifespan. They only grow bigger for about 1-2 months. The rest of their lives are spent fattening buds.
On average, autos grow 1-4 feet tall by harvest time; generally, auto-flowering plants will stay under 4 feet in height. The final height of each auto depends a lot on the strain you choose and whether you provide enough light. You can also use some non-stressful plant training methods like bending tall branches over (low stress training) to help prevent stretchy autos from getting too tall.
Do autos need a special light schedule to start making buds?
Do auto strains needs a special light schedule? In a way, yes!
Autos Should Get 18-24 Hours of Light a Day for the Best Yields
Why are light schedules important anyway?
Auto-flowering strains will automatically start flowering (making buds) after around 3-4 weeks, a time period dependent on the specific strain. You cannot change this; autos will automatically start flowering due to an internal countdown. After they start making buds, they will stay in the flowering stage until harvest time. Harvest is usually 2-3 months from seed and depends almost completely on the strain.
Therefore, with auto-flowering plants, there is no special light schedule “needed.” The grower does not need periods of darkness to initiate the flowering stage and get plants to bud properly. You can grow an auto-flowering plant from seed to harvest even if you were giving just 12 hours or even 8 hours of light a day and it will still make buds and be ready to harvest. However, to get the best yields you want to take advantage of the fact that you can give autos a lot of light each day since more light each day = more growth = bigger yields.
One advantage of this internal timeclock is that auto-flowering strains can be grown outdoor in a city environment where the ambient light at night may be too bright for photoperiod plants to be able to make buds. Autos don’t care if they’re exposed to light at night. This can also be used in warm climates to get plants to grow outside the normal growing season. For example, as long as it’s warm enough you could start a plant in April outside and it will be ready to harvest by July, which is much sooner than you’ll be able to harvest any photoperiod plant (all of which are ready to harvest in mid to late Fall).
Note: The auto-flowering internal clock is why it’s recommended to never take clones from auto-flowering strains – clones will be on the same time clock as their mother. Learn more about why it’s not recommended to take clones from auto-flowering plants.
Photoperiod strains need to be on a 12-12 light schedule to initiate flowering. When growing outdoors, photoperiod plants naturally start making buds as winter approaches and days grow short. However, most indoor growers put their grow lights on a timer to initiate and maintain a 12-12 light schedule during the flowering stage until harvest. This need for uninterrupted darkness is why it’s important to create a light-proof growing environment when growing photoperiod plants indoors.
The term “12-12” stands for 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark each day, and it “tells” photoperiod plants to enter the flowering stage and make buds. During their daily dark period, photoperiod plants need to receive complete darkness without interruption. This light schedule initiates flowering, and must be maintained throughout the entire flowering stage until harvest.
If photoperiod plants receive too much light each day, or are exposed to light during their dark period, they will either produce hermies (bad) or revert back to the vegetative stage (stop making buds). If you will be unable to provide complete darkness to your plants during their night period, it’s recommended that you choose to get an auto-flowering strain, which isn’t affected by light at night.
Are Autos Easier to Grow?
In some ways, auto-flowering strains are more simple to grow than photoperiod strains, but there are some additional considerations. For example autos do poorly if the grower runs into major problems during the beginning of the grow because an auto jumps straight into the flowering stage even it’s not doing so hot.
The auto-flowering White Widow plant pictured to the right is sick and stunted. Because of the auto-flowering nature of this strain, the grower was unable to nurture the plant back to health before the flowering stage began. In this picture, the plant is 2.5 months old (started from seed like all autoflowering plants), and the buds are nearing their harvest window even though they’re still small and airy. As a result, the total yields from this plant will be very low (just a few grams). This can be discouraging as the grower must start over with a new seed in order to try for a bigger harvest.
Autoflowering strains begin making buds and continue on their short internal time-clock regardless of their health. If you make a lot of mistakes, you will not have time to remedy the plant and you may end up with a small stunted plant.
On the flip side, if your grow doesn’t go as well as planned, at least it will be harvest time in just 2-3 months, you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll have the opportunity to try again. That being said, autos are essentially very simple and a first-time grower can easily get a great harvest on their very first grow. Plus, auto-flowering plants (and cannabis plants in general) are hardy! As long as you give them basic care, they will reward you!
Photoperiod plants are able to recover from major growing problems in the vegetative stage when grown indoors because the grower can give the plants as much time as needed to recover before switching plants over to the flowering stage.
In some instances, photoperiod strains of cannabis may be easier to grow indoors if you are a new grower because you can give yourself as much time as to fix problems in the vegetative stage. During this stage, cannabis plants are hardy and can easily bounce back from problems. Even if you make a lot of mistakes, you can still get big yields because unlike with autoflowering strains you are in control of when the flowering stage begins.
Once the flowering cycle is initiated, your plants are more “set” as far as their overall health and structure. Once a cannabis plant starts budding, there is basically a countdown until buds are ready to harvest just like autos (this amount of time is mostly based on the strain). Though the plant may have an initial last “stretch” of vegetative growth when the light cycle is first changed over, as the plant approaches harvest towards the end of the flowering stage, almost all growth halts except for the development of bigger buds.
Are autos better for growing outdoors?
Auto plants are suitable for growing outdoors in almost any climate that has at least 2-3 months of warm, sunny weather every year.
Requirements for growing auto-flowering strains outdoors are pretty simple…
- Lots of direct light each day. Auto plants should receive 5+ hours of direct light each day. More is better. In general, more light = bigger yields.
- 2-3 months of warm, sunny weather. When planting seeds, you should ensure that the weather will stay warm and sunny for at least 2-3 months from when the seed is first planted.
When growing photoperiod plants outdoors, it’s important to make sure you plant your seeds at the right time and choose a strain that is suitable for your climate.
When growing photoperiod strains outdoors…
- Plant in Spring. Photoperiod plants need to be planted outdoors in late Spring, after days have grown long enough to support a vegetative stage. It’s safe to put plants outside in late April for the Northern Hemisphere, and late October for the Southern Hemisphere.
- You can start plants indoors. Photoperiod plants can be started indoors if it’s too cold to put plants outside during your spring, or if you would like to grow bigger plants than would normally be possible in your local environment. Just make sure indoor plants get at least 14+ hours of light each day.
- Choose the right photoperiod strain for your climate. A strain suited to your environment needs to be chosen with your climate in mind to ensure that buds are ready to harvest before winter. What this means is you need to ensure the strain’s “flowering stage” is short enough for your climate. The length of a photoperiod strains flowering stage is primarily determined by genetics; outdoor photoperiod plants will start flowering when days grow short as winter approaches. It’s important that you choose a strain with a flowering period short enough to allow buds to mature before it gets too cold or rainy. Cannabis plants cannot survive freezing temps or torrential rain, so you need to choose a strain that will be ready to harvest before winter sets in. Generally, “Indica” strains have a shorter flowering stage and are more suited to colder climates with short summers. “Sativa” strains are more likely to have longer flowering stages, and are better suited to warm climates with long, sunny summers.
- Make sure photoperiod cannabis plants are not exposed to light during their night period. When growing photoperiod plants outdoors, being exposed to light at night can prevent them from flowering, or cause them to have other problems. While moonlight or starlight won’t bother your plants, it’s important they’re not grown near spotlights, street lights, or other bright sources of light at night.
Can I use plant training methods on auto-flowering strains?
Can I Top an Auto? (full article with instructions)
Auto-flowering strains respond well to very light low stress training (LST) such as bending the plants to “open up” lower branches to light.
Bend too-tall branches down and away from the center of your plant
Plant training is a tactic that helps cannabis growers increase yields indoors by exposing more buds to strong, direct light from the grow light.
When training autos, the idea is to use bending to open up the plant so it grows flat and wide
A view from the side so you can see how those plants were trained to grow flat and wide
Training allows all the bud sites to grow directly under the light, so they get as big as possible
Many growers do not recommend exposing autos to plant training methods that involve cutting the plant (topping, FIMing, main-lining, etc.) as the autoflowering vegetative stage is short and plants often don’t have enough time to recover before they begin flowering.
Because of the quick time schedule, it is important to avoid stressing auto-flowering plants during their grow because the plants don’t have time to recover from problems.
However, when plants are fast-growing and healthy, many growers defoliate, top or FIM their plants with great results. When is it okay to top an auto?
Since photoperiod plants can be forced to remain in the vegetative stage for as long as the grower wants, a grower can take advantage of a variety of plant training methods to shape/train the plant during the vegetative stage, including LST, topping, FIMing, main-lining, ScrOG, etc.
Training methods along with a properly timed light schedule can be used to produce very small or very large plants…whatever the grower wants!
Can I clone auto-flowering plants?
A clone is when you take a cutting of a plant and allow the cutting to grow into its own plant. Autoflowering cannabis plants cannot be cloned effectively because new clones are on the same internal “time clock” as their mother, and therefore any clone taken from her will die when she dies.
Because of this, auto-flowering clones live short lives and most growers strongly recommend against cloning auto strains because they stay extremely small and will not live long enough to produce good yields.
While autos can’t be used to make clones, it is possible to make seeds using a male to pollinate a female auto-flowering plant.
Photoperiod plants can be cloned, which means that a grower can continue to make more and more plants from a single seed. Cloning is a great way to get unlimited free plants which are almost exactly the same as each other.
So, You Want to Grow an Auto-Flowering Plant!
Which breeders can I trust for good auto-flowering seeds?
Which breeders can I trust for good auto-flowering seeds? These auto breeders have dedicated themselves to developing auto-flowering strains in particular, and have gained popularity for their consistency and quality.
Some Excellent Auto-Flowering Cannabis Breeders:
There are many other great breeders that offer auto-flowering seeds, but the breeders listed are known for breeding some of the best auto seeds when it comes to ease of growth, potency and yields. Let us know if there’s an auto-flowering cannabis breeder we should add to this list!
Pictures of Auto-Flowering Plants
Now here are some pictures of Autos (by various breeders and growers) to help give you an idea of what to expect when growing an autoflowering strain of cannabis.
From left to right: Dinafem Critical Jack, Dinafem Sour Diesel, Dutch Passion Blue AutoMazar
Using a small 250W HPS light, I harvested 190.4 grams, or about 6.7 ounces, between the three plants. This was my first auto-flowering grow and I was blown away by the yields, the time-to-harvest and especially the potency!
This was the final height of a “Lowryder” auto plant grown in a very sunny window. Lowryders tend to stay the smallest of almost all auto-flowering strains. This plant ended up having very small yields because it was grown in a window. It’s difficult to find a window that gets 5+ hours of direct sunlight each day, and generally it’s recommended that most growers avoid growing in a window if they want to get decent yields.
These are my 4 x Fastbud #2´s (this strain has now been bred into Ice Cool Auto, which may be even better). I chopped 2 a couple of nights ago and the others today. Day 65 from seed under a mixture of 400 & 600W HPS.
I´m a bit confused by this strain. The buds are quite skinny but they have weight to them and are dense as f*ck. Took a sample and quick dried and it’s a really nice smoke. Comes on really buzzy, then mellows out and gives mad munchies.
They smell incredible. Fruity and sweet, and they are very sticky.
Total dry weight for the 4 plants was 145g plus about 25g popcorn so around 6 oz in total.
View full album by Santacabrera here:
These are pics of my Black Cream autos that are coming down early next week. They could come down now, but I haven´t got time to do it this weekend.
Note: Autos by Nirvana are marked with a plus + sign.
Grown in a Space Bucket using FFOF (Fox Farms Ocean Forest) soil, Big Bloom Nutes, 1 gallon bucket, 135watt cfls, inside a Spacebucket.
The pics show the plant just before harvest on Day 62. (it probably could of went 2 more days but too late now). It was untrained. I wanted to see how she grew naturally in the bucket to see how I would need to adjust for the next grow. I was going to dry the bud in the spacebucket about there was just way too much to fit all the bud in the bucket with good ventilation and space.
She had really close nodes and it shows in my opinion! From day one I kept the plant right on the lights and just lowered them down in the bucket as she grew. I think that help keep the plant from stretching which was perfect in the bucket!
View full harvest album by -Johnny5-: http://imgur.com/a/sp7SZ
Note: Autos by Nirvana are marked with a plus + sign
Grown in a Space Bucket. From the Grower: These f*cking SpaceBuckets are awesome. Finally, Day 75, I pulled this plant down for harvest. She smells so freaking good it’s ridiculous. Berry/fruity type of smell, really sweet. She “was” standing at just around 18 inches. Grown in a 1 gallon pot, with FFOF (Fox Farms Ocean Forest Soil) and Big Bloom Nutes. This plant received around 134 cfl watts for 18 hours a day. ZERO Training! (will train the next grow, she was hitting the top of the bucket). The pic on the right is the main cola up close.
This is my second grow but my first grow with auto flowering plants. I have the lights set on 18:6. They are in 5 gallon pots with Promix soil. I am also using technaflora nutrients.
Final yield was about 1.5 ounces.
White Widow Auto by Pyramid Seeds
- Grow Lights: used a total of 6 CFLs, two on each side plus two under the reflector lamp. 6 x 23w 6500K for veg. and 6 x 23w 2700K for flower.
- Happy Frog Soil
- FloraNova Grow/Veg and Bloom Nutrients
- 2 Honeywell fans
Light Schedule is 20 on and 4 off (20-4). Used that light schedule for the whole grow. This is my first time growing. The plant ended up being just under 2 feet tall at harvest. Harvested on day 67 from seed.
View full harvest album by GorillaMass: http://imgur.com/a/43VNJ
Simple grow guide for growing auto-flowering plants in soil
This simple guide to growing autos indoors uses…
Extra Growing Tips for Autos
Low to Medium Nutrient Needs
Whether you grow in soil, coco coir, or a full hydroponic setup, auto plants tend to prefer relatively low levels of nutrients compared to many other cannabis strains.
When it comes to adding extra bottled nutrients, start at ¼ strength of the recommended dose or less, and only add higher levels of nutrients if needed. In hydro use “vegetative” nutrients until you see the first signs of flowering (pistils / white hairs) around 3-4 weeks. In good soil, you don’t need to add any nutrients during the vegetative stage. After the first signs of buds, start adding “flowering” nutrients at very low strength (¼ or less to start)
Potted Auto Plants
Potted auto plants tend to do best in an airy potting mix with lots of drainage (plenty of drainage holes, and something like perlite to help add more drainage to your growing medium). This helps makes sure roots get plenty of oxygen so plants grow as fast as possible.
If growing in soil avoid choosing a “hot” (lots of nutrients) soil mix. BioBizz Lightmix soil or Fox Farms Happy Frog are good choices that don’t have too many nutrients to start. With any soil mix, it’s recommended to add about 30% extra perlite for increased drainage.
Size & How to Control Height of Auto-Flowering Plants
The final size of your auto plants is largely dependent on the strain you get. Some strains, such as Lowryders, have been bred to grow extremely short – less than 1-2 feet. Other strains can grow taller, up to 4 feet tall or even more.
As a general rule of thumb, auto plants tend to double or triple in size from when they first start showing signs of flowering/budding (usually when plants are about 3 weeks old from seed).
There are also some plant training methods that are effective for giving you more control over the final size and shape of your auto-flowering plants.
The most important thing to remember with autos is to avoid using any plant training method that involves cutting the plant. When reading about cannabis training techniques that involve cutting the plant such as topping, FIMing, or main-lining, please remember that these techniques were developed for photoperiod plants and are not well-suited to auto-flowering strains.
Instead, the best way to control height and size with autos is to use low stress training (LST) which involves bending tall branches and using gardening wire or soft ties to hold down the branches.
Here’s a great LST example by Santacabrera showing how to gently bend the middle colas of an auto-flowering plant down and away from the center without cutting or harming the plant.
Bend too-tall branches down and away from the center of your plant
When growers LST auto-flowering strains of cannabis, the general idea is to gently pull branches away from the middle of the plant, so that the plant looks like a star when viewed from above. This helps expose the lower branches to more light, while also keeping plants short. It’s important to only bend stems that are young, when they’re still soft and flexible. Older stems become woody and hard to bend.
This technique can be used on auto plants that are getting too tall for your setup, or for any stem that is growing taller than all the others. Most indoor growers want to keep a flat, even canopy when growing indoors to get the most from their grow lights.
Best Light Schedule for Autos
Most indoor growers report getting great growth rates when keeping light schedules on an 18/6 light schedule (18 hour of light and 6 hours of dark each days). 20/4 is another popular light schedule for indoor auto plants. Some growers will give 24 hours of light to auto plants, but others believe that auto plants develop better when given at least a few hours of darkness each day.
When growing autos outdoors, basically you just want to give your plants as much direct sunlight as you can each day. Other than that, you don’t need to worry about light schedules When growing outdoors, more hours of direct sunlight = bigger yields. It is almost impossible to give plants too much light when growing outdoors (as long as heat is under control).