Cannabis seeds seem to be available in limitless options and it can be confusing when you have to choose. Should you go with feminized seeds? What about autoflower seeds?
Growing autoflowers can significantly speed up harvest time while delivering an ample yield of marijuana. Here are some autoflower pros and cons along with some growing tips to help you decide if this type of seed is right for your cannabis garden.
What are autoflowers?
As the name implies, autoflowers automatically shift to the flowering period without intervention. Whereas the flowering of photoperiod plants is dependent on cycles of light and dark, autoflowers zip through this growth stage according to their age. Autoflowering cannabis seeds may mature in as little as seven or eight weeks from seed to harvest depending on the strain.
There are a staggering 200+ autoflowering strains on the market for you to peruse. Some popular strains include Cream Caramel Auto, Afghan Kush Ryder, and Autoflowering Blueberry.
How long does it take to grow autoflower?
The timing of autoflowering plants depends on their size and classification. On one end of the spectrum, there are dwarf varieties, which are short in stature and are often ready to harvest within 10 weeks. In contrast, there are super autos, which grow taller (more than 6 feet high in some cases) and may not mature for more than 100 days. But in all cases, the time frame for growing autoflowering cannabis is shorter than for photoperiod strains and represents one of the seeds' most desirable distinctions.
Pros and cons of growing autoflowers
Autoflowering cannabis offers an array of benefits, including the highest possible yield in the shortest conceivable time.
Here are four of the top reasons to grow autoflowering cannabis:
- Fast: The transition between the vegetative growth phase and the flowering stage can happen in as few as seven weeks.
- Simple: One autoflowering plant can produce hundreds of seeds, simplifying the germination process and eliminating the need to purchase more seeds.
- Flexible: Autoflowering seeds flourish in a variety of climates and environments. Even cities make hospitable environments for autoflowering cannabis seeds because artificial lighting doesn't negatively affect them.
- Prolific: Growing autoflowering plants outdoors can mean multiple harvests in one season, giving you plentiful weed to enjoy now or perhaps dry, cure, and store for future use.
The disadvantages of growing autoflowering cannabis are more debatable, with some people claiming the harvest is lower quality. Others are concerned with the quality of the seeds before harvest and the possibility of purchasing those that do not in fact autoflower. Finally, some dwarf strains may produce disappointing yields, sometimes as little as half an ounce per plant.
How much do autoflower plants yield?
Just as harvest timing depends on the size and classification of autoflower plants, so does the amount of cannabis they yield. Regular plants tend to yield between 10 and 50 grams per plant, while the next level up, the super auto, can produce yields between 100 and 200 grams per plant. The abundant yield of a super autoflower can be a double-edged sword if you are working within the confines of a small space. So, use small spaces for regular autos whose yields are more manageable, and reserve larger spaces for those impressive super autos.
Do autoflowers need nutrients?
Like any other living plant, autoflowers do require nutrients, but administering them is a delicate balance. Going overboard on fertilizer can have adverse effects on cannabis seeds, just as feeding the wrong kind of nutrients can. Be sure to choose a fertilizer specifically formulated for autoflowering strains and then micro-dose rather than pouring on liberally. Lightly fertilized soil is optimal for autoflowering seeds and as long as you're nourishing the plants with supplements such as vitamin B, enzymes, and fungi.
In addition, autoflowers need at least 15 to 18 hours of sunlight or LED light each day to thrive.
How to grow autoflowering plants
Now that you know the basics of autoflowers, let's explore each step in the growing process. The following guide covers a typical 10-week growth cycle and highlights milestones for each week.
Germination: This initial stage occurs within three days, sometimes as soon as 24 hours. Choose a light potting soil mix or blend your own with peat moss, compost, moistened perlite, and moistened vermiculture, along with nitrogen-rich tablets containing other essential nutrients — plus a dose of good fungi. The ideal planting environment for your cannabis seeds has 70 percent to 90 percent humidity and is 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour the soil into pots and poke 15-millimeter holes in the soil. Plant a seed in each hole, cover with soil, and watch for a seedling to emerge in the next several days.
Photosynthesis: Add more nutrients to your late-stage seedlings. Since you are growing autoflowers and not regular seeds, use only half the usual dose indicated on the package.
Vegetation: Change up the environmental conditions with low-stress training. Reduce the humidity to 50 percent, lower the temperature to 68 degrees, and feed twice per week.
The plants should be about six inches tall at this point.
Late Vegetation: In this second vegetative phase, drop the humidity to 45 percent and keep the temperature stable at around 68 degrees. Water with half a liter every day and keep feeding twice weekly.
You may see some tiny pre-flowers crop up at this time.
Flowering: Sticky, resinous buds will make their first appearance during week five, giving you a preview of the bounty to come. Keep the humidity consistent at 45 percent but increase the temperature to about 71 degrees. Increase the water to a full liter each day and add supplement tablets twice a week. Look for those containing phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
The plants should be at least a foot tall now.
Late Flowering: Don't be surprised to see a flower forming in every bud after two weeks into the flowering stage. Drop the humidity to 40 percent and reduce the temperature back to 68 degrees. Water with 1.5 liters and feed the plants three times a week.
After this week, you're in the home stretch of raising autoflowering plants to maturity.
Maintenance: It's crucial to stop harmful intruders such as mold and spider mites, so check your cannabis plants daily and keep the humidity low at 40 percent. Maintain the watering and feeding schedule established in week six.
Your patience and care will pay off soon — harvest time is in the near future.
Weeks 8 and 9
Defoliation: Stop feeding the plants. Instead, flush them with a flood of water and then defoliate with a pair of shears. Defoliation helps the plants absorb more light while limiting the risk of damaging mold.
At the end of this two-week period, the eagerly anticipated harvest time will begin.
Harvest: Milky white trichomes and red-brown pistils on the buds indicate they are ready for harvest. Drying and curing comes next, then you can finally sit back and enjoy the sweet fruits of your labor.