Autoflower strains are becoming increasingly popular in the cannabis enthusiast communities. Autoflowers can produce wonderful yields in just several weeks, and are also great for beginners, especially those who have not yet mastered light cycles when growing cannabis. In this guide, we will cover all sorts of topics on autoflower strains, emphasizing on how to grow them for maximum yields.
The Origins of Auto-Flowering Cannabis Strains
The origination of auto-flower strains lies in their genetic makeup which came from the plant named Cannabis Ruderalis. Cannabis Ruderalis is a strain of cannabis which is native to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia, and was identified in Russia in the 1920s by a Russian botanist. It is a strain that differs from Cannabis sativa and Cannabis Indica, as it tends to be much shorter in size, possesses very low amounts of THC, and does not rely on changes in light cycles for flowering. Due to the environmental conditions that Cannabis Ruderalis plants faced in their place of origin, adaptive evolution was necessary in order for the plants to bypass the traditional 18 hours of light, 6 hours of darkness cycle that cannabis growers are familiar with. Experimentation of cannabis growers involving the creation of hybrid plants, with Cannabis sativa and Ruderalis, and Cannabis Indica and Ruderalis, is what ultimately resulted in autoflower strains that we know today.
Plants that follow the traditional light schedule are referred to as “photoperiods,” and rely on the sun’s (or lights’) signals which, essentially, tell the plant hormones when to start producing flower. This is why we typically decrease the amount of light from 18 hours down to 12 hours when photoperiod strains are ready for flowering. It mimics the natural decrease in daylight that occurs in the later parts of the year outdoors.
Autoflowers, in contrast, rely on the factor of time to start producing flower, and can begin the flowering stage as quickly as the three to five week mark of growth. Autoflowers are typically ready for harvest around two to three months from germination. This changes in phases happens regardless of the light cycle which they are exposed to, since they rely on a time schedule rather than light schedule to start producing bud. These autoflower strains grow at a speedy pace, and can grow in smaller, more confined spaces- making them ideally suited for many beginner cannabis growers.
Pros and Cons of Auto-flowering Cannabis Strains
Here, we will list some of the pros and cons of autoflowers, so that you can take into consideration on deciding whether or not these strains are for you.
o Will grow regardless of light cycle which they are exposed to
o Can flower year-round
o Grow very quickly
o Commonly smaller plants, which is great for confined spaces
o More resistant to diseases and pests
o Smaller yields (often, but not always)
o Not able to be cloned
o Not as successful in recovering from growing errors
Now, let’s move on to our next topic- which contains several subtopics which serve as essential information on GROWING autoflower strains. From here, we will cover a wide range of subjects that are imperative to successful growth of autoflowers.
You MUST have good soil to grow an ultimate autoflower cannabis plant. Autoflowers prefer a light, airy soil, and there’s always the option to buy soil specially mixed for autoflower cannabis plants. However, you can mix your own soil, too.
If you’d like to buy premixed soil, the options are endless, and quality soil can be found by a simple search from an online or in-person retailer. Here are just some of the popular, highly-rated brands on the market today:
o FoxFarm Happy Frog Potting Soil
o Mother Earth Coco Plus Perlite Mix
o Big Rootz All-Purpose Potting Soil
o Black Gold 1302040 8-Quart All Organic Potting Soil
o Roots Organics Rod Original Potting Soil
When mixing your own soil, an extremely basic recipe as follows can be used for optimal autoflower growth: equal parts peat moss, compost, and perlite, with one-third part vermiculite. This recipe, although simple, ensures that the proper nutrients (as well as the proper amount of nutrients) are included in the mix.
It is advised that once you have your soil ready and mixed, to measure its pH level. When measuring the pH of the soil, it is best to keep the numbers in the 6.2 to 6.7 range. You do not want your soil to be too acidic (lower pH) or too alkaline (higher pH). There are many pH meters available in-store and online so that you are able to keep track of your soil’s pH levels.
Lights and Light Cycles
Although, as previously mentioned, autoflowers successfully bloom no matter the light cycle they are grown in, there are still certain cycles considered best for growing autoflowers in. Some growers choose to use the traditional method of 18 hours of light, and 6 hours of darkness, although it is debated among autoflower growers. Some choose to keep their plants exposed to 24 hours of light, constantly. You can experiment to see which method is best for you. Many believe that exposing cannabis plants, even autoflowers, can cause too much stress on the plant. From my experience, the majority of cannabis growers tend to stick with the traditional light cycle for this reason. Another less-known fact is that darkness is necessary for optimal root development and growth in cannabis plants. It is not necessary to decrease the amount of light once the plant enters the flowering stage on its own.
If growing indoors, when choosing lights, there are a vast amount of options. Many popular LED grow lights are on the market, and run less of a chance on burning your plants. The option for lights remains up to grower and his or her experience and success. There should be absolutely no leaks of light whatsoever if you wish for your plant to experience dark phases as well, as the smallest bit of light can interrupt the dark phases of light cycles.
While there are countless types of lights that can be used when growing autoflower cannabis strains, full-spectrum LED lights are highly recommended. LED lights have proven to be both highly accessible and efficient. The full-spectrum very closely resembles the natural light of the sun, which is another reason LED lights have shown to be a favored choice among growers. However, there are many other options you may choose from; research and experiment as you wish.
Autoflower cannabis seeds can be germinated in different ways with different mediums- in soil, the paper towel method, etc. It seems that the paper towel method is most common, but you may use whichever method you prefer or are accustomed to.
The paper towel method consists of placing the seed in a damp paper towel, and, for good measure, placing the paper towel in a container that will keep in humidity. It’s important that the paper towel remains moist, but not completely soaked. Once the taproot has emerged and is visible, carefully place the sprout between ½ inch and ¾ inch down into the medium that you plan to grow the plant in (all the way until harvest!), and cover.
If you’d like to germinate in soil (my favorite), place your seed around 15 mm under the soil. Ideally, you should do this in the pot or area that you plan on growing your plant in all the way to harvest, in order to avoid the issues associated with transplanting. Remember that autoflowers strains of cannabis are not as forgiving as photo plants when it comes to errors in growing, such as mistakes made while transplanting.
The process of germination should be as quick as 24 to 72 hours, and sometimes, even faster. Some even soak their seeds in water for up to 24 hours before following with one of these common germination methods. Soaking seeds for too long can result in seed death, though, so perform this only if you are willing to experiment and risk a loss, or have enough experience to know exactly what you are doing.
If you would like to add nutrients, be careful when doing so, because autoflowers do not spend as much time in the each stage of growth as photoperiods do, and autoflowers are genetically designed to not require as many nutrients as photoperiods. While the plants are small seedlings, it’s important to not add any additional fertilizers. These seedlings will be very delicate and vulnerable to nutrient burn, which is extremely detrimental to your plant’s health. By week two, you may begin to add in between ¼ and ½ the amount of nutrients as you usually would. Then, around week three, or midway through, it is safe to add nutrients in at full-strength.
Water your autoflowers only as needed. This means that a fixed schedule may not suit your plants best. Allow the soil to dry just barely between watering. It is much, much better for a cannabis plant to experience a small period of dryness in its medium than to be over-watered. Over-watering can lead to many problems, including root rot. With that being said, water somewhat conservatively, as over-watering can create a ton of issues that growers do not want to experience, especially with autoflowers. There is no need to absolutely saturate your plants on a daily basis, and it is a very common mistake that is made, especially by beginner growers.
Along with proper watering, your autoflowers will need proper air flow as well, even if that means just a slight breeze that the plants are exposed to during their “lights on” periods. If you’re growing indoors with a grow tent, for example, there are usually holes in the side(s) of the tents made for inline exhaust fans. You want to keep aerobic conditions, and air flow is a necessity for doing so.
Humidity is another important, and often overlooked, factor when growing autoflowers. During the germination stage, high humidity is imperative, and can be at an upwards of 80-90%. During the vegetative phase, 50% is a good number to aim for, and when flowering, just slightly lower than in the vegetative phase can result in major success. A simple hygrometer can be used to measure humidity in the plant’s environment. These are relatively cheap tools that can prove to be very handy when growing cannabis.
Measure your soil’s pH levels regularly, and record those measurements if you believe it would help assist you in ensuring your autoflower plant is healthy and happy. The pH level should consistently remain between 5.8 and 6.5. As long as no damage is done to your plants, you may measure as often as you’d like- it never hurts to keep good check of PH for your autoflower plants!
When entering the flowering stage, autoflowers will most likely double, or even triple in size, at a fast pace. Monitor and maintain the plants’ environment as necessary, for this is a crucial phase regarding cannabis yields.
In the last week or two before harvest, flush your plants. This means to give your plants solely water- cut them off from any nutrients that have been provided to your autoflowers throughout the stages of growth until now. You may give them less and less nutrients in the week or two leading up to the flush- basically, you can wean your plants off of the nutrients that they have been given.
When your plants are ready to harvest, the pistils will be reddish-brown, and the trichomes white in color. Inspect and compare the top buds to the lower buds. If the top buds appear to have finished more quickly, give the buds closer to the bottom just a bit more time for maximum results. The uneven distribution of light can cause some buds to advance more quickly than others, so if you want the maximum yield from your plants, this is a good tip to keep in mind.
Cure and store your buds as usual. Usually, buds can effectively be dried by hanging them upside down for several days. Store your buds in airtight containers, and open the containers once daily for the first week of storage, then drop down to opening the container to every three days. This process can be completed as quickly as just a couple of weeks of time. This is called curing and is important to ensure a smooth, mellow smoke.
Controversy Surrounding Low-Stress Training on Autoflowers
Autoflowers spend much less time during their vegetative stage, so training needs to be very timely. Low-stress training (or LST) is the only recommended training method to be used for autoflower strains; topping and pruning is advised against when growing autoflower cannabis plants. For successful LST, simply tie down the plant stems, gently, so that the plant is horizontal rather than vertical. Regularly examine your plants and adjust the secured ties as necessary.
Do not top or prune your autoflower cannabis plants! Their vegetative state is short, and they may not recover well. And this can cause too much stress on autoflower plants, which can lead to lower yields or even plant shock and death.
Growing autoflower cannabis plants can be greatly rewarding. With faster growth rates, and no demand for specific light cycles, they show to be easy strains for beginner growers to try. Autoflower cannabis strains still have areas in which caution must be taken, though, and if all is performed correctly, autoflowers can result in impressive, quick yields, no matter the time of year.
Common Myths- Busted
Myth 1: Autoflowering strains have a low THC concentration.
Fact: There are autoflower strains which can provide relatively high amounts of THC- as high as some photoperiod plants. The potency of a cannabis plant is dependent on the strain itself, rather than if the plant is an autoflowering or photoperiod strain.
Myth 2: Autoflowering strains NEED 24 hour light cycles.
Fact: As stated before, it all depends on the particular strain that you are growing to determine which light cycle works best for your autoflowering cannabis plants. Some strains may thrive, producing their best yields in 24 hour light cycles; others may need some periods of darkness for maximum flower production. My favorite light cycle for auto-flower cannabis strains is 18/6.
Myth 3: Autoflower buds lack taste and scent.
Fact: This is false, as many experienced autoflowering cannabis plant growers will tell you. There are varieties of different tastes and scents of autoflowering plants among all sorts of strains.
Myth 4: You cannot transplant autoflowering cannabis plants.
Fact: You can, indeed, transplant autoflower strains. However, it must be done carefully, without disturbing the roots too much. If an autoflowering plant faces root shock, the recovery time (if the plant is able to recover) significantly disrupts the growth process due to the quick, speedy life cycle of autoflowering plants.
Myth 5: Autoflowers aren’t able to be trained.
Fact: One can successfully train an autoflowering cannabis plant, but it must be done with special care. If training is a desired method to be used, Low-Stress Training is the recommended type- although, as stated earlier in the article, there is controversy surrounding this method, so train at your own risk.
Autoflowering cannabis plants are interesting, convenient, and recommended for those who are new to the cannabis growing community. Although autoflowers must be handled and tended to with extra care, they can produce impressive yields with extraordinary THC concentrations.
Visit Justcannabisseed.com to learn about popular autoflower strains, and as your go to for cheap cannabis seeds. There are so many to choose from, giving you the opportunity to discover which strain best suits you, personally. If you have any questions regarding autoflower strains, feel free to reach out on the contact page of Justcannabisseed.com website. We want to guarantee that you are knowledgeable so that your plants can reach their full potential!