Before growing, you’ll need to choose which type of seed you want to work with: feminized or autoflower. Here at Potguide, we recommend starting your cannabis growing hobby/career with auto-flowering cannabis seeds. Let's get into why. This definition explains the meaning of Autoflowering and why it matters. Many growers use both autoflower seeds as well as photoperiod feminised seeds. But which is best for your particular needs? Read the pros and cons of each
Autoflower Seeds Explained
T here’s a lot that can go into growing a flowering cannabis plant, which may seem a little daunting to those who were hoping for something as simple as step 1: put seed in soil, step 2: wait, step 3: cannabis! It’s important to choose which easy-to-grow strain sounds the best for your first foray into the world of cannabis farming, however, before picking the strain, you’ll need to choose which type of seed you want to work with: feminized or autoflower.
There are some key differences to be aware of. Especially if you’re new to gardening in general, here at PotGuide, we recommend starting your cannabis growing hobby/career with auto-flowering cannabis seeds. Let’s get into why.
What are Autoflower Cannabis Seeds?
Back in the day (way, way back) there were three basic subgroups of cannabis plants that had found their ecological niche thanks to human cultivation. Taller, skinner sativa strains thrived in warmer, tropical climates like Southeast Asia and Polynesia. Indica strains grew in the higher, windier Hindu Kush region. Ruderalis strains were hardier and grew in the colder, far northern hemisphere where the sun either shines at all hours for months on end or disappears for that same timeframe. Ruderalis strains didn’t have the same regular access to night and day that told their indica and sativa cousins when to stop growing and start flowering. Instead, they evolved to bloom when the sun was out based on how many weeks they’d been growing.
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Modern-day cannabis growers realized that this adaptation to flower based on age rather than light exposure basically puts growing on easy mode, so they cross-bred ruderalis with indica and sativa strains to create autoflower seeds.
How are Autoflowering Seeds Different from Feminized Seeds?
Left to their own devices, cannabis will follow the same reproductive path that nature has set out for nearly every seed-producing plant: sprout, mature, meet a nice plant, exchange pollen, and start dropping seeds of their own. However, long ago humans discovered that the female cannabis plants also produced some flowers that were pretty fun to smoke, and thus cultivation began.
Jump forward to today’s modern cannabis market, and we find there are two main types of seeds that cannabis growers use: feminized seeds and autoflower seeds.
Feminized seeds are seeds that have been specially bred to only grow resinous-bud-producing females. This was achieved by eliminating the male chromosome through various manipulation methods (*cut to Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm looking concerned). However, these methods make use of a natural response that the plants have when they are stressed and lack male plants.
More experienced growers tend to use feminized seeds. Sowing feminized seeds tends to lead to far greater yields of potent buds than auto-flowering seeds. The plants will create stronger, THC-rich resin, and if one cannabis plant turns out to be exceptional above the rest, it can be cloned rather than having to be grown from seed every time.
However, growing with feminized seeds also takes extra care, attention, and know-how. They require scheduling the grow light’s hours and intensity in order to signal to the plants when it’s time to stop growing and start blooming. They also require extra room to spread their branches and are more susceptible to stress, disease, and pests.
Autoflowering seeds, on the other hand, are much hardier thanks to their ruderalis lineage and thus more resistant to environmental stressors than feminized seeds.
They have a far easier time brushing off pests and diseases and are able to be grown in a wider temperature range. All this means that they can bounce back from a lot of first-time grower mistakes that usually kill feminized seed plants.
Another advantage to autoflowering plants is that you don’t need to worry about maintaining a strict light schedule. The ruderalis genetics are used to unbroken stretches of sunlight during those northern summer months. Flip on your grow lights for about 20 hours a day and autoflowering seeds will do the rest.
The rest of your setup can be just as basic. Autoflowering seeds tend to grow a lot more compactly than feminized seeds, which makes them ideal for small closet grow operations. While autoflowering plants tend to produce much smaller yields than feminized seeds, you’ll have them much faster. Some autoflowering strains will start producing flowers in just 2-4 weeks, and be ready for harvest in 6-8 weeks. While the buds won’t be as potent as feminized seeds, they tend to contain higher levels of CBD, which can be ideal for medical growers.
This also isn’t meant to imply that autoflowers can’t make potent buds. They certainly can, and a significant part of dispensary stock is produced this way. Feminized seeds just tend to do better when compared bud to bud.
When buying your seeds, be sure to check whether or not they have been feminized. Depending on the company selling them, you could end up with either all female autoflower seeds, or a 50/50 chance.
Which Seeds Should I Choose?
While feminized seeds can be considered the Goldilocks of growing (everything has to be just right), autoflowering seeds are more the Gretel of growing (hardy, resilient, would kill a witch if it came to it.) Both, of course, have their advantages. If you are growing cannabis in order to produce only the most resinous, power-flower buds in the highest yields, go with feminized seeds. You’ll have to crack the books when it comes to bulking up your cannabis growing knowledge, and you’ll have to pay close attention to how each of your plants are doing on the regular. However, it will all pay off once you’ve got those sticky, stanky buds all cured and sitting in their jars.
On the other hand, growing your own cannabis can also be an easy, fun way to get some free weed off of your new plant friend. Autoflower seeds are the choice of any beginner looking to get from Point A (Seeds in soil) to Point C (Hell yeah!) as quickly as possible with minimal effort. With a more basic light setup, less care about the temperature, and a grow room as small as a bedroom closet, autoflower seeds are your entry ticket into the world of cannabis growing.
Do you prefer autoflower or feminized cannabis seeds? Sound off in the comments!
Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as Medium.com, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.
Unlike photoperiod-dependent plants, autoflowering cannabis is a cannabis plant that reaches the flowering stage after vegetative growth on its own, regardless of the amount of light it receives.
Most plants require a certain amount of light/darkness per day to produce flowers, for example, 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. However, plants with the ability to autoflower do not flower based on the amount of light/darkness they receive. Instead, plants with the capacity to autoflower will produce buds and flowers based on the plant’s size and growth. On average, the lifecycle of an autoflowering strain is 60 to 90 days.
Maximum Yield Explains Autoflowering
The benefit of autoflowering is that most plants are ready for harvest in 10 weeks or less, regardless of the amount of light/darkness they receive. The plant that has the capacity to autoflower has a quick lifecycle, so it will produce buds and flowers in a shorter span of time, without stringent light/darkness requirements. Autoflowering cannabis plants are best suited for areas where there is fewer daylight hours. There are even hybrids that flower in less than 6 weeks.
Autoflowering cannabis plants are typically smaller than standard plants. Consequently, autoflowering plants typically have lower yields. However, there are super autos that can be tall and have higher yield. Given that autoflowering cannabis have a greater hardiness, they can potentially grow through the year.
Autoflowering strains are not a good choice for cloning as cuttings will transition to the flowering stage too quickly to provide a worthwhile yield.
A cannabis plant’s ability to autoflower is a genetic trait passed down to a plant within its DNA. Not all plants have the ability to autoflower, however, some cannabis plants can autoflower.
Cannabis is considered a diploid, which means that it receives one chromosome from its father plant’s pollen and one from its mother plant’s ovum. Each chromosome from the father and mother contains two genes. Those genes are either photodependant (photodependant allows autoflowering) or non-photodependant (non-photodependant does not allow autoflowering). In other words, autoflowering is a recessive trait, which means that both parents must contribute the gene in order for the offspring plant to autoflower. So, one of the chromosomes from one of the parents may allow autoflowering, but the other chromosome from the other parent does not contain the gene to grant autoflowering.
Autoflower vs feminised cannabis seeds explained
Cannabis genetics have changed drastically in the last decade. The home grower now has a wider and perhaps more confusing choice of cannabis seeds than ever before. But the differences between autoflower and feminised cannabis seeds are not that complicated. We will explain all you need to know about the way auto and fem seeds grow, the advantages and disadvantages for each and how you can select the right type of cannabis seeds for your grow.
|●||Autoflower vs feminised vs regular seeds differences|
|●||How were autoflower seeds created in the first place?|
|●||Topping and training autoflower vs feminised cannabis|
|●||Do autoflowers always finish faster than photoperiod strains?|
|●||Autoflower vs feminised cannabis seeds outdoor growing|
|●||Autoflower vs feminised cannabis plants yield|
|●||Differences in bud quality for feminised vs autoflower strains|
|●||Still wondering which type of cannabis seeds are best for you?|
Autoflower vs feminised vs regular seeds differences
Some growers mistakenly feel that autoflower seeds produce less potent weed than plants grown from feminised seeds. This may have been true in the early days of auto seeds, but not any more. Autoflowering cannabis seeds produce buds with the same quality levels as photoperiod feminised seeds. Auto Cinderella Jack has THC levels independently verified at over 25%. Many photoperiod feminised cannabis seeds don’t reach such high potency levels!
Autoflower seeds are the seed of choice for those that want fast, convenient and easy harvests. They typically grow indoors from seed to harvest in around 10-11 weeks under 20 hours of daily light. Outdoors, they take a little longer, around 100 days. Autoflowers start to bloom automatically around 5-6 weeks after germination. The grower doesn’t need to change the light cycle, it happens ‘automatically’.
Autoflower seeds are easy to grow and often stay short, squat and bushy. Due to the short auto life cycle you might not be able to get quite the same yields as a feminised seed variety which has enjoyed a long period of vegetative growth. But yields from the best autoflower seeds can be several hundred grams per plant from well grown indoor autos.
Photoperiod feminised cannabis seeds grow vegetatively under 18 hours (or more) of daily light. They produce leaves, roots and branches but no buds until daily light hours are reduced to 12. Feminised seeds are preferred by growers that enjoy traditional genetics with the ability to be manipulated via the photo dependency. SCROG growers can utilise long veg grow periods of 2 months or more to fully fill a SCROG screen. Outdoors, they can produce several Kilograms of dry buds from a long grow over 5-6 months.
Regular cannabis seeds give rise to approximately equal numbers of male and female offspring. These are the cannabis seeds of choice for old school growers that prefer the process of identifying and separating males from females. These days, regular cannabis seeds account for just 2-3% of seed sales. But they are used by those breeding cannabis plants or producing cannabis seeds. Note that the grower can take cuttings easily from plants grown from feminised seeds or regular seeds. But taking cuttings from autoflower plants isn’t as easy, since the plant has a fixed life cycle.
|Autoflower seeds||Feminised seeds||Regular seeds|
|Ease of growing||Easy||Moderate||Expert (males need to be removed to prevent pollination and seeding of your crop).|
|Plant height||Typically short/medium around 1 metre tall.||Adaptable depending on length of veg growth. Can reach 3-4m outdoors.||Adaptable depending on length of veg growth. Can reach 3-4m outdoors.|
|Flowering start||Often ~ 5-6 weeks after germination.||Requires 12/12 light conditions indoors and less than 13.5-14 hours of daily light outdoors.||Requires 12/12 light conditions indoors and less than 13.5-14 hours of daily light outdoors.|
|Seed-to-harvest time||Typically 10-11 weeks.||Depends on length of veg and flower time of the genetics.||Depends on length of veg and flower time of the genetics.|
|Yield||Up to a few hundred grams per plant in optimised conditions.||Up to and above a Kg per plant in optimised conditions.||Up to and above a Kg per plant in optimised conditions.|
Key things to know before growing autoflower cannabis seeds.
● If you want to grow a cannabis crop in the shortest possible time frame, then autoflower seeds are the best option. Strains such as Auto Blueberry and Auto Blackberry Kush can be ready in as little as 8-9 weeks after germination.
● Autoflower seeds perform well in both indoor and outdoor locations. Outdoors, many growers can get 2 or even 3 successive crops in the same year
● Autoflower seeds are easy to grow in a wide range of grow conditions/systems. Soil, coco fibre or hydroponics all produce great, fast results.
● Depending on the genetics you choose you can grow autoflower seeds that will produce harvests rich in THC, CBD or both! You can even grow Auto CBG-Force autoflower seeds which will produce CBG rich harvests or Auto CBD-Victory which will produce buds rich in CBDV.
● Many growers don’t bother repeatedly repotting their autoflower plants into increasingly large containers (note that keeping an autoflower longer than 2 – 2.5 weeks in a small pot will have a negative effect on the size and eventual yield). Instead, they often grow their autos in their ‘final’ containers to minimise time lost due to transplanting. This allows growers to achieve the highest possible yield.
● Many growers find that autoflowering cannabis seeds are the easiest and fastest way to grow cannabis. You don’t even need to worry about changing the light cycle! Less experienced (or first time) growers often prefer the simplicity and convenience of autoflower seeds.
How were autoflower seeds created in the first place?
Dutch Passion worked very closely with the Joint Doctor in the earliest days of autoflower breeding. The Joint Doctor is a Canadian breeder who played a large role in the first generation/early autoflower seeds.
Some of this work was based on a mythical Mexican strain (Mexican Rudy) which, whilst small and with only medium potency, allowed the first real autoflower work to get started. These were the first cannabis strains which were not dependent on the photoperiod (the number of daily light hours) to initiate bloom.
Initially, many cannabis seed companies were sceptical and couldn’t see the potential of autoflower genetics. Dutch Passion were able to combine and rework some of these first generation autoflowering genetics with some exceptional results.
After a few years of continuous improvements, autoflower yields and potency were on a par with indoor photoperiod feminised seeds. Initially some growers were reluctant and unconvinced by the early autoflower seeds. But once growers saw the top-shelf results that could be achieved with refined, high performance modern autoflower seeds that all changed.
Many modern cannabis seed growers prefer a rapid seed-to-harvest time. In this respect, the fastest autoflower seeds simply can’t be beaten!
Why do autoflower seeds produce so many phenotypes?
In the early days of autoflower seeds, some cannabis seed banks had a reputation for ‘scatter-gun’ autoflower seed genetics which would produce an excessively wide array of phenotypes.
Some would be miniature plants that would barely reach 10cm tall whereas the next auto would reach a metre. The challenge for premium cannabis seed suppliers was to take the autoflower genetics and fine-tune them further so they could be a viable option for serious growers.
This requires a great deal of genetic and breeding know-how. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to breeding and supplying the finest quality autoflower seeds.
Dutch Passion have some of the best genetics and most experienced geneticists in the business, so a great deal of focussed experience allowed them to push autoflower genetics to their limit.
Today, the best autoflower seeds produce consistently great results with little variations between the resulting plants if conditions are optimised. But it’s worth adding that there are still plenty of low quality autoflower seed suppliers out there. Buy your autoflower seeds from a supplier you can trust with a solid track record for auto breeding. A few autoflower cannabis cups is a sure sign that your supplier is committed and professional about their breeding.
|Understanding cannabis phenotypes, genotypes and chemotypes|
Topping and training autoflower vs feminised cannabis
Many growers like to train and manipulate their cannabis plants. This can be done to try to increase yield, or perhaps to create a shorter/bushier plant which is easier to cultivate in confined spaces.
When growing feminised cannabis seeds you have plenty of scope for topping and training your plants. You can define a long period of veg growth if you want to repeatedly top your plant (remove the growing tip) in order to produce a bushier plant which will require less vertical growth space. SCROG growers love long veg periods to fill the screen.
But autoflower seeds are less suited to these situations. When growing autoflowering cannabis seeds it is the genetics, not you, which defines when veg ends and bloom starts. Furthermore, autoflowers grow with a limited life cycle, they simply don’t have the time to recover from repeated topping.
However, both autos and feminised strains won’t mind low stress training, such as having branches tied down in order to improve light penetration to lower branches etc.
|Top 5 cannabis strains to grow in small spaces|
Do autoflowers always finish faster than photoperiod strains?
Not necessarily. Some fast photoperiod feminised strains such as Bubba Island Kush can be ready in as little as 7 weeks of bloom. Combine that with a brief period of veg growth and you could grow Bubba Island Kush from seed to harvest in around 10-11 weeks. Orange Bud is another fast (7-8 week bloom) feminised seed.
In contrast, some ‘super’ autos, such as Auto Ultimate can require up to 12-15 weeks to grow indoors from seed to harvest under 20 hours of daily light. Auto Glueberry OG is another similar autoflower seed.
A fast blooming feminised strain can indeed be faster to grow than some of the slower super autos. But it is important to add that the yields from slower growing autoflowers such as Auto Ultimate and Auto Glueberry OG can be spectacular, with 500g+ harvests (from a single plant) quite possible with hydroponic grows under optimised conditions.
|Top 5 fast growing cannabis seeds|
It’s worth noting that some autoflower seed suppliers tend to be overly optimistic about the seed-to-harvest times. Remember to base your harvest point on the factors that matter to you. Some people prefer the high from late harvested cannabis, others prefer to smoke/vape early harvested cannabis. One of the advantages of growing your own cannabis is that you decide the genetics and precisely how they are grown and when they are harvested.
You can assess the colours of the trichome resin glands, general bud appearance and pistil (hair) colour to help define your perfect harvest point for your favourite cannabis seeds.
|Best ways to harvest, dry and cure cannabis|
Autoflower vs feminised cannabis seeds outdoor growing
Autoflower seeds grow from seed to harvest outdoors in around 100 days, depending on conditions, latitude etc. That’s a little slower than indoors, where autos can enjoy 20 hours of daily light without cold night temperatures.
That speed of growth means that even Scandinavian outdoor autoflower growers can achieve two successive outdoor crops each summer. Mediterranean growers may be able to manage three successive outdoor auto crops each summer although the yield-per-plant may not be quite as high as that from longer growing photoperiod outdoor strains.
|Scandinavian autoflower growing, 2 crops in one season!|
Outdoor feminised cannabis seeds such as the cannabis cup winning photoperiod Frisian Dew seeds will typically grow outdoors over a 5-6 month period.
That’s a much longer timescale than an auto, so you can expect larger plants (perhaps 3-4m tall and almost as wide) and heavier yields. For some growers that’s a better combination.
However, if your climate has a short growing season you may prefer to consider autoflowering seeds which are generally ready to harvest earlier, nearer the middle of summer while the weather is still warm and sunny.
|Autoflower vs feminised outdoor cannabis growing|
Autoflower vs feminised cannabis plants yield
Modern, high performance autoflower seeds can deliver some incredible yields. Especially under optimised conditions with high intensity LED lighting. Many of Dutch Passion’s repeat autoflower seed customers routinely achieve several hundred grams per grow, especially when using hydroponic systems. The largest yield ever seen by Dutch Passion was a 1Kg harvest of dry buds from Auto Ultimate.
|Auto Ultimate 1Kg harvest by ‘The King’|
But the yields from the best feminised cannabis seeds can also be spectacular, especially when individual plants are given long periods of veg growth and grown in e.g. SCROG conditions by an experienced grower with quality genetics and powerful LED lights.
Serious growers know that they can get heavy yields from either autoflower seeds or feminised seeds. The choice between the types of cannabis seed is often made on the basis of factors other than yield.
|16 x Frisian Dew plants grow into huge plants in a Belgian greenhouse|
Differences in bud quality for feminised vs autoflower strains
The early first generation autos simply didn’t achieve the same cannabinoid content and terpene profiles that a modern high quality autoflower seed can produce. But both yield and quality levels have significantly improved since then, so long as you are buying seeds from a proven supplier!
The Dutch Passion list of Extremely High THC seeds is an exclusive collection of the best cannabis seeds which can produce up to 25% THC in ideal conditions. Included in this list are Auto Orange Bud, Auto Lemon Kix and Auto Cinderella Jack. Some of the best autoflower seeds produce even stronger buds than many photoperiod strains!
It is important to stress that many of the autoflower seeds being sold online will not meet the same high standards as the very best autoflower seeds which have won cannabis cups. The quality levels between the best and the worst autoflower seeds is still very large.
Be sure to research your choice of cannabis seeds very carefully and choose a supplier you can fully trust with a long track record behind them.
Still wondering which type of cannabis seeds are best for you?
Most growers find their preferred genetics are in the form of autoflower seeds or photoperiod feminised seeds. Lots of growers enjoy growing both types of seed. Very few modern growers use regular cannabis seeds. Autoflower seeds offer extra levels of speed and simplicity which appeals to huge numbers of both indoor and outdoor growers.
But feminised seeds have an equally popular appeal. The fact that you can control the length of veg growth gives some growers the control they need for their particular grow system/style.
You can also keep mother plants of your preferred feminised strains and take as many cuttings as you wish – this is impossible with plants grown from autoflower seeds. Quality levels from the best auto and fem seeds can reach the same very high standards with THC levels well above 20%.
Of course, other factors may also be very important to you. You may prefer your buds to have certain aroma/flavour profiles, or perhaps you enjoy buds with plenty of colour in them. Maybe you need a certain amount of CBD in your buds, or perhaps other cannabinoids too? Your array of cannabis seed choices may vary further depending on whether you want to grow indoors or outdoors.
If all this sounds confusing, you may wish to check out the Dutch Passion Seed Finder which asks you a few simple questions about your grow and recommends the best cannabis seeds for your situation. Buy the best cannabis seeds you can and enjoy your next grow!