How to Grow Autoflowering Cannabis Plants
Cannabis plants were usually associated with photoperiod strains like Indica and Sativa before the advent of autoflowering cannabis plants. Earlier, growers had no option other than growing Indicas and Sativas that took more than 4-5 months to produce great yields. However, once autoflowering cannabis plants were introduced in the industry, things changed rapidly.
For a detailed explanation on growing photoperiod plants, read Guide for Noobs: The Basics of Growing Marijuana
Cannabis Ruderalis, aka autoflowering cannabis plants, were known to have medicinal properties according to the Mongolian and Russian traditions. Ruderalis wasn’t potent when compared to Indicas and Sativas but they were used for their medicinal properties. After ruderalis was introduced, people began to get really excited because it cut the growing time drastically.
The only problem was the potency, but with so many seed companies developing potent strains, growers now realize that autoflowering cannabis strains can provide value for their money. So, what exactly are autoflowering cannabis plants and how different is it from photoperiod strains? Read more about it here. (Autoflowers vs. photoperiod)
In simple words, autoflowering cannabis plants are:
- Not very easy to grow if you’re a beginner, but with experience, you can expect good yields
- Harvested in just 2 months since they complete their growth cycles pretty quickly
- Small and perfect for stealth grows
- Not dependant on light schedules to produce good yields
Since autoflowers don’t depend on light schedules, it can be the perfect grow for growers looking to save electricity. Many growers don’t change their schedules and stick to 18/6 cycles when growing autoflowering cannabis strains too, but a simple 12/12 light and dark cycle will work just fine. Yes, they will grow better with more light, but it won’t be a disaster even if you just continue with 12/12 from the very beginning.
Whether you’re trying to grow autoflowers indoors or outdoors, this guide will show you how.
Prepare your grow space
If you’ve decided to grow autoflowering cannabis strains, preparing your grow space is incredibly easy. Why? Well, that’s because autoflowers are small and support stealth grows. Many growers even grow them in small closets to derive maximum gains.
For commercial growers, of course, space needs to be bigger, but home growers can simply set up lights in a closet and begin. A bigger grow space will ensure that you reduce your time, but if you want to gain some experience before you start with autoflowering cannabis plants, your best bet is to stick to photoperiod strains.
Choose the best seeds
This is perhaps the most important step. Growing autoflowering cannabis plants are profitable only if you choose the best seeds. You must purchase your seeds only from trusted sources as you’ll save time later. Whether they are photoperiod strains or autoflowering strains, seeds are a tad expensive, but autoflowers are a little more expensive compared to photoperiod seeds because they are crossed with Indicas or Sativas to produce the best seeds.
Since autoflowers can’t be cloned, seed selection is extremely important. Also, you can choose between regular and feminized seeds according to your needs. Depending on the smell, taste, medicinal values, growing conditions and yield expectations, you can choose amongst a variety of seeds. Growing feminized seeds will save you more time and space since you know exactly what to expect.
If you choose to grow regular seeds, remember that you’ll have a 50 percent chance of female plants. For instance, if you buy 10 regular seeds, you can expect at least 5 plants to be female, but again that depends on your luck. Feminized seeds are more expensive than regular seeds because it’s guaranteed that they are female and you don’t have to worry about separating male and female plants as they grow.
Remember that it’s important to choose between Indica and Sativa depending on your grow space. Indica autoflowers are smaller than their Sativa counterparts. So, if you have a small grow space, go for Indicas, but if you have a bigger space or want to grow outdoors, go with Sativa.
Whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors, the type of soil you use matters. Unless you’re growing in perlite, or hydroponically or a soilless mix, your soil will determine the yield, smell, and taste of your marijuana. Now, when it comes to growing in soil, you can either make your soil nutrient-rich before you start growing or add nutrients after you start growing.
What you choose depends on the amount of time and patience you have. For instance, many growers will prep their soil weeks before they even sow seeds. The resulting medium is dense with nutrients and is known as super soil, but for the purpose of this guide of growing autoflowering cannabis plants, we will only discuss regular methods that include adding nutrients after you start growing.
Most growers start with a simple soil mix that includes garden soil mixed with perlite. Perlite not only makes your soil airy (a very important factor to remember especially with autoflowering plants) but it also encourages growth. Perlite doesn’t contain any nutrients but it will encourage air movement that further helps the plants grow well.
A simple Google search will tell you where you can buy some local soil. Or, you can choose between Foxfarm, Biobizz and other companies that sell pre-made soil to grow cannabis plants. Premade Mixes are good, but they are expensive. The best way to reduce costs and still grow great buds is to understand how to mix your own soil. It’s organic, cheap, easy to make and enhances the taste of your buds! Read more about how to make your own super soil here.
When growing indoors, there aren’t a lot of options other than growing in containers. With so many options ranging from smart pots to air pots to simple plastic pots, choosing containers is not a big deal. Keep in mind that autoflowers require a lot of aeration, so pots made of fabric like smart pots or air pots that allow plenty of air circulation are your best bet.
Plastic pots work just fine, but you need to be very careful to not over-water the plants. Contrary to what you may think, overwatering kills plants faster than anything else. Fabric pots will not allow water to remain stagnant at the bottom of the pot, but plastic pots can collect water even if it contains drainage holes.
Autoflowers generally don’t require huge pots. They are meant to be small, but you’ll need a minimum of 5 gallons to produce a decent yield. Many growers grow autoflowers easily in 10” plastic pots but the yields are too small. Unlike photoperiod strains, autoflowers don’t have any set rule regarding containers, so you can start with 5 gallons and adjust according to your needs.
Although it’s possible to grow autoflowering cannabis plants in closets, it’s best to design a proper grow room so that you can obtain as many grams of cannabis as possible. For starters, identify your grow space. It could be your bedroom or any other room you’re comfortable with. You can only use a part of the room as your grow room, but the size determines the number of plants you can grow.
Once you’ve identified your growing location, clean the area thoroughly. This is a major step as it will reduce the possibilities of pests attacking your precious marijuana. It’s also a good idea to spray the walls, floors, and crevices with bleach so that there’s no contamination.
The idea behind creating a grow room is to allow no light leakage. Light leakage can make or break your plants. For instance, even if you have a tiny leakage, the light will reduce considerably and affect your plants. On the other hand, if you design your grow room in such a way that there’s absolutely no light leakage, you can rest assured that your plants are getting all the light you hoped for.
You could do a number of things to increase the light. For example, it’s common knowledge that any sort of reflective material will increase the light spread, so you can use mylar or simple white paint on the corners, floor, and top of the grow room. Cover every single part to eliminate any possible light leakage.
The next step is to take care of the ventilation. This ensures proper air circulation and the air inside the grow room will not remain stagnant. If there’s no possible way of increasing the circulation, setting up an air conditioner in the room is your best solution.
After you’re done setting up your grow space, hang down your lights and other equipment you’ve chosen. Other equipment can include a pH meter, thermometer, humidity meter, etc. Now, you can set up your containers and fill them with soil. And, that’s it! You’re done!
When growing photoperiod plants, you can germinate seeds in small cups and transfer them later to other containers to maximize growth. However, with autoflowers, the process is different. Do NOT attempt to germinate the seeds in other mediums and transfer them later as the autoflowers will STOP growing.
Autoflowers are finicky and a small change in their growth can affect the yield drastically. It’s like an imaginary clock that starts ticking as soon as your seeds germinate. While photoperiod strains will give you the luxury of experimenting in the growing and flowering stages, the same doesn’t apply to autoflowering cannabis plants.
Since autoflowers will start flowering depending on the age of the plant, you can’t risk messing with the time periods. For instance, if you germinate the seeds in small cups and transplant them later to bigger containers, you will lose precious time and the plants will stop growing for at least a week to ten days. Ten days may not seem a lot with photoperiod strains, but it can make a huge difference in autoflowering vannabis plants. Therefore, choose one container and stick to it until the growing cycle is complete and the buds are harvested.
Coming to the actual part of germinating the seeds, remember that there’s no set rule. Most growers simply stick the seeds in their containers and allow a week’s time for them to germinate. This works great for experienced growers, but if you don’t want to wait so long, you can employ several methods as described here.
Now that you’ve successfully germinated the seeds, the next step is to wait for the plants to grow at least two weeks. Do not apply nutrients or fertilizers of any kind until the plant is ready. Some growers get over excited and start fertilizing the plants when they are only days old, but this will reduce the quality of the plants.
You even risk nutrient burns and once autoflowering cannabis plants are strained, they simply stop growing or grow extremely slowly. The results can be totally opposite to what you’ve imagined in your naïve mind and that can be a total put off. There’s nothing more irritating than providing extra love to your plants and watching them struggle to stay alive. For autoflowering cannabis plants, less is more, so keep your itchy fingers to yourself because the plants will take care of themselves if your soil is fertile.
Cannabis growers have a wide variety of nutrients to choose from. While some growers depend on their own urine (yes, you read that right!) to help the plants grow well in the vegetative stage, others rely on fertilizers sold by companies to get good yields. Whether you want to buy or make your own fertilizer at home, it’s a good idea to study the plant’s requirements.
Basically, cannabis plants need N-P-K (Nitrogen – Phosphorous – Potassium) during their growth and flowering stages. While Nitrogen (human urine contains ample amounts of Nitrogen) is used in vegetative periods, Phosphorous is used in fruit setting stage, and Potassium is used in the flowering stage. Brands like Miracle grow work too, but you can also make your own nutrients (commonly known as nutes) at home. You could also use bud boosters to increase the size of the buds.
The easiest way to increase the size of the buds is to crush some banana peels and bury them deep in the soil. Bananas contain potassium that increases the bud size and since it’s easy and inexpensive, you can treat your plants pretty quickly.
Finally, you’ve arrived at the moment you’ve been waiting for! It’s every grower’s dream to harvest a great amount of the best buds he has ever hoped for. If it’s your first time, don’t worry about the size or smell as you can improve later. Growing photoperiod or autoflowering cannabis plants is an art and you can’t become an expert overnight.
Harvesting your buds is as important as the other steps required to grow high-quality marijuana. You can harvest when the buds turn amber in color, but many growers snip the buds when the pistils are white in color. If your harvest when it’s white, you can expect a heavy psychoactive content and it might even not be something you’re looking for.
Others may harvest when the buds turn completely amber, but such buds can give you extreme body-stones and couch-locks you may not prefer. Therefore, stick to something in between and harvest when the buds are a mix of white and amber (50-50).
Use clean scissors to snap the plant at the bottom and trim the leaves as much as possible. If you’re lucky to have a strain that fills even the stems with sticky resin, you can trim less. You can also use the leaves to make some top quality hash! The possibilities are exciting, and you can make the most of your plant. Store the buds in a clean glass jar, but do NOT smoke them yet as they need to be cured first.
Drying and Curing
It’s very tempting to smoke your bud as soon as you harvest them, but that’s not something you should be doing. If you can’t resist, then go ahead and light a fresh bud to see what I’m saying. Not only will the bud taste harsh and make you cough like you’re going to die any moment, but it kills the taste too.
There’s nothing as awful as lighting up your bowl only to smoke something that tastes like fresh hay or grass. It’s not good to smoke or smell, and the only way to produce great buds is to dry and cure them SLOWLY. The key word here is “slow” as you don’t want to speed up the process no matter how bad you want to try the buds.
Basically, drying and curing have multiple benefits. It breaks down the chlorophyll and improves the taste and smoothness of the buds drastically. It also helps you get rid of the annoying grass smell that’s common in buds that are freshly harvested. You will only realize the true smell/taste of the bud after it’s completely dried and cured, so you have no other option other than waiting.
The process of drying and curing needs at least 6-8 weeks and you should not skip this. Otherwise, you’ll simply be wasting all the resources, time, energy and money you spent on growing some quality buds. Also, curing the buds will reduce the likelihood of fungus or mold developing on your buds since you can’t smoke marijuana that’s covered with mold.
To begin with the drying process, you can purchase drying racks, but you can also hang them on a clothesline in an area that has plenty of air circulation. Remember that the buds will still smell strong and attract unwanted attention (read pesky neighbors), so you need to do this indoors unless you’re growing your autoflowering cannabis plants outdoors.
It’s very important that you dry your buds in a dark area. This means that you can’t do it outdoors where the sun shines brightly. It’s best to hang the buds in a closet and wait for at least a week to see if they are dry. The best way to check if your buds are dry is to break a part of the stem. If it snaps easily, the buds are dry, but if it’s resistant and soft, you need to wait a bit more.
Once the buds are completely dry with no risk of mold, snap the ends and transfer them to mason jars with wide mouths. Do not use plastic bottles as they will degrade the quality of the bud overtime. Glass jars are perfect and you need to fill the buds only until it fills 3/4th of the jar so that there’s some air for the buds to breathe.
You can also remove the lids every day to let fresh air inside the jar. It’s recommended that you repeat the process until a week and later do it once every week until the buds are cured completely. It’s important to note that humidity plays a key role here. The buds will cure properly only if the humidity is perfect.
This means that the environment shouldn’t be too dry since the buds can become very dry. On the other hand, it can’t be too humid as it increases the chances of mold attacking your precious buds. If you’re confused about how to maintain optimum humidity, you can purchase a hygrometer that fits pretty well inside mason jars.
Some growers use lemon slices inside the jars to improve the taste and increase humidity but it’s also risky since you’re practically inviting mold to attack the buds. If you really want to try it, make sure that the slices are present only for a few hours at a time and let the jars stay open until the buds are dry again. Alternatively, you can use Humidipaks (Boveda 62% packs) since it maintains perfect humidity levels.
Now that your buds are dried and cured, the only thing left to do is to smoke it! Or, you can crush the weed and use bongs. Perhaps you fancy some dabbing? Yes, dabbing is a great option too, but that’s a topic for another day and you can begin experimenting only when you’re sure about what you’re doing. Until then, enjoy your home-grown weed because there are many people who aren’t as lucky as you to grow weed in their rooms, closets or basements!