Autoflowering Cannabis vs. Photoperiod Cannabis Plants: What should I grow?

With so many options available on sites selling seeds online, it’s no longer difficult to get an autoflowering cannabis or photoperiod cannabis strains these days. But, what exactly are photoperiod and autoflowering strains? How different are they? Why is it important to make up mind before you begin growing? If you want a detailed explanation of autoflowering cannabis vs photoperiod cannabis plants, read on to know more…

Photoperiod cannabis

Photoperiod cannabis is the first choice for many growers as autoflowering cannabis plants are relatively new. They depend on light and dark periods to grow. It’s the industry standard and is considered natural. This doesn’t mean that autoflowers are unnatural, but photoperiod plants are unaltered and grown in their natural state.

Photoperiod cannabis bud

Photoperiod cannabis bud

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Photoperiod cannabis strains are plants that require specific light periods. These periods are segregated into light and dark schedules, where a light schedule is the amount of time your indoor lights are switched on and the dark schedule is the amount of time the lights are off.

Generally, sativa and indica strains will vegetate for long periods of time, depending on how much you want the plant to grow. It’s important to note that photoperiod plants require at least 8-10 weeks of vegetative period (growing stage) since switching to the flowering stage before this time period will result in inadequate yields.

Also, photoperiod plants are best suited for new growers as mistakes can be corrected when the plant is still in the vegetative stage. Growing cannabis is an art and your skill as a grower is honed over time. Photoperiod plants give you ample opportunities to mess up and correct them while you still have time.

As a grower, you have complete control and you can choose to let the plant vegetate for more 3 months and reap the harvest. On the other hand, you can also switch to flowering as soon as the plant completes at least 8 weeks of the vegetative period. However, the longer you let the plant grow, the bigger the yields, and although it’s tempting to switch to the flowering stage early to harvest the plants, it’s recommended that you be patient and let it grow so that you gain maximum yields.

Photoperiod plants require at least 18 hours of light and 6 hours of dark cycle. But, you can also tweak things a bit and let the light cycle continue up to 24 hours with no dark cycles at all. Most growers prefer the 18/6 cycle as it balances the needs of the plant quite perfectly. Also, a light cycle of 24 hours will pull more electricity and strain your lights since they have no resting period.

Some growers prefer a 14/10 cycle, but it’s not as good as the 18/6 cycle as the plants need maximum light in their growing phase. Remember that these cycles are to be considered only if you are growing indoors because nature will take over if you grow them outside. In other words, you will have to depend on the season if you’re growing outdoors, but if growing indoors, you’re mimicking Mother Nature to help your plants grow.

When grown outdoors, cannabis plants will begin to flower once days turn shorter. Similarly, you can mimic shorter days, by reducing the light cycle. For instance, if you have completed 8-10 weeks of vegetative stage, you can switch to flowering by increasing the dark cycle.

A 12/12 light/dark cycle will force the plants to flower and you can harvest after the plants grow to their maximum potential. It can take anywhere between 4-5 months to harvest your plant indoors if you allow the vegetative stage to continue for more than 10 weeks.

In addition, photoperiod strains are light on your wallet as they can be cloned to produce more plants. Growers can “create” many more plants with a single photoperiod mother plant, thereby giving them more value for money. The plants or babies that are cloned will have all the characteristics of the mother.

So, for instance, if you love a particular strain, you can create multiple baby plants and repeat the process until you have as much as you want. The baby plants will be as old as the mother and you can let them grow in the vegetative stage until they are fully grown to progress into the vegetative stage.

Photoperiod grows allow different techniques to increase yields. Some of the most common methods are Supercropping, Monstercropping, LST (Low Stress Training) etc. You can use any of the techniques mentioned here to get more yields as the plant gives you ample opportunities to correct any mistakes you may have made.

To summarize, photoperiod plants:

  • Depend on light cycles in their vegetative and flowering stage
  • Produce larger yields than autoflowering plants
  • Require at least 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness during their vegetative stage
  • Require at least 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness during their flowering stage
  • Allows growers to commit mistakes and correct them in the vegetative stage
  • Are very easy to clone and produce baby plants
  • Can be trained to grow according to the way we want by using different techniques
  • Will require at least 4-5 months to produce good yields

Autoflowering Cannabis

Autoflowering cannabis plants are those that don’t depend on the light cycle to grow and flower. With just 12/12 light and dark cycles, they can produce good yields, but not as much as the photoperiod plants. Since they don’t depend on a particular light period, they will progress into the flowering stage regardless of their growth.

Autoflowering cannabis buds

Autoflowering cannabis buds

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For example, with a photoperiod plant, you can allow it grow until it reaches the size you desire in the vegetative stage and then switch to flowering, but with autoflowering cannabis strains, you have no control over the transition since it’s not in your hands. This means that your autoflowers will begin to flower even if the growth isn’t satisfactory.

Autoflowering cannabis plants are a little fussy and it’s recommended that you get a few photoperiod grows under your belt before you start with them. But, if you’re looking to grow without attracting a lot of unwanted attention, autoflowers can be your best bet. The best part is that these plants are small and sturdy. You could grow them easily in closets with cheap CFL lights if you can’t afford LEDs. However, it’s recommended that you purchase some LEDs as they will be beneficial in the long run.

You’ll have many surprises in the form of pests and unsatisfactory growth when growing marijuana. Spider mites especially love cannabis and can’t seem to stay away from them. If you’re growing a photoperiod strain you can get rid of the mites when the plant is still in the vegetative stage, but with autoflowers, you have no other choice other than spraying your buds with insecticides. When this happens, you not only reduce your yields significantly, but the taste of the bud might not be pleasant either.

Another major difference between photoperiod and autoflowering plants is that autoflowers can’t be cloned because the baby that’s cloned will be as old as the mother. Let’s say that you follow the cloning process by cutting a small part of the plant and rooting it.

You can create another independent plant, yes, but since autoflowers progress into the flowering stage even if the plant hasn’t grown fully, you’ll be left with a tiny plant that isn’t likely to produce good yields. Both the mother and the clone will flower at the same time, and considering the yields, it’s simply not worth it.

As you can see, autoflowering plants seem like a bad choice. So, should one stop buying autoflower seeds? No, you can still go ahead and purchase as many seeds as you want because you can still harvest good amounts of marijuana if you’re an experienced grower. Beginners can stick to photoperiod grows but experienced growers love autoflowers since they have their own benefits.

When growing cannabis, the most important factor is time. Naturally, you’d want to know about the number of months it would take for you to get your hands on some quality weed. While it can take about 4-5 months with photoperiod plants, you can harvest autoflowers in just 2 months!

Autoflowers are small plants and they didn’t attract attention when it was introduced, but with so many companies producing stable, potent seeds, many growers now prefer autoflowers. In other words, go for photoperiod strains if you’re looking for high yields, but remember that you can harvest two times in the same period of time if you go for autoflowers. If you are an experienced grower who can handle autoflowers, you can produce a decent amount of weed in no time.

Since autoflowering cannabis plants don’t require too much light, you can save a bit on electricity costs too. Many growers start with 12/12 cycle with autoflowers, but you can begin with 18/6 and switch to 12/12 once you see hairy pistils on the plant.

To summarize, autoflowering cannabis plants:

  • Are easy to grow if you have several grows under your belt
  • Isn’t very easy for beginners
  • Produce lesser yields compared to photoperiod strains
  • Can complete two harvest cycles when compared to photoperiod strains
  • Are small and perfect for stealth grows
  • Can be grown in closets easily
  • Doesn’t depend on light cycles and progresses to flowering stage no matter what light cycle you follow
  • Can’t be cloned
Can’t be cloned Can be cloned using a mother plant
Produces fewer yields Produces higher yields
Can pack two harvests within 4-5 months Can produce only one harvest in 4-5 months
Requires only 2 months from germination to harvest Requires at least 4 months from germination to harvest
Best for stealth grows as they can be grown in closets too Not very suitable for stealth grows as they tend to grow huge
Grows easily in any light cycle Requires specific light cycles for growth and flowering


Now that you know the difference between Photoperiod and Autoflowering strains, you can choose the one that suits you the best. Take all the factors such as time, yield and stealth into consideration before you plan anything. It’s best to do as much research as you can because you don’t want to waste time and money with unsuccessful grows.

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