When choosing a cannabis strain, it helps to know exactly what you’re looking for. There are plenty of variables, but one of the most important is whether your chosen strain is autoflowering or photoperiod. But what dies this mean? And how do you decide which is right for you?
Well, the differences are really quite simple. Autoflowering strains have been bred in such a way that, after a plant has been growing for a certain amount of time, it will automatically begin to flower. This is in stark contrast to photoperiod plants, which rely on changes in light cycles in order to know when to flower, and which will stay in the vegetative stage of growth more or less indefinitely, until the light changes sufficiently to force them to flower - typically to a 12/12 cycle, i.e. 12 hours on, 12 hours off.
The other main difference that needs to be taken into account when deciding which of these two varieties is right for you is the size of the plants, and the subsequent yields. Whilst it wouldn't be true to say that autoflowering strains are necessarily smaller than photoperiod, it’s certainly the case more often than not, so if you’re looking to grow large plants and to harvest as much bud as possible, it’s usually recommended that you go for the more traditional, photoperiod strains.
Linked to this is the time it takes to get from seed to useable harvest. Because autoflowering strains begin to flower earlier than their photoperiod counterparts, it naturally takes less time to get to harvest, and you will have your hands on the final product more quickly. But, again, you will more than likely have less of that final product to play with, so when making your decision you need to weigh up which is more important to you - speed, or yield.
Quality Photoperiod Seeds
CharacteristicsThc Unknown - HighFlowers 8 Weeks
CharacteristicsFlowers 50 days
CharacteristicsThc 19.5Yield 400-600 gr/m2Flowers 8-9 Weeks
Quality Autoflowering Seeds
CharacteristicsThc HighYield 35-125 gr/plantFlowers 80-85 days seed to flower
CharacteristicsYield Indoors: up to 500 gr/m2 & Outdoors: up to 70-80 gr/plantFlowers 7-9 weeks
CharacteristicsThc 18%Yield Indoors: 300 - 400 gr/m2Flowers 75 days
There are more nuanced differences to consider as well, such as the fact that autoflowering strains cannot typically be cloned, whereas photoperiod strains can. This means that if you choose to grow autos, you’re going to have to buy new seeds for every crop, which some people consider a waste of money when photoperiod plants can be cloned again and again, producing genetically identical plants every time.
As with most things, your decision to choose autoflowering or photoperiod strains will essentially come down to your own personal preference. As mentioned in our previous guide - 5 Tips for Choosing Cannabis Strains for Beginners - autos are often considered a good starting point for novice growers, thanks to their speed and ease of growth, and a great many first-time growers will choose this option to help them get their eye in. But there are plenty of autoflowering strains out there which can prove hugely rewarding to more experienced growers, too, just as there are more forgiving photoperiod strains that are perfect for beginners who need that extra vegging time in which to make their inevitable mistakes.
With that in mind, we’ve produced this (hopefully) helpful table which you can use to weigh up the pros and cons of each variety before you make your choice.
|FLOWERING TIME||Seed to harvest in around 2-3 months.||Average time from seed to harvest 3-4 months.|
|YIELD||Typically no more than 1oz per plant.||Hugely variable, but typically 1.5-5oz per plant.|
|SUITABLE FOR BEGINNERS?||Always - plant more or less looks after itself.||Less so - more time for things to go wrong.|
|PLANT TRAINING METHODS||Respond well to Low Stress Training, but not to topping, FIMing, main-lining, etc.||Can be substantially trained to produce bigger yields due to longer vegetative stage.|
|PRICE||Typically slightly cheaper than feminised counterparts.||Typically more expensive, but not by much. Cheaper if non-feminised.|
|FEMINISED||Always.||Available in both feminised and regular. More choice.|
|MEDICAL USE||Not ideal due to lower yields, but typically higher in CBD.||Greater yields and huge variety of cannabinoid profiles, but can take a lot longer to get to harvest.|