Why Beginners Should Grow Auto-Flowering Strains

Updated Sep 28, 2019

by Nebula Haze

What’s So Special About Auto-flowering Strains?

Have you ever heard of “autoflowering” strains of cannabis? How are these strains different from traditional (photoperiod) strains, and what makes them easier to grow for beginners?

Several different autoflowering strains growing together

Example of 8 different autoflowering cannabis strains grown in a grow tent

Critical+ CBD Autoflowering bud by Dinafem

Why Auto-Flowering Plants Are Great for Beginners

  • Automatically start making buds just a few weeks after they sprout – This is why they’re called “auto-flowering” strains. Traditional photoperiod strains grown indoors need to be manually forced to start making buds by altering light periods to give long nights (why they’re called “photoperiod” strains).
  • Autoflowering plants stay a manageable size – Most auto-flowering strains stay under hip height and will not grow into huge monsters that unexpectedly take over a closet or become taller than your fence. Although some auto-flowering strains can get pretty big, any strains with the tendency to grow extra-large are typically labeled as such by the breeder.
  • Ready to harvest in 3 months or less – While traditional grows take 3-5 months from seed to harvest on average, auto-flowering plants are typically ready to harvest in 3 months or less from when they first sprout. A lot of growers prefer a quicker harvest.
  • Can be grown outdoors in most climates – Traditional outdoor cannabis plants must be planted in the Spring, and need at least 4-5 months of warm-but-not-too-wet weather before Fall. This set of requirements makes it difficult to grow outdoors in a lot of climates. But as long as your climate gets warm, sunny weather for at least three months at a time, you should be able to grow an auto-flowering plant outside. This is great for growers who would like to grow during a short but sunny summer, during warm winter months, or to get an early outdoor harvest.
  • Not sensitive to light leaks or light periods – If light accidentally leaks into the grow space during a traditional photoperiod plant’s dark period (for example if you open the closet door to look at your plants, or even from a blinking indicator light on a piece of equipment you didn’t notice), it can cause big problems. The amount of time the grow lights are on each day also has a huge effect on how photoperiod plants grow. Outdoors, photoperiod plants are sensitive to the time of year, and their internal cycles can be disrupted by security spotlights, street lights or even the light from a nearby window. Light stress can interrupt bud development or even cause traditional plants to make “male” flowers, which growers don’t want because you can’t really smoke or use them and they can cause seeds. Auto-flowering plants are basically unaffected by light periods or light leaks. It’s just one less thing to worry about for a new grower.
  • Feminized auto-flowering seeds always make buds – Speaking of male vs female flowers, when it comes to auto-flowering strains you typically don’t need to worry about sex. In fact, you would specifically need to seek out seeds that will produce male flowers because just about all auto-flowering seeds available online are feminized. If you buy feminized auto-flowering seeds, you are basically guaranteed to get a “female” plant, which means that every plant will produce buds and you don’t have to worry about male plants, seeds or pollination.

A bunch of autoflowering plants in a mini grow tent (view the tutorial on how to copy this grow style)

Example of Nebula's Microgrow - this mini grow tent was 2'x2'x3' with 4 autoflowering plants and used a HLG 100 LED grow light

Did you know? Half of all traditional non-feminized seeds (the kind of seeds you typically find in your bud) grow into male plants that must be removed from the grow room as soon as you spot them. Growing with feminized seeds prevents that potential headache!

Auto-Flowering Frisian Dew by Dutch Passion may produce incredibly vibrant purple buds under the right conditions, and tends to grow well outdoors

Purple auto-flowering Frisian Dew marijuana plant

Auto-Flowering Strains Have Better Genetics Than Ever

All modern autoflowering plants are the decedents of a type of wild hemp that grows in Siberia known as Cannabis ruderalis, which is a cousin of the THC-producing cannabis plant we know and love. Wild ruderalis plants grow very small buds that don’t contain much THC, but due to the extremely short summers, they have the odd quirk of flowering immediately after sprouting regardless of day length.

Some forward-thinking marijuana breeder saw the potential of this and started cross-breeding Ruderalis plants with cannabis strains that contain THC. The results from the initial hybrids were disappointing, but breeders didn’t give up and kept selecting for plants with higher yields and more potent buds while carefully maintaining the auto-flowering capability from generation to generation. Cannabis lore says the first experimental crosses between “Marijuana” and Ruderalis strains were done in the 1960s, with some strains starting to be sold in seed banks by the 1980s.

Ruderalis – This Tiny Wild Hemp Plant is the Ancestor of All Auto-Flowering Strains

A ruderalis cannabis plant in the wild - pic taken in Russia

The first time I heard about auto-flowering seeds was around 2010, when we first started making GrowWeedEasy.com. At the time, auto-flowering strains were often referred to as “Lowryder” plants, or some variation such as “Short Ryder” or “Diesel Ryder”. The “Ryder” strain options were extremely limited at first, but they were starting to catch on.

An original “Lowryder” plant

Lowryder Original Auto-flowering cannabis plant by hypermx

Home growers started demanding more and better options, and some breeders began specializing specifically in making auto-flowering strains (which mostly lost the “Ryder” name). The genetics have been improving exponentially ever since.

Now there are hundreds of auto-flowering strains to choose from, and many traditional strains offer an auto-flowering version. You have competitive breeders that consistently sell auto-flowering seeds that are extremely fast-growing, give you great yields, and produce buds that feel as potent as their photoperiod counterparts.

Auto-Flowering Plants Today Come in a Variety of Strains

Example of auto-flowering (Ruderalis) cannabis plants just before harvest!These auto-flowering plants produced about 2 ounces each (here’s the grow journal)

Auto-flowering plants in 2014

Outdoor auto-flowering plants don’t care about light schedules or the time of year. Your climate is likely suitable to grow an auto-flowering plant if you have at least 3 months of sun and warm weather (above 60°F / 16°C during the day, and no freezing nights). These auto-flowering plants were grown in a homemade greenhouse in a cold climate. They were planted in Spring and ready to harvest before freezing temperatures came, despite a very short summer.

Example of growing auto-flowering marijuana plants in a homemade greenhouse

Complete Auto-Flowering Cannabis Strains Guide

How to Train an Auto-Flowering Plant for Bigger Yields

Can You “Top” an Auto-Flowering Strain?

Nebula’s Recommended Auto-Flowering Cannabis Breeders

Mephisto Genetics

The Mephisto breeding program was started in the UK in 2012 by two friends that felt auto-flowering strains should be bred to have the same level of bud quality as photoperiod strains. Although auto-flowering strains have been available for purchase since at least the 1980s, there has only been spotty interest in auto-flowering breeding programs. Mephisto has led the way and there are now dozens if not hundreds of auto-flowering breeding programs. Mephisto only works with auto-flowering strains and the buds always come out at photoperiod quality. I will say that some of their strains can be a bit sensitive when growing and not necessarily the best yielding, but Mephisto makes up for that with bud quality. If you care more about quality than quantity, I highly recommend any Mephisto strain.

Known for

  • Awesome bud quality

Cons

  • Their focus is on buds above all. As a result, some of their boutique strains don’t get the best yields or may not be the most beginner-friendly

Recommended Beginner Strain

  • SODK Auto (Sour Orange Diesel Kush) – Easy to grow, good yields, amazing smell, dense buds. This strain is great for beginners!

Look at more autoflowering Mephisto strains

SODK Autoflowering plant by Mephisto Genetics

"SODK" or Sour Orange Diesel Kush autoflowering plant by Mephisto Genetics - just before harvest

A different SODK autoflowering plant

Dinafem

I have been pleased every time I’ve grown with Dinafem genetics, whether it was auto-flowering or photoperiod strains. Their strains have pleasant effects, and plants are generally easy to grow with good yields. For photoperiod connoisseurs, I also recommend their Original Amnesia as a weirdly potent photoperiod strain that produces sativa effects with an indoor-friendly growth pattern.

Known for

  • Easy to grow strains with good yields and pleasant relaxing effects

Cons

  • Strains typically aren’t the most trendy and buds don’t focus on pretty (which may or may not be important to you)

Recommended Beginner Strain

Look at more auto-flowering Dinafem strains

Auto-Flowering Sour Diesel by Dinafem

Auto-flowering Sour Diesel plant by Dinafem

Sweet Seeds

Sweet Seeds is a breeder from Spain which has been developing auto-flowering strains for many years. Their strains and buds tend to look/smell/feel different from other breeders.

Known for

  • Unique bud effects as well as interesting colors and scents

Recommended Beginner Strain

  • Dark Devil Auto – smells sweet, buds are sticky and vibrant purple, easy to grow, great effects.

Look at more autoflowering strains by Sweet Seeds

Dark Devil Auto by Sweet Seeds (grown by my friend LuckyAcres)

Dark Devil Auto purple buds closeup - grown by LuckyAcresDark Devil Auto purple buds on outdoor plant - grown by LuckyAcres

 

Dutch Passion

Dutch Passion breeds both photoperiod and autoflowering strains, but they’ve really focused on their autoflowering program and have created some memorable strains.

Known for

  • Big yields, interesting smells, good looking buds

Cons

  • Some of their best-yielding/pretty strains produce bland effects (for example their Ultimate Auto always looks and yields amazing, but bud effects don’t feel that unique or interesting)

Recommended Beginner Strain

  • Cinderella Jack Auto – easy to grow, pretty buds, and super potent with great effects. Always a winner! I highly recommend Cinderella Jack if you’re looking for a potent autoflowering strain.

Look at more autoflowering strains by Dutch Passion

Cinderella Jack Auto plant just before harvest

Nebula Haze giving the thumbs up to this Cinderella Jack autoflowering plant just before harvest

Seedsman

Seedsman is a seed bank that offers strains from many different breeders, but they also have their own in-house breeding program along with access to all the best and latest genetics. As a result, their strains are always top-tier. Seedsman recently has put a lot of time and effort into their auto-flowering breeding program and offer auto-flowering versions of many popular strains. When you grow any Seedsman strain, you can always expect good-to-exceptional results.

Known for

  • Trendy strains, pretty buds, strong effects, consistent results, good yields

Cons

  • Seedsman offers their version of many popular strains, but some growers prefer getting new and original strains

Recommended Beginner Strain

Look at more autoflowering strains by Seedsman

Alaskan Purple Auto plant just before harvest (by @stealthgrows)

Bomb Seeds

This breeder has great autoflowering adaptations of their most popular photoperiod strains.

Known for

  • Easy to grow, good yields, consistent results

Cons

  • Only a few autoflowering strains to choose from

Recommended Beginner Strain

  • THC Bomb Auto – I’ve grown this strain under several different types of grow lights and it’s a sleeper. Buds look ordinary and yields are average, but always produce strong and memorable effects. It’s one of those plants that I don’t pay attention to while growing, but then always becomes a favorite after buds are dried and cured.

Look at more autoflowering strains by Bomb Seeds

THC Bomb Auto buds covered in glittery trichomes

Example of THC Bomb autoflowering buds

 

There are many other great breeders that offer auto-flowering seeds, but we’ve listed these ones because we’ve personally had good results with these breeders and feel confident recommending them. Let us know if there’s an auto-flowering cannabis breeder you think should be added to this list!

 

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