Growing autoflowers often seems like a logical choice because they are easy even for beginners.
It’s the best way to get perpetual harvests for some growers. However, others have a contrasting view and are pretty happy with their photoperiod strains.
So, what’s the deal?
Are autoflowers really the best thing since sliced bread?
Or, are you better off avoiding them?
This article will cover both pros and cons of growing autos so you can make the decision yourself.
Autoflowering seeds or strains are exactly what you would expect from the name — they flower automatically. Typically, they are a combination of Sativa or Indica species crossed with the Ruderalis varieties.
A few years ago, Ruderalis strains weren’t preferable due to their low THC content. Unfortunately, they didn’t produce good yields either, so it wasn't a viable option for breeders. However, Ruderalis had one edge — automatic flowering.
Photoperiod strains grow in their vegetative or growing phase for indefinite periods until there's a change in the light cycle (shorter days and longer nights). But, plants of the Ruderalis species could grow for a certain period and flower automatically without a change in the light cycle.
Breeders realized that they could combine the best traits of both Indicas and Sativas with the Ruderalis to create unique strains that could offer the best of both worlds.
And, autoflowers were born. The resulting strains were not only better in terms of yields and potency compared to their ancestors, but they also flowered automatically without an alteration in the light cycle, giving them a distinct edge over photoperiod strains.
Today, autoflowers are at par, if not ahead of photoperiod varieties. Let's take a look at the pros and cons so you can decide if autoflowers are worth all the effort.
Autoflowers grow for a specific period and flower automatically. Most strains take about 50-60 days or 7-8 weeks to complete their life cycle, meaning they start flowering within a month of planting.
In contrast, most photoperiod strains take at least eight weeks to even get to the flowering stage. So if you're looking for strains that grow like a speeding train, autoflowers are perfect for you. However, note that some autoflowers may take longer, depending on the environment they grow in. For example, if you don't have enough lights or the plants don't receive sufficient light for 18/6 hours every day, they won't grow as fast as expected.
Since they are quick to grow, autoflowers are usually ready to be harvested in just eight weeks since germination. In addition, you get to enjoy perpetual harvests where you can get lots of buds frequently.
Although you can enjoy perpetual harvest even with photoperiod strains, you will need to use separate grow rooms for the vegetative and flowering stages because of their dependence on the light cycle.
Autoflowers, on the other hand, allow you to get perpetual harvests because they will continue to grow and flower irrespective of the light they receive. This means that you can stuff plants growing in different stages — vegetative or flowering — in one grow room and harvest them as they complete their cycle.
Autoflowers are comparatively smaller than photoperiod strains. While there are several varieties of bigger autoflowers now, they only grow up to 4 feet, making it easy for growers with small grow rooms. In addition, it’s a breeze to trim, train, feed, and harvest the buds because they are right within your reach.
Some autoflowers grow only up to 2 feet. So if you don't have a grow room, these autoflowering strains will fit inside a closet too! Additionally, growing small plants can be beneficial if you're looking for stealthy options.
Photoperiod strains grow well when the days are longer and progress to the flowering stage as the nights get longer. Growers will need to mimic these cycles using artificial lights in their grow rooms.
Many growers use timers, but you'll have to switch on or switch off the lights manually if you don't have a timer. Since this has to be done daily, growing photoperiod strains takes a bit of maintenance.
In contrast, autoflowers do not grow according to the light they receive. Native to Siberia, they grow well even in harsh, cold winters. However, in Siberia, the growing or vegetative season for the plants are very short. Plus, the daylight hours are shorter. As a result, the autoflowers had to adapt to their environment, meaning they had to grow and flower in conditions that weren't particularly easy.
Therefore, autoflowers switch to the flowering phase because they have trained themselves to flower even in conditions that aren't conducive to their growth. So, you don't need to switch the cycle. Just set the lights to an 18/6 cycle, and they will flower even if you don't switch to the 12/12 cycle.
Due to their harsh growing environment in Siberia, autoflowers have adapted to adverse conditions, making them resistant to pests and diseases. Although photoperiod strains are hardy and robust, they are vulnerable to pests, especially during their flowering stage.
However, autoflowers thrive even in extreme conditions because they cannot afford to lose time. They are also resistant to mold and fluctuations. The only thing you should remember is not to overwater autoflowers because it's perhaps the fastest way to kill them.
Autoflowers have a few disadvantages, including:
Since autoflowers can't grow as big as photoperiod strains, their yields are naturally lower. However, there's a way to overcome this disadvantage. Autoflowers take less space compared to photoperiod strains, allowing you to grow more plants. In addition, they grow faster, and you're likely to get more harvests compared to photoperiod plants.
Some autoflowers available today yield more in comparison to their ancestors. Therefore, if you choose autoflowers bred specifically to give higher yields, you may reduce this disadvantage significantly.
Photoperiod strains grow faster when transplanted to bigger containers because the roots get more space to grow. Growers plant seeds in small cups and then transplant them.
However, most autoflowers do not handle transplants and prefer growing in one container for their entire lifecycle because they don't have much time to cope with new conditions. Although experienced growers transplant their autoflowers at times, beginners should grow them in one container to avoid issues.
Autoflowers finish their life cycle in the blink of an eye. Although their fast pace is a tremendous advantage for cultivators, it also means that the plant is less forgiving to mistakes.
For example, you are free to train, transplant, and pretty much do anything your heart desires to photoperiod plants. Even if you mess up, they will recover in the vegetative stage because they have time.
However, autoflowers function according to their inner clocks that don't give them the time required to recoup. This is exactly why it's not recommended that you transplant autoflowers. That said, it could seem intimidating to train them using popular techniques like LST or Topping, but most autoflowers you see today are hardy enough to handle training.
In addition, photoperiod strains love to be fed with loads of nutrients and pampered. They will manage to recover even if you commit mistakes concerning pH, nutrients, over-watering, and under-watering. But, the same is not valid for autoflowers. For example, it takes at least a week for a plant to correct itself if you make a mistake with the pH. For autoflowers, a week is precious, considering its short life cycle. As a result, even a small mistake can reduce the yield considerably.
Autoflowers are slightly more expensive than photoperiod strains because of their fast-flowering attributes.
5) Not suitable for cloning
Cloning is the process of producing more plants from the mother plant. Growers choose a healthy stem, cut it, plant it in the soil to develop roots, and the clone begins to grow like its mother plant. Cloning allows you to get multiple plants from one mother plant as long as you have separate grow rooms for vegetative and flowering phases for photoperiod strains.
Unfortunately, cloning is not suitable for autoflowers. Cloned stems are as old as their mother plants. When growing photoperiod strains, you can prolong their vegetative period and wait until they grow as big as you want.
However, with autoflowering strains, the small clone that is as old as its mother will start flowering immediately due to its automatic schedule. So even if you succeed in rooting a stem of an autoflowering strain, you'll end up with just a bud or two because the plant doesn't have the time to go through the vegetative phase.
Considering all the pros and cons of autoflowers, it's easy to determine that it's a versatile option for most growers. Not everyone can build large grow rooms, let alone separate ones for the plant’s vegetative and flowering stage. Autoflowers are perfect for anyone that wants to cultivate many plants in small areas.
In the end, if you want hefty yields, photoperiods are better but if you're seeking buds in shorter time periods with the potential to get perpetual harvests, autoflowers are totally worth it.
Comparing photoperiod and autoflowering plants, we can determine that both have their advantages and disadvantages. But, is it worth the time, money and hard work to grow autoflowers? Absolutely! Autoflowers of so many varieties are available now, and they do have the potential to give you good returns considering the time you've invested. Even if you're a beginner, it makes sense to grow autoflowers in small spaces before jumping to photoperiods that require a lot of space.