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Are Autoflowers Worth Growing?

Created by
JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 8 October 2021

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. 

What are Autoflowering Strains?

autoflowers

Image Credit - Photo by Avery Meeker on Unsplash 

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.

Advantages of autoflowers

autoflowering cannabis

Image Credit - Photo by Avery Meeker on Unsplash 

1) Quick to grow and flower

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.

2) Fast perpetual harvests

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. 

3) Size

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.

4) Easy Maintenance

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.

5) Resistant to pests and diseases

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.

Disadvantages of Autoflowers

cannabis auto

Image Credit - Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Autoflowers have a few disadvantages, including:

1) Fewer yields

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. 

2) Sensitive to transplants

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.

3) Unforgiving

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.

4) Expensive

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.

Are autoflowers worth growing?

autos

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.

Summary

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.








Comments

Red_Rockst4r
Red_Rockst4r

Yes - Just do it - Just gro it - easy peasy lemon squeezy, bingballabangdangdongdangbong, pew pew :sweat_smile::heart_eyes:

Benzels
Benzels

Great article but kinda missed one thing. umm, outdoors? Hello?? We would like to know too if they are worth growing outdoors or not or are we "outdoor growers" now a dirty word? :laughing:
Well? are they worth growing outdoors considering on average they will get 12 hrs of direct sun a day and in most cases 8-10 hrs more like it....

Show all replies (1)
Benzels
Benzels

@NobodysBuds, totally agree with your points. And large scale it would be a nightmare to re till thousands of grow holes and re plant multiple times a season.
But for small to moderate scale grows outdoors, like in well used and aged raised garden beds like I use. Been using the same plot for almost 10 years now and improving it each year with additional manures and drainage ect, and it just gets better each year so potting doesnt come into it if its directly into the ground, jiffy pellets into small pots into the ground isnt too much work smaller scale. And using weak powder based mineral nutes is pretty damm cost effective as it is, and If Autos dont need as much Mineral nutes as most pple seem to say, and the initial manure/compost is enough to get most of the way throu and only use weak mineral nutes the last half of the grow- It might be just as cost effective or even cheaper to grow Autos- spesh if you compost the unwanted plant matter and re use it on future crops once its nice and broken down. Such an interesting experiment-I cant wait to try it.
Being able to split the harvest into multiple smaller operations too is a plus, can trim half the crop, and start curing it while the second crop is growing, and when its done the 1st is done curing and ready for consumption. Gotta admit that is a big plus too. Timing outdoors has always been up to mother nature hasnt it? Until now.
Id also love to test yield in a side by side with a standard photo and the exact same strain in a "fast version" to see if there is any benefit in them outdoors either.

Removed
Removed

@Benzels, gotta consider extra work.. doing twice the potting, soil mixing, feeding e tc... worse economies of scale. any sort of preemptive growth indoors considered.. grams per sq ft-dollars might be a good enough apples to apples, but if greater total revenue at a slightly lower margin, still could be worth it.

didn't think of 2 crops.. but i still wouldn't change my guess. even safer bet it is a lower profit margin. the traits displayed are so volatile, too.

if the math adds up, that's all that will matter. and of course any small sample's volatility will be enormous, so the differences would have to be significant either way.

Benzels
Benzels

@NobodysBuds, Ive always wondered if there is any real truth to the whole "you can pull 2 or even 3 crops from Autos outdoors if you have the climate for it..." So as I veg my girls outdoors for 3 months before they even go into flower, would it be worth it to try for 2 or even 3 crops in the space of time it takes me to get 1 off a photo plant. The issue is, does an Auto yield enough outdoors with no extra light to make it worth it? So Thats why I got the glueberry Autos to try next outdoor season along side my photos to see if I can pull enough to make the switch to multiple auto crops each summer or not.
And nope, no light pollution issues for me unless you could a damm bright full moon as one.

Roberts
Roberts

I get more or as much off a auto as a photoperiod :right-facing_fist::left-facing_fist: . Highly recommend soil less, coco, or hydro only for autos. Even a good living soil will work. They love lst in most cases. Just my personal experience. Biggest yield auto I have had was 9.6 ounces dry.

Show all replies (1)
Roberts
Roberts

@Benzels, gotcha well I have never grown one outdoors. I imagine good lst would develop a good yield with proper nutrition.

Benzels
Benzels

@Roberts, I will be trying some Glueberry autos this summer outdoors in the ground to see in a side by side test. I want to see how many Autos I can pull in same time it takes to do one photo outdoors. Two 3ft X 4ft spaces side by side and one Photo in one space and either 1 or 2 Autos in space next to it and when I crop them the next 1 or 2 will be ready to go right in. I know the Photo will throw half a pound yield and fill that 3x4 ft space pretty well...but no idea what the autos will do.

Roberts
Roberts

@Benzels,I did have over a 11 ounce moby dick auto. I am limited as well. They can grow good in right situations

Fiz_Gig
Fiz_Gig

I'm a newbie and my first grow is an auto (LSD). It is her day 60 and she's fully budded out and ripening quickly, I believe she will be harvested by day 70 if not sooner. It's been an overall easy experience and I have a beautiful plant. She is unusually short (19.5 inches) but with very dense buds that smell intoxicating. I'm going to grow three more of this strain as soon as she finishes.

nedreynolds
nedreynolds

It's a great way for a beginner to complete a full grow.
Start to finish - easier when you consider the ability to use a full 24 hour light cycle.
My experience might be limited with both - but this grower says You Must Try Autoflowers.

Removed
Removed

Only for entertainment or for some convenience they provide that is relevant for a particular grower :P

you can plan better, otherwise, if you don't need some trait of an auto, like not being dark-dependent plant. (believe that term has been replaced in last 20 years? that's the vocab that used to be taught.)