What are autoflowering seeds?
Most cannabis aficionados will know that there are two main types of weed, Cannabis sativa, and Cannabis indica. These indicate the two main family lines that produce a high percentage of the THC we all love.
But the Cannabis family has many members. Hemp is cannabis with extremely low THC content. Hops, used to make beer, part of the Cannabaceae plant family and the Humulus genera. There is also Hackberry and even the Trema Orientalis. But with each, we steer away into distant relatives territory.
There is one odd family member that started making waves in the Cannabis breeding communities a few years back. Cannabis ruderalis. The ruderalis is sort of like the weird cousin of Cannabis. It grows very short and stubby, flowers extremely fast but lacking in yield and with very low concentrations of THC in the bud. Not exactly the best traits in the world.
Except for one little detail. Cannabis ruderalis is light agnostic. This means that this strain will grow and flower independently of the light schedule. Regular cannabis sativa and indica and photoperiod species. They have two distinct periods of growth. The vegetative stage, where they receive around 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness – and the flowering phase, where 12 hours of day and night will induce bud production. This is how indoor and greenhouse producers mimic nature and control their crops. Having a strain that is indifferent to the light schedule was something unheard of, and could potentially open up exciting breeding and growing projects.
This made breeders in the 70’s and 80’s experiment extensively, trying to back cross ruderalis with sativas and indicas to see what would happen. Pioneers like Neville Schoenmaker of Sensi Seeds in the Netherlands and Canadian underground breeders never really managed to stabilize a line and results were unexciting at best. After a few years, these projects were abandoned, sending Cannabis ruderalis into obscurity.
Fortunately, one day The Joint Doctor managed to cross a Northern Lights #2 with William’s Wonder and a ruderalis seed he received from his friend Antonio. This seed was dubbed Mexican Rudy, and this breeding project created the famous Lowryder.
The Lowryder is not a spectacular strain to grow by any standards. But it did do three spectacular things. It was consistent, produced a smokable bud that did manage to get you high (even if you did had to consume a lot) – and showed the world that is was possible to create autoflowering cannabis strains.
Therefore, autoflowering cannabis refers to a particular strain that has been bred to include the ruderalis genetics and will produce a plant that will enter flowering no matter how many hours of sun light you give it.
This opened the floodgates for an entirely new genre of growing, either indoors or outdoors. Seed banks near and far started using the Lowryder as a template and started producing incredible results.
Initially, autoflowering seeds were looked down on as some genetic freak manipulation that produced very low-quality bud. Today this argument has flown out the window. Autoflowering cannabis is an entirely natural genetic cross of ruderalis with sativa, indica or hybrid. Today, we are blessed with thousands of traditional strains in autoflowering version. In fact, autoflowering cannabis today easily competes with regular photoperiod strains regarding potency and yield. Moreover, you can find feminized autoflowering seeds which is a huge plus. Some of the newer strains can easily reach 2m outdoors with massive yields. There are even specific autoflowering specific nutrients starting to pop up. All of a sudden, autoflowering cannabis changed the entire industry.
Feminized autoflowering seeds are especially beneficial for small-scale indoor growers. It drastically reduces the workload and space requirements to run a grow-op. No more need for a separate veg and flowering room. You can run perpetual harvests, meaning, within the same room you can have seedlings, young and mature plants all growing together. You can have all your efforts, environmental control and operational costs confined to one space. You can just keep popping seeds of different varieties, phenotypes, harvest times, without worrying about clocking the harvest day.
Probably the biggest advantage for autoflowering varieties is how it drastically lowers the barrier to entry needed to achieve a harvest. They are brilliant for complete beginners and experienced growers alike. They make growing a breeze. While before producers needed to stick to one strain at a time, isolate a phenotype and learn how to keep mother plants and clone – today you can do the exact opposite – run multiple strains that start and finish at different times, producing different phenos, tastes, smells and highs.
Long are the days when autoflowering was considered a sort of sacrilege. They have become very stable and are fun and practical to grow, and produce great potent weed. There is not a reason in the world not to try them.
Just keep one thing in mind. Autoflowers are like ticking time bombs. Once you sow a seed and it starts growing, no matter what you do you cannot stop her from flowering. You can use any light schedule. Most growers find that maximum yields are achieved using either 18 hours on 6 off, or 20 hours on and 4 off.