Cannabis can be either autoflowering or photoperiod. Autoflowering cannabis strains take their name from the fact that they always flower at a specific point in their growth cycle. Photoperiod cannabis strains take their name from the fact that their flowering is determined by light (photo) cycles.
Why choose photoperiod cannabis?
Autoflowering cannabis strains are very easy to grow. Therefore, they are often recommended for beginners. Autoflowering strains have improved a lot over the years, but they are still limited when compared to photoperiod strains. Photoperiod strains often have higher levels of beneficial cannabinoids. They also tend to produce bigger yields.
There are two main reasons why photoperiod cannabis strains tend to produce bigger yields than autoflowering cannabis strains. Both hinge on the fact that all autoflowering strains have Cannabis Ruderalis genetics. This is what makes them autoflowering.
Cannabis Ruderalis is very compact, hence there is relatively little room for buds to form. This trait is passed on to its derivatives. Also, Cannabis Ruderalis does not respond to plant training in the same way as photoperiod Indicas and Sativas (and their hybrids). This means that experienced growers cannot use their skills to boost their yields (or propagate cuttings).
Another reason for choosing photoperiod cannabis is that the seeds tend to be more affordable. If you don’t want the hassle of sexing plants, you can buy feminised photoperiod seeds. These are generally more expensive than regular mixed seeds, but still more affordable than autoflowering seeds (which are always feminised).
The practicalities of photoperiod cannabis
There are, literally, countless photoperiod cannabis strains available today. There are strains which are virtually impossible to damage let alone kill, even by beginners. There are also strains which need the most delicate of tender, loving care, and management before they will even consider producing buds. There’s also plenty in between.
If you choose one of the more robust strains (generally an Indica or an Indica-leaning hybrid), you should have minimum hassle with feeding, watering and pest control. You may also be able to get away without having to trim or train your plants as robust strains tend to be compact. Your main challenge, therefore, will be managing light cycles.
Growing photoperiod cannabis outdoors
Outdoor growers need to consider two key points. Firstly, you will need to choose a strain which completes its growing cycle before the autumn frosts usually strike. Secondly, you will need to ensure that your plants have sufficient light and sufficient darkness. It’s usually the second point which creates the challenge since it’s increasingly difficult to find locations which are truly dark.
One potential compromise option is to grow your plants in a greenhouse or cold frame. That way you can benefit from the free sunlight in the daytime but cover your plants with blackout material at night to ensure that they get the total darkness they need.
This approach does require you to visit your plants twice a day to set and remove the cover. On the plus side, however, your plants will have more protection from the weather, which may extend the growing period. You will also have more control over the change from vegging to flowering.
Growing photoperiod cannabis indoors
If you want to grow photoperiod cannabis plants indoors, then you are going to need to get to grips with managing light cycles. The right cycles to use will depend on the strain you choose. Fortunately, it’s practically guaranteed that you’ll be able to find the information you need online.
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As with outdoor plants, you will need to make sure that the periods of darkness really are truly dark. This means that in addition to turning off your grow lights, you may want to put your plants in a grow tent. This will keep out any light pollution which might disturb their much-needed sleep.