Planting Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds
Planting autoflowering cannabis seeds is a relatively easy process, but to get the most out of your plants you need to follow a series of steps that are completely different from those that seasonal seeds have. An autoflowering cannabis seed needs a bit more care than normal seeds. You need to speed up the growth as much as possible so you don’t get teeny plants with no more than 5 blunts on them. We’re going to give you a series of things you’ll need to do in order to get the most out of your plants.
Germinating Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds:
The first thing that you’ll need to do is germinate the seed properly, using the paper towel method that we’ve talked about here before.
Once your seeds have germinated or opened, however you prefer to call it, you’ll need to prepare some small Teku 7×7 pots with soil, don’t use jiffy pellets or anything like that as the roots need plenty of space to grow.
Fill the pots with soil first and then water them; once the plant breaches the top of the soil you mustn’t wet it again. If you water it before the seed has come out then it will probably move up towards the surface which can cause a whole list of other issues. The best thing to do is to water first and then wait to water it again until the sapling grows a bit.
Bury the seed about half a cm to 1cm down into the soil, making a hole with a pen or a toothpick and putting the seed inside with the little root facing downwards. Cover it with a bit of soil without compacting it too much and leave it there until the plant begins to grow above the soil. What we usually do is leave it for 24h with light during this process until you transplant the seed to its main flowerpot. If you don’t have grow lights then use the most powerful one you can so that it doesn’t get too cold in the pot.
Up until this point the process has been exactly the same for seasonal seeds, but that’s about to change. You’ll need to wait for the plant to break the surface and have that little growth spurt that cannabis plants tend to get when they’re looking for light. This can take 4 or 5 days, and you’ll need to keep a close eye on them so you don’t leave them for too long. Make sure that the plant doesn’t begin to develop in that flowerpot, the maximum time you should leave the plant in it is 6 days.
Now is when you’ll need to transplant your autoflowering plants to their permanent home. Autoflowering strains that take two months prefer pots that are about 7L, whereas those that take three months much prefer pots that are 11L, no bigger.
Fill the flowerpots to the top with soil, nice and compact so that when you water the water doesn’t go all the way to the bottom, although make sure you don’t compact it too much as the plants need a good oxygen/water ratio to breath and grow; with no oxygen the roots won’t be healthy at all and you’ll end up with a dwarfed plant. You’ll need to keep the light at 20h until the end, or make sure it’s in a spot where it can get the maximum amount of sunlight hours.
Once those pots are full of soil, you’ll need to make a hole to stick your small plant in. Make it deep, as you’ll need to bury part of the trunk as well, to the point where the bottom of the trunk is just 5cm long from the soil to where the first leaves are. Then, water the edges of the pot little by little so the soil gets properly humid.
The reason you need to bury part of the trunk is because even more roots can come out of that small piece of stem, and it also gives the plant stability and strength so that it doesn’t bend and break and it can spend more energy on growing branches and foliage. The more roots it grows the more the plant will grow, which is how you can easily speed up the growing process. Once you’ve buried it, water the plant with about a liter of water mixed with a low concentration of growth fertilizer; some substrates absorb water easier than others, so it might be trial and error in your case and you’ll need to adapt the amount of water to how absorbent your soil is.
I use a liter of water with Canna Terra Professional, and no excess water comes out of the holes in the flowerpot which means it’s adequately watered. You can read all about substrates here.
From this day onwards you’re going to need to check and see if the soil is dry; until it is completely dry you shouldn’t have to water it again, and this should take about 7 days. The best way to check if the soil is dry is by lifting up the pot; if it’s still pretty heavy then it still has water in it.
The next step is watering with growth fertilizers once it’s dry after that first watering. You should be at around day 13 or 14 and you’ll have noticed a bit of growth in the last couple of days. For watering, you should make your mix in a bottle with just one glass of water per pot at this stage. The next day check and see if the pots are heavy; if they’re dry then give them another glass of water but if they’re not don’t water them again until the next day. If the soil is extremely dry the next day then you’ll need to give it two glasses of water. Up the dosage as time goes by little by little and this process of dryness and water will make the plant grow a nice root system, as well as an amazing production.
Before you realize it, it will be day 25 and your plant should be beginning to flower. It no longer looks like the plants you had before, does it? You haven’t changed the seeds, just the method. Now all you have to do is follow the typical flowering steps that every seed needs; a flowering stimulant to begin with, a flowering base, a fattening products once the buds have formed, and end it all by washing out the roots. Flowers take about 20 days to properly form and the fattening period lasts about 2 weeks rather than four weeks for a seasonal seed; once you see the flowers forming properly then you need to use the fattening product.
We’re sure that if you follow these steps you’ll be extremely happy with the results that your autoflowering plants will give you compared to other grows you’ve tried. You might even see some of the mistakes that you made corrected in this article. Many people will probably say to never transplant autoflowering plants, but those people won’t get specimens as big as you will if you follow this guide!
How Long Does It Take To Grow an Autoflower Cannabis Seed?
G rowing cannabis can have a significant learning curve, especially for novice green thumbs. However, growing your own has many benefits, including being more affordable in the long run, is more convenient, provides a steady supply (especially important for medical cannabis patients), and allows you to do your own quality control to ensure sound growing practices and purity.
Nonetheless, not every grower has the time or interest in learning how to create an optimal set-up for cannabis grows, or the appetite to enact the appropriate stresses at the appropriate times. A typical cannabis grow can take anywhere from 4-5 months plus harvesting and curing, leaving many consumers to throw up their hands and just go to the dispensary.
But there is a solution to those problems, and that is autoflowering cannabis seeds that flower on their own after 2-4 weeks of growth. This is much less time than your standard cannabis plant and allows you to grow robust plants without having to babysit them.
Timeline for Growing From Autoflower Seeds
Growing autoflowers can be a great option for anyone who wishes to grow at home. They are compact — think a microgrow or a couple of plants on the patio — and grow well both indoors and outdoors. Medical cannabis patients who need a steady supply of cannabis and may not be well enough to travel regularly to a dispensary may find that growing autoflowering plants allows them better access to their medicine, though recreational consumers would benefit as well.
Say you’ve decided to plant some autoflower seeds. What should you expect? Because autoflowers follow fixed timing, you can expect a fairly predictable schedule.
- Weeks 1-3: the plants will begin their growing process. Expect to see some vigorous growth in week three.
- Week 4: healthy plant growth will really start to take off
- Week 5: some plants may start showing pistils
- Week 6: plants enter flowering phase
- Week 7: buds will start to develop
- Week 8: bud growth will continue to develop, growing fatter and denser
- Week 9: buds will start to show a mix of amber and white pistils
- Week 10: pistils continue to change from amber to red
- Week 11: autoflowers should be ready to harvest
Some growers may choose to wait until weeks 12 or 13 to harvest, but that is a matter of preference.
Autoflower Cannabis Seeds Explained
Sounds simple, right? But what exactly are these seeds? And how do they work? You’ve heard of sativa and indica, but have you heard of cannabis ruderalis? While it was once thought that ruderalis was a direct ancestor of sativa and indica, it is now thought to be its own, separate species.
Ruderalis is a rugged variety of the plant local to Central Asia, Russia, and Central and Eastern Europe. It is much smaller than sativa and indica, typically growing to about one and a half to two feet in height. It produces a smaller yield and lacks the needed cannabinoids to get you high. However, ruderalis does not require specific changes in light to grow and fares well regardless of region.
Autoflowering cannabis’ predictable harvest times comes from its ancestry to cannabis ruderalis. photo credit
Breeders wishing to incorporate some of ruderalis’ characteristics have been using it for crossbreeding, especially for autoflowering. This includes ruderalis’ natural resistance to stress and disease, however, its most coveted trait is ruderalis’ lack of requiring light cycles for development. In other words, crossbreeding ruderalis with sativa or indica creates a stronger plant that flowers by age, not by changes in light.
Autoflowers have come a long way since their introduction in the early 2000’s when they lacked flavor and potency. Today, they frequently rival or surpass the yield, aroma, and potency of feminized photoperiod strains. Even the most finicky consumer is likely to find autoflower seeds that have a range of potency, THC to CBD ratios, and terpene profiles.
As you can see, growing autoflowering cannabis is a great way to minimize some of the stress of growing, as well as cutting down the length of time it takes from seed to consumption. Though earlier iterations of autoflower seeds may have been lacking in quality when compared to their seasonal counterparts, progress in breeding has enabled autoflowers to produce some respectable buds.
Have you had success with autoflower seeds? Share your experiences in the comments!
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
Erin’s work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let’s Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedIn, WordPress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.