When a grower plans to buy cannabis seeds, his or her choice is usually based on three basic categories: regular, feminized and autoflowering seeds. Each of these types of seeds produce plants that have their own differences in terms of cultivation, size or yield; and some are more popular than others depending on the needs of particular gardens.
That’s why you should familiarize yourself with the characteristics of each type of seed to determine which is best for you. Here we will look at the differences of each in order to help you make the right choice.
Regular cannabis seeds are seeds that are not optimized by genetic engineering to make any part of the plant’s life cycle function differently than it would in nature. Cannabis plants, by their natural pollination, produce seeds that give male or female plants. Regular seeds have about the same probability (between 50% and 60%, although this figure is an average) of producing a female plant as a male plant.
If you are looking for males for breeding programs, you might choose to quickly isolate the males in an entirely different garden or if your only intention is producing flowers, then the male plants are undesirable and should be discarded. If males are allowed to flower along side female plants, they will pollinate the females, causing them to convert their energy into seed production instead of flower and trichome production – this translates to diminished potency. Not to mention, seeds are not very pleasant to smoke and can be a pain to pick out of your stash.
As implied, feminized seeds are intended to completely eliminate the possibility of producing male plants, resulting in plants that are genetically all female. This means that growers don’t have to worry about discarding males.
In most strains, the sex is not identifiable until the pre-flowering vegetative stage. This is why feminized seeds are so popular; as they save time and resources normally spent while potentially unwanted male plants would be growing. This also helps to prevent accidental seeding of flowers.
For the most part, when you’re looking through a seed catalogue and see a feminized category, you are looking at photoperiodic, feminized seeds. This means that they, like regular seeds, rely on triggers from the light cycle in order to start flowering.
Non-photoperiodic seeds are also available as feminized versions.
Autoflowering seeds are the easiest to use and obviously the most popular among beginner growers, since the plants are non-photoperiodic and do not require the same level of complexity in their care. While non-feminized autoflowering genetics absolutely exist, the vast majority of autoflowering seeds – and the ones you’ll find in commercial catalogues – are feminized in addition to being non-photoperiodic.
Autoflowering seeds are an innovative creation that comes from blending ruderalis genetics into modern-day Indica and Sativa hybrids. Ruderalis genetics are often what we call “ditch weed,” and come from regions of Russian and Alaska in which cannabis adapted to cold weather and different day/ night lengths, with minimum resources available. As a result, this ditch weed is incredibly resilient and non-photoperiodic, which means it flowers after about 4-5 weeks of vegetative growth, regardless of the amount of light it receives. By being crossed with modern, award winning cannabis genetics we end up with a highly potent, easy to grow, and reliable genetic that doesn’t rely on photoperiod triggers.
The first seeds of this type became popular in the 2000s and, in general, the plants were not up to par in terms of aroma, potency and yield. Since then, they have undergone many improvements and now autoflowering strains can perfectly compete in quality with their feminized or regular counterparts.
Growing feminized seeds ensures that there are only female plants, eliminating the unnecessary work of maintaining male plants that might eventually be discarded. This ensures a higher yield, as the available growing space is used in the most productive way. In addition, there is uniformity between plants even when production is done on a large scale.
Regular and feminized cannabis plants need specific lighting cycles to move from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage. In nature, cannabis begins to flower when the days become shorter, from the summer solstice on wards. Therefore, indoors, feminized seeds need to have the light cycle changed to 12/12 (hours of light and dark) to trigger the development of buds.
Autoflowering seeds eliminate these requirements, as they start flowering regardless of the hours of light received, between 4 and 5 weeks after germination, so their total life cycle is reduced to about 9 to 12 weeks, which is actually about the same amount of time non-photoperiodic varieties require just to flower.
There are also differences if you grow indoors or outdoors.
Feminized (non-photoperiodic) outdoor plants, being governed by the photoperiod of the sun and are restricted to one harvest per year, unless artificial light deprivation is created. They are usually planted at the beginning of July, at the very latest, and are harvested between late September through to November.
With autoflowering plants the calendar is more flexible: since they do not depend on the photoperiod to flower, you can harvest several crops in the same place throughout March-October (even more, if you live in southern latitudes).
Indoors, feminized plants can also be programmed. As long as your plants receive 18 hours of lights on each day, they will continue to vegetate and never flower. This can be taken advantage of in SCROG style grows, and other methods of cultivation.
On the other hand, autoflowering genetics have the advantage of being able to vegetate and flower multiple plants of different ages all in the same cultivation area. This means you don’t have to keep more than one room, with different light cycles for a continuous crop cycle.
Originally, autoflowering plants come from the Ruderalis plant, a spectacularly low potency type of weed that produces little yield. For this reason, many growers consider autoflowering plants to be less potent than feminized plants.
Today, Autoflowering genetics have been developed through rigorous breeding programs. As a result, potent and high-yielding plants that can compete with modern day photoperiodic genetics are all over the place. In fact, there are even autoflowering genetics with the ability to outshine certain classic photoperiodic genetics.
If you are still not sure what type of seed to choose, we will try to clear your doubts by explaining the main advantages and disadvantages between feminized and autoflowering seeds, autoflower vs photoperiod.
As we have already mentioned, autoflowering cannabis plants grow quickly and flower faster than photoperiodic plants, allowing you to have more harvests in the same season. But this is not the only advantage:
Below, we also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of feminized strains:
Our team of breeders has put all its experience in creating high quality autoflowering genetics with really special traits. That is why we are very satisfied with our catalogue of autoflowering seeds, which contains real gems like:
In the same way, Seedstockers’ catalogue is also full of options in terms of feminized seeds, highlighting both classic, old school-genetics, as well as a wide range of ‘made in USA’ varieties that bring us the best of the current North American market. Such as: