Autoflowering seeds start to flower automatically regardless the amount of light (sun) hours they get. This means autoflowering plants don't respond to the photoperiod… This definition explains the meaning of Autoflowering and why it matters. Before growing, you’ll need to choose which type of seed you want to work with: feminized or autoflower. Here at Potguide, we recommend starting your cannabis growing hobby/career with auto-flowering cannabis seeds. Let's get into why.
History of Autoflowering Seeds
To understand where autoflowering seeds come from we need to know more about the genetics from autoflowering seeds. The reason why these cannabis seeds are autoflowering is the presence of ‘Cannabis ruderalis’ in their genetic make up.
Cannabis ruderalis is a cannabis plant that most-likely originates from eastern and central Europe where she grows in the wild in large quantities. These days you can find her also growing throughout Canada and the United States. This cannabis plant was named ‘ruderalis’ after the German word ‘ruderal’, which means ‘weeds growing by the roadside’. Although some botanical experts claim that Cannabis ruderalis is a species of her own, which would make her a sister of Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, Cannabis ruderalis is most-likely a subspecies of Cannabis sativa that escaped from outdoor plantations and ended up in the wild.
The area in eastern and central Europe where Cannabis ruderalis naturally grows has different environmental factors than the areas on this planet where Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica can be found. The summers are colder and shorter. Besides this there’s during summer a period when it’s light for almost 24 hours a day, not giving the plants enough time to rest during night time. In order to survive, the Cannabis ruderalis adapted to her new location and started to flower quicker and earlier, until they became completely autoflowering at one point.
Cannabis ruderalis has been used in Russian and Mongolian medicinal and shamanistic traditions for a long time. In the nineties the ‘Mongolian Academy of Sciences’ did a research on shamanic and folk knowledge of medicinal plants in Mongolia. They found that Cannabis sativa and Cannabis ruderalis have been used for various medicinal purposes in Mongolia. Even though Cannabis ruderalis has a lack of psychoactive potency, it’s plausible that shamans in Mongolia have used the Cannabis ruderalis in order to reach their ‘shamanic trance’.
Grower’s experimenting with Cannabis ruderalis
During the seventies and eighties some cannabis growers from Canada started to experiment with Cannabis ruderalis. They tried to cross Cannabis sativa and indica with Cannabis ruderalis. At the same time Neville Schoenmaker (founder of ‘The Seed Bank’, currently known as Sensi Seeds) was also experimenting with sativa/indica/ruderalis crossings in The Netherlands.
Although the Canadian growers and Neville did succeed in producing some crossings between sativa, indica and ruderalis, they were all not entirely satisfied and they stopped working with Cannabis ruderalis by a lack of good results. The main problem was the stability; they were not able to produce a stable, potent and fully autoflowering cannabis strain.
The introduction of Lowryder by The Joint Doctor
The whole situation around autoflowering seeds drastically changed when ‘The Joint Doctor’ came into the picture and introduced his ‘Lowryder’ strain. The Lowryder was introduced by The Joint Doctor the beginning of this century and was a crossing between Cannabis ruderalis, a William’s Wonder and a Northern Lights #2. The Lowryder was the first commercial, fully autoflowering cannabis strain on the market and showed the cannabis scene the huge potential of autoflowering Cannabis ruderalis hybrids.
The Joint Doctor was introduced to Cannabis ruderalis by his Mexican friend Antonio. Antonio gave The Joint Doctor some cannabis seeds he called ‘Mexican Rudy’ and told him this strain stayed short and flowered earlier than anything else. It’s not quite clear where this ‘Mexican Rudy’ originated from, but The Joint Doctor believes Mexican Rudy was an experimental cross of Cannabis ruderalis from Russia and Mexican cannabis, probably produced at the University of Mississippi during the 70’s. The Joint Doctor tried to do some more research about this cross, but could only find some obscure references. In any case, the strain was kept and grown out in Canada for several years before The Joint Doctor got his hands on them.
After growing Mexican Rudy for the first time, the Joint Doctor found out that she was very fast-maturing indeed and crossed her with a Northern Lights #2. He chose Northern Lights #2 for her (also) short stature and high level of THC. The result were some F1 seeds that produced nice plants, quick and compact, but they were not completely autoflowering. The Joint Doctor decided to cross this F1 with a few different varieties, of the best clones he could find. One of the clones he used was William’s Wonder. In the first batch of seedlings from William’s Wonder x (NL#2 x Mexican Rudy), he found some unusual male plants that flowered immediately, while they had only grown just a few sets of leaves.
The Joint Doctor used these autoflowering males as pollinators, and this caused his next generation to be fully autoflowering and they all finished within 60 days. From seed to harvest… His plants did not grow taller than 12 inches; an ideal plant for small closet growers. The Joint Doctor realized he had something special.
This first hybrid between William’s Wonder x (NL#2 x Rudy) was named ’Willy’s Automatic’ by The Joint Doctor. He continued with growing and experimenting with Willy’s Automatic and after 5 or 6 generations the strain was stable enough to be released. The Joint Doctor renamed Willy’s Automatic into ‘Lowryder’ and introduced the very first stable and fully autoflowering seed on the commercial seed market.
The first reactions on the Lowryder were skeptical. The Lowryder was not a particular good yielding plant and had a lack of potency. Besides the relatively small harvest and low THC% a lot of people did not like the taste and flavor of the Lowryder. Although there was a lot of skepticism, Lowryder did cause a certain buzz in the scene of cannabis cultivators thanks to her unusual ability to flower automatically.
The Joint Doctor realized he needed something better to come up with, so he went back to the stage of experimenting. He crossed the Lowryder with a Cannabis sativa from Brazil called Santa Maria and after a few generations of breeding to get her stabilized, the result was astonishing. The Joint Doctor had been able to create an autoflowering strain that had more potency and that had a much better taste and flavor than the original Lowryder. Last, but not least, it also had a much bigger yield. The Lowryder #2 was born.
Thanks to Lowryder #2 the buzz around autoflowering cannabis strains got enormous and more and more cannabis growers got convinced about the special qualities of autoflowering seeds. After Lowryder #2 The Joint Doctor released several other autoflowering seeds, such as Chronic Ryder, Diesel Ryder and Easy Ryder. All these autoflowering strains were based on the Lowryder #2. Since the Joint Doctor introduced his Lowryder many other breeders started to focus on the creation of new autoflowering seeds with their own characteristics.
Dinafem has been growing and experimenting with autoflowering seeds for many years and these days Dinafem is taking the lead in the research and development of new autoflowering cannabis seeds. At this moment Dinafem has an astonishing assortment of 6 different autoflowering seeds and you can be assured we will keep working hard on our autoflowering strains and surprise the cannabis grower’s world with some incredible new autoflowering seeds in the (near) future.
Dinafem Seeds The Dinafem team comprises cannabis experts and growing specialists eager to share their knowledge and expertise with the entire cannabis community. Don’t hesitate to give us your feedback on our posts. We’ll be happy to answer your queries and, above all, to learn new tricks and techniques.
Unlike photoperiod-dependent plants, autoflowering cannabis is a cannabis plant that reaches the flowering stage after vegetative growth on its own, regardless of the amount of light it receives.
Most plants require a certain amount of light/darkness per day to produce flowers, for example, 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. However, plants with the ability to autoflower do not flower based on the amount of light/darkness they receive. Instead, plants with the capacity to autoflower will produce buds and flowers based on the plant’s size and growth. On average, the lifecycle of an autoflowering strain is 60 to 90 days.
Maximum Yield Explains Autoflowering
The benefit of autoflowering is that most plants are ready for harvest in 10 weeks or less, regardless of the amount of light/darkness they receive. The plant that has the capacity to autoflower has a quick lifecycle, so it will produce buds and flowers in a shorter span of time, without stringent light/darkness requirements. Autoflowering cannabis plants are best suited for areas where there is fewer daylight hours. There are even hybrids that flower in less than 6 weeks.
Autoflowering cannabis plants are typically smaller than standard plants. Consequently, autoflowering plants typically have lower yields. However, there are super autos that can be tall and have higher yield. Given that autoflowering cannabis have a greater hardiness, they can potentially grow through the year.
Autoflowering strains are not a good choice for cloning as cuttings will transition to the flowering stage too quickly to provide a worthwhile yield.
A cannabis plant’s ability to autoflower is a genetic trait passed down to a plant within its DNA. Not all plants have the ability to autoflower, however, some cannabis plants can autoflower.
Cannabis is considered a diploid, which means that it receives one chromosome from its father plant’s pollen and one from its mother plant’s ovum. Each chromosome from the father and mother contains two genes. Those genes are either photodependant (photodependant allows autoflowering) or non-photodependant (non-photodependant does not allow autoflowering). In other words, autoflowering is a recessive trait, which means that both parents must contribute the gene in order for the offspring plant to autoflower. So, one of the chromosomes from one of the parents may allow autoflowering, but the other chromosome from the other parent does not contain the gene to grant autoflowering.
Autoflower Seeds Explained
T here’s a lot that can go into growing a flowering cannabis plant, which may seem a little daunting to those who were hoping for something as simple as step 1: put seed in soil, step 2: wait, step 3: cannabis! It’s important to choose which easy-to-grow strain sounds the best for your first foray into the world of cannabis farming, however, before picking the strain, you’ll need to choose which type of seed you want to work with: feminized or autoflower.
There are some key differences to be aware of. Especially if you’re new to gardening in general, here at PotGuide, we recommend starting your cannabis growing hobby/career with auto-flowering cannabis seeds. Let’s get into why.
What are Autoflower Cannabis Seeds?
Back in the day (way, way back) there were three basic subgroups of cannabis plants that had found their ecological niche thanks to human cultivation. Taller, skinner sativa strains thrived in warmer, tropical climates like Southeast Asia and Polynesia. Indica strains grew in the higher, windier Hindu Kush region. Ruderalis strains were hardier and grew in the colder, far northern hemisphere where the sun either shines at all hours for months on end or disappears for that same timeframe. Ruderalis strains didn’t have the same regular access to night and day that told their indica and sativa cousins when to stop growing and start flowering. Instead, they evolved to bloom when the sun was out based on how many weeks they’d been growing.
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Modern-day cannabis growers realized that this adaptation to flower based on age rather than light exposure basically puts growing on easy mode, so they cross-bred ruderalis with indica and sativa strains to create autoflower seeds.
How are Autoflowering Seeds Different from Feminized Seeds?
Left to their own devices, cannabis will follow the same reproductive path that nature has set out for nearly every seed-producing plant: sprout, mature, meet a nice plant, exchange pollen, and start dropping seeds of their own. However, long ago humans discovered that the female cannabis plants also produced some flowers that were pretty fun to smoke, and thus cultivation began.
Jump forward to today’s modern cannabis market, and we find there are two main types of seeds that cannabis growers use: feminized seeds and autoflower seeds.
Feminized seeds are seeds that have been specially bred to only grow resinous-bud-producing females. This was achieved by eliminating the male chromosome through various manipulation methods (*cut to Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm looking concerned). However, these methods make use of a natural response that the plants have when they are stressed and lack male plants.
More experienced growers tend to use feminized seeds. Sowing feminized seeds tends to lead to far greater yields of potent buds than auto-flowering seeds. The plants will create stronger, THC-rich resin, and if one cannabis plant turns out to be exceptional above the rest, it can be cloned rather than having to be grown from seed every time.
However, growing with feminized seeds also takes extra care, attention, and know-how. They require scheduling the grow light’s hours and intensity in order to signal to the plants when it’s time to stop growing and start blooming. They also require extra room to spread their branches and are more susceptible to stress, disease, and pests.
Autoflowering seeds, on the other hand, are much hardier thanks to their ruderalis lineage and thus more resistant to environmental stressors than feminized seeds.
They have a far easier time brushing off pests and diseases and are able to be grown in a wider temperature range. All this means that they can bounce back from a lot of first-time grower mistakes that usually kill feminized seed plants.
Another advantage to autoflowering plants is that you don’t need to worry about maintaining a strict light schedule. The ruderalis genetics are used to unbroken stretches of sunlight during those northern summer months. Flip on your grow lights for about 20 hours a day and autoflowering seeds will do the rest.
The rest of your setup can be just as basic. Autoflowering seeds tend to grow a lot more compactly than feminized seeds, which makes them ideal for small closet grow operations. While autoflowering plants tend to produce much smaller yields than feminized seeds, you’ll have them much faster. Some autoflowering strains will start producing flowers in just 2-4 weeks, and be ready for harvest in 6-8 weeks. While the buds won’t be as potent as feminized seeds, they tend to contain higher levels of CBD, which can be ideal for medical growers.
This also isn’t meant to imply that autoflowers can’t make potent buds. They certainly can, and a significant part of dispensary stock is produced this way. Feminized seeds just tend to do better when compared bud to bud.
When buying your seeds, be sure to check whether or not they have been feminized. Depending on the company selling them, you could end up with either all female autoflower seeds, or a 50/50 chance.
Which Seeds Should I Choose?
While feminized seeds can be considered the Goldilocks of growing (everything has to be just right), autoflowering seeds are more the Gretel of growing (hardy, resilient, would kill a witch if it came to it.) Both, of course, have their advantages. If you are growing cannabis in order to produce only the most resinous, power-flower buds in the highest yields, go with feminized seeds. You’ll have to crack the books when it comes to bulking up your cannabis growing knowledge, and you’ll have to pay close attention to how each of your plants are doing on the regular. However, it will all pay off once you’ve got those sticky, stanky buds all cured and sitting in their jars.
On the other hand, growing your own cannabis can also be an easy, fun way to get some free weed off of your new plant friend. Autoflower seeds are the choice of any beginner looking to get from Point A (Seeds in soil) to Point C (Hell yeah!) as quickly as possible with minimal effort. With a more basic light setup, less care about the temperature, and a grow room as small as a bedroom closet, autoflower seeds are your entry ticket into the world of cannabis growing.
Do you prefer autoflower or feminized cannabis seeds? Sound off in the comments!
Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as Medium.com, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.