Growing Tips

All about autoflowering plants

The automatic calls, or autoflowering, are a type of cannabis plants with the particular ability to be ready to harvest in just 3 months , or less. 

With the automatic ones you save a lot of cultivation time. Of course, in return they require you to be more careful than normal, since any problem will be reflected in the quality of your flowers.

Today we will explain to you what we have learned about how to care for automatic plants to achieve good and abundant harvests.

What are automatic (or autoflowering) plants?

The automatic or autoflowering ones are descended from the Ruderalis, a variety of hemp cultivated in Russia during the 40s.

Traditional cannabis plants, also called photoperiods, need special daylight hours to flower. They do not begin to do so until the hours of sunlight decrease indicating that winter is approaching.  

With the Automatics, no special hours of exposure to light are necessary, since they do not need this type of signal to start flowering.

They begin to flower when they reach 3 to 4 weeks of age regardless of what light exposure they have received , and they will be ready to harvest in just a few months. 

Living such a short cycle, the Ruderalis cannabis plant were able to survive in Russia with short summers and extremely long winters.

Unfortunately, like most wild hemp, wild Ruderalis has very low levels of THC. Similarly, their flowers and buds tend to be small in the wild, which is considered a loss for growers.

History of automatics

A cultivator with vision determined that the ability to be automatic, and the short growing periods of the Ruderalis variety could be useful for amateur growers, even though it was not going to be functional on its own.

He began intermingling Ruderalis plants with photoperiod varieties to increase shoot potency while carefully seeking to maintain Ruderalis ‘ autoflowering ability .

In those days, the best known autoflower was “Lowryders”, they were available in most seed banks. Although the wild Ruderalis ancestors contained almost no THC and were small, today most autoflowering strains produce buds that are potentially comparable to photoperiods thanks to several generations of diligent crossings between strains.

As growers created more specialized strains, they achieved effects and growth patterns that fit different needs and purposes.

As a result, each strain of automatics grows differently, just like traditional ones. That is why I always recommend reading the description of the seed provided by the seed bank, to know what characteristics the plant we want to grow has.

Some grow particularly tall, others tend to be short.

You will have better results if your plants match the space and type of cultivation that you are going to carry out.

Due to their short vegetative stage and life cycle, in general automatic plants tend to stay relatively small (60-110 cm) , and are ready for harvest in approximately 3 months from germination.

Automatic Plants vs. Photoperiod

Unlike the traditional strains, the automatic ones do not need a special daylight schedule to “warn” the plant to start flowering. With a traditional strain, a cannabis plant needs 12 hours or more of darkness a day to start flowering.

When growing photoperiod plants outdoors, natural flowering begins when the day begins to get shorter. For outdoor growers, this means that they have to start planting in the spring and must choose varieties that will be ready to harvest before winter.

Indoor growers with photoperiod varieties can initiate the flowering stage at will by giving their plants longer periods of darkness (usually by setting their lights on a timer).

For indoor growers, this means that they need to create a “light-proof” grow space that allows them to give their plants uninterrupted periods of darkness when their plants are in bloom.

Now, with automatic plants, an indoor grower does not have to worry about daylight hours. Each autoflowering plant begins to flower after a few weeks, usually 3, no matter what light hours they are given.

For an automatic cultivation outdoors there is no need to synchronize the variety with the time of year, you just have to make sure that the plant receives at least 2 to 3 months of a warm and sunny environment.

As a general rule, automatic plants are ready to harvest much earlier than traditional plants. The majority are ready to harvest after the 2 or 3 months after being germinated . In contrast, traditional varieties take longer. Photoperiods are usually ready to harvest 4 months or more after they have germinated, although the final time will depend directly on when you germinated and the type of variety you chose.

You are surely thinking about performance, and it is natural for you to think about it. As much as we like to grow, we love to harvest. 

The automatic ones generally have a yield of 100 – 130 g per plant when they are given the necessary care throughout their life, but the amount of buds produced comes from the type of cultivation you have done.

Many growers end up with only 20g per plant, this due to problems in cultivation, especially when using seeds with poor genetics, poor lighting and feeding. 

On the contrary, the most experienced growers, seeds with good genetics and the ideal conditions for the optimal development of a plant can exceed 150-200 g.

When we talk about the performance of the plant, you must take into consideration that an automatic plant will yield more times a year than a traditional one. This is due to the short life span of the automatics.

While there are currently more traditional varieties to choose from than automatic ones, the potency of the two plants is comparable. The buds of autoflowers are not significantly less potent.

However, the biggest difference is that many automatic strains are incorporating more CBD than traditional plants (because Ruderalis plants tend to have higher CBD content). CBD is a cannabinoid known for its medical properties and for reducing anxiety.

Things have changed a lot since the days of the “Lowryders” and their low level of performance.

Although as a general rule, automatic strains tend to be small, a notable difference from traditional ones, there are some automatic strains rated XL or XXL that can exceed one meter in height.

With this we cover most of the differences between automatic and traditional, there are many more specific for strains and cultivation methods but it mostly comes down to this. 

How many hours of light does an automatic need?

In a past article I dedicated myself to thoroughly explaining the photoperiod of cannabis plants , in which I had a short segment where I talked about the automatic and the ideal light times for it. At this time I will fully explain the subject.

Unlike traditional plants, where you have to use special light schedules to tell the plant to start creating buds, automatic cannabis plants will start creating buds on their own from the third week after they have germinated, regardless of the daylight hours used.

We have already explained this before, but the next question is, what is the best photoperiod for an automatic plant?

If you are looking for a short answer, the best time is 6/6 (18 hours of light and 6 of darkness).

Most growers agree that the optimal amount of hours of light exposure for an automatic is between 18 and 24 hours of light. There are growers who believe that automatic plants need a period of darkness and that you will not be healthy if you have 24 hours of light a day, but there is no evidence for this.

Keep in mind that the ancestor of automatics, Ruderalis grows in the northern parts of Russia and is naturally exposed to 24 hours of sun a day in summer, so it is not crazy to think that modern strains can benefit from that. cycle. 

However, an important factor to keep in mind that a couple of hours of darkness a day will save you electricity costs , and if it is hot during the day, giving it a few hours of darkness will be a bonus since you will spend less on refrigeration.

Another consideration to have when growing autos is which light spectrum  to use.

Typically with traditional plants, you will use more blue lights for the vegetative stage and red lights during flowering. With automatics you can follow this same principle by using blue lights before the plant begins to show signs of its gender, and then switch to red lights.

Light in any color of the spectrum will give good growth, as long as they are grow lights (No, traditional bulbs do not work).

If you have thought about growing automatic plants outdoors, I invite you to read the article where I give you some tips so that you have the best performance.

Automatic cultivation techniques

Can an automatic plant be “trained” in its short vegetative stage? and if so, does doing so bring benefits?

The short answer is: yes , to both questions.

As long as plants are healthy, automatics tend to respond well to simple topping or LST.

Autoflowering strains can be trained to produce more and better colas, and proper grow training can increase overall grow results and yields.

When it comes to automatic training, there are three main “schools”, all of which are widely held opinions of growers. Among them we have:

  • No training : Since the automatics are only in the vegetative stage for a short time, if you stress your plant a lot with extensive training, it can end up dwarfing it. A dwarf plant has a very low yield.
  • LST (Low Stress Training) only : The idea behind the LST is to force the plant into a canoe shape by bending the new stems and holding them down. The advantage of this bending technique is that it generates very low stress to the plant (hence the name). 
  • Topping in addition to other training: Modern automatic strains respond well to topping. This is a type of pruning where you cut the top of the plant to force it to create two tails instead of one. This pruning does not usually stress the plant if it is healthy and growing fast, but it may contribute to stress or retard growth if not done carefully.

Most growers agree that you don’t want aggressive training on automatic cannabis plants, such as main-lining , as it takes several weeks of vegetative growth to recover. Although there are exceptions, you usually won’t have a long enough vegetative stage to get the most out of this type of training.

Noah’s tips for automatics

After having told you its origin, the differences between traditional and automatic, cultivation techniques and even lights, I would like to close with a couple of tips so that you get the most out of your crops.

  • I do not recommend pruning them or applying techniques that imply high stress on the plant (pruning, cuttings, transplants), because it can stun the plant and stop growing.
  • If you want to apply a cultivation technique, I recommend LST , it is a technique that does not involve pruning and that ensures you get the most out of the light of your crops with low stress.
  • If you grow in pots, I recommend using pots between 7-11 liters , so that after 3 months it reaches the entire substrate.
  • If you grow indoors, you should take into account that there are XL or XXL versions of the same strain , so it is a determining factor when determining the space of the grow.
  • Remember that the technique to apply in a plant changes with respect to the strain we grow, the indica is small by nature unlike the sativa that tends to grow more. If you are going to apply a technique, let it be on a plant with potential growth.
  • The more exposure to light it has, the better it will develop. But you will see a greater difference outside if it does not have too much sun or brightness. 
  • If you are growing automatic for the first time, I recommend germinating the seed and placing it in its final pot, not applying any technique to see and explore how the crop will turn out.

If you are looking where to buy automatic seeds, you can check our seed catalog in our store, there I leave you the details of each of the strains to choose the one that best suits you.

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