There are important differences between regular, feminized (Photoperiod) and autoflower seeds. Curious to the differences and what to choose? 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. This definition explains the meaning of Autoflowering and why it matters.
Guide to the Differences Between Autoflower, Feminized (photoperiod) and Regular Seeds
When planning to buy weed seeds, you will notice three specific categories. They are autoflower, feminized (photoperiod), and regular seeds. Each one is different in terms of cultivation and yield size, and some are more popular than others. It is necessary to get familiar with each type to determine which one is best for you.
The difference between autoflowering and feminized seeds
As the name suggests, autoflower seeds are designed to bloom automatically. Meanwhile, feminized seeds only have the genetics to become female plants and flower after receiving more than 12 hours a day of darkness.
Both types will produce a quality yield, but they each have notable characteristics.
Autoflowering vs Feminized (photoperiod)
|Cultivation||Easy||Easy to moderate|
|Plant height||Small to medium||Medium to tall|
|Start flowering||2-4 weeks after planting||When receiving 12/12 light and darkness|
|Average time – seed to harvest||10-16 weeks||12-24 weeks|
|Yield||Low – medium||Medium – high|
Are Autoflower Seeds Less Potent?
Overall, plants from autoflower weed seeds are not less potent than feminized seeds. Originally, autoflower seeds came from the Ruderalis plant. The species of cannabis generally has lower levels of THC, making it less vigorous. So, many growers consider autoflower seeds to be less potent than feminized ones.
Nowadays, it is not always the case. More and more cannabis Ruderalis plants are getting crossbred to create hybrid strains. As a result, you can find autoflower seeds with high amounts of THC. While some strains are still less potent than many feminized seeds, an autoflower plant can still produce a quality harvest.
The difference between feminized and regular seeds
As mentioned before, feminized cannabis seeds are the result of agronomic techniques to get rid of the chance for a male plant. On the other hand, regular seeds are completely natural. They are not genetically engineered and have no chemicals. Regular seeds will produce male and female plants in a crop.
Feminized and regular seeds can be somewhat similar, but they also have different characteristics. Growers usually look at the differences to determine which one is right for them. Traits can include yield size, cultivation, and ability to make new seeds.
Feminized seeds vs regular
|Cultivation||Easy – moderate||Moderate|
|Suitable for cannabis pollen||No||Yes|
|Suitable for cloning||Yes||Yes|
|Yield||Medium – high||Medium|
Are feminized seeds less potent?
Some growers believe that feminized marijuana seeds are more potent. Others think that regular seeds win in this department. Overall, there do not seem to be many differences in potency. Some feminized strains can produce higher levels of THC. However, regular seeds can be more potent, especially when talking about hybrid weed seeds.
If a feminized seed is less effective than a regular one, it could be due to lower-quality genes. A less vigorous regular cannabis plant may also be the result of bad parent genetics. Growers still creating the most potent regular and feminized seeds.
What to choose: Regular, Feminized or Autoflower seeds?
Plenty of growers enjoy autoflower and feminized weed seeds for convenience. Others prefer regular strains for potential new versions or because it is natural. The best one may depend on what you would like from it. Several factors could influence which type you choose. For example, you might want buds with a specific flavor or aroma.
The benefits of an autoflower strain are its shorter lifecycle and more resilient genetics. However, autoflower seeds can have a smaller yield size, and they do not create quality clones. Feminized strains are easier to prune, but this type cannot produce interesting hybrids on their own.
One benefit of regular seeds is that they can result in healthy clones. The downside is that they can be unpredictable. Your yield can get smaller if you cull male plants from the crop. Choosing the best seed type also can depend on the person growing it.
Feminized seeds are great for beginners and growers who have some experience. After all, the cultivation difficulty is on a moderate level. If a person is new to growing cannabis seeds, they do not need to worry about separating males and females. However, growers have to be more mindful of the lighting schedule since the flowering stage is dependent on cycles.
Autoflower weed seeds are a good option for people who are new to the cannabis scene. Cultivation is simple, and the flowering stage depends on age. You do not need to pay as much attention as you would to other types of seeds.
Regular cannabis seeds are likely going to be used by growers who have a more skilled hand. The flowering stage also depends on a light cycle, so you would need to be mindful of how much light and darkness the plant gets. You have to keep an eye on the sex of the plant if you want to prevent unwanted pollination.
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.
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.