If you look at just about any living thing here on Earth, you will notice that it has evolved to survive wherever it lives.
Most primates climb trees to stay out of reach of predators. Tigers have stripes to hide in grass and make it more likely they will catch their next meal. Plants create fruits and other ways of spreading seeds nearby.
For the cannabis plant, there are a few very important characteristics that will make you much more able to handle the growth cycles once you learn about them.
Photoperiod flowering is one of them.
To understand why this is important and what they mean, you need to know about the three main stages of cannabis growth (along with other plants).
The Three Growth Stages of Cannabis
After germination, the plant is called a seedling. It remains in this stage until it has about six nodes, or pairs of leaves (not including the two original round leaves that first sprouted). Once the seedling reaches about six nodes and/or starts developing at least five points on the leaves, the plant moves on into vegetative state.
Vegetative Stage of Growth
Once a plant moves on from seedling stage, the growth speed dramatically increases, and the ability to recover from any damage also improves.
This makes this the best stage to do any pruning, topping or defoliation training to determine the final plant shape and help improve your yield.
Flowering Stage of Growth
We will talk more about how the plant enters this stage a little later on.
In flowering, the plant has one final boost of growth known as the flowering stretch, and then settles into its final size. Once fully into the flowering state, it will no longer grow new nodes or increase the length of the main stems.
The plant shifts all of its energy into producing the flowers that you will be harvesting.
This is when training is completely finished (the plant will not recover very well from topping or supercropping). You want to be very careful how many leaves you remove during this stage.
The plant will not produce more leaves during this stage and it needs them to take in light to collect the energy required to produce flowers.
How Do Regular Cannabis Plants Know When to Flower?
Regular, or “photoperiod” cannabis plants have evolved to exist in subtropic locations where there are clearly defined seasons. Each season is determined essentially by the length of the days: days get warmer the longer they are, colder the shorter they are.
A photoperiod plant will recognize shortening days and it triggers processes that are a part of it in order to ensure the survival of its genetic line. In most places, the cannabis plant will not receive enough light to continue to grow in winter.
The only way to make sure it continues on is to produce seeds. To produce seeds, the plants need to flower and be pollinated. Since you will be cultivating marijuana for harvest, you will not be keeping male plants and the pollination portion of that process will not happen. This means your final product will not contain seeds.
Photoperiod plants know “summer” as around 18 hours of light per day (as low as 16). When the amount of light they receive drops somewhere near 12 hours of light per day, they recognize “autumn” and their flowering cycle begins.
So, What Does Autoflower Mean?
Most people have heard of “sativa” and “indica” and most casual, recreational users of marijuana have varying degrees of understanding the difference.
The truth is that there is a third species of cannabis that is very low in THC, higher in CBD and doesn’t flower according to daylight length.
This plant is called Cannabis Ruderalis.
The Ruderalis species is native to much higher latitudes, like most of Russia and Siberia, parts of Europe, Canada and the mid-western USA, than its close relatives, and because of the naturally short days year-round, it has evolved to flower as soon as it is mature enough to do so.
With C. Sativa and C. Indica (including all of their hybrid strains), you can keep the plants in vegetative state indefinitely by simply remaining in “summer” mode with artificial grow lights.
However, with C. Ruderalis (or a hybrid of it), even under 24 hours of light, it will flower as soon as it is ready. This makes the Ruderalis a very short, small plant that reaches full maturity in about 10 weeks.
This removes it from almost all training, like topping, supercropping, and unfortunately cloning (the clones are the same “age” as the mother and will flower much too small and the mother will not recover from the damage).
Is Autoflower Right For Me?
Autoflower strains tend to be a hybrid of a well-known strain that has been crossed with C. Ruderalis, which means that it will not grow to the same height or width, not have the same yield, the THC will be lower and the CBD higher (sometimes it will be hybridized more than once to allow for a higher THC than a straight hybrid would allow, while maintaining the autoflower gene).
If you are looking for the following, then autoflower would be a good choice:
- fast yield (sacrificing amount)
- no cloning
- no training, plant and grow
- small space growing (most only grow to around two feet)
- medicinal uses (pain, depression, anxiety, etc)
If you have a medicinal license to grow more than the usual amount (up to 244 plants in Canada instead of 4, for more information, click here), then autoflower could be a very good choice, since you can grow the same yield by planting more plants and harvest much quicker.