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Autoflowers VS Photoperiod Strains – The Ultimate Guide

Autoflowers also known as Autoflowering cannabis or Autos, are becoming very trendy nowadays. Yet, many “photoperiod” growers (Non-autoflowering cannabis growers) despise auto strains.
Although autoflowers have come along way since the creation of the famous Lowryder, can they really compete with photoperiod strains?
First, let’s see how much better today’s autos are compared to 20 years ago.
Then, we will try to find out if and when autos can be better then photos.

Autoflower VS Photoperiod Strains Video

The Birth Of Autoflowers

Auto VS Photo is an ongoing debate within the cannabis community. One thing is for sure however, it is that autoflowering varieties have gotten much better these past 2 decades.
One of the main criticism are: bad flavor, low yields and low potency.
When Joint Doctor Seeds released the first Lowryder variety in the early 2000’s, it was a dream come true for many growers! They were finally able to enjoy growing a dwarf cannabis strain that would flower regardless of the photoperiod.
That being said, the plants rarely yielded more than 20 grams. Their potency was mild at best and the flowers tasted like… Let’s just say it was an acquired taste.
The harsh taste can be attributed to the Ruderalis plant Join Doctor worked with in order to create his auto strain. Some say it was a Mexican Ruderalis (Which probably originated from Russia) others say that Joint Doctor used the Finola hemp variety.

The Evolution Of Autoflowers

Over the years Joint Doctor along with many other breeders outcrossed the Lowryder to other more potent and better tasting strains. Ruderalis varieties often produce moderate to high amounts of CBD and little to no THC. The goal was therefore to breed out the Ruderalis genes while only maintaining the autoflowering characteristics.
Other breeders opted for a different strategy. By starting their breeding programs with some tall and flavorful Ruderalis varieties instead of the Lowryder, they were able to achieve great results much faster.
Overtime, the taste, potency and yields of auto strains have dramatically improved. As these autoflowers improved, they became more and more popular. Forums such as the AutoFlowerNetwork are now full of beautiful pictures displaying huge and frosty auto strains.
Some seed companies such as Mephisto Genetics only cater to autoflower enthusiasts. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago!

Autoflower vs Photoperiod Cannabis

Nowadays, the best autos can be very potent, flavorful and productive. That being said, both autos and photos have their place in the cannabis community.
Let’s weigh the pros and cons of each option in order to see which is best for each specific setup.

Growing Auto Strains

Pros:

Autoflowering Strain On a Balcony

-Great for outdoor growing

Autos are fantastic for outdoor gardening for 3 main reasons:
1) They allow growers to harvest several times within the same outdoor season. This is extremely useful when in comes to spreading out the workload. Most outdoor growers have to harvest and process all their plants in October. That can be insanely labor intensive. For the same reason, autos help growers spread the risk by harvesting several small batches instead of one big crop.
2) Autos flower automatically, regardless of day length. Therefore, they can grow almost anywhere in the world. In places like Canada or Scandinavia, they can thrive from mid May until late August, when the weather is still sunny and warm. In these cold climates, growing photos would be very tricky because they would finish flowering in the Fall.
3) They tend to stay small and never get huge like some photoperiod plants do. That makes them very stealthy and easier to hide. That is why many guerrilla growers opt for autoflowering strains.

-Stealth

Because most autoflowers remain very short, people can grow them almost anywhere. In a garden, on a balcony or in a guerrilla setup. Although it is strain specific, once you know a strain well, you can predict how tall it will grow. Knowing the plants final height in advance allows for some stealthy setups.

-Can Flower Anywhere

They are incredibly popular in big cities like Madrid because light pollution does not disturb them (In addition to being stealthy). Autos are perfect for balconies and rooftops since they will flower regardless of photoperiod. Likewise, growers who have some extra space in their veg tent often choose to fill in the gaps with a few autos.

-Faster Harvest

More harvests per year is a significant advantage whenever time is of the essence. Autoflowers can produce usable yield sooner. As soon as 9 weeks after germination. This usually allow for one more crop per year indoors. Outdoors, some growers manage to harvest 2 crops in the same spot within the same outdoor season!
Fast Flowering Auto Strains

Cons

-Difficulty

Although most seed banks tell their customers that autos are beginner-friendly, it’s actually the opposite. These plants have a very short vegetative growth phase. Therefore, growers have to optimize these first few weeks of growth. Making mistakes at that stage would significantly reduce yields. In addition to that, autoflowers tend to be low feeders which makes them prone to overfeeding.

-Power Consumption

The plants need at least 16 hours of daily light to give good results. Usually indoor auto growers opt for a 20/4 light cycle. Because of that, the power bill will be higher than when growing photoperiod strains.

-No Clones

Because autos start flowering almost right from the start, there’s no way to make clones. In other words, growers cannot take a copy of their favorite pheno.

-Size Control

With autos, growers don’t get to choose when to flip their plants to flower. Plants automatically start flowering after 3 to 4 weeks. Therefore, the final height of these plants depends on the genetics and on how well you take care of them. With big pots, a lot of light and the proper nutrient regimen, they will get bigger. That being said, it is very tricky to predict the final size of an autoflower. Some are dwarf varieties whereas some can reach up to 5 feet tall!

-Effects

Although autos can now produce as much THC as photoperiod strains, THC alone doesn’t mean much. These plants can be potent but it is rare to find an auto that can be as trippy and cerebral as a pure tropical Sativa. Usually, autoflowers produce an effect very similar to that of Hybrids or Indica Dominant strains.

Growing Photoperiod Strains

Pros

-Yields

Because they can become huge, photo strains can also yield much more than autos.

-Cannabinoid content

Although some of today’s autos are very potent, photoperiod strains still produce more cannabinoids on average.

-Can be cloned and re-vegged

When growers find an outstanding photo plant, the can keep a mother-plant and make clones forever! Likewise, photos are relatively easy to rejuvenate AKA reveg.

-Size Control

With photo plants, growers have the freedom to shape their plants however they like by training and pinching them. By the same token, they can flip their plants whenever they want thus controlling their final size.

-More Beginner-friendly

Because they are less finicky and much more forgiving, photos are more beginner-friendly. Making mistakes during the vegetative phase is okay here 😉

-Power Savings

A 12/12 light cycle is far more power efficient than keeping the lights on for 20 hours per day. Therefore, photoperiod plants allow growers to minimize their power bill.

Cons

-Photoperiod dependent

The main drawback of photos is that, as the name suggests, they are photoperiod dependent. In other words, they will not start flowering until the days become shorter at the end of summer.
This can be a big problem for guerrilla growers living in a cold climate. However, outdoor farmers can force their plants to flower early by doing “Light Dep” AKA Light Deprivation.

-Takes longer to grow

Photos tend to take longer to grow because they naturally have a longer life cycle. Nevertheless, some can grow and flower very fast such as the Desert Skunk.