The choice of autoflowering vs feminized seeds is easy if you understand the difference between them in terms of yield and other features. Many growers use both autoflower seeds as well as photoperiod feminised seeds. But which is best for your particular needs? Read the pros and cons of each
Autoflowering vs Feminized: What’s Best for a Casual Grower?
Learn all about the difference between autoflowering and feminized genetics to make an informed choice when shopping for cannabis seeds
When you go to a seed shop, the most conspicuous categories you see there are ‘autoflowering’ and ‘feminized’, so most growers face a difficult choice: autoflowering vs feminized. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.
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Autoflowering vs Feminized Seeds
Let’s start with a disclaimer: it’s not really correct to contrapose these two. A seed can be both feminized and autoflowering, or have just one of these characteristics, or neither of them.
‘Feminized’ means that the seeds produce only female plants. ‘Autoflowering’ means that the seeds will automatically start to flower as soon as they are mature enough (let’s say in 2-4 weeks from sprouts).
What are auto feminised seeds then? Well, those that flower automatically + produce flowers that are always female (i.e. buds).
In contrast, the seeds that produce both male and female plants are called ‘regular’, and those that won’t start to flower until you change the light cycle for them are called ‘photoperiod’.
So, seed shops make the bulk of their sales with the following two:
- feminised auto seeds (mostly referred to as ‘autoflowering’)
- feminized photoperiod seeds (mostly referred to as ‘feminized’)
And these two are exactly what we are going to compare.
Advantages of ‘Feminized’ Seeds vs Auto Seeds
They Have More THC
When I myself started growing weed many years ago, I was ignoring autoflowering strains completely. At that time, they really weren’t good enough. Over the years, though, the situation has changed.
Today’s autoflowers routinely have around 20% THC. This is an unheard of level for most photoperiod varieties that I used to grow and considered ‘strong’. Still, if a breeder takes some exceptional genetics with say 25-28 percent of THC and makes an autoflowering version out of it, the THC content in the resulting auto flower is always lower. Compare, for example, such a legend as Gorilla Glue with an autoflowering Gorilla.
Autoflowering vs Feminized Yield Per M 2
Autoflowers have a shorter life cycle, so it’s only logical that they produce less buds in the same growspace. Again, some autos can be significantly more productive than some photoperiod strains, but, within the same genetic line, the auto version always yields less grams per m 2 than the photoperiod one.
The Difference in Yields Per Plant Can be Colossal
Photoperiod strains can be vegged for as long as it suits your needs. This allows you to grow your plants into real giants. It’s hardly practical indoors, but outdoors you can harvest as much as several pounds of dry bud from every ‘tree’. Growing fewer but bigger plants is also convenient when there are legal limits as to the number of plants you are allowed to grow.
They Leave More Room for Rookie Mistakes
Novice growers tend to make mistakes from day 1, so they run into trouble long before the flowering stage begins.
With a photoperiod variety, you can simply find a solution to your problem, take necessary measures, and wait till your plant is in good shape again. And only then you change your light schedule to 12/12 to induce flowering.
Autos, on the other hand, don’t wait till you correct your mistakes. Even if they are small and sickly, they are ‘on the clock’ and will start flowering despite their pathetic condition. The result — tiny plants and puny yields.
That being said, I have seen autoflowering strains that are a little more flexible than that. They start flowering when they reach a certain size and have a certain number of true leaves (let’s say 4 developed pairs of true leaves and the 5th one just forming). This can happen after 3 weeks from sprouts (when everything has gone well). Or, if the initial growth was very slow due to bad conditions, they can postpone the flowering till week 4 or even 5. Not all autos behave this way, but some do.
They Let You Take Clones and Keep Mothers
If you like a particular feminised plant and want to keep it for future use, simply take a clone, root it and keep it under 18 hours of light a day indefinitely. This plant will never flower, but will keep growing new leaves and side shoots which you can use for cuttings.
Theoretically, you can take clones from autoflowers, too, but you can’t stop them from flowering, no matter how many light hours you give them. So the only way to propagate your favorite autoflowering genetics is to force the plant to self-pollinate and produce seeds.
You Can Re-Veg Them
To reveg means to revert your plant back to growth after harvest.
A harvested plant is hardly more than a stump with a branch or two and some leaves. But you can turn this pathetic remnant into a full-fledged plant. It can then give you a second harvest or be turned into a mother plant and a constant source of clones.
Obviously, autos can’t be revegged.
They Let You Save on Electricity During the Flowering Stage
Feminized plants spend their 8-10+ weeks of flowering under a 12/12 regime, meaning you burn electricity for only 12 hours a day. The saving can be especially significant if your electrical company offers night rates. For autoflowers, the standard light/dark cycle is at least 18/6 (more hours, more money).
Advantages of Autoflowering vs Feminized Seeds
You Can Grow Them Outdoors in Practically Any Climate
I happen to live in a region with very harsh weather, so I know this firsthand. I started with feminized photoperiod strains and only chose those that were early finishers and tolerant of cold and even frost. Nevertheless, it was always a lottery. Some of those ‘quick’ feminized seeds didn’t even start to flower before the first snowfall. Others didn’t reach full maturity.
Later, I would grow from clones using genetics that had proven to really finish early, but even they didn’t perform equally well every year. It all depended on the weather in the crucial 3-4 weeks in late September – early October.
After I tried an autoflowering strain for the first time, I’ve never bothered to grow a photoperiod variety outdoors ever again. Except maybe as an experiment. As an auto grower, you have an opportunity to choose the warmest, sunniest 2-3 months of the year to complete the whole cycle—from seed to harvest—and count on your buds becoming fully mature.
You Can Have Two or More Consecutive Harvests Per Season Outdoors
It all depends on your climate. If the growing season (with no frosts) in your region is 150 days long, you can easily have two back-to-back auto grows. It’s sometimes very convenient to have several smaller harvests than one large one per season.
One reason is that trimming is a very time consuming procedure. Also it’s nice to have some fresh buds to smoke in the middle of summer, while you’re waiting for the bulk of the harvest that which be mature in fall.
With Autos, You Don’t Worry About Light Pollution
If you grow photoperiod marijuana outdoors, nights during the flowering stage should be dark. Weed plants don’t mind the moon and stars, but react badly to city lights. Indoors, you must make sure that your grow space is completely sealed off and doesn’t allow light leaks. With auto flowers, you don’t have these issues.
You Can Have Both the Vegging and the Flowering Plants in One Grow Room
For photoperiod feminized varieties, you must dedicate two separate rooms. In one, lights will be on for 18 hours a day (the veg room), in the other — for 12 hours a day (the flowering room). This is something that not every amateur grower can afford. As for autos, you can keep several generations, each at a different stage of maturity, under 18/6.
Autoflowering vs Feminized Size
Autos tend to be much smaller. This is very convenient for tight spaces and micro grows, or if you want your secret garden to be inconspicuous.
Autos Finish Faster
Theoretically, you can find a photoperiod strain that grows very fast in veg and has a very short flowering period. So, by inducing the flowering early, you can make it finish in 10-11 weeks from seeds. But this is what an average auto can do without any hassle, and some are much faster than that. So, if you want to end that T-break of yours a.s.a.p., choose autoflowering cannabis.
Now you have a sort of a checklist that will help you decide if you’ll be better off growing feminized seeds or autoflowering. We’ve also written a separate post comparing feminized seeds vs regular. Be sure to read it, too!
Autoflower vs feminised cannabis seeds explained
Cannabis genetics have changed drastically in the last decade. The home grower now has a wider and perhaps more confusing choice of cannabis seeds than ever before. But the differences between autoflower and feminised cannabis seeds are not that complicated. We will explain all you need to know about the way auto and fem seeds grow, the advantages and disadvantages for each and how you can select the right type of cannabis seeds for your grow.
|●||Autoflower vs feminised vs regular seeds differences|
|●||How were autoflower seeds created in the first place?|
|●||Topping and training autoflower vs feminised cannabis|
|●||Do autoflowers always finish faster than photoperiod strains?|
|●||Autoflower vs feminised cannabis seeds outdoor growing|
|●||Autoflower vs feminised cannabis plants yield|
|●||Differences in bud quality for feminised vs autoflower strains|
|●||Still wondering which type of cannabis seeds are best for you?|
Autoflower vs feminised vs regular seeds differences
Some growers mistakenly feel that autoflower seeds produce less potent weed than plants grown from feminised seeds. This may have been true in the early days of auto seeds, but not any more. Autoflowering cannabis seeds produce buds with the same quality levels as photoperiod feminised seeds. Auto Cinderella Jack has THC levels independently verified at over 25%. Many photoperiod feminised cannabis seeds don’t reach such high potency levels!
Autoflower seeds are the seed of choice for those that want fast, convenient and easy harvests. They typically grow indoors from seed to harvest in around 10-11 weeks under 20 hours of daily light. Outdoors, they take a little longer, around 100 days. Autoflowers start to bloom automatically around 5-6 weeks after germination. The grower doesn’t need to change the light cycle, it happens ‘automatically’.
Autoflower seeds are easy to grow and often stay short, squat and bushy. Due to the short auto life cycle you might not be able to get quite the same yields as a feminised seed variety which has enjoyed a long period of vegetative growth. But yields from the best autoflower seeds can be several hundred grams per plant from well grown indoor autos.
Photoperiod feminised cannabis seeds grow vegetatively under 18 hours (or more) of daily light. They produce leaves, roots and branches but no buds until daily light hours are reduced to 12. Feminised seeds are preferred by growers that enjoy traditional genetics with the ability to be manipulated via the photo dependency. SCROG growers can utilise long veg grow periods of 2 months or more to fully fill a SCROG screen. Outdoors, they can produce several Kilograms of dry buds from a long grow over 5-6 months.
Regular cannabis seeds give rise to approximately equal numbers of male and female offspring. These are the cannabis seeds of choice for old school growers that prefer the process of identifying and separating males from females. These days, regular cannabis seeds account for just 2-3% of seed sales. But they are used by those breeding cannabis plants or producing cannabis seeds. Note that the grower can take cuttings easily from plants grown from feminised seeds or regular seeds. But taking cuttings from autoflower plants isn’t as easy, since the plant has a fixed life cycle.
|Autoflower seeds||Feminised seeds||Regular seeds|
|Ease of growing||Easy||Moderate||Expert (males need to be removed to prevent pollination and seeding of your crop).|
|Plant height||Typically short/medium around 1 metre tall.||Adaptable depending on length of veg growth. Can reach 3-4m outdoors.||Adaptable depending on length of veg growth. Can reach 3-4m outdoors.|
|Flowering start||Often ~ 5-6 weeks after germination.||Requires 12/12 light conditions indoors and less than 13.5-14 hours of daily light outdoors.||Requires 12/12 light conditions indoors and less than 13.5-14 hours of daily light outdoors.|
|Seed-to-harvest time||Typically 10-11 weeks.||Depends on length of veg and flower time of the genetics.||Depends on length of veg and flower time of the genetics.|
|Yield||Up to a few hundred grams per plant in optimised conditions.||Up to and above a Kg per plant in optimised conditions.||Up to and above a Kg per plant in optimised conditions.|
Key things to know before growing autoflower cannabis seeds.
● If you want to grow a cannabis crop in the shortest possible time frame, then autoflower seeds are the best option. Strains such as Auto Blueberry and Auto Blackberry Kush can be ready in as little as 8-9 weeks after germination.
● Autoflower seeds perform well in both indoor and outdoor locations. Outdoors, many growers can get 2 or even 3 successive crops in the same year
● Autoflower seeds are easy to grow in a wide range of grow conditions/systems. Soil, coco fibre or hydroponics all produce great, fast results.
● Depending on the genetics you choose you can grow autoflower seeds that will produce harvests rich in THC, CBD or both! You can even grow Auto CBG-Force autoflower seeds which will produce CBG rich harvests or Auto CBD-Victory which will produce buds rich in CBDV.
● Many growers don’t bother repeatedly repotting their autoflower plants into increasingly large containers (note that keeping an autoflower longer than 2 – 2.5 weeks in a small pot will have a negative effect on the size and eventual yield). Instead, they often grow their autos in their ‘final’ containers to minimise time lost due to transplanting. This allows growers to achieve the highest possible yield.
● Many growers find that autoflowering cannabis seeds are the easiest and fastest way to grow cannabis. You don’t even need to worry about changing the light cycle! Less experienced (or first time) growers often prefer the simplicity and convenience of autoflower seeds.
How were autoflower seeds created in the first place?
Dutch Passion worked very closely with the Joint Doctor in the earliest days of autoflower breeding. The Joint Doctor is a Canadian breeder who played a large role in the first generation/early autoflower seeds.
Some of this work was based on a mythical Mexican strain (Mexican Rudy) which, whilst small and with only medium potency, allowed the first real autoflower work to get started. These were the first cannabis strains which were not dependent on the photoperiod (the number of daily light hours) to initiate bloom.
Initially, many cannabis seed companies were sceptical and couldn’t see the potential of autoflower genetics. Dutch Passion were able to combine and rework some of these first generation autoflowering genetics with some exceptional results.
After a few years of continuous improvements, autoflower yields and potency were on a par with indoor photoperiod feminised seeds. Initially some growers were reluctant and unconvinced by the early autoflower seeds. But once growers saw the top-shelf results that could be achieved with refined, high performance modern autoflower seeds that all changed.
Many modern cannabis seed growers prefer a rapid seed-to-harvest time. In this respect, the fastest autoflower seeds simply can’t be beaten!
Why do autoflower seeds produce so many phenotypes?
In the early days of autoflower seeds, some cannabis seed banks had a reputation for ‘scatter-gun’ autoflower seed genetics which would produce an excessively wide array of phenotypes.
Some would be miniature plants that would barely reach 10cm tall whereas the next auto would reach a metre. The challenge for premium cannabis seed suppliers was to take the autoflower genetics and fine-tune them further so they could be a viable option for serious growers.
This requires a great deal of genetic and breeding know-how. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to breeding and supplying the finest quality autoflower seeds.
Dutch Passion have some of the best genetics and most experienced geneticists in the business, so a great deal of focussed experience allowed them to push autoflower genetics to their limit.
Today, the best autoflower seeds produce consistently great results with little variations between the resulting plants if conditions are optimised. But it’s worth adding that there are still plenty of low quality autoflower seed suppliers out there. Buy your autoflower seeds from a supplier you can trust with a solid track record for auto breeding. A few autoflower cannabis cups is a sure sign that your supplier is committed and professional about their breeding.
|Understanding cannabis phenotypes, genotypes and chemotypes|
Topping and training autoflower vs feminised cannabis
Many growers like to train and manipulate their cannabis plants. This can be done to try to increase yield, or perhaps to create a shorter/bushier plant which is easier to cultivate in confined spaces.
When growing feminised cannabis seeds you have plenty of scope for topping and training your plants. You can define a long period of veg growth if you want to repeatedly top your plant (remove the growing tip) in order to produce a bushier plant which will require less vertical growth space. SCROG growers love long veg periods to fill the screen.
But autoflower seeds are less suited to these situations. When growing autoflowering cannabis seeds it is the genetics, not you, which defines when veg ends and bloom starts. Furthermore, autoflowers grow with a limited life cycle, they simply don’t have the time to recover from repeated topping.
However, both autos and feminised strains won’t mind low stress training, such as having branches tied down in order to improve light penetration to lower branches etc.
|Top 5 cannabis strains to grow in small spaces|
Do autoflowers always finish faster than photoperiod strains?
Not necessarily. Some fast photoperiod feminised strains such as Bubba Island Kush can be ready in as little as 7 weeks of bloom. Combine that with a brief period of veg growth and you could grow Bubba Island Kush from seed to harvest in around 10-11 weeks. Orange Bud is another fast (7-8 week bloom) feminised seed.
In contrast, some ‘super’ autos, such as Auto Ultimate can require up to 12-15 weeks to grow indoors from seed to harvest under 20 hours of daily light. Auto Glueberry OG is another similar autoflower seed.
A fast blooming feminised strain can indeed be faster to grow than some of the slower super autos. But it is important to add that the yields from slower growing autoflowers such as Auto Ultimate and Auto Glueberry OG can be spectacular, with 500g+ harvests (from a single plant) quite possible with hydroponic grows under optimised conditions.
|Top 5 fast growing cannabis seeds|
It’s worth noting that some autoflower seed suppliers tend to be overly optimistic about the seed-to-harvest times. Remember to base your harvest point on the factors that matter to you. Some people prefer the high from late harvested cannabis, others prefer to smoke/vape early harvested cannabis. One of the advantages of growing your own cannabis is that you decide the genetics and precisely how they are grown and when they are harvested.
You can assess the colours of the trichome resin glands, general bud appearance and pistil (hair) colour to help define your perfect harvest point for your favourite cannabis seeds.
|Best ways to harvest, dry and cure cannabis|
Autoflower vs feminised cannabis seeds outdoor growing
Autoflower seeds grow from seed to harvest outdoors in around 100 days, depending on conditions, latitude etc. That’s a little slower than indoors, where autos can enjoy 20 hours of daily light without cold night temperatures.
That speed of growth means that even Scandinavian outdoor autoflower growers can achieve two successive outdoor crops each summer. Mediterranean growers may be able to manage three successive outdoor auto crops each summer although the yield-per-plant may not be quite as high as that from longer growing photoperiod outdoor strains.
|Scandinavian autoflower growing, 2 crops in one season!|
Outdoor feminised cannabis seeds such as the cannabis cup winning photoperiod Frisian Dew seeds will typically grow outdoors over a 5-6 month period.
That’s a much longer timescale than an auto, so you can expect larger plants (perhaps 3-4m tall and almost as wide) and heavier yields. For some growers that’s a better combination.
However, if your climate has a short growing season you may prefer to consider autoflowering seeds which are generally ready to harvest earlier, nearer the middle of summer while the weather is still warm and sunny.
|Autoflower vs feminised outdoor cannabis growing|
Autoflower vs feminised cannabis plants yield
Modern, high performance autoflower seeds can deliver some incredible yields. Especially under optimised conditions with high intensity LED lighting. Many of Dutch Passion’s repeat autoflower seed customers routinely achieve several hundred grams per grow, especially when using hydroponic systems. The largest yield ever seen by Dutch Passion was a 1Kg harvest of dry buds from Auto Ultimate.
|Auto Ultimate 1Kg harvest by ‘The King’|
But the yields from the best feminised cannabis seeds can also be spectacular, especially when individual plants are given long periods of veg growth and grown in e.g. SCROG conditions by an experienced grower with quality genetics and powerful LED lights.
Serious growers know that they can get heavy yields from either autoflower seeds or feminised seeds. The choice between the types of cannabis seed is often made on the basis of factors other than yield.
|16 x Frisian Dew plants grow into huge plants in a Belgian greenhouse|
Differences in bud quality for feminised vs autoflower strains
The early first generation autos simply didn’t achieve the same cannabinoid content and terpene profiles that a modern high quality autoflower seed can produce. But both yield and quality levels have significantly improved since then, so long as you are buying seeds from a proven supplier!
The Dutch Passion list of Extremely High THC seeds is an exclusive collection of the best cannabis seeds which can produce up to 25% THC in ideal conditions. Included in this list are Auto Orange Bud, Auto Lemon Kix and Auto Cinderella Jack. Some of the best autoflower seeds produce even stronger buds than many photoperiod strains!
It is important to stress that many of the autoflower seeds being sold online will not meet the same high standards as the very best autoflower seeds which have won cannabis cups. The quality levels between the best and the worst autoflower seeds is still very large.
Be sure to research your choice of cannabis seeds very carefully and choose a supplier you can fully trust with a long track record behind them.
Still wondering which type of cannabis seeds are best for you?
Most growers find their preferred genetics are in the form of autoflower seeds or photoperiod feminised seeds. Lots of growers enjoy growing both types of seed. Very few modern growers use regular cannabis seeds. Autoflower seeds offer extra levels of speed and simplicity which appeals to huge numbers of both indoor and outdoor growers.
But feminised seeds have an equally popular appeal. The fact that you can control the length of veg growth gives some growers the control they need for their particular grow system/style.
You can also keep mother plants of your preferred feminised strains and take as many cuttings as you wish – this is impossible with plants grown from autoflower seeds. Quality levels from the best auto and fem seeds can reach the same very high standards with THC levels well above 20%.
Of course, other factors may also be very important to you. You may prefer your buds to have certain aroma/flavour profiles, or perhaps you enjoy buds with plenty of colour in them. Maybe you need a certain amount of CBD in your buds, or perhaps other cannabinoids too? Your array of cannabis seed choices may vary further depending on whether you want to grow indoors or outdoors.
If all this sounds confusing, you may wish to check out the Dutch Passion Seed Finder which asks you a few simple questions about your grow and recommends the best cannabis seeds for your situation. Buy the best cannabis seeds you can and enjoy your next grow!