A tale of Cannabis Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis
American author Kurt Vonnegut, who studied anthropology, once said that our Western stories differ from stories in more “primitive” cultures in that ours have a narrative arc: characters are in pursuit of a goal, need to overcome difficulties and succeed in the end or, at the very least, have found the experience to be cathartic. The canonical story of how we as humans relate to the cannabis plant has its roots in an ancient symbiosis but reads like a moralizing children’s tale.
The story of present-day cannabis is simple and straightforward, from the vantage point of THC aficionados at least: it has protagonists that aspire to become better than their original selves, a rival who mends its ways and a happy ending where both characters end up working together for the improvement of mankind. This story is about Sativa, Indica but also about their little known relative Ruderalis, who’ll be cast as the repentant villain.
Sativa and Indica strains of cannabis contain much higher percentages of THC than their Ruderalis siblings but they used to suffer one major weakness: they grow slowly and flower only once a year. They can grow into impressive bushes with an abundance of dense, resin covered buds. It is the Sativa and Indica strains that have become cultural icons through the representations of their broad, lush,multi-fingered leaves. Aside from their conspicuous looks and bountiful yield, Sativa and Indica originate from the southern hemisphere. They have grown accustomed to a luxurious lifestyle and they flower when the time is right. They are know as photoperiod strains, as they go from their vegetative state to their flowering stage when sunlight becomes scarce at the end of summer.
Cannabis Ruderalis, by contrast, adapted itself to the harsh conditions of the northern hemisphere and is more stocky, less lush and luxurious than its southern family members. This strain has not only learned how to cope with less sunlight, it also disconnected its flowering period from changes in light exposure. This means that Cannabis Ruderalis will flower after a certain amount of time and can flower several times a year, regardless of seasonal changes. The Cannabis Ruderalis, unfortunately, has lower quantities of THC which makes it the dark horse of the cannabis family in this story.
Our heroes Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica have overcome their delicate natures by being crossbred with Cannabis Ruderalis: many Sativa and Indica strains are therefore hybrids. In their quest to become better, stronger, more productive versions of themselves, the Sativa and Indica strains have merged with the Ruderalis in order to give us the best of both worlds. Or so the story goes…
Autoflowering vs feminised: there’s more to it than meets the eye
Alas, the stereotypical arc of this story does not do justice to the complexities of the real world. What we humans value most are female cannabis plants and their unpollinated resin buds. Nowadays, seeds from Sativa and Indica (or hybrids thereof) strains are often referred to as feminised while the seeds from strains that have been crossbred with Ruderalis go by the name of ‘autoflowering’. This ignores the fact that most autoflowering seeds have actually been feminised as well. A more accurate distinction would therefore be ‘photoperiod’ vs. ‘autoflowering’ seeds but for the sake of argument, we’ll stick to the established terminology. So what should you take into account when choosing between autoflowering and feminised seeds?
In general, if you prefer multiple harvests a year, autoflowering strains are a sure bet. Smaller plants and shorter flowering periods will result in modest but reliable harvests. Feminised strains grow over a larger period of time and can attain an impressive size at harvest time. They are more delicate in terms of flowering and can only be harvested once a year even though the yield will be abundant, potent and with less leafy residue among your buds. Pruning will not help your autoflowering plants as they’re only in their vegetative state for a limited amount of time which limits the development of new branches. By contrast, your feminised plants will benefit immensely from well-executed pruning and can grow into impressive specimens.
An additional advantage of feminised strains is that they can be cloned. A clone of a plant, basically a cutting you can replant, will not only retain the genetic makeup of the mother plant but also its age. For the autoflowering strains, this means a clone will start flowering when it’s just a wee little plant, resulting in a very meager harvest. A feminised (photoperiod!) clone will still have oodles of time to go through its vegetative state, allowing it to grow into a sizable plant by the time you’ll want to harvest. Each new autoflowering plant will require a new seed while a single seed of a feminised plant will allow you to cultivate a sizable cannabis garden. Aside from these general considerations, you may want to delve a little deeper into the pros and cons of each option depending on whether you’ll be growing your plants indoors or outdoors.
Autoflowering vs feminised: outdoor growing
Autoflowering strains provide the distinct benefit that you do not need to fret over the amount of light your plants are exposed to. They will age according to their genetic programming, independent of light cycles. The modest size of autoflowering plants is perfect for environments where you’ll want your cannabis to blend in with the rest of your garden. Autoflowering plants have the additional advantage of being exposed to pests for a only a brief amount of time before harvesting.
Planting feminised seeds is usually done around March/April and harvesting around September/October. The feminised plant will continue to grow in the vegetative stage as long as it is exposed to the right amount of sunlight which is perfect for growers who want their cannabis plants to figure prominently in their garden. A general guide on growing any cannabis plant outdoors can be found in our encyclopedia.
Autoflowering vs feminised: indoor growing
Autoflowering strains will do just fine when following a regular 16 hours of light/8 hours darkness regime throughout their vegetative and flowering stages. Their relative small size make them perfect candidates for indoor growing when limited space is an issue. We have provided a more detailed guide on growing autoflowering plants, useful for indoor and outdoor growing.
Keeping plants from feminised seeds in their vegetative state will require about 18h of light and 6 hours of darkness. As soon as you change the light cycle to a 12h light/12h darkness regime, the plant will start flowering and there’s no turning back. Pruning your plant so it reaches its full potential requires some skill and the plant will eventually take up a considerable amount of space.
Autoflowering vs feminised: time to make up your mind
Even though autoflowering seeds represent a leap forward for cannabis growers around the world, there are plenty of good reasons to prefer feminised seeds. Whether you’re growing outdoors or indoors, or going for autoflowering or feminised plants, now’s the time to start planting. Therefore, you may want to start making up your mind if you want to get the most out of this year’s crops. Are you just beginning to get your feet wet in the field of botany and would like to get your herbs sooner rather than later? Maybe you don’t mind buying new seeds for each new plant if this means you’ll get multiple harvests a year? Then, buying autoflowering seeds is probably the road you’d want to go down. Or do you have a green thumb and are you prepared to wait before reaping the rewards of a large, well-developed plant? Maybe you are even considering cloning a mother plant you’ll know will suit your particular needs? In that case, feminised seeds are probably what you’re after. No matter what you choose, Azarius has got you covered with over 25 seed banks to choose from and a handy search tool in our seedshop to help you pick the seeds that are just right for you.