Autoflower vs Photoperiod: Which is Better for Your Grow?

Whether you’re a seasoned cannabis cultivator or just starting your green journey, the choice photoperiod versus autoflowers can have a major impact on your success. But what exactly are these two types of cannabis plants and why are they so different? To start, autoflowering strains are genetically programmed to enter the flowering stage after a…

Autoflower vs Photoperiod: Which is Better for Your Grow?
Nenad Nikolic

Author: Nenad Nikolic

Publish Date: July 12, 2023
Last Update Date: September 14, 2023

What Is Photoperiod Cannabis?

Photoperiod cannabis is dependent on specific light and dark cycles to trigger its flowering stage.

Term “photoperiod” refers to duration of light exposure received by plant, which denotes change in seasons and prompts transition from vegetative growth to flowering.

What Is Photoperiod Cannabis?

In indoor cultivation setting, cultivators must adjust light regimen to achieve similar results.

During vegetative stage, photoperiod cannabis receive 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness.

To trigger flowering, cultivators switch light cycle to a 12/12 schedule where plant receives 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

Definition of Autoflowering Marijuana

Autoflowering cannabis do not require changes in light cycles to initiate the flowering stage, as they possess an internal genetic timer that triggers flowering automatically. 

This unique trait evolved from their wild ancestors that grew in harsh environments like Siberia, where seasonal light changes were unfavorable for typical photoperiods to thrive. 

Definition of Autoflowering Marijuana

Modern breeders have crossbred auto-flowering varieties with photoperiods to create hybrid strains that combine the best of both worlds, offering convenience of automatic flowering with improved yield, potency, and flavor profiles. 

Auto is more flexible in terms of light requirements and can grow and flower under various light cycles, making them an attractive option for indoor cultivators or those in regions with limited daylight hours.

Pros And Cons Of Autoflowering plants

The advantages and disadvantages of autoflowering cannabis, derived from Ruderalis species, are important considerations for any grower.


  • Fast Growing
  • Compact size
  • Reduced Maintenance
  • Resilience


  • Lower Yields
  • Limited Recovery Time
  • Low Cannabinoid Content
  • Non-Clonable

Comparison Photoperiod Versus Autoflowers

Autoflower and photoperiod cannabis differ in their growing rate, size, light requirements, potency, and yield. 

Autoflowering cannabis grows faster, making them ideal for cultivators seeking quick harvests or those with limited growing seasons.

Comparison Photoperiod Versus Autoflowers

They also remain compact, making them ideal for growers with limited space or aiming for stealthy cultivation.  

Autoflowers are less sensitive to light changes and more forgiving with light leaks, making them a low-maintenance option for cultivators. 

Photoperiod strains move through their life cycle depending on the amount of daylight hours they receive each day, they need at least 3 to 5 months to mature, allowing them to grow larger and produce higher yields, a photoperiod plant can take time to get healthy.

Comparison Photoperiod Versus Autoflower

They require specific light cycles and are more susceptible to light leaks, necessitating timers to control lighting schedules. 

Modern autos have THC and CBD levels almost comparable to photoperiods, making them suitable for growers seeking high-potency marijuana. 

While photoperiod strains offer much larger yields but are harder to grow, photoperiod cannabis cultivars produce bigger yields than the autoflower strains due to longer vegetation stage, but autos shorter life cycle allows the potential of harvesting two crops in the time it takes to harvest one photoperiod cannabis crop, making them more productive, especially when grown in smaller spaces but roots of autoflowering strains have been known to produce plants with lower thc levels.

Autoflower Vs Feminized

When it comes to cannabis seeds, there’s a need to differentiate between autoflowering seeds and feminized seeds to understand their unique features and advantages.

While terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to distinct properties in marijuana seeds.

Autoflower Vs Feminized

Autoflowering seeds are characterized by traits derived from the Ruderalis gene, while feminized seeds are specifically bred to eliminate presence of male plants in cultivation process.

While highest yielding autoflower strains are still still behind feminized seeds, they have a fast growing cycle and are versatile in terms of light schedules. These plants have innate ability to transition from vegetative to generative stage without relying on light cycle changes. This trait allows auto-flowering cannabis genetics to maintain consistent light schedule throughout their lifetime, typically commencing flowering stage around 3-4 weeks after germination.

On the other hand, feminized seeds are associated with photoperiod cannabis strains that require change in light exposure, from 18 to 12 hours daily, to initiate flowering stage.

Autoflowers and Photoperiod Differences in THC levels And Potency

It has long been held that photoperiod strains, with their focus on recreational use and subsequent emphasis on THC content, offer a higher potency experience vs autos.

However, advances in marijuana breeding techniques have introduced a new era of autoflowering strains with THC levels comparable to those of photo-period plant.

Autoflowers and Photoperiod Differences in THC levels And Potency

Today, the THC content and potency of autoflowering plant is no longer mere afterthought in comparison to photoperiod strains.

Some autoflowering strains boast THC levels as highs as 25% or more, comparable to the high-potency photo-period.

But it is crucial to note that THC content can vary widely between different strains and individual plants, regardless of whether they are autoflowering or photoperiod cannabis.

Which Are Better For Beginners?

For novice marijuana cultivators, autoflowering plant offer an appealing option due to their straightforward growing cycle, rapid harvests, smaller size, and resilience to environmental stressors. 

Which Are Better For Beginners?

The automatic transition from vegetative stage to flowering stage eliminates the need to manage complex light schedules, making the process of growing more accessible. Smaller plants are easier to manage and require less maintenance, which is beneficial for beginners. 

Autoflowering plant also tend to be more resilient and capable of withstanding environmental stressors. 

However, photo-period plant offer higher yields and potency, which are often sought after. 

Photo-period plant offer control over the vegetative and flowering stages, which is beneficial for those seeking to experiment with advanced growing techniques.

Indoor And Outdoor Development Period

Autoflowering plant are a perfect choice for both indoor and outdoor cultivation, boasting compact size and the ability to flower under varying light conditions, with a growing period of 10-12 weeks.

However, photo-period plant, with a growing period of 3-5 months, require intricate light schedule alterations, making them more suitable for indoor cultivation environments.

But experienced growers can overcome this limitation by adapting to natural light cycles and monitoring changes in light intensity to ensure successful outdoor growth.

Both types of plants, feminized and autoflower experience germination, seedling stage, vegetative phase, and flowering period, with autoflowers having a shorter vegetative stage. 

The decision on whether to grow plants indoor or outdoor ultimately comes down to the grower’s experience and preferences, as well as the growing conditions.

Overview Of The Development And Life Of Auto And Photoperiod Strains

Autoflower plants, named for their automatic transition from vegetative to flowering stage, are characterized by their unique genetic makeup that includes genes of marijuana ruderalis.

These short-lived plants typically have a growing cycle ranging from 8 to 12 weeks, from seed to harvest.

Overview Of The Development And Life Of Auto And Photoperiod Strains

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the week-by-week growing phases for autoflower:

  • Week 1-2: Seeds Germination and seedling stage. As seeds burst forth from soil, first pair of leaves, known as cotyledons, emerges. It is crucial to keep soil moist and provide adequate lighting to ensure proper growing during this stage. Failure to do so may result in stunted growth or even complete failure to thrive.
  • Week 3 -4: Vegetative stage. This is a pivotal moment in the life cycle of your precious plants. Your 3 week old cannabis seedlings are now fully immersed in the stage of rapid growing and development, marked by four to five sets of leaves and robust root system. 
  • Week 5-6: Pre-flowering stage. Autoflower plants will begin to show signs of early flowering, such as the growing of pistils or small flowers. The plant may also begin to produce a strong odor. Growers should continue to provide proper nutrients, water, and lighting to support bud development.
  • Week 7-8: Early flowering stage. The plant will blossom into full bloom, and buds will start to develop. Stay vigilant and monitor the nutrient levels and water the plant as necessary. To avoid the risk of bud breakage, be sure to provide proper support for your plant.
  • Week 9-10: Mid-flowering stage. The buds continue to grow and develop, requiring additional care and attention to ensure healthy growing.
  • Week 11: Late flowering stage. Buds are nearing maturity, so it’s time to get your hands on the magnifying glass and determine the optimal time for harvesting.
  • Week 12: Harvest: Auto will be ready for harvest, and growers can cut the entire plant and begin the drying and curing process.

In stark contrast, photo-period plant rely on changes in light cycle to trigger the flowering stage. They require a period of uninterrupted darkness (usually 12 hours) to initiate bloom phase.

Photo-period plant have longer life cycle, often taking anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks from seed to harvest.

Overview Of The Development And Life Of Photoperiod Strains
  • Week 1-2: Germination and seedling stage. The plant will have just sprouted from the soil or growing medium, and it’s important to keep the soil moist and provide adequate lighting to ensure proper grow.
  • Week 3-5: Early vegetative stag.e The plant will start growing more leaves and stems during this stage. When plant is 1 month old it’s essential to ensure that the it is getting enough nutrients, light, and water to continue healthy growing.
  • Week 6-8: Vegetative stage. As the plant is 6 week old it will continue to grow, and it’s important to monitor for any signs of stress or nutrient deficiencies.
  • Week 9-10: Pre-flowering stage.The plant will start to show signs of sexual maturity, such as the growing of pre-flowers. At this stage, growers may need to change the light cycle to initiate the flowering stage.
  • Week 11-12: Early flowering stage.The plant will transition to the flowering stage and begin growing buds. Growers will need to continue providing proper nutrients, light, and water to support bud development.
  • Week 13-15: Mid-flowering stage. The buds will continue to grow and become more dense, and growers may need to provide additional support to prevent branches from breaking under the weight of the buds.
  • Week 16-17: Late flowering stage. The buds will be approaching maturity, and growers will need to monitor the trichomes to determine the best time to harvest.
  • Week 18-19: Harvest. The plant will be ready for harvest, and growers can cut the entire plant and begin the drying and curing process. It’s essential to handle the buds carefully to prevent damage and ensure a high-quality end product.

Understanding the distinct grow patterns and life cycles of auto and photo-period plant is key to providing optimal care for each type of weed plant and ultimately producing healthier, more productive crops.

Differences In Vegetative And Blooming Stage

Successful marijuana cultivation hinges on understanding differences between vegetative and flowering stages in auto vs photo-period plant.

While photo-period plant have longer vegetative phase, allowing for extensive growing and branching, precise light cycle control is imperative.

Differences In Vegetative And Blooming Stage

While photo-period weed have longer vegetative phase, allowing for extensive development and branching, precise brightness schedule control is imperative. Autos have shorter, predetermined vegetative phase, leading to smaller weed and faster blooming, regardless of brightness conditions.

Auto have shorter, predetermined vegetative phase, leading to smaller plants and faster flowering, regardless of light conditions.

In the flowering stage, photo-period plant require strict 12/12 light cycle, while auto automatically flower based on genetics and are more forgiving regarding light schedules.

These differences play a significant role in choosing right cannabis plant for your needs and growing conditions.

Time From Seed To Harvest For Both Types Of Cannabis Strains

While autoflowering plant boast a relatively short and fixed life cycle, ranging from 8 to 12 weeks from seed germination to harvest, it is their ruderalis genetics that enable them to automatically transition from vegetative to flowering stage without any changes in light exposure.

In stark contrast, photoperiod plants require a change in light exposure to initiate the flowering stage, and their grow timeline is far more flexible. Photoperiod strain can be vegetated anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks or even longer, depending on the grower’s preferences and environmental conditions.

Once light cycle has been adjusted to induce flowering, photo-period plant typically require an additional 8 to 12 weeks to fully develop their buds. This longer grow period often results in larger plants with higher yield potential.

Light Requirements

As a seasoned cannabis cultivator, it’s vital to comprehend distinctions in light requirements for auto and photo-period plant to unlock their full grow potential.

Light conditions can have a significant impact on the health, vigor, and yield of cannabis plants.

Light Requirements

Autoflowering cannabis have more flexible light requirement vs their photoperiod counterparts.

As their name suggests, auto automatically transition from vegetative stage to flowering stage regardless of light cycle they’re exposed to.

On the other hand, photoperiod cannabis require specific light cycle to trigger transition from vegetative stage to flowering stage.

Differences In Light Requirements

Autoflowering cannabis have more flexible light requirements than their photoperiod cannabis counterparts.

Named for their ability to automatically transition from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage regardless of light cycle they’re exposed to, auto strain thrive under 18-24 hours of light per day throughout their entire life cycle.

Light Requirements

This extended exposure to light encourages vigorous grow and can lead to increased yields.

On the other hand, photoperiod cannabis require specific light cycle to trigger transition from vegetative stage to flowering stage.

During vegetative stage, photo-period need longer duration of light, typically 18 hours of light followed by 6 hours of darkness.

To initiate flowering stage, light cycle must be adjusted to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

This mimics natural light changes that occur during transition from summer to fall, encouraging plant to produce flowers.

Effects Of Lights On Plant Development

Light plays pivotal role in crucial physiological processes such as photosynthesis, photomorphogenesis, and photoperiodism.

Each of these processes significantly impacts the health, grow, and yield of your cannabis plants.

Effects Of Lights On Plant Development

Photosynthesis is a process by which plants convert light energy into chemical energy, which is then used to fuel their grow.

Quality, intensity, and duration of light exposure play significant role in influencing the rate of photosynthesis.

Photomorphogenesis refers to regulation of plant grow and development in response to light signals.

Light quality, particularly red-to-far-red ratio, can influence plant morphology, such as stem elongation, leaf expansion, and branching patterns.

Photoperiodism is response of plants to changes in day length, which influences flowering and other developmental processes.

Photo-period seeds rely on specific day length to initiate flowering, while auto seeds are less sensitive to these changes.

Importance Of Light Cycle For Optimal Development

The light cycle is a crucial element in the grow of both auto and photoperiod cannabis plants.

By understanding each cultivar’s unique needs and providing appropriate lighting conditions, you can not only ensure healthy grow but also boost yields and enhance plant quality.

Importance Of Light Cycle For Optimal Development

With the rise of LED growing technology, both auto and photo-period cultivators have embraced its benefits as an efficient, customizable, and versatile lighting solution. 

LED bulbs can be tailored to emit specific light spectrums, enabling growers to optimize light conditions for each stage of grow. 

In vegetative stage, blue spectrum is favored, while red spectrum is preferred in the flowering stage. 

Further, LED lights produce less heat than traditional lighting options, reducing risk of heat stress and providing greater control over growing environment.

Cannabis Genetics

It’s time to dig deep into the world of cannabis genetic and discover the crucial role it plays in determining grow patterns, cannabinoid and terpene profiles, and potency of final product.

Understanding auto and photo-period seeds is key to making informed choice that will bring you success in your cultivation endeavors.

Explanation Of The Genetics Behind Autoflowering And Photoperiod Strains

The primary difference in weed genetic between auto and photo-period seeds lies in their ancestry.

Photoperiod cannabis strains are primarily derived from Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica species, which are responsive to changes in light cycles, triggering their flowering stage.

Explanation Of The Genetics Behind Autoflowering And Photoperiod Strains

On the other hand, autoflowering plants possess Cannabis ruderalis genes in their genetic makeup, making them immune to alterations in light cycles and enabling them to flower automatically based on their age.

Cannabis ruderalis, native to regions with shorter growing seasons and limited sunlight, has evolved to flower without relying on light cues.

By crossbreeding Cannabis ruderalis with other cannabis species, automatic flowering strains known as autoflowers have been created.

These strains combine the rapid grow and automatic flowering of ruderalis with the desirable trait of other cannabis species.

Hybridization and Breeding Techniques of Cannabis Plants

Hybridization and selective breeding techniques have played a crucial role in development of both autos and photoperiod cannabis strains. 

By combining genetic traits of various cannabis species, breeders are able to create strains with desired attributes, such as increased potency, yield, disease resistance, and improved flavors or aromas.

Hybridization and Breeding Techniques of Cannabis Plants

This process has led to an extensive range of cannabis strains available to growers, each with unique characteristics tailored to different preferences and cultivation requirements.

Modern auto strains have come a long way from their ruderalis ancestors, with breeders continually refining and improving their weed genetic.

As a result, today’s auto strains exhibit enhanced potency, better yields, and wider range of cannabinoid and terpene profiles, making them increasingly popular among growers.

Differences In Cannabinoid And Terpene Profiles

The cannabis world is full of diversity, ranging from genetic to weed cultivation techniques.

Photoperiod strains, with their longer history of selective breeding, often exhibit more extensive range of cannabinoid and terpene profiles vs their autoflowering counterparts.

Differences In Cannabinoid And Terpene Profiles

However, gap between the two is closing as autoflowering strains continue to evolve through advanced breeding techniques.

While photoperiod strains are known to exhibit higher THC levels, autoflowering strains have made significant strides in recent years, with some even rivaling photoperiod strains in terms of potency.

Furthermore, autoflowering strains tend to have a more balanced cannabinoid profile, often with higher CBD content, making them appealing to users seeking medicinal benefits or a more balanced experience.

In terms of terpenes, both types of cannabis plants can produce diverse and complex aromatic profiles, influenced by their specific genetic and environmental factors during cultivation.

Yield And Harvest

As a seasoned cannabis cultivator, choosing between auto and photo-period can be a challenging decision, especially when it comes to yield and harvest.

Each type of plant offers unique advantages and disadvantages in terms of yield quality, quantity, and overall harvest process.

Yield And Harvest

It’s time to delve deep into the world of photoperiod cannabis vs autoflowering and discover which type is best for you!

Differences In Cannabis Plants Yield Quality And Harvest

When comparing yield quality of autoflowering and photoperiod cannabis plants, a picture emerges that’s both nuanced and fascinating.

Autoflowers may produce smaller bud with less dense structure than their photoperiod counterparts, but advancements in weed genetic have led to substantial growth in quality, with many strains now producing bud with comparable potency and aroma.

Differences In Cannabis Plants Yield Quality And Harvest

In contrast, photoperiod plant are known for their larger, denser bud with complex terpene profiles that can result in superior taste and overall experience.

Additionally, photoperiod plant typically offer higher yields per plant, making them a popular choice among commercial weed growers and home cultivators seeking bountiful harvests.

Factors That Influence Yield, Including Plant Size And Buds Production

Numerous variables can impact overall yield of your cannabis crop, ranging from plant size, genetic, environmental conditions, and cultivation techniques.

For example, auto, with their ruderalis genetic, tend to be smaller in size, resulting in a more modest yield per plant.

Factors That Influence Yield, Including Plant Size And Buds Production

However, the quick life cycle of autoflowers allows for multiple harvests in a single growing season, which can compensate for reduced yield per plant.

Photoperiod plant, on the other hand, can grow to larger size and produce more bud, leading to higher yield.

But potential for bountiful harvest often depends on factors such as grow space, light intensity, and cultivator’s expertise in managing plants’ growth during vegetative and flowering stages.

Timing Of Harvest And Drying Methods

Successful harvests are measured in potency and flavor.

Auto plants, with predetermined flowering times, make it easier to predict when they’ll be ready for harvest.

But photo-period plant require more attention in determining optimal harvest window.

Timing Of Harvest And Drying Methods

Flowering stage is initiated by changing light cycle, and time until harvest can vary widely based on strain and growing conditions.

Trichome color and appearance must be closely monitored for best harvest time.

Once harvested, weed bud must be dried properly to preserve potency and flavor.

Both auto and photo-period plant require similar drying techniques, including hanging bud in dark, well-ventilated space with consistent humidity and temperature levels for about 7-14 days.

Cultivation Difficulty

It’s time to uncover the intricacies of growing challenges associated with auto and photoperiod strains.

Each type possesses its own set of unique demands, which can significantly impact outcome of your cultivation journey.

It’s crucial to understand the differences in difficulty, to ensure you’re equipped to handle whatever comes your way.

Differences In Cultivation Difficulty

When it comes to cultivation, autoflowering plants are often perceived as being easier to maintain, particularly for novice growers.

Their hardiness and resilience make them more forgiving of environmental fluctuations and minor errors.

Differences In Cultivation Difficulty

In addition, autoflowers have shorter growth cycle, reducing the risk of encountering issues during the growth process.

However, their rapid growth can also be disadvantageous, as it offers lesser time to correct potential problems.

On contrary, photo-period seeds require more attention and care, particularly when it comes to maintaining proper light schedule.

They demand greater understanding of cannabis cultivation techniques and are more susceptible to stress if not grown under optimal conditions.

However, they also offer cultivators more opportunities to fine-tune their techniques and maximize yield and potency through careful manipulation of plant’s growth.

Importance Of Proper Care And Environment

Both auto and photo-period seeds can thrive under the right conditions, highlighting importance of proper care and environment.

This means providing adequate lighting, consistent temperature and humidity levels, and sufficient nutrients.

Importance Of Proper Care And Environment

Autoflowering plants are more adaptable to fluctuating conditions, but to achieve optimal results, it’s crucial to create stable growing environment.

Photo-period seeds are more demanding in terms of care, and environmental factors play critical role in their growth and development.

They require strict adherence to their light cycle and can be sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity.

When cultivating photo-period plant, consistency is key to ensuring a bountiful harvest.

Techniques For Successful Development And Cultivation

To cultivate auto and photo-period seeds with maximum yields, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with various cultivation techniques.

For autoflowers, low-stress training (LST) is a popular method that involves gently bending and tying the branches to promote horizontal growth and increase light exposure.

Techniques For Successful Development And Cultivation

This technique can enhance yields without causing undue stress to the plant.

For photo-period plant, a variety of techniques can be employed to maximize yield and potency, such as topping, supercropping, and scrogging.

These methods involve pruning and manipulating the plant’s structure to promote a more even canopy, increase light penetration, and encourage robust bud development.

It’s crucial to research and master these techniques to optimize the performance of your photo-period seeds and achieve desired results.

Choosing The Right Cannabis Plant

When embarking on a journey of cannabis cultivation, it’s crucial to choose the right type of seeds to ensure success.

Choosing between auto and photo-period seeds can be a challenging task, with many factors to consider before settling on the best choice for you.

Choosing The Right Cannabis Plant

Below, we’ll delve into some of the most important considerations for each seeds type, helping you make an informed decision on which one is right for you.

Factors To Consider When Choosing

Factors To Consider When Choosing

Some considerations for choosing between auto and photoperiod plants are included in this guide:

  • Time Constraints: Auto have a shorter life cycle compared to photoperiod plants, making them ideal for growers seeking a faster harvest.
  • Space Availability: Auto typically remain smaller in size than their photoperiod counterparts.
  • Growing Experience: If you’re a beginner, auto offer a more forgiving learning curve due to their shorter life cycle and lower maintenance requirements.
  • Climate: Auto are generally more adaptable to a variety of climates, while photo-period seeds require more specific conditions to thrive.
  • Desired Potency: Photo-period seeds generally have a higher THC content than autoflowering seeds variety.

Personal Preferences And Experiences

The choice about cultivating auto vs photo-period seeds is dependent on your personal goals and circumstances.

If you’re focused on short growth cycle and multiple harvests each year, then autoflowering plants are the way to go.

But, if you’re after maximum yield and potency, then photo-period seeds might be preferable.

For those just starting their cultivation journey, autoflowering plants may seem more accessible, but experienced growers can take advantage of the control and flexibility offered by photoperiod plants by starting in march.

Personal experiences also play a role in determining preferences, with some preferring to continue cultivating a specific strain or seeds type and others enjoying the thrill of experimenting with new varieties and techniques.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh your unique needs, preferences, and experiences when choosing between auto and photo-period seeds pack.

Researching And Selecting The Right Cannabis For Your Needs

To choose between auto and photo-period seeds culture, consider your growing environment, available seeds resources, skill level, desired effects, and cannabinoid profile.

Evaluate your grow space, access to sunlight, temperature control, and humidity levels to determine the best products for your specific conditions.

Researching And Selecting The Right Cannabis For Your Needs

Research strains and consider their THC, CBD, and terpene profiles to align with your preferences and intended use.

Seek advice from experienced business growers for valuable insights.


Here are some frequently asked questions and answers you can view.

Which type of cannabis strain is easier to grow?

Autoflower strains are generally considered easier to grow because they don’t require the same level of attention and control over lighting as photoperiod strains.

Are autoflower strains less potent than photoperiod strains?

Not necessarily. While some autoflower strains may have lower levels of THC than some photoperiod strains, there are many higher-potency autoflower strains available.

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