Feminized Seeds vs Regular vs Autoflower:
What is the difference?
After offering to deal with MSB’s support desk for a weekend while the breeders drowned their sorrows over the canceled Spannabis convention, I discovered two things:
- I have stellar customer service rep skills
- There is still a lot of confusion and misconception regarding the difference between regular, feminized and autoflowering seeds.
Such a shame since knowledge about specific growing characteristics offers a huge advantage. So, I have taken it upon me to enlighten you on this important piece of information!
Don’t have time to read the guide right now?
No worries. Let me send you a copy so you can read it when it’s convenient for you. Just let me know where to send it (Takes only 5 seconds).
- What are autoflowering seeds?
- So, what’s the difference between feminized seeds vs regular vs autoflowering?
- Covering the basics
- What are feminized seeds?
- What are regular seeds?
- What are autoflowering feminized seeds?
- Feminized seeds vs regular & autoflowering, are you ready to choose your strain?
Covering the basics
Before we get into the distinction between feminized seeds vs regular and autoflowering, we need to understand the fundamental differences between the sexes. Now since marijuana seeds are an 18+ product I am going to make a bold assumption that you are all well aware of the so-called ” birds and the bees” but just humor me on this one 😉
Cannabis plants can be either male, female, or hermaphroditic.
Male plants, during the flowering stage, develop pollen sacks or, more commonly called ” balls”.
Female plants develop pre-flowers or pistils, which catch the pollen to create seeds. From there on it’s all relatively straight forward. The male pollen pollinates the female flower, which produces seeds.
Hermaphroditic plants, a nightmare for growers, contain both pollen sacks and pistils. When a marijuana plant experiences stress (think the severe temperature fluctuations or sudden changes in lighting) their survival instinct kicks in. Under such conditions, the plant sees no possibility of fertilization anytime soon after which it resorts to a phenomenon called dichogamy.
Dichogamy, as they call sequential hermaphroditism in botany, means that the female plant starts to produce pollen sacks for self-pollination to ensure the survival of its genes. There have been occasions of males developing pistols, but this is very rare.
The following image shows the difference between the sexes very clearly.
What are feminized seeds?
Feminized seeds have come a long way since the early stages of feminizing. What it comes down to is that feminized seeds do not contain any male chromosomes. This ensures that every plant that comes from a feminized seed will produce female flowers.
You get feminized cannabis seeds when the pollen you use to fertilize a female plant comes from a female plant. So, you cross the genes of two female plants, ensuring that the offspring will only be female. To get this feminine pollen, you will need to get your feminized cannabis plant to produce male flowers. There are two methods for this:
- Treating the female cannabis plant with colloidal silver (also called silver water)
- By intentionally causing the plant stress
When using colloidal silver, the likelihood of the seeds becoming hermaphroditic is minimal. This is because the female that produced the pollen barely has any genetic predispositions to become a hermaphrodite.
By providing the female plants with trace amounts of colloidal silver, the silver ion inhibits the ethylene production needed by the plant to produce female flowers. This forces the female plant to produce male pollen sacs. This pollen subsequentially fertilizes the female plants that will, in turn, produce feminized seeds.
When should you choose feminized seeds?
Unless a grower is breeding marijuana strains, the grower has no need for male plants. They just take up space and if their presence is undetected, they may pollinate female flowers, creating seeded buds.
Most growers prefer using feminized seeds because they are 100% female.
Also, there’s no hassle of meticulously verifying the sex of the plant during the flowering period. You plant the seeds, you nurture the plant, you receive nice and juicy buds.
So, if you are looking for guaranteed females and have no intention to create new seeds or clones, feminized seeds are for you. No more sexing and therewith making better use of your growing space without the agony of hoping and praying for females, and simply germinating only the number of seeds you need. Easy as pie, right?
- Easier preparation, germinate the exact number of seeds you need
- Saves time, resources and work
- No need for sexing
- Subsequent generations will possibly have latent intersex tendencies (turn into hermaphrodites)
What are regular seeds?
Unlike popular misconception, there is no such thing as male marijuana seeds. While we do create feminized seeds, there appears to be very little interest in “masculinized” seeds. Seeds with a 50/50 chance of turning either male or female are called regular seeds.
When a male cannabis plant fertilizes a female cannabis plant, the calyxes of the females will produce regular seeds. Exactly like they do in nature without human intervention.
The great thing about regular seeds is that you occasionally need a male to pollinate your female plants and you can also collect the seeds for future use.
On the downside, it is necessary to germinate twice as many plants, so that after removing the males, there are enough females left to properly fill out your growing space and therewith guarantee the desired yield.
When should you choose regular seeds?
Many professional growers prefer to grow regular seeds for several reasons. First, females deriving from regular seeds are better qualified to function as mother plants for cloning. Some consider the quality of the buds to be better from regular seeds, although this is widely debated.
Secondly, when growers wish to create strong crosses or amazing hybrids, they can prefer to use an actual male to pollinate a female, rather than using “feminized” pollen for seed production.
Third, if you are considering taking your cultivation hobby to the next level and breed your own seeds, you will need males to get those from.
- You can create new seeds
- Males to pollinate your female plants
- They are the originals, for many their genetics are purer
- Some growers do not desire males
What are autoflowering seeds?
Autoflowering seeds or ruderalis, originate from the wilderness of the colder regions of the world, usually above 50 degrees north of the equator (in countries such as Russia and China).
The main feature of the Ruderalis family is its’ self-flowering ability. This means that they do not rely on photosynthesis for their development.
Almost all flowering plants receive a signal to reproduce once seasonal changes in its surroundings occur by the number of hours of daylight.
The ability to start flowering based on changes within the life cycle of the plant rather than the environment is how it earned the name autoflowering.
Autoflowering varieties generally remain quite small and grow rapidly. They produce very small leaves and only a few side branches.
They go through a life cycle, from the seed to the production of new seed, in just 10 weeks (although 12 to 14 weeks is more common).
Why should you choose autoflowering seeds?
There are many advantages to growing autoflowering plants. One of them is that they are incredibly low maintenance. This feature makes them very attractive for novice growers since the growers do not have to adjust the light cycle to induce the flowering phase.
Another perk is the rapid flowering cycle that allows the grower to achieve multiple harvests in the span of one season outdoors.
This is especially great if you have limited time or want to enjoy your weed as soon as possible. The plants grow dense and small which means you can still obtain a successful harvest with good quality bud, even when growing in a small tent or cupboard closet.
On the downside, a shorter flowering cycle also means a smaller yield. And they are less suitable for cloning. This because the cutting follows the same genetic timeline as the mother and enters the flowering period, regardless of size and development. With autoflowering strains, this usually results in small and underdeveloped plants that produce a minimum yield.
- Low maintenance
- Multiple harvests per season due to short cycle
- Suitable for limited spaces
- Lower yield
- Not suitable for cloning
What are autoflowering feminized seeds?
Autoflowering feminized seeds are fast-growing guaranteed feminized seeds.
This means you will have all-female plants with the bonus of an autoflowering cycle. Very low maintenance and what I would advise for every novice grower that considers trying their hand at cultivation for the first time.
As previously mentioned, autoflowering plants or Cannabis Ruderalis starts flowering when it reaches a certain stage of maturity, around the time it produces its fifth to the seventh pair of leaves, which usually happens after about seven weeks of growing.
But the main selling of autoflowering feminized seeds is that it takes as little as 12 weeks from germination to the time you can roll your homegrown joint!
So, what’s the difference between feminized seeds vs regular vs autoflowering?
Let’s recap. Regular seeds come from a male and female plant. The pollen from the male fertilizes the female, which in turn produces seeds. We call these seeds regular seeds because they arise the “regular” natural way.
Feminized seeds, come from a female and another female plant. One exposes one of the females to stressful conditions to create pollen, which will fertilize the other female. It is the flowers of the cannabis plant that we use for their cannabinoid content. This makes the female plant desired by most growers. Many growers opt for feminized cannabis seeds to minimize the risk of getting a male plant.
Autoflowering seeds can be found in both regular and feminized and will start to flower without depending on photosynthesis. This results in a rapid flowering cycle. With autoflowering seeds, you will be smoking your homegrown weed in as little as 12 weeks from germination.
Feminized Seeds vs Regular & Autoflowering, are you ready to choose your strain?
Now that we got to the bottom of this once and for all, you have all the knowledge to make a well-informed decision on which type works best for your situation.
I wish you the best of luck with your choice and don’t forget to let me know how this worked out!
Educated by one of the best breeders in the Netherlands, I chose to combine my passion for writing with the fascinating world of cannabis cultivation. What are the best strains for which occasion, what are the effects, and how to use responsibly? Let me take you on a journey.
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.
Table of Contents
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!