First and foremost, it’s important to know which type of cannabis strain you’re interested in growing. This means determining whether you want to grow indicas for pain relief and sleep disorders (which grow smaller and quicker making them ideal for indoor grows), sativas for anxiety issues and mental stimulation (which grow taller over a longer period suggesting they be grown outdoors), or hybrid strains which reside somewhere in the middle. Carefully consider your therapeutic goals and grow environment when making this decision.
On the surface, there is no distinguishable difference between traditional, feminized and auto-flowering seeds, but deep within them buried in their genetics are some major differences that can affect your grow – and your budget – in a few important ways.
What’s the Difference between Traditional, Feminized and Auto-flowering Seeds?
Feminized seeds are seeds that have been specially designed to produce female plants. Properly produced feminized seeds should net female plants roughly 95 percent of the time. They also tend to grow more quickly and are less finicky about their grow environments which significantly reduces the likelihood of seedy weed or hermaphroditic plants.
Many different methods have been used to produce female seeds in the past, many of which involve the stressing of female plants to encourage pollen production. Though previous methods have increased the likelihood of hermaphroditic qualities being passed down through generations, new methods involving different types of silver have been effective at eliminating such outcome.
Auto-flowering seeds are a product of genetic manipulation, as well, but their goal is different: by cross-breeding various cannabis strains with cannabis ruderalis strains, breeders have been able to create cannabis strains that automatically flower after only three weeks. Of course, because of their ruderalis heritage, these plants grow much smaller than other strains (they usually top out at less than two feet, in fact) and fare well in outdoor environments where a variable light cycle will not affect them.
In 1982, Indian breeders made a major advance in cannabis botany with the development of the feminized seed. The key difference between feminized marijuana seeds and regular marijuana seeds is that feminized seeds have been engineered to produce exclusively female plants, whereas with regular seeds you can’t really predict if the mature plant will be male or female. This matters for cultivation since smokable flowers are produced only by female plants. Further, a male plant can potentially ruin a harvest if it pollinates nearby female plants, which produces flowers full of seeds.
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What's the difference between feminized, regular, and autoflower Seeds?
The body of a marijuana seed is spotted or striped, most commonly with light brown specks, but some varieties of cannabis can have red or yellow markings. Plant embryos are contained within seeds and house all of the cells that will eventually differentiate into leaves, roots, and stems. Embryos, found within the reproductive organs, are protected by an outer envelope called the pericarp. Crucial components of the plant embryo are the cotyledons, the first leaves to appear from the seed, and the radicle, which develops into the primary root. Once the seed germinates and begins its growth into a mature plant, special structures called root caps protect the growing tips of the plant.
Today’s common-market cannabis does not contain seeds; the cultivation practices that have made this widespread are rooted in fundamental biological concepts. Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning it has separate male and female organisms, just like humans. If a female plant matures in the presence of a male plant, pollen from the male will fertilize the female, and its bracts will contain seeds at the end of the flowering cycle. Seedless cannabis is commonplace even in the product originating from mass-produced outdoor cultivation, but not too long ago, this was not the case.
Generally speaking, cannabis is a hardy plant that will grow, or even thrive, in a diversity of environments. However, to assure germination, several steps can be taken. One “quick and dirty” method calls for a moist paper towel inserted into a plastic bag. Once the first root appears, the seedling must be carefully transferred to some soil before the root takes hold to the paper towel. More professionally, marijuana seeds can be germinated in a peat pellet. Plant the seed only just below the surface. Once the seedling has taken hold in the pellet, directly transfer it to a pot; the roots will grow right through the soft fabric that encases the peat, at which point the pellet can be directly placed into soil. Whichever method is used, keep the temperature between 70 -90 degrees Fahrenheit (21-32 degrees Celsius), ideally at 78 degrees Fahrenheit (about 26 degrees Celsius), making sure to keep seedlings covered to maintain humidity. Seedlings and young cuttings require photosynthetically active radiation that is more heavily weighted in the blue portion spectrum; a common fluorescent desk lamp will suffice until they are about 5 inches, or about 13 centimeters, tall.