How long do Autoflowers take from seed to harvest?

How long do Autoflowers take from seed to harvest?

Created: 11.12.2019

Growing cannabis is like developing a skill over time. It takes time, patience, and you must be prepared for failure along the way. However, despite your urge to maintain a cannabis garden, a lot of factors can go against you. When you realize that it takes almost 4-5 months to harvest the buds (not to mention the extra time for curing) you may change your mind and settle for buds available in the dispensary. But, what if I told you that autoflowers are the solution to your problems? It doesn’t take a lot of effort to grow them, and you save the most important resource – time.

Read on to know how long it takes for autoflowers from seed to harvest. Just in case you’re clueless about autoflowers, let’s start with:

What are autoflowering cannabis plants?

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Autoflowering cannabis seeds grow just like regular cannabis plants. However, there are a few differences. The biggest difference is that while traditional cannabis plants grow and flower according to the seasons, autoflowers don’t follow seasons. In simple words, they don’t flower according to the light they receive.

Another major difference is the time required to grow autos vs traditional cannabis plants. By traditional cannabis plants, we are referring to photoperiod plants. Let’s imagine you plant a regular cannabis seed today. You wait for it to complete its vegetative stage while providing anywhere from 16-18 hours of light. If they are growing outside, it’s out of your control and you can only plant them based on the seasons.

Anyway, coming back to the vegetative stage, the plant will grow indefinitely in the vegetative or growth stage until it receives almost 16-18 hours of light. Once the number of hours reduce and it begins to receive only 12-14 hours, the flowering stage is triggered.

With autoflowers, though, it’s different. They don’t follow seasons, and you can expect to harvest yields faster.

How long does it take for autoflowers from seed to harvest?

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So, coming back to the main question… How long does it takes for autos? Well, it depends. There’s no exact answer, but there’s an average time that’s good enough to consider. Autos – like regular plants – also spend some time growing in the vegetative stage. With regular plants, you can force them to flower by changing the light schedule. For instance, if you’re providing an 18/6 light/dark cycle now, you can make the plants flower by switching to a 12/12 cycle.

With autos, however, you can’t do that. Why? Well, it’s because autos follow a fixed timing. As soon as the plant grows for a while, the plant switches to the flowering phase on its own without your interference. And, this is also why most growers prefer autos. There’s zero maintenance and you’ll never have to worry about light leaks.

How long do autos take to complete the vegetative cycle? There’s no exact answer, but most autos complete their growing cycles in just a matter of 3-4 weeks.

Here's a quick video on how the plants look at the very beginning:

Here’s how it works:

Week 1 – Considering that you’ve germinated the seeds successfully, you can plant the seeds in their respective containers. Autos can be transplanted, yes, but leave that to the experts. They will do far better if you do NOT transplant them and instead plant them directly in the containers you’ve chosen. There isn’t a lot of action in the first week, but it will start pretty soon. Additionally, remember not to feed any nutrients during the first week. Sure, you want your plants to grow fast and also want to help them, but feeding nutrients in the very first week will actually burn your plants faster than you can imagine!

Week 2 – The plants will show some growth at this point. Use some nutrients, but it will be better if you use it at quarter strength. You can even use a little more but try not to burn the babies.

Week 3 – The plant starts growing vigorously at this juncture. It’s probably because the roots touch the bottom of the container. Adjust the lights accordingly so you don’t burn the plants. You can use full-strength nutrients at this point.

Week 4 – The plant is a month old now. It will grow faster than you can control it. Thus, it makes sense to train them using several techniques. The best technique by far is Low Stress Training (LST) but you can also top the tips to produce several colas. Autoflowers respond very well to both FIMing and Topping so you can go crazy with that!

Week 5 – Some plants will start showing pistils at this point. It happens any time from week 4 to 5. Some may not, but they are super close. Switch to flowering nutrients if the plants are responding positively after receiving nutrients all this while.

Week 6 – The plants are in a proper flowering phase now. Add nutrients that include a lot more potassium and phosphorous compared to nitrogen. They will also start stretching a lot. Adjust the lights so that the stretching doesn’t go out of control.

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Week 7 – You’ll see proper buds now. Pistils keep shooting everywhere and adding nutrients will increase the rate of growth. Stretching will also stop now since the plant focuses all its energy on the flowers.

Week 8 – Continue as usual. The buds will become fatter and denser during week 8. Don’t try to use any training techniques at this point since the plant has already come too far. If the plant has already developed too many amber pistils, you can start flushing right away. Keep an eye on the color of the pistils at all times.

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Week 9 – Stop feeding nutrients at this point. You can even start flushing to remove extra chemicals. There’s no need to flush if you’re growing organically though. The buds will display a light mix of amber and white pistils. Some plants may be slow and you may not see amber pistils at all. If that’s the case, continue using nutrients until the buds start changing colors.

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Week 10 – The pistils change colors from amber to red. You’ll also notice the fan leaves turning yellow. You can flush again this week. Flush as much as you can to remove all the chemicals. Flushing is also done to make the buds taste better when you smoke them, so don’t skip this part.

Week 11 – Most growers harvest their autoflowers during week 11. You’ll notice that the buds are a lot more red and amber in color compared to white pistils. Wait until least 60 percent of the pistils are amber. If you see too many white pistils, you need to wait a week more.

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As you can see, it takes about 10-11 weeks for an autoflower to complete its entire life cycle. Some plants may take a week more or you might even harvest them a little earlier, but it all depends on the type of container, nutrients, light schedule and type of lighting you’ve used. Even commercial growers can harvest their amazing plants just after week 11. However, some growers prefer to harvest only during week 12-13 so that most of the pistils turn amber. Buds that are amber produce a body-high similar to an indica, so you can keep this in mind before you cut down the buds.

So, as you can see, it takes about 11 weeks for an autoflower from seed to harvest! You may require a week more or less, but this is an average estimate.