Photoperiod vs. Autoflowers - Which One's Better?

Photoperiod vs. Autoflowers - Which One's Better?

Created: 13.12.2018

The cannabis industry is evolving more than anyone could have imagined. With new strains, concentrates and oils making it into the market each day, you’re spoiled for choices. But, one question that constantly pops up in every grower’s mind is: Photoperiod or autoflowers? Which one should you choose?

The photoperiod vs. autoflowers debate isn’t new. Growers have taken their sides and arguments are rampant everywhere. While you could grow both types, the goal is to choose something more effective. And this article will help you do just that.

What are photoperiod cannabis plants?

The term “photoperiod” comes up in any site selling cannabis seeds. Simply put, photoperiodism is the measurement of light the plant is exposed to. When talking about a photoperiod plant, the light and dark cycles are taken into account.

So, when you see a number such as 24/0, for instance, it typically means that the plant gets 24 hours of light and 0 hours of darkness. In other words, it’s as simple as the sun rising and setting. Most photoperiod cannabis strains will flower when they receive at least 12 hours of darkness as it happens in the wild.

Growers let the plants grow for a certain duration in the vegetative stage. Usually, the plants run on an 18/6 cycle with 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness. However, the plant will continue to grow and refuse to flower until the season or light cycle changes.

And this is why growers alter the light cycles and switch to 12/12 with 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. The plants start flowering only when they receive a signal indicating that the season is changing.

What are autoflowering cannabis plants?

fastbuds g14 by fingers

Unlike photoperiod plants, autoflowers don’t depend on seasonal changes to begin flowering. After the plant develops a few branches, it begins to flower “automatically”, which is why they are named autoflowers.

Suffice it to say that autoflowers will flower no matter what conditions you provide. Getting only 12 hours of sunlight? No problem – autos will still flower. Wanna complete the entire grow with a 12/12 cycle from start to finish? Sure! Autos will perform the same.

Although autoflowers tend to grow fine with less light, they use light to produce food. Therefore, autos grown in an 18/6 cycle generate more yields than those grown with minimal light.

What are the differences between photoperiod and autoflowering cannabis strains?

The primary difference between photoperiod and autoflowering plants is the exposure to light where autos flower automatically. We already got that out of the way. But, there are other differences and we will discuss them below.

  • Autoflowers are fast

Autoflowers are regarded for their speed. Most autoflowers take only 2 months from seed to harvest whereas photoperiod strains need at least 4 months to complete their cycle. This is one of the reasons beginners choose autoflowers.

For example, if you grow a photoperiod strain, it needs at least 8 weeks in the vegetative period to grow to a certain extent. Once the grower is satisfied with the growth of the plant, he can shift the plant from the vegetative to the flowering phase by altering the light cycle.

Autoflowers, on the other hand, start flowering as soon as they turn 4-5 weeks old. They are so fast that the grower needs to keep up with it; however, after a few harvests, it becomes incredibly easy because it’s as simple as sowing the seeds and forgetting about it.

So, given a choice between smoking the buds in 3 and 5 months (including curing period) which one would you choose? Autoflowers take 3 months and photoperiod plants need 5 months, and if you need something fast, autoflowers strains are definitely ideal for you.

  • Size

Photoperiod plants take a long time to flower. They take more time to grow, and naturally, they grow bigger. On an average, they grow up to 5-6 feet indoors. Outdoors, they grow as big as 9-10 feet. This is one reason why they need to be trained mandatorily.

For instance, if your Grow Room lacks vertical height, growing photoperiod plants is not an option unless you train them using several training techniques. Even if your Grow Room is about 8 feet in height, lights and other equipment will reduce the height, thereby forcing you to choose smaller plants.

Autoflowers are genetically smaller. With such rapid flowering, an autoflower can grow up to 2-3 feet indoors while growing up to 5 feet outdoors. For growers with small grow rooms, autoflowers can be a blessing in disguise. Since the plants are smaller, they are perfect for stealth grows as well. Training techniques such as LST and topping can be used to get better yields.

  • Maintenance

fastbuds cannabis plant

Photoperiod plants need to be maintained right from altering the light cycle to training the size to prevent uncontrolled growth. It can be maddening if you don’t install a timer. Also, photoperiod plants cannot handle light leaks at all.

This is why some growers hesitate to make their own Grow Rooms because it’s a little difficult to build a grow room with absolutely no light leaks at all. But, what happens if there’s a light leak, you ask? Well, for one, a light leak can stress the plant and force it to turn into a hermaphrodite full of seeds. Since you want sensimilla buds with no seeds, a light leak is out of the question. As you can understand, you need to be precise with photoperiods and there’s no margin of error especially when it comes to the lighting.

Also, the plant reduces yields considerably if it’s stressed, so it forces the grower to constantly worry about light leaks and other factors that stress the plant.

Coming to autoflowers, they are super hardy. Although every single day matters when they grow, they don’t need to be maintained much. Yes, it’s true that it’s easy to stunt an autoflower if something goes wrong early in the vegetative stage because they have a limited number of days, but they don’t mind light leaks at all.

In fact, autoflowers can be set with one light cycle – preferably 18/6 hours – and they will simply do their thing even if you leave them alone.

  • Potency

fastbuds potent cannabis

There was a big difference in photoperiod and autoflowers when the first autoflower called Lowryder was released. Photoperiod cannabis strains boasted of at least 15 percent THC back then and autoflowers were no match for them.

However, things have changed, and how! The autoflowers released in the recent years are every bit as potent as photoperiods. Take Gorilla Glue Auto, for example. With over 24 percent THC, they are certainly as good as photoperiod plants. Some autoflowers exceed photoperiod strains in potency now! Yeah, that’s how far autoflowers have progressed!

Gorilla Glue Auto
4 of 5
Pine
Taste:
Pine
From €9
buy now
Room: Indoor | Outdoor
Gender: Feminized
Genes: Sativa/Indica
Genetics: Gorilla Glue autoflowering
Flowering: 8-9 weeks
Harvest: XL
Height US: up to 40 inches
Height EU: 60-100cm
THC: Very High
CBD: Low
Autoflowering: Yes

  • Yield

Photoperiod plants are bigger – we have already established that. Obviously, the yields are more compared to autoflowers. However, don’t write off autos just yet because you can grow two autoflowering strains in the time required to grow one photoperiod plant.

To understand this in detail, let’s go a little deeper. Most photoperiod plants produce an average of 600-700 grams per meter square whereas autoflowers generate about 450-550 grams per meter square. The yields increase if you grow them outdoors, regardless of whether they are photos or autos.

Some photoperiod plants produce at least 400 grams per plant while autos yield up to 250-300 grams per plant. As you can see, photoperiod plants produce a bigger yield. However, if you consider the time required to harvest a photoperiod plant and compare the two, the yields are pretty much the same.

Let’s say you grow photoperiod plants and yield 700 grams per meter square in 4 months. Within the same time duration, you can grow two batches of autoflowers yielding 550 grams per meter square per harvest. So, if you consider the time, the yields of the autos are higher than the photoperiod plants!

Also, the size of the autos allows you to stuff more plants in smaller grow rooms, thereby producing more yields in the process.

  • Cloning

Cloning is the process of creating another cannabis plant using one cannabis plant as the mother. Photoperiods have an advantage over autoflowers where they can be cloned several times. Therefore, a single seed can produce as many plants as you want.

Autoflowers can be cloned too, but it’s a waste of time and effort since the clone is of the same age as the mother. So, even if you clone an autoflower, the resulting plant will begin flowering immediately and you’ll be left with a tiny plant yielding almost nothing.

Here’s a video explaining how to clone autoflowers:

  • Perpetual harvests

Autoflowers have an advantage over photoperiods where they can be harvested perpetually, as long as you want to. Sure, you can try the same with photoperiods but you will need two separate rooms for vegetative and flowering phases because the light cycles need to be matched appropriately.

The same applies to cloning too. Even if you clone a mother plant, you’ll need to wait until the clones grow well to put them in the flowering stage. Why? Because you can’t push the clones into flowering stage immediately, and both the mother and clone will need to wait in the vegetative phase in an 18/6 cycle. This is why growers separate the clones and use different rooms for flowering and vegetative stages.

On the other hand, autos don’t need separate rooms since they don’t need specific light cycles. You can sow seeds and tend to the seedlings just as one batch is about to be harvested, thereby saving you loads of time.

Comparing both photoperiod and autoflowers, it’s easy to see that autoflowers match photoperiod plants in every aspect. Whether it’s potency or yield or speed, autoflowers have an edge over its counterparts. Having said that, it’s a matter of personal choice, but if you love smoking buds quickly, autoflowers beat photoperiods by a long stretch.