The Pros and Cons of Growing Autoflower vs Photoperiod Marijuana

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In our previous post “Differences Between Autoflower and Regular Strain Marijuana Plants” we gave you an idea about the fundamental differences between the two plants. If you’ve already read that post, then you know that one is not necessarily better than the other and an advantage can easily be considered a disadvantage depending on the context. In this post, we’ll focus more on the pros and cons of growing each especially in the context of personal home cultivation. 

Potency

Strain and pedigree are bigger factors than photoperiodism when considering the potency of your marijuana plant. Between autoflowers and photoperiods of the same strain, the latter will be more potent in most cases but not by a significant amount. Take for example these Blueberry and Cheese seeds from from Seedsman:

StrainTHC level
Blueberry Auto Feminised from 00 Seeds18%
Blueberry Feminised from 00 Seeds19%
Blue Cheese Auto Feminised Seeds from Expert Seeds18%
Blue Cheese Feminised Seeds from Expert Seeds20%

As you can see, photoperiods typically bear more potent buds (if it has been bred to have high THC) but the difference is somewhat negligible. Also, what good is choosing the photoperiod variant of a strain for higher THC if it won’t even fit in your basement? This leads us to the next discussion…  

Taller or smaller?

Plant height is one of the biggest considerations when home growing marijuana indoors. To give you an idea on the vertical clearance you need when growing a photoperiod or an autoflower plant, here’s a comparison of a few popular strains from Marijuana Seeds NL:

StrainHeightYield
Gorilla Glue Feminized180 to 220 cm600+ g/m2
Gorilla Glue Auto Feminized60 to 100 cm500g – 600g/m2
Gelato Feminized120 to 180 cm500g – 600g/m2
Gelato Auto Feminized60 to 100 cm400-500gr/m²

The difference is obvious: Autoflowers in general are only around half of their photoperiod counterparts. Photoperiods on the other hand, can grow really tall and in fact, you will see on most seedbank websites that there are certain strains recommended for outdoor growing only. Most of these will grow really tall and wide and since you need to provide distance between your lights and the plant, it’s impossible to grow them properly in an indoor setting.

Quality or quantity?

Let’s be honest, in a blindfold test, nobody would be able to tell the difference between buds from a photoperiod and an autoflower of the same strain. The quality of your buds is determined more by its genetics and how well you take care of your plant. 

However, quantity is somewhat a different matter. Looking at the comparison above, a photoperiod will almost always likely have a bigger yield than an autoflower, but that doesn’t mean you should always choose photoperiods for a bigger harvest. Rather, the size of your harvest will depend on what training method or setup you use and in an indoor home setting, it’s usually either Sea of Green (SoG) or Screen of Green (ScroG). 

As its name suggests, SoG requires you to grow smaller plants but in greater numbers. Meanwhile, ScroG is a way of training the branches of a larger plant so that it can receive light and use up space more efficiently. Here’s a quick lowdown on both:

SoGScroG
ProsConsProsCons
– Faster crop cycles (see comparison chart)
– Greater yields than ScroG for the same grow area
– Not ideal for states with cultivation limits
– Needs lots more cuttings and seeds
– Harder to maintain a uniform canopy when growing different strains together
– Requires fewer plants, fewer clones, fewer seeds
– Bigger harvest from fewer plants
– Makes it possible for you to grow taller strains indoors
– Longer crop cycles
– You may need two separate rooms, one for vegging and one for flowering
– It will be harder to move your plants
– Tying branches takes a bit of work

As you might have guessed, SoG is typically used for autoflowers while ScroG for photoperiods but this is not a strict rule.

Pros and Cons

Now that you have a clear idea of what to expect from a photoperiod and autoflower plant, let’s look at the pros and cons of both when growing them at home indoors. 

PhotoperiodAutoflower
ProsConsProsCons
– Great for making clones and seeds
– Slightly bigger yield per plant
– Potentially bigger yields outdoors
– More adaptive to trainingCan be left to veg indefinitely
– Sensitive to light pollution which can disrupt transition from vegging to blooming
– Needs more attention, slightly harder to grow for beginners
– Shorter plants, need less headroom
– Shorter crop cyclesWon’t revert to the vegging stage if light cycle is changed
– Generally more resilientConsumes less resources per plant
– Practically impossible to clone
– Cost of buying seeds per cycle can add upLess adaptive to training
– Needs more lightLower THC

Conclusion

As you may have noticed, autoflowers are bred to thrive in smaller indoor growing settings while photoperiods do better outdoors or anywhere there’s plenty of space with a natural light cycle. It’s a tough call but for home growers in the US who are limited to a certain number of plants per household, the better choice might be a photoperiod plant. However, for those who are doing guerilla grow setups, it’s definitely autoflowers all the way. 

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