Auto Flowering Strains
In the 1970s, various cannabis cultivators and breeders began to selectively breed their marijuana plants for early flowering and what is called auto flowering. Early flowering, as its name suggests, entails plants that naturally begin to bud and mature more quickly than average. Auto flowering strains are sometimes confused with early flowering strains because they tend to flower earlier as well, but the distinction is that auto flowering strains flower based on age.
All other strains of cannabis, whether indica or sativa, will generally flower based on the length of their photoperiod, i.e. the amount of light they receive each day. With most strains, you control the flowering time based on the amount of light you give your plants, so you can keep them in the vegetative state for an extended period of time.
This is a huge advantage for anyone interested in cloning, since you can keep a mother plant alive for several years with good care. Most auto flowering strains have resulted from selective crossbreeding between ruderalis and cannabis, though some breeders have crossed ruderalis with sativa-indica hybrids.
The genetic mechanism behind this auto flowering process is not very well understood, but the trait is common to ruderalis breeds which hail from northern climates stretching into Russia.
Since the plants have to endure harsher conditions, shorter growing seasons and less light in more northern climes (like the Himalayas and the Caucus mountains) they evolved to grow very short, to mature quickly and to start flowering based on age rather than photoperiod. Some of the fastest auto flowering strains can go from seed to harvest in 70 – 80 days.
A few of the best auto flowering strains include:
- Fast Haze is one of the rarer auto flowering strains, bring a strong sativa hybrid that has been stabilized to produce a reliable auto flowering crop. With a grow time from seed to harvest of 75 – 80 days, this strain produces a moderate strength bud with good flavor and pleasant smoke well suited to daytime use.
- Vertigo is an auto flowering strain available from Paradise Seeds with an incredible turnaround time; you can potentially harvest in 60 days from seed to harvest. It’s known for producing tight, resinous buds with exotic fruity flavors.
- Critical Jack is a very popular auto flowering strain. Stabilized from multiple generations of crossbreeding between a ruderalis and indica/sativa hybrids, Critical Jack can reach harvest in as little as 70 days from seed to maturity. These plants are known for having a strong scent, and they boast the genetics of the famed Jack Herer strain.
- Rapid Afghan is a great auto flowering strain for the afghan aficionado. Boasting a classic afghan bouquet, this auto flowering strain is well-suited to indoor and outdoor growth, and it is a hardy, stout plant with great resilience. With decent growing conditions and a bit of TLC, you can expect dense, resin-drenched colas from this strain.
Although auto flowering strains generally start flowering based solely on age, you may need to initiate some reduction in the light cycle. Usually, though, an auto flowering strain will start flowering as long as it receives 4 – 6 hours or more of darkness each night, so if you have a light cycle of 16 – 18 hours daylight, you won’t need to change much.