Autoflowering cannabis plants have been a complete revolution for the cannabis growing industry. They’ve simplified what used to be a very complicated growing process, opening the door for many new growers to take up the hobby. As cultivating these strains becomes more popular, the question remains: “How to I get the biggest autoflower yield possible?”. In this article, we will discuss a couple of techniques and strains that will ensure a big yield at harvest time.
What we mean by autoflower yield for cannabis plants
Autoflowering cannabis yields are measured as the weight of the buds produced by a plant after they have been harvested, dried, and cured. When buds are initially harvested, they are “wet”, which means they still have lots of moisture and must be dried and cured before they are weighed. They should also have any excess leaves and stems around the buds trimmed before their yield can be measured.
How to increase yield for autoflowering cannabis plants
Autoflower plants generally have lower yields than traditional strains. However, autoflowers remain very popular because they are both easy to raise and can grow to harvest very quickly. In fact, many breeders grow autoflowering cannabis seeds specifically designed for fast seed to harvest time.
Due to the popularity of autoflowering strains, these same breeders have started to develop high yielding autoflower seeds as well. These strains can produce surprisingly high yields for auto flowering plants.
Growers interested in in increasing their autoflower yield should use these high yield strains. Additionally, there are several techniques that can help growers increase the size of their average yield. The most important are:
- Growing environment
- Pot size
- Nutrients and ph
- Healthy root growth
- Plant training
Choose a growing environment that maximizes autoflower yield
The most important factors when choosing a suitable grow environment are:
- Air flow in the grow area
- Temperature in the grow area
- Humidity in the grow area
- Light availability in the grow area
When deciding on a growing environment, growers must first decide if they want to grow indoors or outdoors. Growers in areas with good climate may be able to grow marijuana plants outdoors year round. Others may be limited to ourdoor growing certain times of the year.
The advantage of indoor cultivation is that the grower has much more control over the four elements listed above. They’re also guaranteed to be able to grow year round. Here’s what to look for when considering these four factors:
Good air flow
Good airflow is crucial for a large autoflower yield. Cannabis plants with the biggest yields tend to have lots of access to fresh air, because these plants need to continually absorb high amounts of CO2.
Additionally, it’s important that the buds of the cannabis plants are exposed to fresh air. Buds not exposed to fresh air will tend to shrivel. Cannabis plants are a wind pollinated plant, which means they are fertilized by pollen traveling through the air. Flowers that are not exposed to air are ones that cannot absorb pollen and cannot be fertilized. Mother nature hates wasting energy, so if certain flowers cannot be pollenated then the plant will not waste energy growing them.
If growing outdoors, make sure to select a spot that naturally gets good airflow. If growing indoors, make sure that your grow area has good air circulation by using fans and/or ventilation. Additionally, make sure that your plants have good spacing between each other, and prune excess vegetative growth if necessary.
Maintain a suitable grow area temperature
Autoflower yields are highest when the plant is grown in the right temperatures. Cannabis plants have a certain range of temperatures that they grow best in. Thankfully, this range is fairly wide at 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Maintaining correct temperatures will depend on the surrounding climate conditions and the growing environment. Outdoor growers are must pick a time of year that temperatures are optimal. Indoor growers have a variety of tools available to help maintain correct temperatures. These include air conditioners, heaters, and fans.
Allowing your plants to get too much heat can trigger heat burn which will reduce your autoflower yield.
Cold conditions cause problems because they can turn branches and leaves purple. Purple leaves absorb far less light than green leaves. These plants then have less energy to grow their buds.
Grow area humidity
It’s important to control your grow room humidity levels if you want to maximize your autoflower yield. Particularly, growers should drastically cut their humidity levels for flowering plants.
While humidity levels of up to 70% are acceptable during your plant’s vegetative stage, flowering plants prefer levels around 55%. This lower humidity level will trigger the plant to grow bigger flowers and buds. Additionally, low humidity levels in the flowering stage can promote extra resin and trichome production.
An added bonus is that low humidity levels also help protect the plant against diseases such as bud rot. Bud rot thrives in high humidity and can ruin an entire plant or plants, so it’s best to avoid conditions where it can grow.
Lighting is one of the most important factors if you want to grow dense buds. Light is what gives your autoflowering cannabis plant the energy it needs to grow big and healthy, and to support flower production during the flowering stage.
If you’re growing outdoors, make sure that the climate and time of year are conductive to your plant receiving lots of light. Indoor cannabis growers should make sure that they’re using an adequate grow light. If you’re trying to get a big yield, then lighting from a small 50W grow light or from an open window generally won’t be enough.
The best way to maximize autoflower yield is to give your cannabis plants 18 hours of light a day. Auto flowering strains can tolerate more light than traditional photoperiod cannabis strains, which must be induced to bloom by reducing their hours of light. Autoflowering strains bloom on their own regardless of environmental cues.
Picking a grow light
If growing indoors, good light intensity is crucial for a big autoflower yield. Whatever grow light you pick, make sure that the wattage of your light and distance from your plants are optimal for your grow area.
There are three main options to choose from when selecting a grow light:
LED (light emitting diode)
LED lights are a favorite of indoor growers. They are long lasting, low energy, and low heat. They produce a full spectrum of light which helps with plant growth during both their vegetative and flowering stages. The cost of these lights are decreasing over time, but they are much more expensive (3x-10x) compared to other options.
Fluorescent grow lights are inexpensive and low heat. However, they are generally bigger and more cumbersome than other grow lights. They also produce less wattage and light, leading to smaller cannabis plants.
HID (High Intensity Discharge)
HID grow lights are the most commonly used grow lights in the industry. These grow lights are a good value as they produce a lot of wattage for their cost. However, they also produce a lot of heat. Smaller grow rooms will require lots of air cooling and ventilation to manage the heat generated by these lights. These lights also require additional accessories to setup and run. There are two main types of HID grow lights, metal halide and high pressure sodium:
- Metal halide (MH) produces blue-white high spectrum light best used during a plant’s vegetative stage.
- High pressure sodium (HPS) produces red-orange low spectrum light best used for flowering plants.
Start with a larger size pot to increase your autoflower yield
Good pot sizing is an easy way to enhance the yield of your auto flowering plant. The size of your pot determines how much room your plant’s roots have to grow. Plants will only grow as large as their root system will support.
Larger pots will support bigger plants with larger root systems. We would recommend up to a 5 gallon pot when growing cannabis autoflowering plants to their largest size.
Start with the final container
When growing a plant from seed to harvest, it’s a common practice to start the plants in small containers, and then gradually move them up to larger containers as the plants grow in size. With autoflowering plants, this can pose a problem because of how quickly the plants grow.
Autoflowering strains can grow so fast that they’re ready for harvest within 60-90 days. This means that starting with a smaller pot, the plant would need to continually be repotted. Continually disturbing the plant by repotting it is counterproductive, as it may stress the plant and harm its growth.
In this case, it’s best to start with the final container that a plant will need. This will allow the plant to grow from seed to harvest undisturbed.
Support root growth to grow dense buds
As previously discussed, healthy roots are vital for a big yield. There are several ways to support a strong root system. The three biggest ways are:
- Using the right container material
- Choosing the right growing medium
- Adding root stimulant
Using the right container material
For quick autoflower grows, we recommend using fabric pots. These pots are convenient because they are somewhat breathable, which can help keep plant roots oxygenated.
Additionally, fabric pots have great drainage. This makes it harder to overwater plants, helping with oxygenation and preventing diseases like root rot.
Choosing the right growing medium
For most amateur growers, the right growing medium is soil. It’s important not not to pack the soil too tightly. This will help the root system develop and grow. It will also help with drainage around the roots.
More advanced growers will sometimes choose to do a hydroponic grow. For these grows, you can use materials such as perlite to support the roots. This type growing material remains strong enough to anchor the plant, will still allowing for root growth and oxygenation.
Adding root stimulant
The most direct way to support root growth is with something like a root stimulant. There are many nutrient boosters that supply the exact nutrients that cannabis plant roots need. Some of them may even have beneficial fungus or bacteria, which help to create an optimal soil ecosystem for nutrient uptake.
Providing adequate nutrients and Ph for maximum autoflower yield
Nutrients play a huge role in the health and growth of your autoflowering plants. Adequate nutrition will help ensure that your autoflowering cannabis plant grows strong and produces big buds.
It’s important to know what nutrients your plants require and also at what growth stage the plants requires them. This is because your plant’s nutrition requirements will change over time.
While it’s possible to grow a marijuana plant using regular soil from the store, there are many fertilizers and growth boosters out there that can improve your plant growth. Optimizing your plant’s nutrition will also prevent problems associated with overfeeding and nutrient burn.
The big 3 macro nutrients
The three main macro nutrients that your plant requires nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K). Collectively these nutrients are referred to by the acronym NPK. Nitrogen provides support for plant growth during the vegetative stage. Phosphorous is necessary for photosynthesis. Potassium helps grow buds during the flowering phase.
Autoflower nutrition requirements change over time
While nitrogen is very important early on in the vegetative stage, it becomes less important in the flowering stages. Conversely, Potassium becomes much more important once the plants begin to grow buds. For example, a plant may require 2-1-3 NPK ratio in the vegetative stage, but only a 1-2-3 ratio in the flowering phase. There are special cannabis growth and bloom boosters for sale that have the exact nutrients required at each stage. These can prevent nutrient deficiencies as well as overfeeding.
Avoid giving your plant too much nitrogen
When plants transition to the flowering stage, it’s easy to overfeed them with too much nitrogen as their nitrogen requirements begin to drop. This is the most common cause of nutrient burn, which can damage your plant’s leaves, leading to small buds.
It is very important to switch to bloom nutrients once you see buds develop on your cannabis plants. These special formulas can prevent nutrient burn while also supporting bud growth.
Avoid putting time-release nutrient capsules in your plant’s soil during the vegetative stage. These capsules may continue to release the wrong nutrients once your plant changes to the flowering phase. In fact, to be safe, it may be necessary to flush out the soil entirely to remove excess nutrients between growth stages.
In addition to the big 3 macronutrients, cannabis plants also require a whole host of other nutrients in very small doses. These include, boron, copper, magnesium, and many others. Fortunately, you do no need to be individually concerned about any of these micronutrients, as they should be included in any nutrient-enriched soil or cannabis growth formula that you buy.
Correct your Ph levels to support big autoflower yields
Correct ph levels are essential for for your plant to properly absorb nutrients from the soil or other growing medium. The following Ph levels are recommended for growing healthy buds:
- Soil grow medium: 6.0-7.0
- Hydroponic grow medium: 5.5-6.5
Improper Ph levels can lead to nutrient deficiencies in your marijuana plants. One problem that arises from this is that growers may misdiagnose the issue and begin overfeeding their plants. This nutrient buildup can then shock the plants once Ph levels are corrected and the plants begin absorbing nutrients again.
Try using a bloom booster
There are many supplement products for sale that promise to help your improve your autoflower yield. Many of these are called “bloom boosters” for their ability to specifically increase bud and flower growth. These supplement products are different from grow fertilizers because they usually don’t have much nitrogen.
Instead, many of them have extra phosphorus and potassium, which they claim will help grow bigger buds during flowering. Often times, these supplements have sugars or a variety of other chemicals that promise to help your plant develop its cannabis buds.
Right now, the truth is that there are no scientific studies that back these claims. However, there are many anecdotal claims about the effectiveness of these bloom supplements for improving autoflower yield.
These supplements are by no means necessary. However, it’s important to experiment for yourself to see if they make a difference for you. If you do try one of these, make sure to use only 3/4 of the recommended amounts, as usually the recommended dosages on these boosters are very high. This will help to avoid nutrient burn.
Training your autoflowering plants for better yields
Training your marijuana plant correctly can help improve your autoflower yield. While many training techniques exist, the most important thing is to remove small branches and weak stems from the plant. The best buds tend to grow on strong, well supported branches. Cutting off the weaker stems will allow your plant to focus it’s energy on bigger branches.
Additionally, techniques exist that allow growers to make the most of their grow space and really open up their plants to get as much light and air exposure as possible. These techniques are separated into two groups: low stress training and high stress training.
Low stress training
Low stress training involves bending and tying plant stems when they are young to shape the way that the plant grows. This is commonly done to make the plants grow wider rather than vertical. Plant stems may be tied down, or they may be looped through something like a screen suspended above your plants. The screen method is known as the “screen of green” technique.
High stress training
High stress training involves cutting the branches themselves. Often, a technique called “topping” is employed to stop the plant from growing too tall. Topping involved physically cutting off the top of the plant. Pruning or removing of branches and leaves is another example of high stress training.
Highest yielding autoflowering strains
Genetics play a huge role of the ability of your autoflowering plants to produce a high yield. It used to be that autoflower plants produced much lower yields than those grown using regular cannabis seeds. Thanks to selective breeding, autoflowering seeds are now more than capable of producing big yields.
Using autoflowering seeds from the highest yielding autoflowering strain available is a great way to ensure that your plants produce big harvests, and is the closest thing to a “cheat code” there is when growing cannabis.
These are the best autoflowering seeds for big autoflower cannabis yields:
Northern Lights auto
Northern Lights is a world famous cannabis strain. It is an indica variety known for its calming effects. Northern Lights autoflowering seeds are very similar to the traditional strain, but in autoflower form. This plant will grow from seed to harvest in 10-12 weeks. Additionally, it can produce up to a whopping 200g per plant!
White Widow auto
Like Northern lights, White Widow is a very famous cannabis strain. This strain has earned its name due to the massive amount of trichomes that coat the buds, giving it a white look. This strain produces more of a heady, energetic high than its Northern Lights counterpart. In autoflower form, this plant can grow from seed to harvest in 10-12 weeks and produce up to 240g per plant.
Royal Cheese auto
Royal cheese is an iconic UK brand that is well known for its smell and taste of sour cheese. This strain produces a heady, energetic high commonly found in sativas. This plant is shorter, making it a good choice for small grows. Additionally, it can be ready for harvest in as little as 10 weeks, making these autoflowering cannabis seeds a great choice for fast grows. These cannabis seeds can yield up to 200g per plant.
Growing your autoflower cannabis plant: step by step
Step 1: Germination (week 1)
Autoflowering plants can germinate in as little as 3 days, although sometimes slower growing cannabis seeds will take a little over a week. Germinating seeds is easy, simply wrap them in a wet napkin or cloth and place them in a cool area. Make sure to keep the napkin wet.
You will notice that after a few days, the seed will have grown a small tap root and stem. At this point you’ll want to transfer your seedling into its growing pot.
Step 2: Seedling phase (week 2)
The seedling phase occurs when a plant has developed two small leaves called cotyledons. These plants will now need lots of light to grow to their full potential. Select your grow light type, wattage, and distance from plant to make sure that your plant has the light it needs to grow strong. Reduced lighting at this phase will cause your seedling to turn yellow and grow very thin.
Make sure not to overwater or overfeed your seedlings, as these plants do not have fully developed root systems at this point, and are more vulnerable to root issues.
Step 3: Vegetative phase (weeks 3-4)
In the vegetative phase, a healthy marijuana plant will experience a growth spurt with a tremendous amount of rapid vegetative growth. The plants will begin growing its stems, roots, and leaves, although no flowers will be observed yet.
During this stage, it’s okay to feed your plant high nitrogen fertilizers, as these plants require lots of nitrogen to grow. Just make sure that the excess nitrogen has been removed from your soil by the time the plant starts flowering.
If you’re going to train your plant, you should begin early in the vegetative stage. At the beginning of this phase, the plant is still flexible and which makes it the perfect time to begin low stress training
During this stage, Sativa dominant strains will get much taller, while Indica dominant strains will begin to grow out wide. Towards the end of the vegetative phase, flower buds may appear on the plant.
Step 4: Flowering stage (weeks 5-9)
During the flowering phase, the plant will cease to grow more leaves and branches, and start focusing all of its energy on growing buds. During this phase, it’s important to make sure your plants continue to get lots of light. Autoflowering plants, unlike photoperiod plants, can still bloom with with many hours of light per day, so keep the lighting at 18 hours per day.
If you’re feeding your plant fertilizer, during this phase you will want to switch to bloom boosters with reduced nitrogen levels. This will ensure that your plant gets the optimal nutrients it requires for maximum autoflower yields.
Towards the end of this phase, you will want to flush your soil to ensure that there’s no excess nutrients in your plant come harvest time. Excess nutrients can affect flavor and flavor of your harvest.
Make sure to trim your plants and buds as necessary to ensure that they get good airflow. If growing indoors, make sure keep your space well ventilated.
Step 5: Harvest time (week 10-12)
If you’ve made is to this stage, you have successfully grown your plant from seed to harvest. When harvesting your plants, first make sure that the plant pistols and trichomes have turned an amber color. This is a great sign that the plants are ready for harvest. Being patient and waiting for the perfect time to harvest is the easiest way to get a bigger yield. It’s amazing the difference a couple of days can make for your autoflower yield size.
After harvesting, make sure to properly dry and then trim your plant buds so that they are ready for smoking or selling.
Many basic steps that help increase yields for traditional plants can also help increase autoflower yield. The primary areas of focus should be the growing environment, nutrition, and plant training. Additionally, make sure to pick a good strain that will naturally produce large yields.
Autoflowers primarily differ from traditional strains with their ability to grow rapidly and bloom on their own. With a few small adjustments, a skilled grower can quickly adapt to growing autoflowers.