When deciding to grow cannabis, the first place to start is with the seeds. Most seed banks will give you the option to choose the type of seed you want for each strain. Cannabis seeds are divided into three distinct categories: regular, feminized, and auto-flowering. The kind of seed you choose ultimately depends on your experience growing cannabis, and how well you understand the process. Each seed-type comes with its own benefits and drawbacks.
Let’s break down the three types of cannabis seeds to help you get to know the pros and cons of each.
Regular seeds are the result of sexual reproduction between a male (pollen-producing) plant and a female (ovule bearing) plant. In Cannabis cultivation, these seeds are usually the product of hand-pollination. A breeder hand-pollinates a female plant using pollen collected from a male plant. The seeds produced by these hand-pollinations are similar to the seeds produced by wild populations of cannabis.
Advantages of regular seeds
They are relatively inexpensive and easy to find. Many expert growers suggest that beginners use regular seeds for their first few cultivation attempts. Beginners are more likely to make mistakes, and regular seeds are inexpensive and easy to replace. Regular seeds are also popular among plant breeders, who need both male and female plants to experiment with selective breeding. Regular seeds are also available in a variety of strain combinations, such as indica-dominant or sativa-dominant.
Disadvantages of regular seeds
There is a 50% chance the seed produces a male plant. It can be hard to differentiate male plants from female plants until they are at least 3-4 week old seedlings. You could end up with male plants in a greenhouse full of females. Male plants are usually undesirable unless you are trying to breed new strains or collect pollen for future use (“pollen banking”).
When female Cannabis plants are “stressed” they sometimes begin to produce pollen. Stressful conditions for a female Cannabis plant include inadequate water, intense heat/UV light, intense herbivory, or insufficient access to male plants. Growers have learned to take advantage of this natural phenomenon to produce “feminized seeds.” If a female Cannabis plant is subjected to stressful conditions (or chemicals are applied to the plant to mimic stressful conditions), the female plant may produce pollen-bearing flowers. Pollen is harvested from those flowers and used to pollinate the female flowers of the same plant (self-pollination). Once the female plant has pollinated itself, it is almost guaranteed to produce seeds that will only grow up to be females (due to the lack of Y chromosomes involved in reproduction).
Advantages of feminized seeds
While reliable empirical evidence is lacking, some growers report that >98% of feminized seeds produce female plants. If your primary goal is to produce seedless female buds and you do not want to worry about accidentally growing male plants, this may be the best option for you.
Disadvantages of feminized seeds
Feminized seeds are more expensive than regular seeds. They would not be suitable for anyone hoping to collect pollen or breed new strains.
The most popular varieties of Cannabis are Cannabis ssp. sativa and Cannabis ssp. indica. However, there is a third subspecies of Cannabis, C. ruderalis. Ruderalis evolved to survive and reproduce in the long-winter climates of Europe and Russia. Spring and summer are very short in these regions, so ruderalis developed fewer light requirements to trigger seed germination and flowering. Seeds that contain ruderalis genetics do not require a change in light cycle to germinate or begin flowering, so they are described as “auto-flowering”.
Advantages of autoflowering seeds
These seeds produce small plants that flower very quickly, which may be an advantage if you do not have a lot of time or growing space. The short stature of these plants may also be an advantage if you are trying to grow plants under a legal height limit. You also do not need an elaborate cultivation plan or lighting system. Plants grown from auto-flowering seeds often produce flowers that are high in CBD but low in THC, making them a good option for medicinal cannabis users.
Disadvantages of autoflowering seeds
The plants produced by autoflowering seeds are often characterized by flowers with very low THC content. These seeds produce small plants, so they may not be a good option if you are trying to produce large quantities of buds.
Whichever type of seeds you choose, you can still grow high-quality cannabis plants. Some seeds involve more hands-on care than others, but depending on how much work you want to invest in the process, all of the cannabis seeds we mentioned can get you bountiful yields. When choosing a seed type, keep in mind things like your grow space, your budget, and how much time you’re willing to invest in the grow.