In our How-to-Grow Cannabis 100’s series, we discussed the differences between growing from seeds and growing from clones. We briefly touched upon a variety of advanced topics, but we didn’t get too much into the weeds (pun intended). Today we’re actually going to explore those weeds, and learn some more about how to pick what suits your needs.
Sativa? Indica? Hybrid?
If you’ve been around the Cannabis scene for any length of time, you’ve probably heard people talk about Sativas and Indicas. With a little bit of research, you may have even realized that people are talking about some of the proposed species (or subspecies) for the Cannabis genus.
But what does it actually mean to call a strain or cultivar a Sativa, Indica, or Hybrid?
In the simplest terms, referring to a Cannabis strain as a Sativa, Indica, or Hybrid refers to its dominant genetic heritage:
- Sativas are from wetter regions of the world, and exhibit longer branches, more spread-out leaves, and are associated with a “head” high. Many believe that sativa strains are associated with energy and euphoria.
- Indicas are from dryer regions of the world, and exhibit more “bushlike” behavior, with more tightly-spaced leaves and branches that help reduce water loss. Indicas are associated with a “body” high, and are considered responsible for feelings of sleepiness and relaxation.
- Hybrids, just as the name implies, are a hybrid of Sativas and Indicas. They exhibit characteristics of either grouping, and the same goes for their effects on the user.
However, be wary of overgeneralizations about how Cannabis strains make users feel. Many Cannabis users have reported Sativas having the purported effects of Indicas, and vice versa. Instead, as caregivers and cultivators, we should pay more attention to how our plants are growing, and what our patients want. The growth patterns of Sativas and Indicas matter to us as growers, but may be irrelevant to our patients and consumers.
When I’ve spoken with growers, they’ve generally told me the following as it pertains to growing Sativas and Indicas:
- Sativas tend to grow tall and lanky, making them more ideal for outdoor growing or growing in a large facility. They don’t require as much airflow, but require more space.
- Indicas tend to grow more bushy and thick, making them very useful for indoor and tent growing. Indicas require more maintenance to maintain airflow.
- Hybrids can display the properties of either group, so pick one that best suits your cultivation purposes.
To Autoflower or Not to Autoflower?
You may have noticed in the comparison chart I posted above, there was a tiny species/subspecies named C. ruderalis. This particular variant is a ruderal species/subspecies of Cannabis, found natively in Slavic countries. The reason this particular variant of Cannabis is important is because it features a trait that no other variant of Cannabis exhibits: The ability to autoflower.
See, most other varieties of Cannabis (Sativa, Indica, Hybrid) flower in response to photoperiod and scotoperiod. Autoflowering strains, on the other hand, flower after a certain amount of time has transpired. Autoflowering strains tend to be smaller (because they are generally hybrids with ruderalis), but require less input, making them convenient for those who prefer a more hands-off approach.
Editor’s Note: We should note that there is a stigma among professional growers against autoflowering strains, because you sacrifice an element of control due to their autoflowering nature. Additionally, autoflowering strains are crossed with the wild type of ruderalis that is divergent from the more cultivated Sativas and Indicas. One grower likened ruderalis to coyotes while Sativas/Indicas are domestic dogs. You may have a similar outcome, but one is domesticated, and the other is tamed.
Picking a Strain
“Now all of this info is great,” you might be thinking. “But how do I select the right strain?” Well, I hear your thoughts prospective grower, and I have the answer.
The answer is that you need to ask your patients what they want, and then do some research for what best matches what they’re asking for. Some patients may want a strain to help them sleep. Some patients may want a strain that helps with pain. Some may want a strain that calms them, or may want a strain that energizes them. Luckily, websites like Leafly can help you find strains that are supposed to have those effects.
The important thing as a caregiver is that you start with what your patients want. As we move into the more professional side of Cannabis, strain selection will focus almost entirely on your consumers’ desires.
So that’s it for selecting your genetics. Let us know what you think in the survey below or on the forum! In a future article, we’ll cover how to acquire the strains you like, how to maintain a stock of useful genetics, and how to breed your own genetics.
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About the Author
Hunter Wilson is a community builder with Growers Network. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2011 with a Masters in Teaching and in 2007 with a Bachelors in Biology.