If you are new to growing Cannabis, it can be a little overwhelming when trying to figure out what strains/cultivars to grow. How do you read through all of the lingo and unique names such Bubba Kush, Super Silver Haze, Durban Poison, Freezeland, Sundae Driver, Glazed Cherries and many more. And which one of these cultivars will grow well outside, in your particular area (not all cultivars will finish in time at northern latitudes or have strong genetics to ward off pests and diseases). With all this said, it is important to back up and start at the basics. I’m a firm believer that when starting to learn a new skill (whether it be gardening, herbal medicine or sailing for that matter), that it is important to build a solid foundation of knowledge upon which to begin this journey. And when it comes to cannabis, it is important to understand a little about how the plant grows and the various types of seeds that are available for you to choose from. So before we even get into different cultivars and whether or not they will grow well in your climate, lets start at the basics and talk a little about the plant itself and options when it comes to seeds.
Cannabis is a ‘dioecious’ plant, meaning that there are male plants that have staminate flowers that produce pollen and there are female plants that produce pistillate flowers that turn into the ‘buds’ that most people are familiar with when it comes to using this plant for personal or medical purposes. Unless you are breeding and purposefully trying to produce seeds, it is the female plants that you want to grow in your garden. When getting ready to grow your own cannabis, you really only have two main options. You can grow your plants from seeds or clones. The seeds come from a female plant that was pollinated by a male plant (you technically need both to produce seeds) and the clones are ‘cuttings’ that come from a mother plant. Seeing as clones can be hard to come by for new growers, your best bet is starting your plants from seed. Plants that have been started from seed often show stronger genetics, faster growth and produce bigger plants and yields (although this is not always the case). So let’s say you have decided to start your own seeds. Here are some things to understand before looking around for seeds to purchase.
Seeds are generally sold in 4 forms – Regular, Feminized, Autoflower and High CBD. Below we will outline what these terms mean and then we will go into more detail on how to select specific cultivars and where to purchase seeds in a future post.
Regular Seeds are the way cannabis seeds have been for thousands of years. They contain the genetics of both the male and female parents and they will contain both male and female plants once sprouted and grown out. For many people, especially those who plan to breed, these seeds are going to be your best option (it is recommended not to breed with feminized seeds, more on this in a future post). Generally speaking you have a 50/50 chance of getting both male and female plants from regular seeds.
Feminized seeds are exactly what they say. Seeds that have been bred in a way (self-pollinated) that produces a 99.9% chance of being female plants. A lot of breeders make and release feminized seeds. Although some methods of ‘feminizing’ seeds may involve the use of chemicals (not environmentally friendly or sustainable), this can be a good option for the home grower when purchasing seeds. Especially if you live in a province or state with a limited plant count (4 plants per household in most provinces in Canada). Since the mother plant was induced to self pollinate itself, it will only contain one set of genes and be very close to or almost identical to the female plant.
Autoflower seeds will produce plants that are not photo-period dependent (cannabis flowers as the daylight decreases and summer turns to autumn) and will automatically begin to flower after a very short vegetative stage even in the long days of summer. These seeds were produced by crossing or breeding common cultivars with another species of cannabis called Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis ruderalis evolved in northern climates (Siberia) where the summers are very short and the cold weather season spans much of the year. These seeds have improved tremendously over the last decade and many classic cultivars are now available in autoflower seeds. These seeds can be good options for growers who live in a northern climate where the growing season is short. Or for people who would like to potentially get multiple harvest throughout one growing season.
High CBD Seeds:
During prohibition most cannabis was bred to have high THC (similar to whiskey being the alcohol of choice during prohibition, as opposed to wine or beer). As society has begun to let go of the negative stigma surrounding cannabis and embraced this plant as a medicine (it is about time!). We have begun to learn more about the amazing healing benefits of CBD and many people have become interested in cultivars that are lower in THC and higher in CBD. In order to produce these cultivars, some breeders have taken hemp strains (low in THC and generally higher in CBD) and bred them to more common THC varieties. This has resulted in cultivars that have more CBD. Although there are many breeders selling high CBD seeds, it is important to note that not every seed is going to produce a plant that actually contains higher CBD content in the finished flower. It can take many years to stabilize a cultivar to have the chemical constituents that you want in it (and unfortunately some breeders will sell seeds that are not tested or fully developed). This is where you need to do your research and grow plants that either come from a clone (that has been tested) or a reputable breeder that has put in the work required to stabilize these genetics.
As you can see, there are a number of options available to you when beginning to decide what cannabis seeds you want to grow. In the next post we will share with you what to look for when selecting a specific cultivar. What type of medicine are you looking for? High THC/CBD? Uplifting or a sedating experience? What cultivar will grow well in my bio region, and much more. Stay tuned and healthy.