OG Kush, White Widow, Gorilla Glue, Sour Diesel, and Girl Scout Cookies are just some of the names of the cannabis strains flooding the market. While all this variety means plenty of choice for consumers, it can also make it increasingly difficult to find that one perfect strain you’re looking for.
Let us explain the wonderful world of cannabis genetics and how it works with all those different cannabis strains out there.
Similar to other plants, cannabis plants can be divided into a few different species. The two most popular species are cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. Cannabis ruderalis, a third variety, is also used in breeding to create unique autoflowering cannabis varieties.
Hybrid cannabis strains, as the name suggests, are created by crossing 2 (or more) cannabis varieties. This process is known as cross breeding. Breeders will cross strains with particularly favorable traits (these can include the effect of the cannabis flowers or grow traits like height, flowering time, etc) with the goal of creating a new strain that combines the best traits from both plants. Hybrids can be sativa-dominant, indica-dominant or 50-50 sativa-indica.
In today’s booming cannabis market, the sheer number of new cannabis strains can be overwhelming, especially for irregular users or those unfamiliar with particular varieties of cannabis.
Here are some tips for picking the right cannabis strain for you:
When picking a cannabis strain as a user, the first thing you’ll want to think about is whether you plan to use marijuana recreationally or medicinally.
If you’re a medical cannabis patient, your main concern should be about finding a strain that offers effective relief from the symptoms associated with your condition. To better understand this, you’ll want to consult a healthcare professional familiar with cannabis and also source your marijuana from a registered medical dispensary where you can get more information about what you’re buying.
The unique medical properties of a strain can be influenced by a multitude of factors. However, you’ll want to focus particularly hard on the unique cannabinoid and terpene profile of each variety.
Cannabinoids are the active compounds found in cannabis. There are over 100 compounds found in marijuana which, once consumed, interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system to produce a vast variety of effects. The main cannabinoids you’ve probably heard of are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), but there are many more out there, each with their own effects and benefits. To find out more about cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system, click here.
Terpenes, on the other hand, are unique fragrant oils responsible for giving cannabis it’s unique aroma. Cannabis can contain a wide variety of terpenes (including myrcene, linalool, caryophyllene, pinene, humulene, limonene, and many more). Like cannabinoids, terpenes have been found to have a wide variety of effects, like producing sedation, relieving stress, elevating moods, and more. :
Secondly, you’ll want to think about how you personally react to cannabis. Some people find the effects of cannabis super relaxing, while others may have found that it can give them anxiety, panic attacks, or even nausea. Alternatively, you may have never experimented with recreational cannabis use before, and may want to look for something to ease you into this new experience.
If you are new to the budding world of cannabis, we suggest looking for milder strains with lower concentrations of THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis). The same goes for experienced users with a low-tolerance to cannabis, or anybody else wanting to avoid getting “too high or too stoned.”
If this sounds like you, try looking for strains with higher concentrations of CBD (a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis). CBD is known to produce relaxing effects and having a wide variety of medical uses. Best of all, it does not produce a psychoactive “high” like THC.
Thirdly, you’ll also want to think about the kinds of effects you want to feel when consuming cannabis. If you want to achieve a state of deep physical relaxation at the end of a long day at work, you may enjoy the physical effects produced by pure indicas or indica-dominant hybrids. Alternatively, if you want to feel more of an uplifting, energetic stimulus and plan to use cannabis during the day or other times when you need to be productive and social, you may want to opt for sativas.
If you want a more balanced high that combines the physical effects of an indica with the cerebral stimulation of a sativa, consider experimenting with a hybrid. Remember that a hybrid strain can be sativa or indica-dominant or a straight 50-50. This may shine through in the effects that the strain produces; you might find that even a slightly indica-dominant variety produces notably more physical effects, although that isn’t necessarily always the case. Wherever possible, consult a budtender for more detailed information about the effects of a strain.
Finally, you’ll also want to think about the flavours and smells of the cannabis you’re consuming. The compounds responsible for giving cannabis its unique flavour and aromatic profiles are called terpenes. The types and concentrations of terpenes can vary greatly from one strain to another, hence producing very different smells and flavours. If flavour/smell is important to you, try to opt for strains that cater to that.
Thanks to new, advanced breeding and grow techniques, you have the ability to find strains with very unique aromatic profiles that can be citric, earthy, and woody, or even smell of berries, diesel, and cheese. These notes may also affect the flavour of a particular strain, so be sure to keep that in mind.
If you’re a cannabis cultivator, you’ll want to make the same considerations as a user. However, you’ll also want to dig a little deeper and consider some of the following factors.
First of all, you’ll want to think about where you’re going to grow. Indoor growers obviously have to deal with tighter space restrictions, which will obviously have an effect on the strains they choose to cultivate.
If you’re planning to grow indoors, assess the indoor space you’ve got to work with. After all, growing in a warehouse with 7 metre ceilings isn't going to present the same challenges as growing in the wardrobe in your bedroom.
If you’re dealing with tight height restrictions, you may want to opt for an indica strain or a hybrid variety with indica-like grow traits. This kind of information is readily available from the retailers where you buy your seeds. That isn’t to say that you can’t grow sativas indoors. In fact, many growers do. However, you’ll want to be familiar with some specific grow techniques, like SCROG, LST/HST, and others, that can help you manage the wild, reaching growth of a big sativa.
Apart from the space restrictions of your grow space, also be sure to consider its climate. This is obviously a bigger concern for outdoor growers, but it's still worth thinking about even for those growing indoors. If you plan to grow in a relatively cold environment with short, cool summers and harsh winters, you’ll want to make sure you choose to grow a strain that can deal with these conditions. Again, this kind of information will be readily available at the retailer where you buy your seeds. A good rule of thumb, however, is that indica varieties tend to deal better with cooler climates.
Even if you’re growing in a warmer climate, you’ll still want to carefully pick out a strain that’s best suited to your local conditions. While Columbia and Spain are both warm places, each has it’s own unique climate variations which will obviously have an effect on the growth and development of your plant. Again, a good rule of thumb is that sativas are best for growing in warmer climates, but don't let that be the basis of your decision. Remember to follow up with your seed retailer with unique information about the strains you’re interested in.
Once you’ve analyzed where you plan to grow and how this affects the strain you plan to cultivate, it’s time to evaluate your own grow experience.
Some cannabis strains can be extremely easy to grow. With these strains, you can simply throw your seeds in some soil and, with minimal effort, end up with a nice batch of great weed in as little as 6 weeks. This is obviously great for novice growers who lack the experience and skill to deal with more difficult strains. However, it’s also great for the experienced grower who, despite having the skill to make even the toughest strains flourish, wants to add a simple, easy strain to his/her garden.
However, some strains can be notoriously more tricky, requiring top-shelf nutrients, a specialized grow environment, and plenty of tender love and care to reach their prime. It goes without saying that these strains aren’t ideal for novice growers. Instead, they’re usually sought after by grow enthusiasts with a passion for cultivating cannabis and at least a few solid harvests under their belt. But don’t let that stop you; if you’re ready to commit to something a little more testing like a pure Haze, get your seeds and start growing.
Next, you’ll want to think about the yield, quality, and flowering time of a strain before you go about planting your seeds. All of these factors will have a big impact on how you grow your plants and the final product they produce.
Yield refers to the amount of dried cannabis buds a plant produces. You’ll want to think closely about how important the size of your yield is to you. Are you planning to make your own cannabis tinctures to use medicinally? Doing so takes a lot of weed, so you’ll want to opt for a higher yielding strain if that’s your plan. Alternatively, you might find you only consume cannabis once or twice a month, and prefer to choose a strain that’s easy to grow and produces high quality bud over one that produces really heavy harvests.
Next, you’ll also want to consider the quality of the strain you choose to grow. This generally comes down to your individual preferences; what you might consider a great quality strain may be completely different to what other growers think.
Flowering time is another major consideration for growers. This refers for the amount of time a cannabis plant takes to flower, and can vary greatly from one strain to another; some varieties may flower in as little as 6 weeks, while others can take over 12 weeks to be ready to harvest.
Choosing the right harvest time depends on your preferences as a grower. Less experienced growers tend to opt for faster flowering strains since they require less management and produce a faster reward, while expert growers may like the challenge and quality of a strain with a longer flowering time. Some strains with extremely long flowering times, like the original Haze variety, are renowned for the high quality buds they produce, which is also important to consider.
If you plan to grow cannabis, you’ll also want to think closely about the difference between photoperiod and autoflowering strains.
Photoperiod cannabis varieties flower based on the amount of light they receive. This gives you the freedom to control exactly when your plants begin producing their buds and possibly keep plants in their vegetative phases for longer. While many growers love this freedom, keep in mind that it usually requires an indoor set up and calls on specialized equipment, experience, and a lot of time.
Autoflowering cannabis varieties, on the other hand, flower based on their maturity. This means that the plant will begin to produce buds at a certain age rather than based on the amount of light it receives. Autoflowering varieties are treasured by growers because they’re generally easier to grow, and don’t require the same amount of knowledge and equipment as photoperiod strains.
Keep in mind that there are some critics of autoflowering cannabis strains who argue that they produce lighter yields due to their naturally smaller size and lower quality bud. However, most of these criticisms regarded earlier autoflowering varieties from the 1st and 2nd generation of autoflowering strains. Times have changed and many breeders have improved their autoflowering genetics big time.
We’re confident to say that today’s market contains some really great autoflowering strains that are capable of producing high yields of very high-quality weed which are comparable with 'photoperiod' indica and sativa strains.
Feminized cannabis seeds have been specially bred to contain no male chromosomes, hence ensuring that plants will flower as a female. If you’re purely interested in growing weed for the purpose of harvesting cannabis buds, this is a great option as you won’t have to deal with the added challenge of having a male sprout in your garden of females.
However, if you plan to grow your own cannabis in order to experiment with breeding, you’ll want to opt for regular seeds. Although male cannabis plants often get outshined by their female counterparts, they play a key role in the production of the cannabis we love!
Male plants produce pollen which can be harvested and used to pollinate females, hence allowing you to create unique strains that combine the traits of both the mother and father plants. If this is something you’re interested in, you will want to opt for regular seeds so you have the possibility of harvesting pollen from some male plants.
The final considerations you’ll want to make when deciding on a new strain to grow is the reputation of the individual strain, it’s breeders, and seedbank.
There are countless strains with huge reputations; OG Kush, Grandaddy Purple, Northern Lights and Amnesia Haze are just a few of the big names in weed. Growing one of these strains obviously has its advantages; as long you buy your seeds from a reputable seedbank, you can rest assured that you're getting top-shelf genetics that are bound to produce excellent results.
However, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t consider growing less well-known strains. Breeders are constantly experimenting with new genetics, meaning there are thousands and thousands of strains out there and plenty more in the pipeline. Sometimes stepping away from some of the big names may lead to the discovery of a brand-new jewel that nobody’s heard of (yet).
One thing is clear though; if you’re planning to grow cannabis and are ready to part with your hard-earned cash to buy seeds, make sure you buy from reputable retailers. This way you can rest-assured you’re really getting what you paid for.