One of the most important processes you engage in as a marijuana grower is selecting cannabis strains you grow. This article explains the art and science of strain selection, so you choose marijuana strains that perfectly match your growing situation and what kind of effects you want from your marijuana.
Choosing Marijuana Strains Based on Growth Traits
Some marijuana plants naturally grow short and stocky, while others grow very tall. Some strains take two months in bloom phase; others may take three months or more.
So before you choose strains, you want to measure your grow room height and how much floor space your growing area has, and evaluate how much time you want your total growing season to last.
If you’re growing outdoors, these calculations are different, because you don’t control daylength, you probably have more height for your plants to stretch towards, more space for plant girth and root zone.
You lack control over the weather patterns/sun hours that influence the length of the growing season so you need data on when the plant is likely to start flowering and finish outdoors where you live.
If you’re growing outdoors, be aware of what pests and diseases are naturally present in your environment, and when they show up. For example, planting a thick-bud Indica strain outdoors in a place with lots of humidity and/or rain during bloom phase months invites gray mold bud rot.
The same type of calculation occurs if your outdoor garden is likely to be plagued by spider mites, aphids, thrips, leaf cutters, powdery mildew and other cannabis attackers.
In an indoor grow room, you can screen out pests and diseases using filtration, a sealed grow room, humidity control, and other techniques, but sometimes indoor grow rooms are still plagued by powdery mildew, gray mold, mites, root aphids and other marijuana enemies.
Your goal is to choose strains naturally resistant to attackers most likely in your growing situation.
Another strain selection consideration is whether you’re growing a cash crop or a connoisseur crop.
Sometimes one strain combines the favorable traits of producing very heavy, potent, attractive buds and superior highs.
But more often, strains that produce superior highs have significant Sativa genetics and produce smaller buds, while strains with sedative, couchlock, crippling highs have more Indica genetics and produce huge, fat buds.
This factor coincides with others we already discussed. Sativa-dominant photoperiod strains often need at least 9-10 weeks in bloom phase, but some Indica-dominant strains may finish after only 6-8 weeks blooming. Most growers growing cash crops or to make extracts go for high-yielding, fast-growing Indica strains.
Grow op security is another thing to consider. Diesel and Skunk marijuana strains are among those that give off massive amounts of telltale odor during bloom phase, creating a security risk if you’re growing marijuana outdoors near sketchy people or indoors without the ability to purchase odor suppression gear such as carbon filters.
Also factor in your level of growing expertise, and how much work you want to put into growing marijuana.
Some cannabis strains are easy to grow. They handle a wider range of temperature, humidity, light quality and intensity, nutrients quality, garden environment and grower mistakes than other strains.
Some strains are easier to grow because they naturally have strong limbs and other favorable morphological traits so you don’t have to provide trellises, lots of trimming, staking, or other plant shaping and support.
Other marijuana strains are like spoiled babies when it comes to feed programs and grow op environment. You have to pay constant attention to the feed program and the plants’ environment, making constant adjustments to please them.
Spoiled-baby strains are most often heavy in Sativa genetics, and may also have weak branches, tend to grow like vines, and require you to engage in tricky plant engineering to keep them from getting too tall, falling over, or having branches that break due to heavy buds.
Be aware that some strains require a cooler environment, while others do best in a warmer environment. In an indoor grow op, you have to know your air conditioning and dehumidification capacity.
Outdoors, you’re dealing with climate and weather, which you can’t control. Growing tropical strains outdoors in a cold, rainy place, or Indica strains in a hot, humid place, are examples of mismatches between what the strains want, and what the environment gives them.
What High, Tastes & Scents Do You Want?
You obviously want to grow cannabis that gives you exactly the medical and “recreational” effects you seek. So before you choose strains, take time to list and analyze what you want from cannabis.
For example, I grow multiple strains because I want different things from cannabis at different times. I want Kush or Indica for pain relief, relaxation and sedation in the evening, but I want a stimulating Sativa for exercise or doing musical performances.
I supply cannabis to others, so I also grow strains that fit their needs and desires.
Along with growing cannabis that gives you the high and medical effects you want, you may also prefer cannabis with specific tastes and smells. Some cannabis scents contribute to “bag appeal,” a powerful scent that’s immediately evident when you open a container of cannabis can spur a customer’s desire to buy that weed.
The taste and smell you prefer corresponds to the marijuana effects you seek and get, because taste and smell comes from cannabinoids and especially terpenoids whose percentages and ratios create effects you experience when using that strain.
For example, strains with a lot of the terpenoid limonene smell lemony and/or citrusy. Limonene has stimulating, anti-anxiety and immune-boosting effects.
So if you find yourself drawn to a particular family of scents and tastes (citrus, skunk, sweet fruit, diesel, chocolate, pepper, gassy, earthy, etc.), it could be that those strains give you the effects you want, so your brain subconsciously associates the smell and taste with the favored high.
How to Find Information about Cannabis Strains
So far, we’ve talked about the following factors for choosing cannabis strains:
- Gardening environment limitations and factors such as height, floor space, temperature/humidity control, light intensity.
- The degree of difficulty in growing the strain.
- Whether you’re growing just for weight and or highest number of resin glands, or for the highest quality.
- How resistant is the strain to pests and diseases.
- The strain’s taste and scent.
- The kind of high and medical effects you want.
The big question is how do you find out ahead of time about the strain’s characteristics. Here’s how:
- Only buy strains from the highest quality breeders, especially if you’re buying seeds. I hate to say this, but the majority of cannabis seeds companies suck. That’s why we only recommend a few breeders here at Growing Marijuana Perfectly, including New420Guy, Serious Seeds, and Dutch Passion.
- A top-rank cannabis seeds breeder produces 100% reliable marijuana seeds that have near-perfect germination, and predictable phenotype, potency, yield, bloom phase and psychoactive traits that live up to the genetics the strain is supposed to contain. You want similar consistency from clone strains.
- A high-quality marijuana seeds breeder or clone producer should be happy to provide strain growing advice, plant morphology, bloom phase duration, ease of growing, scent, taste and effects information on their website and if you contact them directly.
- Look at online cultivation forums and strain review and strain diaries websites and YouTube videos. Some of what you see in cultivation forums and grow diary sites is unreliable, produced by shills, unskilled growers, or are otherwise useless. But there are many websites and videos from real growers just like you and me. They explain and often show how the strain progressed from seed or clone to finish, and what its effects are like. Just type the strain name into a Google search, and in many cases you’ll see links to information from the breeder, from seed sellers, and hopefully, from growers.
- If you live in or can visit a 100% legalized cannabis state like Colorado, California, Washington, go to dispensaries and purchase small samples of strains you’re interested in. Talk to the dispensaries and their suppliers about strains. Similarly, if you can legally buy clones where you live, you should be able to get detailed strain information from the clone seller.
- Growing Marijuana Perfectly publishes detailed strain reviews. Scroll through our vast catalogue of articles to find strain reviews. Our reports are absolutely trustworthy because we’re growers and marijuana users just like you and we know how important it is for you to have accurate strain information. But remember…many other people providing strain information online, in magazines and in videos are paid shills, and/or unskilled growers whose strain data can’t be trusted.
Choosing the perfect marijuana strains for your needs and desires is crucial for your marijuana growing success. Many of us find cannabis strains that are almost perfect, but you wish some trait was present, accentuated, or removed. In that case, breed your own strains, which we’ll discuss in future articles.