Marijuana is often called “weed,” but let’s be honest—it doesn’t grow like a weed.
We wish it did. It would be a lot easier to grow marijuana if it grew like a weed.
What does a weed grow like? A weed grows like a Marvel superhero plant.
A weed can grow almost anywhere, in sidewalk cracks, roof gutters, sideways, upside down, out of solid rock, with nobody feeding or watering it, in the worst heat and cold.
I don’t think marijuana is a weed at all. A weed is a plant that survives even when you try your hardest to kill it.
Marijuana is a plant that can have problems even when you try your hardest to make it happy.
Plants that grow like weeds include the Mammoth Russian sunflowers I planted outdoors a few days ago.
I had to transplant them into the ground from their cloth pots within a couple of weeks of germination because they were growing so fast.
Transplanting was a mess as the plants were not yet rootbound, so the root zone fell apart when I unpotted them.
I was sure this would harm or kill the sunflowers as I fumbled around in the brutal sun and climate change heat to get the plants into the ground. But they grow like weeds, so they handled transplantation without even the slightest wilting or other signs of stress.
They are in regular, native soil with a little compost thrown in, and growing about a foot per day!
I couldn’t help comparing my sunflowers’ resilience to the three strains of indoor cannabis plants I’m growing at the same time.
These indoor cannabis plants are spoiled babies, complaining about every little thing.
I’ve given them the best of everything. A controlled environment. Roots in a customized mix of organic soil, peat, coco coir. They’re fed the best nutrients.
And yet, my indoor plants are not growing like weeds.
The slightest problem with vapor pressure deficit, overwatering, underwatering, light intensity, pH or other factors is visible in their leaves and in a slowing of growth rate.
If I had transplanted the marijuana plants into the ground the same way I transplanted my sunflowers, they’d have died.
So why are marijuana plants so weak? Why are they really NOT a weed?
To understand why most marijuana strains don’t grow like weeds, you have to understand a little about evolution.
To put it very simply, natural evolution is a process in which living things are shaped by their environment in a dynamic interplay.
Out of millions of plants growing outdoors, some have genetics that allow them to survive where they grow.
Others do not.
The ones with the most adaptive genetics reproduce successfully. The others die off.
Repeat this process generation after generation and you get landrace marijuana. It is evolved to be right where it is.
Unless a catastrophic sudden change happens in its environment, or the plants mistakenly mutate in the wrong direction, that landrace marijuana will continue to thrive there.
If you grow landrace marijuana strains in outdoor conditions very similar to where those strains naturally grow, your plants thrive.
However, if you take a landrace Colombian Gold that grew naturally at 3100 feet in tropical, lush Colombia and try to grow it outdoors in desert, heat-stricken Arizona, it’ll fail.
Outdoor marijuana growers are smart to select and grow strains that originated in outdoor places with temperature, rainfall, sunlight and humidity patterns similar to their particular outdoor environment.
There are a few professional marijuana seeds companies, such as Humboldt Seed Company and Serious Seeds that design and test strains for a variety of conditions and tell you accurately if their strains do well indoors, outdoors, in greenhouses.
But if you’ve ever tried outdoor growing of marijuana strains bred exclusively for indoor growing, or vice versa, you’ve likely experienced problems.
This is because marijuana breeders are fooling around with evolutionary development by crossing genetics that would never have crossed in Nature.
They’re breeding for potency, scent, and other characteristics but have a hard time breeding for adaptability and resilience.
Marijuana breeders aim for traits such as heavy buds, but don’t breed in stalk and branch resilience to match increased bud weight, so branches break and stalks bend or snap, making stakes and trellises necessary.
Heavy, dense buds are attractive to molds and mildews. Some marijuana scents are attractive to pests. Other types of cannabis are especially susceptible to diseases and viruses.
Breeders dan’t easily anticipate or control these factors, and natural evolutionary factors have been cut out of the process, so the plants don’t evolve strength and resilience.
What has happened over the past decades of marijuana breeding is that premium marijuana is produced by non-resilient, weak plants that can’t handle irregular conditions and inputs.
These strains are narrowed down genetically and target-bred, but not hardy, voracious eaters, or adaptive.
They don’t grow like a weed, and if you make even a small error, or have problems keeping your grow room at the perfect temperature, VPD and humidity, the plants stop growing or grow poorly.
There isn’t a lot growers can do to make marijuana grow more like a weed.
My sunflowers, or so-called weedy plants that grow where I don’t want them to outdoors even in drought, extreme heat, or extreme cold, have genetic and phenotypic features that make them thrive no matter what.
Premium marijuana doesn’t often have those superhero traits.
If a strain has always been bred and grown solely indoors, it often has weakness built in.
Hundreds of years ago, when marijuana was grown on this continent by early European settlers and later by Mexican immigrants, cannabis genetics contained hemp and/or Ruderalis influences.
These influences made old-school marijuana grow like a weed. You’d see large, robust marijuana plants growing in ditches in farm country, with nobody tending them, weed plants gone feral.
Early hemp crops that were used to make rope, paper, cloth, seed oil and other useful materials grew like a weed too.
Hemp plants were so tough that farmers had to invent strong new machines just to process hemp stalks and fibers.
But resilience genetics have gradually been bred out of premium, high-potency marijuana.
Indeed, the best marijuana strains can be described using the derogatory term “hothouse flower.”
This term originally referred to orchids, bonsai trees, and other plant species so fragile they can’t survive unless grown in controlled conditions indoors and given lots of specialized care.
Although their ancient genetic ancestors of course grew and thrived outdoors somewhere, they now can’t handle being outdoors at all.
This is the case for most marijuana strains today.
The challenge of growing high-potency, intensively-bred marijuana indoors or outdoors includes a huge set of complex problems to solve.
It isn’t easy to grow premium marijuana, so if you do it successfully, be proud of yourself.
Marijuana does not grow like a weed—it only thrives if you the grower are exceptionally skilled and diligent.