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indica vs sativa seeds

Growing Cannabis: Indica, Sativa, And Hybrids

Become acquainted with growing indica, sativa, and hybrid cannabis.

  • 1. Understanding the cannabis subspecies
  • 2. Cannabis indica
  • 2.a. Growing information
  • 2.b. Cultivation tips
  • 2.c. Typical traits of Cannabis indica
  • 3. Cannabis sativa
  • 3.a. Growing information
  • 3.b. Cultivation tips
  • 3.c. Typical traits of Cannabis sativa
  • 4. Hybrids
  • 4.a. Typical traits of hybrid cannabis
  • 1. Understanding the cannabis subspecies
  • 2. Cannabis indica
  • 2.a. Growing information
  • 2.b. Cultivation tips
  • 2.c. Typical traits of Cannabis indica
  • 3. Cannabis sativa
  • 3.a. Growing information
  • 3.b. Cultivation tips
  • 3.c. Typical traits of Cannabis sativa
  • 4. Hybrids
  • 4.a. Typical traits of hybrid cannabis

The cannabis plant is versatile, hardy, and—unlike many kinds of plants—can survive in almost every climate in the world. However, thanks to evolution (and later on, selective breeding), the species has adapted to the landscapes in which it’s cultivated, and thus, vast variation between different cannabis plants is the norm today.

UNDERSTANDING THE CANNABIS SUBSPECIES

There are thousands of unique cannabis strains, and each has different characteristics that impact growth, production potential, flavour and aroma, and physiological effects on people. Yet, all of these strains can be grouped into one of three cannabis subspecies: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.

The vast majority of photoperiod strains (strains that initiate bloom based on a change in light cycle) contain varying amounts of both indica and sativa genetics. Ruderalis, on the other hand, is a type of autoflowering cannabis that flowers based on age, and is often considered to be inferior to photoperiod cannabis morphologically. Although there is more to say in this regard, for the remainder of this article, we will be focusing mainly on the distinct characteristics of indica and sativa so the average grower can get a better idea of what to expect.

CANNABIS INDICA

Cannabis indica is indigenous to today’s regions of India, Pakistan, Turkey, and Afghanistan. Originating in the harsh and varied environments of the Hindu Kush mountains, these stocky bushes develop wide, dark green leaves to soak up all available sunlight, flower quickly, and produce a plethora of dense buds.

GROWING INFORMATION

Thanks to the short growing cycle offered by indicas, not to mention their short stature, they can be quite convenient for home growers without too much time, space, or resources on their hands. Just think about it; a compact bush that finishes fast is easier to maintain (especially indoors) than a spindly, albeit majestic, tree. Even outdoors, indicas are resilient and laugh in the face of fluctuating temperatures—just remember where they came from. Moreover, the fast flowering time of indicas means outdoor growers can harvest before the first frost.

CULTIVATION TIPS

Although indica plants normally develop into a Christmas tree-like shape, this growth can be tamed and manipulated to even out the canopy and direct more light to all available budding sites. Techniques like topping and basic LST (low-stress training) can be used to give your plant the ideal shape for robust health and huge yields. Once you’re happy with how it looks, you can switch your vegging plant to the flowering phase by reducing light hours inside to 12 hours on, 12 hours off.

One of the major “drawbacks” you must watch out for with indicas is also one of their greatest strengths: dense buds. Indeed, as buds grow in size and put on weight, they become at much greater risk of developing mould, especially in humid regions with temperatures that foster pests and pathogens. Avoid this issue by carefully controlling environmental conditions inside, or by erecting necessary shelter outside (in case of rain, excess humidity, etc.). Having a small greenhouse or shed where you can hide your plants from inclement weather can be a great safety net.

TYPICAL TRAITS OF CANNABIS INDICA

• Short, bushy stature
• Broad, dark green leaves
• Dense buds
• Short flowering time
• Resilient to temperature fluctuations
• Susceptible to mould and pests

Indica seem like your type of strain? Great! Check out our top 10 indica strains to get your grow-op on its way!

CANNABIS SATIVA

Cannabis sativa is found mainly in the hot, dry climates of Africa, Asia, and Central America. These strains grow into tall, slender specimens with long, thin leaves. As they can exceed 3m in height, Cannabis sativa typically takes much longer to mature than indica.

GROWING INFORMATION

Sativas require a lot of light and higher temperatures to thrive—just think about their natural habitat located relatively close to the equator. These plants also require a large amount of space, have much airier buds, and remain in the flowering phase for several weeks longer than most indicas. In their favour, these plants usually require less fertiliser and fewer feedings than indica plants. Moreover, thanks to their airier bud structure, flowers are less susceptible to mould and excess moisture.

CULTIVATION TIPS

Sativa plants can be delicate, and have less chlorophyll than indicas due to their thin leaves. This also means that you need to give your sativa plants sufficient light, heat, and humidity. Whereas you might be afraid to raise your indicas in the tropics, your sativas will be right at home in the warm, sticky weather.

For those with a bit of growing experience, you can tame the height of your sativa specimens using the screen of green (ScrOG) technique. By situating a screen above your plant and weaving new growth through the mesh, you’ll create a flat canopy of buds that optimises available space and yield potential. Like indicas, regular (photoperiod) sativa varieties require a change in light cycle to start blooming. Keep in mind that plants can continue to surge in height for the first couple weeks of the flowering phase, so make sure you have the space to accommodate this growth spurt.

TYPICAL TRAITS OF CANNABIS SATIVA

• Tall, lanky stature
• Thin, light green leaves
• Airy buds
• Longer flowering time
• Requires higher temperature and humidity
• Less susceptible to mould

For those with a sativa kink, check out our top 10 sativa specimens to suit your fancy!

HYBRIDS

While you can find 100% indica or sativa strains, most cultivars on the market today contain varying levels of both genetics. As a result, these “hybrid” strains can be indica-dominant, sativa-dominant, or split 50/50. This versatility allows breeders to create novel strains that harness the best features of both sativa and indica while eliminating the less advantageous features. For instance, a well-developed hybrid will feature the dense bud structure and short flowering phase of an indica, combined with the best traits of a given sativa to offer the best of both worlds.

Remember the ruderalis subspecies we referred to earlier? Hybrids can contain these genetics as well, although, as mentioned above, ruderalis is chiefly added to reduce flowering time since its other qualities are seen as inferior. Some photoperiod cannabis strains can contain a small amount of ruderalis, but these genetics mostly reside in autoflowering strains.

Typically, hybrids will inherit the easy growth of indica plants while keeping the highly sought-after effects offered by sativas. As such, hybrids have become the go-to for home growers and commercial cultivators alike.

TYPICAL TRAITS OF HYBRID CANNABIS

• Takes morphology from both indica and sativa
• Generally brief flowering time
• Great yields
• Robust and resilient growth

Think a hybrid is the right strain type for you? Check out our top 5 Skunk hybrids for some seriously smelly and robust cannabis. You simply can’t go wrong with Skunk. For a high that blasts you into outer space, and a flavour profile that harnesses the best of both strains, you can’t pass up our top 5 OG Kush hybrids.

Cannabis cultivation is full of nuances. But the growth characteristics and differences between Sativa and Indica cannabis are need-to-know info.

How to identify indica and sativa plants

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Contents

  1. Is there really a difference between indica and sativa?
  2. Identifying sativa vs indica plants
  3. Preference of indica vs sativa
  4. Sativa vs. Indica Cultivation Considerations

For those who regularly use cannabis for therapeutic or recreational purposes, the notion of cultivating plants for personal use may be appealing. Growing cannabis can be straightforward, but as with most crops, yield and quality can be improved with awareness of the plant’s life cycle and growth requirements. When it comes to growing cannabis, the first decision is to determine whether to cultivate indica or sativa plants.

Is there really a difference between indica and sativa?

Up until recently, the cannabis plant was classified as sativa, indica, ruderalis, or the elusive afghanica, which originated in or near Afghanistan. The usefulness of this cannabis taxonomy for contemporary consumers has been questioned by experts, including Dr. Ethan Russo , who has recommended abandoning this classification system. Due to human intervention, very few modern cannabis plants are purely indica or purely sativa. Russo argues that it’s more helpful to identify biochemical compound content, such as cannabinoids and terpenes .

However, differentiating indica from sativa remains very useful for cannabis cultivators. Using morphology, or phenotype, is the most common way to classify cannabis cultivars . Indica and sativa, the most commonly recognized cultivars, have distinctive physical features and growth traits. Understanding their respective growth cycles and how to tend each plant type will help ensure optimal growth and bud output.

Hybrid strains are also commonplace, with many growers opting for plants that blend the most desirable properties of both sativa and indica. Hybrids may be indica- or sativa-dominant, like Sour Diesel. White Widow exemplifies a balanced hybrid cultivar.

Identifying sativa vs indica plants

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Identifying Sativa Plants

Sativa cannabis plants originated close to the equator, thriving in temperate regions with mild winters and long summers. Sativa strains can reach up to 10 feet tall and are characterized by sparse foliage and light-green, thin-fingered, delicate leaves. They boast a long flowering period as there is no climatic impetus to reproduce rapidly and disseminate seeds. The extended flowering period is somewhat offset by a reduced vegetative period, in which no flowers are present. Sativa is known for generally lower yields than their indica counterparts.

Sativa cultivars are not ideal for home growers hoping to cultivate indoors, or within a restricted space. These plants generally require balmy temperatures and relatively high humidity where they thrive when given have space to grow.

Identifying Indica Plants

Cannabis indica cultivars are smaller in height than their sativa counterparts with broad, dark-green leaves and a bushier appearance. Indica plants are popular among home growers due to their high yields and shorter flowering periods. They typically mature faster than sativa cultivars under similar conditions, producing flowers in as few as eight weeks.

The rapid flowering period occurs due to the biological need to reproduce and spread their genes before the arrival of harsh winter conditions. These cultivars also tend to have a different smell, perhaps reflecting a different terpene profile .

Indica plants were originally found in unforgiving dry and colder Asian climates, which resulted in their robust and more compact physical profile. Their short stature makes them ideal for indoor cultivation.

Sativa strains have light-green, thin-fingered, delicate leaves. Cannabis indica cultivars have broad, dark-green leaves. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Preference of indica vs sativa

If you’re contemplating growing cannabis and wondering whether to grow indica or sativa, your choice will likely be guided by the kinds of effects you’re looking to experience. It’s important to note that effects have more to do with the cannabinoid and terpene makeup of the plant and less to do with its morphology. Here’s the lowdown on the differences between growing indica and sativa.

Sativa vs. Indica Cultivation Considerations

The growth cycle of any plant can be divided into the four distinct stages of germination, seedlings, vegetation, and flowering. While harvest doesn’t represent a formal phase, it does constitute a significant phase for the grower.

Germination

Some home growers elect to grow cannabis from feminized seeds, which produce exclusively female plants. This ensures none of the female flowers are pollinated by male flowers, which would cause them to produce seed, reducing the cannabinoid yield. Seeds can be easily germinated within paper towels dampened (not wet) with distilled water.

If you’re growing sativa strains from seed, aim for an optimal temperature of 75 F (24 C) to encourage germination within three to seven days. Lower temperatures will delay the emergence of the radicle (the part of the plant that develops into the root).

If you’re growing indica plants from seed, expect a slightly shorter germination period. Like sativa seeds, indica seeds require a warm temperature to germinate (approximately 71 to 75F or 22 to 25C).

Seedlings

When the beginnings of the tap root and a leaf or two appear, the seedling can be carefully transplanted. Both indica and sativa plants require special care and benefit from proper soil composition, climate control, and lighting as they are establishing root systems. The seedling stage lasts from 1-3 weeks.

Vegetation

The vegetative phase is characterized by the growth of the stem and leaves. The length of time a sativa or indica plant remains in the vegetative state depends entirely on its exposure to light. Sativa and indica plants move into the vegetative state after three to six weeks.

The vegetative phase is characterized by the growth of the stem and leaves. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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The sativa vegetative period starts slowly, with the stem elongating more rapidly later in the vegetative cycle. The stem of the sativa plant is fibrous rather than woody, and the leaves develop as narrow fingers. Throughout the duration of the vegetative cycle, seven to twelve leaf pairs form in a certain pattern . The first leaf pair comprises a single leaflet. The second pair has three leaflets. The third pair has five leaflets, and so on. Sativa uses less chlorophyll during the vegetative cycle than indica, resulting in light-green leaves.

Indica strains do not undergo the same stem elongation as the plant focuses on developing a thick, woody trunk to support the weight of future buds. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of cannabis indica plants is their leaves. Indica’s unmistakeable fat, forest-green fingers help to soak up light and accelerate growth. Outdoors, indica plants are unlikely to grow taller than six feet (two meters), and indoor plants usually grow three feet (one meter) or less. Indica strains tend to spread out wide like a bush, with vigorous branching.

Flowering

In both strains, pre-flowers can be easily mistaken for new branches. If you haven’t used feminized seeds, the pre-flowering period is the time to separate male plants from female plants. Males must be removed immediately to avoid pollinating females unless the intention is to produce seeds. The first male pre-flowers appear as a small sac, while female plants produce a structure called a cola that looks similar to a hair and will later become a flower or bud.

Flowering occurs when the days shorten, or when the plant receives 12 hours or less of continuous daily light. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Flowering occurs when the days shorten, or when the plant receives 12 hours or less of continuous daily light. You can force flowering by reducing the hours of light exposure or photoperiod, signaling to the plant that the nights are becoming longer.

Sativa strains can take 10 to 12 weeks before the flowers are ready to harvest. These plants continue to grow tall and fast throughout their life cycle and can double in height even after they’ve entered the flowering period. The overall life cycle for sativa can last up to six months, resulting in a more extended growth-period than that of indica.

Indica strains flower more rapidly than sativa, forming flowers after seven to nine weeks on average. They continue flowering for up to twelve weeks. Many indica slow their upward growth as they begin flowering, and instead become bushier, with branches and leaves fanning out. Their life span is three to four months.

Harvest

Sativa buds are ready to harvest when the majority of the trichomes, or resinous glands on the buds, appear milky-white with only an occasional clear trichome in the mix. Sativa bud structure is frequently elongated and thin, with an appearance similar to spears. However, the flower buds of sativa can also form foxtails, when the calyxes, or nug groupings, of the female buds stack up on each other.

Indica buds are tightly packed and tend to grow in a more chunky formation than those of sativa. Indica trichomes that are ready to harvest can take on a milky-translucence as well, but often appear more amber in color.

Sativa buds are ready to harvest when the majority of the trichomes appear milky-white with only an occasional clear trichome in the mix. Indica trichomes that are ready to harvest can take on a milky-translucence as well, but often appear more amber in color. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

How to identify indica and sativa plants Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Is there really a difference between indica and sativa? Identifying