Once you've got into the swing of growing autoflowering cannabis, you'll find it a fun and therapeutic process that's pretty simple to master.
It all starts with understanding the basics of your autoflowering cannabis plant's lifecycle. If you're new to growing and want to know what to expect, here we take a deep dive into each weekly stage of a typical autoflower's growing cycle.
Advantages of the short autoflower life cycle
Autoflowering strains are the quickest cultivars to grow and harvest. With an average seed-to-harvest cycle of between just 8 to 12 weeks, they are the perfect solution for both new growers and busy lives. That's because autoflowers are developed to switch from the vegetative to flowering stage without requiring a comprehensive light regiment. It makes them easier to come to terms with, as their growth isn't simply determined by light.
The advantages of this much shorter life cycle mean that you can reap the benefits of a cannabis harvest much sooner and with less effort. As such, you don’t have to rely on seasonal calendar growth. This makes autoflowers a true favorite for growers looking for multiple harvests per year.
If you’re short on time or simply new to the game, autoflowering seeds are the perfect option. What’s more, autoflowers come with added benefits like resilience to common pests and pestilence and a broader tolerance of climate. It also grows smaller, making it more manageable and less intimidating in smaller apartment settings. In sum, autoflowers are beginner-friendly plants that are speedy and easy to grow.
> Tip: although autoflowers are fast, some autoflowers are just a bit faster. So check out our fastest autoflowering strains with the shortest life cycle.
The life cycle of autoflower varieties - week by week pictures
- Autoflower week 1
- Autoflower week 2
- Autoflower week 3
- Autoflower week 4
- Autoflower week 5
- Autoflower week 6
- Autoflower week 7
- Autoflower week 8
- Autoflower week 9
- Autoflower week 10
- Autoflower week 11
- Autoflower week 12
Autoflower week 1: germination / seedling
The germination stage takes between 1 and 3 days to show, depending on your setup and varietal. Your seed will activate during this week and begin sprouting roots below and a shoot above. This is a highly anticipated period for first-time growers, as you’ll get to see if your plant is off to a racing start. Many opt to begin the germination process outside of soil to ensure their seeds are healthy. In this case, simply place your seed on a wet paper towel inside a plastic container. Keep the container in a warm, dry place and continue to spray with warm water every few hours. Once it sprouts, you can pot it in soil.
It’s important to provide good quality soil and light to promote healthy growth in this first week. A higher humidity ratio is also favorable as the roots will not be well established. Ideally, opt for organic nutrient soil and mycorrhiza to optimize the roots’ absorption. Temperatures between 20 °C and 25 °C are perfect at this stage.
Related: how to germinate cannabis seeds
Autoflower week 2: seedling
At week 2, your seeds haves entered the late seedling stage and will begin to form leaves for photosynthesis. You’ll notice that the leaves will spread vertically out to absorb the light. This is when you can begin to incorporate the lighting regiment you'll use throughout the vegetative stage. You can up your soil nutrients now to encourage healthy growth too. You'll be able to find a wide range of organic booster tablets, fertilizers and soil enhancers that are perfect for encouraging a strong vegetative stage.
Just remember, autoflowers don't need as many nutrients as regular varietals. You can halve or even quarter the recommended dosage on the packaging you choose. If you're using indoor lights, LED options are best to save energy and money. Switch on the blue light setting throughout the vegetative phase and lower the relative humidity. Although autoflowering plants don't rely on light to flower, you should still maintain a 16 hours on / 8 hours off routine to encourage growth. There isn't a consensus on this among growers and some leave lighting on for 24 hours across the vegetation period. The benefits of 16 / 8 is that you can keep this consistent throughout your autoflowers life cycle - from vegetation through flowering.
Autoflower week 3 : Vegetation
The 3 week old autoflower should have fully entered the vegetative stage and reached about 15 cm in height. Don’t worry if your plant is either faster, slower, taller or shorter – all seed varieties are different. Here, more leaves and off-shoots will have formed, indicating a healthy, robust plant. You can keep your light settings just the same as before to help foster healthy vertical growth.
The humidity should be far lower now than during the germination stage, as your plant has developed both firm roots and leaves. Aim for 50% relative humidity and air temperatures of roughly 20 °C. At this stage, you can begin to implement your low-stress training techniques (for SCROG or SOG) to ensure your stems and buds get plenty of light in the long run. Keep water feeding levels at about 500 ml per day and avoid overdoing it, or you'll risk raising humidity and promoting mold.
Autoflower week 4: Vegetation
Now your cannabis plant is in full swing with rich green leaves and steady growth. Training should be incorporated during this stage in full to avoid stressing your plant when it flowers. You may begin to see signs pre-flowering of pre-flowering on the plant's nodes. Your plant is still growing at this stage, however, so opt for growing fertilizer rather than flowering solutions. Much of your regiment should stay exactly the same over this week – keep light levels consistent, humidity at 50% and water 500 ml per day. As your plant grows, adjust the lighting so that it is not closer than 70 cm from your canopy.
Autoflower week 5: Pre-flowering
At week 5, the signs of pre-flowering should be present on your stem’s nodes. Female plants begin to develop pistils that form like hairs in between the stem and branches. Males, by contrast, produce pollen sacs. If you’re not looking to seed your autoflowers, you’ll want to remove your male plants at the first sign of sac growth to prevent them from pollinating your crop. As for your setup, keep your plant’s feeding and light routine the same as before. Some plants flower earlier than others, so watch this carefully, as the next stage requires a few adjustments. Remember to keep your lighting at 70 cm from the canopy for now to encourage growth.
Autoflower week 6: Flowering
Once you've spotted the tell-tale signs of flowering on your plant's nodes, it's time to adjust your lighting and food. Switch your fertilizer to a flowering stage type and ensure your lighting is red rather than blue. This will encourage your resiny buds to develop well. Why do you need to change fertilizer? Flowering nutrients include greater quantities of potassium, magnesium and calcium to encourage healthy growth. Flowering autoflower strains also require twice the amount of water than during the vegetative phase, so feed 1 liter every 24 hours. Temperatures also benefit from being raised to around 23 °C. Keep a keen eye on your pH levels to ensure a rate of between 6 and 6.5.
Autoflower week 7: Flowering
At week 7, flowering should be well underway, with gorgeous colors and buds forming. As things begin to smell and become more potent, you should drop the humidity to 40% and increase your watering to 1.5 liters daily. Your plant will likely be pushing 30 cm at this point, so its good practice to adjust your lighting to about 45 cm above your canopy. Feeding should also increase according to your fertilizer's instructions. At this stage, you should regularly inspect your plants for any abnormalities on the buds, like protrusions or abscesses. While rare, hermaphrodite plants begin to pollinate themselves during this phase. Look for any signs of these and remove them to stop them pollinating the surrounding plants.
Autoflower week 8: Flowering
Some quick-growing autoflowers finish up the flowering process at this phase, while many others continue flourishing. Just keep an eye out for the progress of flowering and bud growth. Patience is key throughout the flowering stage, as you want the most potent, high-quality buds possible. Don’t rush things or get ahead of yourself with harvesting. In terms of growing conditions, you’ll want to keep things just as they are with 1.5 liters of water per day, 40% humidity and 24 °C air temperatures. Check the leaves constantly for any issues like rusty-brown coloring or dullness. This is a sign of nutrient deficiency and indicates the need to up your potassium intake and get the pH balance right. A magnifying glass is your best friend now to inspect for any potential pests, too.
Autoflower week 9: Flowering
At week 9, you should continue your flowering regiment or skip forward to the pre-harvest stage, depending on your strain. Remain consistent with light, humidity, nutrients and water to encourage growth and continue to inspect your plants for pests or mold. Look out for any variations in leaf coloring that appears unnatural, like browning or burning, as this can indicate a nutrient issue. Keeping your humidity levels under control is the best preventative to many issues during this late-flowering period. Continue with your flower fertilizer, control humidity at 40% and retain a 24 °C air temperature. Stick to 1.5 liters of water per day and avoid over-watering to prevent excess humidity.
Autoflower week 10: Flowering
As the flowering stage comes to an end, the buds will have become tight, hard, weighty and resinous, with pistils taking on a wide range of colors. The secondary fan leaves turn yellow as your autoflower plant reaches the end stages of flowering. You'll want to begin flushing your soil of nutrients next to improve the taste. Continue feeding and lighting your flowering plant as usual until it reaches full maturity. Don’t worry if your buds are still developing, simply treat your plant as at an earlier week's stage and remain consistent with your feeding and nutrient control. Some autoflowers, like Amnesia Haze, can take a full 12 weeks to reach full maturity through flowering. The key here is consistency, patience and constant inspection.
Autoflower week 11: Flushing / Defoliate
Once your buds are looking seriously resinous and weighty, it's time to think about harvesting. You can harvest your plant when the pistils turn dark and begin to curl. If yours are still sticking out, give it a few days to curl and reveal the hefty bud underneath. A handy tip is to inspect your bud with a magnifying glass. The trichomes should be frosty white with a mushroom-like shape. Before you begin plucking and trimming your plant of its precious goods, however, you should flush the plant. Stop feeding your plant its usual nutrient-rich solution and flood the soil with as much water as it can take every day. This removes the nutrients remaining in the soil and promotes a smooth and more neutral flavor. Repeat this over the week.
Defoliating is the process of cutting away smaller leaves and overgrown canopies. This encourages light exposure but ups the risk of mold over the next week, so remain vigilant. The effects of the flushing should become apparent over the following days as leaves begin to brown and fall off. Keep the watering process consistent and continue with your light, humidity and temperature routines.
Week 12: Harvest
Your autoflower plants will be ready to harvest anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks after planting. Don’t worry if your auto grows quicker or slower, each strain’s genetic profile creates varying life cycles. You’ll know exactly when to begin harvesting your buds when their pistils turn brownish-red and the trichomes are a thick, milky white. If you notice some buds are riper than others, you can leave the as-yet developed buds some more time to mature. Buds at the top tend to grow quickly due to the larger intake of light. Simply remove them as they’re ready to harvest and promote light to penetrate the lower buds.
This is when you’ll get to reap the full rewards for your patience. Snip the buds off with sterilized scissors and prepare them for drying and curing for a top-end product. This next crucial process transforms your precious nugs into refined and aromatic buds. It’s important to keep your working surface and utensils clean both here and at all times to avoid infecting the buds. While it can be tempting to skip the curing process, it’s an important period that helps mellow and mature the flavor of your buds. Non-cured buds will produce both a harsher smoke and a more prominent chlorophyll character.
Grow your own autoflower!
The pictures above are from our Bruce Banner Autoflower. One of the greatest and most potent autoflowers around. However, you can choose from a great variety of autoflower seeds at Weedseedsexpress.
Our premium seed bank offers well-known staples and new classic strains that are easy to grow and quick to harvest. You'll find a full breakdown of harvest times, too, so you'll know just how long you can expect the cycle to take after planting. Our autoflowering seeds provide excellent results in as little as 8 weeks - so get started today with these fun and versatile varieties.