How To Grow Sativa Strains

How To Grow Sativa Strains (Step by Step)

Last updated 04/09/2023 12 min read

    Sativa strains are known for their uplifting effects, tall growth, and longer flowering times.

    Due to their height, they're often considered harder to grow than Indica or Autoflower strains.

    In this article, I'll walk you through how to grow Sativa strains to maximize yield and potency..

    10 Key Things To Understand When Growing Sativa Strains

    Before you start growing Staiva strains, there are some important things to consider.

    1. Quality Seeds

     If you don't start with high-quality Sativa seeds, then your grow will be a disappointment.

    Top shelf Sativa seeds are plump, firm, and consistently brown with occasional dark markings, devoid of green or pale colors.

    They should be smooth, without cracks or holes, and not feel dry or brittle.

    TIP: Our top-shelf Sativa Seeds come with a 100% germination guarantee and ultra-fast shipping to the US, Canada, and the EU.

    2. Grow Space

    Sativas are known for their tall growth.

    Outdoor sativa plants can reach up to 12 feet or even higher, depending on the specific strain and growing conditions.

    If growing indoors, you'll need to manage height with training techniques such as Low-Stress Training (LST) or the Screen of Green (SCROG) method.

    3. Lighting

    Sativas originate from near the equator, which means they're used to a lot of sunlight.

    Aim for an 18/6 light cycle (18 hours of light, 6 hours of darkness) during vegetative growth and 12/12 during flowering.

    Sativa Ideal Lighting

    If growing indoors, invest in good-quality LED or HID lights to provide sufficient intensity.

    4. Temperature & Humidity

    Sativas prefer warmer temperatures, ranging from 70-85°F (21-30°C) during the day.

    They can handle higher humidity levels during the vegetative stage but aim to reduce humidity (40-50%) during flowering to prevent mold and other issues.

    5. Soil & Nutrients

    Sativas prefer well-draining soil. A mix with perlite, coco coir, and worm castings can work well.

    Start with a balanced nutrient regimen. As Sativas enter flowering, reduce nitrogen and increase phosphorus and potassium.

    Be wary of over-fertilizing, as Sativas can be sensitive.

    6. Flowering

    Sativas typically have a longer flowering time than Indicas, often ranging from 9-12 weeks.

    Be patient and avoid harvesting early. Use a magnifying glass to check the trichomes on the buds for the ideal harvest time.

    7. Controlling Height

    To maximize yield and manage the height of Sativa plants, consider techniques like topping, LST, and SCROG.

    Regularly prune away unnecessary growth at the bottom of the plant, especially in the flowering phase, to ensure energy is directed to the main colas.

    8. Air circulation:

    Make sure your growing space has adequate air circulation.

    This helps strengthen stems and prevent pests and mold. A simple rotating desk fan with an extractor fan is enough.

    9. Watering

    Sativas tend to prefer slightly dry conditions over being over-watered.

    Ensure good drainage and let the top layer of soil dry out between watering sessions.

    10. Pests & Disease

    Due to their longer flowering time, Sativas have more exposure to potential pest and disease threats.

    Regularly inspect your plants and employ preventive measures like neem oil or other organic pest deterrents.

    How To Grow Sativa Strains Step By Step

    Step 1 - Gather The following Supplies

    • Seeds or Clones: Start with high-quality Sativa cannabis seeds or clones.
    • Soil or Hydroponics? - Organic potting mix works well for beginners due to its forgiving nature.
    • Pots or Containers - 3-5 gallon pots with drainage holes will work for most beginners.
    • Light - LED Grow Lights: These are energy-efficient and suitable for small-scale beginners. Cheap lights on Amazon can work just as well as more expensive ones. 
    • Air - A small oscillating fan to promote air circulation. An exhaust fan for ventilation, especially if growing in a confined space like a closet.
    • Temperature and Humidity Control - A basic thermometer/hygrometer to monitor conditions.
    • Water & pH Control - pH strips or a simple pH meter to ensure water is in the correct range (pH 6.0-7.0 for soil).
    • Basic Nutrients - A simple premixed nutrient solution for cannabis. Start with a balanced N-P-K ratio for vegetative growth and adjust based on plant needs.
    • Pruning - A pair of sharp scissors for occasional trimming.
    • Magnifying Glass  - Useful for checking trichomes when determining if the plant is ready to harvest.
    • Harvest Supplies - String or wire for drying and Mason jars for curing.
    • Basic Safety Equipment - Gloves for handling and pruning.

    Step 2 - Germination

    Inspect your seeds

    Start by inspecting your seeds carefully. It's advisable to use seeds that are dark in color, hard to the touch, and free from cracks or other imperfections.

    Water Soak (optional but recommended)

    Place the seeds in a glass of distilled water for 12-24 hours. Most seeds will sink once they've taken in enough moisture. This initial soaking helps to increase the rate of germination.

    Paper Towel Method:

    1. Wet two paper towels with distilled water. Make sure they're damp, but not soaking wet.
    2. Place one of the damp paper towels on a plate.
    3. Carefully place your seeds on the paper towel, spacing them out so they're not touching.
    4. Place the second damp paper towel over the seeds.
    5. Put the second plate on top, creating a sort of 'dome' to keep the humidity in.

     Store the plates in a warm, dark place. The ideal temperature for germination is around 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C). If your environment is too cold, consider using a seedling heat mat.

    Monitor Daily: Check your seeds daily to ensure the paper towels remain damp and to check for signs of germination. Do not let the paper towels dry out. Seeds typically germinate in 24-72 hours, but it can take longer. You're looking for the emergence of a small white taproot.


    Once the taproot has grown to a few millimeters long, the seeds are ready to be planted.

    1. Prepare small pots or containers with a good-quality potting mix or seedling starter soil. Make a small hole in the center, about half an inch deep.
    2. Using tweezers or your fingers, carefully pick up the germinated seed by the seed shell (not the taproot) and place it taproot down in the hole.
    3. Lightly cover the seed with soil, but do not compact it too much. Water gently.

    Germination tips:

    • Always handle seeds and seedlings with care. The taproot is delicate and can be easily damaged.
    • Use distilled or purified water to avoid harmful chemicals and minerals that might inhibit germination.
    • Ensure that your pots or rooting medium are well-draining to prevent root rot.
    • Once your seeds have sprouted and started growing, they will need adequate light, nutrients, and the correct environmental conditions to thrive. Research and prepare for this next stage of growth.

    Step 3 - Seedling Stage

    Once the taproot emerges from the seed and is planted, the seedling stage begins. It lasts for about 2-3 weeks. During this time, the plant will develop its first sets of leaves:

    Cotyledons: The first "leaves" that emerge are not true leaves. They're called cotyledons and are part of the seed's embryo. They're small, rounded, and serve as the seedling's initial food source.

    True Leaves: After the cotyledons, the plant will begin to produce its first true leaves, which have the serrated edges typical of cannabis. These leaves grow larger and increase in number as the seedling matures.

    Ideal Conditions for Seedlings:

    • Light: Seedlings require a lot of light. If growing indoors, 18-24 hours of light is ideal. Using fluorescent or LED lights that don't emit too much heat can be ideal for seedlings. Place the lights a few inches above the plants, adjusting as they grow.

    • Temperature: Maintain temperatures between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C). Seedlings are sensitive to extreme conditions.

    • Humidity: Seedlings thrive in high humidity, around 60-70%. If you're in a dry environment, consider using a humidity dome or a humidifier.

    • Water: Only water when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Over-watering is a common mistake. Ensure that the soil or medium is well-draining.

    Ideal Conditions For Sativa Seedlings

    Seedling stage tips:

    • Avoid Overwatering: This can stunt growth and lead to root rot. Seedlings don't need much water, but they need it consistently. A spray bottle can be useful for keeping the medium moist without over-watering.

    • Nutrients: In the seedling stage, they generally don't need additional nutrients, especially if planted in a quality potting mix. If you do decide to feed them, use a half-strength or quarter-strength nutrient solution to avoid nutrient burn.

    • Handling: Be gentle. Seedlings are fragile. If you need to move or transplant them, handle them by the leaves, not the stem.

    Seedling problems to watch out for

    • Stretching: If seedlings grow tall and thin, it's a sign they're stretching for light. This can make them weak and leggy. To counteract this, either lower the light source or, if growing in natural light, ensure they're getting enough direct sunlight.

    • Damping Off: This is a fungal condition that causes seedlings to collapse and die. It's often the result of over-watering or a non-sterile growing medium.

    Step 4 - Vegetation Stage

    After the seedling phase, the vegetative stage begins. This is where the cannabis plant grows in size and stature, producing more branches and bigger, more developed leaves. For photoperiod-sensitive strains (as opposed to auto-flowering strains), the vegetative stage continues until the light cycle changes, signaling the plant to begin flowering.

    Ideal Conditions during Vegetation stage

    • Light: Sativa plants in the vegetative stage need plenty of light. If you're growing indoors, provide 18-24 hours of light per day. Using high-intensity discharge (HID) lights like metal halide (MH) lamps can be particularly effective during this stage.

    • Temperature: Aim for daytime temperatures of 70-85°F (21-29°C) and slightly cooler nighttime temperatures.

    • Humidity: Maintain relative humidity around 40-70%. As plants grow, they can handle slightly lower humidity.

    • Water: Keep the growing medium consistently moist but not soggy. Over-watering is a common mistake.

    Ideal Conditions For Sativa Vegetation Stage

    Feeding & Nutrients during the vegetation stage

    • Nutrients: During the vegetative stage, cannabis plants require higher levels of nitrogen and lower levels of phosphorus. Many commercial cannabis-specific nutrient lines offer "grow" or "vegetative" formulations that cater to this.

    • pH Levels: Ensure that your water and nutrient solution's pH level is appropriate for your growing medium. For soil, a pH of 6.0-7.0 is ideal. For hydroponics, aim for 5.5-6.5. Maintaining the right pH ensures that plants can uptake nutrients effectively.

    Training and pruning during the vegetation stage

    • Pruning: Regularly prune your sativa plants to promote more vigorous growth and better air circulation. Remove dead or yellowing leaves and consider "topping" the plant (cutting off the top) to encourage it to grow more branches and become bushier.

    • Training: Techniques like Low-Stress Training (LST) or the Screen of Green (ScrOG) method can be applied to guide plant growth, increase light exposure to lower branches, and maximize yields. These methods are particularly useful for sativa strains, which can grow tall and lanky.

    Step 5 - Flowering Stage

    The flowering stage is the most exciting phase in the cannabis growing process.

    It's when the plants produce the sticky buds that we're looking for. Sativa strains, which are known for their tall growth and longer flowering times compared to Indica strains, need specific attention during this stage.

    Ideal Conditions for Flowering:

    • Light: Switch to a 12/12 light cycle (12 hours on, 12 hours off). If you're growing indoors using high-intensity discharge (HID) lights, consider switching from metal halide (MH) to high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps, which provide a spectrum better suited for flowering.

    • Temperature: Keep daytime temperatures between 65-80°F (18-26°C). Cooler night temperatures (but not too cold) can enhance bud color and potentially boost terpene profiles in some strains.

    • Humidity: Gradually reduce humidity levels throughout the flowering stage. Start around 40-50% and try to reach 30-40% during the final weeks before harvest. Lower humidity reduces the risk of mold and bud rot.

    Ideal Conditions For Sativa Flowering Stage

    Feeding & Nutrients during flowering

    • Nutrients: As the plant's focus shifts to bud production, it requires higher levels of phosphorus and potassium and lower levels of nitrogen. Use a "bloom" or "flowering" nutrient formula. Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines and watch for nutrient burn signs (tips of leaves turning yellow or brown).

    • pH Levels: Maintain appropriate pH levels for your growing medium to ensure nutrient uptake. Soil should be around 6.0-7.0, and hydroponic systems should be 5.5-6.5.

    Things to watch out for during flowering

    • Stretching: In the first 2-3 weeks of flowering, sativa plants can exhibit a growth spurt, often called "the stretch." Sativas, in particular, can grow substantially during this time, so ensure you have adequate vertical space.

    • Bud Sites: Keep an eye on developing bud sites. As they grow, ensure they have good light exposure and airflow. Remove any yellowing leaves or leaves that are shading primary bud sites.

    • Pests & Diseases: Bud rot, mold, and pests can become significant problems during the flowering stage. Regularly inspect your plants. Increase airflow and maintain optimal humidity to prevent mold and mildew.

    Advanced Techniques (optional):

    • Defoliation: Some growers remove select fan leaves during the early flowering phase to improve light penetration and airflow. Be cautious with this technique; overdoing it can stress the plant.

    • Supplemental Lighting: For those growing outdoors, supplemental lighting can help maintain a consistent 12/12 cycle, ensuring plants don't revert to vegetative growth due to unexpected light exposure.

    Step 5 - Harvesting

    Determining the right time to harvest is crucial. Too early, and you miss out on potency and yield; too late, and you might get a different effect than desired.

    • Trichomes: Inspect the tiny resin glands or trichomes on your buds using a magnifying glass or jeweler's loupe. When a good number of trichomes transition from clear to milky with some turning amber, it's generally a sign the plant is ready to harvest.

    • Pistils: The hair-like structures on your buds, called pistils, change from white to reddish-brown or amber when nearing harvest time.

    Step 5 - Dry & Curing

    Drying and curing are the final and arguably among the most critical steps when growing weed.

    Proper drying and curing will preserve the potency, flavor, and overall quality of the cannabis.

    Here's what beginners need to know about the drying and curing process for their sativa harvest:


    Harvesting: Begin by cutting down the branches or the entire plant.

    Trimming: While some growers trim their buds when they're still wet (wet trimming), others prefer to do it once they're dry (dry trimming). Wet trimming can be easier, but dry trimming can help slow down the drying process, which can be beneficial for preserving terpenes.

    Hanging: Hang the branches upside down in a dark room with good air circulation. A closet, tent, or any space where you can control humidity and temperature works.

    Conditions: Aim for a room temperature of around 60-70°F (15-21°C) and a humidity level of 50-60%. Utilize fans for air circulation, but don't point them directly at the buds.

    Duration: This process can take anywhere from 5 to 15 days depending on environmental conditions. Buds are typically ready for the next step when the smaller stems snap rather than bend.


    Manicuring: If you haven't already, trim off the excess leaves from your buds.

    Storing: Place your buds in airtight containers. Wide-mouth quart-sized mason jars are commonly used. Fill the jars ¾ full to allow for some air.

    Initial Burping: For the first week, open the jars once or twice a day for about 15 minutes to let moisture escape and fresh air in. This is called "burping." It prevents mold growth and helps buds cure evenly.

    Checking: Monitor the buds' moisture level. If they feel overly wet or you notice condensation in the jar, remove the buds and let them dry outside the jar for several hours.

    Duration: A proper cure usually takes about 2-4 weeks, but some connoisseurs cure for several months for optimal flavor and smoothness. Over time, reduce the frequency of burping to once every few days and then once a week.Growing Sativas FAQs

    Drying & Curing Tips

    • Hygrometers: Consider placing small hygrometers in your jars to monitor humidity levels. Aim for an internal humidity of 58-65%.

    • Avoid Over-Drying: If buds dry too quickly or too much, they can become brittle, and the aromatic terpenes can degrade. Using humidifier packs inside jars can help regulate humidity and revitalize slightly overdried buds.

    • Mold and Mildew: Always keep an eye out for mold and mildew. If you find any buds affected, it's crucial to remove and discard them immediately. Consuming moldy cannabis can be harmful.

    • Storage: Once your buds are cured, store them in a cool, dark place. Exposure to heat, light, and oxygen can degrade your cannabis over time.

    How can you tell Sativa from Indica plants?

    Generally, Sativa plants have the following characteristics:

    • Taller: Can grow up to 12 feet or more in some cases.
    • Thin Leaves: Narrow and slender leaves.
    • Lighter Green: The shade of green is generally a lighter tone.

    How do you keep Sativas short?

    Here are some techniques you can use in order to keep your Sativas as short as possible.

    Topping - This involves cutting off the top of the main stem of a young cannabis plant. By doing this, the plant will grow more branches and become bushier rather than taller.

    Low-Stress Training (LST) - LST involves gently bending the branches and securing them in place using soft ties. This encourages the plant to grow horizontally, thus preventing excessive vertical growth.

    Screen of Green (SCROG) - A horizontal screen or netting is placed above the plants. As the plants grow, their branches are woven or tucked into the screen, forcing them to grow horizontally. This not only manages height but can increase yield by exposing more bud sites to the light.

    Sea of Green (SOG) - This method involves growing a large number of small plants instead of a few larger ones. Plants are put into the flowering stage while they're still small, allowing for limited vertical growth.

    Short Vegetative Period - Transitioning plants from the vegetative to the flowering stage earlier can limit their final height. Sativas can double or even triple in height after switching to the flowering phase.

    Light Spectrum - Using blue spectrum light during the vegetative phase can help keep internodal spaces shorter, resulting in shorter plants.

    Temperature - Keeping a slightly cooler temperature, especially during the night cycle, can help reduce stretching. A 10°F difference between day and night temperatures is often recommended.

    Plant Genetics - Opt for Sativa strains known to have a more compact growth habit or consider hybrids that combine the desired traits of Sativas with the shorter stature of Indicas.

    Pruning - Regularly prune lower branches and leaves that don't receive much light. This will encourage the plant to focus its energy on the top growth and prevent it from getting too leggy.

    Optimal Light Intensity - Ensure the plants receive adequate light intensity during their vegetative phase. When plants have low light, they tend to stretch toward the source, leading to taller plants.