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Differences in Growing Sativa, Indica and Hybrid Cannabis

November 11, 2016

A primary joy that comes from growing cannabis yourself is that you get to pick the genetics that interest you. However, not all strains are created equal and depending on the genetics, the plant you want to grow could be a poor choice for your garden. Indicas, sativas, and the many hybrid strains in between all grow differently, take varying times to flower, and produce a different end product.

We’ve already covered the main differences in cannabis types, so what’s there to know about growing each?

Growing Indica Cannabis Strains

Close up of marijuana plant

Traits of a typical indica cannabis plant:

  • Shorter flowering time
  • High yields
  • Effects: Sedating, relaxing
  • Symptom Relief: Anxiety, insomnia, pain, muscle spasms
  • Morphology: Short, bushy, broader leaves

Because of indica’s shorter flowering periods and higher yields, they have always been popular amongst growers. Shorter flowering periods mean plants mature and finish growing sooner than sativa strains. This allows outdoor gardens to exist in climates where fall turns to winter quickly. For indoor gardeners, this means more cycles annually. The higher yields also incentivize growers to work with indicas to increase profit margins. Additionally, a benefit of growing indicas is their short stature which is ideal for most gardens indoors and out where space is limited and direct sunlight is a top priority.


When is the right time to harvest cannabis plants?

Growing Sativa Cannabis Strains

Closeup of Marijuana plant

Traits of a typical sativa cannabis plant:

  • Longer flowering time
  • Low yields
  • Effects: Uplifting, creative, cerebral
  • Symptom Relief: Depression, ADD/ADHD, fatigue, mood disorders
  • Morphology: Tall, lanky, thin leaves

Sativa genetics come from near the equator, where the summers are long and the winters are mild. Sativas grow long, lanky, and take their time to finish. Generally, they are not a first pick for gardeners as their height is difficult indoors while their lower yields make for a reduced profit. However, if you are more interested growing as a connoisseur you might take great pleasure from exploring the sativa strains and the varying effects.


The Science of Sativa Cannabis Strains

Sativas do offer some good qualities when it comes to growing. The period of time it takes for a sativa to complete its flower cycle can be offset by faster vegetative growth. Additionally, some purebred sativas have been developed to have faster flowering times and increased yields. Coming from the equator, sativa strains handle heat better than most indicas, which is good for indoor gardens where temperature control is difficult or costly in the summer months.

Growing Hybrid Cannabis Strains

The top of marijuana plant isolated over white background

Traits of hybrid cannabis plants:

  • Flowering time varies
  • Many are high-yielding
  • Effects: Blend of sativa and indica traits
  • Symptom Relief: Varies based on genetics
  • Morphology: wide range of growth patterns

Hybrids blend the best of both worlds of the cannabis plant. Most cannabis these days tends to be a hybrid mix of different indica and sativa strains. More often than not, they lean toward one side of the spectrum with either indica- or sativa-dominant traits.


Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Breeding, Genetics, and Strain Variability

Hybrids may inherit the shorter flowering time of indicas while retaining the cerebral high offered by sativas. They can also have the quality yields of indicas while taking on the fast vegetative growth of a sativa. Because hybrids can blend attributes of each, it’s no wonder they make up most of the market.

Do you grow your indicas, sativas, and hybrid strains differently? Share your tips and questions in the comments section.

Trevor Hennings's Bio Image

Trevor Hennings

Trevor is a freelance writer and photographer. He has spent years in California working in the cannabis industry.

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  • Generally speaking indica plants are hardier to grow. Making them easier for more people. Sativa Cannabis plants have a reputation for being more fine.

  • Sally Jones

    Which seeds are Best for chronic pain
    Indica I believe. Also which is the best strain for depression and to be able to relax. Both indoor growing by complete novice who had never used ever or know anyone that does. I want to buy the best seeds for my needs

    • Willydog1

      For the beginner I would use 5 gal cloth pots for each plant, fill them with Foxfarm ph balanced potting soil is perfect, put the germinated seeds directly into the soil,,, hang a couple led lights and watch them everyday,, Foxfarm soil full of all you need, I usually only use a bloom fertilizer about the time they start to flower,,, keep it simple, until you get it figured out,,, and get auto flower seeds, set the lights on for 18 hours and leave them that way, two plants will fill a 3 x 4 foot area,,,,,,,,,,, forget the hydroponics, chemicals, ph testing, and cocoa,,, try that stuff for later when you get more experienced,,,,,

      • MichiGreen

        great advice. There is way too much emphasis on pushing bottled nutrients into the soil.

  • Javier Torres

    In my best Valley Girl impression circa 1998…”Totally!”.

  • MichiGreen

    This article ends with “Do you grow your indicas, sativas, and hybrid strains differently?”
    I didn’t see any information about how to grow plants… just a description of indica, sativa, and hybrid characteristics…
    I’m noticing that sort of shallow content too often in Leafly articles.