Differences in Growing Sativa, Indica and Hybrid Cannabis

Published on November 11, 2016 · Last updated February 24, 2021

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?

Learn more about marijuana plant anatomy in Leafly’s Growing Guide.

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.

Growing Sativa Cannabis Strains

Closeup of Marijuana plant

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.

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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.

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.

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