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5 of the Hardest Cannabis Strains to Grow

March 3, 2017
As you develop your farming craft and become more comfortable in your cannabis garden, you might find yourself looking for a new challenge. One option is to explore strains that are regarded as difficult to grow. If growing for personal use, you may try to conquer strains that are not popular among commercial farms because of their long flowering periods, low yields, and specific feeding requirements. Large grow operations tend to avoid tackling difficult or risky strains because they’re often not worth the additional time, money, and labor.


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Generally, growers tackle these issues by crossbreeding plants for high yields, short flowering cycles, and low-maintenance feeding requirements. For this reason, many strains that are regarded as difficult to grow are landrace strains. “Landrace” refers to feral strains that have long grown in one geographic location without hybridization. These varieties often have varying and specific needs, making them some of the more complicated plants to grow. However, plenty of modern hybrids can prove to be challenging as well.


The Cannabis Origin: What Is a Landrace Strain?

Here are five examples of hard-to-grow strains that ambitious growers may consider if they’re looking for a challenge.

Colombian Gold

Colombian Gold is a landrace sativa hailing from the Santa Marta mountains of Colombia. Made famous over the century as a high-quality cannabis export to the United States, it made a comeback when its genetics were used in the creation of Skunk #1.


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What makes Colombian Gold a difficult strain to grow is its large stature and long flowering periods. To produce this strain indoors, you must be on top of your pruning game; its growth takes off and will quickly overrun your space. The lengthy flowering cycle also increases the chance of error, but if you can bridle this strain, you will be rewarded with a classic quality landrace strain with an exceptional high that electrifies the senses.

San Fernando Valley OG

A beautiful California native, the SFV OG hybrid can be a tricky strain to tame. It has specific feeding needs and a flowering period that extends longer than normal.

OG genetics often require heavy feeding – specifically, they’re known for consuming large amounts of calcium and magnesium (also known as “Cal Mag”). You need to be able to read the plant deficiencies to ensure you don’t over or underfeed this strain. Additionally, SFV OG is a dense plant that will benefit from pruning and topping at an early age. If successful, you will be rewarded with dense, beautiful colas that offer a pungent taste and powerful high.


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Dr. Grinspoon

This landrace sativa strain is named after longtime cannabis advocate and professor at Harvard, Dr. Grinspoon. The genetics are held by Barney’s Farm in Amsterdam and are well known amongst connoisseurs for its cerebral effects and quality of flavor. It is also known for its strange bud structure.

Dr. Grinspoon is difficult to grow because of this bud structure. It can take ages for it to flower and for the airy buds to develop any weight. “When mature, the colas resemble compact green and reddish brown beads,” Barney’s describes. “These loosely hang on thin stems.” The stems and buds are brittle, but the end product is something you will rarely ever see.


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Chocolate Thai

Thai landrace genetics are being kept alive by a breeder in California by the name of DarwoH, and Chocolate Thai is a nostalgic strain commonly associated with the famed Thai sticks of the 1970s and 80s. Cannabis from this region of the world has always been celebrated and cherished for its unique cerebral effects.

The difficulty of this strain can be attributed to its lengthy flowering cycle. Similar to all southeast Asian landrace strains, flowering may take up to 14 weeks. If you have the space, time, and skill to produce a decently yielding Chocolate Thai or any other southeast Asian landrace strain, you have something to be very proud of and will be sure to impress anyone who fondly remembers days spent with Thai sticks.


Headband has become a very popular strain in the past years. With its high-THC content, Headband provides relaxing effects while holding onto the flavors of its parents OG Kush and Sour Diesel.

What makes Headband difficult to produce is its bud structure. Where OG strains are commonly known for their dense, large colas, Headband produces smaller buds that blanket the plant. Because of this, getting a decent yield with consistent quality can be difficult. Being able to use the SCROG (screen of green) method can help overcome this obstacle.

Which cannabis strains have you had difficulty growing? Leave your stories and tips below so other growers can benefit!

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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  • abie cee

    I think this article clears a lot of fog. With every smoker I met, “skunk” has always been synonym with the poorest quality weed; so I think it’s misleading when we read clips from the U.K. and Australia reffering to skunk as heavy stuff. Maybe it’s just the press trying to link Cannabis to something that smells B-A-D… Want good quality weed? Follow pine, fuel, grape, citrus, cedar, berries, “vaporub” aromas (among many others).

    • Andrew Sweeney

      Real skunk which smells like the animal is really good, hard to come by these days but the high is best and litterally a point 2 of a gram would stank up a 3200 square foot home within seconds.

      • abie cee

        Glad you like it. That’s precisely the type of cannabis we avoid, except for making early maturing hybrids.

        • P.J. Rafter

          Yeah, I’ve come to really hate the pungent stink of Indica-dominant hybrids!

          Give me landrace sativa genetics any day…

          • Al Swearengen


  • Raul Tsi

    I remember chocolate Thai very well. My roomies and I found 3 seeds in 5 ounces. We each took a seed and tried to grow it. I was the only one to succeed. What an amazing smell that plant had, it was like the greatest room freshener ever. We were stupid crazy kids back then, I’m surprised we weren’t caught. I wish I had kept track of the flowering period, I planned for 12 weeks and it didn’t seem ready so we kept it going for a while longer. We were rewarded with weed that was stunningly good. My roomies went to Jamaica on spring break and brought some of my weed with them (Yes, did I mention young and crazy?.) The natives they smoked it with were beyond enthusiastic. They hounded my roomies the rest of their vacation hoping they would smoke more of it with them. My weed wowed Rastafarians.

    I last saw Columbian Gold in 1976, and to this day it is still the greatest fully seeded weed that I’ve ever had. I never got to have any Panama Red or Acapulco Gold so I can’t compare them. Mind you, we’re are not talking sinsemilla in any sense what so ever. This gold was as seedy as any weed I’ve had. But the plant material was a yellow straw color, the taste was so smooth and mellow and the high was utterly celestial. I would dearly like to try some of this grown as sinsemilla.

    I actually have some SFV OG that I’ll be opening on Sunday or Monday depending on when my current vial of Pineapple Skunk runs out. I’ve finished my Headband a while back. That I’ve had or have 4 out of 5 of the weeds in this article really gives me a smile.

  • P.J. Rafter

    The Thai grass I remember always had a strong, pleasant smell of Cypress trees ─ haven’t seen that real kickass Thai since the eighties…

    Where’d it go, does anyone know? lol

    • Terry Foster

      If you ever find out let me know:)

  • Michael Felde

    my favorite two strains are white widow and grape ape. difficult to clone!

  • 143jeanne

    I was just reminiscing today about the lovely chocolate smell and taste.That and a good cup of black coffee.