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Growing Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid

Growing Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid Cannabis

If you are new to growing cannabis, you may not realize that there are different strains of the plants. The strains have different places of origin, and they have physical differences in terms of height, leaf shape, and growing patterns. The product they produce also varies.

This article will offer an overview of the three main strains – indicas, sativas, and hybrids – and the basic information you need to know for growing them.

Growing Indica

Growing Indica Cannabis

Indica originated in the Hindu Kush Mountain region of Central and South Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, and India.  

Because of this cold environment, the indica strain tends to be of short stature with a bush-like appearance. At maturity, an average indica plant may reach heights of only three to four feet. Its leaves are full, dark green, and broad, and its buds usually grow in clumps.

Indicas flower quickly, producing high yields with dense buds. It is this short growing cycle, as well as their compact size, that makes indicas appealing to home growers. This strain adapts well to an indoor growing environment and outdoors where space is limited.

However, sometimes a benefit can also become detrimental if you’re not careful. The dense buds of the indica strain are susceptible to pests and mold, especially in areas with excessive humidity.

The flowering period for indicas averages around eight weeks. The plants tend to be in flower for eight to 12 weeks until they are ready for harvest.

Here are the typical traits of Indica Cannabis:

  • Short, bushy plants
  • Broad, dark green leaves
  • Short flowering time
  • High yields
  • Dense buds with a touch of purple color
  • Susceptible to pests and mold

Growing Sativa

Growing Sativa Cannabis

Sativa comes from the warmer climates of Southeast Asia, South Africa, and Central and South America. As a result, this strain grows tall with long, thin leaves and takes longer to mature than the indica. Some mature sativa plants may reach as high as 20 feet!

This strain is a good choice if you live in a hot, humid region or if you plan to grow your plants in a controlled greenhouse environment. In addition to heat and humidity, sativas require more light than the indica. On the other hand, the sativa is less susceptible to mold than the indica. 

The sativa strain also requires less frequent fertilizing and feeding than the indica.

Sativas usually have a shorter vegetative cycle than indicas, but once the plants begin to flower, it can be 10 to 12 weeks until they are ready for harvest. Some pure sativa strains can take 16 weeks to finish in flower. The average growing period for a pure sativa strain is about six months.

The typical traits of Sativa Cannabis include:

  • Tall, lanky plants
  • Thin, light green leaves
  • Longer flowering time
  • Lower yields
  • Airy buds with deep red or orange accents
  • Less susceptible to mold

Growing Hybrid Cannabis

Growing Hybrid Cannabis Strains

Another option for growers is to plant hybrid forms of indica and sativa strains. The tricky part is knowing whether the hybrid’s traits are more like an indica or more like a sativa.

Some hybrids are indica-dominant, while others are sativa-dominant. And still others aim to be a 50/50 blend of both strains. Here are the four types of hybrid strains:

  • Sativa/sativa – two different sativa varieties bred together
  • Indica/indica – two different indica varieties bred together
  • Sativa/indica – A hybrid with sativa-dominant characteristics
  • Indica/ sativa – A hybrid indica-dominant characteristics

As you might expect, most hybrid growers seek the best of both worlds – the dense buds and short flowering time of the indica combined with the lack of mold sensitivity of the sativa.

Hybrid growers also may be looking for a blend of the effects the strain produces, combining the stimulating cerebral effects (known as a “head high”) of the sativa with the relaxing full-body effects of the indica.

Hybrid strains will stay in flower for an average of eight to 10 weeks until they are ready for harvest.

Hybrids have a mix of characteristics of indicas and sativas, depending upon their genetics. In other words, they might look more like an indica or a sativa plant. However, the typical traits of hybrid cannabis include:

  • Short flowering time
  • High yields
  • Robust growth
  • Resilient plants

What Do All Cannabis Strains Have in Common?

The average growing period for all cannabis types — indica, sativa, and hybrids — is in the three- to six-month range, depending on their environment. Of course, if you use an indoor growing environment, you can manipulate their growth more than if they are outdoors.

No matter which strain of cannabis you grow, there are some factors that are essential for healthy growth. These factors include:

  • Proper growing medium
  • Adequate watering
  • Trimming and training the plants as needed
  • Adjusting the amount of light they require

Since the amount of light, trimming, and watering can vary according to the strain, let’s focus on the medium for growing cannabis.

Cannabis growers can select from hydroponic techniques to growing media, including soil, clay pebbles, and coco coir. Since most growers use soil, here are the factors that contribute to healthy plants of any strain.

  • A light, airy texture that allows roots easy access to oxygen
  • Adequate water drainage that prevents “wet feet” in the plants
  • Some moisture retention
  • Optimal pH level in the 5.8 to 6.3 range
  • Nutrients, especially large quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. If you’re using pre-fertilized store-bought soil designed for cannabis, the nutrients usually last for three to four weeks. You probably won’t need to add soil nutrients until the flowering phase begins.

Now that you know the fundamental differences between indica, sativa, and hybrid strains, you can select the type of plant that best suits your needs and your growing environment.

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