types of cannabis

How To Grow Indica & Sativa – The Basics For Home Growers

This article provides some basic information about growing indica versus sativa strains at home. Every huge harvest starts with great cannabis genetics, but if you’re going to harvest big buds you need to know the difference between indica and sativa strains.

Today we’re going over some cannabis cultivation basics that every home-grower should know. It’s easy to tell the difference between indica and sativa strains when using them, but what about when growing them? Do sativa strains have different needs than indica strains, or are all cannabis varieties pretty much the same?

What To Consider When Choosing Between Indica and Sativa Cannabis Seeds:

  • Average height at maturity
  • Average yield per square meter
  • Stretch, or growth, during flower
  • Average flowering time until maturity

Growing Indica At Home

You can recognize an Indica by the broad dark leaves and bushy growth.

Indica strains such as those from the Afghan or Kush families are notorious for producing super sticky buds that are high in THC. High levels of Myrcene, the most common terpene found in cannabis, also typically characterize Indicas.

Indica strains are a good choice for beginner growers because they are generally much easier to grow than sativas, which are a bit more delicate. Indica varieties typically grow bushy and stout due to their nodal and branching structure, but a healthy plant can easily grow to massive proportions.

Indicas thrive in most climates and are often the choice of indoor cultivators seeking to create a perpetual harvest. Compared to sativa strains, indica varieties have:

  • Higher yields
  • Denser buds
  • Shorter flowering times

The most common issue that growers encounter with indica strains is mold. That’s because their flowers grow densely and their bushy leaves can block healthy air circulation. High humidity levels and low air circulation can easily lead to bud rot or mold issues before an indica reaches full maturity.

Growing Sativa At Home

Compared to indica varieties, sativa strains grow much taller and lankier. Their bud sites are generally more spread out and sativas are notorious for stretching an extra few feet during the flowering phase.

Sativa strains like Gorilla Glue #4 or Sour Diesel are among the most popular for commercial and home growers alike but require a little more attention to detail than your average indica.

Sativa strains can adapt to most climatic regions but generally prefer a dry, warm climate. While you may be able to leave an indica to grow on its own for a while without developing any issues, sativas require more attention to detail.

Lighting, nutrients, water, and air flow — everything needs to be kept in balance for sativa strains. Too much, or too little, of any variable can result in small yields and sickly, gangly plants.

Compared to indicas, sativa varieties typically are:

  • Less dense
  • Produce lower yields
  • Taller and thinner
  • Take longer to reach maturity

Growing Hybrid Strains

While it’s important to understand the genetic characteristics of both indica and sativa, most popular strains today aren’t pure breeds, but hybrid varieties.

Hybrids are the result of crossbreeding indicas, sativas, and variations of strains called phenotypes. Breeders are able to remove traits such as pest susceptibility and improve upon cannabis and terpene profiles by selecting the best of their crop.

The resulting hybrid strains from selective breeding create stronger plants, custom cannabinoid and terpene profiles, and consistent, stable traits that can be passed down to the next generation of seed stock.


If you’re still overwhelmed by the difference between indica and sativa strains and can’t wrap your head around hybrids, then there’s an easy out. You can find feminized autoflowering seeds on the market that are super easy to grow. They’re great for beginners and will automatically flower in about three months regardless of daylight hours available.

If you’ve got the time and resources why not try your hand at growing several varieties of indica, sativa, and hybrid strains. You’ll be able to find what works best for you and your grow space.

To help your plants reach maximum potential come harvest time, you’ll still need to employ some grow methods and techniques that amplify bud growth and maximize canopy space. Learn all about training and other techniques in our articles linked below.

Looking seeds? Check out our favorite picks for the most fire indica strains of 2018.

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Aaron Matthew is a cannabis writer, digital nomad, independent musician, and now a regular contributor to Growbay.com.