Cannabis ruderalis – the mother to auto flower

Cannabis ruderalis

The novice consumer might think that cannabis comes in either indica or sativa. That’s not a surprise based on dispensary shelves, but let’s not forget about cannabis ruderalis. Since ruderalis strains aren’t generally coveted for their visible trichomes or high THC content, they’re not a hot industry topic. But the reality is that without ruderalis plants, cannabis cultivation wouldn’t be where it is today.

What is cannabis ruderalis?

The precise origins of ruderalis are unknown, but it is believed the plants originated in Asia Central and Eastern Europe. This area of the world is known for its harsh conditions, so this species of cannabis adapted to the extreme environments where it grew. Botanists named the plant after this trait, deeming it ruderalis based on the Latin word ruderal, meaning growing on waste or refuse.

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After evolving, the plant grew to flower without following the summer light cycle. Most cannabis plants are triggered to flower by the shortening of sunlight daily, but not ruderalis plants. This is one of the species’ most unique traits.

There are three subspecies of cannabis: cannabis ruderalis, cannabis sativa, and cannabis indica. Sativa species naturally grow big and tall with more thinned-out branches, while indica plants are known to be thick and bushy. Ruderalis also has a specific body type.

Come harvest, cannabis ruderalis will reach about one to two and a half feet tall. It grows a thick, sturdy trunk and stems with an irregular flower growth pattern. The plants are disheveled looking compared to heavily manicured indoor exotic weed. But it’s possible those pristine pot plants might not be here today without cannabis ruderalis because of that one unique trait.

cannabis ruderalis

Cannabis ruderalis: the mother of all auto-flower

Cultivators became interested in ruderalis after realizing it marched to the beat of its own light cycle. Not only did this type of cannabis flower despite the light, it is also ready to harvest 70-110 days after the seed sprouts. Both traits could maximize output and minimize labor, making ruderalis a coveted cannabis species for breeding.

The only issue is that a ruderalis cannabis strain typically tops out around three percent THC; the majority of consumers desire higher THC flower. Though the low THC can make ruderalis legal under the Farm Bill. That’s where indica and sativa strains come in. Ruderalis plants are crossed with indica, sativa, and hybrid strains to create auto-flowering plants.

Like their parents, auto-flowering strains flower despite the light cycle and are ready to harvest in about 70 to 110 days. This allows growers to turn over more harvests yearly, maximizing their grow space.

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Tips for growing auto-flowering plants

Growing plants that autoflower isn’t the same as other types of cannabis. These tips should help a first-time auto-flowering plant grower.

Since the growth cycle passes quickly no matter what, it’s essential to give the plant every head start it can get. That starts with a root stimulant to set the plant up for success. Aloe is a reliable veganic root stimulator option.

Before even planting, however, make sure the pot is sized for flower. A plant moving at the speed of auto flower doesn’t have time to recover from re-potting. So start the seed or clone off in the sized pot it will finish in.

Consider how easily the root system can glide through the medium when pondering what soil to use. Light, airy soil is easier to penetrate, so use a medium that keeps it loose.

Lastly, keep a close eye on nutrients and don’t overdo it. One bad day for an auto flowering plant can throw off the entire flowering process. Closely monitor the look of the plant. It will communicate stress through discolored leaves, drooping, and more.

cannabis ruderalis

Knowing what the plant is saying is like learning another language. A mentor or concierge service could be effective in learning how to key into the nuance of growing this type of cannabis plant.

Though it’s a bit of an unsung hero, the industry should thank cannabis ruderalis. Legal cannabis or medical marijuana, every cultivator has worked with an auto flowering cannabis plant. Growing pure ruderalis isn’t common, but it’s been bred into much of the flower on the legal market today. One might wonder, without ruderalis, where would the industry be today?

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.