Navigating the world of cannabis cultivation is a journey through a landscape rich in detail. As we explore, the question arises: just how much can one plant yield? Factors like genetics, growing methods, lighting, and plant health play pivotal roles. Whether you're a budding enthusiast, an ambitious entrepreneur, or a curious hobbyist, understanding these nuances is key to mastering this green realm.
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- Large Variations in Yields Based on Many Factors: A single plant can yield up to 1000 grams or nearly 2.5 lbs but this would require perfecting all factors.
- Influence of Genetics: The genetics of a cannabis plant, particularly the difference between Sativa and Indica strains, can impact the potential yield.
- Growing Techniques Matter: The method that cannabis is grown; indoor or outdoor, soil or hydroponics, in addition to specific plant training techniques.
- Lighting's Role: The type of lighting, such as HID, CFL, or LED lights, can influence the plant's growth and its eventual yield.
- Proper Nutrition and Maintenance: Providing balanced nutrients and ensuring proper watering schedules is essential. You must also be vigilant against pests, diseases, and practicing regular plant maintenance.
Factors Influencing Cannabis Plant Yield
There are many factors that influence a yield. There are also many ways to measure a yield. Before we get into general estimates and how to measure a yield, we will dive into the primary factors that influence your crop and exactly how they effect the yield.
Genetics of the Plant
The cannabis family, much like any botanical lineage, boasts a myriad of strains, each with its unique genetic profile. Primarily, it comes to Sativa vs. Indica, while both strains are revered for distinct properties, the bushier stature of Indica plants often leads to a cluster of buds, sometimes resulting in higher yields.
Conversely, Sativas, with their tall and lean stature, might produce less but are sought after for other characteristics. Additionally, the world of hybrid strains has introduced plants specifically bred for high yields, further emphasizing the significance of strain selection.
The genetic makeup of a cannabis plant plays a pivotal role in determining its yield. Specific strains are bred for higher yields, while others might be bred for potency, flavor, or other traits. Source: Clarke, R. C., & Merlin, M. D. (2013). Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany. University of California Press.
Your chosen cultivation environment plays a pivotal role in dictating potential yields. Indoor setups, while requiring investment in infrastructure, provide an unparalleled level of control over the plant's environment, often leading to consistent yields. However, outdoor plants have the advantage of natural light and can often grow to monstrous sizes if the conditions are right, sometimes yielding significantly more than their indoor counterparts.
The debate between Hydroponics vs. Soil is another focal point. While hydroponic systems can potentially offer accelerated growth and yield, traditionalists argue that soil-grown cannabis possesses a richer flavor and organic quality.
Plant Training Techniques
Cannabis plants are incredibly resilient, responding well to various training techniques. Techniques like Low-Stress Training (LST), which involves gently bending the plant to allow better light penetration, and High-Stress Training (HST), which might involve more aggressive tactics like topping, can shape plant growth and subsequently influence yield.
Strategies such as the Sea of Green (SoG) and Screen of Green (ScroG) methods are employed to optimize light exposure and potentially maximize yield.
In the photosynthetic process, light plays the quintessential role. Modern cultivation has seen a plethora of lighting options. High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps like MH and HPS have been staples for years due to their potency, promoting vigorous growth.
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) are often seen in smaller setups, being energy-efficient but less powerful, while LED lights offer a balance, with spectrum-tunable options and efficiency, ushering in a new age for cannabis cultivation.
Nutrients and Watering
Much like any living organism, cannabis plants require sustenance. A balanced nutrient regimen, tailored to the plant's growth stage, can significantly impact yield. Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium, the primary macronutrients, play distinct roles in plant health and yield realization.
Watering, often seen as a basic task, holds more nuance than one might expect. Both over-watering and under-watering can severely stunt growth, emphasizing the importance of understanding your plant's needs.
Plant Health and Maintenance
A thriving cannabis plant is a product of incessant care. Any negligence can impact potential yields. Pests such as spider mites or diseases like powdery mildew can decimate a crop if left unchecked. Regular monitoring, understanding signs of distress, and timely interventions can be the difference between a bumper harvest and a disappointing yield.
How to Measure Your Cannabis Yield
Measuring a yield is more of a function of efficiency than just weighing your product. You want to produce the highest quality and largest quantity of dried cannabis while using the least amount of space and energy. Here are a few ways to measure your yield's efficiency;
- Grams Per Square Foot - Your square footage is simply the length of your canopy coverage multiplied by its width. Divide your total dried product weight by the square footage, and you will get your yield per square foot. You should expect to yield 50-75 grams per square foot of canopy. This metric is ideal for Sea of Green, and SCROG growing methods with shallow canopies.
Total Product Weight (grams) ÷ Square Footage (Length x Width)
Grams Per Square Foot (g/ft²)
- Grams Per Watt - This metric takes into consideration the amount of energy your lights are providing to grow your cannabis plants. Simply divide the grams of product by the light wattage used. This can indicate the efficiency of your light coverage. A higher number would indicate your plants are using most of the light energy you provide, a lower number means they aren't using enough light energy. The average is around 0.5 gram per watt 1.0 gram per watt being the higher end goal.
Total Product Weight (grams) ÷ Total Lamp Wattage
Grams Per Watt (g/w)
- Grams Per Kilowatt Hour - Similar to metric #2 (above) this metric measure energy but instead of measuring the energy the light provides, you are measuring the energy you are providing for the lights. You will need to multiply your total wattage used by the number of light operating hours in a day. Divide by 1,000 for kilowatt hour units. Then, multiply your kilowatt hours per day by the number of days your canopy has spent under lights. Finally, divide your yield in grams by your total kWh. This allows you to easily compare your yields relative to your energy costs, enabling you to compare different lighting systems.
Total Light Wattage x Light Hours Per Day = Total Wattage Hours
Total Wattage Hours ÷ 1000 = kWh
kWh x number of days under lights = kWh/cycle
Total Product Weight (grams) ÷ kWh/cycle
Grams per kWh (g/kWh)
Average Yields: What to Realistically Expect
Yield estimation isn't merely a function of hope; it's grounded in data and experience. As we've discussed there are many factors to consider but we'll try to provide some general estimates of what you can expect.
Indoor Gardens vs. Outdoor Gardens
When growing indoors you are able to build an ideal environment that puts you in full control of your plants success. You will incur higher costs to get started. In order to replicate a natural environment you will need light, soil/food, water, air circulation, and CO2.
- Pros: Controlled environment (temperatures/lighting/watering), easier to control pests/diseases, full control over growing medium, unlimited growing season
- Cons: Light energy costs, lower quality light energy, confined space, water costs, CO2 enrichment costs, higher equipment costs,
- Average Yields: 50-450 grams per plant (depending on genetics and growing methods)
For outdoor grows, the yield per cannabis plant can significantly vary, but on average, a well-grown cannabis plant might produce between 500 grams to over 1 kilogram depending on factors like the strain, local climate, and the length of the growing season.
- Pros: No light energy costs, ideal light energy, unlimited space, natural growing medium benefits (worm castings, beneficial bacteria, etc), lower upfront costs (no lights, fans, etc.), natural pest control (bugs, birds, etc.)
- Cons: Open exposure to diseases/pests, uncontrolled temperature fluctuation, limited growing season, uncontrolled light cycles
- Average Yields: 300-1000 grams per plant (depending on genetics and growing methods)
Source: Potter, D. J. (2014). A review of the cultivation and processing of cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) for production of prescription medicines in the UK. Drug Testing and Analysis, 6(1-2), 31-38.
Autoflower Seeds vs. Photoperiod Seeds
The genetics of your plant will impact the length they can stay in the vegetative state. The longer they stay in this state before bloom the larger the plant will get as the bloom phase is finite. The genetics also dictate how well your plant responds to different grow techniques like pruning, cloning, as well as their ability to recover from any issues.
Photoperiod plants enter the bloom phase when the length of their light cycle is around 12 hours. Indoor growers control this, therefore can keep their plants in veg for much longer, giving an almost unlimited potential for larger plants. Outdoor gardeners cannot control this and are at the will of natural sunlight cycles. One solution for this would be to start your plants indoors during the early spring, giving them more time to veg before being outside. Photoperiod plants are known to be much more accepting of cloning and pruning. They are also more forgiving when correcting any issues since you can veg for longer if issues arise.
- Pros: Higher veg potential, forgiving when issues arise, larger plant specific yields, ideal for cloning, and pruning.
- Cons: Lower g/kWh yields, needs to enter 12 hour light cycle for bloom
- Average Yield: 400-700 grams per plant (depending on indoor/outdoor)
Autoflower plants will automatically switch to bloom after a set amount of time, relinquishing control of how long you can keep you plant growing in veg. This means the only way to grow larger plants is to optimize conditions for the plant. Autoflowers will produce more crops faster than photoperiod plants so you can get better g/kWh metrics than photoperiod plants. The downside is that any issues you encounter (pests, nutrients, pH, etc) will be much more detrimental to your yield since you have a limited time to correct them in veg.
- Pros: Faster harvest (more crops per year), automatically enter bloom after specific time
- Cons: Poor response to cloning/pruning, smaller yields per plant, less room/time to correct any issues (pests, nutrients, pH, etc.)
- Average Yields: 100-300 grams per plant (depending on indoor/outdoor)
Soil vs. Hydroponic (Soilless)
While growth might be rapid in hydroponic setups, the eventual yield per plant, interestingly, often stands comparable with soil-grown cannabis but there are two minor differences to consider. One differentiating factor to consider is flavor and texture, with soil-grown cannabis having a slight edge. The other is speed of growth, which hydroponics has an advantage. We'll talk elaborate on these below.
Growing in soil provides a more natural approach to cannabis cultivation. Soil provides more than just a medium, it also provides the raw nutrients for the plant and means to make the raw nutrients into plant food (beneficial bacteria). The process of converting raw nutrients into plant soluble food takes time and is not an exact science since living organisms are responsible for it's success.
- Pros: Superior flavors/aromas for finished product, cheaper, natural and organic, easier to scale, environmentally friendly, more room for error, less chance of pH/PPM issues
- Cons: Typically slower growth, takes longer to correct pH/PPM issues, pests residing in soil
- Average Yield: 50-1000 grams per plant but typically slower (depending on indoor/outdoor)
Growing hydroponically or in a soilless garden is a newer more modern approach to gardening. The goal is to build a system that imitates the natural processes of a soil garden to grow your cannabis plants. Since there are no beneficial bacteria, you will use plant soluble solutions diluted in water as food. You also don't need soil, you will use an array of man-made and natural mediums. The key to this system is having full control over the amount of food the plant receives. Some systems are fully automated to minimize the workload with the downside of sizable cost increases.
Pros: Full control of nutrient feeding, easier automation, faster sprout-to-harvest life cycle, faster corrections to pH/PPM issues
Cons: Significantly more expensive, easier to make pH/PPM mistakes, can produce inferior flavors/aromas
Average Yield: 50-1000 grams per plant but typically faster
How to Maximize Yields: 4 Best Practices
While genetics play a significant role, cultivation practices are the fulcrum on which yield realization pivots.
- Ensuring optimal light exposure for all parts of the plant is foundational.
- A regulated feeding and watering schedule, tailored to the plant's growth stage, can significantly boost yields.
- Regular pruning to remove unnecessary foliage and training to shape the plant's growth can optimize light exposure and nutrient distribution, thus potentially increasing yields.
- A proactive approach in monitoring for pests and diseases ensures that the plant thrives in a stress-free environment, leading to better yield realization.
Embarking on the cannabis cultivation journey requires a blend of passion, science, and work. A simple question of yield unravels complexities spanning genetics, environment, care, and beyond.
As we've journeyed through these facets, a key takeaway surfaces: while chasing numbers, one must never compromise on quality. A mindful, informed, nurturing, and compassionate approach to cultivation not only promises impressive yields but also a quality of produce that stands testament to the grower's dedication.