Differences in Growing Cannabis: Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid Plants

When you start growing your own marijuana, be it Sativa, or Indica strains, it’s important to take two important factors into consideration: the environment you live in and the strain you want to grow. In many sets of conditions, most strains of cannabis will grow prolifically. However, certain strains are better suited for different environments.

It’s very important to fully understand your growing environment before committing your time and resources. There are three major environments and two main strains of cannabis. There is the satiSativava strain and the indica strain (from which many hybrid strains can be cultivated) and you can generally grow them in temperate, tropical, or indoor environments. Read on to learn more about the differences between growing Sativa and Indica strains.

how to tell indica, sativa, and hybrid plants apart

Growing Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid Plants

It’s a great joy to grow marijuana. You not only get to save a lot of money but you will also become an experienced cultivator in the process. However, you’d likely make mistakes if you don’t have the right information about how to grow it. Understanding the different marijuana strains and knowing how to nurture them into healthy buds successfully is the key to making the most of your efforts. This guide will examine the major differences in growing Sativa, Indica, and hybrid plants. This will help you to know which strain is suitable for your garden.

Growing Sativa Strain

Sativa is an active cannabis strain for weed lovers. It’s usually not the first choice for some marijuana farmers due to the difficulties they encounter while growing them. However many still grow Sativa because of the effects it offers. This creates the demand for the market.

Geographic Origin

Sativa is a tall and thin herbaceous flowering plant with narrow leaves and a light green color. They are indigenous to regions like Columbia, Mexico, and Asia. The warm temperature in these areas helps cannabis sativa plants grow quickly. They can reach a height of up to 20 feet in a single season. Sativa weeds can have high THC levels which result in a strong high that can stimulate brain activity. They’re known for the head high rather than a mellow body high.

Morphology or Leaf shape

Morphology refers to the form and structure of a plant and any of its parts like branches or leaves. It also includes traits like pattern, color, and size. The stems and leaves of this plant are tall and thin. Sativas are a sun-loving plant built by nature to have slender leaves and light green color. When growing Sativa, you will notice that the plant keeps growing tall without actually getting thicker. Sativa grows more in length than it does in total size.

Plant height

A Sativa can grow well up to 20 ft tall. If you prefer to grow cannabis indoors, this strain might not be the best choice for you. A mature Sativa plant can stretch to extraordinary heights for such a small plant when grown outside. Hence, outdoor growth is more suitable for the plant because it will have enough space to stretch. Also, the sun will always provide adequate lighting should you neglect your duties of providing all that light.

Flowering Time

Flowering is the stage of growth when a plant starts producing buds. To a cannabis farmer, this is a reward for hard work! The end of the flowering period means harvest time. After a long wait to grow the plant to the stage it’s at, one would want to see those flowers bloom as quickly as possible. If you cannot be patient enough, Sativa might not be the one for you. Unlike other cannabis strains, it has a longer flowering time which can extend from 10 to 16 weeks. You can speed up this period with faster vegetative growth like plant growth regulators, although it’s not recommended.

Yield Size

For a thin and tall plant, the size of its yield should not be a big surprise. Sativas are plants of low returns when compared to Indica strains. This might not be an encouraging factor, but it does not in any way reduce the potency of the herb when used for recreational smoking or medicinal purposes.


Sativa can make one’s mind to race and cause the consumer to be very chatty. A sound effect it has is its ability to promote focus and productivity. This makes it very marketable among people who have problems with creativity. Sativa plants produce weed that’s uplifting and sometimes inspires new creativity and focus.

Symptom Relief

When it is used as a medicine, Sativa can provide specific symptom remedies for cases of fatigue, depression, ADD/ADHD, and mood disorders.


Sativa buds have musty and pine flavors when smoked.

Where to Grow it

Sativa can flourish both indoors and outdoors. Indoors might not be very comfortable for the farmer because of their length but there are ways to maneuver it. Nonetheless, it is best to grow Sativa in an outdoor garden where the plant has access to direct sunlight and can grow in plenty of space.

If you’re growing outside in a temperate zone (where summers are long and winters are mild), it is wise to rely on Sativa or Sativa dominant hybrids. Pure Sativa strains have been cultivated for thousands of years to be well adapted to the temperate environment and the plant often relies on the temperature for internal hormonal regulation (which controls flowering).

While you may be more interested in growing Sativa indoors, you’ll find that your yields will be low, as indoor locales don’t allow the plant to shoot up and form trees. Although yields and flowering time have proven to be a significant problem for people trying to grow Sativa indoors, this strain still has some beneficial qualities for indoor growing. Faster vegetative growth and their ability to handle heat makes them a more forgiving plant when indoor temperature control is difficult and expensive during the summer months.

Growing Indica Strains

Among the different species of marijuana, Indica is the most common strain among growers. This can be attributed to its fast growth and abundant yields which make it a better value for time and money. There is more motivation to grow Indica than Sativa strains because you can grow more in one go. This means you make more profit within a shorter period as well as maximize your output.

Geographic Origin

Indicas originate from Afghanistan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, and Tibet. These subtropical countries are located between 30-50 degrees north and south of the equator. Their weather and climate are just right for the plant as it tends to grow naturally in these areas. However, one can replicate this climate in an indoor garden so it can grow just about anywhere.

Morphology or Leaf shape

Indica is a dark green plant with broad and bushy leaves. The leaves have more chlorophyll and pigments which regulate the amount of sunlight the plant receives. This makes the plants grow and mature faster.

Plant Height

Indicas don’t grow relatively tall. The leaves tend to sprout more sideways than they do upwards giving the plants an average height of 3-4 ft. This factor makes indica plants more suitable for indoor gardens which many growers seem to prefer.

Flowering Time

Indica takes a lot less time to produce buds than other species of cannabis. Within 8 to 12 weeks, the buds will be fully mature and ready for harvest. Shorter flowering periods equals faster plant growth which is something you would like to experience when growing marijuana.

Yield Size

Indica’s not only mature quickly but also produce more buds than Sativa. They are thick, heavy, and tight buds on the leaves which require a good amount of trimming.


Indica has a relaxing and sedating effect that soothes the nerves giving its consumers what is referred to as a “couch lock high.” It is known for a body high rather than a head high. This is a kind of highness that makes relaxation so intense that you won’t be able to get up from your couch for hours – and even if you managed to, you wouldn’t function properly.

Symptom Relief

As regards the medicinal aspects of the plant, it helps treat a wide range of health issues. Indicas are best for providing relief from physical ailments such as muscle spasms, pain, anxiety, and insomnia. Glaucoma, chronic pain, and sleep disorder patients can also benefit from the relaxing effects Indica offers.


The flavor from Indica buds ranges from a strong aroma to a fruity taste like strawberry. They usually contain much higher THC content than any other type of cannabis.

Where to Grow it

Indicas are great for indoor growing since they are not tall plants. However, they are the best-suited strain for the tropics where there are no discernible seasons, hot, humid weather, and lots of rainfall due to air currents. While some indica strains growing in these regions have convenient auto-flowering features that cause the plant to flower based on timing and not the weather, there is serious danger from mold in such damp conditions.

Usually, auto-flowering strains have very swift cycles that result in quick yields. This makes them popular among indoor growers as well. Due to their morphology, indicas also require less hands-on work in terms of setting up branch support and pruning.

Growing Hybrid Strains

The crossbreeding of Sativa and indica forms hybrid strains. These new strains are the best of both worlds. They are a blend of everything good in cannabis. This is why they have become a popular demand in the market. A hybrid strain usually has more sativa than indica or more indica than sativa.

Geographic Origin

Since hybrid strains are not original plants but outcomes of the manipulation of plants’ biological reproduction, hybrids have no specific geographical origin.

However, modern cannabis breeding began on the west coast of the United States and Canada in the mid-’60s. It started with growers cross-breeding mold-resistant equatorial sativas with fast-flowering indicas for a more efficient crop. This yielded more profit. It worked, and the practice has kept on to date.

Morphology or Leaf shape

The morphology of hybrid strains is dependent on the level to which it inherits Sativa or indica traits. Some may pick up the dark green or purple leaves of indicas which contain more chlorophyll. Others may have the slender Sativa leaves making it sprout more upwardly than sideways.

Plant Height

Hybrids have no specific height. They are either short like indicas, tall like sativas, or of medium length. it depends on the dominance of the plant.

Flowering Time

Varies from plant to plant.

Yield Size

Many hybrids are high-yielding. Because of the mix they have, the indica portion tends to make it heavier in thick buds.


Hybrids can offer both mind and body effects or have a slight tinge of mind, more of body and vice versa. It just depends on what trait is more dominant.

Cookies which are more Indica dominant hybrid strains, for example, are likely to affect the body and have sedating effects. Super Lemon Haze which has stronger Sativa traits will offer the energetic effects of Sativa.

Hybrids like OG Kush have evenly mixed characteristics of both species and can have sedating effects on India alongside the energy Sativa brings.

Symptom Relief

Like every other feature of hybrids, symptom relief varies based on genetics. Blue Dream, the evenly balanced strain can help with anxiety. Indica-dominant hybrid Cookies can help manage body pain. Sativa-dominant hybrid Super Lemon Haze can improve the moods of some people and manage depression.


Hybrids have a wide variety of flavors.

Where to Grow it

They are suitable for both indoor and outdoor planting depending on the morphology it takes on from parent plants.

Growing Cannabis Plants

Indoor Growing Only

For growers who work exclusively indoors, there are some important tips that will make caring for your plants easier. When it comes to indoor growing, there are three main methods to choose between aquaponics, hydroponics, and premixed soils.

Main Growing Methods

For both aquaponics and hydroponics, you generally grow in flood and drain tables. The differentiation between the two is that aquaponics will have live fish or some other aquatic organism providing fertilizer to the system, whereas hydroponics requires added fertilizers. These can be salts or organic. These two styles are better for Indica dominant strains.

Premixed soils are simply added to pots which must then be irrigated and drained. For this method, the pot size can be changed according to the plant and growth, so this is much better suited to trees. If you want to grow Sativa indoors, your life will be easier using variable-sized pots.

Growth Patterns

The preferred tree growth pattern of Sativa plants is more difficult to control and maintain indoors, although it’s not impossible. Before focusing on growing indoor Sativa, consider whether your greenhouse roof will be able to sustain the height of the plant. You may also need to support the branches of Sativa grown indoors using stakes and/or strings. If you don’t have the proper space, you may be better off growing Indica strains and ordering Sativa from local cannabis distributors.

More Research

Before you choose a plant-based on its effects or symptom relief, consider how it grows and where it thrives. Growing cannabis can be easy with the right tools and knowledge, especially for indoor growers who can easily control the environment, space, and temperature of their space. Learn more about growing cannabis indoors with helpful tips from our educational blogs.

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