Choosing The Right Strain To Grow

jars of cannabis blue dream, northern lights, and sour diesel

People just starting out in the art of cultivating cannabis should get in the habit of doing a little homework when it comes to choosing a strain. As with anything, the end result will depend on the process, and that process begins with selection. As such, we should begin with the end in mind, to use the old cliché.

For example, growers hoping to achieve medicinal benefits may want to grow different strains than those looking for psychoactive recreational effects. Similarly, some growers will be looking to cultivate certain aromas and flavors. Knowing how to choose the right strain can help you craft just the variety you’re looking for.

The Seed’s the Thing

There can definitely be a bit of choice paralysis when trying to decide what strain to grow. With the legalization movement underway, it seems now there are just as many strains of marijuana as there are varieties of craft-brew beers out there. And just like craft-brews, cannabis strains can have very distinct personalities, flavors, and effects.

Most beginners will want something that’s going to come up quickly and easily and be very potent, but that’s a little like going into a diamond store and saying you want one that’s big and sparkly.

Other factors play a big part in the quality of the product, including gender:

  • Female plants produce the goods – (buds, cannabinoids, etc.)
  • Male plants are still needed for breeding.

The Main Categories


  • tall growing (especially while flowering)
  • resist heat (but don’t do well in cold)
  • buds are long
  • more head-centered, uplifting effects


  • short growing
  • do better in cold (but don’t tolerate heat as well)
  • buds are dense
  • more body-centered, relaxing effects


  • smaller plants
  • Indica/Sativa hybrid
  • Flower automatically (without a switch of lights)

It is recommended that you test new strains with a single grow box and then go full scale if you like the product.

Things to Know Regarding Cannabinoids and Their Effects:

First things first, you should expect your breeder to be able to give you the numbers on the seeds you’re buying. By numbers, of course, I mean the stats on the levels of cannabinoids that you can expect when harvesting your plants. Just like when you go to buy marijuana in the dispensaries, however, the numbers aren’t the only thing to consider. Grow, harvest, and drying methods all play a big part in the final effects of the bud you grow.

There are three major cannabinoids (active chemical ingredients in cannabis plants) to be concerned with. The most famous is Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC causes the most notable psychoactive effects of marijuana. The other two are Cannabidiol, or CBD, and Cannabinol, or CBN. CBD is used most often in medical applications because it does not have psychoactive effects. CBN does have psychoactive effects, but they are not as intense as those associated with THC.

General Principles – Medical Use:

For treatment of seizures and anxiety, cultivate plants with low THC (as low as possible to avoid anxiety and psychoactive effects) and high CBD. Strains to consider include 303 OG, Stardawg, and Juliet.

Pain can be treated with the right mixture of cannabinoids, finding the right ratio of CBD to THC can be tricky, but because they do interact with one another, it’s important to get it right. Strains to consider are Northern Lights, White Widow, or Godberry.

Higher THC content will help to treat lack of appetite and nausea.

General Principles – Recreational Use:

Just like with the pain treatment principles described above, the right mixture of THC, CBD, and CBN will determine the overall effect of the end product. For more euphoric and head-centered effects, Sativa strains will be your best bet but beware of anxiety with extremely high levels of THC. Strains to consider are Lemon Skunk, Sour Diesel, and Casey Jones.

Sleepiness or relaxing effects call for Indica strains that have high THC and medium CBD levels. This can be achieved by doing a later harvest or sun-drying the buds. Strains to consider are Granddaddy Purple, Bubba Kush, and BC God Bud.

First Steps:

  • Make a list of strains you’re interested in based on the above information. For example, if I’m looking for a euphoric effect with that’s also relaxing, I might write down White Widow, Sour Diesel, or Bubba Kush.
  • After you’ve got your list, do some research by Googling potential strain names and the word “grow” or the phrase “grow cycle” afterward. Pay attention to the grow journals. You can also find video grow journals on YouTube.
  • Use seed bank websites to find the features you want.
  • Ask for the paperwork and be specific in your request for seeds. Just saying “I want some BC God Bud” seeds to a breeder is not going to cut it. You need to know whether you want regular or auto-flowering seeds, regular or feminized seeds, and what specific cannabinoid levels you’re after.
  • Keep the effects in mind over the appearance or other sensory details. Most consumers aren’t going to say “Oh man, that weed smelled so good. It didn’t really (insert desired effect here), but let’s go get some more.”

When choosing a breeder, reputation can’t be understated. The same goes for the actual strain itself. Bubba Kush from a breeder who’s got a long history of quality will be a much safer bet than a brand new strain from a brand new breeder.

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