Indoor, Outdoor and Greenhouse Cannabis: What’s the Difference?
Monday January 29, 2018
L egal cannabis sales have afforded customers the ability to choose from many forms of marijuana – edibles, topicals, concentrates, and so on – and in states like Oregon, those options include choices between indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse grown cannabis, too. But how exactly does the result differ between the three types of marijuana? The answer may surprise you.
The Truth About Outdoor Cannabis
Cannabis is designed to withstand variable conditions to flourish for generations (in other words, it grows like a weed), and has evolved all sorts of traits to help it withstand environmental stressors: quick grow periods, beautiful accessory coloring, sturdy stock, and so on.
But marijuana’s fantastic ability to evolve and adapt to its environment has also brought with it some unfavorable consequences. For example, stressed female cannabis plants may produce seeds to protect the next generation, and a quicker growth period or weather fluctuations may result in lower trichrome content when grown outdoors.
Outdoor cannabis may also be lacking in aesthetics (buds won’t be as pretty) which is due to a few factors. First, marijuana grown outdoors will stretch as it grows because of the abundant light and ample space which results in fluffier weed instead of those dense nugs you see in connoisseur magazines. Likewise, large harvest sizes produced by outdoor grows may result in a sloppy trim job as trimmers trudge through pound after pound of product come harvest time.
But that doesn’t mean outdoor cannabis doesn’t have its place in the industry. By growing outdoors, cultivators can produce large quantities of product with minimal resources which translates into a cheaper product for the consumer and helps cannabis remain accessible for those who need it.
Outdoor cannabis makes an excellent choice for DIY cannabis products, too!
We recommend strains like Critical Mass, Killer Queen or Sour Diesel for outdoor grows due to their high, potent yield with minimal effort. Resilient to the elements, these strains will thrive on natural sun and produce large yields and picture-perfect colas when fed and watered correctly.
Potency and Yield of Indoor Grown Cannabis
What started as a covert solution to an illegal trade has become the secret to cultivating premium, award-winning strains. When growing cannabis indoors, growers can focus their attention on a smaller number of plants, monitoring growth patterns, nutrient needs and so on with ease. This hands-on approach has allowed growers to perfect their practice in controlled environments, using a variety of techniques to increase potency, perfect flavor and improve appearance all within a smaller space.
Buds grown indoors tend to be smaller and denser (with a much cleaner trim job), but their trichome content is typically much higher. The flavor and cannabinoid profile of indoor cannabis plants are often on point, as well, thanks to the ability of growers closely monitor the maturation rate of trichomes for perfectly timed harvests.
This increased potency and premium flavor has made indoor cannabis especially appealing to connoisseurs who are willing to pay top dollar for their premium cannabis products. Of course, this also means higher prices for the average consumer, as well, but fortunately, there’s a happy medium that harnesses the best of both worlds: greenhouse cannabis.
Ideal strains for growing cannabis indoors include Skunk #1, Strawberry Haze, and Big Wreck because they do well in controlled environments, producing tall, dense buds in relatively small spaces. Indoor cannabis flowering time is often shorter than outdoor-grown cannabis and is much easier to tell when it is time to harvest.
Growing Cannabis in Greenhouses
Cannabis can be a finicky plant, producing seeds or dropping its trichome production as the result of stress, so keeping the girls happy and stress-free while they grow is imperative to developing quality cannabis. That means controlling the environment, the light schedule and all contaminants that may make their way into a grow area, as well.
Greenhouses allow growers to monitor their crops on a larger scale and grow them continuously throughout the season.
They utilize sunlight whenever possible, thus reducing electricity costs while keeping the plants enclosed and protected from the elements at all times. Provided the plants are trained properly using netting to support substantial growth while encouraging airflow, greenhouse-grown cannabis can easily be grown pesticide and mildew free, and the potency comparable to indoor cannabis despite its potentially larger size.
Some of the best strains to grow in a greenhouse include Northern Lights, Tahoe OG, and Jack Flash due to their large size, resistance to mold and pests, and their ability to withstand slight temperature fluctuations.
One of the best things about the legalization of cannabis has been the considerable selection of cannabis products that have become available to us. Of course, being an educated consumer means understanding products and their price points so that you can make the best decisions for your health and your wallet. So, if your dispensary offers a variety of cannabis, ask your budtender for more information on the difference between indoor, outdoor and greenhouse cannabis. You might just find a new favorite strain!
Interested in growing? Click here to purchase a grow kit and start growing today!
Have you ever compared the differences between outdoor, indoor, and greenhouse grown marijuana? What did you notice?
If you're into cannabis, then you may know there are several methods for cultivating marijuana. Learn about three different cultivation methods: indoor, outdoor and greenhouse.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Weed: A Visual Guide
This guide was created to help sift through the endless varieties of cannabis we now have available to us at dispensaries. Now, this doesn’t apply to all strains, because every strain has different characteristics and grows different with every farmer’s care. However, these tools can be used to help analyze the often subtle differences between cannabis cultivated outdoor or indoor. At the end of the day, cannabis is a diverse and incommensurable plant — not all distinguishing factors will apply to every situation because every strain is unique.
It’s important to note that buds can be grown properly or improperly regardless of whether they were grown inside or outside, so improperly grown indoor can visually look like outdoor, while properly grown outdoor can easily look like indoor. But there are some standard tell-tale signs that cannabis has been grown inside or outside, so sit back and enjoy our visual guide to indoor vs. outdoor marijuana.
First let’s get a base calibration to see where you are starting.
Can you differentiate which one was cultivated indoors and which was cultivated outdoors?
If you guessed A was outdoor and B was indoor you are correct! Now let’s find out how you can easily differentiate how cannabis was grown through some strategic visual clues.
The sizes of the buds are, in many ways, the first visual cues to tell whether buds were grown indoor or outdoor. But it is a general rule of thumb that everything is bigger with outdoor-cultivated buds. The buds themselves are bigger and chunkier, but one of the most foolproof ways to differentiate the two is by looking at the stem. Outdoor grown buds will have a significantly thicker stem than indoor cultivated nugs. Indoor buds will typically be smaller and more dense than outdoor’s big, clunky nugs.
Trichome density is a key visual cue when attempting to differentiate between indoor cultivation and outdoor cultivation. Because indoor buds are smaller, closer to their light source, and in a perfectly controlled environment, they typically rank very high on the trichome density scale. So when examining an impeccably grown indoor nug all that can be seen is glimmering crystals with very little plant material visible. Outdoor nugs on the other hand are generally larger, so those trichomes would have to work much harder to cover the entire surface of an outdoor bud. Additionally, outdoor plants are subjected to the elements which can damage trichome development. So the trichome density is typically more sparse on outdoor-cultivated nugs than ones grown indoors.
Example of high trichome density on indoor cultivated buds.
One of the most significant visual characteristics that can be used to differentiate sun-grown cannabis versus indoor-grown cannabis is the color. Outdoor cannabis tends to have a darker hue in general. If the cultivar produces green flowers, outdoor nugs will appear a darker green, possibly leaning towards brown if not cured correctly, while indoor buds will be a brighter, more vivid green. If the cultivar produces purple flowers, outdoor buds will turn a deep, striking purple while indoor nugs will stay lighter shades of purple (unless the strain’s genetics produce dark purple buds in any condition).
Another visual cue is the color on the bottom of the flowers. Buds cultivated outdoors almost always have a light brown color surrounding the stalk at the base of the bud (don’t worry it’s not mold). Usually, the tiny bracts at the bottom of the stalk will be a light brown as well. Indoor buds, on the other hand, are bright green (or purple) throughout.
Example of a darker hue on outdoor grown Lemon Kush.
There is a widespread myth that outdoor cultivated cannabis is less potent than indoor-cultivated cannabis. Simply put, that’s just not true. The dedicated farmers at Sunna Ra Acres have busted this myth once and for all. For the last few years, they have been conducting side-by-side tests of two clones taken from the same mother plant, one grown outdoors and one grown indoors. They’ve executed this experiment with a variety of strains and each time, the plant that is cultivated outside under the sun results in a higher overall cannabinoid profile. That means higher in THC, higher in CBD, higher in THCv, etc. Their experiment has shown that the sun unleashes the plant’s true potential and heightens its medicinal power.
In this case, terpenes are very similar to cannabinoids in that their profiles are intensified by the sun. In Sunna Ra Acre’s many years of experimentation they have found that if two identical plants are grown “side-by-side” — one grown outside, one grown inside — the plant that is grown outside will have a higher percentage of terpenes. And in some cases, the plants even reveal terpenes no one knew were there. When these two plants are smoked, the difference is very distinguishable with the outdoor being much more flavorful and aromatic. With that said, terpenes are volatile, meaning they will evaporate without proper drying and curing processes. Many indoor growers take greater care in their final stages of drying and curing because they yield far less and their product moves from one indoor room to another, providing more control through the process. New outdoor growers versus seasoned outdoor growers may overlook the step of proper drying and lose their high-terpene profile as a result.
While this category is very subjective and does not always apply, historically, outdoor growers spend less time trimming their final product than indoor growers. This typically has to do with the amount of bud harvested, outdoor growers are pulling down 5, 10, or 20 lbs per plant while indoor growers are pulling down 0.5, 1, or 2 lbs per plant. Trimming mass amounts of weed per plant would not only take weeks, but a big full-time crew would be needed. So the end result is usually a looser, leafier trim job — especially because outdoor plants are leafier in general. So while not always applicable, you can typically spot the difference between outdoor and indoor pretty immediately by scoping out the trim job.
Running through all these characteristics, with some give and take, while analyzing the hundreds of buds available for purchase at your local dispensary will help you to differentiate the outdoor grown from the indoor grown. If you are lucky enough to have access to the same flower cultivated both indoors and outdoors, it is amazing to smoke them side-by-side and compare the flavor profiles versus bag appeal. Indoor typically has better bag appeal while outdoor has the better flavor profile — it’s all about what you’re looking for in your daily smoke.
Before we go, there is a huge elephant in the room that we have not discussed today and that is greenhouse cultivated cannabis. Greenhouses are can be categorized as indoor cultivation using the power of the sun. It is the perfect marriage of indoor and outdoor because you have the environmental control of indoor but the incredible power of the sun. The result is typically buds that have the bag appeal of indoor with the elevated terpene and cannabinoid profiles of outdoor.
Can You Smoke Brown Weed?
Yes, you can, but it’s not going to be as potent or flavorful. The three things that degrade cannabis are heat, light, and time. When brown in color, weed has lost some of its potency and therapeutic value as the cannabinoids, such as THC, have been degraded. In addition, it’s lost a lot of its smell and flavor as the terpenes have potentially oxidized or evaporated. Smoking brown weed will not severely injure you or make you sick, but it is not suggested for use.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun do break down your cannabis over time. An oft-referred to study from 1976 at the University of London said light is the No. 1 reason for cannabinoid breakdown. If it’s burnt or overexposed to the sun during the growing process, weed will appear brown in hue. The color is due to sun damage on the colas of the plant, and it’s been shown cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) can transform into cannabidiol (CBD) with enough exposure, and THCV will degrade into CBV . In that case, some THC could still be intact, but the cannabinoids were at least partially transformed, or decarboxylated out of the plant by the sun.
How Much of a Difference in Quality is Outdoor vs. Indoor Weed?
There is high-quality weed both grown indoors and outdoors, but there are certain factors that determine the quality of the end product.
Between indoor and outdoor cultivation, the distinguishing factor in quality is the control of its environment. Factors such as temperature, light, water, humidity, carbon dioxide (CO2) exposure and care are going to be easier to control during indoor cultivation. While some strains may appear to grow a bit wilder outdoors, they are capable of developing the same amount of cannabinoids and terpenes as indoor-grown cannabis. Because of the unpredictability of nature, outdoor growing often requires a tepid climate.
The biggest case for growing weed outdoors is energy efficiency. Using all sunlight, or even just partial use of sunlight, to grow cannabis can save home growers and large-scale producers a lot of money in energy consumption. To take advantage of daylight and to take into account its variation during the year, many facilities have adopted a supplemental light grow in states where regulations permit it. Supplement light means the growers are using the sun when they can and then use lights when sunlight is unavailable, if the weed needs it.
The quality is mainly dependent on the seeds, the grower’s experience, and the care, not whether it was grown indoors or outdoors. Outdoor cultivation has a long history in Northern California ; the Emerald Triangle of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties got its name because of its ideal climate for outdoor cultivation. In a handful of legal cannabis states, regulations may require grows to be indoors and hidden from public view.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Weed: A Visual Guide This guide was created to help sift through the endless varieties of cannabis we now have available to us at dispensaries. Now, this doesn’t apply to all