Forget the Heat, Some Cannabis Strains Do Better in the Cold

We tend to think of places like Africa, and South America, and Australia, as being some of the best places for growing quality cannabis, due to nice hot weather and intense sunlight. But not all cannabis plants are created equally, and believe it or not, some prefer the cold.

While warm and sunny might make the most sense logically, we also know that places like the Netherlands, and Hindu Mountain region are known for producing some pretty great cannabis, so it’s obviously not just about tons of intense sun. Living in cold places doesn’t mean missing out on growing cannabis, and it doesn’t necessarily have to mean an indoor grow either. It just means knowing a little bit more about what works in the cold.

So first and foremost, the ‘cold’ is not simply defined as anything not ‘hot’. Cannabis might be a versatile plant in terms of where it can grow, but it does have limits. When referring to growing in the cold, this does not generally refer to having temperatures below 0º C (32F) during the day, or for long periods in general. Growing in cold generally refers to having an average temperature of about 5-10º C (41-50F), which is a temperature range found in a lot of North America, China, Europe, and India.

It is not surprising that many of the seeds best for growing in cold weather, came from cold weather places. Not only this, but as the genetics of different seeds are played around with, some strains have been made progressively more adaptive to higher altitudes as well – where it is generally cooler.

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What the cold does to cannabis plants?

When thinking of plant life, we know that cold can have a bad effect on many plants. In places with a real winter, the death of plants can be experienced yearly as temperatures dunk down lower and daylight hours become shorter. Cold makes things slow down. In a cannabis plant, as the temperature around it cools to about 18-20º C (64.4-68F), the metabolism of the plant starts to slow down, slowing down all other functions of growth as well. The median temperature for when death becomes much more of an option, is about 12º C (53.6F), but this will vary by strain.

As the temperature goes down, and the metabolism slows, bio-chemical and enzymatic functions are no longer able to take place, which means the plant cannot grow the right way anymore. The root system is also compromised meaning that the plant can’t get nutrients into its system, particularly magnesium which is important for development, and which gets absorbed less and less as the temperature drops below 18º C (64.4F). The plant essentially becomes vegetative below a certain temperature, remaining small and weak, and producing at best very small buds.

Aside from simply lower temperatures, the lack of solar radiation is an issue when weather gets cooler, and there are a lower number of sunlight hours per day.

When cold can be used to benefit cannabis?

Interestingly, though cold is a stressor for plants, using it at the correct time in a growing cycle can actually have some benefits. For example, using colder temperatures during the final flowering stages can instigate the plants metabolism, which at that time can lead to a greater resin production. Temperatures of 16-17º C (60.8-62.6F) in the last two flowering weeks can be used for this.

Cold during this later stage of flowering has another benefit. It can help retain a higher terpene amount, and can even mean a more strong-smelling and tastier product. Cold can even help brighten up the colors and promotes those deep blues, reds, and purples we love so much in our cannabis strains.

Which strains are best for cooler weather?

Not every strain can take it. Some strains require warmth and that’s it. Some are versatile and can grow in different kinds of settings. The following are some of the strains that are better known for their proclivity for cooler weather, or their general ability to grow nearly anywhere.

  • Northern Lights: Likely hailing from the Seattle area in Washington State, it makes sense that this cannabis strain can endure some cold weather. Harvest for this strain is generally late October when warmer temperatures have gone.
  • Afghani: Born from the Hindu Kush Mountains of Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan, it has genetics in it from its cold birth that make it great for cooler weather.
  • Early Skunk: With genetics that give it mold resistance – which is good for cooler, wetter weather, a short flowering season, and a general resistance to cooler temps, this strain is a friend to cold-weather growers.
  • Critical/Critical Mass: Coming from Skunk and Afghani, it’s no wonder that Critical is good for cooler weather. Critical Mass actually cannot be grown in temperatures that are too warm or its more likely to get mold.
  • Hindu Kush: Neighbors with Afghani in the Hindu Kush mountains, Hindu Kush is also good cannabis for cold weather growing.
  • Blackberry: Another strain that is very strong in general, and highly resistant to mold, Blackberry is good for cooler temps.
  • Durban Poison: A strain that’s easy to grow in general and can grow in many different environments including colder ones.

Does it matter?

We have a lot of options for how to get our cannabis and cannabis products. There are dispensaries, black markets with friendly neighborhood dealers, mail order and delivery services, and of course, the ability to grow oneself. Even with all the other options, some people will always prefer to grow their own, after all, how best to control for things like organic, or the pesticides that are used, or to simply make sure it’s done the way the end user wants it. Not everyone who prefers to do this, lives in a nice warm environment for growing. Plus, some people prefer growing outdoors in general, making a need for plants that can handle harsher temperatures. So, for someone who lives in a cooler place and wants to grow outdoors, picking the correct strain is very important, as the wrong one will be weak or die, and the right one can mean a really nice harvest.

Tips for cold-weather outside growing

The following are things to consider if doing a cold-weather grow is in your future.

  • Pick the right strain. This is the most important part. It’s got to be a strain that can grow in the specific climate. Consider temperature, moisture levels, and how much sunlight it will actually get, and pick the strain best for your particular growing location.
  • Start the seedling inside. While this might not be completely necessary, seedlings are more delicate and sensitive to cold. If the temperature is low enough, best to get it started inside until it’s strong enough to handle the outside.
  • Autoflower. Autoflowering plants flower on an internal schedule and not due to the light they’re exposed to. They can be good for environments if the exact weather will be uncertain, or if a planter wants to make sure that flowering occurs before a specified time to avoid freezes, or other unwanted weather.
  • Pots. This is another tip that doesn’t have to be used, but could be useful. Instead of planting directly into the ground outside, using pots allows you to move the plant if a sunnier spot it found, or if the weather dips too low.
  • Select the right spot. Make sure where you put your plant will get it what it needs, while avoiding what it doesn’t. For example, putting it in a place where it can get strong and direct morning sun that can defrost it, means it might be able to endure cooler-than-healthy temperatures at night. Using locations near water like lakes and rivers can also help temperatures stay a few degrees higher and ward off frost.
  • Keep the mother inside. When dealing with outdoor growing, there is always the chance of unexpectedly awful weather ruining everything. Keep a mother plant inside, just in case everything else gets ruined outside.

Conclusion

One of the great things about cannabis is its versatility in growing. While not every strain is good for every climate, there are plenty of different options to choose from for different kinds of weather. So, if you’re looking to do an outside grow of your favorite medical cannabis strain, and you’re not in the warmest, sunniest of places, it’s okay. Do a little research for where you are, pick a strain, and get growing!

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