A growing number of experts are making a business out of teaching people how to grow their own pot. Here's what to know to get started. Growing weed indoors without grow lights is a lot easier than you might think. Learn best techniques and preparation required for cloning marijuana, plus tips to ensure optimum root development following clipping from the mother plant.
As marijuana is legalized in more places, here’s how to grow your own
When it comes to growing his own marijuana, Chris Haynie leaves little to chance.
Inside a grow room in Richmond, Haynie has erected a 42-square-foot tent that houses four marijuana plants, the state’s legal limit for personal cultivation. Haynie’s setup is high-tech: An irrigation system releases moisture on a precise schedule; a motorized LED light timed to mimic the rising and setting of the sun moves along a rail across the top of the tent; and a monitoring system tracks key metrics of plant health, such as the moisture level and pH of the soil, and relays the data to an app on Haynie’s phone. If the system senses urgent problems, he’ll receive a warning text. Haynie’s friends are used to him bolting from a room mid-conversation to tend to his plants.
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Haynie, a bearded 38-year-old cannabis connoisseur who tattooed his thumbs with green ink, is no horticulture amateur. As the co-founder of Richmond’s Happy Trees Agricultural Supply, he’s part of a growing number of experts who are making a business out of teaching people how to grow their own pot. Recent laws in Virginia allow for limited cultivation of marijuana for personal use, and Happy Trees, which Haynie launched in 2019 with Josiah Ickes, 36, specializes in setting up growers to cultivate the plant.
Marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, but many states have abolished restrictions, creating a patchwork of rules throughout the country. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing recreational use. Virginia legalized home cultivation in July 2021; under the law, people 21 and older may possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It remains illegal, though, to buy or sell it in any form — including seeds — until 2024, when retail sales are expected to begin.
People still find ways to access seeds. When D.C. legalized the possession of limited amounts of marijuana in 2015, the District lacked the authority to create a legal economic market for sales. So cannabis activists organized seed giveaways throughout the city. At one early event in 2015, lines stretched for blocks.
The regulatory scheme also established what has become an expansive “giveaway market,” in which Washingtonians have used a loophole to provide harvested marijuana as a gift in exchange for the purchase of a legal product. Companies sell cookies, tea or paintings with a baggie of “free” marijuana on the side. One company sells motivational speeches delivered by a person who travels by bicycle.
Can you grow cannabis indoors without lights?
Many hobbyist growers elect to use grow tents, closets, or other enclosed spaces when growing cannabis indoors, often outfitting these spaces with lights and even humidity and temperature control systems. Depending on your level of interest and enthusiasm, these systems can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
But can you simply stick a cannabis plant in a nice sunny window and let it do its thing? Read on to understand what to expect if you choose to grow cannabis indoors au naturel, along with a few tips and tricks from experts to help your indoor plant thrive in a minimal setup.
The environment inside your home is perfectly safe for your cannabis plant. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Is my home a suitable environment for cannabis?
The environment inside your home is perfectly safe for your cannabis plant. It offers all the same basic benefits you enjoy, like warmth, oxygen, protection from the elements, and light.
“I make zero effort to control the climate of my grow spot. If you’re growing without a light, that plant will be just fine in regular household conditions that are suitable to us humans,” explains Jimmy B Harvests, a YouTube creator that documents his adventures in growing cannabis, along with other fruits and vegetables, at home.
What to expect when growing weed indoors without lights
Will growing a plant indoors without grow lights leave you with wonky plants? Lower yields? Less potent flower?
Not necessarily. “The more effort and energy you put into a plant, the bigger and better your harvest will be,” said Jimmy. “I think that’s a pretty universal truth in the gardening game, but I’ve definitely been surprised by how well plants can do without the elaborate tents, fans, filters, feeding systems, and so on.”
Successfully growing a cannabis plant indoors is all about covering the plant’s basic needs: air, light, temperature, water, and nutrients. So, if you get those things right, your homegrown cannabis plant could provide much more than a fun experiment. And considering that indoor cannabis plants can grow a few feet tall and equally wide, you should anticipate young plants to take up more space by the time they reach maturity.
Cannabis plants need plenty of bright light or direct sunlight. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Make sure your cannabis plant gets enough light
Cannabis plants need plenty of bright light or direct sunlight. Southeastern and southwestern exposures provide the most direct sunlight per day, followed by southern, eastern, and western. If you’re dealing with a northern exposure, your cannabis plants won’t have enough direct light to thrive. You’ll need to supplement with artificial light.
To maximize the amount of daily sunlight your plant receives, work with the seasons. The total number of daylight hours vary depending on where you are, but in the Northern Hemisphere a good rule of thumb is to germinate your seeds around the Spring Equinox.
Bottom line: Sunrooms, rooms with lots of southern-facing windows, and bay windows are all great spots for indoor cannabis plants. Aim for at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
There are two types of plants a grower might consider: autoflowering varieties or photoperiod varieties. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Autoflower vs photoperiod plants: what’s the difference?
There are two types of plants a grower might consider: autoflowering varieties or photoperiod varieties.
Photoperiod plants need to follow a specific light schedule, particularly during the flowering period. These plants need 12 hours of complete darkness to induce flowering and throughout the flowering phase until harvest. “If you can’t get the environment dark enough, that plant is just going to keep on growing and might get too big for the space you have,” added Jimmy. Our homes are full of light, so to assure the darkness needed to induce flowering, put the plants in a closet each sundown and back out in their window each morning.
Autoflowering plants begin flowering automatically based on their maturation. When they reach a particular age, they flower, regardless of how much sunlight/darkness they are getting. These plants do not require the complete darkness that photoperiod plants do, meaning you could leave them out and about overnight and they will be fine. Another reason you might want to choose an autoflower variety is if you’re short on time since their growth cycle is shorter than it is for photoperiod plants.
Bottom line: Photoperiod plants will require several months of your time and attention, whereas some autoflowering plants complete their life cycles in as little as 49 to 56 days. This is something folks might not consider when getting started with cannabis — you have to tend to it often and be present through the plant’s life cycle. So if you’re planning a vacation or work might take you away from home, an autoflower strain might make more sense for you.
When growing in your home’s natural environment, choose a strain that will best match up with the general temperature and humidity of your mango-colored home. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Consider your indoor climate when choosing a strain
One reason indoor growers work so hard to manipulate the growing climate with light-, temperature-, and humidity-control systems is that different cultivars have different needs and preferences.
When growing in your home’s natural environment, choose a strain that will best match up with the general temperature and humidity of your home. If you use air conditioning in the summer, then you might want to select an indica-dominant cultivar that can thrive in milder temperatures. If your home is hot and humid during the summer, then a sativa-dominant strain might be a better choice.
Experience is the best teacher when it comes to growing cannabis. Photo by: Dimitri Newman/Weedmaps
Tips and tricks for your indoor grow
Experience is the best teacher when it comes to growing cannabis — or any plant for that matter. Consider these tips before embarking on growing weed indoors without lights.
Keep it simple to start. When it comes to your setup, “I would challenge people to try doing as little as possible on their first plant and adding in effort or equipment only to solve issues as they arise or to better future plants,” shared Jimmy.
Be a good plant parent. Keep an eye on its growth and development. Trim yellowing or dying leaves that often present at the bottom of the plant when they get shaded by the top canopy. Keep an eye out for insects and act quickly when you see them, then continue monitoring closely because pests and disease can be persistent and difficult to get rid of.
Rotate your plant. “Growing with just a window, your plant is going to bend itself towards the light constantly and will benefit from regular rotating. I was rotating my cannabis plant twice a day to keep it growing relatively upright,” said Jimmy.
Pro tip: don’t set your cannabis plant on fire. Photo by: Dimitri Newman/Weedmaps
Flush your plant before harvesting. If you’ve been feeding your plant with synthetic nutrients or fertilizers, you’ll need to give it a good flush before harvesting. By flushing the growing medium of nutrients and fertilizers, you’ll leave the plant to use up its reserves before harvesting. It’s an important step that, if skipped, can negatively impact the final quality of your flower. Timing is important here because you don’t want to strip your plant of nutrients too early. One to two weeks before harvest is a good rule of thumb.
Keep a grow journal. There are many ready-made journals tailored specifically for growing cannabis. You can also grab a pad or notebook and jot down daily details on watering, feeding nutrients, the days or weeks in a particular growth phase (vegetation, flowering), any insects or mold issues, and so on. Having a record of a plant’s full life-cycle will help improve future plants.
Managing your expectations is important, especially if this is your first attempt at home growing. Caring for and mastering the art of growing cannabis is something that takes years of experience. With time, attention, and a keen eye for detail, you can improve your outcomes with each new plant you grow, even with no lights and a minimal setup.
Cloning Marijuana: How to Grow Cannabis Without Seeds
Cloning is a bit of a hot-button issue in the world these days. Only as far as cloning humans is concerned though. That’s fair enough considering all the moral, ethical, and spiritual considerations that come along with premise of replicating a human life. There’s no such questions to be debated in the botany world, and cloning plants has been done with much success for decades now. For example, cloning marijuana is an example of this approach to growing plants is a hit with home grow enthusiasts around the world.
You CAN grow a marijuana plant from a seed, but if want the same strain with exactly the same properties, and in some case the same unique characteristics, then you will need to clone it. If you ask an expert about how this process works, be prepared to absorb a LOT of information.
But ask them how to make clones from weed plants and you’ll find it’s quite straightforward. Not as easy as it is to buy marijuana clones, but those of you who like being hands-on with your home grow experiments will want to give cloning marijuana a try.
Cloning Marijuana Guarantees an Identical Plant
An overview of cloning marijuana will explain how it involves cutting of a small piece of an existing marijuana plant and then having that plants develop its own roots . The cut piece of plant will have the same gender and exact same genetic structure as its donor plant, meaning that the plant that eventually regrows itself from the cut piece will too .
Let’s say you have a particular marijuana plant that’s especially healthy and hardy and gives you a bountiful yield of exactly the type of bud you love . Would the sound of having a number of those EXACT same plants sound good to you? Darn right it would, and if you have that plant then achieving this is entirely possible.
Other advantages to cloning marijuana include:
- Expanding on your crop at no additional cost – asides from basic supplies, making clones is free
- The ‘head start’ that clones have in comparison to seedlings, meaning in the big picture that they’ll be at their flowering stage more quickly
- Better choice for those hoping to practice Sea of Green or 12/12 from seed techniques due to clones already being mature and able to be oriented to the flowering stage immediately
Cloning Marijuana: Guidelines
The first consideration you’ll need to have when cloning marijuana is that a ‘mother’ plant will be required to get the clones from. Obviously, choosing a female plant that displays signs of vigor and good health is best. If you have one of those you’ve likely at least mastered the basics of how to grow marijuana, but now you’re about to start down a whole new path.
Here’s a list of the primary supplies you’ll need:
Sharp scissors – You’ll need these to clip your clone pieces from the mother plant, as well as for future defoliation and trimming once your clones have grown into being their own plants
Starter cubes – these are also essential, as they’ll be the homes for your clones while they develop their own roots
Cloning Gel or Cloning Powder – These products are good because they provide a sealant around the cut plant tissue and then supply it with the hormones required for optimum root cell development
Proper lighting – This will be very well understood if you already know how to grow cannabis, but we’ll go over it again briefly in case it’s not. Natural sunlight is best of course, but that’s not possible for many growers much of the time. If that’s your situation, T5 grow lights are the best for clones and seedlings, and especially when suspended 8 or 9” above your clones.
Depending on your situation you may need more supplies, but everyone who’s going to try cloning marijuana will need these four.
Taking Your Clones
Alright, we’re now going to assume that you’ve got your healthy mother plant and all the supplies you need to start. The first thing you’ll do is determine the readiness of your mother plant. There is one basic criteria for this; if the leaf shoots or nodes of the plant are alternating (which means not connecting at the same point on the stem) it is mature and ready for cloning.
Next, soak the starter cubes in water for just a few minutes. No longer. This is important – soak them too long and you’ll reduce the effectiveness with which they’ll promote the clones developing a good root.
Now let’s get down to the hands-on part of how to make clones from weed plants. You want to clip new growth tips on the plants, where there is a new branching and a new top. It is also better to take your clippings from the lower half of your plant, as these leaf shoots have more rooting hormones than those higher up. They will grow roots more quickly because of these hormones.
These growths should be easy to identify being right on the top and often a much lighter green in colour.
Now, with scissors in hand, prepare to make your cut:
- Use your thumb and index finger to grab the shoot an inch or so below the new growth tip
- Eyeball your new cuttings so that they will be between 5 to 8” long, so you will be cutting 5-8” below the growth tip
- Hold it steady as you take the scissors and proceed to cut the branch away at a 45-degree angle
- After making the cut, use the sharp inside edge of one of your scissor blades to ‘scuff’ up the area just above your cut. This will expose more of the stocks ‘raw’ genetic material inside it and aid in the cloning process
Immediately after this you should place the cutting into a glass of water, and do the same for all cuttings you take. After a short period of time you can remove them and trim off huge lower leaves or clip top fan leaves. Return to the water right after doing so.
Once removed, if you’re going to use cloning gel or cloning powder now is the time. If not, proceed to place your new clones into moistened starter cubes. Press around the bottom of them to ensure they’re well sealed.
The last tip here is to keep your resettled clones out of grow lighting for the first couple of days to give them a chance to settle. No longer than 2 days though. And once you do start to give them lighting, don’t give them 24 hours of it. 16-18 hours a day is better.
Just like that you’ve got no need to buy marijuana clones, you’re now sufficiently in the know to create your own using nothing more than your existing crop and a few supplies.