Autoflower marijuana strains are distinct from all other types of cannabis. Typically, cannabis varieties begin their flowering growth based on photoperiod. Photoperiod is a word which describes the amount of light vs. dark time that a plant is getting. For example, in the vegetative state, it is often recommended that plants are given 18 hours of light, and six hours of darkness. This light cycle translates to a photoperiod of 18/6. This type of photoperiod imitates early spring conditions, with long days and short nights. This indicates to the plant that it is time to get big, grow lots of leaves/roots, and accumulate the nutrients that will be necessary for flower and seed production in the fall.
When the grower wants to induce flowering, the photoperiod is shortened to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. This shortening of the photoperiod causes hormonal shifts in the plant, indicating that winter is coming, and it must begin flowering to successfully reproduce.
Autoflower marijuana seedlings uniquely differ from other cannabis varieties in that the photoperiod is irrelevant to whether the plant will grow in the vegetative or flowering states. Autoflower strains will grow vegetatively for a period of time, and then regardless of photoperiod, will enter the flower stage. This makes them ideal for growing outdoor in far north regions where the photoperiod tends to stay long, even in late summer, fall, and winter months. Autoflowering cultivars are also ideal for sticking in the corners of an indoor veg room to utilize any extra space. Nothing wrong with a bumper crop!
This distinct trait comes from Cannabis sativa var. ruderalis, an eastern Europeean subspecies of marijuana. Ruderalis is renowned for her autoflowering trait, but generally lacks potency and aroma and does well to breed with drug varieties.