Anyone new to the cannabis world, whether it be traditional high-THC strains or high-CBD hemp flower, will quickly discover that cannabis flower is generally grouped into and sold as two distinct categories: Outdoor and Indoor. These two are often sold at a different price point, with different marketing, branding, and packaging. Is there really any big difference between the two since they’re both just cannabis flower, and is the price difference and categorization necessary? Lets take a look at what distinguishes one from the other so you can make an informed decision.
Traditionally, cannabis is grown like any other plant, in a soil medium kept moist with fresh water and placed under the sun until the seasons change and the plant develops flowers which are eventually harvested. Cannabis was probably the first domesticated plant by humans, and they grew it this way for millenia. Only recently, in the last few decades, have growing techniques greatly improved and people found that growing cannabis inside in a controlled environment with artificial light can be an easier way to greatly improve the quality of the end product.
Outdoor can certainly be good flower. It can also be bad. Why? Well for one, by nature, nature is volatile. Humans have no control over the amount of sunlight there is, wind, precipitation, or the temperature. All of these things can factor into the quality of cannabis flower. If temperatures are too low, a frost can kill or severely stunt a plant, leading to a smaller or less pretty harvest. If there is not optimal sunlight at all times, the plant can stretch itself to get as much sunlight exposure as possible. This causes the nodes of the plant (the spots where new growth and eventually flowers pop up along the stems) to get further and further apart, which will cause the flowers to be loose and airy, which for most people is not visually appealing. A windy environment is great for a plant to have a strong, robust stem, but it also means the plant will put energy into weathering itself instead of growing as densely and lush as possible. This will effect both the quality and quantity of the end product.
Too much precipitation can also lead to the demise of a plant or harvest. Obviously plants love water, and rain water is always an awesome choice for watering plants as it usually has none of the adulterants or pollution that our tap water or sourced water can have in it. However, when a plant is in full flower and has dense buds growing, the moisture from rain can get trapped inside and cause something called bud rot. Bud rot is exactly what it sounds like, basically the calyxes and plant material inside buds becomes inundated with water and dies, then starts to rot, which spreads like an infection. Pests also can be a problem with outdoor growing. Different insects like to feed on cannabis leaves and flowers, and some are parasitic and actually use the plant as a food and energy source.
Growing outdoors also opens up the chance for another problem: pollination. Pollination is when the pollen released by male cannabis flowers flies onto a female flower and fertilizes it, leading to seed production. When cannabis flowers make seeds, they take energy away from producing cannabinoids and terpenes, leading to a slightly less potent end product. Seeds are also cumbersome and take away from smokable flower when sold by weight. This is why seedless flower or “sinsemilla” has more value.
So with all these potential issues, you might be wondering why do people still grow outdoors? How can outdoor bud still be “good”? For one, growing outdoors often comes with less space restrictions. Having an entire yard, garden, or even entire acres of fields can allow more plants to grow and grow to their full potential size wise, with plants in optimal conditions growing over 10 feet tall! These massive plants can grow POUNDS of flower each, and that’s something that just generally can’t be done indoors. Also, its hard for artificial light to rival the raw power of the sun, and sunlight is what cannabis needs to grow big and strong. Growing outdoors definitely has its own distinct advantages.
Growing indoors allows the grower to have complete control over the environment and conditiions the plants are in. This takes away many of the stressors that effect plants outdoors, which usually leads to a much better product. There is little worry for pests, CO2 levels can be controlled (plants grow better in an environment with more CO2, that’s kind of what they “breathe”), plants can be grown in other mediums besides soil like hydroponics, where plant roots are directly suspended in water and nutrients instead of living in a soil medium. In these perfected environments, cannabis can be grown to a near perfect and flawless state, where all of the best parts of the genetics can shine through. Indoor flower is often denser, has more trichomes, and smells better because of the extra energy the plant put into producing terpenes instead of weathering itself.
So, is indoor better? It would seem so, and in most cases, yes. However, outdoor can be grown to near perfection like outdoors. Grown en masse (like with an outdoor commercial grow) its pretty much impossible to do, but with a small personal grow, lots of time, care, and attention can be given to a small batch of plants, that can produce flowers indistinguishable from indoor if done right and by an experienced grower. As previously stated though, those conditions and care cannot be met outside of a personal grow, which is why outdoor is usually inferior to indoor in a bag appeal aspect. When talking about potency though, cannabinoid levels in outdoor flower can definitely match that of indoor flower, and often do. The indoor vs outdoor debate is usually dealing with looks, smell, and taste, and not so much with potency.
In conclusion (cliche, I know), outdoor flower CAN be as good as indoor but is usually not. Outdoor flower can be grown in much larger amounts for much less money, and the end product and price reflects this. Indoor flower has to be grown in smaller batches and much more money is invested into perfecting the grow conditions, and the end product and price also reflect that. Which is better is all up to personal preference. Some people prefer outdoor, some prefer indoor. The best way to find out what you like is to go out and grab some of both and make an informed decision.