Cannabis Growing Cannabis

Indoor vs. Outdoor Cannabis Growing: Pros and Cons

Growing your own cannabis can be an extremely rewarding experience, but being able to grow it properly in the first place can be a challenge for many people. One of the biggest questions that many people have is whether it is better to grow cannabis indoors or outdoors.

Well, there are pros and cons of growing cannabis indoors and outdoors. Both have their advantages and disadvantages worth considering.

For instance, growing cannabis indoors allows for great control over the environment, it allows you to keep pests at bay, and it allows for greater discretion too.

However, growing cannabis outdoors saves you a lot of money, often results in bigger yields and higher potency, and allows you to take advantage of natural sunlight as well. Right now, we will take you on an in-depth guide on all the pros and cons of indoor versus outdoor cannabis growing.

Pros of Growing Cannabis Outdoors

Let’s first take a closer look at why you might choose to grow cannabis outdoors.

More Space to Grow

One of the most obvious advantages of growing cannabis outdoors is that it allows your cannabis plants to have as much space as possible to grow big and tall. Plants grown outdoors are provided with maximum space to allow their canopies to expand and to allow their root systems to spread.

The bigger the root systems can grow, the larger the overall plant will grow, and this will affect the final yield. Many people who grow cannabis outdoors simply plant their cannabis plants in the soil, as opposed to using pots or containers, as pots and containers limit the possible size of the room to system.

Furthermore, if you have more space to spare, you might also choose to grow more than one type of cannabis plant or strain. Many people choose to cultivate a variety of companion plants which helps to bolster the diet biodiversity of their garden.

Good companion plants to grow alongside cannabis include dill, chamomile, white clover, and others. In their own ways, these plants all help keep pests away. These companion plants act like natural pest and disease repellents.

With all of that being said, this of course requires you to have a lot of outdoor space. If you don’t have an outdoor space, then you don’t really have this option.

Natural Sunlight

The next benefit of growing cannabis outdoors is that you get to take advantage of the natural sunlight. Exactly how much natural sunlight your plants get will depend on the area you live in, but generally speaking, outdoor sunlight is usually always considered better than indoor grow lights.

All of that sunlight is required for cannabis plants to engage in what is known as photosynthesis, which is when they turn food sources into the energy they need to grow. Sunlight contains two main forms of ultraviolet radiation, which include UVB and UVA rays.

In response to both of these types of sunlight, cannabis plants create protective layers of resin that are full of metabolites such as terpenes and cannabinoids. Terpenes and cannabinoids together are designed to protect the plant from a variety of issues, such as pests, disease, and damage from UV radiation.

Of course, this also produces a great secondary result, which is that cannabinoids are what we are looking for when we grow cannabis, and terpenes produce flavor and aroma.  Without a cannabis plant reacting to natural sunlight, it will not produce nearly as many cannabinoids or terpenes, and would therefore not produce as good a final result.

Soil Biology Diversity – Less Need for Fertilizer

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of growing cannabis outdoors is that you get to take advantage of great soil biodiversity. We very strongly recommend creating a good garden bed that has high quality soil and mulch, combined with a no-tilling technique.

Letting the soil thrive naturally allows for a great biodiversity of life, including worms, arthropods, protozoa, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, and more. When combined, all of these different living creatures help to cycle nutrients provided by organic matter until those nutrients become available for your cannabis plants to consume.

Furthermore, there are also several types of fungi and bacteria that have symbiotic relationships with plant roots, and are even able to provide plants with crucial minerals in exchange for sugars. Next, if you have a very diverse soil food web, it also allows for healthy soil structure.

Both bacterial biofilms and mycelial threads help to form soil particle aggregates that end up preventing erosion from occurring. Worms also help improve drainage and aeration by burrowing through the soil. The bottom line is that all of those different bacteria, fungi, worms, and other creatures found outdoors all have their own benefits in terms of growing cannabis and other plants.

Much Lower Cost

Another benefit that many people will want to take advantage of when it comes to growing cannabis outdoors is the cost. The simple reality is that growing cannabis outdoors is much more affordable than growing it indoors.

When you grow cannabis outdoors, you really just need to buy the seeds, a bit of soil, and if you really want, some mulch or fertilizer. Other than that however, you really don’t need to make any purchases.

On the other hand, if you plan on growing cannabis outdoors, there is a massive list of items that you will need to purchase, such as buckets, giant bags of soil, grow lights, with thermometers, air fans, temperature control units, and so much more.

 Growing cannabis indoors can be an extremely costly operation, although as you will see further below, it does also have certain advantages.

Plant Size and Bud Yield

In terms of the overall result, one of the biggest benefits of growing cannabis outdoors is that it tends to produce much larger plants and therefore much bigger yields. The simple reality is that cannabis plants have been growing outdoors for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and they are perfectly adapted for this type of growth.

Cannabis plants are able to take advantage of all of the different nutrients in the soil, the climates they are in, and the full spectrum of natural sunlight. This generally allows them to grow much larger than their indoor counterparts, which is also true simply due to the fact that they have more space to spread their roots and canopies.

Some outdoor grown cannabis plants can be many times the size of indoor plants, and also produce many times the yield. What you are going for is maximum plant size and bud yield, growing outdoors is certainly recommended.

Cannabinoid Profile and Flavor

The other main advantage of growing cannabis outdoors is that you generally end up with a much better cannabinoid profile and flavor profile. Due to being exposed to all of those UVA and UV B rays, cannabis plants create many different cannabinoids, and lots of them too.

Therefore, not only do outdoor plants tend to have more types of cannabinoids present inside of them, but also higher levels of them. This means that outdoor growing plants often have higher levels of THC, which is what many people aim for.

On that same note, outdoor grown plants also tend to have many more terpenes and flavonoids, which is a response that their survival systems produce in order to fend off pests and diseases. The more terpenes and flavonoids these plants have, the more flavor and aroma they produce. Growing cannabis outdoors allows for extremely potent and flavorful buds.

Cons of Growing Cannabis Outdoors

Now that we’ve discussed all of the pros of growing cannabis outdoors, let’s take a look at some of the biggest disadvantages that outdoor growers face.

Possible Unsuitable Climates

One disadvantage to consider here for outdoor growers is that different cannabis plants require different climates to grow properly. Some cannabis plants are suited for dry and cooler climates, whereas others are suited for much hotter and moisture climates.

Therefore, if you plan on growing outdoors, you really need to make sure that the exact stream of cannabis you are planning to grow grows well in the environment you live in. If you live in a tropical area, but your cannabis plants don’t like high humidity levels, you’ll probably run into a lot of trouble.

If cannabis plants are growing in climates that they are not suited for, they might not produce very big yields, or they might not grow well at all. Worst case scenario is that the humidity levels and temperature are so far off that your cannabis won’t grow at all.

Pest Threats

Although soil biodiversity is great when growing cannabis outdoors, what is not great are all of the possible pests. When you grow indoors, you can really protect against pests quite well, because you can keep the pests outdoors.

However, if you’re already outdoors, there’s really nothing you can do about these pests. There are slugs, aphids, nematodes, spider mites, caterpillars, white flies, and so many other pests that can eat your cannabis plants, eat the roots, and so much more.

The issue here is that it’s very difficult to control pests outdoors, and unless you are willing to use hardcore pesticides, there’s just not much you can do. Therefore, if you are growing cannabis outdoors and there is some sort of pest infestation, you’ll just have to let it run its course, which often results in the death of your cannabis plants.

Adverse Weather Conditions

Another massive disadvantage of growing cannabis outdoors is that your plants might be exposed to adverse weather conditions. Cannabis plants enjoy fairly steady weather and climates, with steady amounts of rainfall, sunlight, temperature, humidity, wind, and more.

However, when outdoors, strong winds can snap cannabis plants right in half, extremely high temperatures and high levels of sunlight can burn your cannabis plants, low levels of sunlight can starve your cannabis plants, and then you also have to deal with either extreme rain or a lack of precipitation.

The reality is that the weather is so unpredictable that you really don’t know what’s going to happen at all. You’re more or less taking a chance and hoping that the weather will be ideal for cannabis growth for the duration of the growing season. Let’s not forget that late frost in the spring or early frost in the fall can also pose risks to your cannabis plants.

A Lack of Discretion with Outdoor Plants

The other disadvantage of growing cannabis outdoors is that there is a distinct lack of discretion. Outdoor plants are very visible, especially depending on the type of property you have.

Not only will people be able to see your plants, but if they are flowering, people will also likely be able to smell them from great distances.

There are plenty of thieves out there who want nothing more than to get some free cannabis, and your outdoor grow operation provides them with the perfect opportunity to do so.

Pros of Growing Cannabis Indoors

Now that we know the pros and cons of growing cannabis outdoors, let’s move on and take a look at some of the biggest advantages and disadvantages of growing cannabis indoors.

Control over the Environment

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages that you get with growing cannabis indoors is that you can strictly control the environment and suit that environment to the exact type of cannabis strain you are growing. When you are growing indoors, you can use lights, heaters, humidifiers, and more, to keep the temperature, light levels, and humidity levels very exact.

 Being able to strictly control the environment for indoor growers is very beneficial as you can really zero in on the best growing conditions. Let’s keep in mind that although growing generally provides bigger yields and higher potencies, this is only if the climate is ideal and the cannabis plants are allowed to grow properly. However, if an ideal environments and adverse weather conditions affect outdoor plants negatively, then indoor grown plants with a strictly controlled environment will likely produce better results.

No Adverse Weather  

Growing cannabis indoors is also beneficial on the front of adverse weather. When cannabis is grown indoors, you don’t have to worry about extremely strong winds, torrential downpours, a lack of or too much sunlight, and other forms of extreme weather. Indoors, you have a roof and four walls to keep your cannabis plants protected.

Once again, although outdoor cannabis plants often produce bigger yields and stronger buds, this is only the case if they are allowed to grow into uninterrupted without having to deal with adverse weather.

However, if you were to compare an indoor grown plant that was in perfect conditions the whole time with an outdoor grown plant that had to deal with adverse weather, it’s quite likely that the indoor plant will produce better results. Weather is something that indoor growers just don’t have to deal with.

Greater Discretion

Something else to take advantage of when growing cannabis indoors is the discretion. Once again, you have four walls and a roof, which means that nobody else can see your cannabis plants.

This means that you don’t have nosy neighbors asking you about your plants, people can’t smell it when they pass your property, and thieves have a much harder time getting to your plants as well.

Protection from Pests

The other main advantage you get from growing cannabis indoors is that the plants will be much better protected from pests. When you have a specialized growth space, you can take a variety of precautions to keep pests on the outside.

Even if some pests do make their way to your cannabis plants, keeping them under wraps is much easier when indoors. When growing cannabis outdoors, you have to worry about a constant barrage of pests eating your plants.

Cons of Growing Cannabis Indoors

Although growing cannabis indoors has its advantages, there are also many disadvantages that you need to consider.

Much More Expensive

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of growing cannabis indoors is that it’s much more expensive. When growing cannabis indoors, you need to purchase pots, soil, grow lights, reflective materials, air fans, humidifiers or dehumidifiers, features or air conditioners, fertilizers, and so much more.

The best case scenario is that this costs you a few hundred dollars, but if you are going for a fairly large and high tech setup, this can cost you thousands of dollars. Indoor weed is expensive!

Growing cannabis indoors can be a very expensive affair, although for many people, being able to control the environment, keeping pests away, end preventing cannabis plants from being exposed to adverse weather is well worth the higher cost.

Less Microbial Diversity – Need for Fertilizer

As I’ve mentioned above, one of the benefits of growing cannabis outdoors is that the soil features a lot of biodiversity. All of the benefits you get from that microbial soil diversity outdoors are not present when grown indoors. If you are growing cannabis indoors, all you have is plain potting soil.

This means that you need to create your own potting soil mixes combined with other beneficial substances that will allow your plants to grow big and strong. That said, when growing indoors, you likely won’t have a wide variety of bacteria, fungi, worms, and more, which often results in unhealthier plants and weaker soil biodiversity.

This in turn can affect soil drainage, aeration, the health of your plant roots, and more. It also means that you need to supplement your plants with much more fertilizer and nutrients than you otherwise would when growing outdoors. Indoor weed needs fertilizer!

Grow Lights Can’t Rival Real Sunlight

Although there are some pretty good grow lights that allowed cannabis plants to grow adequately, in most cases, grow lights just can’t rival real sunlight, particularly in terms of the full spectrum of light that the sun produces. Indoor weed needs a lot of artificial light to make up for this, something that gives outdoor cultivation an advantage in this case.

Cannabis plants grown indoors often just aren’t as diverse, resilient, and they usually don’t have as high a cannabinoid or terpene content. They also usually don’t grow as fast or large either. The simple reality is that there is just nothing better than actual sunlight.

Lower Yields, Lower Potency, Less Flavor

As you probably have gathered by now, cannabis plants that are grown indoors got, due to a lack of microbial soil biodiversity and a lack of a full spectrum of sunlight, usually aren’t as potent, as large, as flavorful, or produce as high a yield.

Indoor grown plants tend to have a bit more of a muted flavor, their cannabinoid content and potency may be a bit slower, and their overall yield is generally lower as well. You just don’t get as much flavor, potency, or yield out of indoor plants as you do from outdoor plants.

This is all relying on the presumption that the outdoor grown plants are exposed to perfect conditions for the duration of their growth. In some places, it may be impossible to allow cannabis plants to grow outdoors due to various conditions, in which case indoor growth would be the only choice.

Odor Issues

Something that many people may not enjoy when growing cannabis indoors is the odor. A flowering cannabis plants produce an extremely strong smell that will quite likely take over your whole home.

If you don’t want your whole house smelling like ripe cannabis flowers, then you don’t want to grow indoors. The reality is that unless you have a dedicated grow space with high quality odor control systems, that smell will invade your whole house.

Less Space to Grow for Cannabis Plants

The other disadvantage of growing cannabis indoors is that you just have a lot less space to work with. This means that you can’t grow companion plants, you can probably only grow a few cannabis plants, and those few plants can only grow so tall.

Indoor and Outdoor Weed – Conclusion

There you have it folks, everything you need to know about the pros and cons of growing cannabis indoors and outdoors. Now that you know what all of the biggest advantages and disadvantages of both indoor and outdoor cannabis growth are common you can make an informed decision between the two.

Fabian Raemy is an avid cannabis enthusiast and expert. He's been a part of the cannabis community in one way or another for the past 15 years. Whether cultivating or consuming, Fabian knows his cannabis inside out. In his humble opinion, there’s just nothing more rewarding than growing a great strain of marijuana and being able to take a puff of some home grown green.

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