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Pros & Cons: Growing Sativa Marijuana. Closeup of marijuana plant.

Pros & Cons: Growing Sativa Cannabis

Most people seem to prefer either sativa or indica and have a short list of favorite strains that fall into one species category or the other. Some find sativa to be too racy and prone to cause anxiety. Others find the motivational, clear-headed effects to be just what they want on an active day. Still others find appropriate times for both, enjoying sativa during the day and reaching for indica during the evening hours while winding down.

When smoking sativa strains, a person experiences a cerebral high that he or she can literally feel in their head. The effects are euphoric, upbeat, energizing, uplifting, and happy, and can give novice smokers giggle fits. After smoking sativa, most people feel motivated to engage in something active. Whether it’s an ambitious pursuit like taking a long hike, or doing something routine but necessary like cleaning the house, a sativa strain will put you in the right frame of mind. While sativa smokers may actively vacuum their living rooms, indica smokers might be found on their couches enjoying a movie. There’s no denying that the effects are quite different.

Unfortunately for sativa lovers, growing it indoors typically poses more challenges than growing indica. Even sativa-leaning hybrids can pose challenges, but the payoff is worth the effort for those who plan appropriately and have some patience. To understand why these plants, grow differently, consider their geographical origins. The warmer, equatorial regions with longer daylight are where sativa plants thrive. This is why some of our favorite sativa originate or thrive in areas like Thailand, southern India, Jamaica, southern Mexico, and Colombia. Sativa leaves and plant structure indicate that they are sun-loving. The thin leaves and lighter green color compared to indica allows them to soak up massive amount of solar energy as they stretch toward the sun. Indica plants come from cooler regions like northern India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, and Tibet. Their dark, wide leaves allow them to gather as much sun as possible, and their growth is less vigorous, so they remain shorter.

When cultivated, sativa and indica behave quite differently. Since indica plants stay shorter and mature quicker than sativa, many people opt to cultivate indica for simplicity sake, if not for their preference for its effects. Growing sativa can be a labor of love—particularly when growing a pure sativa strain—which is relatively rare these days.

Planning the Sativa Grow Room

Since sativa plants grow taller and take longer to mature, factor these realities into the grow space you plan to use. You definitely want adequate vertical space, allowing for the amount of stretching sativa and sativa-dominant strains do during the flowering stage. There’s no denying that pure sativas like Durban Poison can grow to lofty heights, which is why some growers prefer to cultivate them outdoors in areas where the climate cooperates with a plant that usually needs to wait until October to harvest. If you live in an area where growing sativa outdoors is possible, give serious consideration to this potion. Your harvest will be much larger, and the plants’ height will not be a concern.

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Even sativa-dominant strains like to stretch upward more than indica-leaning strains. Expect the well-known sativa hybrids like Golden Goat, Bruce Banner, Cinderella 99, Jack Herer, and Haze (as well as the many Haze crosses) to grow quite tall compared to indica. Because these strains can reach impressive heights, use appropriately sized pots to accommodate the robust root growth. When grown indoors and height is an issue, don’t let the plants grow too tall during the vegetative stage of growth. Top them early to help manage their upward growth, and for some strains, training may be necessary. Many sativa-dominant strains will stretch quite a bit during the flowering stage, and their buds take longer to mature, so having them at a modest height when you flip the light cycle to 12/12 will help you manage their growth.

Popular Sativa-Dominant Strains

Fortunately, a wide variety of sativa-leaning strains do well in the indoor garden despite somewhat taller heights. The range of strains have a delicious assortment of terpene experiences and upbeat effects.

The number of pure sativa strains is quite limited, but skilled cultivators have been able to capture the essence of sativa in the numerous hybrid strains that exist. Some of these sativa-dominant hybrids have been around for many years and remain popular because of their pleasing flavors and effects.

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The following list includes some of the more popular sativas and sativa hybrids you are likely to encounter in a dispensary. Seeds of most of these are also available for cultivation purposes.

  • Durban Poison is a pure landrace strain from the port city of Durban in South Africa. As a pure sativa, Durban Poison has an energetic and highly motivational effect that keeps those who consume it on their toes and active. This is a good strain for conversation and social activities. The THC levels of Durban are usually quite high in THC and low in CBD. Flavors of anise, pepper, and subtle tropical fruit make Durban Poison a tasty and powerful cannabis experience.
  • Kali Mist is a pure sativa or sativa-dominant hybrid depending on the version you buy. The strain remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. The genetics behind it are unknown, and even the hybrid version is 90/10 sativa/indica, making it very close to being pure sativa. This is a great strain for morning use because the THC content is below that of many other popular sativas, making it quite functional and clear-headed in effect. As far as flavor goes, most Kali Mist phenos have an earthy/woody/citrus combination in varying ratios. Kali Mist is a good strain for those who may not be looking for a profound cannabis experience, although its effects are quite pleasant.
  • Haze has had such an impact on the cannabis world that a huge number of sativa-leaning strains have been created by crossing it with other strains. Haze ranks among one of the most popular strains—and for good reason. Originally created by the Haze brothers from the Santa Cruz area of California, Haze combines Mexican, Colombian, Indian, and Thai strains to create a wonderfully flavorful and creative strain. The aroma and flavor of Haze is so distinctive that once you smell it, you will recognize it forever, as well as in strains created from it. Smooth minty and piney flavors tickle the taste buds.
  • Chocolope is available in seed form by DNA genetics and is nearly pure sativa, with a ratio of 95/5 sativa/indica. This very popular strain combines Chocolate Thai and Cantaloupe Haze. The results are a hardy variety that even thrives in the hands of beginner growers. It really captures the unique chocolate flavors of the Chocolate Thai that was so common as an import in the ’70s and ’80s. This strain has won multiple awards in cannabis competitions, so it’s very worthy of your consideration if you’re looking for something interesting to smoke or grow. If you loved Chocolate Thai back in the day, find some Chocolope—it’s a welcome blast from the past!
  • Golden Goat was created in Kansas by crossing a Hawaiian strain with Island Sweet Skunk. The Hawaiian genetics result in this strain’s golden-green appearance that earns it its name. The high is upbeat and euphotic, with a slightly relaxing quality that follows the initial effect. Golden Goat is great for a sativa experience with a little balance that isn’t racey. The aroma and flavor leans to the sweeter side, with citrus notes and tropical fruit flavors. Expect a dense and sticky coating of trichomes from this strain, as well as potent THC levels and small amounts of CBD.
  • Cinderella 99 has definitely made its mark on the cannabis world, with a number of notable hybrids resulting from crosses made with it. “Cindy 99,” as it’s often referred to, was created by Brothers Grimm, an Amsterdam seed company, using genetics that include Jack Herer from Sensi Seeds. Cindy is popular with indoor growers who appreciate the plant’s short stature and quick finishing time. The THC potency is decent, with percentages often hovering in the low 20s. The strain has a sweet flavor profile, with candied citrusy notes and a distinct earthy dankness present as well.
  • Jack Herer, is a popular award-winning strain created by Dutch seed company Sensi Seeds. Created to honor the sativa-loving marijuana activist of the same name, Jack Herer is a very popular strain for its enjoyable uplifting qualities, despite the fact that it contains a percentage of Northern Lights #5, a well-known and hard-hitting indica. The strain also contains Shiva Skunk and a Haze hybrid, resulting in a 55/45 sativa-dominant hybrid. Put any thoughts of indica aside, because Jack Herer acts like a sativa all the way. There are several phenos of Jack, with slight variation in flavor and effect. Most people favor the plants that have a slight tropical fruit flavor along with the pronounced Hazey pine that all Jack phenos seem to have. Those who cultivate cannabis, love Jack for its sativa qualities, which led to the creation of Jack Flash, a strain that finishes quicker yet maintains many of the same qualities as the pure Jack.
  • Bruce Banner is a sativa with a strong punch. Named after the Incredible Hulk character who morphs into a monster, it is a powerful experience, much like the hulk character. Consisting mostly of OG Kush and Strawberry Diesel—two tasty strains in their own right—there are a few phenos, one of the most popular of which is Bruce Banner #3. From a terpene perspective, this strain usually has a candied sweetness and mildly earthy dankness, with subtle diesel notes—an interesting flavor experience for sure. Bruce Banner’s effect is mostly cerebral, a great, clear-headed strain for daytime use. Some cannabis consumers who find sativa strains a bit too racy might want to skip the Bruce Banner, because some smokers report anxiety from it if they consume too much—which can be easy to do with this hard-hitter.
  • Strawberry Cough caused a buzz in the cannabis community when it was first introduced several years ago. Sativa growers love it for the same reason they appreciate Cinderella 99—a short and manageable stature and quick finishing time for a strain decidedly in the sativa category. The genetics behind its creation remain unclear, but most agree that it is a cross of Strawberry Fields, an East Coast strain. The effects mirror those of Cinderella 99, with a motivational high that isn’t immediately relaxing, although mild relaxation emerges later. Strawberry Cough really delivers in the flavor department, with rich, creamy strawberry flavors. The “cough” part of the name is an exaggeration, because this strain is no more likely to make you cough than any other. Strawberry Cough enjoys immense popularity and is one to seek when perusing your dispensary strain shelves.
  • Maui Wowie, like Durban Poison, is a sativa with a long history. As its name implies, Maui Wowie comes from the Hawaiian Islands. The stress-relieving, happy qualities it provides to those who partake make it perfect for conversation and gatherings with goof friends. Its moderate strength is pleasant and not overwhelming for those not used to cannabis. As a Hawaiian strain, Maui Wowie has appropriate flavors that contain tropical pineapple aromas and flavors. Take a blissful trip to the islands today by purchasing this longtime favorite.
  • Green Crack has a name that you may not like, but it does imply an energetic effect, which this strain most definitely has. To confuse matters, there are now two versions of Green Crack, including one that leans heavily to indica genetics. We’ll focus on the sativa variety here. The Green Crack experience is highly motivational and cerebral. This is a happy strain that uplifts those who use it. Knowledge about its genetics remain somewhat murky, but it’s known to contain Skunk #1. In the terpene department, Green Crack has tangy, sweet, fruity flavors that some people compare to papaya or mango.

Smoking good sativa is a memorable and energizing experience. For those who have things to do and don’t enjoy the sedative effect of a fine indica strain, sativa fits the bill. Whether it’s in a grow room or a blunt, sativa strains have a devoted following and are worthy of your consideration. While they prove slightly more challenging to grow indoors, there are sativa-leaning hybrids that are manageable and easy to grow. If you haven’t grown sativa because you’ve heard they are more difficult than indica, throw caution to the wind and take the plunge. You will most likely find that your concerns weren’t warranted and the harvest was well worth the effort!