The main ingredient in marijuana responsible for its psychoactive, or mood altering, effects is a cannabinoid called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC” for short. In combination with other cannabinoids, the amount of THC in marijuana determines the strength of the effect of the drug. The level of THC in marijuana is not always the same. It can vary depending on the strain or variety of the plant, the way in which the plant is grown, the part of the plant that is used, and the way the plant is prepared for use and stored.
Let’s face it. At the end of each grow, you’re really interested in THC. Yes, it’s great if the buds taste good and have a dank, earthy, diesel odor. But even if they’re a bit raggedy or don’t smell so nice, as long as they rock your socks off when you smoke them you’re probably not complaining. So let’s take a look at a few tricks you can use when growing marijuana indoors or out to boost THC levels.
Strain & Plant Genetics
In order to get really high levels of potency and THC, it’s essential to start with high-potency, high-THC genes from a respectable breeder. Genetics are hugely important when it comes to cannabinoid profiles. Resin production is largely determined by genes, so if you want tons of THC in your buds start with seeds or clones for a strain that is genetically inclined to produce a potent harvest. Your plant genetics set the “upper limit” of how much THC and other cannabinoids your plant will ever be able to produce. Although you can use grow methods to maximize the THC within that limit, you will never be able to overcome the limits set by your strain and plant genetics.
There is a 2-3 week period during the flowering stage when plants are “mature” and buds are at the highest levels of THC. At this point, the tiny resin glands (trichomes) on the buds have turned milky white, and most of the white hairs (pistils) on the buds have darkened and curled in. If the plant is allowed to keep maturing, the cannabinoid profile continues to change. Buds harvested on the later side tend to produce more of a relaxed “body” effect, though the psychoactive effects of THC may be somewhat reduced.
Marijuana growers are constantly trying new lighting techniques and technologies to maximize production and potency. Cannabis uses light to power the growth of buds, along with the THC and cannabinoids contained inside. Outdoors your plant needs direct sunlight 8+ hours a day to produce to its fullest, and indoors you need strong, bright grow lights to produce the highest levels of THC.
Decreasing Humidity Levels
Decreasing humidity levels and watering less during flowering will also cause a protective response. Dry conditions simulate drought. In times of drought, cannabis plants produce extra resin to coat the delicate flowers and seeds. This is a strategy to seal in moisture and prevent damage from lack of water. By letting your plants dry out somewhat during flowering, you will create a drought stress that boosts THC content.
Healthy Cannabis Plant
In order to get your cannabis to produce the most potent buds possible, you need a robust, healthy cannabis plant with lots of bud sites getting direct light during the flowering stage. This means it’s important to avoid common plant health mistakes like overwatering, underwatering, heat stress, root problems, irregular light cycles and nutrient problems. Check out our 7-step remedy to fix most cannabis plant growing problems. Try to maintain balance and avoid environmental extremes. Basically, treat your cannabis plant like it’s a celebrity – it gets everything it wants!
Many vegetable gardeners take advantage of this with “companion planting”, the practice of placing certain plants near one another to improve production. Legumes like clover or peas put nitrogen in the soil to feed nearby plants. Chamomile pulls up minerals from deep in the earth. Marigold repels nasty pests while bee balm attracts pollinators, and so on. So how can companion planting with marijuana to improve THC content? Some plants have been shown to increase essential oil content in neighboring plants. Stinging nettle is a good example. Many growers have speculated that planting stinging nettle alongside cannabis plants may boost resin production.
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