How to Grow Stronger Smelling Cannabis
Table of Contents
Introduction to Growing Cannabis with a Strong, Complex Smell
Do you want to improve the smell of your cannabis? When it comes to homegrown cannabis, the smell of your buds contributes greatly to the overall perceived quality. Just like how food tastes better when it smells great, producing buds with a great smell can greatly improve the overall experience and perceived potency.
These days you can produce buds with very intense smells like diesel and skunk, but there are also strains that produce strong fruity and sweet smells like pineapple, blueberry or chocolate.
Unfortunately many marijuana growers, new and experienced, are unintentionally making mistakes that prevent buds from smelling their best by either preventing them from living up to their potential, or accidentally giving buds an unpleasant or unwanted taste/smell.
This tutorial will teach you how to increase the smell of your buds as well as show you what needs to be done to achieve a more complex and appealing smell overall. You’ll learn not only what to do, but just as importantly you’ll learn what not to do!
Each cannabis strain has its own unique smell, but you can increase this natural scent using the tips below!
How to Improve & Strengthen the Smell of Buds
As a grower, you have the power to dramatically improve the taste and smell of your buds by increasing the levels of terpenes and terpenoids they contain.
The “glitter” or trichomes on your buds contain a lot of these substances that give buds their scent, and your plant also produces terpenes in essential oils. By promoting terpene production in your buds during the growing process, you are encouraging your plants to produce the strongest scent possible!
Before You Get Started: Before you read this tutorial and start going crazy with new supplements or techniques, you should already be able to produce healthy plants without any bugs, mold or other major problems in the flowering stage, especially the crucial second half of the flowering stage. Extreme plant stress can make buds more harsh, and pesticides have the potential to get on buds and alter their taste/smell. Plus no one wants to smoke pesticides!
So as annoying as it probably is to hear, “Step 0” is to master the basics of growing!
1.) Specialized Nutrients & Supplements
When it comes to nutrients and supplements, you have several choices that can help improve the overall scent of your buds. In fact, many products have been formulated specifically to increase and enhance the smell of cannabis buds.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when it comes to nutrients and supplements…
Only Use “Bloom” (Low Nitrogen) Nutrients in the Flowering Stage
When your plant is in the flowering stage it’s important to make sure you only use specially formulated “flowering” cannabis nutrients, as these nutrients are made for the budding stage and will have lower levels of nitrogen and higher levels of potassium and phosphorous – exactly what your plant wants!
Avoid Chemical Nutrients
Try to avoid chemical nutrients and only use nutrients made from living sources (made from things like kelp, guano, bone meal, worm castings, etc).
Chemical nutrients are nutrient sources listed on the nutrient bottle with molecular compound names like Ammonium Phosphate, Magnesium Carbonate, Potassium Nitrate, etc.
Chemical nutrients have great qualities that make them attractive to a lot of growers. They increase the rate of vegetative growth and may possibly even contribute to greater bud potency. Using them won’t necessarily “hurt” the smell of buds, but these do not seem to contribute to smell as much as when the plant is using nutrients from living sources. The best smell-related results seem to occur when nutrients are getting broken down in the soil instead of being delivered directly to roots in their most simple chemical form.
The “GO Box” by General Organics offers a nutrient line made of only organic ingredients and specialized for growing plants like cannabis
Another great option is the Fox Farms Nutrient trio for soil. This is a complete cannabis nutrient system that can support your plants from seed to harvest. Although “Tiger Bloom” and “Grow Big” are not 100% organic, they use high quality ingredients and consistently produce great results in soil as far as smell and appearance. The “Big Bloom” part of the trio is probably the best part. It is completely organic and although it’s not a complete food source on its own, it can be used by itself as a Bloom Booster for plants in soil. It’s a bit more difficult to give too much “Big Bloom” to your plants since it’s basically a soup of natural sources of nutrients! (Still, don’t go crazy!)
Restrict Overall Nutrient Levels in Last 6 Weeks of Flowering
Cannabis plants do a lot of vegetative growth during the first several weeks of flowering and need a lot of nutrients to power that growth. However, around 6 weeks after the switch to flowering, they’ve mostly stopped growing new stems and leaves altogether and at this point their nutrient needs go down quite a bit.
Around week 6 of the flowering stage, your plants will mostly stop growing new stems and leaves, and needs lower levels of nutrients (especially Nitrogen) until harvest
Now, you don’t want to starve your plant of nutrients in the flowering stage because that will cause early leaf yellowing and ultimately hurt yields and bud appearance. If your plant already looks pale green all over, you don’t want to reduce nutrient levels further.
However, as far as smell is concerned, it’s important not to go overboard during the last 6 weeks of the flowering stage with nutrients, especially Nitrogen, as it can deposit a “green” or “chemical” taste/smell to buds. This is true whether you’re using chemical or organic nutrients, though it’s harder to over-fertilize with organic nutrients.
High levels of nutrients, especially the kind found in liquid plant food, can deposit extra nutrients into the buds themselves, possibly altering the taste and smell. After buds are fully formed you don’t want to overdo it with Nitrogen or other nutrients. In addition to hurting the smell, too much Nitrogen can also prevent buds from fattening properly!
Supplements can be a controversial topic when it comes to growing cannabis, and there are hundreds of options with new products frequently appearing on the market. It can be tough to cut through all the marketing speak and figure out what actually is going to make a difference in your grow. Here’s a list of the most common (and least controversial) supplements that improve smell:
Sugar Based Supplements
Many sugar or carbohydrate-based supplements claim to improve the smell/taste/sweetness of buds. A cheap alternative to expensive sugar-based bloom boosting supplements is blackstrap molasses. Giving this to your plants for the last few weeks before harvest can help them get bigger and smell/taste better.
It’s not specially made for plants; it’s the regular stuff you’ll find in your kitchen or at the grocery store). Blackstrap molasses adds sugars, amino acids and trace minerals. Unfortunately for hydro growers, anything organic like molasses is not suitable for a hydroponic reservoir! But molasses works great for soil and coco growers 🙂
For the last 2-3 weeks before harvest, give 1/2 tsp of Blackstrap Molasses per gallon when watering (for soil or coco coir)
Improve or Enhance Natural Bloom Processes
This group contains ingredients that are meant to help the plant do its job better. In addition to carbohydrates or sugar, these types of supplements also contain extracts from plant, marine, and mineral sources, as well as things like vitamins, amino acids, polyflavonoids, etc.
The jury is still out and which is the most effective supplement, but some of the most popular cannabis supplements based on this type of formula include…
- Floralicious Plus (by General Hydroponics)
- Liquid Karma (by Botanicare)
- Diamond Black (by General Organics)
Note: These are only for soil or coco coir! (Since these supplements contain a lot of organic materials like guano and fishmeal, they are not suitable to hydroponic reservoirs)
Supplements that “add” a smell to buds
I’m really intrigued by Botanicare’s Sweet Carbo line. According to Botanicare:
The natural esters in Sweet are easily absorbed by the plant, but are not broken down further once deposited within the plant tissue. This means that as new flowers develop they will contain small amounts of these natural esters which contribute to the overall flavor and aroma of the finished product.
They offer flavors such as grape, citrus, berry, and “raw” (which is just a generally sweet smell). These should be used throughout the flowering stage to help build smell/flavor in the buds as they mature. However, since these contain a small but significant amount of magnesium, they should not be used while flushing during last 2-3 weeks before harvest. At this point, the smells have already been deposited into the buds. Another cool thing about these supplements is they contain amino acids and some other enhancers, so it’s kind of like getting a lot of different products at once.
Other growers who’ve tried the “raw” version have said they can definitely notice an increase in the amount of “sweet” smell in their buds, and it’s made me jealous. For my next grow I plan to use one of these Sweet products as my primary supplement for the flowering stage. I’ll report back whether they make as big a difference as they say 🙂
All these supplements have been developed specifically for enhancing plants like cannabis! Just be careful not to go overboard!
The more types of supplements you use, the bigger the chance you might end up burning or causing a nutrient lockout problem with your plants. If possible, always try to use all supplements and nutrients from the same nutrient company. This lessens the chance of unwanted interactions since the whole line is designed to work together. When in doubt, go for an established nutrient company that has been around for years over one that has just appeared recently!
2.) Light Quality (Use Strong Light with UV-B)
It’s common knowledge that you need strong light to get cannabis buds to live up to their potential as far as density, potency and smell. The most common type of grow light for flowering cannabis plants is the HPS grow light, in part because it is one of the best-yielding types of grow lights for budding cannabis, and produces very potent buds.
However, HPS might not be the best type of grow light to use when it comes to increasing the level of smell. There is some evidence that some types of light, specifically a type of light known as UV-B light, can possibly enhance trichome production and smell.
On the spectrum of light, UV-B is below blue/violet (that’s why it’s called “ultra-violet”) and outside of our range of vision. However, even though we can’t see UV-B light, it still has a big effect on both humans and plants!
But it’s not just any kind of light, UV-B light is bad for humans (we use sunscreen to protect ourselves from UV light from the sun) and can actually hurt plants, too. In fact, we believe trichomes may help protect the plant from UV-B rays, kind of like how humans get a tan.
This could be why increasing UV-B exposure seems to increase trichome production. However, because of the danger of UV-B light, always make sure to protect yourself and your skin from exposure and never look directly at the light! It’s a great idea to always wear protective glasses that block UV light so you don’t damage your eyes.
Supplementing your flowering plant with UV-B light may increase the potency and smell production by triggering a natural stress response
There are two types of UV light: UV-A and UV-B. What you want for cannabis is UV-B. It is “stronger” whether it comes to increasing cannabis trichomes or giving humans a tan.
The main sources of light that provide UV light are….
- The Sun – probably the best source of UV light
- CMH / LEC grow lights – These give you lower yields than HPS but produce higher levels of UV-B
- LED grow lights – Some specialized LED grow lights these days are coming with a few UV producing diodes, however it’s unclear whether these produce enough UV-B light to actually make a difference to the plant. Most panels have just a handful of small UV diodes at most.
- Black Lights – These do produce UV light, but usually the UV-A variety that is not as effective to your plants as UV-B. They are also usually not very bright or powerful.
- UV-B Reptile Lights – Certain lights made for reptiles (and aquariums) provide UV-B light, however they tend to be relatively low powered. More testing is needed to learn if these have the strength and range to make a noticeable difference to your buds!
Note: Glass blocks most UV light, so if your light is separated from your plants by glass (for example by a greenhouse or hood) it will prevent a lot of the UV light from reaching your buds. When it comes to UV light, there should always be a clear and direct path from the light source to the plants.
3.) Grow in “Living” Soil (Super Soil)
Even better than giving your plant organic nutrients is to grow with your roots in a living soil. In other words, this is a type of soil with an active colony of microorganisms. It is like the soil a plant would be using in nature, only it’s even better because it’s been amended with exactly the right kind of nutrients and supplements. There’s evidence buds grown in this medium tend to have a more varied and complex terpene profile, which may lead to buds that smell and taste better.
Greenhouse Seeds has been leading the way in cannabis terpene and terpenoid research by growing cannabis in a variety of ways and then directly measuring the terpene content in the buds. They have found that while hydroponic grows tend to get much higher yields (with the exception of a few Indica strains), soil-grown buds tend to have a more complex terpene profile. You can see the results of the terpene analysis here.
Living soil is often referred to as “Super Soil” in the cannabis world; this just means soil that has been amended and composted. This creates a “micro-herd” of microorganisms in the soil, which break down and feed nutrients directly to your plant roots. As a result, you don’t have to provide extra nutrients or worry about the pH of your soil, because your micro-herd is doing all the work for you. You just water your plants and that’s it!
The one downside is plants tend to grow a little slower compared to using liquid nutrients, but as a reward for using super soil your buds will be much more fragrant, with a lovely bouquet of smells that’s difficult to produce any other way.
If you’re serious about maximizing the taste and smell of your buds, growing in super soil is probably one of the best-known ways to achieve that goal!
4.) Temperature & Humidity After Week 6 of Flowering
This may be difficult to control depending on your grow situation, but controlling the temperature and humidity for the last 6 weeks of flowering can make a significant difference in your bud quality.
If you’re not sure when to start, I recommend starting this effort 6 weeks after the switch to 12/12, as that’s a common halfway point for many strains.
Keep Day Temperature Under 80°F
Keep the temperature under 80°F in the second half of the flowering stage because high temperatures can “burn off” some of the smell contained in your buds! It can also make buds feel hard and crispy on top, and cause buds to grow airy and loose with foxtails. Don’t let your buds cook under hot grow lights!
It is especially important to make sure buds are not exposed to too-high temps after week 6 or 7 of flowering, as this is when the terpene content in the buds is really starts to ramp up.
Night Temperature Should Be 5-10°F Cooler
Having somewhat cooler nights can help cannabis produce more terpenes, and cooler night temperatures towards the end of the flowering stage also helps bring out colors like pink and purple if your plant has the genetics.
Keep Humidity Under 50% RH
Keep grow space around or under 50% relative humidity throughout the flowering stage for the best terpene production and overall plant growth.
For the last few weeks before harvest it may increase trichome production even further to lower the humidity below 30% RH with a dehumidifier and/or AC. The lower levels of humidity not only prevent bud rot, very dry air can cause the plant to produce more trichomes as a stress response.
Temperature & Humidity Adjustment Cheat Sheet
- Dehumidifier – Raises Temperature (somewhat), Lowers Humidity
- Space Heater – Raises Temperature, Lowers Humidity
- Air Conditioner – Lowers Temperature, Lowers Humidity
- Evaporative Cooler – Lowers Temperature, Raises Humidity
- Humidifier – Raises Temperature (somewhat), Raises Humidity
5.) Flush 1-2 Weeks Before Harvest
If you’ve been giving your plants extra nutrients in their water, then it’s recommended to stop using them 1-2 weeks before harvest time. This gives the plant time to use up any extra nutrients contained in the plant so they are less likely to come through in the taste of your buds.
If you’re not giving your plants extra nutrients in their water (for example if you’re growing in super soil) than there’s no need to flush before harvest because you’ve already been giving your plants plain water from the beginning. Your micro-herd is taking care of getting the nutrients to your plants without going overboard, and by this point in the grow you will have used up a lot of the extra nutrients.
In regular soil it’s common to flush for 1-2 weeks before harvest because there’s still some amount of nutrients contained in the soil.
In coco or hydro there are no extra nutrients as a buffer, so it’s recommended you flush for only a few days to a week. Giving a really long flush in a soilless medium can cause leaves to turn yellow and die too early. This hurts yields and can make buds look less attractive if the sugar leaves turn yellow too.
“Clearing” or “Salt Leaching” Solutions
These products are formulated to help remove extra minerals or salts when flushing the plant, which may reduce the chance that these minerals end up altering the smell or flavor of your buds.
They’re meant to be used if you’ve been giving your plants extra nutrients in their water; they aren’t necessary when the plant has been getting all its nutrients from the soil. If you’ve got an active microbial colony in your soil, these might do more harm than good, but they’re a great choice for growers in soilless mediums like coco or hydro where the plant is getting all its nutrition from liquid nutrients.
- FloraKleen (by General Hydroponics)
- Clearex (by Botanicare)
6.) Harvest Using the Right Technique
The most important thing about harvesting cannabis is to…
- Harvest at the right time. Smells (terpenes) build up throughout the flowering stage. If you harvest too early you will have far lower levels of terpenes, and your buds won’t be nearly as fragrant as they would be if they had been allowed to develop to maturity.
- Trim buds on their stems so you can hang them upside down to dry. Compared to some other methods, drying on stems makes it easier to get it exactly right. Although not 100% necessary, drying this way gives buds a lot more of a water buffer and makes it much easier to dry buds slowly. Drying buds slowly during the first few days after harvest is crucial to producing cannabis that smells like it did in flowering.
- Avoid handling buds more than necessary. Bad or rough handling can destroy terpenes and reduce the overall aroma of your buds. Of course you need to touch buds at times, but avoid touching them when you don’t need to. (This is tough one for me but I still try!)
7.) Dry & Cure – (CRUCIAL – don’t skip this!)
- Dry buds slowly! Drying buds too quickly can give them a “green” or minty sort of taste and smell that doesn’t go away even after curing. It’s normal for buds to smell sort of like grass or hay immediately after drying, but if you dried them slowly the smell will come back after a few days into the curing process.
- Maintain a temperature of about 70°F while drying. A good general range for drying is between 60-75°F. However, even though keeping the temperature lower helps prevent terpenes from burning off, the range between 60-70°F is perfect for mold. Because of those factors I recommend keeping your drying temperature around 70°F if possible.
- Try to maintain
50% humidity while drying. In the space where buds are drying you’d like about 50% RH. Humidity that is 40% and lower tends to dry out buds too fast. Humidity that is 60% or higher makes it much more likely you’ll get mold, and buds often take a very long time to dry.
Curing Your Buds in Jars – Read the Full Curing Tutorial
The curing process may seem unnecessary if you’ve never done it before, but it is going to significantly improve the taste, smell and overall smoothness of your buds. You simply cannot skip the curing process and get cannabis that lives up to its potential.
There are chemical processes that happen in the buds themselves during the curing process that drastically changes their scent. These processes also increase the perceived potency of buds and many find the mental/body effects of buds to be much stronger and/or more pleasant after buds have been cured.
- Put buds in jars. Place your newly dried and separated buds in quart-sized mason jars as this is the beginning of the “curing” process. Fill jars 80% full of buds and close them up.
- Watch out for rising humidity levels! If you’ve dried your buds slowly and put them in the jars at the right time, the overall humidity in the jar is going to rise over time as the moisture from inside the buds works its way to the outside. If buds ever feel moist or are sticking together in the jar, it means there’s too much water contained inside and the jar should be left open for a few minutes to an hour to help dry things out. If this happens to you, check on buds frequently until the humidity has stabilized. Buds should always feel completely dry.
If you’re interested in closely monitoring your humidity during the curing process, I like the Caliber IV hygrometer, which is small enough to fit in your curing jars and can be found online for cheap. A hygrometer is more of a luxury than a necessity, though it will take out a lot of the guesswork. In this pic, the Caliber IV hygrometers display both the temperature and the relative humidity in each curing jar.
- At first, open the jars daily to let in air and check on buds. If using a hygrometer you want to keep the RH around 60-65% in the jars. For those who don’t want to monitor the humidity closely you can get specialized “humidipacks” that are designed for curing cannabis. These automatically maintain the humidity around 62%, which is perfect for curing!
Boveda 62 humidipacks automatically maintain the humidity in jars around 62% RH for you during the curing process
- Open jars less often after 1-2 weeks of checking daily. As long as buds have stabilized and never feel wet when you check on them, you can start opening the jars less often. You leave jars closed for a few days at first, then a week, etc.
- Buds are considered “done” curing after 2-4 weeks, though many growers agree that bud quality and smell will continue to improve for several months of curing.
- Again, it’s normal for buds to smell like hay at first. When you first put buds in the jars, they’re going to smell a little “green” like grass or hay. They will have lost a lot of their “cannabis” smell that was assaulting your nose in the flowering stage 🙂 This is completely normal and your cannabis smell will come back over the first several days to weeks of curing.
- Watch out for the smell of ammonia or an unpleasant “funk.” Whenever you open your jars and take a little whiff, watch out for the smell of ammonia or a bad “funky” kind of scent. That could mean that extra moisture in the jar is causing anaerobic bacteria to grow when it’s sealed up. If you smell something that doesn’t seem right, keep the lids off your jars for an hour to help buds dry out a bit, and check again tomorrow to make sure the smell has cleared up.
8.) NO Scent Neutralizers
Some products are great at neutralizing the smell of cannabis…almost too good.
ONA products are strong enough to neutralize a whole room of almost any smell (it was designed for sewers!), leaving a strong chemical-y clean scent. The problem with scent neutralizers is they can actually alter the smell of the buds themselves. If you use a lot of products that leave a strong artificial “clean” smell (perfume, cologne, Febreeze, ONA products, etc) in the air near your developing buds, it can affect your buds even if they never get touched.
If a product leaves a strong smell of chemicals or perfume in the air, don’t use it near your plants!
The Glade plug-in in your bathroom isn’t going to affect the smell of your buds, but if you spray a lot of Febreeze in the grow space whenever guests come over, or put something like ONA gel in your tent with your plants, your buds may come out smelling just like Febreeze or ONA even if they never come in direct contact. If you don’t know what’s causing the odd taste/smell to your buds, this can be really frustrating!
Learn how to completely scrub all smells using a carbon filter – they work better than any spray product and won’t affect the scent of your buds!
9.) Avoid Very Common Mistakes that Ruin Buds Near Harvest
A lot of people aren’t thinking about mold when they’re around harvest time, but it can be a huge harvest killer if you accidentally set up conditions that favor mold. If your buds get mold, they become incredibly harsh and are not safe to smoke, meaning moldy buds should always be tossed 🙁 It’s very common to get mold right around harvest time.
As sort of a cruel joke, the more successful your grow is (the bigger and denser the buds), the more likely it is you’ll be hit by mold! There are different types of mold and too many growers have lost buds to this nasty killer!
Here’s what you need to remember as harvest time approaches:
- Keep humidity at or below 50% during the flowering stage and even lower if possible during the last few weeks before harvest. Low humidity not only causes buds to produce more trichomes, keeping the humidity low is the number one thing you can do to prevent bud rot. If your humidity gets too high, make sure there is plenty of airflow and a strong exhaust fan to remove humid air from the grow space. Every leaf is constantly adding moisture to the air so removing some of the leaves can help bring down the humidity in desperate cases.
- Bigger buds or colas should always have airflow around them, especially as harvest approaches. If the buds are surrounded by too many leaves, or if there’s no air circulation from fans in the grow space, it creates a breeding ground for many different types of mold. As an added bonus of strategic defoliation, buds that are exposed to plenty of light and air tend to fatten up! I highly recommend defoliating any leafy plants near harvest, to make sure there’s airflow actually going through the plant. It’s especially helpful to remove leaves that are in the bottom or middle of the plant which don’t get light any more, or fan leaves that are covering the buds from getting light and air. Note: Defoliation is a technique that should only be used by advanced growers!
- Keep temperatures in the 70-80°F range as best you can. Below 70°F can trigger bud rot and other types of fuzzy mold, while temperatures above 80°F increase the chance of white powdery mold or mildew.
10.) Start with the Right Genetics
No matter what you do as a grower, you can’t get a plant to overcome its own genetics. If a plant doesn’t have the genes to make fragrant buds, than there’s not a whole lot you can do. Today’s tutorial has covered all the things you can do to maximize an individual plant’s potential, but if you want something really special you have to grow a plant with the good genes.
Most strains of cannabis will smell to some extent when grown properly. However, there are also some strains (like Northern Lights) which have a particularly light smell, so working on increasing the terpenoid content of this strain won’t do much to make a difference.
If you want to grow something really special like this Purple Kush Auto, you have to have the right genetics
Every breeder has something different they’re breeding for and there are many strains with unique smells including pineapple, chocolate, blueberry and more!
If there’s something particular you have in mind, you will be much happier if you start with a strain that matches your preference!
List of Suggested Strains
There are strains that are particularly pleasant smelling compared to other strains and others that have a downright pungent odor. There are growers who want both kinds. The strains below have been hand-picked by us because they’re exceptionally strong and aromatic, as well as being stable strains from known and trusted breeders.
Aurora Indica (by Nirvana) – Diesel smell, almost like gasoline or fuel.
This indica strain produces dense buds with very strong “couchlock” effects. Plants tend to grow short with a very fast flowering time of about 8-9 weeks. It has a typical Indica growth pattern and this strain responds very well to training to increase yields! We just bent it over in the vegetative stage and it did everything else itself.
This plant was a breeze to grow, and had seemingly had no problem even after several mistakes were made. The only real training we did was bending this plant over in the vegetative stage to help keep it flat like a table.
After that we just let it do its thing. The plant stayed short and was only 1.5 feet tall at harvest. Despite the quick flowering time it produced 5.3 ounces all by itself!
Here are the freshly trimmed buds at harvest. The smell was intense, almost like fuel!
Pineapple Chunk (by Barneys Farm)
A lot of the time when someone says a strain smells like a fruit, they mean that you’ll get small hints of that smell in the undertones. With Pineapple Chunk the buds actually smell sweet, and some really do smell quite a bit like pineapple!
Although not the highest yielding, this strain produces buds that always get a surprising number of positive comments about the taste and smell, and the bud effects are very smooth.
You will be able to start smelling the pineapple when the plant is still in the flowering stage, but the smell is most pronounced after the buds have been dried and cured.
Hybrid (good mix of both indica and sativa traits)
Blue Cheese (by Big Buddha Seeds) – Smells fruity, sweet and spicy, with hints of the powerful “cheese” smell. Incredibly strong smell in flowering may be overwhelming. Powerful and stoney effect has been described as euphoric.
Note by Nebula: This strain is forgiving (easy) to grow indoors and produces incredible yields. Naturally mold-resistant (which is partly why this strain is popular in humid climates like the UK). It is not as good outdoors because the powerful smell gives it away. Most plants grow short and stocky with lots of side branching, though certain plants tend to grow a bit taller. Responds well to plant training.
Examples of Blue Cheese colas
Here’s another example of a different Blue Cheese plant. It doesn’t smell exactly like blueberry or cheese, but the smell definitely has strong undertones of both!
Wonder Woman (by Nirvana) – Smells very skunky. To me it’s the epitome of what people think of as a strong “cannabis” smell.
Note by Nebula: This strain is easy to grow, very high yielding and produces dense and potent buds – we harvested 12.57 oz from just one Wonder Woman plant last time we grew this strain!
Here’s a Wonder Woman cola from that grow – every single bud grew dense and chunky!
Smells lemony, and certain plants will end up smelling just like a Lemonhead with a mix of citrus, sour and sweet. The potency is surprisingly strong, energetic and creative, perfect for daytime use. Doesn’t usually cause ‘couchlock’ so many people like this strain for daytime use.
Here is an example of a room full of Super Lemon Haze plants
…and a Super Lemon Haze cola
Liberty Haze (by Barneys Farm) – Liberty Haze is a potency juggernaut, and the only thing as strong as its potency is the diesel smell it produces.
Note from Sirius – This strain is seriously a powerhouse in terms of both potency and smell. The smell is so strong that you probably shouldn’t open a jar of it with other people in your house. They are definitely going to notice when it smells like an 18 wheeler is filling up on gas in your home!
Auto-flowering strains can be easier to grow in some ways, and both of these auto-flowering strains take less than 3 months from seed to you actually smoking bud!
Auto Critical Jack (by Dinafem) – This autoflowering strain smells sweet and fruity, perhaps almost tropical. Sometimes buds will smell more like lemon or citrus. It is also very potent for an auto-flowering strain.
Blue AutoMazar (by Dutch Passion) – A cross between two autoflowering strains from breeder Dutch Passion, this strain is as much about taste and smell as it is about potency.
Learn exactly what you need to do (and not do) to produce buds that have the best and strongest smell possible!
How To Differentiate Good From Bad Quality Marijuana Buds
Many think they can tell the difference between good and bad-quality bud just by giving it a once-over, but there are certain nuances people don’t consider. In this guide, we’ll walk you through each distinction, and offer some key tips on how to grow premium-quality cannabis buds.
How to tell the difference between good and bad cannabis buds.
It probably didn’t take long after you started smoking weed to realise the differences between cannabis buds. Despite how everyone claims their weed is top-notch, you’ve probably noticed when the flower just isn’t up to par. In contrast, when you’re holding quality cannabis, you know it right then and there.
To ensure you only buy the best buds, learning the differences between top-shelf fire from rugged brick weed is vital. You don’t need to be a connoisseur either, as the differentiating traits can be seen and smelled with no assistance. Learning the differences will help you browse the shelves, sure, but it’ll especially help you judge the plants in your own garden. That, in turn, will help you make any necessary adjustments.
Types of Cannabis Buds
Cannabis flowers can be categorised into various quality spectrums. You could be talking about stickiness, terpene profile, taste, texture, or an assortment of other factors. To keep things simple, we’ve narrowed things down to three basic categories: low, medium, and premium-quality bud.
Low-quality cannabis has a sorry look to it, mostly because it travels long distances after being stuffed into small packages. Known rightly as “brick weed”, these buds often arrive at their destination as dense cubes.
Rarely grown for quality or with much care at all, the producers associated with this level of cannabis are purely profit-driven. Often a black market product, low-quality cannabis typically stems from south of both the US border and the European continent.
Of course, some home growers with the intention to sell may also accidentally produce cannabis of similar quality. Novice growers will often mess up during the process and leave themselves with dry, unremarkable buds.
The key signs of low-quality cannabis include:
Domestic growers all over the world mostly produce buds that fall into this category. These flowers are set apart from poor-quality cannabis thanks to their improved colouration, heightened scents, and overt flavours.
Most growers manage to dial in their nutrients, watering schedule, and environmental variables enough to produce cannabis of this quality. The most important factor, though, is putting pride and effort into their work.
If you’re looking for medium-quality bud, or simply trying to dodge the bad stuff, look for these traits:
High-grade. Top-shelf. Fire.
Premium-quality bud goes by many names, yet they all describe its immense flavour and mind-shattering effects. These buds are hard to come by outside of big cities and weed-growing areas. Generally, they’re the products of skilled farmers and master breeders in hotspots like Northern California, Spain, and the Netherlands.
You’ll find these nugget-like buds encased in jars on the shelves of reputable dispensaries and highly-rated coffeeshops. If you’re looking for the best buds money can buy, keep an eye out for the following:
How to Differentiate Good Buds From the Bad: A Guide
We hope the above generalisations make it easier to distinguish the quality of a given bud, but it can get a bit more complicated. Below, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty and inspect cannabis flowers a little closer.
As we discussed before, aromatic molecules known as terpenes are responsible for said signature scent. Despite the similar undertone, though, most strains feature unique smells thanks to different concentrations of terpenes.
You’re probably familiar with the small, shiny structures on the surface of cannabis buds and sugar leaves. These mushroom-shaped glands—trichomes—pump out terpenes during the flowering stage.
You’ll know you’re dealing with good-quality weed when the olfactory wave of terpenes hits straight after opening your stash. While a pleasing scent and cannabis quality aren’t unconditionally connected, the former is a likely indication of the latter. Hints of flowers, fuel, earth, spices, sugar, fruit, citrus, and berries are among the most common aromas.
The quality of a strain’s terpene profile depends on several variables:
- Genetics: Some strains are genetically equipped to pump out more aromatic terpenes than others, mostly due to selective breeding practices.
- Drying and curing: Genetics only achieve so much. Correctly drying, curing, and storing cannabis will preserve the terpene profile and make for better-tasting buds.
- The right nutrients: During the flowering stage, cannabis plants have a higher demand for potassium and phosphorus and less of a need for nitrogen. Get this balance right, and you’ll produce some fantastic-smelling flowers.
- Living soil: A strong microbial population will help plants access all of the nutrients they need to develop an optimal terpene profile.
- Companion planting: Many growers claim planting basil in close proximity to cannabis helps improve its smell.
Quick Growing Tip: Boosting terpenes will improve the overall smell and flavour of your plants. Select strains such as Lemon Shining Silver Haze and Haze Berry to start with a genetic advantage.
Although you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can definitely judge cannabis buds by their appearance. There are many factors that indicate quality to a trained eye, and colour is one of the most important.
Of course, cannabis flowers come in an array of different hues of purple, orange, green, and red. It isn’t so much the colour that gives away quality, but more so the vibrancy. See, healthy and well-grown cannabis flowers have a bright and shiny look to them.
Such vibrancy signals good genetics, solid growing techniques, and adequate curing and storage. In contrast, poor-quality cannabis appears matte, dull, and pallid. These buds are often dark green to brown, pale, and ultimately unappealing.
Quick Growing Tip: Flushing plants at the right moment will prevent excess nutrients from accumulating in flowers and eliminate nutrient burn.
Additional Tip: Play around with genetics and temperature to grow purple weed! Start with genetics like Purple Queen to increase your chances of success.
Upon looking closely at the surface of cannabis flowers, you’ll come across a miniature landscape—valleys, peaks, and all—made up of different glands, organs, and structures. Among the scenery, the pistils protrude the most.
These hair-like tendrils are the sex organ of the female cannabis flower, serving as the receiver of male pollen. Once this genetic dust makes contact, the flower becomes fertile and swiftly goes to seed.
Away from their biological role, pistils serve as useful progress markers. During the early flowering stage, these reproductive parts boast a brilliant whiteness. As the weeks go by, their appearance turns to a solid dark orange.
You should always look for deep orange pistils when eyeing up buds. Harvest should ideally take place when at least 70% of the hairs turn this colour. This indicates the buds are ripe, mature, and ready for snipping. Flowers with mostly white pistils signal immature cannabis. Left a while longer, these flowers will mature and unleash a complete cannabinoid and terpene profile.
Quick Growing Tip: Harvest at the right moment, ensuring pistils are the right colour at the right time. You’ll need to be patient when cultivating strains like Amnesia Haze, as they have a slightly longer flowering time.
Trichomes are the most abundant feature on the surface of good-quality flowers. To the naked eye, they appear as a fine layer of crystals that shimmer under torchlight or the flame of a lighter.
These mushroom-shaped structures feature a bulbous head atop a narrow stalk. In this head, specialised cells tasked with resin production work tirelessly during the flowering phase. The resin exudes downward and gradually covers the majority of the surface of the flower. This resin—and its active phytochemicals—help guard buds against insect attacks and temperature extremes.
The substance contains a complex array of molecules. Those of interest to us include cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, along with terpenes like myrcene, pinene, and limonene. The more trichomes a flower possesses, the more resin it will produce. The more resin coating the surface of a bud, the more cannabinoids and terpenes sit ready to be combusted, vaporized, or chewed and swallowed.
You’ll be able to tell the trichome and resin content of a bud just by looking at it and holding it. Note how it glitters, the stickiness, and consider the resistance generated as you peel your fingertips from the flower.
Quick Growing Tip: Utilise environmental factors to boost trichome production. Strains such as ICE are genetically wired to develop high quantities of trichomes.
How buds feel in the hand says a lot about their quality. Every grower hopes for dense and heavy buds at the end of the growing season. These flowers simply hold more mass, look much healthier, and smoke smoother.
Grinding up dense cannabis flowers seems to almost double their size. Even a small chunk of a compact flower can grind down to fill a good-sized joint. In contrast, fluffy buds yield disappointment and less plant matter. These airy flowers are often the result of suboptimal growing conditions, a lack of light, or nutrient deficiency.
Fluffy buds don’t only look less appetising, but you’ll need to use more of your harvest every time you roll a blunt or hit a bowl. Dense buds will offer some resistance and spring back to their original shape. Airy buds will almost collapse in on themselves, and feel much more feeble to the touch.
Quick Tip: Sativa and indica flowers tend to look different; know what to look for when browsing.
Growing Tip: Utilise powerful lights to grow dense and compact flowers.
The presence of seeds is never a sign of quality flowers. The very word sinsemilla—a name given to weed of exceptional quality—refers to flowers devoid of seeds.
Remember those protruding pistils we covered earlier? When pollen from a male plant lands on the tendrils, it starts a process of changing the biochemical activity of the cannabis flower. The plant diverts its energy and efforts away from producing sticky resin and towards making seeds instead.
Flowers with seeds don’t reach peak potency and maturity because the resources are swallowed up by reproductive efforts instead. Cannabis seeds also make flowers heavier, meaning you end up paying more for less flower. If you buy one gram of weed and find 200mg of seeds nested within, you’ve wasted money. That might not seem like much, but consider that across 50–100 purchases, and that’s a lot of lost bud.
Unnoticed seeds can also ruin a smoke session. Seeds pop when the flame of the joint hits them, disturbing your zen and sending harsh smoke into your lungs.
Quick Growing Tip: Learn how to avoid pollination to keep seeds out of your weed.
Smoking stems either boils down to an accident or an act of desperation. Stems contain minuscule levels of cannabinoids and produce a harsh smoke. However, the presence of stems in your bag doesn’t necessarily indicate bad weed.
Rather, it shows a rushed preparation process. Plus, you paid for that extra weight! When browsing your local dispensary or coffeeshop, avoid buds with excess stems. Alternatively, simply ask the budtender to trim them off before you buy them.
Quick Tip: They’re not as valuable as buds, but you can use stems to make a variety of homemade products, from hash to topicals.
Well-Trimmed vs Leafy
Trimming weed refers to removing the sugar leaves—small leaves that grow out of and around cannabis flowers. The presence of sugar leaves doesn’t automatically render cannabis poor-quality, but it can make a big difference.
Firstly, well-manicured buds simply look great. Trimming gives the bud a nice nugget-like appearance, and the aesthetic is a near-universal trait of premium-quality flowers.
Secondly, excess sugar leaves will impact the weight of the flower. You want to be paying for buds, not leaves. Finally, the presence of sugar leaves can cause issues during the curing process. Small pockets of moisture can build up, creating a breeding ground for pathogens and impacting the taste of the weed.
Quick Growing Tip: You can trim your weed either before or after drying it.
Even between cannabis buds of the same strain, quality varies. Click to learn how to tell the difference between low, medium, and premium-quality buds.