How Does the Altitude Affect Cannabis Growth?
Published on 8/13/22
For those who have either tried to home-grow cannabis plants of their own or if you're just curious about trying it out for the first time yourself, getting plants from the soil that produce quality cannabis is a much more challenging feat than it seems to be on paper. After all, it's just some gardening, right? Get the seeds, stick them into the ground, water them a bit and give them some sunlight, and you're golden! Well, unfortunately, it's often not quite that simple.
While it's true that cannabis is a versatile and resilient plant that can thrive in pretty much any weather or region in the U.S., depending on the season, it's not exactly the easiest plant to get to grow well. There are a lot of factors and things you'll need to consider. One of those factors to keep in mind is the way that altitude impacts your cannabis plants.
There are subtle differences between growing cannabis inside vs. outside, under the sun vs. under grow lights, and whether it grows better in certain climates, growing cannabis at sea level vs. growing cannabis at altitude. Thankfully, we here at Where's Weed are here to break everything down, digging into the nitty-gritty details, so you don't have to.
That's why this article will break down what exactly high-altitude seeds are, where to get them, and how much they'll cost, along with touching on hard-hitting questions like does elevation affect gardening in general or just growing wonderful, usable cannabis flower.
So without further ado, let's get right into it!
Does Elevation Affect Cannabis?
If you're looking for a short and simple answer to this question, look no further. Yes, the elevation can and will affect your cannabis plants, and it's worth noting that the elevation you choose to smoke your cannabis at will also have an impact. People consistently get a stronger, longer-lasting high when they smoke and enjoy their cannabis at high altitudes, but that's a story for another day. If you don't believe us, go ahead and visit Denver, Colorado yourself!
However, you'll need some specific high-altitude seeds to get the best out of your plants. That means that you'll need to do a little bit of extra research and possibly play a bit more to get seeds for strains that are used to growing at high altitudes despite the many challenges.
The questions we're looking to answer here will go a bit more in-depth than a simple one.
So why are plants grown at higher altitudes different than plants grown at sea level? Well, the answer lies in a broad mix of factors like air pressure, light exposure, different temperatures, more or less wind, level of humidity, and so on.
We're going to dig a little bit deeper into each of those below:
Air pressure, for example, affects the size of your plants. The higher the elevation, the less air pressure to press down on those plants. The air is, quite literally, thinner up there. That feeling of "thin air" is due to the lower levels of carbon dioxide in the air at elevation compared to sea level. And as we all know and learned in 7th-grade science class, plants need carbon dioxide to be at their best. This impacts cannabis plants grown at elevation.
Crops grown at elevation tend to take longer to mature and reach certain stages, often lagging close to a month behind counterparts planted in the same soil at sea level. It is worth noting that due to the reduced air pressure, plants that do mature fully will end up being a bit taller than plants at sea level. That's because there's less air pressure forcing them down and restricting their upward growth.
So thanks to air pressure, you'll have to wait a bit longer for taller mature cannabis plants! As long as you're patient and willing to put in the work, you should be good to go here!
While this one might seem like common sense, it's an often overlooked and underexplained aspect of growing high-altitude seeds into mature, fruitful adult cannabis plants. Thanks to the thinner atmosphere at altitude, plants up there get higher amounts of stronger sunlight. This is a double-sided sword, however.
While it's true that the plants get more light at altitude, that's not always a great thing. The air is so thin up there that not only can the plant get overexposed to sunlight quickly, but it receives less protection from the harmful aspects of the sun thanks to the thinner atmosphere.
Simply put, you might need to take some protective measures for cannabis plants if you're dealing with a whole lot of sunny days at high altitudes.
The temperature is a significant factor when planting at high altitudes, mainly due to air pressure, a factor we discussed earlier in this article. Due to the thinner air containing fewer molecules than sea-level air, it's just colder in elevation. That means that if you're growing plants that thrive in a hot, sticky environment like a greenhouse, you should avoid that while planting at higher elevations.
Even the slightest drop in average temperature for a plant that's used to a particular environment could kill it outright or throw its growing cycle out of rhythm. If you're looking to get the best out of cannabis grown at higher elevations, you'll need to focus on getting specific strains built to handle that chilly temp.
Let's cut straight to the point on this one. Most cannabis plants prefer a hot and heavy environment, a spot with lots of humidity. When growing at elevation, however, humidity can be a challenge. The higher we go from sea level, the thinner and dryer the air gets. Once you reach a specific elevation, the air is so thin that it couldn't hold much moisture even if it wanted to.
This is an important factor to keep in mind that slows the overall process of growing cannabis plants down even more. If you're looking to grow at elevation successfully, you'll need to get some specifically bred plants that can handle the rigors of that thin, cold, dry elevated air!
The Bottom Line
While growing cannabis plants of your own can often be an expensive and time-consuming process, it's compounded by folks trying to grow in areas of high elevation. While we humans are intelligent and have figured out ways to live successfully at almost every temperature, elevation, and environment, we know enough about the challenges you'll face when growing your plants at elevation.
As long as you're willing to put in the work, be patient, and ready to take the step to accommodate your plants to the inhospitable environment of high-altitude air, then you should be just fine when it's time to harvest those crops!