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From legality to strain, there are many questions that people have about growing marijuana. One, which we hear increasingly often, is “should I grow indoors or outside?” The answer depends on your end goal.

Historically, marijuana was grown outside. That was the case for thousands of years, even for ancient cultures. But the arrival of the 20th century, and its corresponding prohibition, forced marijuana growers to start growing indoors. Now, as marijuana laws are becoming more relaxed in many places, growers can once again move their plants outdoors. Since you have a choice now, is it better to choose one or the other?

Growing Marijuana

Factors to Consider

Growing marijuana indoors or outdoors won't have an affect on the plant's potency. However, there are fundamental differences between growing plants indoors and outside. They include:


While we can control factors like temperature, light, and humidity in our own homes, that's not the case outside. Although a plant's potency won't be affected by its environment, its aesthetics and levels of THC will. Since an indoor environment is easier to regulate, a plant's growth is more predictable.


Having control of carbon dioxide production, lighting sources, temperature, humidity, and even crop pests makes a case for growing indoors. Plants grown indoors also have larger, more luscious flowers. They also generally have higher levels of THC, which is a potent chemical that produces a euphoric feeling. However, it's also true that sunlight produces more heat and light than artificial indoor lighting. This makes outdoor plants grow more quickly. They also produce greater yields. Plants grown outside might not look as pretty as plants grown indoors due to the fact that they contend with natural elements on a daily basis. However, the flavor and aroma of plants grown in both environments is about the same. Another consideration of plants grown indoors is the use of pesticides and fertilizers. While these products support plant growth, many consumers prefer organically grown plants.


Regardless of whether you're planting indoors or outdoors, there is a cost associated with growing in either location. Initially, the starting cost is about equal. But over time, research shows that growing plants indoors is slightly more expensive. This is mostly due to the fact that more equipment such as lighting, humidifiers, and watering systems, need to be purchased to replace elements found in the natural environment. For a point of reference, a 6x6 indoor growing space can cost upwards of $2,000. The cost of electricity on top of that can tack on $1,000 or more each month.


Since outdoor plants grow more prolifically, they require more frequent trimming. In addition to keeping the plant healthy and promoting optimal health, trimming is an important consideration for growers looking to sell their plants. A trimmed plant, which has clean buds, looks more appealing than a scraggly plant that appears to be unkempt.


For many, size matters when it comes to marijuana plants. Since plants grown outdoors are exposed to natural sunlight, they tend to grow bigger than plants grown indoors. Generally, plants that grow outdoors rely on their own resources for survival. They are faced with more environmental challenges than plants grown indoors. In addition to battling natural elements, they also compete with neighboring plants for resources like water and soil nutrients. This competitive environment naturally makes them stronger and more resilient. While the difference in size between indoor and outdoor plants is not night and day, it's relatively easy to determine which plant was grown outdoors versus indoors if they're put side by side.


Time is another consideration in determining whether to grow indoors or outside. While plants grow bigger and stronger outdoors, they actually finish growing more quickly when they are planted indoors. Since the indoor environment can be fully controlled, it is easier to regulate their growth. This is a factor to keep in mind if you are planning to sell your marijuana products, as growing indoors means you'll be able to start making a profit sooner.


Although plants grown outside need to be trimmed more frequently, and perhaps watered during periods of little rainfall, they are otherwise self-sufficient and can fend for themselves. Plants grown indoors, on the other hand, require more maintenance and upkeep. Each day, the grower must supply light, water, and nutrients for indoor plants that don't otherwise have access to those vital natural resources. People who grow indoors must also constantly check and maintain their equipment and resources such as the heat, indoor humidity levels, and water.

Environmental Impact

In today's energy-conscious world, we are increasingly aware of our impact on the environment. Saving energy and conserving resources is not just a fad, it's essential. If you're concerned about the environmental impact of your growing operation, it is best to plant outdoors. Growing plants indoors is by nature more energy-intensive. In 2011, research found that indoor cannabis growing operations consumed about one percent of the country's energy supply. Put into numbers, that translates to about $5 million spent on electricity for powering cannabis operations. That energy is enough to fully power about two million homes. Additionally, the materials used to grow plants indoors, such as artificial lighting, pesticides, and fertilizers, may add to the environmental impact of indoor growing.

There is a lot that goes into a successful growing operation. While the quality of plants grown indoors versus outdoors will largely be the same, there are differences in aesthetics, how much effort you'll put into growing and maintaining your plants, and what your environmental impact will be. Of course, the legal status of marijuana in your growing location determines where to grow your plants, too. No matter which method you choose, keep in mind that what works best for one grower is not necessarily the best option for another. Sometimes, it takes some experimentation to find which method works best for you. Whether you are growing for commercial purposes or personal use, knowing the pros and cons of the different growing environments will determine your personal success.