The best new cannabis strains to grow in 2021
Americans smoke about 30 million pounds of cannabis each year, analysts estimate. All that dank ain’t gonna grow itself.
North America’s weed gardeners, big and small, have begun their annual run on marijuana seed stores. From California to Maine, ganja growers are racing to stock up for the spring thaw and planting season.
“We’re getting slammed,” said Nathaniel Pennington, founder of seed leader Humboldt Seed Company in California. They offer 57 strains in their 2021 catalog, available in California, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Maine. “We’ve never had this level of demand.”
California breeder and Equilibrium Genetics founder Jason Matthys works seven days a week right now. He drops seed packs at dispensaries from mountainous McKinleyville, CA, to postcard-perfect Pacific Beach, San Diego. “It’s really starting to pick up,” he said.
“Seeds are selling really well,” said Brian Smith, inventory manager at Satori Wellness, Humboldt County, CA’s leading genetics retailer. “It’s the peak of the [seed] season pretty much from January 1 through April. Come on down, because, yes, they are moving.”
“‘Corona year two’ is a superb year to grow,” said Matthys. “More people are checking out their backyard space, or setting up a little tent in their room to try something. They’re working from home, and remotely. It’s easy to check in on your tent when you don’t have to sit in traffic.”
Below, Leafly assembles its definitive, annual guide to the hottest pot popping off in America’s gardens. We mention 60+ strains, organized into six broad collections below.
Time to get growing, America.
Easy-peasy autos and fems
Growing can sound intimidating. So-called “autos” and “fem” seeds take the stress out of the learning curve. These two seed types are on track to upend regular seeds’ primacy.
Autoflowering seeds make your cannabis plant work like a clock. Put an auto in a 3-gallon pot, add water and sun, and in two and half months you’ll have finished bud, no matter the time of year.
Humboldt Seed Company’s boss says go for their Sour Apple auto this year.
“The Sour Apple is, I would say, our most beautiful autoflower that will really do well in any circumstance,” said Pennington.
Sour Apple in the fields. (Courtesy Humboldt Seed Company)
Exotic Oakland, CA. clone and seedmaker Purple City Genetics touts its Saltwater OG Auto, which hits 26% THC.
“That’s extraordinarily high for an auto,” said Eric Rosen, Purple City Genetics sales director.
See also: Ethos Genetics’ Lilac AutoDiesel; Barney’s Farm Runtz auto, and Do-Si-Dos auto; and I Love Growing Marijuana’s Auto 2.0 mixpack
Ethos Genetics’ Lilac AutoDiesel runs auto-magically. (Courtesy Ethos Genetics)
Fems in season
“Fems” are short for “feminized seeds.”
If you’re growing weed to smoke, it’s a females-only party, and dudes ruin it. Only females produce buds. Statistically, five males will lurk in your standard 10-pack of regular seeds. That gives new growers anxiety, said Matthys.
“It’s a lot of newer growers that are afraid of males and they want to get something that won’t have male seeds,” he said. “People don’t like the experience of having to throw away plants that they don’t want.”
For 2021 fems, try to beat Humboldt Seed Company’s Jelly Rancher. This cross of Very Cherry to Notorious THC and Jelly Rancher Bx3 sparkles with resin and smells like blue cotton candy, strawberries, and grapes. Jelly Rancher grows to a medium size and ripens quickly.
Make ’em jelly: Jelly Rancher fem seeds are sweet, berry, grape hybrid-sativa fun for ’21. (Courtesy Humboldt Seed Company)
They’re going to do great any place in California this year, said Pennington.
Exotic breeders Compound Genetics offer feminized seeds as well. Snap up Gummiez, Blueberry Octane, and Pink Certz fems from Compound at stores like Buds and Roses in the San Fernando Valley.
Friendly Tangie strains
If Autos and Fems are easy to grow, Tangie family strains are easy for beginners to smoke. They have bubbly, friendly effects that can go all day.
Found in fine Oregon dispensaries, Massive Seeds sells Yuzu Tangie, which is Tangie crossed to Lemon Pineapple, mixed to Orangeade. Breeders list lineage like a math equation: ((Tangie x Lemon Pineapple) x Orangeade).
Humboldt Seed Company enters year two of selling Squirt, which crosses an elite Blueberry Muffin to a superior Tangie.
“If you want to have a good time, smoke Blueberry Muffin, and smoke Squirt.”
Nat Pennington, Humboldt Seed Company founder
“If you want to have a good time, smoke Blueberry Muffin, and smoke Squirt,” said Pennington. “I pretty much only smoke Blueberry Muffin and Squirt when I’m going to be working with a group of people. It makes it fun.”
A pure Tangie resurgence continues as well, said original breeder Crockett, founder of Crockett Family Farms. The California team sells through DNA Genetics and beyond. Plant a field of Crockett’s new:
- Strawberry Fields (Strawberry Banana X Tangie)
- Sour Juice (Juice X Sour Chem),
- Tangieland (Candyland X Tangie)
- or BT7 (Banana Tangie #7 X OG#18)
Cookies and Cakes, MAC and nuts
It’s a Cookies and Cakes world. You just live in it.
That means scooping up leading California nursery Dark Heart’s fast-selling clones of Gelato (Ice Cream) Cake, Sweeties, or White Runtz.
“The Cookies and Cakes are very much in demand this year, for good reason,” said Dark Heart Nursery CEO Dan Grace.
Denver-based Ethos Genetics also gorges on cookie crosses with its End Game line, now in three varieties.
Thanos is a daddy: Ethos punches up Cookies with their “End Game” crosses. (Courtesy Ethos Genetics)
Also, try to get in on Purple City Genetics’ new, clone-only Gush Mints.
Gush Mints electrifies and colorizes the minty strain craze. It takes Kush Mints and crosses it with the fabled F1 Durban and Gushers. The result is, “creamy gas and kushy candy terps,” said Rosen.
Six types of Gush Mints crosses are coming in seed form in ‘21.
“Purple City Genetics is the very front tip of the spear. That’s us,” Rosen said.
Also in the exotic Cookies world, don’t miss Archive Seeds of Portland’s:
- Animal Biscuits (Animal Cookies x Dosidos)
- Cake Face (Animal Face x Faceoff OG)
- Doughlato (Dolato #41 x Moonbow #75)
- and Melon Fizz (Melonade x Moonbow #75)
And in the world of MAC crosses, breeder Capulator should have seeds for adult-use stores this year. Until then, Ethos touts their new MAC and Jack.
“It’s a very complimentary cross that checks all the boxes for almost every grower!” said Ethos.
Ethos Genetics’ MAC and Jack amps up the sweet sativa jack terps. (Courtesy Ethos Genetics)
Going a bit nuts
Quick note: a bona fide nutty strain craze is a-brewin’ in cannabis.
Demand for Peanut Butter Breath has gone crazy, according to major clone and seed provider Wave Rider Nursery in Salinas, CA.
Over at Humboldt Seed Company, their new Pistachio (Fortune Cookies x PistachioBx2 x P-61) “Smells just like burnt nuts to us; a roasted cracked-open pistachio,” said Pennington. “People will agree that it has a nutty flavor no matter what.”
Pistachio comes from intense hybridization, and luck. (Courtesy Humboldt Seed Company)
OGs for the OGs
The biting OG Kush strain family lives in the shadow of Cookies, but it’ll never fade.
Keep your gas station topped up this year by growing some Knight’s Templar OG from Dark Heart Nursery. Dark Heart calls their newest OG their heaviest yet.
“People love the gas profile and the supreme relaxation that OGs bring,” said Grace.
Mission accomplished: Knight’s Templar OG from Dark Heart Nursery. (Courtesy Dark Heart Nursery)
OG Kush cousin Triangle Kush never goes out of style. Just look at Wave Rider Nursery’s Black Triangle (Triangle Kush x 88G13) via Bodhi Seeds.
Or even better—mix nuts and gas with PB Triangles from Equilibrium Genetics. That’s PB Breath to Triangle Kush.
Need more new OGs? Go with legit, original gangsta’ Bodhi Seeds’ Ancient OG:
“A heavy duty, true OG-dominant hybrid that takes things to the next level,” stated Bodhi. “Deep, earthy, forest OG aromas, with creamy, citrus kush undertones, like Goji OG without the berry and added lemon pledge.”
Hashmakers will want Dying Breed Seeds, who crosses everything to their OG Eddy Lep, including:
- Lemon Zest (Lemonade x OG Eddy);
- Ice Cream Bean (Blue Sherbert x OG Eddy).
Purples, Zkittlez, and Runtz
Certain heavily stoned folks only smoke purple weed: GDPs, Purple Punch crosses, Zkittlez, and Runtz. This section’s for them.
Dark Heart Nursery claims to bring back the legendary Ken’s Granddaddy Purple from 2003 for sale this year.
“Anyone who remembers the old school, deep, and musky taste of purples should try this strain,” said Grace.
Dark Heart Nursery offers a 2003 Ken’s Granddaddy Purple this year. (Courtesy Dar Heart Nursery)
We’re huge fans of Do-Si-Dos to Purple Punch, called Slurricane—so we’re growing In-House Genetics’ Slurricane ix (Slurricane #44 x Slurricane #7) in our garden.
Wanna get crunk? Seek out Purple City Genetics’ clone-only Slurty3 ((Slurricane Cowboys cut) x Gelato 33). Crosses of it go into seed production later in the year.
Slurty3 smells like “grape, gas, and cream terps that have ‘new-new’ written all over it,” said Eric Rosen.
Caution, though. “This is heavy, dude. Not for the unsuspecting smoker,” he said.
Zkittlez and Runtz run amok
New Zkittlez crosses rain down upon us mortals. We’ve settled on growing Exotic Genetix’s Cookies cross Gazzungas (Zkittlez x Rainbow Chip). Up in Portland, OR, Archive Seeds hits gold with Rainbow Beltz 2.0 (Zkittlez x Moonbow).
Similarly, Runtz crosses are everywhere, but only Equilibrium Genetics crossed Runtz to their mold and mildew-resistant African Orange to create Orange Runtz. Great idea.
Another blingy Compound flavor: Rose Gold Runtz, a cross of Apples and Bananas to White Runtz.
Compound Genetics’ ultra-potent, tasty Apples and Bananas in your own backyard. (David Downs/Leafly)
“These guys who made this particular strain should be the gods of weed.”
—Leafly reviewer ‘a……..r”
One Leafly reviewer of Apples and Bananas said: “These guys who made this particular strain should be the gods of weed.”
Lastly, Compound Genetics recommends its latest collaboration with Colorado seed gods Cannarado. Look for Gastro Pop—that’s Apples and Bananas to Grape Gasoline.
See also: Savage Genetics’ Cheetoz (Cheetah Piss x Runtz); I Love Growing Marijuana’s Purple mixpack; Wave Rider’s cross of Wedding Cake Zkittlez x Modified Grapes.
Landraces, sativas, and throwbacks
The critics always tell me, ‘Play those old school jams, David. Where’s my landraces at? Those sativas? Where are my throwbacks?’
Equilibrium Genetics cannot be denied in the throwback, landrace, and sativa game. Look at their nearly sold-out Maui Pineapple, as well as their new Saturn Citrus and Pineapple Sonja.
Old-school Maui has billions of dollars of goodwill baked into the brand name, said Matthys.
“It’s crazy. Everyone wants that one. It’s such a wonderful strain to grow—very sativa with a sweet bit of cherry musk and funk, like a gassy funk,” he said.
Pineapple Sonja will reset the bar for thick pineapple flavor in California. It’s Pineapple Thai to another pineapple-smelling sativa from Maine, called Red Sonja.
Then strap in for a psychedelic rocket launch—Saturn Citrus is Super Lemon Haze crossed to Equilibrium’s African Orange.
Need more altitude? Wave Rider Nursery offers a unique Swazi Red Burmese that’ll get the heart racing.
And for a spotless mind, this year Bodhi Seeds has:
- Soar (Columbian Red x OMG)
- and Eternal Sunshine (Hawaiian Sativa x OMG)
Old school indica fans, we got you. Hash Plant lovers want to be sedated with Bodhi Seeds’:
Grandmas Hashplant (Irene x 88G13/HP)
- and Lemon Hashplant (Lemon G x 88G13/HP)
And speaking of sedation: set your phasers on stun—old school Romulan has landed.
“Our Romulan seeds are selling very, very well,” said Megan L., Romulan Genetics sales manager. “Nostalgia has been a pop-culture phenomenon lately, so anything that brings people back to their youth or high school years is a big hit with the Baby Boomer generation.”
This classic, high-THC indica can manage anxiety and PTSD, patients report.
“[The strain] leaves you feeling completely saturated but somehow still in control of your thoughts and actions,” said Megan.
Grow a bowl of Romulan this season. (Courtesy Romulan Genetics)
And that, folks, represents a fat slice of what’s going on out there in the cannabis seed world in 2021. It’s truly mind-boggling.
“There are so many amazing new strains coming out all the time it’s exhausting to keep up with,” said Conner Pollock, Wave Rider Nursery sales manager.
This epochal explosion in cannabis diversity only promises to accelerate, said Rosen. “It’s the most exciting time to be in cannabis. Even more so a day from now, and a week from now—it just gets more and more exciting,” he said.
Different types of cannabis seeds
There are different types of cannabis seeds available to the cannabis grower: regular, feminized and auto-flower. The following is a brief explanation of each type so you can determine what is best for your garden.
For tips on how to care for your clones, head over to KindGenetics.
Regular seeds are produced by crossing a male plant with a female plant and can come in either male or female.
With regular seeds, the ratio of male-to-female plants is unknown until flowering starts and the plants present their sex. While female plants produce the desired flower, regular seeds offer growers the opportunity to experience the full expression of that strain’s genetic lineage.
Feminized seeds grow into female plants that produce the desired flower or bud.
Feminized seeds are produced when a female plant produces male flowers. This is caused by introducing light at set times during the dark hours of flowering, or by spraying the flower sites of a female plant with Colloidal Silver to produce a chemical change in the plant that produces male flowers with pollen.
Pollen from “male” flowers are used to pollinate other female flowers, and because the pollen from the “male” flowers is originally from a plant that is technically female, all of the offspring produced should be female.
If you are new to growing cannabis, auto-flower seeds may be right for you. Plants will flower when they reach a certain maturity, usually ten weeks from seed, as opposed to flowering in accordance with the daily light schedules.
Auto-flower strains are crosses of modern day strains with Cannabis Ruderalis strains. Cannabis Ruderalis is the 3rd subtype of cannabis, the other two being Indica and Sativa. Cannabis Ruderalis is typically found closer to the North and South Pole, and have a very different lifespan compared to strains originating closer to the Equator.
Due to the lack of sunlight for extended periods of time at both the North and South Pole, Cannabis Ruderalis strains have developed to the point where no matter how much light is present, they will finish out their life cycle.
Hot Cannabis Seeds To Grow in 2022
Three cultivation experts fill us in on what they are excited about as we enter the outdoor planting season.
Luckily for us, cannabis was made illegal. After all, if the U.S. government had not decided to criminalize marijuana, starting with a tax for growing it, we wouldn’t have nearly as many different types. When cannabis growers and breeders were forced underground, they used male and female plants to create their own seedstock. The illegal distinction borne by the cannabis plant has led to it being one of the most diverse botanicals on the planet. When the War on Drugs meant Americans could no longer get landrace genetics like Acapulco Gold from Mexico, we looked further toward Amsterdam’s marijuana melting pot. The fusion of American cannabis enthusiasts and High Times legends like Sam the Skunkman, Ed Rosenthal, and Steve Hager with Dutch seed companies blessed the world with delicacies like Super Lemon Haze and provided the platform to promote them. Today, the worldwide cannabis seed market is a thriving industry.
Seed germination for outdoor growing starts in spring. Seeds require 10-15 days longer than clones, so the end of April is an excellent time to pop them to get the 2022 outdoor harvest outside by Mother’s Day. We checked in with three ganja growing all-stars to see what cannabis combinations they’re excited about this year.
Senior Content Manager, Leafly
What seeds are you excited about for this planting season?
For this planting season, I’m super-juiced to re-run Humboldt Seed Co’s Squirt (feminized) for year three. I can smoke that super-optimized modern Tangie cross all day, every day, and it makes a great salad with another sativa during the day or some gas at night.
I’m also hyped to bring back HumSeedCo’s Hella Jelly (fems) for year two as a super-agronimized modern sativa that finishes early and has mad cherry and cotton candy taste and zippy daytime effects.
I’m stoked to run Archive Seeds Dosi-Tree outside for the first time for that Dosi gas plus Lemon Tree’s size and syrupy lemon smell. Yum! Last year it was In-House Genetics’ Slurricane IX—that killed!
And lastly, I’m pumped to run Terp Hogz Geneticz Z3 for the first time this year! I think I’ll always want some Zkittlez in the garden, and Z3 is a way to get at the root of some optimized Z terps, as opposed to chasing new Z crosses. I can’t wait to have a pound of Z3 for Thanksgiving! Terp Hogz is selling seeds direct to your door on NXTLVL delivery in the Bay Area—if you don’t know how cool it is to shop, buy and get Terp Hogz genes delivered in a couple hours—now you know! It’s so clutch.
Do you typically grow from seed? If so, why?
Yes! I like the vigor of seeds, especially regulars—they get huge outside! There’s also less chances of a virus or pest infection from seeds vs. clones. I buy seeds all year and they keep well until it’s time to plant. (But I still might get a clone of Jokerz from Compound Genetics for this year, and if I do, I’m all about it!)
What does your grow setup look like?
I start popping indoors the first day of spring and raise babies inside where it’s warm, then sex the juveniles, and harden them on the porch in The City, before transplanting the keepers into 30-gallon fabric pots outdoors in the NorCal sun by Mother’s Day! We try and KISS (keep it simple, stupid). We use Fox Farm Ocean Forest soil plus amendments and well water on a drip timer. And BT to fight the caterpillars!
Are there certain types of cannabis or specific cultivars that do well where you are growing?
Yeah, I’m an outdoor NorCal Bay Area grower, and I’m deliberately running Humboldt Seed Co, Archive, and Terp Hogz because I think their gear tends to be tested and screened for outdoor runs. I know HumSeedCo does a bunch of mixed-light testing, and Terp Hogz in Mendo also works in mixed light. Archive’s stuff seems to be developed more indoors in Oregon, but I know that Lemon Tree has killed it outdoors in Santa Cruz.
I want to run stuff that’s been tested outside, for sure. Lots of the latest crosses are bred and tested inside and many breeders and growers don’t know how they’ll react to the variations in heat, humidity, etc. outside. I want stuff that’s hard to fuck up, as opposed to some diva that molds the second it rains, or some crazy sativa that won’t finish until November. But that’s just me! Everyone’s needs are pretty specific!
Horticulture Instructor, Oaksterdam University
What seeds are you excited for?
I am fond of recommending and growing varieties that produce well-rounded plants with new tastes and smells.
Do you typically grow from seed? If so, why?
No, but I have done so with Oaksterdam University students over the years often.
What does your grow setup look like these days?
A simple 4′ x 4′ area light up with LED lights in a larger room that I have found no need for AC to cool.
What has been your experience growing autoflowers?
To me, this is the best reason to grow from seed. They only come this way and are getting better varieties all the time.
Are there certain types of cannabis or specific cultivars that do well where you grow in Oakland?
We have a mix of urban growers that are survivors. Many obstacles to keep from having a successful harvest in tight city living. I grow inside due to this better neighborhood policy. I find less issues and arise with having long-term success. But I do know a few good areas that have outdoor gardens with little to no worry for either the garden or neighbors with bad smells.
Podcast Host, Shaping Fire
What seeds are you excited about this year?
Since I live on Vashon Island in the Pacific Northwest, I have to choose seeds that will finish flowering fast enough during our short summers. I’ll mostly be growing autoflowers so I can germinate them on June 1 and harvest at the end of August before the rains start. I am excited to grow the Purple Pope collaboration between Gnome Automatics and Night Owl Seeds. The flowers smell of sandalwood, lemongrass, and yuzu. Northern Cheese Haze from Mephisto Genetics is always a winner for me too. It captures some of that fresh sunshine-dried linen sweet smell of haze with the bloomy-rind cheese funk that we love cheese strains for.
The most reliable photoperiod for where I live continues to be Mandelbrot’s famous Royal Kush from Mendocino, which will often finish in 50 days. There is a new collaboration between Emerald Mountain Legacy and Mean Gene From Mendocino called Royale with Cherries that blends the gas and shorter flower times with Mean Gene’s Cherry Lime Pop which contributes a complex Maraschino cherry sweetness. It is exquisite. Last summer, it finished well ahead of all the other photos. And it hashed well for us too.
How was the 2021 Autoflower Cup? Are you experimenting with autoflowers?
The 2021 Autoflower Cup was a great gathering. For so long, autoflowers really didn’t perform as we wanted. But the modern era of autoflowers are so much better tasting and yielding. And because they can be grown nearly everywhere in the U.S., they are quickly gaining a following. And, of course, since autoflower enthusiasts are so often ridiculed by photoperiod growers, it is nice to hang with a big group of people who share this special interest.
I am past simply experimenting with autoflowers at this point and have fully embraced them. Before this season, I have grown 156 varieties. I’m at the point now where I believe in them, understand their advantages and disadvantages and can really work with them to meet my cultivation goals.