Growing weed indoors vs outdoors: What are the differences?

A look at the pros and cons of each

Brian Shamblen / Flickr


When marijuana first began to be cultivated thousands of years ago, it was grown outdoors in natural sunlight and among the elements. This practice of planting a seed and letting it grow continued on for centuries. Things changed with the criminalization of marijuana as growers began growing cannabis indoors.

Of course, growing marijuana indoors means the plants are unable to receive the natural sunlight needed to grow. However, a great replacement for the sunlight is LED lights, which allow growers to provide their product with the light they need. The only difference is one comes naturally from the earth and the other from engineering innovation. Growing indoors is also a great option for growers in environments not suitable to growing weed outdoors.

With the growing popularity of cultivating marijuana indoors climbing in recent years, there has been more research and development into technology that allows for a smoother and easier method of growing. With these advancements, growers will be able to offer a better product to consumers regardless of where it is being grown.

How exactly does growing indoors offer a controlled environment?

Growing indoors allows for easier control and manipulation over the growing environment. This is because you have more control over variables such as the temperature, the amount of light, the levels of CO2 protection, humidity and protection from the elements. Plants can be grown based on their individual needs and are not limited to the environment you happen to reside – particularly if your area is not suitable for all plant types.

While controlling all elements indoors may sound fantastic, it is important to mention that there is arguably nothing better than growing your product using natural sunlight, which can result in a more fruitful yield. When growing indoors, the quality can be amazing but the expected yield output will generally be lower compared with crops that are being grown outside.

Quality of outdoor weed in comparison to weed grown inside  

Despite the drawbacks, many still insist that indoor growing is superior to outdoor weed plants due to the control over the elements, which can allow for a properly grown plant and an immaculate final product. Indoors, there is no concern about conditions such a hail, rain, snow or wind that could potentially damage the product and potentially reduce the aroma and flavour profile.

Consequently, some think weed that is grown indoors is of higher quality. However, the main difference between growing indoor and outdoor comes down to how the product looks rather than the effects it can provide or the overall smell and taste (which are often very similar). This is even more likely to be true if the cannabis is effectively cured.

In addition, a possible downside to growing inside is the industrial fertilizers are pesticides that are needed to drive away potential pests. Unlike the outdoors, there are no natural predators to deal with these pests, meaning that chemical and unnatural substances may have to be utilized. As such, if your aim is to provide an organic product, this can certainly be considered a downside as it is much less likely to keep the pests at bay without using inorganic methods.

Outdoor vs indoor weed expenses

While growing indoors may be the favourable choice for some, the costs associated with doing so may cause problems. When you initially start the process of an indoor or outdoor weed grows, the expenses can be similar. However, costs can build up when growing inside.

Operating a 6×6-foot indoor growing space can run you nearly $2,000 depending on the equipment. Furthermore, the cost of electricity can add an additional $1,000 or more depending on utility costs.

To save on expenses, you can opt for a grow tent that is approximately 2x2x5 feet and can grow anywhere from two to four plants contained in one- to-three-gallon pots. This could save on utility fees but the trade-off is you might harvest a lesser amount of cannabis as a result. Grow tents will usually cost under $1,000 and are more portable for those on the move.

On the other hand, while outdoor grow setups may be expensive to start, there are usually little to no additional fees because the sun takes the place of paid electricity while also providing a more plentiful harvest.

Impact on the environment

If environmental impact is a concern, keep in mind that growing indoors necessitates an energy consumption that is equivalent to adding and additional three million cars on the road. In fact, a study conducted in 2011 found that growing marijuana indoors accounts for 1% of the entire nation’s energy supply. To put that into perspective, the energy-to-power ratio needed to grow across the country is around $5 million and could power two million homes. To lessen your impact on the environment, outdoor growing may be a better option.

Regardless of where you decide to grow, there are indeed some key differences between indoor and outdoor growing that may be seen as an advantage or disadvantage depending on the person. For example, not all growers have the space required outdoors, nor does each person always have the funds that are needed to start an indoor grow. It is crucial to determine your own personal limitations in order to choose the method that coincides with your lifestyle. Each method has its own unique pros and cons and identifying what works best for you is always the best option. Whether you are intending to grow in the hopes of commercial production or for personal use, always do what works best for you.

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