Shop legal, local weed.

Cannabis 101

Factors That Impact Your Cannabis Strain: Part 1, Genetics

Published on October 7, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Each strain of cannabis holds unique properties that influence the final expression you find on dispensary shelves. These internal properties are affected by a number of external forces put on the plant by growers and the surrounding habitat. In this five-part series, we'll take a closer look at the main factors that impact your cannabis strain, starting off with the importance of solid genetics.

Why are Cannabis Genetics So Important?

Genetics hold the key to your bud’s effects, flavors, vigor, and growth attributes. Not unlike concentrate production, where the starting material is the most important factor in determining the end quality of each extraction, a cannabis plant’s genetics are the starting material and hold extreme value for each strain to reach its potential. Every strain carries a unique genotype that serves as a blueprint for its growth, as well as a specific phenotype that is influenced by its environmental factors and affect a range of strain attributes like color, smell, structure, and potency.

Just like human and animal offspring, cannabis strains display a mix of traits from their parent strains. This is especially true with hybrid varieties. Hybrid cannabis strains typically show dominant attributes from their lineage. Oftentimes breeders work for generations to isolate or emphasize specific traits from a strain’s parent genetics. For example, Blue Dream provides an uplifting cerebral energy common of its Haze parent, as well as a sweet, berry flavor profile which it inherits from the influence of its Blueberry bloodline.

Landrace and heirloom strains, on the other hand, have been cultivated for centuries by local populations around the world. Their specific traits have been motivated due to their adaption to their native environments, as much as they are by their genetic markers. This is one way that a cannabis sativa plant from Southern Africa expresses different characteristics than one cultivated in Central America.

The stability of your strain’s genetics can also influence how it turns out. Stable genetics produce predictable features passed down from the parent strains. If your strain’s genetics are unstable, there is more variability in the outcome of the offspring. Unstable genetics are often blamed for hermaphroditic plants and other unexpected outcomes in the garden.

The decision between starting your garden from seed or to grow from clone can also influence your expectations of a strain. When starting from seed, the process can be longer because the plant must mature through at least the early vegetative stage before it can be selected based on sex, height, vitality, and any other trait the breeder or grower feels connected to. Clones, on the other hand, offer a direct replication of genetics from generation to generation, so growers have a better understanding of what to expect. The only sticky point is that cloned genetics have been known to deteriorate after taking clones from repeated generations.

Don't miss part two of our five part series that examines the different factors that impact your cannabis strain. Next up we'll be exploring how environmental factors can affect your strain's end result — stay tuned!

Learn more about cannabis strain genetics, starting with genotypes and landraces, before you put your newfound knowledge to the test by taking our quizzes on landrace strains and strain genetics.

Cannabis Genotypes and Phenotypes: What Makes a Strain Unique?

The Cannabis Origin: What is a Landrace Strain?

Quiz: How Well Do You Know Cannabis Strain Genetics?

Quiz: What Do You Know About Landrace and Heirloom Cannabis Strains?

Shop highly rated stores near you

Showing you stores near
See all stores
Will Hyde
Will Hyde
Will is a brand builder, product expert, and storyteller with 2 decades of experience in the cannabis industry. The former co-host of Leafly's "What Are You Smoking" podcast has dedicated his life to sharing his passion for cannabis with anyone who will listen. Follow him on Instagram at @the.avid.dabber
View Will Hyde's articles
Get good reads, local deals, and strain spotlights delivered right to your inbox.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to Leafly's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.