northern lights grow guide

Northern Lights: A Cannabis Classic And True Indica Legend

Northern Lights is a cherished and multi-award winning indica strain with genetic roots stretching to Afghanistan.

Not many indicas, maybe with the exception of the legendary G-13, have achieved such widespread fame and recognition as Northern Lights. Considered a staple strain among indoor cannabis cultivators, and having laid down her mark for many of today’s cannabis genetics, Northern Lights is still widely popular among cannabis cultivators and smokers. If you like cannabis, chances are you have tried Northern Lights or one of her variants.

Ever since Northern Lights came to the scene in the mid-‘80s, she has won countless cannabis awards all over the world. Her outstanding qualities have earned her the reputation as one of the most acclaimed cannabis strains of all time. The genetics of Northern Lights have provided the foundation for many of today’s popular indica-dominant strains such as White Widow, Chronic, Haze, Special Kush, and many more. Let us take a closer look at this famed indica classic and a truly legendary cannabis strain.


As is often the case when looking into the history of legendary strains such as Northern Lights, the exact origins of the strain are shrouded in mystery. It is said that the strain was originally bred by a person known as “The Indian”, somewhere on an island near Seattle, Washington in the United States. Some say that the plant may have come to the mysterious Indian from the West Coast, maybe from California or Oregon.

“The Indian” is said to have grown 11 plants, possibly from Afghani landraces, which he named Northern Lights #1–11. He carefully compared his plants for their yields, effects, and other qualities. This left him with two plants that stood out due to their large buds, good yields, and excellent resin production: Northern Lights #5 and #1.

It’s possible no one would ever know about Northern Lights if it wasn’t for the “King of Cannabis” and founder of the very first seed bank in the Netherlands, Nevil Schoenmakers.

According to some, it was him who discovered the strain on one of his trips to the US in the early 1980s. As the story goes, he brought back female clones of the plant to the Netherlands, where he was experimenting with cannabis genetics from all over the world.

In 1985, he introduced the first variety of the newly discovered strain in his “The Seed Bank of Holland”. Northern Lights #1, which he marketed as a pure Afghani inbred indica, flew off the shelves and quickly became a bestseller. He crossbred some of the other varieties of Northern Lights with a Thai sativa, which is also the reason that many Northern Lights varieties today are sold as Afghani indica and Thai sativa crosses.

After the introduction of Northern Lights to the scene, it didn’t take long before the strain started to rake in countless awards all over the world.

Northern Light
Northern Light S1
500 – 550 gr/m 2
100 – 160 cm
7 – 8 weeks
THC: 18% (aprox.) / CBD: Medium
0% Sativa, 100% Indica, 0% Ruderalis
575 – 625 g/per plant (dried)
180 – 220 cm
Late September
A combination of stoned + high
Northern Light
Northern Light S1
500 – 550 gr/m 2
100 – 160 cm
7 – 8 weeks
THC: 18% (aprox.) / CBD: Medium
0% Sativa, 100% Indica, 0% Ruderalis
575 – 625 g/per plant (dried)
180 – 220 cm
Late September
A combination of stoned + high


Northern Lights is regarded as a staple indica plant by indoor cannabis cultivators for many reasons. They love the plant because she is easy to grow and finishes her flowering in eight weeks. Grown in hydro, she is even faster, with the wait cut down to around six weeks. This way, cultivators can always rely on excellent production value with this strain.

Northern Lights grows into a conveniently compact and bushy plant with buds that are firm and easy to trim, thanks to ample space between nodes. Some phenotypes of the strain, such as the original NL #1 pheno, may only grow one single cola, resulting in a tall and leggy plant, giving her a “weed on a stick” appearance. But it’s more common for the strain to appear in the shape of a small evergreen tree with one large central stalk that is surrounded by four or five lateral branches akin to the original Northern Lights #2.

Despite the buds of the strain being sizeable and firmly packed, they are not too dense for mould to become a problem. This makes Northern Lights a very good strain to grow in humid conditions too. As the plant matures her dark green buds, they will become covered with a thick and sparkling coat of trichomes.

When you get Northern Lights seeds from Royal Queen Seeds, all seeds come feminized. This way, you ensure that you grow females only, which makes growing the strain even easier.

You can expect Northern Lights to flower for around 7–8 weeks before she is ready to harvest. Depending on factors such as temperature, light, and nutrients, this can take a bit longer.

Due to the Afghani heritage of Northern Lights, it shouldn’t be surprising that the plant loves plenty of sun. She has a good resistance to dry climates and drought, and also does exceptionally well as an outdoor plant under harsher conditions. Planted in good soil with only gentle feeding and water, she can reach a respectable height. Compared to some other strains, Northern Lights is very sturdy and robust, which makes her easy to grow in many different environments.

Although you can find many variants of Northern Lights today, the plant will usually reach a height of 100–160cm in a typical indoor setting. With this convenient height, you can easily manage the plant, yet she will still reward you with excellent yields. On average, you can expect to get as much as 550g/m². Plant your seed outdoors, and she may reach a height of 180–220cm with yields of up to 625g/plant, ready at the end of September.


Northern Lights wouldn’t have her legendary status if it wasn’t for the incredible mind and body experience she induces, thanks to her true Afghani indica roots. With 18% THC, she is not overwhelmingly strong, but potent enough that she relaxes you from head to toe. Her effect isn’t just deeply relaxing, it will also give you a nice bout of euphoria, which makes her a great herb for stress relief. No wonder she’s still a favourite among indica lovers everywhere!

What’s more, her balanced effect can also provide good therapeutic potential for medicinal users. Northern Lights can help with pain relief, soothing sore muscles, and offering relief from insomnia. With her relaxing, happy effect she’s also an excellent smoke that can help with anxiety and other mood disorders.

Smoking Northern Lights isn’t just a great experience thanks to the strain’s superb indica effect. Her flavour is equally top-notch and won’t disappoint even very spoiled cannabis connoisseurs. She blends earthy flavours with notes of pine and delicious sweetness for that awesome old-school flavour that has become quite rare to find these days.


Some cannabis strains are famous, but it takes a little more to make a strain into a legend like Northern Lights. What makes a cannabis strain a true classic is its ability to be just as impressive when it debuts as it is today. Northern Lights can already look back on more than three decades of success, yet the strain still continues to be as fun and rewarding as ever.


Breeders successfully crossed Northern Lights with a robust ruderalis variety to give birth to Northern Light Automatic—a small strain that’s easy to grow. It still provides a fantastic yield and features many of the impressive traits of its world-renowned predecessors.

Moreover, NLA boasts a couple unique advantages of its own. Its autoflowering genetics mean it flowers without a change in the light cycle. What’s more, it’s highly resistant to fluctuating temperatures, pest insects, and fungal pathogens—perfect for beginners looking for a taste of Northern Lights, or experienced growers in the mood for an easy harvest.

Most autoflowering strains don’t really compete with their photoperiod counterparts when it comes to yield. Northern Light Automatic goes against the grain here. For a small specimen, it pumps out quite the harvest.

Northern Light Automatic
Northern Light x Ruderalis
500 – 550 g/m 2
80 – 120 cm
5 – 7 weeks
THC: 14% (aprox.) / CBD: Low
0% Sativa, 80% Indica, 20% Ruderalis
170 – 220 g/per plant (dried)
130 – 160 cm
9 – 10 weeks after planting
Cerebral and uplifting
Northern Light Automatic
Northern Light x Ruderalis
500 – 550 g/m 2
80 – 120 cm
5 – 7 weeks
THC: 14% (aprox.) / CBD: Low
0% Sativa, 80% Indica, 20% Ruderalis
170 – 220 g/per plant (dried)
130 – 160 cm
9 – 10 weeks after planting
Cerebral and uplifting

Indoor plants maintain a medium height. Let them unleash their full potential if you have the room to accommodate. If not, simply prune and train them to keep plants at around 80cm. Prepare your stash jars for a weighty harvest. Expect a yield of up to 550g/m² after a flowering time of 5–7 weeks, and an entire life cycle of 9–10 weeks.

Outdoor plants grow to a considerably taller height of 160cm and are capable of pumping out up to 200g/plant. You might need stakes to keep their heavy canopies upright, especially in strong wind. This strain prefers a warmer climate but can handle the occasional cold snap.

Northern Light Automatic features a genetic profile of 80% indica and 20% ruderalis. It delivers a warm and soothing high that relaxes the body while keeping the mind clear. Its compact, green-blue buds generate a subtle but effective THC content of 14%—just enough to feel the euphoria without becoming overwhelmed or mentally compromised.

Overall, it makes a superb selection after a hard day’s work. Enjoy this smoke in the evening before settling down to a good film and a hearty meal. Tastes of earth, pine, and sweetness infuse every hit.

Northern Lights is a cherished and multi-award winning strain of Indica with genetic roots stretching to Afghanistan

1st Grow in My Garage – Auto Northern Lights in Grow Box Under 400W HPS – 5.35 oz Harvest

by [Name redacted per request]

Quick Grow Snapshot

  • Strains: 3 x Auto-flowering Northern Lights
  • Grow medium: FF Soil
  • Grow Light:
    • Vegetative: 6400k T5 Grow Light
    • Flowering: 400W HPS with digital ballast and air-cooled hood
  • Nutrients or Additives: Fox Farms Soil Nutrient Trio

May 5, 2012: Seeds sprouted
July 29, 2012: Harvest!

Total Time – Seed to Harvest:
85 days (2 months, 24 days)

Final Yield
5.35 oz

View full grow journal below!

Getting Started – Pre-Grow

With space to grow in the garage, I decided to build a grow box and try my hand at growing marijuana, even though I’d never grown anything before.

In addition to learning grow skills, building my box was a big test of my carpentry skills, or lack of skills I guess I should say. I’d never built anything like this before.

Planning My Grow Box

Build grow box out of plywood and 2x2s with 2 chambers so I can swap the plants between the chambers when it’s time to flower.

The dimensions of the box are 4’W x 2.5’D x 5’H.

The grow box cost me about $135 for the lumber, screws, caulk, sandpaper, wood stain, and hinges.

You’ll see how the box is divided into 3 sections. I want to put a vent in the ceiling of the bottom right section and a vent in the top of the wall in the left section so that both of them feed into that top part where my carbon filter will be.

What would be the best way of ducting both of those vents into a single carbon filter?

Choosing The Right Grow Light

I was concerned about heat and light usage for my small space.

I looked at LEDs when I first started my research, but I kept reading things about them being kinda sketchy. A lot of people seemed to think they didn’t live up to all the hype.

I considered using T5 grow lights for both the vegetative and flowering stage (6400k bulbs for vegging and 2700k for flowering) because they produce such low heat.

I was hesitant about using a T5 in flowering, though. Some growers seemed to be getting good results with them, yet I was worried that a T5 was not going to be intense enough to get good yields in the flowering stage.

I decided to go with a 400W HPS light with an air-cooled hood and exhaust fan for the flower chamber. It was hard to resist getting a bigger light, but I knew that a 600W was going to be too big/hot for my space.

Final Setup

  • Vegetative: 6400k T5 Grow Light
  • Flowering: 400W HPS with digital ballast and air-cooled hood
  • Fox Farms Ocean Forest Soil
  • Fox Farms Soil Trio
  • Feminized Northern Lights (from Pyramid Seeds), ordered them from Attitude I probably wouldn’t order seeds from this breeder again. The seeds ended up being an autoflowering strain even though it was advertised as being a photoperiod strain. It all ended up working out, but I would have been happier if I’d received the seeds I ordered.

My First Grow In Pictures!

I started germinating my seeds in a shot glass.

I put the seeds in a shot glass filled with water to germinate them I put the seeds in a shot glass filled with water to germinate them

Seeds have sprouted roots

I’ve got a pack of these pellets to start them in. I did a test run by putting a pellet in a cup of water, damn those things expand!

Here is what I ended up doing, I tried to cut out any extra steps and just put the pellets directly into the soil from the start.

I put bottles on top to help retain extra humidity (like a humidity dome). Here are my ultra cheap humidity domes

Seedlings under T5 Grow Light in Veg Chamber. It’s a steady 85 degrees F in there, no idea about the humidity in the bottles.

Day 7 from seed

Day 13 from seed

Day 19 from seed – Plants started looking a little sick

Leaves started looking sick on Day 19 I thought they may have used up all the nutrient in the soil (I haven’t been feeding extra nutrients until now). I started feeding them with Fox Farms Nutrient Trio.

I also considered it might be stress from the wind of the fan, so I got a lot more careful about blowing air on the seedlings.

With these two changes, the problem seemed to sort itself out.

Day 39 from seed – Moved plants into flowering chamber under 400W HPS

I moved the plants into the flowering chamber with the 400W HPS grow light.

At this point, I continued to keep them on a 18/6 light schedule, which should have kept them in the vegetative stage. I wanted to let the plants get a bit bigger before switching them to flowering.

I did not yet realize that these were autoflowering plants.

Day 41 from seed

Today is also the first day I’ve tried to LST (low stress training). I know it’s generally recommended to start LST earlier, but I was trying to avoid it on my first grow just to see how my yield would be with no training.

I ended up LSTing one of the girls who was getting too tall.

I was surprised to see my plants start flowering (you can see a couple of flowers starting to appear in the picture above).

I’d purchased non-autoflowering seeds. Guess I’ll never order from that seed vendor again. At first I thought I was seeing pre-flowers, but I soon realized my plant was producing full-on flowers.

Then I saw something even more scary, a hermie banana…

On the advice of others, I plucked this single banana and finished flowering my girls. This was the only hermie sac I saw throughout the grow, and I’m glad I ended up finishing the girls because I had a fantastic harvest.

Day 45 from seed – Closeup of trichomes on the buds and surrounding sugar leaves

Day 53 / 54 from seed – Buds are fattening up

The plants in the grow box definitely smell at this point, but it only became noticeable to me within the last few weeks. Even now it’s not too bad, and you would have to be in the same room as them to smell it.

Day 63 from seed

Closeup of trichomes

Day 79 – End… The final days

At this point I still don’t have a fan hooked up to my vented hood and I’ve been relying on a wimpy little one and keep the door cracked open to let the heat out.

For my next grow I’ll have a real ventilation system set up and heat shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve been running my light at half power (200W) for the past couple weeks to control the heat. I’ll have much better ventilation my next grow so I’ll be able to run it at 400W the whole time.

Day 84 from seed – Day before harvest (ready to be cut down)

I’m really happy with how they turned out.

For my 2nd grow I’ll have 4 plants instead of 3 and I’ll be LSTing from the start.

Also, I will finish my grow box by hooking up a fan to my hood (with a carbon filter), and I put mylar up on 2 of the remaining walls where I still need to cut some holes.

My light has only been running at 200W for a majority of the grow because the weather has been so hot and my ventilation sucks.

I’ll be really interested to see how much doubling the light, making all the other minor improvements, and avoiding all my previous mistakes will affect my yield.

Day 85 – Harvest!

I ended up having to go to a pet store and buying some activated carbon to control the smell of my drying buds. I knew it would smell, I just didn’t think that much!

Harvest Final Weight 5.35 oz!

My 2nd Grow in Pictures!

Stay tuned for my second grow in pictures.

Here’s a quick preview…

Are You Ready To Start Growing, Too?

So you’re ready to start your own indoor grow…

You know the space you want to grow in, but you have a few questions…

There’s so many confusing options out there, yet you no longer have to figure it out all on your own.

This quick article will guide you through the whole process.

Get the right equipment for YOUR grow space

1st Grow in My Garage – Auto Northern Lights in Grow Box Under 400W HPS – 5.35 oz Harvest by [Name redacted per request] Quick Grow Snapshot Strains: 3 x Auto-flowering Northern