Indoor, Outdoor, and Greenhouse Grown CBD Hemp Flower
What is the Same, What is Different, and Which is Right for You
So, you’re interested in CBD hemp flower. But which product should you get? What is best for you? There are many ways to describe hemp flower and that can be a bit confusing. Strain name, indoor grown, outdoor grow, greenhouse grow, potency, cannabinoid profile, terpene profile. But no need to worry! We are going to dive in and make some sense of all this so that you can decide what is best for you.
We will discuss the differences between indoor vs outdoor CBD flower. This includes the potency of the buds, the look, the smell, the taste, and the cost. We will also discuss why hemp farmers may choose to grow indoor, outdoor, or in a greenhouse. Let’s get to it.
The most eye-catching hemp buds are grown indoors. Many wonder, “What does indoor mean with hemp”? Well, it means it was grown in a controlled environment, inside and away from the elements. Indoor grows have the advantage of allowing the grower to control every aspect of the environment in which the hemp is grown. Properly setting levels of humidity, temperature, soil acidity, distance to the light source, the light source’s on/off cycle, and using quality lights can yield some superbly beautiful buds. Controlling these aspects also makes the indoor grow relatively low maintenance.
Premium Indoor hemp flower has a vibrant and bright green color. Purple, red, and orange leaves are pretty common on indoor hemp buds. The buds are usually tightly packed and denser. Expect indoor buds to look frosty as they are covered in trichomes. The trichomes contain the cannabinoids and flavor of the hemp. Hand-trimming is expected for indoor grown hemp to give buds the most clean look possible. All of this gives indoor hemp flower great shelf-appeal.
Scent and taste come from the terpenes of the plant. All plants have them, including hemp. Different terpenes give different aromas and flavors. The scent given off by indoor flower is very pronounced and appealing. For example, Strawberry Cake gives off such sweet aromas that are reminded of fresh strawberries. Queue the mouth-watering. It is no surprise the flavor of indoor hemp is just as satisfying as the smell. Expect your taste buds to do a happy dance.
The levels of cannabinoids found in indoor hemp flower can be relatively low compared to some outdoor grows, but still enough for an impact. We will get into the details of Outdoor Hemp Flower in a bit. At Thrive Flower, we strive to offer the best-tasting, highest-potency indoor hemp. Referring back to Strawberry Cake in the image above, the levels of CBD, CBDA, and other cannabinoids are at about 15%.
It is important to note that legally, levels of Δ9-THC need to be below 0.3% to classify as hemp and not marijuana. At these levels, THC should not produce any feeling of being “high” and would not show up on a drug test. Having the full-spectrum of cannabinoids can give users the beneficial effects of the Entourage Effect. This states that using multiple cannabinoids together can create synergistic benefits greater than the use of a singular cannabinoid.
The cost to the consumer of indoor hemp is usually 2x that of outdoor hemp. The extra cost can be attributed to the higher equipment costs to grow indoors relative to outdoors. The grower needs lights, fans, a closed environment, soil, buckets, nutrients, and more.The yield of an indoor grow is also significantly lower than outdoor grows. A typical indoor plant may yield between ½ and 2 pounds while a proper outdoor plant can yield 2 pounds or more.
Indoor hemp grows leave a much higher carbon footprint than outdoor grows. It takes a significant amount of energy to grow indoors. Electric bills can be quite high for the grower. An indoor grow can use up to 3000 kilowatt-hours per pound of product.1 Southwest Energy, a company who aims to make energy use more efficient, says that an indoor grow “can consume up to ~150 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year per square foot”.2 To put it into scale, that is about “10x as much [energy] as a typical office building in the Southwest”.
Outdoor hemp is grown by harnessing the power of the sun. The set up for an outdoor grow is relatively low cost because all you need is already outside (with proper weather conditions). But, this means growers must face the elements such as wind, rain, excessive heat, cloudy days, pests, animals. All of this makes outdoor grows quite labor intensive. On top of that, an outdoor grow can only grow during the times of year when conditions permit. That is usually late spring to early fall. All that effort, if done properly, will be worth it when it comes harvest time. Expect big yields and consistently high-quality buds when grown properly outdoors.
Outdoor buds are usually dark green and lighter than dense indoor flower. Being outside and facing the elements means outdoor hemp has to toughen up in order to survive. This means thicker stems and usually bigger buds. Relative to indoor hemp, outdoor buds may appear less frosty and covered in trichomes. Larger buds need to work harder to produce more trichomes to cover the increased surface area and they are already expending energy just to survive outside.
It is not uncommon to see machine-trimmed outdoor hemp because the yields of an outdoor grow are quite large and delicate hand-trimming takes labor and time some grow operations do not want. With the passing of the Farm Bill (2018)3, hemp legalization has spurred farmers in most states to begin farming hemp. Thrive Flower supports Pennsylvania-local farmers from our base in Philadelphia.
Outdoor hemp plants tend to take on the aromas and flavors of the environment they are grown. The phenomenon is called “terrior”. It is common among many crops like the grapes for wine, peppers, tobacco, and coffee. Many outdoor hemp buds will have earthy scents with notes of pine. An almost ‘woodsy’ feel. The taste follows the scent and you may be surprised with hints of fruit or citrus depending on the strain of the plant.
Cannabinoid levels in outdoor hemp plants can range from quite low to quite high. For example, Thrive Flower Suver Haze has tested at 20%+ total cannabinoids. Others may be as low at 9%. It is thought that the energy of the sun and the stress brought onto the plants from the outdoor elements causes outdoor plants’ cannabinoid levels to spike. This is great for high levels of CBD, but growers need to be wary to keep the levels of Δ9-THC below 0.3% to maintain hemp-legal classification.
Relative to indoor grown hemp flower, outdoor is about half as expensive for the consumer. This is due to the lower set up cost and higher yields from the outdoor grow. Proper plants will yield upwards of 2 pounds each. And with enough land, it is not uncommon for farms to have thousands of hemp plants growing. An acre of land fits about 1500 plants.4
A vast majority of the energy used to grow hemp outdoors is directly from the sun. The low carbon footprint of outdoor grows is desirable to many. Farmers rotate the crops that are grown on a particular field to keep the soil in prime condition and loaded with the right nutrients for a successful grow. Hemp is an important part of that crop rotation to keep the soil strong with its deep roots. Excess of the hemp plant, called “biomass”, can also be returned to the soil to add nutrients.5
Greenhouse hemp plants harness the energy of the sun while still maintaining control over other climate factors like temperature, humidity, soil, and pest control. It is just as labor intensive as outdoor farming, but done properly, can result in high-quality buds that rival the shelf-appeal of indoor flower.
Many wonder if greenhouse is considered indoor or outdoor. It is a bit of both. The grow harnesses the sun's energy like an outdoor grown, but it is climate controlled like an indoor grown.
Appearance-wise, the buds from a greenhouse grown fall somewhere in between indoor and outdoor buds. They can be on the lighter side of things and be covered in trichomes. Harnessing the sun's energy to boost trichome production gives greenhouse buds their frosty look. Expect darker green colors similar to outdoor grown hemp.
When the grower can control the climate like with greenhouse and indoor grows, the aroma and flavor of the hemp can pack quite a tasty punch. With the addition of the sun's energy to produce trichomes, greenhouse buds can be exquisitely flavorful when grown properly. Less of the earthy flavor from outdoor hemp is noticeable.
Greenhouse hemp can have quite high levels of cannabinoids. Harnessing the sun’s energy to produce trichomes is one of the reasons. The other is the ideal climate in the greenhouse allowing the plant to flourish. As always with boosted levels of cannabinoids, grower’s need to keep a strict eye to make sure that levels of Δ9-THC remain below 0.3% to maintain hemp-legality.
The costs of the greenhouse setup are steep and comparable to the indoor grow setup. On the other side of things, depending on how much space is dedicated to the greenhouse, yields can be quite large relative to an indoor grow that yields about 0.5-2 pounds per plant. The result is a price point somewhere in between outdoor and indoor hemp prices.
Greenhouse grows use a good amount of electricity to maintain the ideal climate within the greenhouse. The energy used for an indoor grow’s lighting setup is saved by using the sun as the light source for a greenhouse grow.
So now that we have all the information, which is best? Beautiful-looking indoor hemp with aromas that liven you up? Sustainably-grown, energy-efficient, local outdoor hemp with high levels of cannabinoids? Sun-kissed, trichome-covered buds from a greenhouse grow? They are all the best in their own way. A better question to ask would be,
“Which is best FOR ME?”
Take time to consider where your hemp is coming from, what you value, and what your body needs. If outdoor hemp has too harsh of a flavor for you to enjoy, maybe indoor flower can be the smooth smoke you need. If you want to support local farmers and sustainable agriculture, some outdoor hemp could be just the thing for you. Here is a useful guide to compare what goes into indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse grows, and what to expect from the hemp:
To find premium hemp flower, look for a reputable company with up-to-date lab-tested results. You want to make sure the levels of CBD and other cannabinoids are what is advertised. It is also important to check that the levels of Δ9-THC are below 0.3%. If you have any questions about indoor vs outdoor CBD flower or how to use it, a company representative should be able to intelligently answer all your questions.