Growing Marijuana Indoors vs. Outdoors: The Key Differences

Cannabis is one of the world’s oldest crops. There’s evidence to suggest that it was cultivated over 12,000 years ago! For millennia, it was possible to grow cannabis in its natural outdoor environment without fear of prosecution. However, during the 20th century, marijuana went from an herbal remedy to an illicit substance in the United States.

It began with a ban on the plant by the state of Massachusetts in 1911. In 1937, the federal government passed a notorious piece of anti-marijuana legislation, The Marihuana Tax Act. The final nail in the coffin for marijuana came in the form of The Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The Act designated marijuana a Schedule I substance “with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

New laws against marijuana meant that cannabis production methods were changed significantly. To stay out of sight, growers adopted indoor cultivation to avoid falling foul of the law. Today, however, the relaxation of marijuana laws means that cannabis cultivators in certain states can grow marijuana legally again.

This guide will explain the key differences between growing cannabis plants indoors and outdoors, as well as the costs involved.

Indoor Growing – Pros

A significant advantage of indoor marijuana cultivation is that growers can control conditions like temperature and humidity. Therefore, it enables you to mitigate some of the risks associated with outdoor cultivation, such as inclement weather.

Another big plus of growing marijuana indoors is the ability to grow all year round.

Another big plus of growing marijuana indoors is the ability to grow all year round. As you don’t have to wait for a growing season, you can enjoy multiple harvests per year. With 3-4 harvests a year, you can greatly exceed the limited returns associated with growing cannabis outdoors.

Another pro of growing cannabis indoors is that it can make it easier to remain on the right side of the law. An increasing number of states allow indoor growing. However, in states where growing marijuana is still prohibited, people must hide their plants from public view. That’s a lot easier to do when growing cannabis indoors.

Indoor Growing – Cons

It’s true; indoor lighting can help you grow aesthetically beautiful flowers with high THC percentages. However, no lighting system is a match for the power of the sun. The sun produces enough energy to power 2,880 trillion light bulbs. It also provides our planet with 35,000 times the amount of energy required by those of us who use electricity on Earth!

Therefore, marijuana plants grown in California’s glorious sunlight will dwarf the smaller yields of indoor plants. Replicating natural sunlight in an indoor grow room can be exceptionally costly. We will discuss this in more detail in the ‘Cost of Growing Marijuana Indoors’ section below.

While growing cannabis plants indoors protect them from inclement weather, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are safer from pests. With no natural protection, your plants are in severe danger if exposed to pests like aphids or spider mites.

Outdoor Growing – Pros

Cannabis has been grown outside for tens of thousands of years and has perfectly adapted to its preferred climate. Although cannabis plants are susceptible to pests and diseases outdoors, they get help from natural sources. Ants, ladybugs, and wasps all prey on mites and other pests that can ruin an outdoor crop.

Certain marijuana strains grow to enormous sizes and are entirely unsuitable for indoor growers due to the space required. You can’t grow a 15-foot plant indoors unless you have access to a warehouse!

Another pro of growing marijuana outdoors is the potential for a much higher yield. Generally speaking, outdoor farms produce significantly higher yields than their indoor equivalents. Certain strains also produce much higher yields outdoors than indoors simply because they prefer an outdoor environment.

All plants require carbon dioxide (CO2) to thrive. You can replicate or even enhance CO2 levels inside using equipment like CO2 canisters, but it can be expensive. Naturally, this is one expense associated with growing cannabis plants that outdoor growers don’t have to incur.

Another pro of growing marijuana outdoors is that once you put marijuana plants in soil, they feed off the nutrients. Therefore, feeding cannabis plants outdoors is less costly due to the number of natural nutrients available to them in the soil.

From an environmentally friendly perspective, there is no comparison between growing marijuana outdoors vs. indoors. Outdoor crops leave a much smaller carbon footprint than indoor grows. The sheer energy consumption (not to mention the cost) required to power indoor equipment is staggering. Think about how much electricity is used to power the lighting, dehumidifiers, exhaust fans, etc., for several grow cycles per year.

Outdoor Growing – Cons

Crops grown outdoors have a longer gestation period, and you are completely reliant on their natural life cycle. As a result, you may not be able to harvest your crop more than once a year. Nature also throws up its fair share of challenges. If your local area is experiencing an unusually dry or wet season, it can play havoc.

For instance, too much rainfall can lead to plant mold and/or bud rot. Excessive heat can also kill your plants. Things like fires, tornadoes, and storms can destroy an entire crop in a matter of hours.

Most states that permit growing only do so with the proviso that it takes place indoors.

Larger predators, such as deer, are also known to invade fields and ruin cannabis plants, and whether or not you believe in climate change, there is no question that the weather has become less predictable in recent times.

Finally, you may not be legally allowed to grow outdoors. States such as Colorado allow residents to grow cannabis without a commercial license. However, most states that permit growing only do so with the proviso that it takes place indoors, and out of sight. It is important to note that regulations and limitations can vary according to city and county – sometimes within the same state.

Prices of Growing Cannabis Indoors Versus Outdoors

There is no question that it is far more expensive to grow marijuana indoors. First-time growers are routinely shocked by the list of equipment they need. An indoor climate control system can cost thousands of dollars to operate.


If you grow indoors, you also have to go through almost continual turnover. Things like pruning, watering, feeding, trellising, and harvesting are just some of the tasks.

Cost of Growing Marijuana Indoors

Although you can benefit from several harvests per year, it means constant work. Lighting alone can be a total bank breaker. We’ve heard stories of home growers who face monthly energy bills of over $4,000!

Also, if you choose a non-soil growing medium, you have to pay for nutrients. Then there is the cost of the growing equipment, such as:

  • A hygrometer for measuring humidity
  • A thermometer for ensuring your plants are growing in the ideal temperatures
  • Humidifiers and dehumidifiers
  • Lighting equipment
  • Ventilation systems

On the plus side, you can hopefully recoup some of the costs because you can produce 3-4 harvests a year. Let’s say the strain you grow is $250 an ounce, and you grow 20 ounces per operation four times a year. You’ll end up with $20,000 worth of cannabis per year. As you are growing indoors, you can cultivate strains that are not suitable for the climate where you live.

However, many states don’t allow home growers to sell weed for profit. Bear that in mind before you set out to become the world’s first billionaire pot grower.

Cost of Growing Marijuana Outdoors

Most of your outdoor growing costs will occur during the operation’s start-up. Assuming you live in an ideal climate, you don’t have to concern yourself with the cost of lighting or ventilation systems. If you have access to fertile soil, you don’t even need to pay for nutrients! However, you will need access to a reasonably large plot of land hidden from the public eye.

Most of your outdoor growing costs will occur during the operation’s start-up.

If you own land already, that’s excellent news. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay to rent AND ensure the owner doesn’t mind having marijuana grown on their property. Also, if you have a large operation, you’ll have to hire a few employees. And, of course, it is necessary to invest in security measures to protect your crop from things like pests, bad weather, and thieves.

Quality of Cannabis Grown Indoors vs. Outdoors

Indoor Growing

The quality of cannabis grown indoors has improved exponentially due to technological advances and a vast amount of readily available information online. Producing optimal growing conditions indoors means you can achieve the best possible results.

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As long as you keep your growing environment secure and sterile, indoor cannabis avoids the issues faced by its outdoor counterpart, including wind and rain.

As a result, the buds remain in almost perfect condition throughout the growing process and only begin to degrade after harvesting. Because you are only dealing with a few plants, it is easy to harvest when they are in peak condition. The same holds true when drying and curing a small crop.

Outdoor Growing

Outdoor cannabis plants are at the mercy of their natural environment. As a consequence, they will probably lack the perfect appearance of indoor-grown marijuana. However, when grown in nutrient-rich soil outdoors, they should boast a superior flavor and scent profile.

Even today, outdoor cannabis farms in states where it is legal to grow marijuana still have to worry about being arrested by federal law enforcement.

In states where outdoor growing is illegal, growers take enormous risks. The fear of being caught means outdoor cannabis is often harvested at the wrong time while curing and drying are close to non-existent.

Final Thoughts on Growing Marijuana Indoors vs. Outdoor

All in all, there is no single correct answer to the question, “Is it better to grow marijuana indoors or outdoors?’ You need to ask yourself which one is best and most convenient for you. If you live in a suitable climate and have access to well-secured land, you should consider growing outdoors. Your start-up costs will be a lot less, and you’ll enjoy organically-grown marijuana once it is harvested.

If you live in an unsuitable climate for growing marijuana, you have little choice but to grow it indoors.

If you live in an unsuitable climate for growing marijuana, you have little choice but to grow it indoors. The downsides of indoor growing include incredibly high start-up costs and lots of maintenance. On the plus side, you can grow several batches of crops per year. Once you get used to indoor farming, you’ll find that it is much easier than you initially imagined.

Today, there has been an increase in commercial greenhouse farming, as it strikes a balance between indoor and outdoor growing. To date, cannabis grown in this manner has produced high-quality results, which is an exciting development. Above all, it is crucial that you continue to educate yourself if you wish to grow marijuana. Ultimately, the more you learn – and the more you grow – the better the results will become.

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