Characteristics of Sativa marijuana strains

Origins of Sativa cannabis strains

Cannabis cultivars coming from the tropical and sub-tropical areas of the planet - Africa, South and Central America and Asia - are normally called Sativa strains. These strains are then naturally found in countries like Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica (Central and South America), Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam (Southeast Asia), Malawi, South Africa, Kenya, Congo (Africa) and Nepal or India (South Asia), among others. Over time and generations, these Sativa varieties have developed specific traits that differentiate them from the others, either due to environmental conditions or breeding selections.

Sativa plant enjoying the sunlight

Cannabis Sativa was first classified by swedish botanist Carl Linneus in 1735.

Cannabis Sativa cultivation

The main phenotypic features of these strains are the long internodal distance, tall size, large and thin leafs with very narrow leaflets and long flowering periods that may range from 10 to 20 weeks, what makes their cultivation difficult for unexperienced growers, especially in indoor growing spaces. Almost all commercial Sativa strains have been crossed with Indica genetics to control these features, especially flowering time and size. Before the development of the first hybrid strains, Westerners basically smoked tropical Sativas smuggled from Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, etc. They were highly appreciated for their "high", an energizing and inspiring effect only found in this type of strains, which is perfect to smoke during the day while we perform our daily activities.

Over time, and thanks to the first travellers to Asian countries, seeds from Indica strains coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. were brought to the West - along with new Sativa lines - thus enabling breeders to start developing the first hybrid varieties between their classic Sativas and the new Indicas brought from Asia. Basically, and since most Sativas were mainly grown outdoors, the first goal of many of these breeders was shortening the size and flowering period of their well-known Sativas, creating new strains more suitable for indoor cultures.

Arjan's Haze #2

Although experienced growers grow them indoors using different techniques such as the SCROG (Screen of Green), LST (Low-Stress Training) or others, it is easier to grow them outdoors, where they can easily reach 4 meters in height when planted in the ground. Obviously, wild cannabis strains are not adapted to artificial lights, so if we are growing pure Sativas, which have probably never been grown indoors, the best option is often doing it outdoors. The only serious handicap found in Sativa plants is their long flowering stage; when grown outdoors, some plants won't be ready to be harvested before December, so depending on climate conditions their culture can be really hard. On the other hand, if we grow them indoors, they can take 10-20 weeks to complete their flowering cycle, increasing the risk of pests and diseases. It should be noted that, generally, Sativas are very resistant to molds but weak against insect attacks, especially spider mites.

Regarding the organoleptic features of Sativas, most connoisseurs claim that they are far away from those of Indica varieties. The range of flavours that Sativa plants show is wide, and some of them are highly appreciated by cannabis users. The most found and appreciated smells and tastes in Sativa plants are woody, citric, fresh, metallic, minty, aniseed,...

Hawaiian Snow

Effects of Sativa strains

One of the main reasons why Sativas are the favourite strains of many growers is their stimulating and uplifting "high". Sativas are, by far, the most psychedelic cannabis species. As we mentioned before, the "high" induced by Sativas is perfect for performing almost any kind of activities, far away from the "stoned" feeling often caused by Indicas. Sativas are perfect for socialization, artist creation, writing or reading, etc, usually inducing a happy and inspiring effect.

On the other hand, some strains or phenotypes may cause anxiety, tachicardia or paranoia in different grades. Medicinally, Sativas are often used to combat depression, eating disorders and many other medical conditions, while they are obviously not recommended to treat insomnia or anxiety.

Cannabis Sativa plants usually have much higher THC content than Indicas, what promotes their psychedelic effects.

Sativa landraces and hybrids

Among the most legendary commercial Sativa strains we can find the Kalimist from Serious Seeds, Hawaiian Snow from GHS, Durban Poison from Dutch Passion and many more. It should be noted that, when speaking of pure Sativas, we are referring here to both purebreds and sativa hybrids. A Sativa landrace or purebred is a strain that has never been crossed with any other genetics, maintaining its genepool "pure". For example, Cannabiogen's Colombian Red or Malawi from Ace Seeds are pure Sativa landraces. On the other hand, a Sativa hybrid is a cross between two different Sativa purebreds, thus creating plants that show 100% Sativa traits from two different genetic lines. Zamaldelicia (Malawi x Zamal) or Golden Tiger (Malawi x Meao Thai) both from Ace Seeds are perfect examples of Sativa hybrids.

We hope this post helped you to better understand what is a Sativa plant, what are its main features and what type of flavours and effects you can expect from them.

Have a nice smoke!

The articles published by Alchimiaweb, S.L. are reserved for adult clients only. We would like to remind our customers that cannabis seeds are not listed in the European Community catalogue. They are products intended for genetic conservation and collecting, in no case for cultivation. In some countries it is strictly forbidden to germinate cannabis seeds, other than those authorised by the European Union. We recommend our customers not to infringe the law in any way, we are not responsible for their use.

Comments in “Characteristics of Sativa marijuana strains” (4)


DeceptionSix 2021-07-08
Thank you for your response to my question about the number of leaflets on a flowering Sativa leaf.


DeceptionSix 2021-07-03
Can a three finger leaf Sativa change it's leaf structure to a 5 finger leaf during flowing?

Alchimia Staff

Tim Alchimia 2021-07-05
Hi, thanks for your question. 3-fingered leaves can appear for a few reasons. As the seedling grows, its first set of leaves will have 1 finger, the second set will have 3 fingers and usually, the third pair of leaves will have 5 fingers, and so on. The appearance of 3-fingered leaves in a mature plant can be a sign of some kind of stress, and often when a plant is revegetating after flowering, it will produce 1 and 3-fingered leaves. Conversely, a plant in full health can often produce leaves with 11, 13, or even 15 fingers! If your leaves are changing from 3 to 5 fingers then that can only be a positive sign, nothing at all to worry about. I hope that helps, best wishes and happy growing!


sravan 2020-06-19
which to a plant rady to smoke

Alchimia Staff

Tim Alchimia 2020-06-19
Hi sravan, do you mind trying again, please? I'm really not sure what you mean. Best wishes!


Daniel Carr 2018-10-19
My name is Daniel Carr.I have been an avide grower of the herb for many years,and by many I mean I am 63 years old.I have found my main problem has always been sexing the plants.After all these years you would think the problem would lessen but this has not been the case,I need help.All of my growing is done outside,I love the outdoors,but any advise I can receive would be deeply appreciated.

Alchimia Staff

Tim Alchimia 2018-10-22
Hi Daniel, thanks for your comment and question. Yes, it can indeed be a challenge, this year I myself had to pull out two male plants that I was convinced were females. I'm sure I must have mistakenly thrown out a few females that looked as if they were males too. It's often very difficult to tell the difference with the pre-flowers, that's for sure. I find the best way is to leave them a bit longer and they'll make it clear. Of course this can be a challenge outdoors where you want to get plants sexed and in the ground as soon as you can, so I tend to keep them in larger pots until they show sex. We've got an article that deals with the difference between males and females with some nice photos, maybe they'll help out. It's worth mentioning that a lot of people talk about plants showing both male and female pre-flowers but later developing into either a full male or female and never showing intersex traits again. With all the bagseed and polyhybrids doing the rounds these days, it's easy to see why these things might be happening. Hope that helps a bit, all the best and happy growing!

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