Indoor vs. Outdoor vs. Greenhouse Cannabis Cultivation

By Kent Gruetzmacher
Published: December 2, 2019 | Last updated: May 11, 2021 07:27:02
Key Takeaways

There are three main options when it comes to cannabis grow operations, but how do you know which best fits your personality and resources? In this article, Kent Gruetzmacher explains the pros and cons of indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse set-ups to help you figure it out.

Growers have more options than ever when it comes to planning cannabis garden operations. Yet, the overabundance of cannabis-centric information and opinions on the web can leave these same growers guessing which cultivation practice—indoor, outdoor, or greenhouse—is best for them.


In making the important choice between indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse gardening, there are many variables that can influence the decision. As such, growers should weigh their personal preferences against objective factors. This decision-making process is a bit about personality, a bit about necessity, and a bit about knowing the methods touted by industry experts aren’t the best fit for everyone.

Indoor Cannabis Growing

If considering setting up an indoor cannabis garden, it is important to evaluate your interests and skills as well as your available set-up. For starters, it’s vital to understand that the most successful indoor growers are those who continuously troubleshoot their operations. This process requires a level of handiness. So, if you are considering growing indoors, you should think about your ability and willingness to work on your growroom, not just your plants.


Unlike outdoor growing, success cultivating cannabis indoors largely hinges on the creation of optimal plant growth environments.

From the initial planning stages through each harvest, good indoor gardeners continuously tweak their growrooms and equipment to ensure a proper balance of lighting, airflow, temperature, and humidity. Moreover, indoor grow equipment is prone to failure and malfunction, and being able to fix these issues on the spot is key. Therefore, a solid understanding of electrical and construction planning is an excellent knowledge base for successful indoor cannabis growing. After all, this self-sufficiency is consistently put to the test with such issues as power outages and seasonal growroom alterations.

Indoor growing also appeals to those who have a certain affinity for modern technology. Smart growroom equipment is taking the cannabis industry by storm. Not only can lighting, air conditioning, exhaust, and CO2 be monitored by smart controllers with digital readouts, they can be controlled via cloud-based technology on smart phones. Similarly, due to the infrastructure protection afforded by indoor growing, gardeners have a plethora of options with automated irrigation and hydroponics. Therefore, indoor growing practice is perhaps the best fit for tech-savvy individuals who enjoy high-tech gadgetry.


The objective constraints that arise in deciding if you should setup an indoor grow operation have largely to do with available infrastructure. Above all, you want your garden to be safe and functional. Therefore, how much space you have available, as well as the size of garden you are planning, are essential variables in this planning process.

To illustrate, if you are interested in designing an indoor grow of about 10,000 watts, some real issues arise with available space and electrical output. Also, most residential electrical panels are not wired to handle the demands of a 10-light garden. Therefore, you can look to your set-up options and weigh them against your interests when deciding whether an indoor garden operation is right for you.


Outdoor Cannabis Growing

If you enjoy working outside in the fresh air and sunshine, outdoor growing could be a great fit for you. The best outdoor growers generally feel a connection with the rhythms of nature. This method is also a great option for those interested in sustainable cultivation practices. However, with a lack of environmental control, outdoor cultivators enjoy far less flexibility than their indoor counterparts. So, if you are considering setting up an outdoor garden, be prepared that your summer and fall plans will be entirely dictated by the grow. The most talented outdoor cannabis growers are fully dedicated to their plants for the duration of a six-month season, often longer. For some, this can even mean making gardening their primary focus and living at their grow operations for extended periods of time. If this sort of pioneering, nature-centered lifestyle sounds appealing to you, it could be worthwhile giving outdoor growing some consideration.

Read also: How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors in Raised Gardens

On another note, finding a suitable location for a cannabis garden can prove to be a serious challenge due to the open-air nature of outdoor cultivation. Full-sun cultivators have huge concerns with climate. Cannabis plants love sunny and dry climates, which is a large reason why the regions of California and Southern Oregon are so celebrated for their quality outdoor flowers. Outdoor cultivators also need to be concerned about privacy, security, and the law. Even in cannabis-friendly regions, it is not unusual for local municipalities to ban outdoor cannabis growing entirely, usually having to do with stigmas surrounding “criminal activity” and nuisance issues with smell.

All things considered, the planning of an outdoor cannabis garden requires careful examination of several factors, spanning from personality and commitment to climate and legal characteristics of a given area.

Greenhouse Cannabis Growing

Greenhouse growing allows cultivators to fuse indoor and outdoor growing into a single practice. Greenhouse growing implements some of the technological perks of indoor while simultaneously harnessing the sun’s power. As it appeals to such a wide demographic of horticulturists, greenhouse use has exploded in popularity over the past decade. It’s especially popular with those that appreciate its sustainability, functionality, and versatility. Moreover, many of the personality traits essential in indoor growing—such as handiness—absolutely apply in greenhouse cultivation, and these operations also present many of the challenges presented by outdoor growing.

Greenhouse growing is probably the most difficult practice of the three featured in this article. To be a truly successful greenhouse cannabis grower, you need to understand the fundamentals of both indoor and outdoor cultivation. You must maintain a controlled cultivation environment that fluctuates greatly with the demands of the outdoors. Therefore, like outdoor growers, you must be on site daily to take care of plants as well as infrastructural tweaks that must be made with shifts in the outdoor climate. Depending on the technological sophistication of the operation in question, these alterations must either be done manually or through an environmental control system.

Read also: Rise and Shine: Why More Cannabis Greenhouses are Cropping Up

Still, greenhouse cultivation is incredibly versatile. This is especially noteworthy in regions that have climates unfavorable for outdoor growing as greenhouses can protect crops from the weather while still using the sun as the primary light source.

Finally, of the three featured horticultural methods in this article, greenhouse grows fall in the middle-of-the-road concerning overhead costs. Obviously, growing outdoors is the most affordable method of cannabis cultivation due to its few equipment needs and no electrical costs. Conversely, indoor grows are notoriously expensive to both set up and operate, with overhead running into the tens-of-thousands of dollars for modest-sized operations. Greenhouse operations utilize the best of both worlds, harnessing the power of the sun while providing some of the environmental protections seen with indoor growing. Therefore, greenhouse-grown cannabis now rivals indoor bud in quality but comes with drastically reduced production costs.

There are virtually endless variables that arise when deciding what cannabis grow operation best suits your needs. Indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse growing all have their appeals and challenges. It is important to take your personality and interests into account as certain cannabis cultivation projects can be extremely time consuming and demanding. Finally, objective constraints such as infrastructure, privacy, weather, and cost should be considered when developing a game plan for cannabis growing. Taking a realistic appraisal of your abilities and set-up will be rewarding in the end. After all, cannabis cultivation should be both enjoyable and relaxing.


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Written by Kent Gruetzmacher | Writer, Owner of KCG Content

Profile Picture of Kent Gruetzmacher

Kent Gruetzmacher MFA is a Colorado-based writer and owner of the writing and marketing firm KCG Content. Kent has been working in the cannabis and hydroponics space for over a decade. Beginning in California in 2009, he has held positions in cultivation, operations, marketing, and business development. Looking specifically to writing, Kent has worked with many of the leading publications and marketing agencies in the cannabis space. His writing has been recognized by such icons as Steve D’Angelo and Rick Simpson.

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