The precise number of cannabis strains in the world is unknown. It is a number certain to increase exponentially in the next decade or so, now that medical marijuana is legal in two-thirds of American states and is fully legal in Canada and a lot of other countries.
Even during a pandemic, there is a virtually unlimited supply of new strain options. Even though there are likely thousands of cannabis strains, people still want more. Breeders are complying with dozens of new strains popularized annually. First, let’s take a quick look at how breeders find strains to crossbreed in the first place.
The Art of Breeding Cannabis
If you care about your strain and its lineage, then you need to also know about how the world is gifted with these delicious beauties. Delicious fruity strains like Tropicana Cookies and Zkittlz don’t just naturally appear in grow rooms, nor do the just fall from the heavens, as much as we wish they did.
Nope, in reality new and exciting marijuana flowers are the results of endless hours of hard work and creativity from breeders, growers, and harvesters. The process to creating a unique tasting and smelling strain can be summarized by combining two similar plants that have characteristics you’d like to combine. This all occurs during the breeding process and is the starting point for many of they hyped strains of 2020.
In general, there are two types of crossbreeding:
- Inbreeding: Involves crossing females and males of the same strain. The goal is to create seeds that closely replicate the parent plants.
- Outbreeding: This process involves growing male and female plants of different strains. You place them in a room during the flowering stage to create seeds. It is a process that has hugely varied results.
When breeding, your first step is to buy seeds from reputable seed banks. In theory, you can cross practically any two cannabis strains. However, the results are unpredictable in the main. For example, there is no guarantee that two top-shelf strains will create a masterpiece.
Dominant & Recessive Traits
After crossing the first batch of seeds, you end up with new seeds. Each one contains different genetics. Even though they come from the same parents, they develop unique phenotypes. Experienced breeders know how to find desirable traits in the next generation of seeds.
A ‘dominant’ trait is expressed often across your plants. A ‘recessive’ trait is not. Experts recommend using a ‘Punnett Square’ to track recessive and dominant traits when breeding. Anyone who took science class probably will remember at least a chapter on Gregor Mendel, the “father of genetics” who was also a monk and discovered genetic trains via cross breeding pea flowers.
In terms of growing cannabis, particularly high-end strains, some of the most desirable traits include:
- Yield: Who doesn’t want a massive amount of buds with every harvest!
- Potency: Likewise, many breeders want extremely high THC contents. It is becoming standard to see strains with 25+% THC.
- Short Flowering Period: These plants mature faster, so you can finish the process early. You can harvest strains with a flowering time of fewer than eight weeks 3-4 times a year if you grow indoors.
- Size: In general, breeders want small plants because they are easy to manage in a tiny indoor grow.
- Durability: Certain strains excel in resisting pests and mold disease. These ‘tough’ plants require a lower level of maintenance than their delicate counterparts.
- Flavor: You can grow sweet weed like Game Changer or something savory like Cheese.
When a suitable phenotype is found, the next step is to stabilize its genetics. One popular tactic is to use pollen from its parent to fertilize it. Next, grow the new batch of seeds and pick the phenotype you desire. Then you backcross it using its parent’s pollen. This process stabilizes the genetic traits. When you do it enough times, you end up with ‘homozygous’ seeds. At this stage, you will see minimal variations in genetics.
For some of you all of this breeding and genetics talk is an easy way to be put to sleep. However, if you find this type of information interesting, we highly encourage you to dig in deeper. There are some great resources out there, one of the most comprehensive being “The Cannabis Grow Bible” which is both a best seller on Amazon as well as one of the few guides that is regularly updated (already on it’s 3rd edition) so that it remains as up-to-date with breeding techniques as possible.
Also, if you’re getting into growing your own marijuana for home/personal use, we have a few other resources that might be useful to you, including:
- 10 (GOOD!) Reasons You Should Grow Your Own Supply of Cannabis
- How to Get Started Growing Cannabis at Home
- Seedsman Seeds: Largest Online Cannabis Seed Store
- Grow at Home Kits: Everything You Need to Know About Smart Grow Boxes
- Best of SuperCloset: Award Winning Home Grow Solutions
7 Best Strains of 2020
Now that we have a bit more appreciation of what goes into making a strain, let’s have a look at some of the best strains so far for this year. (Make sure to read to the end because we have a special favor to ask of you if you don’t see your favorite strain in this list.)
Gorilla Glue (also referred to as GG4 or GG#4)
One of the most popular seed strains in 2019 – The modern Gorilla Glue strain is an American multi-generation hybrid and one of the best cannabis seed strains to buy online. In terms of potency, it’s just as strong as its namesake, with THC levels of up to 30 percent. It takes some skill to grow it at that level, but even if you miss the mark, you can see levels around 22-25%. When it comes to high THC seeds, these are some of the best for inexperienced growers and old hands alike.
Even though the THC is crazy high, this strain won’t keep you couch-locked all night. You’re not necessarily going to be dancing around either, but you’ll get a strong sense of clear-headed euphoria. This strain can also be used medicinally, and it’s great for relieving stress, pain, and anxiety while keeping you functional.
Girl Scout Cookies (aka GSC)
Originating in Northern California, the Cannabis Cup-winning Girl Scout Cookies has become one of the best and most popular seed strains among cannabis growers, with a combination of top flavor and potency. It’s also a favorite starting point for blending new strains.
The name of this Indica-dominant strain is no exaggeration, as its flavor is truly reminiscent of a chocolaty, baked treat. In terms of consumption, this is a great strain to get started with. Whether you’re using it recreationally or medicinally, the experience is pleasant from start to finish. The effects you can expect include a fast-acting head high followed by a more well-rounded body buzz.
If you want to take it to the next level, Tropicana Cookies is a strain from Oni Seed Company that combines Girl Scout Cookies with Tangie to produce flower that is tropical fruity to the nose but sweet and cookie like in the draw. This strain regularly sells out at dispensaries from California to Oregon.
Wedding Cake (aka Birthday Cake Kush)
Wedding Cake is an uplifting Indica-dominant hybrid strain known for its relaxing and euphoric effects. Wedding cake is rich and tangy with earthy and peppery flavors. According to breeder Seed Junky Genetics, Wedding Cake, also known as Pink Cookies, is a phenotype of Triangle Mints.
This delectable treat of a strain should be enjoyed with a double dose of care due to its extremely high THC content. Whether used for recreational or medicinal purposes, Wedding Cake is high in THC potency, reaching levels of 25% at the upper end of its range. It’s great for aches and pains as well as regulating mood. Wedding cake is a
The effects of Harlequin are much simpler than most cannabis strains, providing light and a clear effect that produces small waves of energy and concentration, as well as fostering a creative and productive work ethic. Its psychoactive effects are not as powerful as most marijuana strains, mainly because of its high CBD content which is higher than its THC.
For this reason, although Harlequin is a Sativa, the CBD seems to balance any anxious or paranoid energy that is typically felt with sativas. Also, it can help the body relax and unwind, but will not make you fall asleep or drowsy. This makes it particularly popular with patients who need to be free from medical situations but who do not want to be dysfunctional throughout the day.
Harlequins reliable dosage of CBD makes this strain popular with those looking to medicate and ease inflammation and pain without getting to spacey in the head. A popular Harlequin derivative you may want to check out if you’re a fan is Harle-Tsu, which is another high-CBD hybrid strain that crosses Harlequin with Sour Tsunami for a sour pungent therapeutic flower.
Crossing cannabis plants from South Africa with the genetics derived from South India, South Plant is a cutting-edge Sativa strain that packs a punchy, cerebral high. Its breeders do not recommend South Plant for beginners; it is exceedingly potent and best enjoyed in small doses. Even so, South Plant is endorsed for its ability to focus attention and improve concentration while instilling a strong happy sensation.
South Plant is hard to get outside of South Africa, which adds to it’s exclusivity and desirability. One close strain that is available internationally is Power Plant, a strain derived from South African sativa strains like South Plant.
Gelato (also referred to as “Larry Bird”) is a tantalizing hybrid cannabis strain from Cookie Fam and Sherbinski, following in the footsteps of its parents Sunset Sherbet and Thin Mint GSC. This Bay Area, California native gets its name from the fruity, dessert-like aroma, a common genetic thread among the Cookie family.
Novice consumers may want to approach this THC powerhouse with caution, but those armed with a high tolerance will delight in Gelato’s heavy-handed euphoria. Physical relaxation comes on strong, but many find themselves still mentally agile enough to stay productive and creative when enjoying Gelato during the day.
Gelato has a few spin offs that are rising in popularity and while relatively new, are strains we expect to continue to become best sellers in 2021 and beyond. These include Gelato #33, Gelato #41, Larry Bird Kush, and Gelato Cake (Gelato + above mentioned Wedding Cake)
A hyped Cookies Family strain, Runtz is a cross of Zkittlez and Gelato that is rare and sought-after. Celebrated for its incredibly fruity profile that smells just like a bag of the sugary candy, the strain has resin-drenched buds that range in color from rich purple to lime green. Runtz is also noted for its creamy smoke that is smooth and welcoming alongside a euphoric and elevating high that lasts for hours.
Runtz is the star child of the day. The Justin Bieber of weed strains in 2020 we’d even say. This is because of its pristine lineage of two already ENORMOUSLY popular strains in Zkittlez (which is on this list) and Gelato (also on this list). It’s hard to find a strain with as much star power as Runtz. This popularity is already producing Runtz offshoots including White Runtz and Pink Runtz. We expect more flavors in coming years.
Often considered the “perfect strain of marijuana,” Jack Herer was originally cultivated as a medical marijuana strain. Today, this strain has medicinal properties that allow patients to heal from different physical and mental ailments. A combination of Haze Sativa, Northern Lights #5 Indica, and Shiva Skunk Indica, this plant is pine-scented.
“But Jack Herer was popular before 2020!” you may be shouting in your head as you read this. And that is true, Jack Herar has been popular for a long time, and continues to hold onto it’s star-glory year after year, and it is this lasting power that makes it a must-have for our list. Popular strains come and go but Jack Herer is always here, on the menu at your local dispensary, like a trusty best friend from high school you can always depend on when you need them most.
Consider growing this strain if you want tall plants with moderate levels of CBD (up to 0.2%) and high THC levels (up to 20%). These plants are disease-resistant and do well both indoors and outside.
Palm Tree CBD
Palm trees should make you think of relaxing on a tropical beach without a care in the world — and that’s what the strain Palm Tree CBD should do, too. Produced by Snoop Dogg’s cannabis company, Palm Tree CBD has only 4 to 13 percent THC and between 6 and 12 percent CBD, ensuring the effect of the strain is a feeling of the utmost serenity. This strain also tastes and smells like a tropical paradise, with powerful citrus flavors and aromas, so you will be utterly transported from your first encounter.
Palm Tree CBD is a growing trend by cultivars to not just focus on record setting THC levels but to focus on plants that have high levels of CBD, which make for some of the most well-rounded and therapeutic strains available, because hey, we’re not always looking to blast off to space and geek out every time we partake, right?
Dosido (aka Do-Si-Dos)
Last on our list but not the least of them all, Dosido is hailed as a very good variety of Indica weed strains, as it offers a soothing effect on those who smoke it. The THC content here varies between 23 to 30% which makes it quite potent. It lets you loosen up and relax and helps you feel calmer.
OG Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, and Face-Off OG are crossed to produce this very powerful strain of marijuana. At about $900 a pack of seeds, this is quite an expensive strain of weed but it does carry many benefits along with it. New variats include Dolato (Do-Si-Do + Gelato #41), High Five, and Citrus Rush.
Before you comment, YES WE KNOW this list is not comprehensive. But how can it be? When talking strains there are so many factors to take into account, not least of which include A) personal preference and B) new and novel strains.
Within months of publishing this roundup there will undoubtedly be whisperings of some new super sticky, super tasty strain that all the dispensaries will be clamoring to get their hands on, and we love that.
We also know that not all of the strains in this list will be everyone’s personal favorites, but again, we’re simply trying to give recognition to SOME of the biggest hitters of the years. Think about this list as the Pro Bowl in the NFL. Plenty of talent that doesn’t get nominated, and we’re not going to pretend the same type of politics that impact Pro Bowl selection don’t also exist within the cannabis industry (is your strain popular because of it’s effect, because of the growers reputation, or simply local hype).
That said, the goal of HerbCEO is to connect like minded cannabis lovers and entrepreneurs so if there is a strain that you feel is deserving of this list please add it to the comments section. We’ll treat our comments on this page like an addendum for those looking to discover some new, highly recommended and very much loved strains.