What is a Cannabis Cultivar?

The world of cannabis has seen a lot of growth (pun intended) in recent years. Because of this rapid growth, there can be a lot of confusion around using certain terms when referring to cannabis products, the growing process, and more. More specifically, we’ll be talking about two words used interchangeably to describe different types of cannabis: “cultivars” and strains.” 

At Dreamz, you’ll notice that we prefer to use the term “cultivar,” and there’s a reason for that! In this blog post, we’ll dive into exactly what a cultivar is, explain the difference between a strain and a cultivar, why we use the word “cultivar” when referring to cannabis, and how different cultivars are grown. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of this piece of cannabis terminology and be able to better understand the science behind your favorite flower.

What are Cannabis Cultivars?

The term “cultivar” comes from a combination of the words “cultivated” and “variety,” which refers to a plant variety that has been selectively bred for specific characteristics. In terms of cannabis, cultivars are unique plant varieties that have been developed through careful selection and breeding of preferred plants to create a new variety with specific desired traits. Most cultivars are unique in some way from other cultivars, such as having a unique cannabinoid profile, having different flavors, or exhibiting different growth patterns.

“Cultivars” Versus “Strains”

The terms “cultivar” and “strain” are often used interchangeably in the cannabis industry, but they aren’t synonyms. “Strain” is a term used to describe a type of microorganism; think of bacteria, fungi, or viruses. “Cultivar” is the term used to describe different plant varieties with specific genetic traits. While the term “strain” is commonly used in the cannabis industry, it’s actually not an accurate way to describe the different types of cannabis plants out there.

Why “Cultivar” is the Proper Term

By using the term “cultivar” instead of calling cannabis varieties “strains,” we address the plant-based nature of cannabis and its rich history of selective breeding. “Cultivar” acknowledges that cultivated cannabis varieties happen intentionally through carefully selecting and breeding plants.

“Cultivar” is also the most accurate term to describe the diversification of cannabis plants. It implies that different types of cannabis have come from cultivation practices rather than from natural circumstances. It accurately describes the human intervention involved in creating plants with specific characteristics.

How Cannabis Cultivars Are Grown

Cultivars are created through selective breeding in which a grower breeds two cannabis plants with desirable traits together to create a new kind of cannabis plant. For example, let’s say a grower has one cultivar with a wonderful citrusy flavor and another plant that is super resistant to certain pests that may affect other cannabis plants. An experienced grower can breed these two cultivars to ideally combine these traits, creating a new cultivar that is citrusy and pest-resistant. The process of creating cultivars is a lot more complicated than this example, but this is, in simple terms, why cultivars are created.

Cultivar creation is rooted in experimentation and testing, which means some cannabis cultivars may work out better than others. Creating cultivars isn’t easy, either. Getting your new plant to grow isn’t even half the battle. It can take rounds and rounds of breeding, growing, and harvesting the new cultivar to get it to a point where it is stable, reliable, and able to produce consistent harvests. It’s a labor of love!

Once a cultivar has been created, there are a lot of other elements that go into growing these cultivars and ensuring they thrive.

  1. Lighting: Just like any other plant, cannabis requires light to grow. In indoor grow facilities, growers can manipulate how much light and what kind of light their plants are getting and therefore alter the way they grow. Depending on the lighting, growers can drastically change the traits and yield of their plants.
  2. Temperature and humidity: Cannabis plants thrive in specific temperature and humidity ranges, which can vary depending on the cultivar. Typically, cannabis plants need higher humidity during their vegetative stage and lower humidity during flowering, but alterations to this can result in different effects on the plants.
  3. Nutrients: Cannabis plants require a few essential nutrients to grow properly and yield a desirable amount of buds upon harvest. Things like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium all play a vital role in keeping cannabis growing. Different cultivars, however, can require different nutrient levels and mixes to grow to their full potential.
  4. Plant training and pruning: different cultivars need different treatments when it comes to encouraging proper growth. From topping plants to using low or high-stress training, some cultivars may respond better to some training methods over others.
  5. Pest and disease management: Managing pests and diseases within a grow is extremely important to keep the plants and their growing area healthy. Now that cannabis cultivation has gotten more advanced, some cultivars are bred to withstand pests and diseases to further avoid the issue altogether.


If you start seeing the word “cultivar” popping up to describe the cannabis products you’re buying, there’s a good reason why! As growing becomes more and more of an art and a science, using proper terminology to acknowledge that will continue to be important. Using the right words is kind of like a way to show respect for the people who put so much work into creating your favorite cultivars. 

If you’re interested in learning more about cultivars, you can reach out to us on our contact page or visit a Dreamz near you. Shop our selection of cultivars online and see all of the products we carry, and check out our blog page to learn more about cannabis!