How to Determine the Sex of Your Cannabis Plant

The complete guide


If you know anything at all about growing marijuana, you will know that there is a crucial difference between male and female plants.

Female plants are responsible for producing the cannabinoid-laden buds that are prized by pot-lovers around the world. Male plants, on the other hand, are less useful to the majority of growers. In fact, unless you are explicitly trying to breed cannabis, you will want to remove any male plants from your garden as soon as possible.

So, how do you determine the sex of your cannabis plants? And why do you need to know? Let’s take a closer look.

Why You Need to Know the Sex of Your Cannabis Plant

Many plants are monoecious, meaning that each plant displays both male and female sexual characteristics. However, cannabis is dioecious, meaning that it has separate male and female plants.

Much like humans, these plants contain X and Y chromosomes which determine how they will develop when they reach maturity. Female plants contain two X chromosomes, while male plants contain one X and one Y.

If you buy regular marijuana seeds, you will likely find that 50% grow into female plants while 50% grow into males. This is a problem for two different reasons.

Firstly, male plants produce far less in the way of THC and CBD when compared to their sisters. This means that if half of your crop turns out to be male, you will have effectively wasted half of your effort, time, and money.

Secondly, if you do not remove the male plants from your garden in time, they can pollinate the female plants. When a female weed plant gets pollinated, she dedicates all of her energy to producing seeds. This means that your harvest will become less potent and also more difficult to smoke.

The best quality marijuana is sometimes known as ‘sinsemilla.’ This word is derived from Spanish and means ‘without seeds.’ Weed that has not been fertilized is stronger as it uses all of its resources to produce sticky trichomes rather than seeds.

Trichomes are the tiny crystals which you can see coating a highly potent bud. These are resinous glands which produce THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids and terpenes. For obvious reasons, the more of these that you can pack into your weed, the more effective it is likely to be.

So, if you find a male cannabis plant in your grow room, you will want to remove it as soon as possible. Alternatively, if you are serious about cultivating the best possible bud, consider buying feminized seeds or taking a cutting from a well-established, female plant.

How to Tell the Sex of Your Cannabis Plant

Fortunately, it is fairly easy to tell the difference between male and female cannabis plants. One option is to buy a genetic testing kit which identifies whether your plant has XX or XY chromosomes. However, these kits are unnecessary if you know what to look out for.

Generally speaking, cannabis plants begin flowering when they receive 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light. At this stage, you can start to identify any males that may be growing in your garden.

Once your plants reach the flowering stage, look carefully at the ‘V’ shaped nodes where the branches meet with the main stem. These nodes are where the flowers begin to appear, and males tend to flower up to a month earlier than females.

By flowering first, the male plants have ample opportunity to prepare their pollen ready for when the females become mature. They produce this pollen inside small flowers which look like tight clusters of balls.

Over time, these little balls open out into what some say resembles a small bunch of bananas. This reveals the male reproductive organ, known as the stamen. At this stage, the flowers release their pollen into the air, ready to fertilize any females in the area.

Female cannabis flowers have a very different appearance. Rather than little balls, they resemble long, wispy hairs which reach out to the wind in search of pollen. Remember, your cannabis plants have an innate desire to reproduce, even if this is not what you want as a grower.

These ‘hairs’ are known as stigmas, and they are attached to a part of the plant called the pistil. Together, these make up the female cannabis plant’s reproductive organs.

When they first start appearing at the nodes, these stigmas will be white. However, over time, they change color to become yellow, orange, red, or brown. Along with the trichomes becoming milky white, this change of color is a sure sign that your crop is ready for harvest.

In addition to the different appearances of their flowers, there are a couple of other ways to distinguish between male and female marijuana plants. Males tend to grow taller and straighter than females, and most of their flowers will be toward the top of the plant.

What About Hermaphrodites?

In some cases, a weed plant can become hermaphroditic, meaning that it develops both male and female sexual characteristics.

This usually happens as a response to environmental stress. The plant senses that it may die before it has an opportunity to reproduce, and takes matters into its own hands.

From an evolutionary viewpoint, this makes perfect sense. However, if you are trying to grow some potent sinsemilla bud, hermaphrodites could spell trouble for your crop. Your plants could begin to self-pollinate and produce seeds, despite all being female in the beginning.

To prevent this situation, you need to keep your growing environment healthy and stable. Some of the key reasons why hermaphrodites develop include:

  • Sudden temperature changes
  • Sudden changes to the light cycle
  • Drought
  • Physical damage
  • Pests or disease
  • Overuse of pesticides
  • Over or underuse of nutrients

In addition to avoiding the above, choose plants with high-quality genetics and always buy seeds from a reputable source. Doing this should reduce the risk of hermaphrodites appearing and potentially ruining all your hard work.

Uses for Male Cannabis Plants

Many people believe that male or hermaphrodite weed plants are entirely useless. However, this is not necessarily the case. Although you will want to remove them from your grow room as soon as you find them, there is no need to condemn these plants to the bin.

Although male plants produce fewer trichomes than females, they do develop a scattering of these resin glands on their leaves. In fact, some research has shown that during the vegetative stage, male plants may contain more cannabinoids in their leaves and stems than females.

So, when you remove your male marijuana plants from your garden, put them to good use rather than throwing them away. Some of our favorite uses for male cannabis plants include:

Making Concentrates

In many hash-producing countries such as Morocco and Lebanon, both male and female plants are utilized for this purpose. Some of the easiest concentrates to make at home include dry sift hash and cannabis oil.

Infusing into Cannabutter

Cannabutter or infused coconut oil can be used to create your favorite edibles. Just remember to decarboxylate your weed first for maximum potency.

Blending into Smoothies and Juices

Raw weed contains THCA rather than THC and, therefore, will not get you high. However, it may still provide a host of other health benefits from its cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

Growing Alongside Other Plants

Cannabis makes a wonderful companion plant if you enjoy growing other types of fruit and vegetables. The high concentration of terpenes in its leaves helps to discourage pests, and it also helps to suppress other, unwanted weeds.

Breeding

Finally, if you find an exceptionally healthy and vigorous male plant, you may want to try your hand at breeding. By selectively fertilizing your plants, you could allow nature to take its course and possibly create your own, brand new strain in the process. Check out our in-depth guide to cross breeding cannabis plants to find out more.

How to Determine the Sex of Your Cannabis Plant: Final Thoughts

If you are new to the world of growing weed, you must know how to determine the sex of your cannabis plants. A rogue male or hermaphrodite could pollinate your female plants and potentially ruin the quality of your crop.

However, there is no need to let half of your precious harvest go completely to waste. There are plenty of different uses for cannabis plants, regardless of their sex. Although males may not be as potent as females, they do still contain a variety of beneficial compounds.

So, if you find a male cannabis plant in your garden, don’t despair. Get creative, and you may open the door to a whole world of new and exciting ways to use your weed.

Are you wondering about the legalities of growing cannabis? Check out our state by state guide.

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