These tips and tricks will make the identification process a breeze…
As with most plants, animals, and other life forms, marijuana plants have distinct genders. They can have either male or female reproductive parts. In rare cases, you will find hermaphrodite plants. These are plants with male and female traits. In cannabis, it relates to plants that develop male and female flowers.
The sex of a crop does not always matter, but with marijuana grows, knowing the gender and the sex of your plant is vital to both growers and breeders. The type of weed is crucial to the quality and value of the end product. Seedless buds are worth more than lower-quality cannabis, for example.
Only the female marijuana crop is capable of producing potent buds. Additionally, it is useless to sell product from male plants, as they will not provide much of a high.
Unplanted, regular seeds will typically possess a 50/50 chance of producing a male or female plant. Most seed banks and companies offer genetically altered feminized seeds, which diminishes some of the risks of pollination if a male phenotype lacking resinous buds gets mixed in.
If a male plant sneaks into your cannabis garden, it can contaminate the healthy females and fertilize them. This is not good when you’ve dedicated so much time, money, and effort into the cultivating process. When a female plant is pollinated, it will start producing seeds rather than focusing its energy on growing robust flower.
By eliminating the issue early on and quickly removing a male from the garden, you can ensure that your result is healthy female plants.
Keep reading to discover how to differentiate between male and female plants.
What Does It Mean If a Cannabis Plant Is Female?
A female cannabis plant means you will have better nugs! If you intend to cultivate marijuana, the most likely goal is to produce usable, smokable, or sellable product in the end. Therefore, you only want the female plant.
This is why the production of feminized seeds has become such a big thing. Instead of leaving it to luck, you know the seeds you plant will produce female marijuana plants.
Regular seeds give you a 50% chance of either gender. If you plant ten seeds, for example, the laws of probability state that you may have five male plants. In this instance, you waste potentially half of your time and resources on male plants. This guide is for individuals who don’t want to pay extra for feminized seeds. Also, differentiating between male and female plants is a useful skill.
Feminized seeds don’t offer a 100% success guarantee, either. If you are growing cannabis outdoors, there is a chance that male pollen could float over and all but ruin your female crops.
Sex Determination of a Cannabis Plant Is One of the Most Important Things in Growing
As we said, this article is for those who grow cannabis plants from seeds they pulled from their nugs. You will also find this guide useful if you have random seeds that you know are not feminized.
The old saying goes that “there is no stigma on a female clone for plants that look like marijuana,” and this rings true even to this day.
When growing indoors, you can’t go wrong with clones if you want to avoid the male weed plant altogether. They’re a little more fragile than seedlings (mainly because they don’t produce a strong taproot). However, for efficiency and “ease-of-use,” they’re typically your best bet. As long as they’re appropriately rooted, clones are pretty hard to screw up.
Also, they make sexing cannabis – and knowing how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering – totally irrelevant. On the downside, clones are expensive. While there’s typically a big difference in cost for recreational or medical patients (MMJ cardholders usually get a 50% price reduction or thereabouts), you can expect to pay around $20-$30 for a single plant.
Is It Worth It? In Our Opinion, Definitely.
With a clone, you get to take a lot of guesswork out of the equation. As long as your growing operation is stable, you theoretically should know the exact type of yields you’ll get. Moreover, for one individual (unless you’re Snoop Dogg), a single plant will generally provide more than enough bud for a long, long time.
We’re fully aware that the majority of weed lovers in the U.S. don’t have access to a dispensary where they can buy a clone. Fortunately, many of the best grows in the world begin from seedlings. Please note that patience is essential when trying to identify male and female plants.
It takes years and years of experience. It is worth it because knowing what to look for in the pre-flower formation is often as important as merely removing males, in terms of overall yield quality.
Various Growing Stages of the Marijuana Crop
Marijuana has two primary growing stages; the vegetative stage and the flowering stage. The vegetative stage begins when the cannabis seed starts to sprout and grow. It lasts around six weeks. At that point, the plant displays signs of pre-flowering and will enter into the second (flowering) life stage.
Some individuals call the vegetative stage the “childhood” of the plant because the primary purpose of the crop during this time is to grow taller and stronger. It is not yet necessary for the crop to focus on yielding or flowering.
During the vegetative stage, it is incredibly challenging (if not impossible) to determine the gender of each plant. Therefore, a grower needs to wait until the signs of pre-flowering are visible, a sweet spot between the vegetative and flowering stages. Catching the males during this short period and separating them from the female crops could minimize many future problems.
Once the plant has gone through its childhood, it will then enter “adulthood,” otherwise known as the flowering stage. Now, the crop no longer focuses on getting any taller or thicker. Instead, its sole focus is to produce pistils and calyxes, otherwise known as buds. Male plants produce something called pollen sacs, which look like little peas and are easy to identify if you know what to look for.
How Can You Determine a Cannabis Plant’s Gender?
After the first six weeks, you will begin noticing little pre-flowers near the growth tips. They will either appear slightly pointed at the ends or more rounded. With some strains, it is more challenging to see a difference right away. A female plant will have a calyx – which is the slightly more pointed option. A male will have the aforementioned mini pollen sacs that are round or roughly oval.
If you cannot tell the difference yet, wait a few more days. If the green pre-flower grows a white hair, known as a pistil, it is female. Pistils are never green in color, so look for something light-colored and fuzzy.
Females typically take a bit longer to express their gender than the male cannabis plant does. As a result, be patient with your crops and regularly check them so you can manage any males in the bunch accordingly.
The male plant’s “little green balls” will continue to grow larger, filling up with more pollen until they eventually burst and leak pollen everywhere. You need to catch the male before this happens, as the spread of pollen will fertilize the females. At this point, their buds will stop developing.
Male vs. Female Marijuana Plants – A Quick Rundown
- Female crops have pointed green calyxes that sprout a white and wispy pistil – a hair-like part of the plant that grows from the calyx.
- Male crops have round, green pollen sacs that enlarge and don’t sprout a white, wispy pistil. Catch these sacs before they overfill with pollen, burst, and contaminate your crop!
In adverse situations (i.e., if the plants are stressed or hungry), portions of a crop can become hermaphroditic. This means they develop both male and female characteristics to self-pollinate and reproduce. It is not the end of the world for those that are growing for personal use because you can still produce buds. The downside is that you receive a far lower concentration of resin.
It is a potentially catastrophic situation for commercial growers, however, as hermaphrodites (or “herms,” as some people call them), are full of seeds and not sellable or desired. Just keep in mind that the male cannabis crop is not entirely useless; a fact we discuss in the next section.
What Can You Do with a Male Cannabis Plant?
Despite their reputation, a male crop is not as hopeless as many may think. Sure, these crops are not as potent as female crops in terms of their THC production, but they contain their fair share of cannabinoids. As some of the sugar leaves are slightly resinous, you can potentially enjoy a mild high too.
If you want an all-female crop, remove the male plants from the females once identified. Then, separate them to reduce the risk of contamination.
While some growers want to dump these plants, there are some non-bud related uses for the male cannabis plant. You can use the stems and water leaves for juicing and teas. It is also possible to process male plant parts into material for therapeutic creams and lotions.
If you do not feel inclined to produce anything with the male plants, the easiest option is to compost the remains. This reduces waste production, is more environmentally friendly, and potentially provides nutrition for your future crops.
Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants and How to Detect Them
From left to right: Male, Female, and Hermie
Until now, we have not talked much about hermaphrodite cannabis plants in our little “plant sex” discussion. A hermaphrodite is a plant that has both male and female reproductive parts. An example is a female marijuana plant that can produce both flowering buds and male pollen sacs. Hermaphrodites are just as “dangerous” as male plants because they can pollinate an entire female crop.
What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is that these unique plants only become hermaphroditic when exposed to unusual stress or damage. There are loads of different ways that an otherwise healthy female weed plant can grow stressed or damaged.
Excess heat, for example (i.e., prolonged temperatures above 88 degrees Fahrenheit) can undoubtedly cause a plant to become stressed. So can excess cold (i.e. prolonged temperatures below about 55 degrees) and “light leaks” that expose plants to excessive levels of light energy.
Physical damage can also cause a female plant to develop male characteristics. Examples include exposure to high winds and breaking a limb off. You can add intruders such as dogs, deer, and other animals to the list of dangers. Even excess amounts of rain can cause marijuana plants to become hermaphroditic.
Over-saturation is one of the leading causes of female and male crop failure among all levels of growers. It can lead to root disease. Make sure you only water your plants when necessary, and remove any stressed plants you find. Check the drainage of your growing medium, and that the plant’s container has ample holes in it.
Two Types of Hermaphrodite Plants
There are plants that develop both flowering buds and male pollen sacs, and those that produce anthers, otherwise known as “bananas.”
While both of these varieties can release pollen and potentially fertilize an entire female crop, they differ in the way that they form and store the pollen. True hermaphrodites will grow actual pollen sacs (just like mature male marijuana plants). Antler-producing “herms” will produce what is essentially a pollen-producing stamen.
Lastly, it’s important to point out that some low-quality marijuana strains will “herm out,” no matter how much care and love you put into them. This is usually down to poor genetics, so don’t get too upset with yourself if it happens.
Male pollination is no joke! A single pollen sac is incredibly potent, and can potentially pollinate dozens of females from hundreds of feet away. In other words, hermaphrodite plants won’t affect portions of your garden; they will pollinate the whole darn thing.
What Happens When You DON’T Know How to Tell If a Marijuana Plant Is Male or Female
Before we conclude, we have to include a quick story of a good friend of ours that recently carried out his first grow. He was a total rookie and came to us with all the basic “first-timer” questions:
- “How long does it take to get the buds?”
- “How much weed will I get?”
- “Can I smoke it straight off the plant?”
Anyway, after spending almost a month setting up his operation, he was ready to get started. He chose a lovely spot for an indoor grow, a nice walk-in closet (probably about 8 ft x 4 ft) that was easily sealed off from all external light sources. He even went to the trouble of “foiling out” the inside walls and installing an external ventilation fan to keep the temperature and humidity at optimal levels.
The first few weeks went perfectly, and he kept the seedlings in their vegetative state for almost an entire month (he was growing four plants in total). Finally, after several painstaking weeks of relentless love and care, he invited us for the “pleasurable chore” of helping him trim the buds. He was disappointed that one plant “didn’t produce any flowers at all.”
‘Oh no,’ we thought.
Sure enough, as soon as we got there, we saw that one of the plants in the closet – a tall, skinny sativa variety – had fully “hermed out.” It had pollinated the other three plants!
While he was pretty devastated, he chalked it up to a learning experience and vowed not to make the same mistake the next time around.
You can smoke buds that have seeds in them; it’s just that they are a royal pain in the ass to work with. Also, they don’t have nearly the flavor or quality that sinsemilla (non-seeded) buds do.
Female Plants vs. Male Cannabis Plants: Final Thoughts
Hopefully, this guide has helped you better understand the differences between male and female marijuana plants. A dream yield of healthy, robust female buds is the objective for nearly all growers. Learning the basics is the first step in becoming a master cannabis cultivator. One of these lessons involves spotting a pesky male marijuana plant from a mile away!
A male cannabis plant has very little value if your primary goal is producing potent nugs with high THC content. Male cannabis is, of course, crucial if you’re doing something like cross-breeding to develop a new strain, but in general, it’s 100% females that you want.
Please remember, the consumption of marijuana is the sole responsibility of the user.