Learn how to tell the difference between male and female cannabis plants, so you can properly sex your cannabis in the early pre-flower stage. Want to know the difference between male and female cannabis plants? Read on to know what sexing cannabis is and how hermaphrodite cannabis plants look. The main difference between male and female cannabis plants is that males don’t yield buds, while females do.
Sexing Cannabis: How to Tell the Difference Between Young Male vs Female Cannabis Plants
Are you growing cannabis at home, but aren’t sure if your plants are male or female? Then you’ve come to the right place! This article is going to show you how to tell the difference between male and female cannabis plants to properly sex them.
In particular, I want to show you how we determine the sex of our cannabis plants while they are still quite young. It gets significantly more obvious as the plants begin to mature and flower. On the other hand, it can be a bit more tricky to sex cannabis plants in the early pre-flower phase, but it is definitely possible! We’ll also talk a bit about why it is important to determine the sex of cannabis plants, the difference between regular and feminized seeds, how we treat our plants up until the time we know their sex, and what to do with unwanted male plants.
If you’re new to Homestead and Chill, be sure to check out our other cannabis-related articles! We primarily grow outdoors, 100% organic, and aim to provide helpful information that is easy to follow – both for new and experienced growers alike. As a disclaimer, this article is intended for those who can legally grow cannabis at home.
Feminized vs Regular Cannabis Seeds
If you are growing from feminized seeds, you shouldn’t need to worry about sexing your cannabis plants all that much. While not 100% guaranteed, there is only a very slim chance that a feminized seed will produce a male plant. About 1% in fact. In all of our years growing, we have never had a cannabis plant grown from feminized seed turn out to be a male – though we only grow a handful of plants per year. Folks who grow hundreds of plants could potentially end with a rare male now and then.
Feminized seeds are highly desirable to most growers. They’re efficient. It is almost sure-fire that you’re spending your energy and resources raising ladies. However, some growers accept or even prefer regular (unsexed) seeds! We grow a little of both.
Why grow regular cannabis seeds? Well, maybe a particular breeder or strain you want to try only carries regular seeds. Some growers feel that the feminization process is unnatural, and prefer to kick it old school by growing regular seeds only. Some enjoy the gamble and challenge. Whatever the reason, when you grow cannabis from regular seeds, the odds of getting all lady plants are not in your favor. You will end up with some males. Therefore, you need to learn to sex your cannabis plants! Also, we always start several extra “regular” seeds – assuming a 50/50 chance that some will be culled because they are male.
How are feminized cannabis seeds made?
Curious about how feminized seeds are created? In a nutshell: most feminized seeds come from cannabis plants that have been treated and altered in a manner that inhibits male chromosomes. The most common method is to spray the plant repetitively (daily or more) with colloidal silver. Other chemicals and compounds can be used too, but are far less accessible. Colloidal silver is technically “non-toxic”, but you do not want to smoke it! Thus, the plant is sacrificial – used for the production of pollen and seeds only.
Repeated colloidal silver treatments cause repression of the plant’s ethylene, which is the stuff that creates male flowers. Instead, the treated female plant will grow pollen sacks full of FEMALE pollen (XX rather than XY). Then breeders use the female pollen to pollinate female flowers, resulting in the development of all-female seeds.
Another way to create feminized cannabis seeds is called rodelization. It is a more natural but unreliable method, and less frequently used by breeders. Near the end of a growing season, an un-pollinated female cannabis plant will sometimes produce pollen sacks in a desperate attempt to pollinate herself. That pollen can be used to try to create feminized seeds, but because ethylene hasn’t been repressed, may also result in male seeds.
Okay, back to sexing cannabis.
Why Sex Cannabis Plants? The Role of Male and Female Plants
For the most part, the average home grower wants female cannabis plants. The ladies are the ones that produce the fattest, most resinous and most potent flowers – aka buds. Male cannabis plants are only desirable if someone wants to breed cannabis and save seeds (which is a whole other topic for another day). Even then, the grower will want to spot the difference between the male and female plants and separate them early on, unless they want free cross-breeding and pollination between many types of strains.
Not only are the males less desirable, but male cannabis plants interfere with the quality and production of your female plant. Males grow pollen sacks, and produce pollen. When a female cannabis plant becomes pollinated by a nearby male, her energy shifts into producing seeds.
Like most things in nature, female cannabis plants have a biological drive to reproduce. After the deed has been done, she will sit back and relax. While a pollinated female cannabis plant WILL still develop decent size buds, they are usually lower quality and contain less THC and other desirable cannabinoids. Not to mention, they’ll be full of seeds. When left un-pollinated, a female cannabis plant’s flowers (buds) will continue to swell, develop more trichomes and become increasingly resinous. She is trying to get as sticky and large as possible to catch pollen in the wind. That sweet sinsemilla – aka unfertilized, seed-free cannabis.
When to Sex Cannabis Plants
Our goal here today is to learn how to tell the difference between male and female cannabis plants early on, so you can get the males away from the females as soon as possible! It will help protect your lady plants – but also spare you the wasted time, resources, and energy of tending to male plants that you don’t intend to keep.
Keeping in mind that every strain and grow set-up (e.g. indoors, outdoors, daylight hours) creates varying circumstances, most cannabis plants begin to pre-flower as early as 4 weeks after germination. By week 6, the pre-flowers begin to reveal their gender and you should be able to identify the sex using the tips to follow. Once the plants go into full flower (8 to 10 weeks on average, for a natural outdoor grow) the differences between male and female plants will be glaringly obvious. We’ll talk more about exactly what each sex looks like in a moment.
Until we can tell the sex for sure, we continue to treat the plants equally. We start our seeds in small 4-inch nursery pots. About two weeks after germination, we pot the seedlings up into an approximately two-gallon (trade size) “sexing pot” like these BPA-free nursery pots. This enables everyone to continue to grow in a happy and healthy manner for several more weeks*. Then, once we can surely tell the difference between the male and female cannabis plants, only the ladies move into their forever home – 15 to 25 gallon grow bags full of recycled organic living soil. To learn more about our soil recipe and how we maintain it, see this article.
*Note that our feminized seedlings go from a 4” pot to an 8” pot, and then more quickly into large grow bags, using less soil in the potting-up process.
This little girl (or boy) is far too young to tell, but needs to be potted up soon. The two in plastic pots in the background were determined to be male and culled the next day. The two on the left in grow bags are definite females (one from feminized seed, and one we sexed from regular seed).
How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Cannabis Plants in Pre-Flower
In order to correctly sex cannabis plants, you’ll need to become familiar with their anatomy in general. Both males and females produce pre-flowers and flowers in the junctions between stems or branches. The very first pre-flowers show up in the crook between the main plant stalk and a fan leaf stem (petiole), usually near the top of the plant. The good news is, the males usually begin to develop and show sooner than females. I guess the idea is that the dudes want to have their pollen ready and waiting for when the ladies join the party?
Look for plant pre-flowers at the higher stalk/branch junctions, as described above. If needed, use a jeweler’s loupe to get a better look! That is the same magnifying tool commonly used to examine trichomes and determine plant readiness for harvest. Then, locate the stipule, which is a leafy pointed flap that protrudes from the junction. Don’t confuse that for a pre-flower! The cannabis sex parts are located just behind the stipule. Behind the pre-flower sex parts, taller growth tips will emerge – future auxiliary branches that produce buds.
Identifying a Male Cannabis Plant
Very early, the male pre-flower (early pollen sacs) simply looks like a more round version than the female pre-flower part. It is often referred to as a “spade”, like the spade suit in cards – squatty with a bulbous bottom and very slight tip. As it becomes slightly larger, the male pre-flower resembles a ball at the end of a stick. The male pre-flower is called a staminate. Then, the staminate eventually develops into a long hanging sack of baby bananas – the pollen sacs. Hopefully you can ID and cull the males before they get to this stage.
A 4-5 week old male cannabis plant in our garden, showing his stick and ball. Note that this is a really early and obvious example. Most of the other males in this age group show a round ball, but protruding less and more nestled flat against the stalk.
A more advanced male pre-flower, courtesy of Dr. Weedly (We never let our males get this far to photograph)
Did someone order a banana hammock? The male flowers are about to open and shed pollen, if they haven’t already. Photo from Green Cultured
Identifying a Female Cannabis Plant
In contrast, the very early female cannabis pre-flowers are more ovate in shape: pear-like, but with a longer slender pointed tip. That is called her calyx. Extending from the tip of the calyx may be a pair of pistils, or white hair-like protrusions. However, please note that not every female cannabis plant in pre-flower produces pistils.
If you are still unsure of the sex of your cannabis plant, wait to make any drastic decisions! Yet if you’re fairly certain, consider some of these other common differences between male and female plants. Perhaps it will help you more confidently make a decision.
Other Common Differences Between Male and Female Cannabis Plants
Aside from the clear-cut flower differences, there are a few (potential) trending characteristics between male and female cannabis plants. In many cases, male cannabis plants tend to be more gangly. They may be tall, narrow, have fewer fan leaves, and longer spacing between branches – also referred to as greater inter-nodal spacing. On the flip side, female cannabis plants are usually more compact and bushy than males.
Please keep in mind that these traits are not guaranteed, and shouldn’t be the only way to sex cannabis plants! Variations among strains and phenotypes can lead to all sorts of crazy things. The general plant structure simply may help give you a clue if you’re on the fence.
My Cannabis Plant is Male! Now What?
I hope you started a few extra seeds, and have plenty of ladies left to grow! Once you determine that you have a male cannabis plant, get rid of it. Again, unless you want pollination and seeds, it is best to cull the males as early as possible. Simply separating the plants isn’t enough. Even if you relocate the male plant to another part of your yard, the pollen can carry in the wind. There are stories of female cannabis plants becoming pollinated from neighbors growing several blocks away.
However, the culled males don’t need to go to waste! One option is to chop up the male plant and use it to mulch other plants – much like we do with borage, fava bean greens, yarrow, and comfrey. You could also juice the leaves, which are full of nutrients. Heck, you could even steep the plant material in water to create a natural fertilizer as we do with stinging nettle. Finally, I’m sure your compost pile will welcome the male plant with open arms. Or would that be… with open worms?
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And that is how you determine the sex of cannabis plants.
In closing, I hope this article is interesting and useful in your homegrown adventures. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below, and spread the cannabis sex love by sharing this article. Even if you like to grow mostly feminized seeds, don’t you find this stuff fascinating? I sure do. Thanks for tuning in and nerding out with me a bit. Best of luck this growing season!
Sexing Cannabis: How to tell if your plant is male or female?
If you grow regular cannabis seeds you will find the resulting plants to be a mix of male and female cannabis plants. Apart from breeders, most people discard the male plants as soon as they are identified. This prevents them pollinating the female plants, which would fill the buds with seeds.
But before you throw any plants away, you need to be confident about the differences between male and female cannabis plants. Identifying male and female cannabis is known as sexing cannabis plants.
Difference between male and female cannabis plants
Most people grow cannabis for the potent buds. That means growing female cannabis plants. Male cannabis plants do produce THC, but not generally in the amounts worth the inconvenience of growing them. Few people (other than cannabis breeders) want to see seeds in their cannabis buds.
Female plants produce the buds we are familiar with. Male plants produce small pollen sacs, these look like small balls. When they open they look like miniature bananas, releasing cream-coloured pollen dust.
What does a hermaphrodite cannabis plant look like?
Hermaphrodite cannabis plants, also known as ‘hermies’, display characteristics of both male and female cannabis plants. Just like males plants, hermaphrodite cannabis plants are also usually removed from grow rooms to prevent pollination (and therefore unwanted seeding) of buds.
Sexing cannabis plants pictures
Male vs female cannabis plants look different and grow a little differently too. Male plants are often taller, giving them a pollen distribution advantage when their pollen sacs eventually open. The pollen sacs form at the nodes on the stem. Pollen can be collected and frozen if required e.g. for breeding purposes.
Pictures of male and female cannabis plants are a useful reminder to the novice grower should there be any doubt identifying male and female cannabis plants. Sexing cannabis, and understanding the difference between male and female cannabis plants prevents the disappointment of finding seeds in your buds later.
Male cannabis plant picture
Female plants produce the buds familiar to cannabis growers. Ensuring that no pollen is present keeps the buds seed-free, just the way the connoisseur grower likes it! Male or female cannabis seedlings can’t usually be separated/identified by sight alone. Cannabis professionals sometimes use DNA testing of leaf material from a young cannabis plant to determine whether it is male or female. This gives the professional cannabis grower the opportunity to identify his cannabis plants as male or female many weeks before the plant sex would normally be revealed.
Those interested in learning more about the various forms of DNA testing of cannabis plants may wish to check out Delta Leaf Laboratories. As well as offering a $10 DNA test for plant sex, they can also test for the types of future cannabinoids that are likely to be produced by your plants.
Cannabis sex is usually clearly visible soon after the plant is placed in bloom conditions. However, the observant cannabis grower may also occasionally notice that some plants can be identified during veg growth.
Male and female cannabis can be grown from regular seeds. Feminised seeds tend to give rise to around 95% female plants. Images of male and female cannabis plants are useful if the less experienced grower is unsure. Cannabis male female identification is an easy skill to learn.
Female cannabis plant picture
Hermaphrodite cannabis plant pictures can show varying numbers of pollen sacs. Small numbers of them can be plucked off and the plant can be saved. Heavily affected hermies are often simply removed. Any seeds produced by cannabis hermaphrodite plants should be treated with caution – they may give rise to hermaphrodite cannabis plants if germinated.
Hermaphrodite cannabis plant picture
How and when to tell if your cannabis plant is male or female
If you grow from feminised cannabis seeds or autoflowering seeds you may rarely see male plants. Male pollen sacs are easy to see, allowing males to be easily identified. Sexing cannabis pictures are a useful reference if you are new to the subject.
Sometimes, if bloom has only recently begun, it can be difficult to know for sure if you have male or female cannabis plants. If unsure take another look a day or two later, it may be easier to tell the difference.
Male and female cannabis seeds
Simply looking at a cannabis seed appearance can’t tell you whether you will have male or female plants in future. Only the genetics inside the seed will determine the final plant type.
Some old school growers and breeders prefer to use regular cannabis seeds which will produce male and female cannabis plants. But 95% of cannabis seeds sold are feminised seeds or autoflower seeds. These will usually only produce female plants.
Few cannabis growers can be bothered with the hassle of producing their own seeds. It’s easier to buy the best cannabis seeds they can get from a seedbank they can trust. If you grow good quality photoperiod feminised seeds, or autoflower seeds you should be assured of female plants and a great harvest.
Female vs. Male Cannabis Plants: How They’re Similar (and Different)
The main difference between male and female cannabis plants is that male cannabis plants do not yield buds, whereas female cannabis plants do. This means female plants produce usable cannabis (buds), and male plants do not. There are many other obvious as well as subtler differences between male and female cannabis plants that can affect a cultivator’s crop.
What Are Female Cannabis Plants?
Female cannabis plants are the most sought-after plants for most cannabis cultivators. They contain the prized bud that comprises all cannabis products, whether smokable, topical, or otherwise. Female cannabis plants also contain the lion’s share of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Male plants, in contrast, contain only trace amounts of THC.
The output of female cannabis plants is far more potent than male plants. While male plants can be used occasionally to make concentrate products like hash, female plants are widely preferred for this purpose. The coarse, tough hemp material derived from female cannabis plants is also useful for making rope and other products that require a strong fiber.
What Are Male Cannabis Plants?
Male cannabis plants grow pollen sacs rather than buds. They pollinate female plants with their pollen sacs. Cannabis grown from male plants is not usable, as it contains no “bud.” Male cannabis plants are essential in breeding programs and provide 50% of the genetic material that the seeds inherit. This is why, for breeders, strong fathers are as sought after as strong mothers. Male cannabis plants also tend to contain more phytocannabinoids on their leaves. Male cannabis plants with particularly high cannabinoid concentrations in their leaves combined with strong roots can become key parts of a breeding program.
In addition, male cannabis plants are useful for making hemp fiber, especially for clothing. The hemp material of male plants is softer than that of female plants, making it desirable for shirts, tablecloths, or bed sheets. Finally, male cannabis plants are also effective at keeping harmful pests away.
How to Tell Male and Female Cannabis Plants Apart
Determining the sex of a marijuana plant is a visual process that you can begin early in the plant’s growth cycle. During the first four weeks of growth, you may be able to observe pollen sacs on the male and stigma or “pre-flowers” on the female. By the sixth week of growth, you can clearly distinguish between male and female cannabis plants. This point will fully view the pollen sacs and pre-flowers, allowing you to pinpoint male or female.
In rare instances, you may observe a cannabis plant with both male and female reproductive organs. These hermaphroditic plants often develop due to environmental stressors including inhospitable weather and nutritional deficiencies. Hermaphrodites are distinguishable by sets of pollen sacs and pre-flowers. A healthy marijuana plant grown in optimal conditions will not turn hermaphroditic.
Other clear physical characteristics will help you tell male and female cannabis plants apart at any stage.
Characteristics of Male Plants
Look for these physical traits in a male cannabis plant:
- Thick, sturdy stalks
- Sparse leaves
- Taller than female plants
- Pollen sacs that form green and white flowers
Characteristics of Female Plants
Look for these physical traits in a female cannabis plant:
- Slender stalks
- Abundant leaves
- Fine translucent hairs in white or orange
- V-shaped pistils with protective layer (calyx)
- Shorter than male plants
- Resinous buds
Growing Male and Female Plants
The first principle of growing male and female cannabis plants is to keep them apart. Male cannabis plants can overtake a garden and drain female plants of vital energy. Specifically, male plants may over-pollinate the females, which will stop or slow bud development and severely reduce your yield.
Generally, male cannabis plants are less desirable than female ones. So, you will want to keep female cannabis plants in your growing medium. If you are starting a breeding program, you will definitely need both male and female cannabis plants. But even in a breeding program, you must keep your male and female plants apart.
Download Our 7 Page Guide to Growing Cannabis
Frequently Asked Questions
Do male or female weed plants grow faster?
Male weed plants tend to grow much faster than female weed plants. Fourteen days into the growth cycle, male plants will already be taller than female plants. In addition, male cannabis plants will start the flowering stage approximately 30 days before their female counterparts.
What’s the difference between male and female weed seeds?
Weed seeds that grow into female plants produce more THC than their male counterparts. Furthermore, female cannabis plants produce flowers while male cannabis plants produce tiny buds that resemble balls. V-shaped pistils will also appear on female cannabis seeds at the beginning of the flowering stage, but there are no such structures on male seeds. Finally, fine white and orange hairs are present on female weed seeds but not on male ones.
Can male and female weed plants grow together?
While the plants technically can grow alongside one another, you should not grow male and female weed plants together. Separate your male and female cannabis plants if you want to harvest buds from the females. This does not mean that male plants are useless; male cannabis plants can be an important part of a cultivator’s crop but should be kept separate from females to allow the females room and energy to grow.
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