Sexing 101: How to Tell Male From Female Cannabis Plants
While cannabis is dioecious, meaning it can be male or female, the plants we smoke are exclusively female. Female plants are responsible for the resin-secreting flowers we all know and love, and to do so must be kept from pollinating males. That’s because female plants, once fertilized, convert energy from THC production to seeding. Hence, the females we consume are “sinsemilla” or seedless.
Male plants are still necessary for cannabis production when it comes to propagation and breeding, however. For a female plant to produce seeds, it requires pollination from a male plant. Without further adieu, let’s dive into how to tell male from female cannabis plants.
Properly sexing cannabis is easier with more mature plants, but there are several key ways to sex cannabis in the pre-flower phase.
Identifying a male cannabis plant
Pre-flowers will appear at the base of the leaves when male plants are about three to four weeks old. In females, they appear between four to six weeks old. Males can be sexed as early as one to three weeks before germination. However, it’s best to identify and cull males before they begin developing pollen sacs.
One male is enough to wreak havoc on a harvest.
Male pre-flower are staminates, and the female pre-flowers are pistils. Staminate will be more rounded than pistils and take on a spade-like shape. Look for them at the joints on the stalks of the flower. As it matures, the staminate takes on a curved blade shape and a round spade or ball.
Can you smoke them?
Technically yes, but in the immortal words of Obi-Wan: these are not the cannabinoids you’re looking for. The quality THC we get from cannabis is from seedless females. Males just don’t contain the same quantity of things that we look for in cannabis to consume. Sure, males do produce some trichomes, but the amount and quality pale in comparison to females. Besides, allowing a male to reach the point of maturity where it produces cannabinoids and terpenes at all will have already pollinated the females and ruined your harvest.
Identifying female cannabis plants
Like males, pre-flowering female plants will have bulbs too, but these are more pear-shaped rather than spades. The dead giveaway is long translucent hairs called stigma. The stigma is part of the pistil and will definitively identify the plant as female. Female plants all produce pistils; the problem with sexing female plants is not every female plant in the pre-flower phase has pistils.
Another confounding variable is hermaphroditic plants that produce both staminate and pistil. Hermaphroditic plants are typically the result of stress. Treat these plants as males and cull them if looking to harvest, or keep them if looking to seed.
Structural Difference between male and female plant
Lastly, there are also a few morphological differences between males and female cannabis plants to help you sexing your plants. Female plants are typically shorter and bushier, while males grow taller and have thicker stalks to support the additional weight.
Male Vs Female Cannabis: Telling The Difference
No one wants to spend all the time and effort of growing a few cannabis plants, only to see them produce seeds instead of bud. Learning how to tell the sex of a cannabis plant is key to this.
Cannabis is a dioecious plant. This means that each plant grows with either male or female reproductive organs. Being able to tell the differences between each is fundamental knowledge for the cannabis grower, as preventing pollination of the females is key to growing large, resin-laden bud. When cannabis is pollinated, it undergoes several changes in preparation for seed production that are undesirable when growing for recreational or therapeutic use. When cannabis is not pollinated, the hormonal changes it goes through to try and keep flowers alive for as long as possible are presented to us as much desired psychoactive resins.
SEXING YOUR CANNABIS
Cannabis will usually give an indication of gender well before going into the proper flower cycle, developing telltale signs within 1-3 weeks of beginning switched to 12-12 lighting. Both sexes begin to show in the same way. Hiding behind the leaf spur where the bud branch meets the trunk a small nodule will appear. As this nodule develops, it takes on different characteristics. If you catch them early on in the flowering cycle, you can determine what you have and ensure males are removed safely before they can alter a crop.
In the male, this protrusion becomes a subtly striped peduncle, like a tiny watermelon. It will develop a lazy thin stalk and hang down, typical of the male organs. These subtle stripes, when developed, become the seams between the sepals where the pod splays open, resembling a small white flower. Dangling from the opened pod are stamens covered in pollen swollen anthers. By this stage, however, pollen is already released, so learning early gender identification is paramount.
In the female, the early nodule subtly unfolds and initially resembles a bent leaf tip. Females have a bract or calyx that is an elongated teardrop shaped gland that is cleft down the middle, typical of the female organ. From this slit unfurls two white or yellow pistils. Commonly called hairs, they are dotted with a clear, sticky resin.
NO MISTAKES WITH CLONING
The differences between the sexes when growing indoors are not quite as pronounced as with an outdoor grow. A guaranteed way to establish the gender of your babies is to clone each one. Mark the clones and the host plants clearly. Once rooted give them a 12-12 light cycle and wait for nature to take its course. Doing this as early as possible means you can replace the males with more cloned females. If you are mainlining or tipping a good hint is to wait awhile after your first tipping, so enough branch material grows to make two clones as well as giving the second tip. Flower one and veg the other with the rest of your plants. This way you will have replacements for the males if necessary. Your grow won’t be as badly compromised and not have as great a reduction in your end cured yields. Better some smaller girls than none at all!
Sometimes a cannabis plant will be a hermaphrodite. This physically androgynous plant will have both male and female reproductive parts. Unless you have a really good eye and a great deal of time, plucking the male bits off in order to ensure chastity is a real pain in the caboose and you should just get rid of it. Late in the flower cycle hermies are the worst. There is nothing to describe the horror of one day finding a few open flowers on an already chunky, but not ripe bud. The plant thinking it has been fertilized will gear down resin production in the rest of the neighbouring flower cluster and gear up the hormonal and chemical changes needed for seed production.
Inspecting for male pods should be done throughout the flower cycle just to be sure.
Ensuring you know exactly what your growing is an important part of cannabis cultivation. Learning the early signs of sex will allow you to ensure you get bud every time. There is enough pollen in a single pollen pod to fertilize hundreds of plants. So outdoor growers should be kind and vigilant, not just to preserve their own crop, but other crops kilometres away. No matter your situation, learning to spot and remove males is vital – or you will end up with seeds!
Male vs. Female Cannabis Plant: How to Determine the sex of your Plants
We tend to think that male cannabis is completely useless, but this isn’t entirely true. As we have explained in a previous article, cannabis belongs to the group of plants known as dioicous. In other words, they are plants that produce eggs or sperm but never both in the gametophyte phase (the sexual phase of both plants and algae). Usually, cannabis growers isolate female plants to prevent male plants from pollinating female plants. The pollination process will cause female plants to produce seeds, which are important for cannabis growers. Nonetheless, female plants with seeds produce buds that are not rich in resins. Therefore, it is important to identify female and male plants to separate them. The female cannabis plants can produce top quality buds with resins rich in cannabinoids.
The female plants are the most appreciated ones because they are the ones producing cannabis buds. The male plants are separated from the female ones so the latter ones can produce seedless buds rich in cannabinoids. All resinous buds come from “sinsemilla” or seedless cannabis buds.
You can plant both normal and feminized seeds. Because male plants are also important for the development of plants with good genetics. For example, many experienced growers work with both male and female seeds.
If you prefer to work with both female and male plants, then it is important you learn how to sex them. The sexing process of cannabis plants is not difficult, and we give you here some tips to differentiate them.
Cannabis Male Plants
Even though they are usually discarded and labeled as “useless”, male cannabis plants can be important as they can carry important genes that can produce high-quality cannabis. Expert cannabis growers will use cannabis male plants to produce pollen. This pollen could be used to pollinate female plants. Experts cannabis growers will store and even freeze high-quality pollen. Consequently, male cannabis, although it doesn’t produce cannabis buds, could be important in the production of good quality buds.
Male vs Female Cannabis Plant: How to identify Them
You can identify whether a plant is female or male by looking at what grows between their nodes. A male cannabis plant will develop round balls at the nodes, while the female plants will produce pistils with some small white hairs that are female pre-flowers.
The round balls in male cannabis plants are pollen sacs that produce pollen to pollinate female plants. The stigma, which is the part of the pistils where pollen germinates, are designed to catch pollen produce by the cannabis male plants.
In short, you just need to check at their nodes. If you see ball sacs then it is a male cannabis plant and if you see pistils, then it is a female marijuana plant.
Moreover, there are also hermaphrodite plants. We explain in previous posts the process known as “rodelization” and how stressed unpollinated female cannabis plants produce their own pollen. This hermaphrodite plant can pollinate other female marijuana plants and ruin your entire cannabis crop.
Some cannabis growers use the rodelization process, because the stressed female plants produce only feminized seeds. Nonetheless, these seeds don’t have good genetics and they have more chances of becoming hermaphrodite plants.
Conclusion: Male vs Female Cannabis
Female marijuana plants produce buds rich in resins (cannabinoids). Nonetheless, this doesn’t necessarily mean that male cannabis is useless. For instance, male cannabis plants can produce high quality pollen that could be used to pollinate female plants and produce quality seeds.
It is very easy to determine whether a plant is male or female. Remember to check what grows between the nodes. If you see ball sacs then it is a male plant. On the other hand, if you see pistils, then it’s a female plant.