Can You Tell if a Cannabis Seed is Male or Female?
Friday August 17, 2018
W hen it comes to growing cannabis, sex is important. Not that kind of sex! We’re talking gender, as in being able to discern male from female. The reason for this is simple enough: only female seeds produce flower, also known as the buds you might have in your stash as we speak.
When it comes to growing cannabis, seeds can be male, female or hermaphrodites. Females produce the resin-secreting flower, and males make small sacs of pollen near the base of the leaves. Over the years, cultivators have learned that un-pollinated females (remember, males produce pollen) continue to make resin and flowers that have not been pollinated are much more likely to produce high-potency cannabis. But is there a way to know if a seed is female before growing?
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Determining if a Seed is Male or Female
If what you’ve got is a handful of seeds, it’s pretty much impossible to tell which ones are male or female. The only way true way to tell the plant’s gender is to plant some seeds, then wait. After a period of several weeks, it will begin to pre-flower, or form a small bud in the crux of a branch. One of the first signs your cannabis plant is female is the appearance of pistillates that are wispy and generally white in color.
If you’re looking for more precise, science-based methods to tell your plant’s gender, there are several labs that can sex your plant right after germination – eliminating the lengthy (usually around 6 weeks) wait to learn its gender. Portland, Oregon start-up Phylos Bioscience is in the business of studying cannabis genetics, and they sell a “plant sex kit” that’s pretty simple to do, even for the not scientifically-inclined. Simply press a cotyledon, or embryonic leaf, onto the kit’s filter paper and send it to their lab. They then test the leaf for the “Y” chromosome to determine its gender, just as would happen for a human male.
What are Feminized Seeds?
While it’s basically not possible to determine the sex of a seed from a random bag of seeds, a practice known as feminizing is becoming quite popular. Feminized seeds are selectively bred to produce female plants, however, some growers do worry about some feminized seeds turning into hermaphrodites.
Despite the potential for hermies, if growing cannabis is more hobby than full-time endeavor, and you want to guarantee you’ll have some consumable product, knowing your seeds are female from the beginning is probably your best bet.
There are many companies that sell feminized seeds, but, buyer beware, do your research to make sure the seller is reputable, especially if purchasing online. Thanks to modern technology, most feminized seeds from reliable brands will be 100% female as advertised – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people selling low-quality seeds out there.
Methods for Feminizing Cannabis Plants
If you have some experience growing cannabis and would like to bend a crop to your will to ensure that the seeds will be female, there are a few feminizing methods you might try. One such technique is to literally stress out a healthy female plant by interrupting the light cycle during flowering, called Rodelization Feminizing.
In the colloidal silver feminizing method, distilled water is mixed with pure silver and sprayed on female plants. This method works best when the plants are flowering. This results in pollen sacs being formed, which will allow the seeds to produce female plants.
Feminizing via the silver thiosulfate technique involves carefully selecting a nearly mature female plant, then spraying it with 50/50 mix of sodium thiosulfate and silver nitrate. This triggers a gender change, from female to male. Place this plant back with the others to pollinate other female plants, and female seeds are created.
How Important is Your Plant’s Sex?
How much time you want to spend figuring out the sex of your cannabis plants really depends on how much time and energy you’d like to devote to growing your own marijuana. If you are a medical cannabis patient or caregiver, for example, and need to know what kind of cannabis you are getting every time, buying feminized seeds from a trusted seller is the way to go. But, if you have some time, consider yourself a green thumb, and want to experiment with your grow, you could simply plant your seeds and see what comes up. Happy growing!
What are your thoughts on feminized seeds? If you’ve used them before, how did it go? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
If you're interested in growing cannabis, determining the sex of your plant is a critical aspect in the cultivation process. Learn whether or not you can tell if a marijuana seed is male or female and more information about feminized seeds.
The difference between male and female weed plants
When you want to grow cannabis plants it is good to understand the difference between male and female cannabis plants. Without going into too much detail, we explain how to recognize male and female marijuana plants and what the differences are. This way you can buy your regular seeds and/or female marijuana seeds in a well-considered way.
Unlike most plants, cannabis plants are hermaphroditic, which means that there are male and female plants. Just like in humans. Each plant has two pairs of sex chromosomes, X chromosomes and Y chromosomes. The difference between the two sexes is that male plants have XY chromosomes and female plants XX chromosomes. Also, just like in humans, there is a natural 50/50 division between males and females.
Hermaphrodite weed plants
However, there is a significant difference between the sex of cannabis plants and that of humans. This is because a marijuana plant can also be hermaphroditic. This means that a single plant can have both male and female genitals (a pistil and stamens). We call this a hermaphrodite weed plant.
When and how do you recognize male and female weed plants?
As a grower, it is important to know how to identify male and female cannabis plants. Female marijuana plants are much more valuable to growers because they produce the desired smokable buds (cannabis). Male plants don’t so when growing you want to know how to recognize the difference between the two sexes. Still, it can be a bit difficult to distinguish them from each other because cannabis plants don’t start with showing their gender and you can’t tell from the seeds either.
The sex is only visible after a few weeks
The gender of the cannabis plant only becomes visible in the pre-flowering period, which in most cases lies between the 4th and 8th week of the vegetative phase. The moment the genus becomes visible, however, depends on the species. Some species show their genus earlier, while others need more time to show their true identity. It is therefore very important to be extra alert to the male and female characteristics during the pre-flowering stage. As soon as you notice male marijuana plants, you have to remove them immediately (see: wherefore you have to remove male marijuana plants).
How do you recognize male weed plants?
Male marijuana plants can be recognized by small round balls in the leaf axils (see image). These balls are higher than those of the female plants. The armpits can be found at the top of the branch where the branch grows out of the trunk. In addition, the balls of a male plant do not have hairs (which female plants do). Finally, male cannabis plants often look thin and unhealthy. In most cases a male cannabis plant has fewer leaves and grows less tall.
How do you recognise female cannabis plants?
Female cannabis plants, just like male cannabis plants, also have a pellet near the leaves. The only difference is that the female cannabis plants have small hairs growing out of them. Moreover, the spheres are smaller than those of the male species. Female species also look healthier. The female cannabis plant has more branches and is often larger than the male species.
How do you recognize a hermaphrodite cannabis plant?
In rare cases, a cannabis species develops two sexual organs (male and female). This is called a hermaphrodite. In fact, this is a species that can fertilize itself. A hermaphrodite occurs when the growing conditions are bad and/or when the plant is under too much stress, but also when genetics are poor. In addition, some species are more susceptible to hermie than others.
Hermaphrodites can occur in two forms. Developing a “banana” (an inside-out ball) or two balls of different sizes, one with hairs and one without hair as you’ve just read with male and female weed plants.
Note: hermaphrodites produce pollen, so if you grow a hermaphrodite, make sure you remove it (just like a male species).
Why you have to remove male marijuana plants
Male plants are in most cases not useful and therefore undesirable when growing weed indoors. This also applies to most growers when growing weed outdoors. As said before, they do not deliver beautiful full and smokable buds. So for a weed yield they are worthless.
Moreover, they distract the female weed plants so they will produce less weed. This is because male varieties will pollinate the female varieties. When this happens, the female species will use all her energy to produce seeds instead of buds. The potency of the harvestable weed will be drastically reduced and that’s a waste of time and effort. As a weed grower, you want to avoid this, of course.
This is why growers choose female weed seeds
You understand that growers prefer female weed plants because they take care of the harvest. Male marijuana plants should be removed as soon as possible because they disrupt the flowering process of the female plants. When you buy feminized cannabis seeds or autoflowers, fortunately you have nothing to do with this.
If you buy regular cannabis seeds, there is a good chance that you will have to deal with them because the gender is not yet known.
Want to grow weed? Then buy feminized or autoflowering seeds!
If you plan to grow a lot of good weed, we advise you to buy feminized or autoflower seeds. This way you avoid a failed harvest. It also saves a lot of work because you don’t have to worry about separating the male and female weed plants anymore.
Tip: Buy high quality female weed seeds and/or autoflower cannabis seeds here.
Curious how to identify male and female weed plants? Check it out: the differences between male and female weed plants explained in a simple way!