How to Determine the Sex of Your Cannabis Plant
Marijuana growers know that there is a crucial difference between male and female cannabis plants.
Female plants are responsible for producing the cannabinoid-laden buds prized by marijuana-lovers around the world. Male plants, on the other hand, are less useful to the majority of growers. Unless you’re trying to breed cannabis, you should 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 that 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 THC and CBD compared to their sisters. If half of your crop is male, you will have effectively wasted half of your effort, time, and money.
If you do not remove the male plants from your garden in time, they can pollinate the female plants.
Secondly, if you do not remove the male plants from your garden in time, they can pollinate the female plants. When a female plant gets pollinated, it dedicates all of its energy to producing seeds. This means that your harvest will become less potent and also more difficult to smoke.
Some of the best quality marijuana is ‘sinsemilla.’ This word is derived from Spanish and means ‘without seeds.’ Unfertilized female cannabis plants are more potent as they use all of their resources to produce trichomes rather than seeds.
Trichomes are the tiny crystals that you can see coating a highly potent bud. These are resinous glands that produce THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids and terpenes.
So, if you find a male cannabis plant in your grow room, you will want to remove it as soon as possible. Alternatively, consider buying feminized seeds or taking a cutting from a mature female plant.
How to Tell the Sex of Your Cannabis Plant
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to tell the difference between male and female cannabis plants. One option is to buy a genetic testing kit that 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.
Male Plants Flower Earlier Than Females
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. The flowers release their pollen into the air at this stage, ready to fertilize any females in the area.
Your cannabis plants have an innate desire to reproduce, even if this is not what you want as a grower.
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 their flowers’ different appearances, there are a couple of other ways to distinguish between male and female marijuana plants. For example, 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 cannabis 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 can 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
- Physical damage
- Pests or disease
- Overuse of pesticides
- Over or underuse of nutrients
Besides 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 plants are entirely useless. However, this is not necessarily the case. Although you will want to remove them from your grow room, there is no need to destroy them.
Although male plants produce fewer trichomes than females, they develop a scattering of these resin glands on their leaves. Research shows that male plants may contain more cannabinoids in their leaves and stems than females during the vegetative stage.
So, when you remove 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:
Sexing Weed Plants: How to Tell Males From Females
Cannabis plants, like most other plants, animals, and other living forms, have separate genders. Male or female reproductive parts can be found in them. Hermaphrodite plants are also possible but rare. These are plants that have both male and female characteristics.
If you are growing weed and want to get the most buds out of it, you will need to know how to distinguish between female and male cannabis plants. Female cannabis plants are preferred by almost all producers since only females yield THC-rich buds for medical or recreational uses. Male plants have a lower potency than female weed plants, thus they are usually preserved to generate seeds.
If a male plant gets into your cannabis garden, it can fertilize and contaminate healthy females. When a female plant gets pollinated, instead of spending its energy on building a bountiful set of buds, it begins to produce seeds. When you have invested so much money, time, and effort into the cultivation process, this is the last thing you want to happen.
Regular seeds vs. Feminized seeds
Regular cannabis seeds have a 50/50 chance of becoming male or female plants, just as nature intended. Regular seeds are preferred among breeders generating new strains since they yield males. Pollen is produced by males, which is used by breeders to fertilize female flowers, resulting in the next generation of seeds.
Regular seeds come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Sativa-dominant, indica-dominant, high-THC, and high-CBD strains are all available. Genetics is a fully natural process. They are the outcome of cannabis’ natural evolution. There is not any tinkering or tweaking going on.
Feminized genetics is created by simply crossing two females. To encourage female plants to generate pollen, breeders utilize two methods. They subsequently fertilize another female, resulting in a generation of feminized seeds from her flowers.
Feminized seeds were developed to increase the likelihood of female seedlings germinating. To be more specific, the chances of a female plant arising from feminized seeds are roughly 99.9 percent. If you prefer buds over pollen sacs, the chances are in your favor.
How can I determine the sex of my weed plants?
You will notice little pre-flowers around the growth tips after the first six weeks. They will either have a little pointed end or a more rounded end. It is more difficult to see a difference immediately with some strains. A calyx has a more pointed end and will be seen on a female plant. A male will have the aforementioned spherical or rounded tiny pollen sacs.
Wait a few more days if you cannot detect the change yet. If a white hair, known as a pistil, forms on the green pre-flower, it is female. Pistils are seldom green, so search for something light and fluffy instead.
Female cannabis plants take a little longer than male cannabis plants to express their gender. As a result, be patient with your crops and examine them frequently so that any males in the bunch may be dealt with appropriately.
The “small green balls” on the male plant will continue to expand in size, filling up with more pollen until they rupture and spill pollen all over the place. Before this happens, you must capture the male, since pollen will fertilize the females. Their buds will stop developing at this moment.
Female cannabis plant
Female plants are frequently easily identified. While both males and females produce flower, female plants’ buds normally bloom after the males have finished. Female flowers will resemble sacs with two stigmas (feather-like stigmas) growing out of them.
They expand up to develop little yellow, cream, or white blooms in the end. Male pollen is trapped in their hairy, pale pistils. The stigmas are located in a node area of the main stalk. This is the point at which a branch emerges from the main stem or emerges from another branch.
Male cannabis plant
Males are easily identified by their quick maturation. Male plants develop faster than female plants, which means they will grow faster and taller roughly two weeks before a female plant. This allows them to pollinate female plants. They have a straighter growth pattern and produce fewer buds than females.
The buds are usually seen at the plant’s top. Male flowers, unlike female flowers, are tightly clustered green clusters. They can start flowering up to a month before females, allowing growers plenty of time to spot them.
Autoflowering cannabis plant
Autoflowering cannabis manifests its sex 2 to 3 weeks after sprouting from seed, with male plants manifesting somewhat earlier than females. Male autoflowering plants are often taller, have fewer leaves, and have branches that are farther apart, however, none of these characteristics are always true, and male autoflowering plants might appear to be identical to female autoflowering plants until they reveal their sex.
When autoflower plants are about to flower, their preflowers appear, but there is no way to know if it is a male or female plant at this time. These pre-flowers are commonly found on the third or fourth pair of leaves. Preflowers are most commonly seen towards the bottom of plant branches when tiny branches emerge from the main stem of the plant.
In a few days, these “balls” or “balls on a stick” preflowers will transform into a ball-shaped object that resembles a “crab’s claw.” The male pollen is held in these unique cannabis male flowers. These “claw-like” ball-shaped things can burst open in a matter of hours to days, with no way of knowing when.
When those balls open, pollen is released into the air, where it is subsequently carried by the wind to female plants. Male pollen from autoflowering cannabis plants appears as a golden-white powder.
How to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering
Once plants have developed and begun to reveal their reproductive organs, it is relatively straightforward to determine their gender. But, to be honest, waiting till this stage is risky. When females and males are in the same room or garden, the males have the potential to pollinate an entire crop at any time, and merely moving them can cause pollen sacs to split and fertilize any females nearby.
Instead, before the plants begin flowering, growers should check for signals of sex. Male plants growing outside will have distinct growth signals than female plants, which may be used to distinguish the two. The vegetative stage is the initial stage of plant maturation. They are getting bigger and rounder at this point, and their sole attention is on growth.
Growers may keep a watch out for growth patterns that could indicate sex, even if their reproductive organs are not yet present. Females are known to have more intricate branching systems throughout this phase, making them appear fuller and broader as the branches mature. Male plants, on the other hand, are more spindly and tend to grow taller rather than broader.
Male plants are often less densely packed, having fewer branches and leaves. These signals are more visible when plants are growing outside. These signals do not indicate that the plant should be removed from the crop, but they can help growers identify the sex of a plant before it is too late.
Cloning your weed plants
This is the only guaranteed technique to tell if the plants are male or female before they reach maturity. The nicest thing about this approach is how simple it is. You just cut a piece of one of your plants.
The steps to making a clone include:
- Using a knife, cut off a little piece of the mother plant.
- Put the cutting in potting soil and let it grow.
- After a few days, force flowering with 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light.
You will need to keep your clones isolated from the host plants to determine their sex.
This approach works because they will have the same sex as their host. After all, they have the same DNA. It will be simple to determine the clones’ sex and the sex of their hosts once they reach the flowering stage.
To avoid getting things muddled up, keep note of which clone originated from which host.
Once you know it is female, you may force flowering on a host plant (not a clone) and then put it back into the vegetative stage. This procedure, however, does have a potential downside. While it might help speed up the reveal process, it can also cause undue stress to a growing plant.
What should I do with male plants?
Get rid of the male cannabis plant once you have identified it. It is advisable to eliminate the males as soon as possible unless you want pollination and seeds. It is not enough to just separate the plants.
Even if you move the male plant to a different section of your yard, pollen might still be carried by the wind. Female cannabis plants have been reported to be pollinated by neighbors grown many blocks away.
Despite this, male cannabis plants are not completely worthless. You want females if you are producing a crop to distribute or for personal use. However, if you are cultivating hemp for clothes, the male plants produce a softer fabric that is ideal for manufacturing apparel.
Another alternative is to slice up the male plant and use it as a mulch. The leaves, which are high in nutrients, can also be juiced.
What are hermaphrodite weed plants?
On rare occasions, a plant will show both sexes. Plants that look to be female might actually be hermaphrodites that have not shown their true nature yet. The term “hermaphrodite” refers to a plant that has both male and female reproductive organs. As a result, plants with female characteristics in the vegetative stage may turn hermaphroditic and generate male pollen once they reach the blooming stage.
This commonly happens when a female plant blooms late and is not pollinated. Cannabis plants make a last-ditch effort to produce seeds and they occasionally produce a tiny number of male blooms in an attempt to fertilize themselves.
To avoid pollinating an entire crop, some producers pinch off the few visible “bananas” (staminate), while others uproot and/or kill the plant. It is most likely that a plant will become a hermaphrodite within the first three weeks after flowering; however, certain strains might take up to five weeks. Male parts will appear on the plant either on their own or from within female parts.
As a result, if you are not looking at every bud site on the plant, it might be difficult to spot these characteristics. If you notice male characteristics like the growth of small balls or what some people call bananas, you should remove the entire plant.
Not all hermaphroditic organs generate viable pollen. You might get fortunate and the hermaphroditic plant will not pollinate the entire garden. Regardless, you do not want hermaphroditic plants in your garden. Remove them as soon as possible.
The Sanctuary Editorial Team
Our writers use a combination of research and personal experiences to eloquently tackle these topics. The research process utilizes multiple levels of information. We reference informal channels for details relating to casual topics such as describing slang or how to create a bong out of fruit. We also examine scientific publishings for up-to-date research. The accuracy of our articles is crucially important to us and they are written with the idea of inclusiveness for readers of all walks of life.