You don’t have to be an expert on the plant to at some point have encountered the term ‘feminized’ in relation to cannabis seeds. As it suggests, this means cannabis plants can be either female or male and in some cases have both sexes. This is what you need to know to spot Male, Female and Hermaphrodite cannabis plants in your garden:
Male or Female Cannabis Plants
Before we dive into the more complicated matter when it comes to sexing a cannabis plant, let’s start with some basics. Cannabis plants are so called ‘dioecious plants’. This means they produce either male of female reproductive organs, known as the flowers. In contrast to ‘monoecious plants’, which produce two different types of flowers on the same plant.
The cannabis plants most consumers know and love are often female. As these are the plants that produce the smokeable flowers – the dried buds sold in Amsterdam’s best coffeeshops – but which can also be grown at home. These weed flowers are covered in trichomes / resin which holds the plants active components, like cannabinoids and terpenes. Male cannabis plants however are less popular with consumers, as their only task in life is to release pollen into the air.
When pollen from a male cannabis plant reaches a female cannabis flower, the female flower will start producing seeds with traits from both plants involved. That’s great for growers that like crossbreeding strains and develop their own cannabis varieties. But if you’re growing for your personal consumption, you might want to avoid pollination. Not only do seeds add a harsh taste to your smoke. Producing them also takes a lot of energy from the plant. Costly energy that should rather be put into the development of cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
The best thing you can do to guarantee you’ll grow female cannabis plants, is to purchase feminized cannabis seeds. In contrast to regular cannabis seeds, which will grow 50/50 males and females, feminized seeds guarantee for 98% to grow into female cannabis plants.
So even if you use feminized seeds, it is advised to keep a close eye and determine the sex of the plant as soon as you can. As there’s always a small chance at finding a male plant in your garden which could screw up your harvest. Or for the plant to turn hermaphrodite and develop both sexes on one plant; as we’ll explain later on.
Female Cannabis Plants
The sex of cannabis plants can be determined by looking for the first signs of bloom on the plant. These are visible a few days to a week after you switch your light to 12/12 and give your plant the sign to start flowering – or when nature itself ignites the flowering phase by making days shorter than 14 hours.
Female weed plants are distinguished by the development of bracts with small white hairs (stigma’s) on their nodes. A node is the part of the plant where branches and leaves emerge from the stem. After a while, the plant starts pushing out more and more of these hairs until they swell up from the bottom up. This means the plant is now forming ‘calyxes’ that eventually stack up to become the flower as we know it.
These ‘calyxes’ remain empty as long as the plant is not pollinated. When it does get pollinated, these calyxes will fill up to hold and protect the plant’s babies: seeds. It is even thought that the resin on weed plants serves only that purpose in nature: to protect the plant’s offspring from burning in the sun.
Male Cannabis Seeds
Male Cannabis Plants are recognized by the formation of pollen sacs on the plant’s nodes. This happens around the same time as female reproductive organs should be forming. Although female plants tend to develop their reproductive organs a bit faster. Luckily, these male pollen sacs can be distinguished pretty easily. As they look like small balls hanging from the side of the plant; instead of the upward facing hairs from the female plant.
When left to grow, these balls will eventually open up like a flower and release pollen into the air. As we’ve explained, this pollen is only interesting when you’re trying to make your own strains or seeds. If you’re not making seeds, make sure to remove every male plant from your garden or grow room before this happens. Do it with the upmost care, as rocking the plant could force it to release the pollen.
Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
The first paragraph of this article explains cannabis plants grow only one set of reproductive organs. Although there is still a ‘but’ to this. Because there always remains the possibility that female cannabis plants form male reproductive organs too. This usually happens when the plant(s) experience excessive stress. And so they try to guarantee the survival of their species.
Because when cannabis plants turn ‘hermaphrodite’, it is so they can pollinate themselves. A risk you take with growing plants that are sensitive to stress and developing hermaphroditic traits – like the well-known Original Glue (Gorilla Glue #4). To avoid hermaphrodite cannabis plants from pollinating themselves, carefully remove the male reproductive organs that form on the nodes. You can do so by gently taking a pollen sac in between two fingers and twist/pull it off. This way you can have a banging harvest from any hermaphrodite, without having to pluck the seeds from your buds.