If you’re starting to grow marijuana, knowing the difference between female and male cannabis plants is crucial. Female plants produce buds, the part of the plant with THC and other cannabinoids, and male plants do not. More importantly, having males or hermaphrodites in your grow room can actually be harmful to your harvest. So you need to know how to distinguish between the two as early as possible. Once you have learned how to tell the difference between male and female cannabis plants, you’ll be well on your way to a successful grow!
The main differences between female and male cannabis plants
You already know that male marijuana plants do not produce buds, but that’s not the only differentiator. There are actually quite a few. Male plants tend to be tall, with thick stems, and, most of the time, will have fewer leaves. However, the plants will only show these distinctive characteristics when they’re in the flowering stage of growth. During the flowering stage, cannabis plants will start to show their sex between 7-14 days.
So you need to pay close attention and watch out for tell-tale signs. The first thing to look for is the mini buds or preflowers, which can be reliable gender identifiers. The way your plant preflowers stands as the most critical difference between female and male cannabis plants in their earlier stages.
If your plant is a male, you’ll be able to see, near the bottom of the branches, where they intersect with the stem, a small sac that resembles a seed; these are called pollen sacs. Female plants will start growing similar structures, but you’ll see tiny white hairs called pistils. You can also expect to see a thick layer of resin on the females. The function of which is to catch the pollen produced by male plants. This pre-flowering stage usually lasts ten days, and the first flowers can become visible after two weeks.
It’s essential to keep a close eye on the sex of your cannabis plants for many reasons. If the female plant gets pollinated by the male plant, it will stop growing flowers and will start producing seeds. For this reason, it’s crucial to separate the males from the female plants as soon as possible before the males begin to pollinate. Pollination can start within 7 to 10 days, so you have to act fast. Take the entire male plant out of your growing room. It must be isolated from the females. If you’re not planning to breed, you can even cut down the male plant entirely and dispose of it in your compost.
What if my cannabis plant is a hermaphrodite?
Sometimes, a cannabis plant can also have both male and female parts. These are classified as hermaphrodites, also known as ‘hermie’. Hermies are a common nightmare for both beginners and experienced growers, but there are ways you can avoid them. The most common cause of having hermaphrodite cannabis plants is unstable or unreliable genetics. So, when purchasing cannabis clones or seeds, make sure to buy them from a reliable source with verifiable genetics.
However, environmental stress can sometimes cause healthy feminized plants to become hermaphrodites. And the most common cause of stress is inadequate lighting during the vegetative stage. So pay close attention to make sure there isn’t any light leaking into your room or growth tent, particularly natural light. A hole small as a dime with light leaking through can cause your plant to stress and become a hermaphrodite. Fixing this is simple. Enter your tent during the day. Then sit beside your plants, with the tent closed, and turn the lights out. If there’s any light leaking inside, you’ll be able to find and fix it. Other issues, such as temperature variation, inadequate watering, or unbalanced pH, can also stress the plants.
So, what can you do with a hermaphrodite cannabis plant? Unlike the male plant, you don’t need to cut it down or dispose of it entirely. But it is crucial to separate it from the female immediately, in a different room or tent, so they don’t get pollinated. If you wish to, you can cut the small ‘bananas’ (the male sexual organ) that grows inside the flowers with a tweezer. The seeds you get from this hermaphrodite plant are also worth saving because they can grow as females. To avoid any accidental pollination make sure you attend to your female plants first and then the hermies. Otherwise, if you’re not careful, you can end up transporting the pollen in your clothes.
Is there a way to guarantee that you’ll always have female cannabis plants?
Yes, cloning is the best way to assure that you’ll always have female cannabis plants. Since clones are taken from a female mother plant, they will always grow as females, with the exact same genetics. Another advantage of buying cannabis clones is that you don’t need to wait for the seeds to germinate and then guess if the young plants are male or female. Plus, buying a clone from a reliable nursery will help you get the exact strain that you’re expecting, with no surprises.
Some people opt for seeds rather than clones. However, buying clones cuts out half the hassle, and provides more guarantee, especially for beginners. And once you find the strain that fits your needs perfectly, you can start cloning it yourself for an ongoing supply of female plants with reliable genetics.
New to growing marijuana and interested in learning more? Check out our quick growing guide to take your passion to the next level.
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