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The majority of people who grow cannabis do so to harvest female marijuana flowers. Cannabis plants are dioecious, and only female cannabis flowers produce the chemical compound THC, which is the cannabinoid responsible for marijuana’s signature psychoactive effect. Male cannabis plants are responsible for producing pollen that fertilizes the female plants, triggering them to produce seeds.
Female marijuana plants that contain seeds are less desirable for consumption. That is because developing these weed seeds takes valuable energy away from flower and THC production, making the flowers less potent. One male cannabis plant can fertilize thousands of female plants, so growers are always looking for ways to eliminate the chances of growing a male plant before it’s too late. One of the most innovative ways that growers have been able to reduce or eliminate the presence of male cannabis plants is by developing feminized seeds.
How to Tell Male Cannabis Plants from Female Cannabis Plants
Most of the time, when California or Montana growers choose to grow their plants from seeds, they have a 50% chance of ending up with a male marijuana plant. Because of this, they will need to take measures early to identify these plants and remove them before they produce pollen sacs.
Identifying the gender of a marijuana plant early can be tricky as they do not tend to show it until the flowering stage, which is already too late. There are some critical differences between male and female plants to watch for, including the following:
Female Cannabis Plants
Female plants are easy to recognize. The female flowers will bloom later than the flowers on a male cannabis plant. Female flowers resemble sacs and have white, feathery stigmas growing out of them. These stigmas are the “hairs” that turn brownish-orange towards the end of the plant’s flowering stage. The sacs will eventually bloom into cream-colored flowers, and the white stigmas that protrude from them are meant to catch pollen produced by male plants. Stigmas will develop on the elbow where a stem grows from the central stalk, or a smaller stem grows from a larger one.
Male Cannabis Plants
Male plants mature much faster than female plants, and that rate maturing is an excellent way to determine the plant’s gender. During the vegetative stage, male plants will be about two weeks of growth ahead of female plants, which is so the males can drop pollen on the female plants. The flowering stage of a male plant can happen as much as one month sooner than it does for female marijuana plants. This helps growers identify male plants before the females have a chance to produce flowers and get pollinated.
Male plants are usually more straight and less bushy than female plants. They have thicker stalks and flowers towards the top of the plant, whereas females will have flowers all over. Male plants have flowers in green, tightly packed clusters, as well.
When opened, male marijuana flowers have several long, slightly curved objects in the center that look similar to a bunch of bananas. They may start off looking similar to female buds, but once they open, they will reveal a pollen sac.
Telling the Difference
Check the Plant’s Growth Patterns
Growth patterns are another great way to differentiate male plants from female plants. There is a subtle difference in size between the male plant and the female plant, and a difference in how the branches are distributed. Female plants tend to have a more complicated branch pattern around the stalk, whereas male plants are taller, and their branches are spaced evenly and farther apart.
Where the Seed Sprouted during Germination
A good deal of cannabis growers have started using the seed’s sprouting location as a way to determine gender. Though there has been no substantial research done on this method, growers often boast an accuracy rate of around 90%.
According to this method, if a seed’s taproot emerges on the top or bottom “seam” of the seed, then it is female. If the taproot emerges from the side, then it is male. Though this method is popular among growers, it is still important to monitor the plant as it grows to confirm that it is female.
Ensuring Female Plants
Many growers understandably do not want to risk missing a male plant and ruining their harvest. Because of this, they take every preventative measure possible to ensure that the plants will be female before they grow. The most common ways to do this are to clone a female plant or use feminized seeds.
Cloning a plant sounds deeply scientific, but it is a relatively simple process. Typically growers will have a female plant that is kept in its vegetative stage, called the “mother.” They will take a cutting off the mother from as close to the root system as possible and put the cutting in soil. They may add rooting hormone to ensure that the clone begins to develop a root system. From this cutting, they will have another plant of the same genetics as the mother. While this is a great way to ensure the grower has a female plant, the genetics get weaker and produce less potent plants, the more often a plant is cloned.
Feminized marijuana seeds are simply seeds that are guaranteed to produce a female plant. Many growers prefer this method of ensuring female plants as seeds provide the most potent genetics and produce the most robust plants.
Reasons to Grow Feminized Cannabis Seeds
There are two main benefits to growing feminized cannabis seeds, including:
When growers use traditional cannabis seeds to grow their plants, they spend a lot of time nurturing plants that will eventually be thrown away. These male plants not only take up time that could be spent on female plants instead, but they take up space in the growing area that could be used for cultivating female plants.
When growers use feminized seeds, they can devote their time and space to growing only the plants they want to grow. This level of efficiency is necessary for medical grows especially, as it prevents the growers from having limited access to their medicine.
Not only do growers waste a lot of time and space when they end up growing male plants, but the male plants use up valuable resources that would be better spent on cultivating female marijuana plants. During the vegetative stage, growers give their plants vital nutrients to encourage growth that is wasted when it is used on a plant that will just be thrown out.
How Cannabis Seeds are Feminized
Feminized seeds are a relatively recent development, invented to solve the problem of how to grow only female plants. There are two primary methods to produce female seeds reliably, including:
Stressing a Female Plant
An easy way for even a novice grower to ensure they will have all-female seeds is to stress out a female plant during its flowering stage. This is done by interrupting its light cycle during flowering, which will trigger the plant to hermaphrodite and pollinate itself. Because a female plant is producing pollen with only female plant genetics, the resulting seeds are guaranteed to be female.
However, this method produces less stable plants in the long run. This is because the plants grown from these seeds carry a higher risk of turning hermaphrodite, which is not something that growers in Kentucky or any other state want to happen on plants they will harvest for consumption.
Spraying a Silver Thiosulfate or Colloidal Silver Solution
A more controlled and reliable method of forcing a cannabis plant to produce female seeds is by spraying it with a silver thiosulphate or colloidal silver solution. This process is called rhodelization, and it is much more likely to produce female seeds that do not have an increased likelihood of becoming a hermaphrodite.
The silver thiosulfate or colloidal silver solution are both mixtures of small silver particles and water, and they hinder the plant’s production of ethylene during flowering. When this happens, the female plant produces male pollen sacs and fertilizes itself, much like what occurs in the previously discussed method. However, this method makes a female plant produce mild male flowers, which gives the seeds a higher chance at perfectly mimicking the genetics of the original plant.
The Bottom Line
Many growers dream of being able to have an all-female cannabis garden. Cannabis plant reproduction can be complicated and difficult to control. Growers often sacrifice strong seed genetics for weaker clones to avoid having to determine the gender of their pot plants down the road. The difficulty and risk involved in growing male plants, identifying them, and discarding them before they pollinate the female plants cause growers a lot of stress.
Feminized seeds eliminate this problem for growers from Delaware to West Virginia, getting them closer to their dream garden than they have ever been able to get before. Improved methods of ensuring female seeds have allowed our American seed growers to cultivate perfect plants with minimal risk of having their plants turn into hermaphrodites.