When it comes to growing cannabis, it truly is essential that you learn the difference between male and female cannabis plants. By learning this simple technique, you can easily decide what you want to pollinate and what you don’t.
Understanding Plant Reproductive Morphology
First, let’s take one step back to fully grasp why we need to separate cannabis plants by male and female in the first place. This is commonly referred to as the plant reproductive morphology, which is simply the study of the physical form and structure of a plant’s sexual reproduction parts.
While there are actually many complex forms of morphology, for the sake of keeping it simple, we’re only going to cover three of the most common ones.
This is a type of plant that forms both male and female parts on the same plant. Therefore, this plant will be able to reproduce on its own. However, in cannabis plants, you can discover a “hermied” plant by banana looking shoots, which form on the flowers. While this can be the genetics of the cannabis strain, it may also be an indication of the plant getting too stressed out. When a plant gets too stressed and fears it will die, it may begin to form male reproductive parts. This is to ensure that seeds can drop for its survival (keep reading for more info on detecting “hermied” cannabis plants).
For this type of plant, it will form both male and female reproductive parts. However, they will not be on the same flower as they are with hermaphrodite plants. Within monoecious plants, you will find one flower has female parts, while another has male parts. In cannabis, this is very uncommon to find. Actually, it’s only been reported a few times in history and something that we’ve never personally seen. If this were to happen, you would find one stalk with definitive male characteristics and other branches of the same plant with definitive female characteristics.
Now, with a dioecious plant, you will find that the plant either produces all male parts or all female parts. This means that no single plant can reproduce on its own. The female actually needs its male counterpart to continue producing seed for the following year. And, you guessed it, this is the category cannabis falls into and why you must separate your males from females. If you fail to separate them all, you will likely find that the male plants pollinated your females. Therefore, leaving you with a handful of buds chalked full of seeds.
How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Cannabis Plants
Now, with an understanding of the various sexual organs within cannabis plants, let’s get to the fun part – separating your lady friends from their male counterparts.
After the seeds have sprouted and the plants have had a chance to grow, it will be time to find out which ones you’ll be keeping to flower out and which ones you will be chopping down to avoid seeded buds.
Usually, when starting from seed, you will need to wait about four to six weeks before the male and female parts will be formed well enough for you to see the difference.
When it comes to male cannabis plants, they form what we like to call “pollen testicles.” These will form in between the nodes on the plant and look like little bell-like sacs hanging down. Take a look at this image of the male pollen sacs forming on this plant:
If taken to full maturity, these sacs will then form green and white flowers, which will disperse pollen in an effort to fertilize any female plants nearby. Therefore, allowing their genes to carry on to the next generation of plants.
For female cannabis plants, you will find pistils forming between their nodes. These will be easily identifiable by their white or orange hairs. Take a look at this image to see the pistils forming on these plants:
As their growth continues into flowering, these parts will begin to form a protective layer, referred to as calyxes, with two of the pistils. Ultimately, forming the cannabis buds we all love so much.
So, what are male cannabis plants good for?
When it comes to male cannabis plants, many growers avoid them at all costs. However, if you’re looking to form your own genetics or no longer want to purchase seeds, male cannabis plants can be your friends.
The male cannabis plant is what you will need to form seeds. When left in a room or area with a female plant for the duration of their life cycle, the male plant will pollinate the female. Then the female’s big and beautiful buds will fill with seeds. These can be collected prior to falling to the ground to store for future seasons or just allow them to fall to the ground and let nature do the work.
How will I know if my plant has “hermied”?
Earlier we mentioned that cannabis plants can, in fact, become hermaphrodites. As mentioned, this can be caused by plant stress. However, there is a little more to it than that and we want to be sure you know what to look for!
When a cannabis plant begins to “hermie,” there are actually a few stress factors that can cause this. These include, but are definitely not limited to:
- Plant damage
- Bad weather (if outdoors)
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Disease with the plant
- Plant genetics
Additionally, when a plant “herms out,” there are two distinct ways that this may present itself.
- The plant will develop the “bananas” mentioned earlier on the buds. These are actually the male organs (stamens) forming on the flower. These stamen produce pollen and can possibly cause seed production.
- The other type of hermaphrodite cannabis plant will form both the buds and pollen sacs. These sacs will need to release their pollen at some point and can be considered true hermaphrodite plants.
Ultimately, both forms of hermaphrodite cannabis plants will produce pollen, thus possibly causing seeds to form in your buds. So, beware and stay on the lookout for these signs occurring in your plants.
Of course, there are some things you just can’t help, like plant genetics. Unfortunately, there are just some strains of cannabis that are prone to “herming out.” Do your research before purchasing seeds or clones, so you know what you’re getting yourself into!
Can I purchase all female cannabis seeds instead of separating males from females?
For those not looking to separate males and females, there are many breeders out there offering feminized seeds. These seeds are specifically bred so that you know you will end up with all female plants.
To do this, breeders modify the genetic makeup through a variety of methods. Two of the most common ways to produce feminized seeds are:
- Colloidal silver
Personally, we prefer to separate the males from females. However, for first-time growers, it may be simpler to start by purchasing feminized seeds or clones from a reputable source. That way you have one less thing to worry about with your first few attempts at growing cannabis at home.
If you’re interested in making your own feminized seeds, take a gander at this article to help you start.
Now, get out there and start growing some big beautiful buds! And, be sure to tag us @growing_organic, so we can see your grow!