Male vs. Female Marijuana — How To Properly Determine The Sex Of Your Cannabis Strains - International Highlife
Telling the difference between male and female weed plants

Male vs. Female Marijuana — How To Properly Determine The Sex Of Your Cannabis Strains

Unless you’re a hobbyist cannabis breeder, chances are you just want female weed strains in your garden. Only unpollinated marijuana plants will produce the trichome-rich nugs pot is known for. If you have male strains in your grow tent, they will significantly decrease the potency of your final flowers. Plus, there are cases where cannabis plants could turn into hermaphrodites, which is never good news for cultivators. 

Even if you’ve ordered cannabis seeds that are supposedly “pre-sexed,” you need to know what to watch for when sexing cannabis strains. People who can’t identify male vs. female vs. hermaphrodite plants risk ruining their entire crop. 

Distinguishing Male vs. Female Cannabis — Crucial Tips On “Ganja Gender” 

Wait, What’s So Wrong With Male Cannabis? 

First, new cultivators should know why it’s crucial to avoid male marijuana plants. Although cannabis needs both male and female plants to evolve in nature, sex saps all of the energy out of female plants. Put another way: Female plants can’t produce high concentrations of cannabinoids if they’re focusing on reproduction. 

When a male plant’s pollen sacs burst, these particles will inevitably land on the female plant’s pistils. This is excellent news if you like breeding new cannabis seeds, but it’s horrendous if you want to smoke THC-drenched nugs. You see, if female plants don’t have to deal with pollen from males, they will concentrate all of their efforts on creating juicy nugs. 

Since most people grow cannabis to enjoy the effects of cannabinoids and terpenes, it makes sense they’d want to max out these compounds. You can only produce a high-THC strain if you ensure your tent is free from male and hermaphrodite plants. 

What’s The Easiest Way To Tell If Cannabis Is Male vs. Female? 

There are a few ways you determine the sex of your cannabis plant, but the most effective method is to pay attention to the nodes. These junctures between the leaves and branches contain crucial info on whether your strain is male or female. 

During late vegetation or early flowering stages, you should notice pollen sacs or pistils at these sites. Pollen sacs look like little “balls,” and (appropriately) they signify male plants. By contrast, thin hair-like pistils are females. Usually, you should see these “pre-flowers” emerge within about 4 – 6 weeks into the growing cycle with photoperiod plants. 

It’s also possible you could notice both pollen sacs and pistils. In this case, you probably have a hermaphrodite on your hands. Since hermaphrodites release pollen, you should treat them like males and get them out of your grow space ASAP. 

A few other possible features could suggest your plants are male or female. For instance, many growers point out that male plants tend to have fatter stalks than females. It’s also common for male strains to grow taller and to have fewer fan leaves than female cultivars.

However, cultivators should always focus on the nodes when determining a cannabis plant’s sex. Only the presence of pollen sacs vs. pistils will guarantee what plant gender you have in your grow space. 

While you could usually see these pollen sacs or pistils without magnification, it may help to use a jeweler’s loupe for extra assurance. You’ll need a jeweler’s loupe to inspect trichomes at harvest, so it’s worthwhile to use this tool when sexing your plants. You could learn more about checking cannabis for harvest in our previous post

Here are some examples of female marijuana pre-flowers:

female cannabis preflowers

A pointy calyx and little white hairs (pistils)

female cannabis

A female cannabis pre-flower


Here are some photos of male marijuana plants for reference:

male marijuana flower

These balls are going to be filled with pollen really soon!

male preflowers

Male pre-flowers

Are There Ways To Avoid Planting Male Marijuana Plants? 

Since male plants are such a nuisance for most cannabis cultivators, it makes sense that most weed seed banks specialize in feminized seeds. There are plenty of “pre-sexed” cannabis seeds that should only produce female flowers. While these seeds could “herm out” during the growth process, chances are greater they will turn into female plants if you don’t stress them out too much.

If you order pre-sexed seeds from a trusted seed bank, you will significantly decrease the odds of dealing with a male plant in your grow tent. By contrast, people who order “regular” seeds typically have a 50/50 ratio of females to males. While regular seeds tend to be cheaper than pre-sexed seeds, please consider you may have to throw away half of your crop. 

How Can Cannabis Cultivators Avoid Hermaphrodites? 

While male cannabis plants have a purpose for cannabis breeders, nobody wants hermaphrodite cannabis plants. Thankfully, you can reduce the odds of “herming out” your priceless feminized seeds.

Most significantly, you must pay careful attention to stressing out your plants. Chronic stress is the number one reason a plant will tend towards hermaphroditism. You must be especially careful with your light intensity and humidity in the seedling and early vegetative stages. Seedlings are particularly susceptible to even minor changes in light positioning, humidity, and temperature during the early stages of growth. 

It’s also crucial to avoid switching to a flowering light cycle too soon. If you transition to a 12/12 light schedule before your vegetative plant is ready, there’s a greater likelihood this stress will induce hermaphroditism. 

Lastly, you must ensure the cannabis seeds you’re starting with aren’t predisposed toward “herming out.” For instance, the popular strain Gorilla Glue #4 has a nasty habit of turning into a hermaphrodite. Please look up strain-specific info to see if your plant has special hermaphrodite-related issues. Also, please always verify the seed bank you’re working with has a strong reputation for producing 100 percent feminized seeds.  

Let’s see some photos and videos of hermaphrodite plants:

Can Autoflowers Produce Male Plants? 

Just because autoflowers have ruderalis genetics doesn’t mean they can’t produce male plants. Like photoperiod cannabis strains, autos could become males or females if you’re using regular seeds. Always scout out high-quality feminized auto seeds if you don’t want to deal with male plants in your garden. 

By the way, you could learn more about growing autoflowering cannabis strains in this previous guide.  

Stick With Feminized Flowers For Fire Cannabis Buds 

The cannabis industry has an unabashed bias for female flowers. Indeed, most cultivators nowadays rely on feminized seeds to take the guesswork out of sexing their pre-flowering plants. However, even if you’re relying on feminized seeds, you should know how to distinguish between males, females, and hermaphrodites. There’s always a chance a male seed could slip into a feminized seed packet or one of your feminized seeds “herms out.”

If you’re unfamiliar with inspecting nodes for pollen sacs and pistils, it’s a good idea to Google images when you get a free moment. Knowing what to look for will take a ton of stress out of sexing your first cannabis strain.

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