Marijuana plants are dioecious, meaning the can grow up to be male, female or hermaphrodite. What that means is that during flowering, males will produce ballsacks filled with pollen, females will produce bullet-shaped calyxes and pistils, while hermaphrodites will produce both. Just like humans, marijuana plants have a 50%-50% chance of turning male or female, so it is impossible to say what sex a plant is going to develop just by looking at the seed.
Why is Cannabis Sex Important
Knowing all about cannabis sex is especially important to growers, as male and hermaphrodite plants do not produce usable buds. What’s worse, when the time for flowering comes, the pollen sacks forming underneath the foliage will burst, pollinating nearby female flowers. From that moment on, the female flower will be unusable for recreational or medicinal purposes, as its potency and quality will be diminished.
Getting seeds instead of smokable buds is the no#1 disaster for the casual grower. Not only are you not getting to smoke your own marijuana, but you’ve likely spent a significant budget on it. Therefore, caring for your plants and making sure that no males stay in your garden will save you money and frustration.
When Can You Tell If A Cannabis Plant Is Male or Female?
It is impossible to guess the sex of a plant by looking at the seed. Usually, it is revealed in the later stages of the plant’s life. Somewhere between the transition from vegetative to flowering, the pre-flowers start to form. These tiny undergrowths are what will develop into the reproductive organs of the plant. Knowing how to read them will help you immensely, as you will be able to remove males well ahead of schedule.
Pre-flowers usually appear between the 6th-7th week from seed. Use a magnifying glass to take a better look: Male pre-flowers look like balls, while females calyxes are pear-shaped. During the vegetative stage, plants grow quickly and vigorously, while the flowering stage is when marijuana switches focus from root development to flower-growing.
Distinguishing Male from Female Cannabis Plants
If for some reason you are unable to tell each plant apart during the late vegetative period, don’t worry. You’ll have another chance after 1-3 weeks into the flowering stage (12/12 light cycle). Bear in mind that if a plant is kept in the vegetative stage for a long time, it will eventually grow pre-flowers. It is very useful that you become a pro at this, as it will help you grow much more weed in the long run.
In the following sections, I have included useful videos and images that show you how to distinguish male and hermaphrodite from female plants.
Characteristics of Female Cannabis Plants
The first signs of a female cannabis plant are the pistils: Wispy hair-like protrusions that appear right where the buds are going to develop (usually between the main stem and the branch). A female plant might take a bit longer to show the first signs after changed to flowering but will start developing reproductive organs during the late vegetative period if kept on an 18/6 light cycle for longer.
Here are some examples of female marijuana pre-flowers:
Especially during the early stages of flowering, it is easy to confuse a female pre-flower with a male. In that case, its shape should give you the answer: Females are more elongated and shaped like a pear. If you are still unsure, you can wait until the pistils start sticking out.
Characteristics of Male Marijuana Plants
Distinguishing male plants is easy: Grape-like ballsacks and no pistils = male plant! These balls will start forming shortly after you switch to flowering. It is important to take them out ASAP to avoid them bursting open all over your female plants. Although male plants are not ideal for smoking, there are a few things you can do with them, as we’ll see in a later section!
Here are some photos of male marijuana plants for reference:
Hermaphrodite Marijuana Plants
Even after you’ve removed all male plants from your garden, it is important to monitor them for signs of hermaphroditism closely. “Hermies,” as they’re called, can start to form quite unexpectedly, leaving you dumbfounded and with a garden full of seedy flowers.
Hermaphrodites can pollinate themselves and your whole growing area if you are not careful. What exactly causes them is still not verified, although stressful situations are the number one culprit: Abnormal temperatures, light leaks during the dark cycle or other extreme environmental factors can trigger hermaphroditism in marijuana. Whatever the reason for it, as soon as you spot hermaphrodite plants in your garden, you must remove them immediately.
Let’s see some photos and videos of hermaphrodite plants:
On the next page, we will explain how you can get more female cannabis plants!
How to Get More Female Cannabis Plants
The best answer to that question is always going to be “grow feminized seeds from a reputable breeder”. Very few cannabis strains do not have feminized varieties, and unless you plan to breed marijuana yourself, you don’t have any reason not to choose them.
However, bear in mind that even feminized seeds can develop into hermaphrodites in later life stages. Therefore, your best bet is to closely monitor your plants, provide an excellent environment and reduce stressful factors. Some growers also believe that there are some environmental factors at play in the process of gender development. Optimizing the environment may help with getting more females. Although there might be some truth to those claims, any evidence is purely anecdotal. Feel free to test them and tell us how it went!
Manipulating Temp and Humidity
Female marijuana plants like slightly lower temperatures and slightly higher humidity. These two do not often go hand in hand, so creating such an environment might be more difficult than it sounds. Your best bet is to use a small fan that will lower the temperature. Use it on the lowest setting, so the breeze hits your plants directly. That way, you will ensure that humidity levels will stay stable, but the temperature will drop.
Using Nitrogen and Potassium
Higher Nitrogen and lower Potassium is said to create a friendlier environment for female plants. You can try these techniques separately or in tandem, however, don’t go full-force with nutrient alterations. If you drastically change your growing environment, you’ll stress out the plant and actually increase the chances of a hermaphrodite. Go slow and see the results!
During the early vegetative period, try to supply your plants with more light in the blue spectrum and reduce the light schedule to 16/8 rather than 18/6. This will create a friendlier environment for female plants.
If you have any tips of your own, please share them with us in the comments! We’d love to hear your input!
What to Do With Male Marijuana Plants?
Although male plants are arguably unsuitable for smoking, that doesn’t mean they are completely useless. In fact, there are many reasons not to throw your males in the garbage. Here are just some reasons for keeping them (in a separate area).
Make Extracts or Concentrates
Male plants have THC too! Although they are not nearly as potent as female flowers, their leaves, stems, and sacs contain cannabinoids that can be extracted for the production of oils or other extracts.
Other Horticultural Activities
Male cannabis can make a great companion plant for any garden (unless it is a female cannabis garden). The aromatic oils it emits is a great pest repellent, so it might be a good idea to move your male cannabis among other vegetables or flowers. Also, their roots are very good at improving soil quality, as they break down nutrients and distribute moisture equally.
Breeding Your Own Strain
Obviously, male plants are a necessary component of marijuana reproduction. The pollination of females produces new seeds which carry the genetic code of both parents. Therefore, anyone can potentially develop a strain with their favorite characteristics. Of course, studying a little bit of biology might come in handy too! Marijuana breeding is a hard, but rewarding job if you do it right.
Marijuana has been used since the ancient times for religious and practical reasons. Hemp used for cloth production was a very profitable trade back in the day, and male plants can be used to produce soft fiber. If you feel like it, there is a nice tutorial on how to make rope from marijuana plants here!
Avoiding male and hermaphrodite plants should be your number one priority, whether you’re growing outdoors or indoors. Getting feminized seeds will probably ensure an all-female garden, but there are no guarantees in growing! You should still be vigilant and keep a close eye on your garden to avoid nasty surprises. Although it might seem complicated, caring for your garden is just a matter of knowing what to look for!