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Difference Between Male and Female Cannabis Plants

Updated August 1, 2022

Contents


  • Only Female Plants Produce Buds
  • THC Content
  • How to Only Grow Female Plants
  • Identify Plants Early
  • Buy Feminized Seeds
  • Grow From Clones
  • Differences in Pre-flowers on Male Vs. Female Cannabis Plants
  • Identifying and Describing Females
  • Identifying and Describing Males
  • When Can You Identify Male Vs. Female Cannabis Plants?
  • You Can Sometimes Tell Earlier
  • You Should Be Able to Tell by the Flowering Stage
  • If You Want Buds, Separate Males and Females
  • Seeded Buds Are Considered Lower Quality
  • It Lets You Focus Your Resources, Saving Money and Effort
  • When You Would Want Male Plants
  • Breeding
  • Getting Seeds
  • Can You Do Anything Else With Male Cannabis Plants?
  • What Are Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants?
  • Types of Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
  • Potential Causes
  • Get Rid of Them
  • Conclusion

If you have any exposure at all to growing cannabis or interacting with the plants, you are likely aware that there are male and female cannabis plants. Most people do not know much about the differences. Some only know that the females are plants that produce the buds, while others do not even know this.

Whether you plan on growing cannabis or want to know more about the plant, it can be useful to learn the difference between male and female marijuana plants.

Only Female Plants Produce Buds

The most important distinction between male and female cannabis plants for most people will be that only females can produce buds. In other words, if your goal is to grow cannabis to consume it instead of for future breeding or to have a pretty plant, then you want to grow females. Most people who grow male plants will do so for reproduction, although you could also do so to diversify your garden. The bottom line is that you will not get any buds from male cannabis plants.

THC Content

In addition to the fact that only female cannabis plants will produce buds, it is essential to note that they provide much more THC than males. Males rarely produce enough THC to be usable, which is why growers in search of potency tend to avoid them.

How to Only Grow Female Plants

Since most people who grow cannabis want the buds as the final product, they will prefer to produce only female plants. This is not always as easy said as done since cannabis seeds are split evenly between males and females.

Identify Plants Early

One standard solution to get around this problem is to start by planting more seeds than you need to create your desired number of adult cannabis plants. As soon as you can identify the sex of the plants, go ahead and do so. At this point, you can get rid of the males and keep growing the females.

Buy Feminized Seeds

Since many growers do not want to waste time and resources on growing seeds that will end up male, breeders have also come up with other solutions. The most popular is the feminized seeds. These are seeds that have been specifically bred to be only female. This way, you do not have to start growing the seeds and wait a little to identify the males.

Grow From Clones

Another option to avoid male cannabis plants is to only grow from clones instead of seeds. This way, you can be sure you are only cultivating female plants. As a bonus, growing from clones eliminates the need to germinate the seed, cutting some time off the beginning of the growing process. Keep in mind, however, that unlike seeds, you will need to plant and grow clones right away; they have no shelf life.

Differences in Pre-flowers on Male Vs. Female Cannabis Plants

Although beginners may find it hard to distinguish, those with experience identifying male and female plants will frequently be able to do so by looking at the pre-flowers. These will usually appear at around six weeks but can take until the beginning of the flowering stage to appear.

The main difference between the male and female pre-flowers is that the males will have pollen sacs while the females will have pistils and buds (calyx).

Identifying and Describing Females

Female plants frequently take a little longer to start showing signs of their gender, compared to males. If you prolong the vegetative stage of growth in female plants, then they may show these signs even before they reach the flowering stage.

The earliest signs will come in the form of a handful of wispy white hairs in the area where the buds will eventually form. This is typically close to the location where individual branches or nodes connect with the main stem.

The key here is to remember that the pistils on female cannabis plants are never green; they are always white.

Keep in mind that the pre-flower will not begin with the pistil sticking out. Even so, you can typically tell that it is a female based on the shape. It will usually be female if the calyx is pointier, as pollen sacs in males tend to be rounder. If you cannot tell from the shape alone, wait for that wispy white hair to appear, and you will have your confirmation.

Identifying and Describing Males

Most of the time, you will first notice the indications of a male plant around one or two weeks after the plant enters the flowering stage.

When identifying a male plant, you want to look for small balls that are almost grape-like in appearance. These balls become the pollen sacs that will contain pollen. If you let the plant keep growing, the pollen sacs will eventually burst open. This will cause the pollen to spill and spread.

When Can You Identify Male Vs. Female Cannabis Plants?

Most people should be able to identify if the plants are males or females once they reach the pre-flowering stage, which is the transition between the vegetative stage and the flowering stage. This may start at about four weeks but can take until around six weeks.

During the vegetative stage, you are unlikely to be able to tell the difference, since the plant focuses on growing without much differentiation by gender. This changes at around six weeks, when the pre-flowers start to appear.

If you cannot tell the difference at the pre-flowering stage, you should be able to, by the time the plants reach the flowering stage. During this stage, the plants no longer focus on strength and height. Instead, their energy goes to flower growth. This means that males will start producing their pollen sacs while females will begin providing their buds.

You Can Sometimes Tell Earlier

Although it is not the general rule of thumb, some strains or individual cannabis plants will give you a hint of their gender while they are still in the vegetative stage. If you keep them under the lighting schedule for vegetative growth for long enough, they may begin to grow the sacs or pistils for males and females, respectively. This early evidence of gender is particularly common among clones.

You Should Be Able to Tell by the Flowering Stage

At the latest, you should be able to tell the difference between male and female plants when you reach the flowering stage. This should happen within the first three weeks after you adjust the lighting, and cannabis is officially in the flowering stage.

If You Want Buds, Separate Males and Females

If your goal with growing cannabis is to get beautiful potent buds, then you want to make sure that you remove the male plants from the females as soon as you identify them. You can discard the male plants if you wish to, but at the least, you need to place them as far apart as you can.

Otherwise, as the male plants keep growing, the pollen sac will burst open, as mentioned before. When this happens, the pollen will spread to the female plants and cause fertilization to occur. If that happens, the female cannabis plants will focus their energy on developing seeds instead of producing buds. This typically results in weaker buds, which is not what most growers want.

Seeded Buds Are Considered Lower Quality

It is generally accepted the seeded buds from female cannabis plants are of a lower quality than buds from an un-pollinated plant. The main issue is the potential reduction in potency and overall quality due to the female plant focusing its energy on growing seeds, as previously described.

Additionally, smoking seeded buds tend to produce smoke that is unpleasant and harsh.

It Lets You Focus Your Resources, Saving Money and Effort

Additionally, if your goal is to produce cannabis buds that you will then smoke or use in another way, then there is no reason to have male plants around. By identifying the male plants and removing or discarding them, you will have more resources and effort to dedicate to the female plants. You will save money on nutrients, soil, water, and electricity associated with climate control for growing the males. You will also give your female cannabis plants more space to spread out and grow, potentially increasing the yields.

When You Would Want Male Plants

Despite the clear preference for female cannabis plants, there are still some situations where you will want to have male plants as well.

Breeding

If you are trying to breed a new strain of cannabis, then you will want to keep some males around. After all, breeding requires a male and a female plant to produce the seeds.

Getting Seeds

Additionally, if you have a strain that you like, you may want to keep the males around so you can collect seeds. This way, you will not have to buy seeds for the next season or grow only from clones. Remember that growing from seeds lets you take advantage of the longer shelf life of seeds, as they can easily last years when stored in cool, dry, airtight conditions.

Can You Do Anything Else With Male Cannabis Plants?

Although male cannabis plants are not as potent as female ones, you can still find some uses for them if you accidentally fully grow a male.

Some people choose to use male plants still to make edibles or extracts. There will always be some THC, cannabinoids, and terpenes in the male plant, just not as much as found in the females. You can also find the resin that contains cannabinoids on male plants, including on the leaves and by the pollen sacs. You could use this to make extracts or edibles. Alternatively, you can process the kief to make small discs that are less potent than those you would get from female plants.

What Are Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants?

Most cannabis plants will be either male or female, but some are hermaphrodites. This occurs if the plant has developed both female and male sex organs.

Types of Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants

You can find two types of plants that are hermaphrodites. Some plants will develop pollen sacs in addition to buds. The other type will produce anthers, which some people call bananas because their appearance resembles this fruit.

Potential Causes

Hermaphrodite cannabis plants typically occur due to extreme stress. That stress may be from nutrient deficiencies, disease, plant damage, or bad weather.

Another potential cause is due to genetics. Cannabis plants tend to have a higher risk of hermaphroditism if there is a genetic history of it.

Get Rid of Them

If you want to grow cannabis to produce rich, potent buds, then get rid of any hermaphrodite cannabis plants that you find. Since these plants produce pollen, they carry the same risk of fertilizing the female plants that you would have with male plants. This is mainly a concern in the case of hermaphrodites with pollen sacs as well as buds, as the sac will burst and spread the pollen. Even so, hermaphrodite cannabis plants with anthers can easily pollinate your female plants, causing the same issue.

Even if you plan on breeding cannabis plants and want to produce seeds, you should get rid of hermaphroditic plants since some of this is tied to genetics. In other words, future child cannabis plants may have a higher chance of hermaphroditism, including when you do not want pollen present.

Conclusion

As you work to grow cannabis, you will want to focus on the female plants instead of the male ones, as they produce the buds and have higher concentrations of THC and other cannabinoids. You can usually start identifying whether a cannabis plant is male or female at around four to six weeks, but it may take a little longer. As soon as you identify males, remove them from the females to avoid pollination, unless that is your goal.