Female cannabis plants are desirable to cannabis cultivators and are more valuable because they produce THC- and CBD-packed buds. The main difference between male and female cannabis plants is that males don’t yield buds, while females do. Just like humans, cannabis and hemp plants are considered dioecious, meaning they have either male or female reproductive organs. Depending on the goal of the
Why Female Cannabis Plants Are the Most Desirable
Female cannabis plants are generally considered more valuable than male cannabis plants. In cannabis plants, the females hold almost all the power, at least when it comes to cannabinoid content. Both male and female plants are needed to breed new genetics and create new strains. But female plants are responsible for the sticky and stinky trichome- and terpene-covered buds that give cannabis its therapeutic potency.
Learn more about the anatomy of female cannabis plants and why they need male cannabis plants.
Considering when planted cannabis seeds will come out 50/50 male to female ratio, this means that only half of your crops will yield the types of buds you’re after. There are ways around this that we will look at later, including cloning and feminized seeds, which exist solely to solve the need for an abundance of female plants.
Male vs. Female Cannabis Plants: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between male and female cannabis plants is that female plants produce buds, and male plants produce pollen. Anyone who uses cannabis medically or recreationally will know that buds with seeds are often less potent and usually considered substandard.
On the other hand, seedless buds, often coated in sticky resin and even a blanket of white crystals, are highly sought after for their aroma, flavor, and most of all, their potent effects. Seedless buds are known as “sensimilla” – female cannabis plants that have been left unfertilized and left to concentrate on producing buds.
Female cannabis plants are responsible for those flavorful THC and CBD-packed buds. On the other hand, it is a male plant that produces seedy buds, often less potent. While seeds are essential to continue growing, more female plants are needed to ensure high yields of quality buds at the end of the day.
However, it must be noted that, while female cannabis plants are generally more cannabinoid-packed, male cannabis plants can contain unique cannabinoid ratios of their own (particularly CBD). Breeders ought to look out for unusually frosty male cannabis plants as this could make them excellent candidates as a partner for a particularly healthy female.
When planted, cannabis seeds will come out in a roughly 50/50 male to female ratio, so only half of your seedlings will yield the types of buds you’re after. There are ways around this, including cloning and feminized seeds, which exist solely to solve the need for an abundance of female plants. You will also want to remove the male plants from your grow space so they do not fertilize your females and reduce the amount of flower you could produce.
In short, female cannabis plants are more valuable than male cannabis plants because they produce the usable part of the plant: the bud. However, male and female cannabis plants need each other and experience a symbiotic relationship in nature as the males pollinate the females’ flowers, and can help provide the genetic diversity plants need to survive in an ever-changing world.
The Anatomy of Female Cannabis Plants
Generally, a cultivator can visually determine the gender of a cannabis plant around four to six weeks into the growth cycle (though this may differ when growing indoors). At this point, the plant is transitioning from its “vegetative” stage to the “flowering” stage when buds are formed.
Cultivators pay careful attention to the space between the plant’s nodes where leaves and branches extend from the stalk. Pre-flowers will begin to form, and the characteristics of those pre-flowers will determine the gender of your plant. In female plants, those nodes will show as almost hairlike, while on male plants, it will be the shape of a small ball. Male plants also tend to have thicker stalks and grow a bit taller than female cannabis plants.
Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants: What to Know
Though it’s unusual, just like in humans, there are rare cases where a plant is found to have both male and female pre-flowers. Often, hermaphrodite cannabis plants occur when a plant becomes excessively stressed due to damage to the plant, unfavorable weather conditions, disease, nutrient deficiencies, or genetics. Hermaphrodites can occur in indoor grows when the plant receives excessive light during its dark time.
While a hermaphrodite plant is not ideal, it will still produce pollen, so growers need to separate these plants and male plants as soon as they are discovered, as they can potentially ruin an entire crop.
The Bottom Line: Why Are Female Cannabis Plants Important?
Female cannabis plants are considered important because they produce buds, which contain trichomes that produce high concentrations of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Male plants are beneficial for keeping unique genetic profiles alive, creating new varieties of cannabis, and adding variation into the cannabis gene pool. However, for most home growers who are not interested in breeding, keeping males can be a complicated process that’s not always worth the hassle.
If you’re considering growing your cannabis at home, then it is crucial to know the differences between male and female plants and the importance of keeping female plants. If you can purchase clones or feminized seeds from a dispensary, this can simplify things for you incredibly, especially if you’re new to growing cannabis.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How can you tell if your cannabis plant is male or female before flowering?
Before the flowering stage, you can determine if your cannabis plant is male or female by performing a chemical leaf test. Or, you can simply observe your plants and look for clues. Female plants will display fine white hairs called stigmas on their buds. Male plants will show pollen sacs without stigmas. Later on, you’ll notice your male cannabis plants growing taller than your female cannabis plants and displaying fewer leaves.
Can a female cannabis plant turn male?
No, a female cannabis plant cannot turn male, but it can turn into a hermaphrodite displaying male and female sex characteristics. When a female plant becomes hermaphroditic, it develops both male and female reproductive parts in order to pollinate itself. Female cannabis plants usually turn into hermaphrodites when under some type of environmental stress, so take care as you cultivate your crops.
What happens if you don’t separate a male from a female plant?
Putting a male cannabis plant and female cannabis plant together can lead to your female cannabis plants being fertilized. This means that your female cannabis plants will produce seeds rather than buds/flower.
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Female vs. Male Cannabis Plants: How They’re Similar (and Different)
The main difference between male and female cannabis plants is that male cannabis plants do not yield buds, whereas female cannabis plants do. This means female plants produce usable cannabis (buds), and male plants do not. There are many other obvious as well as subtler differences between male and female cannabis plants that can affect a cultivator’s crop.
What Are Female Cannabis Plants?
Female cannabis plants are the most sought-after plants for most cannabis cultivators. They contain the prized bud that comprises all cannabis products, whether smokable, topical, or otherwise. Female cannabis plants also contain the lion’s share of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Male plants, in contrast, contain only trace amounts of THC.
The output of female cannabis plants is far more potent than male plants. While male plants can be used occasionally to make concentrate products like hash, female plants are widely preferred for this purpose. The coarse, tough hemp material derived from female cannabis plants is also useful for making rope and other products that require a strong fiber.
What Are Male Cannabis Plants?
Male cannabis plants grow pollen sacs rather than buds. They pollinate female plants with their pollen sacs. Cannabis grown from male plants is not usable, as it contains no “bud.” Male cannabis plants are essential in breeding programs and provide 50% of the genetic material that the seeds inherit. This is why, for breeders, strong fathers are as sought after as strong mothers. Male cannabis plants also tend to contain more phytocannabinoids on their leaves. Male cannabis plants with particularly high cannabinoid concentrations in their leaves combined with strong roots can become key parts of a breeding program.
In addition, male cannabis plants are useful for making hemp fiber, especially for clothing. The hemp material of male plants is softer than that of female plants, making it desirable for shirts, tablecloths, or bed sheets. Finally, male cannabis plants are also effective at keeping harmful pests away.
How to Tell Male and Female Cannabis Plants Apart
Determining the sex of a marijuana plant is a visual process that you can begin early in the plant’s growth cycle. During the first four weeks of growth, you may be able to observe pollen sacs on the male and stigma or “pre-flowers” on the female. By the sixth week of growth, you can clearly distinguish between male and female cannabis plants. This point will fully view the pollen sacs and pre-flowers, allowing you to pinpoint male or female.
In rare instances, you may observe a cannabis plant with both male and female reproductive organs. These hermaphroditic plants often develop due to environmental stressors including inhospitable weather and nutritional deficiencies. Hermaphrodites are distinguishable by sets of pollen sacs and pre-flowers. A healthy marijuana plant grown in optimal conditions will not turn hermaphroditic.
Other clear physical characteristics will help you tell male and female cannabis plants apart at any stage.
Characteristics of Male Plants
Look for these physical traits in a male cannabis plant:
- Thick, sturdy stalks
- Sparse leaves
- Taller than female plants
- Pollen sacs that form green and white flowers
Characteristics of Female Plants
Look for these physical traits in a female cannabis plant:
- Slender stalks
- Abundant leaves
- Fine translucent hairs in white or orange
- V-shaped pistils with protective layer (calyx)
- Shorter than male plants
- Resinous buds
Growing Male and Female Plants
The first principle of growing male and female cannabis plants is to keep them apart. Male cannabis plants can overtake a garden and drain female plants of vital energy. Specifically, male plants may over-pollinate the females, which will stop or slow bud development and severely reduce your yield.
Generally, male cannabis plants are less desirable than female ones. So, you will want to keep female cannabis plants in your growing medium. If you are starting a breeding program, you will definitely need both male and female cannabis plants. But even in a breeding program, you must keep your male and female plants apart.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Do male or female weed plants grow faster?
Male weed plants tend to grow much faster than female weed plants. Fourteen days into the growth cycle, male plants will already be taller than female plants. In addition, male cannabis plants will start the flowering stage approximately 30 days before their female counterparts.
What’s the difference between male and female weed seeds?
Weed seeds that grow into female plants produce more THC than their male counterparts. Furthermore, female cannabis plants produce flowers while male cannabis plants produce tiny buds that resemble balls. V-shaped pistils will also appear on female cannabis seeds at the beginning of the flowering stage, but there are no such structures on male seeds. Finally, fine white and orange hairs are present on female weed seeds but not on male ones.
Can male and female weed plants grow together?
While the plants technically can grow alongside one another, you should not grow male and female weed plants together. Separate your male and female cannabis plants if you want to harvest buds from the females. This does not mean that male plants are useless; male cannabis plants can be an important part of a cultivator’s crop but should be kept separate from females to allow the females room and energy to grow.
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Male vs. Female Cannabis- Why it’s important to know before you grow
Just like humans, cannabis and hemp plants are considered dioecious, meaning they have either male or female reproductive organs. Depending on the goal of the cultivator, it’s crucial to know the gender of their plants prior to harvest.
Both male and female cannabis plants have their benefits; growing both can result in cross-pollination and thus seeds, resulting in new genetics or seeds for the next crop. However, if your goal is to produce quality buds rich in cannabinoids, it’s crucial to isolate the males from the females to avoid pollination and seed production. Cannabis pollen is extremely potent; studies have shown that pollen can drift across 3 to 7.5 miles, and can reach over 30 miles if high winds are present.
Removing males will allow the female plants to grow abundant, seedless buds (called sensimilla ). When female plants are left unfertilized, they use that extra energy meant for reproduction to produce higher levels of cannabinoids like THC or CBD, depending on the strain. The resinous buds consumers purchase at dispensaries are all sensimilla.
How to Visually Determine the Sex of a Cannabis Plant
Cultivators can visually determine the gender of their plants about 4-6 weeks into the growth cycle (though this may differ for indoor grows) when the plant is transitioning from its “vegetative” stage into the “flowering” stage. At this time, the plant is no longer focusing its energy on growing bigger and taller and instead spends all its effort growing flowers for pollination and reproduction.
When a cannabis plant is beginning to enter the flowering stage, cultivators should pay careful attention to the area between the nodes of the plant, where the leaves and branches extend from the stalk. Pre-flowers will begin to form in the nodes of the plant, and characteristics of the pre-flower will vary based on gender.
Pre-flowers can initially be difficult to examine with the naked eye, but growers can use a magnifying glass to get a closer look. Female cannabis pre-flowers grow as tiny bracts which will eventually produce hair-like stigma; male plants produce small, round balls as the nodes.
In some cases, a plant may exhibit both male and female pre-flowers. Hermaphrodite cannabis plants can occur when a plant becomes excessively stressed due to things like plant damage, bad weather, disease, nutrient deficiencies, and poor genetics. Hermaphrodites can also produce anthers, often referred to as “bananas” due to their appearance. It’s important to monitor plants that have been exposed to stressors to ensure they don’t begin to develop both male and female genetics. Hermaphrodites are capable of producing pollen and can ruin an entire crop.
How to Determine Gender Before the Pre-Flower stage
Lab genetic testing can determine a plant’s gender as soon as it begins to sprout its second set of true leaves. Knowing sooner can help cultivators save money, increase canopy space, and decrease labor costs associated with transplanting, watering, monitoring, training, and removing unwanted male plants.
Just as humans have X and Y chromosomes, cannabis also has a genetics system that determines the plant’s gender. However, figuring out the gender based on the DNA of a plant prior to the flowering stage is not as simple as looking for an X and Y. Luckily, the specific genetic sequence that differs between female and male plants has long been discovered, so using quantitative polymerase chain reactions (qPCR) allows labs to determine the gender of any plants with 100% confidence.
When a sample is brought in to Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs for gender identification, qPCR analysis is used to determine if the plant is female or male. A small hole is cut out of the leaf of the plant and added to a lysis solution to destroy the plant cell walls, exposing the DNA. After isolation of the DNA, it is transferred to another plate that contains reagents to amplify and cause the sample to create a fluorescent light that our qPCR instrument then quantifies, and determines the gender of the sample based on the amount of fluorescence.
Between sufficient lighting, proper nutrients, a detailed watering schedule, and constant monitoring, identifying the sex of your plants is another tedious yet crucial task that could make all the difference come harvest season.
Gender identification testing is now available at InfiniteCAL to help cannabis and hemp cultivators take the guesswork out of their grow. If you’re interested in learning more about Gender Identification Testing, reach out to our team at [email protected] .