Cannabis plant reproduction
First, let’s talk gender. Unlike most flowering plants, cannabis plants are dioecious, meaning there is a separate male and female plant, similar to humans. Every plant possesses two pairs of sex chromosomes, X-chromosomes and Y-chromosomes. Male plants have XY chromosomes, while female plants have XX chromosomes. Also, like humans, there is a natural 50/50 split between males and females.
There is a significant difference between the gender of marijuana and humans, however. This is because a marijuana plant can also be hermaphroditic. This means a single plant can have both male and female genitalia (a pistil and stamen).
Unlike humans, a cannabis plant’s gender depends not just on their genetics but also environmental factors. That is one reason why, when growing marijuana, you should be familiar with the different traits of female versus male plants. Each gender has unique qualities that may or may not be desirable in your garden.
Identifying males and females
It is critical that you know how to identify your male and female plants. However, it can be a bit tricky because cannabis plants do not start with gender. Plus, they won’t truly reveal their gender until they start receiving 12 hours of darkness every 24 hours. In some cases, that is too long to wait.
Why do you need to know?
The simple reason is this:
Females produce THC and males distract them from it. Therefore, you want to determine the sex as soon as possible so that the males do not fertilize the females.
To explain it further:
Females without seeds (sinsemilla) have higher levels THC whereas males produce significantly less THC. Preventing pollination, therefore, is the best way to ensure the highest quality buds.
Knowing what to look for
In terms of identifying between the two, in general, males have flowers, while females have pistils. Males tend to be taller as well.
All marijuana plants have flowers at some point. However, if you can’t differentiate between males and females on height alone, then flowers and pistils are good indicators.
This may seem simple, but to be honest, identifying the sex of a cannabis plant can be hard.
This is because marijuana plants don’t disclose their gender until they are mature enough to do so. In fact, you may not know until your plants are almost ready to begin pollination. If you wait this long to identify the sex of your marijuana plants, then it’s probably too late to grow sinsemilla buds.
Female Cannabis Plant
Female plants are often very recognizable. While both males and females will form flowers, the flowers from female plants usually do not bloom until after the males. The females’ flowers will look like sacs that grow two stigmas (they sort of look like feathers) out of them.
Here are two features of females:
- They eventually open to form little yellow, cream or white flowers
- They have hairy, whitish pistils that trap pollen from males
You’ll find the stigmas in a node region of the main stalk. This is where a branch grows from the main stem, or where a branch grows from another branch.
Male Cannabis Plant
The easiest way to identify a male is by its rapid maturity. Males mature faster than females, meaning they will grow quicker and become taller about two weeks before a female plant. This is so they can drop pollen on female plants. Their flowering phase can begin as much as a month before females, giving growers some time to identify them.
Despite what you may have been told, male cannabis plants are not completely useless. Obviously if you are growing a crop to smoke or sell, then you want females. If you’re growing for the purpose of making hemp, the male plants make for a softer fiber, which is great for making clothing. Male plants also produce far more seeds, which you need to grow more plants.
Here are some typical features of males:
- They tend to grow straighter and don’t develop as many flowers as females.
- The flowers are generally located at the top of the plant.
- Unlike the female flower, male flowers are tight green clusters.
The male flower has a central part that looks like petal-shaped objects, five of which are inside of the sex organs. To the untrained eye, they look like a tiny banana bunch. Male flowers are sometimes called “false buds” since they are actually pollen sacs. These clusters begin opening over time until a stamen appears – ready to pollinate the females.
It is challenging to identify the sex of a cannabis plant based on flowers. This is because there is a very short window between when they appear and when the plant is fertilized.
Instead, expert growers do this to identify sex:
They focus on finding the preflowers. These develop at the tips of branches and on the main stem. Preflowers are the immature first flowers that proceed the mature flowers.
Basically, it works like this:
If you notice a raised calyx on a small stem or stalk, then it is most likely a male. If this calyx isn’t raised, then it probably a female plant.
Yes, it’s that simple. It can be hard to see the difference at first, but over time, every grower gets better at it.