Male vs. female cannabis: How to determine the sex of your plant
In the world of plants, reproduction can happen in a variety of ways. Monoecious plants produce two different types of flowers on the same plant, and hermaphrodite plants grow single flowers that have both male and female reproductive organs.
Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning male or female reproductive organs appear on different plants.
With cannabis, females are usually isolated away from males—introducing males into a garden will result in pollination, causing females to create seeds.
This is important for a breeder to achieve new genetics, but most growers remove the males to allow females to produce seedless buds, also called sinsemilla. These are the resinous buds that appear on the store shelf; they all come from female plants.
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Seeded buds are generally regarded as low-quality cannabis. When seeds are present, the smoke is harsh and unpleasant.
Female genetics can be guaranteed by obtaining clones and feminized seeds. If, however, you’re working with regular seeds and are unsure of your seed’s sex, knowing how to determine the sex of your plant is vital to developing new genetics, gathering seeds, or growing sinsemilla.
Sexing cannabis plants is easy. Let’s see how to tell.
Check out these additional resources for more info on cannabis seeds:
How to determine the sex of a cannabis plant
Female cannabis pre-flowers grow as tiny bracts with hair-like stigma peeking out. Male plants produce small, round balls at the nodes. (Amy Phung/Leafly)
Cannabis plants show their sex by what grows in between their nodes (where leaves and branches extend from the stalk). Pollen sacs will develop on a male plant to spread seeds and stigma will develop on a female to catch pollen. You can see these differences weeks before they actually start serving their purposes in the reproduction cycle. These are known as “pre-flowers.”
Pre-flowers begin to develop four weeks into growth, but they may take a little longer depending on how quickly the sprouting phase occurs. By the sixth week, you should be able to find the pre-flowers and confidently determine the sex of your plant.
Pre-flowers can initially be extremely small and hard to identify with the naked eye, but you can use a magnifying glass to get a better look. Examine the nodes of the plant and look for either the early growth of small sacs on a male, or two bracts on a female, which will eventually produce the hair-like stigma.
Though there are other methods to determine what sex the plant is, examining pre-flower formation is the most reliable.
Removing males early on is important for two reasons: it frees up space in your garden so females can grow bigger and stronger, and it prevents males from pollinating females.
What are hermaphrodite cannabis plants?
Hermaphrodite cannabis can express both sex organs and self-pollinate. (Amy Phung/Leafly)
When a female plant develops both male and female sex organs, it is considered a hermaphrodite. This means your cannabis plant is now capable of producing pollen that can pollinate your entire garden. “Herming out,” as some call it, is something that generally happens when a plant becomes excessively stressed. Some plant stressors include:
- Plant damage
- Bad weather
- Nutrient deficiencies
There are two types of hermaphrodite plants:
- A plant that develops both buds and pollen sacs
- A plant that produces anthers, commonly referred to as “bananas” due to their appearance
While both result in pollen production, true hermaphrodites produce sacs that need to rupture, while anthers are exposed, pollen-producing stamen.
Because this occurs when cannabis is under stress, it’s important to monitor plants after they have been exposed to stressors—indoors: high temperatures or light leaks are often the cause; outdoors: a snapped branch might be repaired and then turn into a hermaphrodite.
The other primary cause of hermaphrodite plants lies in the plant’s genetics. A plant with poor genetics or a history of hermaphrodite development should be avoided to protect your garden. If you notice any pollen sacs or anthers at any point, remove the plant from your garden immediately to prevent pollination of female plants.
If you’re interested in pollinating portions of your crop, remember that pollen is extremely potent and very good at traveling. Keep your males intended for pollination far from your garden space and work carefully with that pollen.
This post was originally published on September 19, 2017. It was most recently updated on February 11, 2020.
Determining the sex of your cannabis plant is vital to achieving your growing goals. Luckily, sexing cannabis plants is easier than one might think.
Can You Tell the Sex of Cannabis Seeds from Their Appearance
MSNL Team / 16th August 2018
Of all the things that can trip a grower up, sexing marijuana plants may just be the trickiest. Sexing plants is so important because growers are typically after the female plants, that produce the huge THC covered buds. Or the medicinal relief that CBD strains can bring. With such opposite effects of male and female plants, it’s easy to see just how important sexing plants is. But what if growers didn’t have to wait to sex their plants? While it would certainly make life easier, is sexing cannabis seeds possible?
Can you determine the sex of cannabis seeds?
This has been a question that has become a very hot topic online these days. After a quick search, growers can find multiple charts and explanations on how to sex cannabis seeds.
5 Tips on How to Sex Marijuana Plants
MSNL Team / 3rd February 2017
Unfortunately, there’s not much truth to any of these interpretations. It’s simply impossible to tell just by looking at them what the sex of any cannabis seed is. If it was that easy, feminized marijuana seeds would not be as popular as they are. People could simply buy regular seeds and look at them themselves.
Typically, marijuana plants cannot be sexed until they have already begun to grow. Cannabis seeds will look somewhat identical and plants in the vegetative stage will also look identical,. As the plants move into their flowering stage, they will start to show very clear signs as to what sex they are. While it would be much more convenient for growers to be able to determine sex before this point. The sad truth is that it’s just not possible.
So where do all the myths from sexing cannabis seeds come from?
Common myths on identifying the sex of a cannabis seed
One of the biggest myths of sexing cannabis seeds comes from a popular chart online.
The chart states that one can determine the sex of a cannabis seed by just looking at them. Within the chart, five cannabis seeds are shown. Three of these are female and two are male, supposedly. This chart says to look for a crater at the bottom of the seed. It explains that females will have a depression that is perfectly round. While males will have a crater that is misshapen and not uniform. However, this is simply not true. The craters found in cannabis seeds have nothing to do with the sex of a seed.
This same chart states that females will also roll easily across a table or surface, while males will not. While it does say that a magnifying glass and pair of tweezers is needed to examine the seeds. neither of these tools will make it any easier to determine the sex of cannabis seeds.
While growers may not be able to determine the sex of a seed, does the environment have anything to do with it? This is something else that has been hotly contested online.
Environment determines sex debate
We know that determining the sex of cannabis seeds cannot be done. However, it’s unclear as to whether environmental factors have any place in determining the sex of marijuana plants.
Research is carried out all the time to determine if a plant’s environment has anything to do with the sex it will turn out to be. And while there’s research stating that it does not, there’s just as much research stating that certain species do have their sex determined by the environment. This same research also states that using certain chemical treatments can also reverse the sex of a plant.
While environmental factors may not necessarily determine the sex of marijuana plants or cannabis seeds, it is known that certain environments can change the sex of a plant.
What causes a Marijuana plant to hermie?
MSNL Team / 19th July 2018
This will mostly happen when a plant is stressed by its environment. When this happens, the plant may think it’s going to die and as a result, will change itself into a hermaphrodite plant. By doing so, it will be able to self-pollinate itself and survive.
Growers know that hermaphrodite plants can be just as harmful to crops as male plants. Therefore, it’s very important that every grower understand how to sex marijuana plants. Particularly if they’re not using feminized marijuana seeds that will give them only females.
While it would be much easier for growers to be able to sex their cannabis seeds, the simple fact is that there’s no way to do it. However, sexing plants early on during their growth period is not only essential, it’s completely possible. Growers can even do it before their plants enter the flowering stage if needed. Then male plants can be removed and growers can enjoy a nice, full crop.
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Sexing Cannabis seeds has become a hot topic online, but there is no way of knowing if a cannabis seed is female or male by looking at it. Only when the marijuana plant starts to flower will you be able to tell the sex of a marijuana plant. However, there is a cannabis sexing seeds chart floating around on online.