Cannabis is already an amazing plant. But like many things in life, you can make good things even better. If you are running low and want to stretch what you have at home until your next run, pairing with fruit can be a great way to make the most out of what you have. Try pairing your next smoke session with one of these to help get you higher! Learn about marijuana life stages and gender. When does the plant start flowering? How can you tell if your plant is a boy or a girl? What… "Hermie" cannabis plants can look like normal female plants at first glance, but they produce pollen that causes seedy buds. Hermies are to be avoided!"
Do Female Marijuana Plants Produce Seeds
Did you know that cannabis plants produce both male and female offspring? Growers are able to identify female and male plants once the plants are about 6 weeks old. Male plants begin to grow pollen sacs, sometimes also referred to as false buds. Female plants grow wispy looking hairs called Pistils. Pistils grow out of the Calyx, the Calyx becomes the bud.
FEMALE PLANTS PRODUCT THE BUDS THAT WE SMOKE. MALE PLANTS PRODUCT POLLEN INSTEAD OF BUDS.
It is important for growers to keep their male and female plants away from each other as soon as they are able to identify them.
When males produce pollen and female plants catch pollen, they spend all their energy trying to create seeds and stop putting that energy into growing the buds that we smoke.
Male plants are often tossed once they have been identified in order to ensure that female plants can continue to grow buds uninterrupted. When a female plant releases seeds, it is often a a 50/50 split of male and female seeds.
An alternative to growing seeds and waiting a few weeks to see is acquiring feminized seeds or clones of the plant.
Female plants can develop both male + female parts. Both the pollen sacs and the Pistils. This is usually a result of the plant becoming stressed. Cannabis plants can be stressed out by
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Poor Weather
- Damage to the Plant
- Plant Diseases
Hermaphrodite plants are also removed from cannabis gardens as they too have now gained the ability to pollinate the rest of the garden which could impact your harvest! Making sure to take care of the plants and reduce any potential stressors is important to make sure that females don’t turn and potentially pollinate the rest of the garden!
MALE PLANTS STILL DO HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY!
Male plants are still important to anyone looking to create their own strains. New strains are created from both male and female plants.
Male vs Female Cannabis Plants
Did you know there are both male and female marijuana plants? Yes, marijuana plants show gender, and the sex matters a lot to the grower.
That’s because only female plants produce buds. How do you grow female plants?
Regular marijuana seeds will be 50% male, and 50% female. That means half of the seeds will be unusable as far as growing buds.
One way around this is to purchased feminized seeds online. These seeds are available from all reputable online seedbanks, and the plants produced by these seeds are always female.
You can also make your own feminized seeds, but you have to start with two known female plants.
When do marijuana plants reveal their gender?
Cannabis plants go through two stages of life, the “vegetative” stage and the “flowering stage.”
They first go through the vegetative life stage, which you can sort of consider its “childhood” since the plant is only focusing on growing bigger and taller, and gender doesn’t matter. At the beginning of this stage you usually can’t tell what the plant’s gender is.
However, once the plant is about 6 weeks old, it will usually show signs of “pre-flowers” which will alert you to the gender before the beginning of the flowering stage.
Pre-Flowers usually reveal the gender around week 6 from seed
Otherwise you must wait for the flowering stage
Next, cannabis plants switch to the flowering stage which means they stop growing bigger and taller, and instead spend all their effort growing flowers (the buds we want are flowers!). The flowering stage is like the “adult” stage of a cannabis plant since at this point it’s only interested in adult stuff like growing their male and female parts, then pollinating In the flowering stage, plants start growing buds or pollen sacs in earnest. The buds we want are female flowers, so growers generally only want to grow female plants.
Growers Want Female Cannabis Plants – These Produce Bud
Regular Marijuana plants reveal their gender in two situations:
After spending a long time in the vegetative stage – some strains/plants will show preflowers (pistils for girls and “balls” for boys) during the vegetative stage if they grow old enough, even when they are constantly kept under a vegetative light schedule. For example, clones can come from plants that are several years old, so you’ll see a lot of clones have female pistils showing, yet will not continue to flower any more than that until after they’ve been switched to a Flowering (12-12) light schedule
Otherwise, all remaining plants will reveal their gender in the first 1-3 weeks after lights are switched to 12-12, and plants enter the flowering stage of life.
When your cannabis plant is about to reveal it’s gender, what you’re looking for is cannabis “pre-flowers.” These usually show up when the plant is around 6 weeks old from seed, but they always appear once the plant is changed over to the flowering stage.
Male and female pre-flowers look different from each other (though it can be easy to confuse them at first). Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which at first, and in that case you’ll just have to wait until they develop a few more flowers and it becomes more obvious.
Diagram Showing What Pre-Flowers Look Like
Male pre-flowers on left – Female pre-flowers on right
Female Marijuana Plant Pictures
Female marijuana plants take a bit longer than males to show their first signs after being changed over to flowering.
Female marijuana plants start showing one or two wispy white hairs where their buds are going to start forming.
They usually first show up where the main stem connects to the individual nodes or ‘branches’.
If a female plant is kept in the vegetative stage long enough (the length of time varies depending on the strain and conditions), then she will start showing the first sign of female hairs even before you move the plant into the flowering stage by changing the light schedule.
If you see wispy white hairs appearing on your plant like the ones pictured below, then you know you have a female plant.
Click on thumbnails for larger picture
In this pic, you can see white pistils emerging from the calyxes. Female pistils are white and wispy, never green.
This pre-flower doesn’t have a pistil sticking out at first, but the shape helps tell you it’s a female plant. If you’re not sure about gender after spotting a pre-flower, it’s a good idea to wait and see for a little while, just to see if a white hair appears (which means it’s definitely a girl)
Adult Female Cannabis Plant Pictures
Those buds turn into this!
Male Marijuana Plant Pictures
Male plants have grape-like balls which form and fill with pollen. The balls will first show up a week or two after changing the plants over to the flowering stage. If the male is allowed to continue growing, eventually these pollen sacs will burst open and spill pollen everywhere.
A small male pre-flower – this is what male plants look like when they first reveal their gender
These male pre-flowers are basically immature pollen sacs. When the plant starts flowering, they will grow and turn into bunches that almost look like grapes.
Click on thumbnails for larger picture
Uncertain pre-flower – ended up being female!
Sometimes it takes a day or two for a female pre-flower to release her first pistil, and the female calyx can look like the beginning of a pollen sac. Generally the more “pointy” ones tend to be female, but sometimes you have to wait and see a few more flowers to know for sure.
Marijuana plants go through 2 life stages: Vegetative and Flowering
Quick Key to Light Schedules For Photoperiod (Non-Autoflowering) Strains
This key breaks down some of the terms used in the article below such as “24-0″ or 12-12”
Vegetative – Indoor cannabis plants kept on these light schedules will display only vegetative growth
18-6 – 18 Hours Light / 6 Hours Darkness each Day
24-0 – 24 Hours Light / 0 Hours Darkness each Day
Flowering – Indoor cannabis plants on this light schedule will start growing flowers (buds)
12-12 – 12 Hours Light / 12 Hours Darkness each Day
* Most indoor growers use a timer to turn their lights on and off automatically.
The first stage, “Vegetative” begins when they first sprout, at the beginning of their life.
Most growers give their plants 18-24 hours of light a day during the vegetative stage.
When a plant is about half the final size you want it to be, you should change it over to the “Flowering” stage.
The second life stage, “Flowering,” is the stage your plant will remain in until harvest..
You get marijuana plants start flowering (making buds) by changing your light schedule to 12-12.
That means you use an electric timer to automatically shine your grow lights for 12 hours a day, with 12 hours of uninterrupted TOTAL darkness during the plant’s “night period.”
Marijuana plants should reveal the first signs of their gender within 2-3 weeks after being changed to 12-12.
How Light Schedules Affect Marijuana Life Stages
Marijuana plants have an internal process where they can detect how long they receive uninterrupted darkness each day.
In the wild, as the days get shorter and nights get longer, the marijuana plant “realizes” that winter is coming and will start budding/flowering as it approaches the end of it’s lifecycle.
When growing marijuana outdoors, a grower doesn’t need to do anything to induce flowering because the sun will take care of things on its own. All you need to do is make sure your plant isn’t directly under a street light or other light source, so that the plant receives complete darkness at night.
However, when growing marijuana indoors, a marijuana gardener will have to “fool” their plants into thinking winter is coming to induce flowering and kickstart the creation of buds.
This is done by changing the plant’s light schedule to 12-12, where the weed plants gets 12 hours of light a day and 12 hours of total darkness.
It’s easier to ensure the plant gets the 12 full hours of darkness each night when the start and end time for your lights to turn on and off is exactly the same each day. This is why most growers end up getting a timer to turn their lights on and off automatically.
I tend to set my timer in flowering to shine line from 7pm-7am. This gives me time to check on my plants at night when the lights first come on, and I can also check them quickly in the morning before I go to work. It also keeps things cooler since the lights are on at night. Some people (like myself) also get discounts on electricity that’s used at night.
But ANY 12 hour dark period will work, as long as you prevent your plant from getting light leaks during their “night.”
In fact, with marijuana plants, the length of night period, not the length of day period, seems to make the biggest difference. This makes sense if you consider that in the wild, a stormy or cloudy day could shorten the light period a plant receives, but few things in the wild will interrupt the darkness of night.
This has been experimentally verified by some out-of-the-box thinkers. They gave marijuana plants different amounts of light and dark, then watched what happened.
What they found is that a marijuana plant will stay flowering as long as she gets 12+ hours of darkness on a regular basis. The length of day period didn’t seem to matter at all. In fact, you could give plants 12 hours of dark followed by 24 hours of light, on a regular basis, and plants would continue to flower as long as their darkness was uninterrupted for 12 hours at a time.
Check out my marijuana grow light guide for more info about picking out the right grow lights for your situation!
Photoperiod dependent strains vs. auto-flowering strains
So all strains of cannabis that respond to light in this way (where the light period effects what stage they’re in) are called “Photoperiod dependent” strains.
“Auto-flowering” marijuana strains pretty much ignore how much light they get each day. Generally you don’t run into these unless you buy them particularly from a cannabis seed bank.
Marijuana plants have a gender: Is my plant Male or Female?
(Some marijuana plants can also be hermaphrodites, which means they display both male and female parts on the same plant)
Most growers prefer to grow female plants, as only female plant produce buds/flowers.
Note: Once the plant is about 6 weeks old from seed, it will usually show signs of “pre-flowers” which will alert you to the gender before the beginning of the flowering stage.
Pre-Flowers usually reveal the gender around week 6 from seed, or you can wait until the plant switches to the flowering stage.
After 2-3 weeks of the 12-12 light schedule, most marijuana plants will reveal the first signs of their gender (they either are a female plant and start growing buds, YAY! or they are a male plant and start growing balls, NO!).
Why do I not want male marijuana plants?
Only a female marijuana plant makes flowers/buds that contain a usable amount of THC. Male marijuana plants only make pollen sacs that they use to fertilize the females. Most growers will throw away any male plants that they encounter to keep them from fertilizing the female plants. If your female plants do get fertilized, they will use all their energy to produce seeds instead of making buds. This is good if you want seeds, but you will run into the same problem since half of the seeds will also be male.
If you would like to start a breeding program to make your own hybrids, I recommend using a method that creates all-female (feminized) seeds so that you don’t waste time having to identify and throw out male plants.
Getting clones of female marijuana plants or buying feminized seeds online from a seed bank are other ways you can ensure that all your marijuana plants are female.
If you don’t have a choice of seeds, and some of your seeds may be male (like if you just found seeds) than you will want to get your plants to reveal their gender right away so you don’t have to waste time and energy on male plants.
For most marijuana strains, the male plants don’t produce usable amounts of THC, so most growers toss them on sight. Unfortunately, 50% of all regular seeds will become male plants.
These male plants can also impregnate your female plants, which causes them not to produce as many buds, so unless you’re breeding, destroy male plants as soon as you notice them growing grape-like balls where their buds would normally be.
A vigilant grower can carefully watch their plants and remove males when they develop the first signs of pollen sacs.
How to identify female plants if starting out with regular bagseed?
You don’t have to wait for the flowering stage! Below we’ll share two tactics growers use to identify gender in the vegetative stage.
Tactic 1: Preflowers let you identify plants in week 3-6 from seed
Pre-Flowers reveal the gender of your plant by around week 6 from seed, and as early as 3 weeks from seed for some plants.
In this area you’ll find pre-flowers nestled where the “joints” of the plant are.
Tactic 2: Taking a clone and flowering it
The following method can help you identify gender for plants that are taking a while to show their pre-flowers.
If you’re just growing 1, 2, or 3 plants, it can be heartbreaking to find out all your plants are male, and you need to start over in order to make buds.
When marijuana plants are seedlings (or when they’re just seeds), there’s no way to tell which plants are male and which plants are female.
You have to “wait and see.” Male marijuana plants develop pollen sacs (look like little balls or nuts). Female marijuana plants start growing white hairs that develop into the marijuana buds (sensimilla) that contain THC and other cannabinoids. Lots of pictures of male and female parts above.
However, you may want to be more proactive and get rid of the male plants before they enter the flowering stage so you don’t have to waste the time and energy in caring for plants that you will eventually get rid of. If so, then you can use to following technique to identify and remove all the males from your grow.
How to Determine Sex of a Marijuana Plant
You can wait until your plants naturally show the first signs of their gender and then remove all the males, but that means you have to watch the plants closely. You also will waste time and energy growing plants only to find out that some or all are male and have to throw them away. If you want to be more proactive and get rid of all male plants right away, then use this technique.
Take a clone from the unverified marijuana plant
Label both the clone and the mother plant so you know which clone came from which corresponding mother. If you don’t label them clearly, then all your effort will go to waste!
Once the clones have established roots, change just the clones into flowering mode by providing them with a light schedule of 12 hours on, 12 hours off
The clones should start revealing their gender in a week or two. Males will start developing balls and females will start developing white hairs. Click on the pictures below to see some examples of male and female plants.
Once you have determined the gender of your clones, you should make sure you throw away any corresponding male plants.
Do Feminized Cannabis Seeds Make Hermies?
What Are Feminized Cannabis Seeds? These seeds all grow up to be female plants. That means every plant produces buds. With “regular” or unfeminized seeds, about half the plants will turn out to be male, which don’t produce buds. They can also pollinate your female plants (causing seedy buds). Therefore most growers will remove male plants from the grow room as soon as they’re identified. Learn more about male vs female plants. Feminized seeds let you plan your grow more effectively because you don’t have to throw half the plants away once they start flowering.
Every plant grown from feminized seeds will produce the buds we know and love. This plant was grown from feminized Swiss Cheese seeds.
What Are Hermies? “Hermie” is short for “hermaphrodite.” Hermie cannabis plants usually look like normal female plants for the most part, but they also grow some male parts that produce pollen. This causes seedy buds just like pollen from male plants. Hermies are to be avoided! Read the full tutorial on hermies.
It’s no good if your “female” plants start growing male flowers or parts of male flowers. That can cause seedy buds just like a male plant!
This bud got completely seeded due to a hermie in the grow space. Notice the lumpy round bits. Those are seeds forming.
What’s the matter with a few seeds?
Cannabis growers are trying to grow sinsemilla (seedless buds). A few seeds won’t hurt anything. But if you have very seedy buds, it significantly lowers your yields because plants are putting all their energy into making seeds. The buds also tend to be less potent if they are full of seeds. Seeds are not the end of the world, but it’s good to avoid if possible.
“Sinsemilla” means “no seeds.” Sinsemilla is the highest quality and most potent of all buds
Since most growers are trying to grow sinsemilla, having only 100% female plants in the flowering grow room is crucial to prevent pollination.
Feminized cannabis seeds can be a blessing for small-scale growers. While male plants produce pollen sacs, feminized seeds ensure all your plants will end up being bud-bearing females (instead of growing half male and half female plants like with regular seeds).
If you don’t have room for extra plants, feminized seeds can make planning your grow a lot easier!
Good feminized seeds should produce only 100% female plants, with no hermies or male plants. So starting with feminized cannabis seeds lets you make the most efficient use of your grow space. You don’t have to worry about identifying male plants and throwing them away before they pollinate your female plants. With good feminized seeds, you know that if you’re growing 10 plants, all 10 of them will make buds, and that makes it easier to plan out your grow ahead of time.
With all these bonuses, why would any small-scale grower use any other type of seeds?
Pros of Feminized Cannabis Seeds
All plants produce buds
You don’t have to throw away half your plants after nurturing them for weeks
You don’t have to worry about your buds getting pollinated, causing seedy buds, reduced bud quality and lower yields
But is there a dark side to feminized cannabis seeds?
One of the biggest worries growers have about feminized seeds is that they will produce hermies instead of 100% female plants as advertised.
This hermie is growing both male and female flowers. Can this be caused by feminized seeds?
Unfortunately, hermies can be a lot easier to miss than a male plant since it may just be a small part of the plant that’s affected. A male plant makes itself known at the beginning of the flowering stage, but a hermie plant may grow only buds except for just one or two tiny pollen sacs. A few yellow hermie bananas hidden in the buds can also produce pollen. Any type of male flower part that grows in your garden can add seeds to your buds, and hermies are some of the worst offenders.
This grower didn’t notice that the buds had been seeded until harvest. As he was trimming, he noticed seeds popping out. Since there were no male plants, chances are this was caused by an unnoticed hermie somewhere in the grow space.
Is it True that Feminized Seeds Sometimes Cause Hermies? Yes!
Many growers believe that feminized seeds can cause hermies, and there is some truth to that. In order to create a feminized seed, one of the parent female plants had to be forced in some way to produce pollen.
That pollen is used to pollinate another female plant, and the offspring of those two plants will all be female since both of the parents were female. That’s how you get feminized cannabis seeds. But that also means every time you have a feminized seed, that seed had a plant that produced male flowers in its recent genetic history.
There are different ways to feminize seeds, but only some methods produce seeds that turn hermie on you.
It’s important to understand that hermies can happen a couple of different ways. And the different types of hermies affect what genes are being passed on to the seeds.
This swollen calyx has a seed developing inside
What Causes Hermies?
Hermies can be caused by many things, including…
bad genetics – the plant comes from a line of plants that naturally create hermies for no reason, even in good growing conditions
high stress – high temperatures, light leaks, inconsistent light schedules, as well as other types of major stress can cause a healthy plant to hermie, though some plants/strains are more susceptible than others
letting buds over-mature – this is also known as “rodelization;” basically when the plant’s buds have gone past maturity without being pollinated (if the grower waits way too long to harvest), a female plant may make male pollen within its buds as a last ditch effort to pollinate itself and make seeds for the next generation
chemical stimulation – by exposing a female plant to certain substances like colloidal silver or gibberellic acid during the early parts of the flowering stage, you can force any female plant to create pollen. This is how seedbanks get female pollen to produce feminized seeds.
Seeds created from “female” pollen will turn out being female (or at least as female as the parents).
The pollen from a hermie plant makes feminized seeds
The pollen sacs on this masculinized female plant have opened and pollen has spilled onto the leaf below
Another type of hermie: a yellow “banana” can appear in your buds and make pollen. This male flower part would normally be inside a pollen sac. When it’s in the open like this, it becomes a little pollen generator.
Feminized seeds are susceptible to becoming hermies themselves when exposed to the same conditions as their female “father” who produced the pollen. But since any plant can be chemically induced to produce pollen, it doesn’t mean that the ability to hermie in a natural environment is passed on to the seeds.
So only some feminized seeds come from parents with bad genetics, and that’s what’s the grower cares about most.
The bagseed gamble… When you find seeds in your buds, that usually means that the buds were pollinated by accident. Seeds that were accidentally created are suspect. It could be that a stray male plant caused them, which means there were no hermies and you will get about half male and half female plants. But accidental seeds could also be the result of herming by an indiscriminate grower, and that means you have feminized seeds, sort of. Some of them may produce pollen on you just like their parents. Growing with bagseed is a big gamble… you never know what you’re going to get.
Are your cannabis bagseeds viable? Viable, good seeds usually appear either dark and striped or solid gray/beige.
If a seed is pure white it usually means it’s underdeveloped and won’t sprout. But it can sometimes be hard to tell. In the end, if a seed sprouts and grows it’s a viable seed! I’ve had very pale, flimsy seeds sprout into gorgeous fast-growing plants, so if you’re not sure the best thing to do is try to germinate it!
Seed Banks & Breeders
Commercial breeders and seed banks use chemical stimulation to create feminized seeds. What that means is they put specific compounds on developing female plants to force them to produce pollen. You can actually do this yourself at home.
This technique works on nearly any female plant, including plants that would never hermie naturally. So it can be used to take two plants with great genetics to produce female seeds. But the same process will also work incredibly well on plants that do hermie easily all on their own. That means it’s up to the breeder to test and make sure that they have a solid plant with unbeatable genetics before using the feminization technique.
The pollen that results from chemical stimulation is used to pollinate another female plant and make feminized seeds. If the parent plants would never hermie without chemical stimulation, then you have created feminized seeds that won’t ever make pollen in your grow room.
But if one of the parent plants was chosen because it does hermie easily, you’ll end up with seeds that likely will herm. The breeder might not have done any testing on the parents or the resulting offspring to even know.
Without testing, a breeder can’t tell whether they’ve created quality feminized seeds
Choosing the Right Cannabis Breeder
Unfortunately, some cannabis seed breeders are more trustworthy than others. The great ones have created stabilized strains that have been bred over several generations to produce a consistent product without any problems with plant sex.
Less scrupulous breeders might breed two random female plants together and sell the resulting seeds as a new strain without any testing. In this second case, you don’t know what to expect, and neither does the breeder.
If the breeder hasn’t tested their strains extensively in many situations, they won’t know whether their seeds tend to hermie or not. If they have carelessly bred plants that have a tendency to herm, then it’s really likely that at least some of the resulting seeds will have the same problem.
Breeder choice is important!
I have to admit I may be biased towards feminized seeds. I’ve grown almost exclusively with feminized seeds over the last decade. It has made my life so much easier! I only purchase seeds from breeders that I trust and all the resulting seeds have been bud-bearing females. I haven’t had any real problems with hermies.
On the flip side, I’ve heard of growers buying feminized seeds from untrustworthy breeders and having a big portion of their seeds turn male or become hermies even in perfect growing conditions. So there is truth to the fact that you can run into hermie problems with feminized seeds.
Yet there are good and bad breeders out there, and with good breeders, you have a very low chance of running into cannabis sex problems.
So if you do choose to purchase feminized seeds (or any seeds really), please make sure you get them from a trusted breeder!
Conclusion: Feminized seeds from a trustworthy breeder have a low chance of producing hermies, but the odds are much worse with feminized seeds from an untrustworthy source
The truth is it takes a hermie of some sort to create feminized seeds. That means that you always run the risk of running into hermies when growing feminized seeds… yet that is true for non-feminized cannabis seeds, too! Lots of regular seeds produce hermies.
What’s most important, whether you get feminized seeds or not, is to get your seeds from a breeder who has a reputation for producing quality genetics. That is the best thing you can do for any strain to ensure a smooth grow. With a great breeder, you have a very low risk of running into any sex or gender problems.
I personally prefer feminized seeds, and that’s the only type of seed I grow. It makes it easier for me in my limited grow space. I haven’t run into any significant problems with hermies, so I’m satisfied with growing only bud-bearing plants.
Yet a lot of growers grow with regular seeds because they’re easier to breed and produce at home. Many growers have created a system for weeding out male plants that is more convenient for them than using feminized seeds.
In the end, when it comes to feminized cannabis seeds you need to decide whether the small chance for hermies is worth the convenience of all-female plants. It’s up to you to figure out what’s best for your needs!