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Robert Bergman

October 12, 2019

Cannabis plants are some of the most interesting plants you can grow. There is so much about them to learn. You could focus on how they produce the many chemicals we enjoy. Perhaps you find how they react to different variables like light and heat interesting. Maybe you are fascinated about growing plants in a way that maximizes certain preferred traits. One aspect you may not have thought about, however, is your plants’ gender. After all, a plant is a plant, right? 

Wrong! Cannabis plants can be male, female, or hermaphroditic, and each can affect the quality of the cannabis you harvest. 

In this article we will learn why cannabis gender matters

Male plants are not useful when it comes to harvesting a high-quality product. They can also impact the quality of what’s grown by female plants near them to be lower because they help generate seeds. However, without male plants, it is impossible to cross-breed plants or create new strains of cannabis. There is a time and a place for using male cannabis plants. It’s up to you to decide when that is.Female plants are the source of quality marijuana buds. Buds can either be seeded or seedless. Seeded buds are considered harsher and less pleasant, because of natural chemicals in the seeds. However, when male plants are not nearby, the female cannabis plants grow seedless buds, known as sensimilla

Identifying the sex of your plants
Identifying the sex of your plants

These are what we look for when harvesting high-quality cannabis.

Tip: make sure to download my free Grow Bible to learn more about what we look for in high-quality cannabis.

You could start with feminized seeds; however, with this method of reproduction, it is impossible to get new traits into your line of plants. Essentially, you can’t develop new strains of cannabis without male plants. 

The final type of cannabis plant is the hermaphroditic plant, where male and female sex organs develop on the same plant. This is not normal and is usually a result of a stressed-out cannabis plant. If your plants start to do this, it’s a good sign you need to check for plant damage, nutrient deficiencies, or disease. Hermaphroditic plants can result in female plants being fertilized unintentionally, which will result in a low-quality harvest. 

As you can see, there is a lot more to cannabis plant gender than first springs to mind. The takeaway: it’s important to catch your plants’ gender as early as possible. That way, you get the results that you want at the end of the season. Here’s how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering:

Marijuana Plant Flowers
Image provided by Unsplash.com

Signs of a Male Plant

Both male and female cannabis plants grow sex organs we call flowers, but those flowers look different. When mature, male plants grow pollen sacks at the nodes just above where leaves connect to the stalk. These nodes grow until the plant is mature, at which point they burst, and the pollen goes everywhere. They remain small for their whole existence, so you need to keep a close eye out to spot them. 

One of the best methods for knowing how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering is with a jeweler’s glass or small hand-held microscope. These will help you spot these pollen sacks early in the plants’ development. Checking before the plant matures will allow you to choose how many if any, male plants you want to keep.

Signs of a Female Plant

Female cannabis plants look nearly identical to male plants before flowering. However, there is one way of nailing how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering – look for little hairs on your female plants.

Budding cannabis plant
Female budding marijuana plant

Female plants grow their sex organs in the same place as male plants, in the node where leaves connect to the stalk. Instead of a pair of small round balls, however, female plants grow something called “bracts.” These bracts have wispy white hairs emerging from them. The hairs are the quickest, easiest, and sometime only way to tell whether any given cannabis plant is male or female before flowering.

Signs of a Hermaphrodite Plant

Sometimes, if a plant is stressed, it may start growing flowers of the opposite sex on part of itself. On male plants, this is no huge issue – additional female flowers will, at worst, result in the plant fertilizing itself. However, in an all-female garden, one hermaphrodite plant can result in many of the plants growing seeds where they aren’t wanted. 

There are two signs to look for when you’re checking for hermaphrodite plants. The first and less obvious is whether the plants are growing both types of flowers. It can be tempting to just check one or two nodes on a plant and trust that whatever you see there is the guaranteed gender of the plant. Unfortunately, if you’re dealing with any stressors at all in your garden, you should check multiple nodes on multiple locations of the plant before declaring it firmly one gender or another.

The other, more obvious sign of a hermaphrodite plant is if it is growing anthers. Anthers are sometimes also called bananas, due to their curved shape and typically yellow color. Unfortunately, these anthers do not need to burst to pollinate female flowers, so it’s important to remove them as soon as you notice them if you aren’t looking to grow any seeds in your garden.

It’s incredibly helpful to know how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering, so do your best to learn these methods. Paying attention to the sex of your plants will help your harvest be higher in quality, no matter what else you’re facing. It will also help you develop your own new strains, or even simply make your current preferred strain a little hardier. 

Be sure to get your seeds before the season starts. Check out my seed bank for the best Marijuana seeds out there!

Happy growing!

The founder of I Love Growing Marijuana, Robert Bergman, is a marijuana growing expert that enjoys sharing his knowledge with the world. He combines years of experience, ranging from small-scale grows to massive operations, with a passion for growing. His articles include tutorials on growing... [read more]

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