In case of humans, reproduction is quite straightforward. Take a male and a female of this striking two-legged animal species and put them together in the same room. Depending on how much they like each other, after about nine months there are suddenly 3 persons in the room.
Cannabis Plant Reproduction
In the bedrooms of the Plant Kingdom reproduction goes in many different ways. Example: a plant can be hermaphroditic. The plant contains pollen grains and egg cells and can clone itself. Some examples are tulips and garlic. Other types of plants grow because one plant produces two types of flowers.
Still, the sex life of the marijuana plant resembles that of human heterosexuals up to a certain extent. Cannabis has male and female plants. In general, they need each other to reproduce. They do so through pollination. The male´s pollen enters the female´s flower, leading to fertilization.
Female (left) and male cannabis plant (right).
The Importance of Female Cannabis Plants
For marijuana cultivation, which harvest you use to roll a joint or put into your vaporizer, you can best use the buds (flowers) of unfertilized female cannabis plants. This is also called sensimilla. A female cannabis plant actually produces more THC than its male counterpart. And: the bigger the flower, the higher the yield.
This beautiful flowering marijuana plant is the world-renowned American strain Blue Dream.
No Children Please
It is important to note we don´t want fertilization to happen when growing weed. After fertilization, all energy goes into the production of cannabis seeds. This has two consequences. First of all, fertilization makes the females produce smaller flowers, so your yield is much lower. Secondly, marijuana seeds start growing in the fertilized cannabis plant, and that can lead to unpleasant results. Cannabis seeds in your joint may explode when heating them. Also, the seeds contain no THC. Inhaling the smoke of such burnt seeds is more harmful than it is beneficial.
You may imagine that for these reasons it pays off to separate the male cannabis plants from the female ones. We actually only use male cannabis plants for reproductive ends.
Feminized - What does that actually mean?
Feminizing marijuana seeds simply means: the artificial selection of female cannabis seeds. But, how to prevent male cannabis seeds end up among the females seeds?
There are several reliable methods to produce feminized cannabis seeds. One method is to interrupt the lighting schedule in such a way your plant will only develop female cannabis seeds. This is, however, not a completely reliable practice.
Much better is the following method. Nowadays, basically all female plants are treated with colloidal silver or a silver thiosulfate solution. The minuscule silver particles in both solutions prevent the production of flowers. The result is a female plant with male pollen that only contain female genetics. If that pollen then ends up on the flowers, seeds will grow that almost certainly grow into females.
Every grower now sells feminized cannabis seeds. Even so, at Dutch-Headshop we exclusively sell feminized cannabis seeds.
Still a Male?
The above-mentioned treatment with silver particles turns out to be a very reliable method to produce only female cannabis seeds, without any genetic modification. In almost 100% of cases the plant produces female cannabis seeds. Almost 100%. Feminized does not mean “guaranteed female". Due to a variety of genetic and environmental factors, a male plant could still be growing from your feminized seed.
Male pollen sac.
Recognizing Female Cannabis Plants
Distinguishing male and female marijuana plants is therefore important for every grower. We explain how to recognize the differences. Let´s first start with the most important and easiest: the female cannabis plant.
The females have features males do not have. For example, a female cannabis plant looks fuller and healthier and the plants have many branches, by nature. One can also recognize females during the flowering phase. You will start seeing hairs at the ends of the branches at many places. These are the places the buds will start growing.
The Best Way to Determine the Sex of Your Marijuana Plant
Recognizing the sex of the cannabis can best be done in the following way. Look at the leaf pits (see images). The leaf pit is the branching where the leaf grows of the stem. With most cannabis strains, the female can be recognized by the "hair” growing out of a tiny ball.
Here we have a female reproductive organ of marijuana. Hairs (pistils) grow from a slightly elongated ball (calyx). Eventually, the flower tops will sprout from this calyx.
This method is the best, as one can already observe these pre-flowers before the flowering. This ensures you are well on time to see if a male will mess things up. After germination you can often observe the distinctive leaf pits within 4 weeks’ time. In the sixth week you can, with almost any plant, observe whether it's a male or female, so you can separate the males to prevent fertilization of the females.
The female reproductive organ of your weed. The calyx with pistils growing out from it.
Recognizing Male Cannabis Plants
The male cannabis plants can be recognized by round balls in the leaf pits. These balls are slightly bigger than the female balls with hairs growing out. Sometimes, the male plants look thinner and less healthy. The male often has fewer leaves and grows somewhat taller in general, with fewer branches.
The male reproductive organs (pollen sacs) are noticably rounder and lack the distinctive fine hairs that their female counterparts have.
In rare cases your plant will develop both female and male sexual organs. Such an ambivalent plant is called a hermaphrodite. These cannabis plants can fertilize themselves, and is Nature's answer to unfavorable conditions. A hermaphrodite often occurs with physical damage to the plant, a disease, shortages in the diet or unfavorable weather conditions. Yes, cannabis plants are sensitive! Hermaphrodites can also be the result of genetic predisposition. Certain strains may have stronger tendencies to develop into a hermaphrodite than others.
Hermaphrodite: Easily recognisable by the banana-shaped reproductive organs or having both male and female reproductive organs on the same plant.
With a hermaphrodite you just need one plant to fill up your greenhouse with plants. That sounds ideal, but as mentioned earlier, the pollen of male flowers are not very useful. Both males and hermaphrodites can fertilize the entire garden or greenhouse. This way, THC-rich female flowers stay small and will also develop seeds.
The hermaphrodite comes in two shapes. The first one clearly has two different sex organs in the leaf pits. A bigger ball (male) and a smaller ball with hair (female). The second type develops a ‘small banana’ in the flowering phase. This is a seed ball turned inside out, which won't need to explode to release its pollen. For this reason, a hermaphrodite is excellent in the fast fertilization of female flowers in its surroundings.
Clear bananas on a hermaphrodite.
When it comes to the sex of the cannabis plants there are many aspects involved. Still, we hope we have provided you with some background information to understand the importance of its sex. The most important points at a glance:
- Female, unfertilized cannabis plants provide a useful, high yield.
- Male cannabis plants and hermaphrodites can destroy your harvest.
- The best way to determine whether you have a male or female plant, is by looking at the sexual organs of the cannabis plant's leaf pits.
- In the sixth week of the growth phase, watch for a hair coming out of the ball - those are the females.
- Next to genetic predisposition, also unfavorable circumstances can turn a cannabis plant into a hermaphrodite (an ambivalent plant).
- Feminized is not the same as "guaranteed female" Still, the chance of male weed plants with feminized cannabis seeds is negligible.
Culling and Removing Male Plants
Only a tiny amount of pollen needs to end up on the cannabis plant's female flower to ensure fertilization. Your harvest is then lost. Only sensimilla (the unfertilized flower of the female cannabis plant) is suitable for the production of weed or hashish. Therefore, remove both males and hermaphrodites from your garden.