You’ve probably heard that male cannabis plants are bad.
And that hermies are even worse.
And there is a lot of truth to that. Both can wreak havoc on your harvest.
But why are male plants so dangerous? And aren’t they needed in order to grow new plants?
More importantly, how can you tell the difference between a male and female marijuana plant early enough to get rid of the males before the damage is done?
Keep reading to learn all of that, plus everything else you need to know to ensure nothing interferes with your lady weed plants giving you the best yields possible.
- 1 How To Tell If Your Plant Is Male Or Female Before Flowering
- 2 Early Signs Of Male Plant
- 3 Early Signs Of Female Plant
- 4 Early Signs Of Hermie Plant
- 5 How Cannabis Plants Reproduce
- 6 How To Tell If Plants Are Male Or Female: Final Thoughts
How To Tell If Your Plant Is Male Or Female Before Flowering
Cannabis plants come in all shapes and sizes. Big, lanky Sativas. Shorter, chunky Indicas. Hybrid crosses offer the best of both worlds.
Photoperiod plants that can grow the size of houses, and autoflowering options that will go from seed to harvest in less than nine weeks.
And, thanks to the hard work and dedication of breeders across the globe, the list of mind-blowing strains on offer is truly never-ending.
When starting up a cannabis grow, there is more to consider than just what phenotype or strain you want to break ground with.
I am a long-time cannabis smoker, but before I started growing weed I really knew very little about the plant itself (and I’m pretty sure that puts me in the same group as the majority of stoners).
I honestly had zero idea that marijuana is a dioecious species (meaning it can be either male, female, or hermaphrodite) and that females are the ones that produce the sticky-icky we are all looking for.
Let’s take a nice deep look into how to determine if your weed plants are male, female, or even hermaphrodite before the flowering growth stage even begins.
For the most part, the only things needed to determine the sex of a cannabis plant before it goes into flower are your eyes.
- Good eyesight is essential. Although sexing a plant is easy enough, if you can’t see far past your nose clearly then you might struggle with this. Go on, throw your glasses on.
- A jeweler’s loupe or a standard microscope may also come in handy for super early detection, but nothing at this point is at the microscopic level (although that jeweler’s loupe will come in handy later on).
- Some growers like to wear latex gloves whenever handling their crop. This can help with lowering the chances of pests and viral issues for the plants.
There are chemical leaf tests you can use to tell the sex of your plant a bit earlier, but I don’t generally find these necessary. If you are interested, we talk about them in our other article on telling the difference between male and female plants.
What Part Of The Plant Shows Early Signs Of Gender?
The first area of the plant that will usually show gender signs is at the point where the branches meet the main stalk.
Both genders grow sex organs, which we refer to as flowers. But these flowers are different from each other, depending on the gender of the plant.
Male flowers turn into pollen sacs, while female flowers turn into delicious buds. Hermaphrodite plants produce both types.
Plants will show their sex at different stages, depending on whether they are male or female.
Early Signs Of Male Plant
Male weed plants usually start displaying gender markers before female plants, around the third or fourth week of growth.
This is also strain-dependent, with some cultivars taking a week or two longer to start their gender reveal party, so don’t stress if your babies are five weeks old and you still are not seeing any signs of pre-flower production.
What Male Pre-Flowers Look Like And Where They Form
The first place you should look for male flowers is at the nodes. These are the joints where new branches grow out from the main stalk.
Look closely and you might see what appear to be tiny little balls starting to form. These balls are the beginnings of your male flowers.
They’re actually the pollen sacs. Once fully formed, they break open and spread their polleny goodness to any lucky female plant nearby.
A single male plant can pollinate an entire field of females, which can have devastating effects on the final yield.
Pollinated female cannabis plants put a lot of the energy (that should be used to form those huge, dense, stanky, sticky, delicious nugs) into seed production – not ideal at all.
Male cannabis plants can get jiggy with any female plants in a 3-mile radius (wind dependent). If you are growing for flower production, it’s probably best to kill off any and all male plants as soon as you identify them.
Are There Any Reasons To Keep A Male Cannabis Plant Alive?
Sure! if you are looking to develop strains of your own, you need male plants.
Just make sure to keep them downwind of your female crop and to collect all the pollen before it naturally releases. If stored correctly, pollen can last for months (or even years).
How To Collect Pollen From Male Weed Plants
I have tried a few different ways of pollen collection, but the best way to go about it (in my humble opinion) is as follows.
- Carefully cover the pollen sac area with a ZipLock bag, and close it up as far as it can go.
- With a sharp set of trimming scissors, cut the branch just below ZipLock.
- Push the cut stem into the bag and zip it totally closed.
- Move well away from any female plants that you do not want to be pollinated.
- Make sure the ZipLock is firmly closed, then give the bag a really good shake. This should release all of the pollen into the bag.
How To Store Cannabis Pollen
Pollen is best kept in a dry and cool place, out of direct sunlight. An airtight container stored in the fridge is perfect.
If you are looking for something a little more long-term, then you can also freeze pollen. Just make sure to use an airtight, moisture-free container. You can also add one of those silica packs that suck up moisture.
Early Signs Of Female Plant
Female plants start to show their gender a little later than the boys–around the four to six-week mark.
And just like their male counterparts, females show signs of pre-flowers at their nodal intersection between the branches and the main stem.
What Female Pre-Flowers Look Like
The first sign of female plants to show is the calyxes. These can closely resemble the male pollen sacks, which can be a bit confusing for novice growers.
Don’t worry though. Small, whispery, white hairs should grow out of the calyxes pretty quickly. These are referred to as pistils and usually grow as a pair in a V formation.
If you see these fine white hairs, then congratulations! You have a female plant on your hands.
The final stage of female pre-flower development is when the pistils start to swell and form into little balls.
These are the actual flowers, and once they are fully formed they will be absolutely covered in trichomes–those tiny white crystals that give weed its sparkle and contain all of the tasty cannabinoids and terpenes.
Early Signs Of Hermie Plant
There are two types of hermie cannabis plants: those that are born hermies, and those that turn into hermies.
The first type is what’s known as an intersex plant, or true hermaphrodite. These plants have both male and female reproductive organs from the get-go and can self-pollinate.
They’re pretty rare, but there are a few strains that do commonly show this trait (Thai landrace strains are well known for this).
The second type is plants that show signs of both genders during the flowering stage. This usually happens when the plant is under some type of heavy stress (incorrect nutrients, temperature fluctuations, too much/too little light etc).
The most common sign of a hermie plant is when “anthers” start to show.
What Is An Anther?
Anthers are hermaphroditic pollen sacs. They are different from true male pollen sacs in a few key ways.
First, they are usually a lighter shade of green (or even sometimes yellow) than the rest of the plant. They come in a curved shape, closely resembling little bananas.
This is where the slang term that is widely used for them (nanners) comes from. Unlike male pollen sacs that need to mature before they open, these can start to pollinate as soon as they appear.
For that reason, it is very important that this type of hermie is quarantined from the rest of the crop immediately. Otherwise you end up with a seemingly female plant producing seeds without male plants anywhere in the vicinity.
And don’t even think about turning a hermie back into a female. There are a few ways to do this, but all of those methods have serious problems and are not something we would ever recommend.
How Cannabis Plants Reproduce
We have talked about pollination a bunch already, but how does this process actually work?
Pretty simple stuff, really. As far as the miracle of creation goes, anyway.
When a male cannabis plant (or a hermie) is ready to release its pollen, the sacs open up and release a cloud of pollen into the air.
If there is a female plant nearby, some of this pollen lands on the pistils of the female flowers. The male sperm cell (known scientifically as the gametophyte) then makes its way into the flower and continues to travel down the pistil until it reaches the ovule.
The ovule is where fertilization takes place, and once the pollen has done its job, a seed will start to form.
How To Tell If Plants Are Male Or Female: Final Thoughts
Telling the difference between male and female plants before flowering is not always easy, because the “sex organs” look very similar in the beginning.
But once the little white hairs form on the female flowering sites, you know you have a lady on your hands (assuming “she” doesn’t also have male parts, of course).
Any males or hermies you discover, remove them immediately. You do not want them to pollinate your females. You don’t have to kill them, if you plan to harvest their pollen, but keep them away from the ladies!