If you’re planning to venture into the world of cannabis growing, it’s important to learn the reproduction process of these herbs. Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning that male or female reproductive features appear on different plants.
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Young marijuana plants first begin to showcase signs of gender one month after sprouting while the herb is still in its vegetative phase. The pre-flowers can bud up as soon as four weeks following the germination. However, it often takes about six weeks before you can accurately distinguish between male and female marijuana seedlings.
While the signs of gender can be subtle, an experienced grower can easily pick them out. You may need to use a magnifying glass since pre-flowers can be challenging to notice with the naked eye.
Why Growers Desire Female Marijuana Plants
Sex matters a lot when it comes to cannabis growing. Female marijuana plants are valued because they produce cannabinoid-rich buds. Males, in contrast, contain less THC content than their female counterparts. However, some growers choose to keep a few male marijuana plants for breeding purposes in a bid to introduce greater genetic variety into their plants.
During growing, females are often isolated away from males since introducing males into the garden results in pollination and causes females to create seeds. Growing male and female marijuana plants together is only important for a breeder trying to achieve new genetics, but many growers often remove the males to allow females to generate seedless buds, also known as sinsemilla. These are the resinous buds that you’ll find on the store shelf.
How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Marijuana Plants
In the pre-flowering phase, a female marijuana plant will show fine, white hairs known as stigmas cropping up from tiny tear-drop shaped buds. The stigmas form part of the pistil (the female reproductive organ), located at the nodes where the plant branches meet the central stalk.
The wispy, white hairs of female stigmas become visible about four to six weeks after germination and continuously darken over time. Stigmas and pistils are more likely to appear closer to the top of the herb near the light source, but they can sometimes form in the lower regions.
Like the female marijuana plant, the male plant also has reproductive organs. Male plants often reveal their sex one week or two weeks before female plants. Male plants typically produce pollen sacs, which also crop up at the junction between the node and the stalk. During the initial stages, the male pollen sacs can look similar to the tiny buds that appear on female plants. However, they do not have stigmas protruding from them. Male pre-flowers also take the shape of a spade instead of the tear-drop shape of young female buds.
There are other morphological males and female marijuana plant differences that come up in later stages of growth. For example, male plants frequently grow taller than their female counterparts and have thicker, stronger stalks to support their weight. Male plants also produce fewer leaves than female plants, and the leaves tend to be shorter and bushier.
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How to Tell if a Plant is a Hermaphrodite
Sometimes, various stress factors such as nutrient deficiency, disease, or photoperiod deficiency can cause cannabis plants to become hermaphrodite plants. Also referred to as “hermies,” hermaphrodite plants grow both male and female reproductive organs. It’s vital to assess female plants carefully to ensure the buds are purely female, and there are no male flowers that could cause the plant to fertilize itself.
There are two common signs that indicate that a plant is hermaphroditic. First, the plant grows both female buds and male pollen sacs. Secondly, you will notice the appearance of anthers, also known colloquially by growers as “manners” or bananas. Anthers appear among buds, have a curved shape, and are typically lime-green or yellow in color.
Unlike conventional male pollen sacs in male cannabis plants, these anthers often fertilize the female plants as soon as they come up, so they must be immediately removed or trimmed to protect a female crop.
How to Differentiate Male and Female Marijuana Seeds
So, are there male and female marijuana seeds? Unfortunately, there is no way to identify the gender of a marijuana seed unless you have bought feminized seeds from a certified grower. More often, feminized seeds exclusively generate female plants.
However, you will still need to monitor the male and female marijuana plants’ early stages to ensure no rogue male plants sneak in. Feminized seeds may also become hermaphrodite plants during stress, particularly if they are produced from dubious genetic lines.
Chemical Leaf Testing to Determine Marijuana Plant Gender
Another method for checking the gender of a cannabis plant is to perform a chemical test of the herb’s leaves. This method can be used to test plants as soon as one week after germination. To carry out chemical testing, you require just a small amount of plant tissue, like a punch-out from a leaf. While chemical testing is a more expensive option than visual inspections, it is becoming more common among commercial breeders who want to know the gender of their plants with certainty.
Training Your Cannabis Plants for Improved Yields and Potency
Genetics is the primary determinant of whether a cannabis plant becomes a hermaphrodite plant or not. Avoid any marijuana plant with poor genetics or a strong history of hermaphrodite development to protect your garden. If you notice any anthers or pollen sacs at any point, remove the plant from the garden immediately to prevent pollination of the female plants.
If you’re planning to pollinate portions of your garden, remember that pollen is highly potent and very good at traveling. But, how far apart should male and female marijuana plants be? You should typically keep the males meant for pollination far from the garden and work carefully with the generated pollen.
More importantly, isolate your females from any males since only females produce buds. Only female cannabis plants will produce adequate THC to be used as medical marijuana, but they won’t create much if you allow them to become fertilized.
The pistil of a female plant is meant to attract pollen. And if it gets it from the males, it will create a seed, causing all the plant’s energy and nutrients to be spent making seeds instead of producing big, THC-full buds. Your female plants are the ones meant to produce a real yield and potency, but only if you effectively protect them from the males!
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