Successful cannabis harvests require the grower to determine the sex of their cannabis plants. This task becomes critical when the grower is producing the crop for flowers. They must know how to recognize male plants and remove these plants from the grow space. In addition, they need to learn how to harvest pollen while keeping it separate from the female plants, how to identify hermaphrodite cannabis plants, and what steps will maximize the yield of female plants in the grow space.
The Importance of Sex in Cannabis Plants
Cannabis plants fall under the category of hermaphroditic and dioecious species, which means they can be female, male, or both sexes. Each biological sex comes with its own uses and features in cannabis plants, and knowing the sex of a plant early in the growing process remains critical. Why is this the case?
Female Cannabis Plants and Why Growers Prefer Them
Female cannabis flowers produce sinsemilla. The male plants of the species lack the ability to do so. When female cannabis plants reach maturity, they produce sinsemilla if a male plant hasn’t fertilized them. Sinsemilla comes packed with trichomes and contains no bagseed or cannabis seeds. This leads to big, resinous buds that users love. The female plant produces this resin, hoping to be pollinated.
Female plants, when pollinated, don’t produce high-quality buds. Rather, they turn their focus on growing seeds, which results in small, seedy flowers that lack the level of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids growers desire. Male cannabis plants lack the cannabinoids present in female plants. Although they have a small amount of cannabinoids, they cannot compare to female plants in richness. Female plants come with the highest cannabinoid concentration, so growers prefer them.
Guaranteeing Female Cannabis Plants
When you purchase regular cannabis seeds, expect to grow 50 percent female plants and 50 percent male. If you plan to grow the seeds for flowers, you will throw away half of the plants. A grower can determine the sex of each plant three to six weeks after germination when the plant is in the pre-flowering phase of growth. However, growers find they can avoid the need to weed out the males. How can they do this?
Cloning involves taking cuttings from mother plants. Mother plants, or those plants that are female, produce female clones. This eliminates the need to remove male plants before they pollinate the female ones.
Buy feminized seeds to ensure all plants grown are female. Purchase the seeds from a reputable seed bank to get a guarantee with the seeds. If one or more plants are male, the grower contacts the seed bank to replace the plant.
The Purpose of Male Plants
If growers don’t want male plants, why do seed banks sell seeds that produce male plants? Male plants don’t produce buds. They pollinate females, however, which ruins the crop. Why would anyone want male seeds or plants if they could ruin the crop?
Only hermaphroditic plants can produce seeds without a plant of the opposite gender. Female plants need pollen from a male plant to produce seeds. Breeders purchase male plants to get the pollen needed for their breeding programs.
Take care when purchasing male cannabis plants to ensure a high-quality hybrid. Consider the genetic predisposition of the plant to find a plant with the right growth rate, structure, and disease resistance you desire in your hybrids. Also consider the potency, taste, and aroma of the strain when you buy plants for breeding purposes. No breeder wants to pass undesirable traits on to the offspring, as doing so decreases the quality of future harvests.
Individuals who make their own concentrates often purchase plants of both sexes. Male cannabis plants contain trace amounts of terpenes and cannabinoids. The cannabinoids appear on the sacs, stems, and leaves, and individuals extract them for concentrates.
People often purchase cannabis plants for their fiber. Male cannabis plants provide a fabric that is flexible and offers additional resistance. Many people prefer fiber from male plants because of their softness. It’s ideal for making items that people use daily, such as tablecloths and clothes. Female plants, in contrast, provide a fiber that is coarse and durable, perfect for making rough fabrics such as canvas.
Cannabis plants serve many functions. People often assume they are only useful for consumption. However, men and women find male plants serve as natural pest repellants. The compounds and terpenes found in the males work as a great defense mechanism and protect other plants in the grow space.
Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
Certain cannabis plants end up as both male and female plants. They go by the name hermaphrodites and may either be true hermies or nanner producers. Regardless of which category the plant falls into, having both sexes allows them to self-pollinate. However, they might also fertilize female plants unintentionally.
Cannabis Hermaphroditism and Its Causes
Genetics and environmental stress play a role in hermaphroditism. When a grower takes seeds from a hermaphrodite parent plant and cultivates them, the offspring serve as true hermaphrodites. This means they have hermaphroditic tendencies.
True hermies show characteristics of both sexes in most cases, but not always. Growers need to watch these plants and ensure they remain well-cared-for to prevent this from happening. Nevertheless, when the plant experiences environmental stress, the true hermie reveals itself. Certain strains remain prone to this condition, referred to as gynandromorphism, but breeders continue to find ways to eliminate this concern and have succeeded in doing so with most hybrids today.
Female cannabis plants, when exposed to environmental stresses, often develop male parts. Growers refer to these parts as nanners, likely because of their appearance, as the outgrowths resemble bananas. The outgrowths come not only with the ability to self-pollinate but also to pollinate other female plants in the grow space. Why do they self-pollinate when stressed?
Female plants, feel the stress threatens their survival. To ensure she leaves offspring behind, a female plant produces pollen and attempts to self-pollinate. Doing so leaves behind seeds in the flower when she perishes, and the seeds ensure her DNA survives even when she doesn’t.
Environmental stressors come in many forms. Extreme heat remains harmful to these plants, as does an extended flowering period. Avoid excessive pruning and fractures because they serve as physical trauma for cannabis plants, and address infestations of any type to prevent harm to the plants. Disease, nutritional deficiencies, improper moisture levels, light schedules that vary, and the wrong use of pesticides also act as stressors for cannabis plants. Light burn remains another thing growers must watch for with cannabis.
How to Handle Hermies
Growers often panic when they see a plant that shows signs of hermaphroditism. Don’t make this mistake. Quick action allows you to save the plant.
A significant number of nanners shows the plant isn’t saveable. For this reason, growers must remain vigilant at all times, and address hermies immediately. If the plant lacks substantial nanners, take the following steps right away.
Sanitize a pair of tweezers using peroxide or alcohol. Remove any male parts on the plant using these tweezers and sterilize the plant with a few squirts of water to ensure pollination doesn’t occur. Continue to monitor the plant and remove any new male parts promptly.
If you cannot save the plant, remove it from the grow area carefully to ensure it doesn’t come into contact with any female plants. If it does, pollination may occur and ruin the female plants.
Identifying the Sex of a Cannabis Plant
Knowing how to identify the sex of a cannabis plant plays a significant role in the harvest’s success. Growers need to master this skill with their first crop. Furthermore, establishing the sex of a plant must occur early in the growing process to ensure pollination doesn’t occur.
Early Signs to Watch For
Growers need to monitor plants, looking for grape-shaped outgrowths. If these outgrowths appear, the plant is a male. If left untouched, the outgrowths turn into sacs that fill with pollen. When the sac matures, it ruptures and distributes pollen throughout the grow space. Look for balls at the junction of the stem and stalk to identify male plants. The calyxes on female plants appear pointy, as described below. Furthermore, male plants tend to develop more rapidly.
Female plants, in contrast, don’t develop these outgrowths. Pre-flowers in female plants pop four to six weeks from the date the seed germinates. When the calyxes first appear, growers might mistake them for a pollen sac. Differentiating between the two requires nothing more than an examination of the tip. Calyxes on a female plant come with a pointy top, and growers should see white pistils appearing within a few days.
The growths appear in the space between stem and branches. Male outgrowths tend to appear sooner, but this isn’t always the case. Look near the top of the plant, as this is where the growths usually appear first. A jeweler’s loupe becomes of great help when examining cannabis plants for growths.
How can growers tell when a plant is a hermaphrodite? Use one of two methods when making this determination. True hermies display buds and pollen sacs during the early part of the flowering phase. These buds and pollen sacs appear in different nodes. Nanners, in contrast, appear later in the growth stage and are seen mingling with the buds. As the name suggests, the nanners come in either lime green or yellow and appear elongated. Search for single nanners or ones in clusters to ensure none are overlooked.
Sexing the Plant
Growers find they have another option for determining the sex of their cannabis plants. They can force the clones to flower. Although this practice requires experience on the part of the grower, it offers those who prefer to be proactive a means of doing so. However, both techniques require patience.
Most people prefer to wait until the pre-flowers emerge before attempting to determine the sex. This method takes three to six weeks, as mentioned above. That’s why some people choose to flower-force the clones.
Flower-forcing the clones involves inducing the clones to produce pre-flowers without requiring the mom to leave veg. This allows the grower to determine the sex while ensuring the mother plant receives no exposure to pollen. What steps should the grower take when using this method?
Start by obtaining a clone from the mother. Label the clone along with its mother plant. When the clone begins developing roots, help move it into the flowering stage using a 12/12 light cycle. Allow the plant 12 hours of light every day and 12 hours of darkness. Within a week or two, the plant reveals its sex.
Patience is Key
Learn all you can about cultivating cannabis to make the process easier once you begin. Identifying the sex of a plant remains critical, but it is only one of many things growers must know for a successful harvest. The other option involves purchasing feminized seeds to eliminate the need for sexing plants. However, some people don’t like this option because they want to try their hand at breeding.
Feminized seeds won’t produce male plants. Although an occasional male plant may appear, the odds decrease drastically when a person purchases these seeds. Breeders create feminized seeds by treating them and altering them to inhibit male chromosomes. Most breeders accomplish this goal by spraying the plant with colloidal silver every day or more often. Depending on their accessibility, other compounds and chemicals are used to achieve the same goal. While colloidal silver isn’t toxic, humans shouldn’t smoke it. Therefore, breeders only use the plants sprayed with this chemical for their seeds and pollen.
When a grower repeatedly treats a plant with colloidal silver, they repress the ethylene naturally found in the plant. Ethylene creates male flowers, so repressing it ensures they don’t develop. The plant treated with the colloidal silver grows pollen sacs that contain only female pollen, which breeders then use to pollinate female flowers. This results in strictly female seeds.
Rodelization serves as another way to create feminized cannabis seeds. While this method is more natural, growers find reliability remains an issue. As a result, they use it less frequently. As the growing season comes to an end, female cannabis plants that aren’t pollinated may produce pollen sacs to self-pollinate and ensure the survival of their DNA. Breeders may then use this pollen to create feminized seeds, but the results vary. The process doesn’t involve the repression of ethylene, which means they may end up with male seeds.
Sexing plants takes patience, vigilance, and quick judgment. Once you remove the male plants from the grow space, however, don’t assume you are finished with your work. Cannabis plants need monitoring throughout the growth cycle for great results. Growers who put effort into the process find they are rewarded with an excellent harvest and amazing buds.