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How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Marijuana Plants

Last Updated: September 13, 2022By Jason Levin
green leafed plant

Marijuana is scientifically known as Cannabis sativa. In its unmodified form, it provides a psychoactive experience to users. The marijuana plant can be harnessed to offer outstanding medical benefits to patients suffering from different forms of chronic diseases. 

Already, in the US, marijuana is the second most commonly used drug of choice after alcohol. Legalization of marijuana in some states in the United States has led to more exposure to the cannabis plant. Cannabis farmers are able to understand more about how the plant works now that they can grow it legally.

Growing your own marijuana plant? Check out a Pot for Pot’s Complete indoor weed growing kit!

Marijuana has male and female plants

The marijuana plant is peculiar in that there are both male and female plants as well as hermaphrodite plants. The Cannabis sativa plant is a dioecious plant meaning each plant will produce either male or female reproductive abilities.

Most plants are typically monoecious in nature which means that they have two types of flowers on the same plant so they can self-pollinate. The hermaphrodite marijuana plant has both the male and female reproductive organs.

It’s important to distinguish between the male and female plants in order to have a good crop of marijuana. When the male and female plants are grown together indiscriminately, cross pollination will occur resulting in seeds. 

Cannabis plants with seeded buds are generally considered to be of inferior quality because the seeds make the resulting smoke from the dried plant harsh with an unpleasant aftertaste. 

Male and female plants are only left together if the grower wants to create a new strain of cannabis. They also allow pollination to occur in order to harvest seeds for their next crop. As a rule, growers prefer to weed out male and hermaphroditic plants to prevent pollination. 

The female plants that are left on their own tend to grow larger and their seedless nature allows the resulting marijuana crop to have higher levels of THC, with smoke that’s easier to consume for the user. The seedless buds are commonly referred to as sensimilla. 

One can tell the difference between male and female cannabis plants by the growth between their nodes. 

Related: How to Make Medical-Grade Marijuana Oil 

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Growing marijuana plants: Plant sex & clones

Unless you’re growing from cloned or feminized seeds, there’s no way to know for sure if you’re planting a female or male plant.

When growing cannabis, you can’t go wrong with using clones if your goal is to avoid the male plants altogether. While they’re more fragile than seedlings because they don’t produce strong taproots, they are efficient and relatively easy to grow. As long as they’re rooted well, it’s hard to mess up growing a clone.

They also make sexing your cannabis plant irrelevant. However, clones are expensive—you might pay $20-$30+ for a single plant.

So, if you don’t want to spend that much on growing cannabis, here’s how you can easily determine the sex of your marijuana plant.

Determining your cannabis plant’s sex

Since cannabis plants are dioecious, each one has male or female reproductive organs, determining the plant’s sex is crucial for growers. Usually, a marijuana seed is ½ male and ½ female, meaning that it can be challenging for new growers to ensure they’re growing plants that will produce buds. Some growers will purchase feminized or seeds, guaranteeing their plants will be female. That’s because female plants grow sensimilla, the buds that we use. However, male plants are far from useless.

If you’re growing with regular seeds, you’ll have to determine your marijuana plant’s sex to see if it will grow that sinsemilla. Between four and six weeks, it will start to show signs of its gender. This stage begins towards the end of the vegetative stage and right before flowering begins.

How to tell if your marijuana plant is female or male before flowering

The plant’s pre-flowers will show clear signs that you can use to determine if they will be male or female. Those pre-flowers will appear in between the plan nodes, which are the areas where the leaves and branches start coming out of the stalk. 

The pre-flowers of a male plant are a pollen sac that spreads pollen, and the female plant is a stigma that catches pollen.

You can identify a pollen sac easily—they are small, round balls that will grow on the plant’s nodes. Stigmas look similar, but they will have short pink or white hairs growing from them. At first, a female marijuana plant’s pre-flowers will look like pollen sacs; however, they will be pointier. You’ll want to give your plant about six weeks before 100% identifying the gender.

Pre-flowers will start growing before serving their purpose for reproduction, but they can sometimes be challenging to recognize. For example, plants with tiny pre-flowers are difficult to sex, but you can use a magnifying glass to check if they are pollen sacs or stigmas.

The characteristics of male marijuana plants

a male marijuana plant on a sunny day 

The male marijuana plant is the main producer of pollen, which the female needs in order to naturally reproduce. They’re also used in the creation of seeds, especially when the marijuana grower wants to create their own strain of cannabis. They have

  • Pods that release pollen with the appearance of small flowers
  • Thicker stalks
  • Fewer leaves on them

The sturdier stalk is instrumental in providing support to the male plant as it grows taller than the female. Male cannabis plants show their sex earlier than females. 

The characteristics of female marijuana plants

The female marijuana plant is characterized by bulbs with translucent hairs on them occurring between nodes. They also have slimmer stalks and are much shorter in height compared to male plants. They tend to spread horizontally rather than vertically when growing. Female plants have

  • Fuller, broader leaves
  • More leaves at the top of the plant
  • A pistil - Not present on male plants, the pistil consists of the stigma and ovule where the stigma appears as an antenna at the top of the plant. It aids the plant in getting pollinated.

Some females can also have male parts meaning it will have both the male pods with pollen in them and the female bulbs with the translucent hairs. These are to be treated as males because they will ruin the crop.

Related: Smell-Proofing Your Indoor Marijuana Grow Room

The characteristics of intersex marijuana plants

It’s not uncommon for a female marijuana plant to develop both female and male reproductive organs, making it an intersex (or hermaphrodite) plant. Typically, when a plant produces both sex organs, it’s due to stress caused by malnutrition, extreme weather, plant damage, etc.

Plants with pollen sacs and stigmas, or a female plant that starts producing anthers, will produce pollen when the pollen sacs open, similar to any other male marijuana plant. Although it can occur due to genetics, growers typically don’t want intersex plants. The best way to avoid a hermaphrodite cannabis plant is to closely monitor your growing conditioning and avoid situations that can cause stress to your plants.

Plants may become hermaphroditic when they are exposed to:

  • Excess temperatures—Your cannabis plant may become stressed if it’s exposed to prolonged temps above 88 °F or temps below 55 °F.
  • Physical damage—High winds can break off limbs, excess rain can damage the plant, and animals can cause harm to the plant’s stem and stalks.

Over-saturation—Over-watering your marijuana plants is one of the leading causes of failure for new growers. Check your drainage and only water when necessary, or you risk causing root disease, which can lead to your cannabis plant turning hermaphroditic.

What can you do with the male cannabis plant?

Male plants aren’t completely useless to the grower. One can use them for:

Hemp fiber

Hemp fiber 

Male cannabis plants produce softer hemp fiber while the females produce the coarse variety. Their fiber is excellent for making clothes, furniture fabric, tablecloths, and other house based fabrics because it’s easy to manage and clean.

Terpenes

Both plants produce terpenes, which are aromatic compounds found in the cannabis plant and are used for pest control. Having a male in a garden separate from the females enriches the soil with these aromatic compounds, naturally infusing it with insect repellent. 

Also, male cannabis plants have taproots, which are very deep roots. Their roots are useful in breaking apart the soil allowing nutrients to enter it. When the roots are established they also help hold the soil in place preventing any nutrient loss.

Breeding

Male cannabis plants provide the pollen needed to fertilize the female plant if the end game of the grower is to obtain seeds for planting. The seed will occur in a bud in the female and can be harvested for the next planting season. 

If the male plant is from a particularly robust strain, the grower will end up with a superior crop as qualities like resilience, pest resistance, and mold resistance are passed on to the new batch.

What can you do with the female cannabis plant?

 a woman smokes weed on her porch 

Smoke it

Female plants have higher concentrations of THC compared to the male, making them the ideal plant to harvest for making cannabis products. They have cola, which refers to the large row of buds at the top of the plant. The cola contains the flowers, stems, and leaves of the plant which are rich in cannabis components.  The cola only grows in female plants and offers the best of the marijuana plant.

Breeding

The female can be fertilized to yield seeds for the next planting season. Female cannabis plants concentrate on creating seeds when fertilized at the expense of creating THC, which is why the males are removed from the garden. 

Making concentrates

Female plants are used to make potent concentrates compared to the males and hermaphrodites. Some of the favorite concentrates include hash oil, CBD products, shatter, and powders.

Related: How to Grow Marijuana as a Garden Variety

a colorful female marijuana plant 

Benefits of the male plant

Males are an essential component in the continuity of the cannabis plant. They provide pollen for pollination and can be used to create new strains.

Disadvantages of the male plant

It can corrupt an entire crop by pollinating all the females. Once a female is fertilized it doesn’t produce THC.

They also don’t produce flowers, only seeds, which accounts for their low THC levels.

Benefits of the female plant

It provides some of the best medical and recreational marijuana because of its high THC levels. This compound is concentrated in the flowers.

Disadvantages of the female plant

They typically come as one feminized strain which makes them susceptible to disease and bugs with time.

Related: How to Dry and Cure Weed Fast & Easy

I wanted a female plant but got a male plant—now what?

Most growers don’t want male cannabis plants; they are essentially useless for people growing marijuana for the THC. As a result, many growers will eliminate most of their male plants once they start showing signs of their sex. Doing so gives them more room to grow female plants to produce the sought-after resinous buds.

However, you might want to keep a couple of male plants around. As the male plants grow, their pollen balls will eventually open up and spread that pollen, which pollinates the female flowers. Typically, the only reason to keep male cannabis plants is breeding purposes.

If you do keep some male plants, know that genetics is crucial. The male plant will provide half of the genetics to your new plants, so you want to ensure that they resist pests, mold, disease, etc.

Male plants also produce better hemp fibers; the material is much softer than the female’s coarse fibers. However, although you can use male plants for recreational purposes, they won’t have the same effect as the buds from female plants.

Male cannabis plants have light psychoactive effects due to the small number of cannabinoids in their stems, leaves, and pollen sacs, but it’s not as potent as the high levels of THC found in female plants.

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Conclusion

Cannabis plants reveal their gender in six weeks. The period before those six weeks they all look the same. However, depending on the environment where they are growing, whether indoors or outdoors, they may show their gender sooner or later.

For more tips on how to grow, cure, and harvest weed visit a Pot for Pot! Looking to grow your own small marijuana plant? Check out our complete grow kits!

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