Why Female Cannabis Plants Are the Most Desirable
Female cannabis plants are generally considered more valuable than male cannabis plants. In cannabis plants, the females hold almost all the power, at least when it comes to cannabinoid content. Both male and female plants are needed to breed new genetics and create new strains. But female plants are responsible for the sticky and stinky trichome- and terpene-covered buds that give cannabis its therapeutic potency.
Learn more about the anatomy of female cannabis plants and why they need male cannabis plants.
Considering when planted cannabis seeds will come out 50/50 male to female ratio, this means that only half of your crops will yield the types of buds you’re after. There are ways around this that we will look at later, including cloning and feminized seeds, which exist solely to solve the need for an abundance of female plants.
Male vs. Female Cannabis Plants: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between male and female cannabis plants is that female plants produce buds, and male plants produce pollen. Anyone who uses cannabis medically or recreationally will know that buds with seeds are often less potent and usually considered substandard.
On the other hand, seedless buds, often coated in sticky resin and even a blanket of white crystals, are highly sought after for their aroma, flavor, and most of all, their potent effects. Seedless buds are known as “sensimilla” – female cannabis plants that have been left unfertilized and left to concentrate on producing buds.
Female cannabis plants are responsible for those flavorful THC and CBD-packed buds. On the other hand, it is a male plant that produces seedy buds, often less potent. While seeds are essential to continue growing, more female plants are needed to ensure high yields of quality buds at the end of the day.
However, it must be noted that, while female cannabis plants are generally more cannabinoid-packed, male cannabis plants can contain unique cannabinoid ratios of their own (particularly CBD). Breeders ought to look out for unusually frosty male cannabis plants as this could make them excellent candidates as a partner for a particularly healthy female.
When planted, cannabis seeds will come out in a roughly 50/50 male to female ratio, so only half of your seedlings will yield the types of buds you’re after. There are ways around this, including cloning and feminized seeds, which exist solely to solve the need for an abundance of female plants. You will also want to remove the male plants from your grow space so they do not fertilize your females and reduce the amount of flower you could produce.
In short, female cannabis plants are more valuable than male cannabis plants because they produce the usable part of the plant: the bud. However, male and female cannabis plants need each other and experience a symbiotic relationship in nature as the males pollinate the females’ flowers, and can help provide the genetic diversity plants need to survive in an ever-changing world.
The Anatomy of Female Cannabis Plants
Generally, a cultivator can visually determine the gender of a cannabis plant around four to six weeks into the growth cycle (though this may differ when growing indoors). At this point, the plant is transitioning from its “vegetative” stage to the “flowering” stage when buds are formed.
Cultivators pay careful attention to the space between the plant’s nodes where leaves and branches extend from the stalk. Pre-flowers will begin to form, and the characteristics of those pre-flowers will determine the gender of your plant. In female plants, those nodes will show as almost hairlike, while on male plants, it will be the shape of a small ball. Male plants also tend to have thicker stalks and grow a bit taller than female cannabis plants.
Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants: What to Know
Though it’s unusual, just like in humans, there are rare cases where a plant is found to have both male and female pre-flowers. Often, hermaphrodite cannabis plants occur when a plant becomes excessively stressed due to damage to the plant, unfavorable weather conditions, disease, nutrient deficiencies, or genetics. Hermaphrodites can occur in indoor grows when the plant receives excessive light during its dark time.
While a hermaphrodite plant is not ideal, it will still produce pollen, so growers need to separate these plants and male plants as soon as they are discovered, as they can potentially ruin an entire crop.
The Bottom Line: Why Are Female Cannabis Plants Important?
Female cannabis plants are considered important because they produce buds, which contain trichomes that produce high concentrations of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Male plants are beneficial for keeping unique genetic profiles alive, creating new varieties of cannabis, and adding variation into the cannabis gene pool. However, for most home growers who are not interested in breeding, keeping males can be a complicated process that’s not always worth the hassle.
If you’re considering growing your cannabis at home, then it is crucial to know the differences between male and female plants and the importance of keeping female plants. If you can purchase clones or feminized seeds from a dispensary, this can simplify things for you incredibly, especially if you’re new to growing cannabis.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How can you tell if your cannabis plant is male or female before flowering?
Before the flowering stage, you can determine if your cannabis plant is male or female by performing a chemical leaf test. Or, you can simply observe your plants and look for clues. Female plants will display fine white hairs called stigmas on their buds. Male plants will show pollen sacs without stigmas. Later on, you’ll notice your male cannabis plants growing taller than your female cannabis plants and displaying fewer leaves.
Can a female cannabis plant turn male?
No, a female cannabis plant cannot turn male, but it can turn into a hermaphrodite displaying male and female sex characteristics. When a female plant becomes hermaphroditic, it develops both male and female reproductive parts in order to pollinate itself. Female cannabis plants usually turn into hermaphrodites when under some type of environmental stress, so take care as you cultivate your crops.
What happens if you don’t separate a male from a female plant?
Putting a male cannabis plant and female cannabis plant together can lead to your female cannabis plants being fertilized. This means that your female cannabis plants will produce seeds rather than buds/flower.
Leafwell can help you find out more about the home growing laws in your state, as well as connect you to a physician in your state to start the process of getting you qualified for medical marijuana.
Do Feminized Cannabis Seeds Make Hermies?
What Are Feminized Cannabis Seeds? These seeds all grow up to be female plants. That means every plant produces buds. With “regular” or unfeminized seeds, about half the plants will turn out to be male, which don’t produce buds. They can also pollinate your female plants (causing seedy buds). Therefore most growers will remove male plants from the grow room as soon as they’re identified. Learn more about male vs female plants. Feminized seeds let you plan your grow more effectively because you don’t have to throw half the plants away once they start flowering.
Every plant grown from feminized seeds will produce the buds we know and love. This plant was grown from feminized Swiss Cheese seeds.
What Are Hermies? “Hermie” is short for “hermaphrodite.” Hermie cannabis plants usually look like normal female plants for the most part, but they also grow some male parts that produce pollen. This causes seedy buds just like pollen from male plants. Hermies are to be avoided! Read the full tutorial on hermies.
It’s no good if your “female” plants start growing male flowers or parts of male flowers. That can cause seedy buds just like a male plant!
This bud got completely seeded due to a hermie in the grow space. Notice the lumpy round bits. Those are seeds forming.
What’s the matter with a few seeds?
Cannabis growers are trying to grow sinsemilla (seedless buds). A few seeds won’t hurt anything. But if you have very seedy buds, it significantly lowers your yields because plants are putting all their energy into making seeds. The buds also tend to be less potent if they are full of seeds. Seeds are not the end of the world, but it’s good to avoid if possible.
“Sinsemilla” means “no seeds.” Sinsemilla is the highest quality and most potent of all buds
Since most growers are trying to grow sinsemilla, having only 100% female plants in the flowering grow room is crucial to prevent pollination.
Feminized cannabis seeds can be a blessing for small-scale growers. While male plants produce pollen sacs, feminized seeds ensure all your plants will end up being bud-bearing females (instead of growing half male and half female plants like with regular seeds).
If you don’t have room for extra plants, feminized seeds can make planning your grow a lot easier!
Good feminized seeds should produce only 100% female plants, with no hermies or male plants. So starting with feminized cannabis seeds lets you make the most efficient use of your grow space. You don’t have to worry about identifying male plants and throwing them away before they pollinate your female plants. With good feminized seeds, you know that if you’re growing 10 plants, all 10 of them will make buds, and that makes it easier to plan out your grow ahead of time.
With all these bonuses, why would any small-scale grower use any other type of seeds?
Pros of Feminized Cannabis Seeds
All plants produce buds
You don’t have to throw away half your plants after nurturing them for weeks
You don’t have to worry about your buds getting pollinated, causing seedy buds, reduced bud quality and lower yields
But is there a dark side to feminized cannabis seeds?
One of the biggest worries growers have about feminized seeds is that they will produce hermies instead of 100% female plants as advertised.
This hermie is growing both male and female flowers. Can this be caused by feminized seeds?
Unfortunately, hermies can be a lot easier to miss than a male plant since it may just be a small part of the plant that’s affected. A male plant makes itself known at the beginning of the flowering stage, but a hermie plant may grow only buds except for just one or two tiny pollen sacs. A few yellow hermie bananas hidden in the buds can also produce pollen. Any type of male flower part that grows in your garden can add seeds to your buds, and hermies are some of the worst offenders.
This grower didn’t notice that the buds had been seeded until harvest. As he was trimming, he noticed seeds popping out. Since there were no male plants, chances are this was caused by an unnoticed hermie somewhere in the grow space.
Is it True that Feminized Seeds Sometimes Cause Hermies? Yes!
Many growers believe that feminized seeds can cause hermies, and there is some truth to that. In order to create a feminized seed, one of the parent female plants had to be forced in some way to produce pollen.
That pollen is used to pollinate another female plant, and the offspring of those two plants will all be female since both of the parents were female. That’s how you get feminized cannabis seeds. But that also means every time you have a feminized seed, that seed had a plant that produced male flowers in its recent genetic history.
There are different ways to feminize seeds, but only some methods produce seeds that turn hermie on you.
It’s important to understand that hermies can happen a couple of different ways. And the different types of hermies affect what genes are being passed on to the seeds.
This swollen calyx has a seed developing inside
What Causes Hermies?
Hermies can be caused by many things, including…
bad genetics – the plant comes from a line of plants that naturally create hermies for no reason, even in good growing conditions
high stress – high temperatures, light leaks, inconsistent light schedules, as well as other types of major stress can cause a healthy plant to hermie, though some plants/strains are more susceptible than others
letting buds over-mature – this is also known as “rodelization;” basically when the plant’s buds have gone past maturity without being pollinated (if the grower waits way too long to harvest), a female plant may make male pollen within its buds as a last ditch effort to pollinate itself and make seeds for the next generation
chemical stimulation – by exposing a female plant to certain substances like colloidal silver or gibberellic acid during the early parts of the flowering stage, you can force any female plant to create pollen. This is how seedbanks get female pollen to produce feminized seeds.
Seeds created from “female” pollen will turn out being female (or at least as female as the parents).
The pollen from a hermie plant makes feminized seeds
The pollen sacs on this masculinized female plant have opened and pollen has spilled onto the leaf below
Another type of hermie: a yellow “banana” can appear in your buds and make pollen. This male flower part would normally be inside a pollen sac. When it’s in the open like this, it becomes a little pollen generator.
Feminized seeds are susceptible to becoming hermies themselves when exposed to the same conditions as their female “father” who produced the pollen. But since any plant can be chemically induced to produce pollen, it doesn’t mean that the ability to hermie in a natural environment is passed on to the seeds.
So only some feminized seeds come from parents with bad genetics, and that’s what’s the grower cares about most.
The bagseed gamble… When you find seeds in your buds, that usually means that the buds were pollinated by accident. Seeds that were accidentally created are suspect. It could be that a stray male plant caused them, which means there were no hermies and you will get about half male and half female plants. But accidental seeds could also be the result of herming by an indiscriminate grower, and that means you have feminized seeds, sort of. Some of them may produce pollen on you just like their parents. Growing with bagseed is a big gamble… you never know what you’re going to get.
Are your cannabis bagseeds viable? Viable, good seeds usually appear either dark and striped or solid gray/beige.
If a seed is pure white it usually means it’s underdeveloped and won’t sprout. But it can sometimes be hard to tell. In the end, if a seed sprouts and grows it’s a viable seed! I’ve had very pale, flimsy seeds sprout into gorgeous fast-growing plants, so if you’re not sure the best thing to do is try to germinate it!
Seed Banks & Breeders
Commercial breeders and seed banks use chemical stimulation to create feminized seeds. What that means is they put specific compounds on developing female plants to force them to produce pollen. You can actually do this yourself at home.
This technique works on nearly any female plant, including plants that would never hermie naturally. So it can be used to take two plants with great genetics to produce female seeds. But the same process will also work incredibly well on plants that do hermie easily all on their own. That means it’s up to the breeder to test and make sure that they have a solid plant with unbeatable genetics before using the feminization technique.
The pollen that results from chemical stimulation is used to pollinate another female plant and make feminized seeds. If the parent plants would never hermie without chemical stimulation, then you have created feminized seeds that won’t ever make pollen in your grow room.
But if one of the parent plants was chosen because it does hermie easily, you’ll end up with seeds that likely will herm. The breeder might not have done any testing on the parents or the resulting offspring to even know.
Without testing, a breeder can’t tell whether they’ve created quality feminized seeds
Choosing the Right Cannabis Breeder
Unfortunately, some cannabis seed breeders are more trustworthy than others. The great ones have created stabilized strains that have been bred over several generations to produce a consistent product without any problems with plant sex.
Less scrupulous breeders might breed two random female plants together and sell the resulting seeds as a new strain without any testing. In this second case, you don’t know what to expect, and neither does the breeder.
If the breeder hasn’t tested their strains extensively in many situations, they won’t know whether their seeds tend to hermie or not. If they have carelessly bred plants that have a tendency to herm, then it’s really likely that at least some of the resulting seeds will have the same problem.
Breeder choice is important!
I have to admit I may be biased towards feminized seeds. I’ve grown almost exclusively with feminized seeds over the last decade. It has made my life so much easier! I only purchase seeds from breeders that I trust and all the resulting seeds have been bud-bearing females. I haven’t had any real problems with hermies.
On the flip side, I’ve heard of growers buying feminized seeds from untrustworthy breeders and having a big portion of their seeds turn male or become hermies even in perfect growing conditions. So there is truth to the fact that you can run into hermie problems with feminized seeds.
Yet there are good and bad breeders out there, and with good breeders, you have a very low chance of running into cannabis sex problems.
So if you do choose to purchase feminized seeds (or any seeds really), please make sure you get them from a trusted breeder!
Conclusion: Feminized seeds from a trustworthy breeder have a low chance of producing hermies, but the odds are much worse with feminized seeds from an untrustworthy source
The truth is it takes a hermie of some sort to create feminized seeds. That means that you always run the risk of running into hermies when growing feminized seeds… yet that is true for non-feminized cannabis seeds, too! Lots of regular seeds produce hermies.
What’s most important, whether you get feminized seeds or not, is to get your seeds from a breeder who has a reputation for producing quality genetics. That is the best thing you can do for any strain to ensure a smooth grow. With a great breeder, you have a very low risk of running into any sex or gender problems.
I personally prefer feminized seeds, and that’s the only type of seed I grow. It makes it easier for me in my limited grow space. I haven’t run into any significant problems with hermies, so I’m satisfied with growing only bud-bearing plants.
Yet a lot of growers grow with regular seeds because they’re easier to breed and produce at home. Many growers have created a system for weeding out male plants that is more convenient for them than using feminized seeds.
In the end, when it comes to feminized cannabis seeds you need to decide whether the small chance for hermies is worth the convenience of all-female plants. It’s up to you to figure out what’s best for your needs!