At this point in time, we all know what feminised seeds are, although even today there is some confusion regarding the most common methods to produce Male vs Female Cannabis Cannabis is a dioecious plant, which means it has male and female flowers on separate plants. When the male plant enters the reproductive stage, it will develop male pollen sacs. The female plant will produce flowers ready to accept the pollen. This also means that cannabis is not true to seed, Learn how to find tiny pre-flowers at the base of each leaf to determine the sex of your plant in the vegetative stage (at only 3-6 weeks from germination)!
How to make feminised cannabis seeds
Until the 1990s, any cannabis cultivator was aware that, at some point, they had to separate the male and female plants if they didn’t want the first ones to pollinate the latter, which results in plants completely full of seeds. However, those were the days when pioneering seed banks like Dutch Passion were revolutionizing the cannabis scene with the birth of the first feminized cannabis strains, or in other words, seeds that only develop into female plants. At the beginning of the 20th century, many seeds banks were offering this type of seeds, feminized versions of classics strains that had been cultivated during many years as regular plants.
We are sure that by now you’d probably have grown some feminized seeds, maybe even though you are a purist and the fiercest defender of regular seeds. But. do you know where feminized seeds come from? Are you familiar with the processes used by both breeders and growers to obtain them? In this article we explain everything!
Feminized cannabis seeds quality control
Advantages of growing feminised seeds
Indeed, the advent of feminized seeds brought about a genuine revolution within the cannabis sector. Growers were now sure that all their plants would be females, without the need to differentiate between male and female plants or having to remove the males before they could ruin the crops, which offers a number of benefits of significant importance:
- Space and resources saving: no more growing plants which eventually will be removed for being males.
- Reliability: it’s not that most plants are female, or that they are genetically more likely to produce female plants. The plants grown from feminized seeds have only female chromosomes (XX), therefore this method is 99% reliable.
- Sinsemilla plants: by not having males in the grow room, your female plants won’t be pollinated, so they won’t produce any seeds during the flowering period (something that every cultivator wants, unless they want to obtain seeds)
These advantages were of great interest for the growers, and soon feminised seeds accounted for a large portion of the seeds available in the market. In addition, being able to use only female plants (generally known and selected clones) to produce seeds had another great advantage for seed producers and breeders of new varieties: they no longer need to keep males in their gene pools! And not only that. from that moment on, any female plant they could get their hands on could be used as a male to pollinate other plants, thus exponentially increasing the possibilities of creating new crosses.
Outstanding Orange Candy feminised from Philosopher Seeds
It is not surprising, therefore, that at present, feminized seeds represent virtually all the seeds in the market, since they offer a number of significant advantages for both professional and home growers and breeders, for photoperiod and autoflowering plants. The main disadvantage of this method is a well known and hotly debated issue: the growers who buy this type of seeds cannot produce their own seeds in the absence of male plants, so the only way they can manage it it’s using the same process to obtain this type of seeds. But. what are these processes and what are they based on?
Female crosses: feminised cannabis seeds are born
As we’ve already mentioned, feminized seeds are the result of a process that reverses the sex of a female plant, that is, she is forced to produce male flowers. This way, and once into flowering, the female chosen will start to develop what we know as male flowers (stamens and anthers), which, just like male plants, will release the pollen that will pollinate the female plants. What is then the difference between a male plant and a reverted female plant?
The sex of cannabis plants is determined in the same way as ours, through the so-called sex chromosomes or genosomes. Male plants have a couple of different sex chromosomes called “XY” or heterogametic, while female plants have two chromosomes called “XX” or homogametic. When crossing a male (XY) with a female (XX), we will obtain around half of the plants of each type in their offspring. In other words, when a breeder uses a male and a female plant, the seeds produced by them will be approximately 50% males and 50% females.
After this explanation, many of you will have already figured out that if we cross two female plants (reversing the sex of one of them to force it to produce pollen), the result will be seeds that will produce female plants, as there are only female sex chromosomes in the equation. If crossing XY with XX produced 50% of each class (male and female), crossing XX with XX will produce plants that only exhibit chromosomes XX, that is to say, female plants. No matter how many times we “transform” a female plant into a male plant, we won´t be changing their genetic composition, which will still be female or XX. This way, the pollen produced by this plant will pass down female sex chromosomes exclusively.
Feminised seeds grown indoors, 100% female plants
As you can see, and although we normally use the expression “reversing the plant sex“, that is not exactly what is done, because the sex chromosomes of the female plant (XX) have not changed, even if we managed to produce male flowers. This “sex change” of female plants can be achieved in a number of ways, but usually with the same goal: to reduce the level of ethylene in plant tissues and/or inhibit the ethylene action, which makes the plant develop male flowers on entering the flowering period, as if it were a male from regular seeds. This is because ethylene is a natural regulator of the sex expression in plants!
Let’s see now the most popular ways to reverse the sex of a female plant in order to produce feminized seeds.
Methods used to produce feminized cannabis seeds
There are several ways to secure that a female plant produces pollen, and almost all of them require some type of chemical that is often sprayed on the plant. Once sprinkled with the chosen product and under a flowering photoperiod, the plant will flower normally, but as a male instead of female, producing ‘feminized’ pollen (which only contains chromosomes XX) that can be used to pollinate other females in order to produce seeds. These are some of the most commonly used techniques:
Stress or rodelization
One of the first methods used to obtain seeds that produce female plants was stress or rodelization. There are several ways to stress the cannabis plants to make sure they develop male flowers, such as through temperature, nutrition, photoperiod, and pH. However, supporters of this technique often prefer something as simple as delaying the harvest 2-3 weeks in order to force the plants to develop a few male flowers without stressing them as much as with any of the other methods we have mentioned.
Although this action will produce far less pollen than other techniques like STS, it will be enough to obtain a handful of seeds for the domestic growers to try to create their own feminized crosses. Also, the great advantage of this technique is that is 100% natural, and it doesn´t use any chemicals. It is an excellent alternative for anyone who just wants a few seeds and wishes to keep it simple without any formulas or laboratory products. However, bear in mind that this is the only method listed in this post that may produce some plants with hermaphroditic traits.
Male flower produced by rodelization
STS or silver thiosulfate solution
Without any doubt, one of the most commonly used methods for both producers and seed banks. This is a solution made of distilled water, silver nitrate and sodium thiosulphate (sometimes called sodium hyposulphite) that, after being sprayed on the female plants, inhibits their ethylene action resulting in the formation of male flowers once flowering has been induced. STS is relatively easy to prepare, although its lifespan after combining the two components is quite limited, barely a few days as long as it´s well preserved (in a dark and cool place).
It is important to mention that you must not consume any part of the plants sprayed with this type of product, although that would be weird, as the plants have “become” males and won´t produce any buds. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t use the reverted plants to make resin extracts; the best thing is to discard them after harvesting the pollen. Both components, sodium thiosulphate and silver nitrate, are also used for photo-development.
This is another way to revert the sex of the plants, but this time using a solution made of 30ppm colloidal silver (that you can easily find in many pharmacies and also online) and distilled water. The solution must be applied for a few days until the plant starts producing male flowers, something that it´s not necessary with STS, where in most cases one single application is enough.
Colloidal silver is formed by electrically charged silver nanoparticles and has antibacterial and antifungal properties. This product was introduced in the market in 1980 for therapeutic use. However, as with STS, you should get rid of the sprayed plants once their pollen is harvested, as colloidal silver is absorbed systemically by the plant and remains in its tissues.
This sativa plant treated with STS started flowering as a female but soon developed male flowers
This is a method researched by Mohan Ram, who also conducted extensive investigations on plant sex reversal with STS. According to his findings, sodium thiosulphate (STS) is more effective in producing male flowers and viable pollen in female plants. Probably because of this, silver nitrate is mixed with sodium thiosulphate, instead of using it in isolation.
Gibberellins are plant hormones that help regulate various processes related to the development of the plants. There are several types of gibberellins available in the market, although the most common and effective is gibberellic acid or GA3 (Gibberellin GA3). This product is used in a very similar way to colloidal silver, sprayed on the plants during several days before switching the photoperiod over to flowering.
It is worth stating that one of the side effects of gibberellic acid is a significant stretching of the treated parts of the plant, so don’t be surprised if this happens to your plants! The recommended dose to achieve the best results is approximately 100ppm.
Urban legends and lies about feminized seeds
Despite the fact that, after two decades of cannabis cultivation, many of the false myths surrounding feminized seeds have been debunked, from time to time we still hear some arguments like the ones shown below. As is often the case, many of these stories are spread by people who have never grown this type of seeds or have none or very limited experience with them. Ignorance is always a bad thing, and that’s why we want to emphasize several points in relation to feminized seeds and the myths that often go with them; myths such as the following:
Feminized seeds produce hermaphrodite plants:
The problem with monoecious hermaphrodite plants has more to do with the parents used (and if they exhibit any hermaphrodite trait) rather than with the type of seeds produced. If to create a feminized seed you use a female plant with a tendency to produce male flowers, part of its offspring will likely inherit that characteristic, whether the said female plant is used as a pollen donor (after reversing its sex) or as a recipient of pollen (letting it flowering as usual). Yet the same thing happens when producing regular seeds: if the male or female parents are not stable in this respect, neither will be their offspring (or at least part of it).
Marijuana and hermaphroditism
Many growers have been surprised by the presence of hermaphrodite plants in their marijuana crops. In this post we will tell you how to detect them and how to proceed if you find a hermaphrodite cannabis plant in your growing space. We will also discuss the causes of this hermaphroditism.
Feminized seeds produce mutant plants:
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that sometimes some plants develop weird traits or mutations, although this also happens with regular seeds. Unfortunately, there seems to be not enough studies comparing the ratio of specimens with mutations of one or other type of seeds; however, given the millions of feminized seeds that have been germinated in the last 20 years, if mutations would pose a problem, the quantity of feminized seeds sold would certainly not be so high, and this would be a “public security” issue within the cannabis sector, both for the growers and the producers of the seeds.
Feminized seeds have chemicals:
This is another lie that some people believe. As it’s been mentioned before, a female plant is sprayed with some chemicals in order to inhibit its ethylene action. After a few weeks of this and once in the flowering period, the plant will produce male flowers and pollen, which will be harvested to pollinate the female plants designated to produce seeds. Once the seeds are formed, they are collected and packed immediately, so they don’t come into contact with any chemicals or the plants that produce seeds, nor, of course, with the seeds themselves. Also, to produce cannabis seeds, you normally need two separated indoor cultivation areas, one for the reverted plants (treated females) and the other for the females to be fertilized to produce the seeds, so the latter can’t get “contaminated” with any chemicals.
Feminized seeds are GMOs:
Once again, this is a false statement. We have already pointed out that by using these sex reversal techniques we inhibit the ethylene action in the female plant, and under no circumstances the seeds (or plants) are genetically modified. The sex chromosomes of the female plant converted into a male plant are still female (XX), nothing has changed at a genetic level.
We hope you found this article interesting; even today, many people are still unaware of the intriguing process behind this type of cannabis seeds. Do not hesitate to leave your comments; we will be delighted to answer them.
- Marijuana Botany, Robert C. Clarke
- The Cannabis breeder’s Bible, Greg Green
- The Cannabis grow Bible, Greg Green
- Breed your own vegetable varieties, Carol Deppe
- Induction of Fertile Male Flowers in Genetically Female Cannabis sativa Plants by Silver Nitrate and Silver Thiosulphate Anionic Complex, Mohan Ram, Sett R.
The articles published by Alchimiaweb, S.L. are reserved for adult clients only. We would like to remind our customers that cannabis seeds are not listed in the European Community catalogue. They are products intended for genetic conservation and collecting, in no case for cultivation. In some countries it is strictly forbidden to germinate cannabis seeds, other than those authorised by the European Union. We recommend our customers not to infringe the law in any way, we are not responsible for their use.
Sexing Cannabis Seeds
Sexing cannabis seeds is vital for success. Whether a sensimilla grower or seed breeder it is important to know the boys from the girls.
Male vs Female Cannabis
Cannabis is a dioecious plant, which means it has male and female flowers on separate plants. When the male plant enters the reproductive stage, it will develop male pollen sacs. The female plant will produce flowers ready to accept the pollen. This also means that cannabis is not true to seed, i.e. seeds from a cross pollination will not directly represent the flowers they originated from and instead contain genetic material from both the mother and father plant. Because cannabis has both male and female sexes, you need to identify and understand the differences. Cannabis gender cannot be identified by seed or growth patterns and the only reliable method is to observe the reproductive organs that develop.
Growing for weed or seed
When you begin your growing journey, you will need to decide what your goal is. If you want to grow flowers for consumption or processing, you will want to ensure you only grow female plants that do not get pollinated. Seedless cannabis flowers are referred to as sensimilla and are more potent and flavourful than seeded cannabis flower. This is because when the female plant is pollinated, it stops directing energy to producing oils and cannabinoids. Instead, the pollinated plant focuses all its’ energy on producing seeds. Seeded cannabis is undesirable for medicinal and recreational growers yet it is first prize for many hemp and food crop growers, as well as breeders.
If you want to create seeds, you need to grow both female and male plants. You can separate your male plant as it starts to produce pollen. Then collect the pollen and pollinate only one or two branches on your female plant. By doing this you can enjoy the fruits of your labour and produce seeds for the next season. The other option is to simply let a male or two pollinate all the plants over the growing season. Leading to a harvest of hundreds to millions of seeds.
Sexing Cannabis Seeds
The best way to identify your plants gender is to wait until it is sexually mature and inspect the nodes or growth points. Plants show sexual maturity by displaying alternate branching and “pre-flowers”. These traits begin in the early flowering stages or late vegetative stages. Pre-flowers are reproductive organs that begin developing before the plant fully enters the reproductive stage and can be used as early identifiers. Male plants produce pollen sacs which look like round balls hanging off the plant.
Female plants produce bracts and white hair like pistils. Pollen sacs are rounder in structure where bracts appear more angular with a thin white pistil growing from within. It is wise to wait until you are entirely sure of your plants’ sex before deciding what to do with it. Not all plants produce the same looking organs and early identification can be tricky for some cultivars. Paying careful attention at all stages of growth will ensure that you are able to far better control the quality and results of your grow.
Cannabis sex isn’t that simple
As if cannabis isn’t woke enough, it can also occasionally be gender fluid. In cases of poor genetics, stressful environment or purposeful reversal, the cannabis plant can display both sexes at once. This is called an intersex trait or “hermie”. Hermies are traditionally undesirable as they may seed crops that are intended to be seedless. Thereby greatly reducing the value of the crop.
However, in recent times breeders have perfected the art of using these traits to their advantage. Femisied cannabis seeds are created by forcefully introducing intersex traits in a female plant. Then using its pollen to pollinate other stable clones of the same female plants. This means that the seeds made from the cross will be identical to the mother plant and almost always female. These are known as feminized seeds. Nowadays most breeders will use chemicals to induce this change in the plant, however almost any stress of the right intensity can induce intersex traits across the spectrum.
It’s easier than ever
Always ask first. If you are unsure about sexing cannabis seeds, there are many online resources you can draw from. Facebook groups make a great place to share and learn from others. Similarly online forums are an excellent resource to browse and interact with other growers without compromising your anonymity. But be warned, there are as many unhelpful opinions as there are helpful. As not all comments are from experienced growers. Try and find a community of people whom you feel comfortable with and have a healthy track record.
You should always source your genetics from reliable and trustworthy providers. There are few things more frustrating than finding an unwanted hermie a few weeks from harvest. In South Africa it is now very easy to access high end and reliable genetics. Whether you want to start from seed or clone, there are multiple vendors supplying feminised seeds and clones. For the aspiring breeders, some vendors even supply regular seeds and male pollen that you can apply at your convenience.
Get the right grow gear
There’s an old proverb about not building your house on the sand and how you should plan for success. Growing A+ cannabis requires a dedication and flexible budget for the happiest results. Don’t be afraid to invest a little bit in the correct grow medium and nutrients, it will make all the difference.
We hope that we have taken some of the mystery out of sexing cannabis seeds. Honestly though, it will be surprisingly easy to get the hang of sexing cannabis seeds in no time at all. You will spot the signs and differences quickly with a well-trained eye and should be well on your way to beautiful big buds. If you still need a little help spotting the boys from the girls? Please contact our grow pros for some top shelf advice.
Cannabis Pre-Flowers: Identify Sex of a Plant as Early as 3 Weeks Old (with pics!)
The female plants will soon produce pistils. Wispy white hairs are a sure sign that you’re looking at female pre-flowers.
How to Determine the Sex of a Young Cannabis Plant
What are cannabis “pre-flowers?” They are little versions of adult flowers that appear on your marijuana plants relatively early in the vegetative stage.
When I first started growing weed, I learned (incorrectly) that there is no way to determine a cannabis plant’s sex until the flowering stage. But I’ve since learned that pre-flowers can reveal the plant’s sex while it’s still in the vegetative stage! Cannabis plants grow pre-flowers as young as 3-4 weeks from germination for male plants, and 4-6 weeks from germination for female plants.
Cannabis Pre-Flowers Are Small Versions of Adult Flowers. These reveal a plant’s sex.
Knowing the plant’s sex is helpful because most hobbyist cannabis growers would like to identify and remove male plants from the grow room early in the growing process. This is because only female plants make potent buds/flowers, while male cannabis plants make non-potent pollen sacs where female plants would grow buds. Additionally, female buds need to avoid pollen from male plants in order to make the highest quality cannabis (sinsemilla or “no seeds”).
Cannabis pre-flowers appear at the base of leaves when male plants are about 3-4 weeks old, and female plants are 4-6 weeks old.
Even if you’re not 100% sure about every plant from looking at the pre-flowers, it’s nice to know which plants you need to watch closely and which are definitely female. However, if precision is very important…
Chemical Leaf Tests Can Determine Sex & Potency for plants as young as 1-3 weeks
Chemical leaf testing is getting less expensive every day and can be used on cannabis seedlings with just a few sets of leaves to test for sex and future potency.
These tests only require a tiny amount of plant tissue (for example a small punch-out from a leaf, or a single cotyledon leaf), so it won’t hurt or slow down your seedlings to take a test sample!
In general, the tests are available for seedlings as young as 1-3 weeks. Sex testing uses a real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) test, and potency tests use Gas Chromatography with a Flame Ionization Detector (GC/FID) or High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography with a Diode Array Detector (HPLC) for testing.
Although testing can be done as early as week 1 from germination, waiting until week 3 to conduct testing on seedlings can increase accuracy, and some companies won’t conduct testing until week 3.
There are many reasons growers would like to know plant sex as early as possible, as well as be able to estimate the overall THC/CBD ratios of future buds!
Did You Know? There are Chemical Leaf Tests that Can Definitively Determine Both Plant Sex & Future Cannabinoid Ratios of Very Young Marijuana Seedlings!
But for those of us using our eyes…
(these turn into buds)
This female pre-flower hasn’t released a wispy white pistil quite yet
When starting with “feminized” seeds (which you can usually only get from a breeder), all your seeds should end up being female, so determining male from female isn’t very important. Learn more about buying seeds (including feminized seeds) from breeders online.
But for growers starting with “regular” (non-feminized) seeds, about half of the plants can turn out to be male. And unfortunately, there’s no way to look at a seed and be able to tell what sex it is.
Unfortunately, you can’t tell a cannabis plant’s sex for sure by looking at the seeds
How to Figure out Sex of a Cannabis Plant by Examining Pre-flowers
Vegetating plants usually reveal their sex when they’re just 3-6 weeks old from seed, but you have to know where to look.
What you’re looking for is “pre-flowers.” These are tiny versions of adult sex parts, and when you see them you can tell what sex the plant is going to be. They usually show up in the upper parts of the plant, closer to the lights, but sometimes you’ll search the whole plant and only find a pre-flower on a random branch lower down on the plant.
Vegetating cannabis plants reveal their sex with “pre-flowers” that usually appear 3-6 weeks from when the plant first germinated.
Although these are the general shapes of male and female pre-flowers, if you continue looking through the pictures below, you’ll see there’s quite a bit of variation on what pre-flowers look like from strain to strain.
Most male plants have grown a pre-flower by week 3-4 from seed, while female plants don’t show until week 4-6. Basically, all vegetative plants will have revealed their sex by about the 6th week from seed.
So, without further ado, here are pictures showing what you’re looking for when it comes to pre-flowers. Remember, pre-flowers are found at the V where stems meet a main stalk. But pre-flowers don’t usually show up all over the plant. Make sure to look around in different places, especially near the top of the plant and closer to the lights
Note: Pre-flowers show up most often near the top of the plant and closer to the lights but could be anywhere on the plant. There may be just one on the whole plant so you may have to search all over!
Male pre-flowers tend to have a “spade” shape, like the spades from a deck of playing cards. Male cannabis plants often (but not always) reveal their sex sooner than female plants.
Male pre-flowers tend to be shaped somewhat like a spade
This male plant was only 3 weeks when it made its first pre-flower. Notice how tiny it is compared to the giant-sized thumb! Often it’s unclear what the sex is when a pre-flower is this small (unless you’ve got a lot of experience) so if you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to wait and see how it develops, just in case.
Just to give you an idea how small these can be when they show up…
This is the exact same picture as above, but with the pre-flower made bigger so you can see it. Pretty tiny, isn’t it?
Male pre-flowers are basically immature pollen sacs. When the plant starts flowering, they will grow and turn into bunches that almost look like grapes.
I’ve also noticed that sometimes (though not always!) the stipules on male plants seem more “leafy” and less “pointy” than stipules on female plants (the stipules are the green hair-like growths near where pre-flowers show up). However, this is just a generality, and should be used together with other factors to determine if a plant is male! There are definitely male plants with pointy stipules and vice versa, but it’s sort of a general difference.
This particular pre-flower is really tough to determine. However, in the end, it was a male plant. The little “stem” is one clue it may be male
Just like the above male plant, sometimes you get almost what looks like two tiny little leaves that the pre-flower pollen sac “unfurls” from. In the above picture the pollen sac is still mostly hidden, while in this next picture, the tiny growths have opened up to fully reveal the pollen sac. This can be confusing because these extra growths don’t appear on all plants, and are not a pre-flower or a stipule.
Here’s another male pollen sac pre-flower that’s on a little “stem”
A single male pre-flower appears
Once you see multiple pollen sacs and no white pistils, you can be confident it’s a male plant
Although this plant ended up being male, the stipules are long, pointy and crossed as you’d normally see with a female plant. That’s why you need to confirm sex with the pre-flowers and not just look at other factors on the plant!
Sometimes the pollen sacs look a little unusual when they first start growing in, but you know it’s male when you see several pre-flowers without any pistils stacked on top of each other like bunches of grapes
If you click the following picture and zoom in close, you can see pollen sacs scattered among the leaves
This is what male pollen sacs look like when the plant actually starts flowering
This male cannabis plant has gotten further along in the flowering stage
This is what a male plant looks like at maturity when it’s starting to spill its pollen
Another example of pollen spilling onto a nearby leaf
For those who’ve never seen a male cannabis plant in its full glory
Ok, now that you know what male pre-flowers look like, what do female pre-flowers look like?
Female pre-flowers tend to be longer and narrower than male pre-flowers, sometimes with a fat bottom. They also usually (but not always) have 1-2 white hairs (pistils) sticking out from the top. Sometimes it takes a few extra days for the pistils to appear.
Wispy white pistils are a sure sign that you’re looking at female pre-flowers
This pre-flower doesn’t have a pistil sticking out at first, but the shape helps tell you it’s a female plant. If you’re not sure about sex after spotting a pre-flower, it’s a good idea to wait and see for a little while, just to see if a white hair appears (which means it’s definitely a girl)
Another example of female cannabis pre-flowers that haven’t revealed their pistil yet
Here’s a picture that shows a pistil right as it’s emerging from the calyx!
If the pre-flower is very pointy and thin like this one on the right, it is often a female pre-flower
Some of the time the stipules (green hair-like growths near where pre-flowers show up) will cross each other on female plants. This certainly doesn’t always happen, as you can see from the pics of female pre-flowers on this page, but while girls can go either way, male plants rarely have stipules that cross each other. So although crossed stipules cannot be used definitively as a way to identify female plants, it can be a small clue to help guide you when you’re not sure. For example, the following female pre-flower doesn’t have a pistil, but the long thin shape combined with the crossed stipules help indicate that this plant is a girl. Whenever in doubt, wait a week and look again!
This female plant has a long, thin calyx and crossed stipules, which are typical female plant features
In this pic, you can see white pistils emerging from the calyxes. Female pistils are white and wispy, never green.
Here’s another female pre-flower that doesn’t have a white hair yet, but you can tell it’s female because it’s long and narrow, instead of spade-shaped
One last female pre-flower without a pistil yet. The long narrow shape is the only thing that gives the sex away until pistils begin to emerge
Super close-up picture of a female cannabis pre-flower
Female cannabis calyxes with pistils, under an LED grow light
Did you know that pre-flowers/calyxes/flowers are actually what holds seeds if your plant gets pollinated? Once pollen touches the white pistils, the pollen gets delivered to the inside and a seed starts forming!
Variability of Cannabis Plant Sex – How to Increase Ratio of Female Plants with Regular Seeds
In fact, to this day scientists are still not sure exactly what causes certain plants to be one sex or another after sprouting. We’ve identified several factors that predict the overall likelihood of male/female plants (for example feminized seeds always produce female plants no matter what), but sex seems to be somewhat fluid in cannabis plants when they’re first germinated.
Certain conditions such as excessive heat, stress, unusual light periods and nutrient problems can cause a greater percentage of plants to produce male flowers.
You may be able to increase the percentage of female plants with regular seeds during the first few weeks of life
On the flip side, the following factors may possibly increase the ratio of female plants with regular seeds (learn more):
- Healthy Mom – Only grow seeds from a vigorous, healthy mother plant who never showed any signs of herming or male pollen sacs (seeds are more likely to grow pollen sacs if the mom plant had a tough start in life, or hermed during the flowering stage)
- Cool Temperatures – Give seedlings slightly cool temperatures (65-75°F day and night) and avoid excessive heat
- High Humidity (50-70% RH)
- Short but not too short days. Keep consistent day and night periods with no light interruptions at night, and days should be 14-18 hours long (between 14/10 and 18/6) for the first few weeks
- Blue light. Always start seeds under a vegetative grow light (something with plenty of blue like a Metal Halide or a 6500k CFL/T5/fluorescent)
- Avoid Deficiencies – Make sure to provide plenty of Nitrogen and don’t let seedlings become nutrient-starved or run into other types of deficiencies
- Prevent Stress, especially heat or light stress during the first few weeks
- Happy Roots – Avoid over (and especially) under watering
Once a cannabis plant is about 3 weeks old, its sex is pretty much completely set and can be determined either by visual inspection or by chemical leaf test.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that different environmental conditions during the first part of life can alter the sex, you can’t look at seeds and definitively know one way or the other whether the plant will end up being female because even the plant doesn’t necessarily “know”.
For example, say you take a clone of a seedling before it’s 3 weeks old. It’s possible that one clone will be male, and the other clone will be female. However, if you take a clone after week 3, the sexes of clones will always match each other. This is further evidence to indicate that the environment can affect sex expression in some cases.