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Male Vs Female Weed Plants: All About Cannabis Genders

What is the Difference Between Male and Female Marijuana | The Seed Fair
You can’t identify cannabis gender by seed appearance. But you can spot cannabis gender way before flowering; before pollination begins.

Your cannabis gender is determined and finalized by more than its genetics. As a mindful cannabis grower, you want to know how to confirm your cannabis plant is still your desired cannabis gender early enough to avoid disappointing harvests.

The Seed Fair team has put together a comprehensive guide on how to spot cannabis gender early.

Understanding Cannabis Genders

Too many factors determine your cannabis gender, but these three consistently determine cannabis gender: the sex-determining genes, sex chromosomes, and environment.

The sex-determining genes and sex chromosomes determine your cannabis gender before the seedlings sprout. While the environment determines your cannabis gender after the seedlings sprout up till maturity. This means your cannabis plant can change its gender even after germination.

There are three different genders your cannabis plant can turn out to be, and neither of them is “hemp” or “marijuana.”

Hemp is not male cannabis and marijuana is not female cannabis! These are only commercially bred notations. Both Hemp and Marijuana are subspecies of the cannabis plant and can produce both male and female genetics. The three possible cannabis genders are the male cannabis gender, the female cannabis gender, and the hermaphrodites; also called the cannabis hermies.

Female weed vs male weed vs hermaphrodites
A female male cannabis and a hermie

You want to know all about cannabis genders and how to identify them because each gender is better for something than the other.

For instance, the male cannabis gender produces pollen and has a high fiber strength. Male cannabis plants are usually only chosen when the grower needs seeds for the next harvest, for certain consumer purposes, or industrial purposes, such as hemp fiber manufacture. They produce cannabinoids but not enough to be commercially relevant to the cannabinoid market.

male weed plant
Male cannabis plants do not produce buds instead they develop seeds You can see lots of pollen on the leaves This pollen can be collected and used for breeding purposes

The female cannabis gender, on the other hand, is probably the beauty of the cannabis industry because it produces significant levels of highly demanded cannabinoids. Products of female cannabis plants are used for everything from cosmetics and beverages to pharmaceuticals.

Female cannabis plants
Female cannabis plants produce the buds we all love To ensure a bountiful harvest its essential to eliminate male plants from your garden as they can pollinate females leading to seed production instead of bud development

Lastly, hermaphrodites cannabis plants are the gray space in cannabis cultivation. They provide just a bit of both cannabis genders; not enough cannabinoids to be commercially relevant, not enough fiber strength to be industrially desired. As such, hermaphrodite cannabis plants are mostly used for breeding purposes.

cannabis hermie
Weed hermies produce both male and female reproductive parts leading to the formation of seeds within the buds

If cultivating female cannabis plants for cannabinoids, you want to watch out for both the male and hermaphrodite cannabis genders. Your females produce more cannabinoids when they stay unpollinated as sinsemillas. Thus, as a cannabis grower, look out for the early signs that identify male cannabis plants, female cannabis plants, and hermaphrodite cannabis.

When do Cannabis Plants Show Their Gender? 

There’s a popular chart circulating about it being possible to tell cannabis gender by checking for dents on the bottom of the seed. However, this is scientifically unconfirmed.

Several articles and scientific studies report all cannabis seeds look the same.  You can’t tell your cannabis gender by simply looking at the seed. Even our survey of 500 growers seems to tell that much.

Over 250 of the 500 growers who participated in the survey indicated they were unsure if it is possible to tell cannabis gender by seed appearance. The majority vote makes it pretty clear that the answer to this question remains undetermined.

Is it possible to determine cannabis gender by seeds - poll screenshot
The screenshot from The Seed Fairs poll

It might not be possible to tell cannabis gender from seed appearance, but it is surely possible to determine cannabis gender through visual inspection once your cannabis plants show their gender.

Of course, when your cannabis plant shows gender is entirely up to the nature of its seed. With regular seeds, you can expect your cannabis plant to show its gender 3 to 6 weeks after germination. With autoflowering seeds, your cannabis plant will be showing its gender much sooner since autoflowering cannabis has a short grow cycle.

The Early Signs of Male Cannabis Plants

It remains undetermined if truly male cannabis plants grow faster than their females. What we do know is male cannabis plants typically show early gender signs, called preflowers, as soon as two weeks after germination.

female plants will develop stigma between their nodes to catch the pollen

Male preflowers are called stamens and are tiny, smooth, and oval-shaped. After the male preflowers come the pollen sacs. These structures are usually more tiny-grape-looking till they mature. Male plants do not produce buds or pistils.

first sign of a male plant
You can see that your plant is a male during pre flower

Male cannabis genders cannot turn female. Male cannabis plants can only produce female parts and become hermaphrodites through processes used to make feminized cannabis seeds. However, a male cannabis plant developing female parts is just as irrelevant to immediate cannabinoid production.

first sign of male plant - hairy balls between the nodes

The Early Signs of Female Cannabis Plants

Like the male cannabis plants, the appearance of their preflowers is an early sign of a female cannabis plant. The preflowers of a female cannabis plant are called its calyxes. The calyxes are usually green, ovate structures made up of sepals.

After the calyxes come the bracts which host the reproductive hairs, the pistils. The bracts are often larger than the calyxes, have resin glands, and could be a diverse range of colors, from green to yellow.

first signs of a female plants

The calyxes of the female cannabis plant are very easily confused with immature pollen sacs. But, you can easily differentiate between the two by checking for the pistils. The male cannabis gender does not have pistils.

Female cannabis plants cannot become males, just as males cannot become females. A female cannabis gender will only sprout male parts when stressed through a process called “herming.” When your female cannabis gender begins to show hermaphroditic traits you want to take them out as soon as possible because they can self-pollinate and pollinate other female cannabis genders close to them.

You can identify a pollinated female cannabis plant by checking her bracts and pistils.

early sign of a female plant

Her Bracts: The bracts of a pollinated female are usually more swollen and would have seeds in them. You can open a bract using a pair of sterile tweezers to confirm if your female cannabis plant has been pollinated.

Her Pistils: An unpollinated female cannabis plant will show color changes throughout her pistils. If only the tips of the pistils turn dark, your female cannabis plant has likely been pollinated.

pollinated female cannabis

Hermaphrodite Weed Plants

Hermaphrodite weed plants are really not any good unless you want to breed for seeds. Hermaphrodite weed plants are excellent inbreeders; they produce 100% replicas of themselves.

There are two types of hermaphrodite cannabis genders: the “True Hermaphrodites” and the “Mixed Gender Plants.”

The “True Hermaphrodites” are, as their name implies, cannabis plants intentionally bred to have both cannabis genders on a single site. Cannabis strains like the Thai Sativa are examples of True Hermaphrodite Cannabis Genders. While “Mixed Gender Plants” are originally dioecious cannabis plants that became hermaphrodites due to shock or stress.

screenshot from growers’ forumscreenshot from a grower's forum

Both male and female cannabis plants can become cannabis hermies. But, female cannabis plants, or feminized seeds, have a higher tendency to become hermaphrodites than males when stressed.

You can spot cannabis hermies by their yellow, elongated sexual organs, called “nanners,” which often protrude from the female buds or by checking for both male pollen sacs and female pistils on a single plant. If you spot a cannabis hermie in your field of females, cull them or remove them as soon as possible. It is said that the nanners of a hermaphrodite cannabis plant pollinate faster than the pollen sacs of a male cannabis plant.

male vs female plants: early sign of a cannabis hermaphrodite

Besides their proclivity to produce more seeds than cannabinoids, cannabis hermies are undesirable to many growers and consumers because they produce harsh smoke with lots of explosive seed pops when smoked!

There is very little confirmed information on how possible it is to make a cannabis hermaphrodite female or male again. According to some articles, removing the pollen sacs using a pair of sterile tweezers can make your cannabis hermaphrodites female again. While some say spritzing water on the pollen sacs to sterilize them will make your cannabis hermies females.

cannabis hermies and removing pollen sacs

Concerning the first:

  1. The hermaphrodite plants are likely to keep re-sprouting these male parts. So, do you keep culling and stressing them?
  2. How well would this technique work with quick-growing plants, like autoflowers. There is little to no time to recover from whatever stress you might incur.
  3. Imagine being the vehicle of pollen transfer to your females after culling the pollen sacs.

About the second:

  1. You have to keep watching for new pollen sacs and spritzing water early enough to sterilize them.
  2. What if you do not spray the pollen well enough to sterilize them? What happens then?

Clearly, the best way to control hermaphrodite weed plants is to avoid your male or female cannabis plants becoming hermaphrodites at all by eliminating all kinds of stress including:

  1. Extreme temperatures or temperature changes
  2. Underwatering or overwatering
  3. Nutrient deficiencies
  4. Extreme light changes or cycles
  5. Root rot or physical damage
  6. Pests and diseases
  7. Plant training in the flowering stage


Picture yourself standing over a field of perfectly ripe cannabis plants. This is a good enough reason to know how to identify cannabis gender early.

You might not be able to tell your cannabis gender from the seed’s appearance, but as we’ve noted in the article, there are more than a few ways to tell your cannabis gender before flowering begins.

Being certain of your plant’s genetics isn’t enough to guarantee the cannabis gender your plant will turn out to be and secure your yields. Know how to spot your cannabis gender well after germination and you can be more certain of a great final harvest.

Remember, every cannabis gender presents unique perks. Identify your cultivation needs: seeds or buds.

FAQ section

When do male plants pollinate females?

Male cannabis plants pollinate female plants as soon as they release their pollen and the pollen come into contact with the sticky pistils of the female flowers. Pollination typically happens during the flowering stage.

Can male weed plants make female seeds?

No, male weed plants cannot produce female seeds. Male weed plants do not even produce seeds. They produce pollen, which fertilizes the female plants and makes the female plants produce seeds. The seeds produced may be male or female.

Do male cannabis plants have THC?

Yes, male cannabis plants have THC, but only a little. Male plants focus more on pollen production than on increasing cannabinoid levels.

Do male or female pot plants produce buds?

Only female pot plants produce buds. The male cannabis plants produce pollen sacs, not nugs.

Do male and female weed plants have different leaves? 

No, male and female weed plants have the same leaves. However, their leaves might have different appearances, e.g., more serrations.

Can a female weed plant grow without a male?

Of course! A female weed plant can grow without a male. Your female weed plant is especially best grown without a male if you are growing for cannabinoids.

Is it possible to make a Male Plant Female?

No, you cannot make a male plant female. But you can get your male plant to develop female parts.

Do male and female weed plants grow faster?

In our experience, we didn’t notice any difference in growing speed between male and female weed plants. However, many growers say male weed plants show their reproductive structures earlier than female weed plants.

Can you tell a plant sex by a seed?

No. According to scientific reports, it is not possible to tell a plant sex by its seed.

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