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How soon can you tell the sex of a cannabis plant grown from seed?

Bjorn Dawson November 07, 2019

How soon can you tell the sex of a cannabis plant grown from seed?

Plants can reproduce in a few different ways. 

Hermaphrodite plants consist of single flowers that contain both male and female reproductive organs. 

Monoecious plants will produce two separate types of flowers within the same plant. 

Dioecious plants, like humans, have either male or female organs. Cannabis falls under this final category which means each cannabis plant has one or the other. It's either male or female.

The sex of your cannabis plant plays an important role. Female plants can be grown with or without help from the male plants. These are the plants that we most-often want to grow since they produce the flowers ("buds") that you consume. 

Want to make a new strain? 

That's when growers turn to male plants. When you introduce a male plant to a female plant, that process that results in cross-pollination. Cross-pollination produces seeds. Just like with dog breeding, for example, if you have the same type of plant you'll get the same seed. If you pick two unique plants, then you'll get to create an entirely new genetic plant! 

Cross pollination has played an important role in creating the various strains and new genetic makeup of cannabis on the market today. White Widow, for example, is a super popular balanced hybrid. It was first bred in the Netherlands by Green House Seeds in 1990 and is a mix of a Brazilian Sativa Landrace and a South Indian Indica. 

In fact one of the most common strains that has been created are auto flowering strains. Those are made by combining an indica or sativa plant with a ruderalis cannabis plant to give it that auto flowering ability. 

So do I want male cannabis plants?

No, not exactly. Removing the male cannabis plants from the garden enables the female plants to grow larger, seedless buds. These seedless buds are referred to as sinsemilla. It’s the sinsemilla that you consume when you get high.

The weed that we consume is only a female plant that is allowed to grow seedless buds without any interference from a male plant.

Seeded buds, those that have come from male and female plants typically produce lower quality cannabis. If there are seeds in your bud that means a male plant has pollinated the female plant. Smoking cannabis that has seeds is typically harsh and unpleasant.

This does not mean that male cannabis serves no purpose. Again, as a grower you might want to introduce male plants to your female plants in order to collect seeds to grow next year or to breed a new strain of marijuana.

You can guarantee female genetics by getting feminine seeds or obtaining clones. It's important to determine the sex of your plant before you start developing new genetics or gathering your seeds. Thankfully identifying the sex of your cannabis plant grown from a seed is a rather simple process.

Identifying the sex of a cannabis plant

Female cannabis, before it starts flowering, will grow small bracts which have small stigmas similar to a hair sticking out. Male plants by comparison will produce smaller, round balls located at the nodes

Basically, your cannabis plant will indicate to you its sex based on what grows in between the nodes. Nodes are where the leaves and the branches start to extend away from the stalk

The male plants start to produce a pollen sac between their nodes while the female plants start to produce a stigma which spreads out and catches the pollen. 

Another great way to identify female plants is to look at their stems and size. Female plants are always shorter and bushier than their male counterparts of the same strain. 

In addition, you can also observe the plant developing a thickening on the branches, next to the stem, before issuing the pre-flowers. It's almost like a plant becoming pregnant!

How soon can you tell? 

You can identify these differences and determine the sex of your cannabis plant grown from seed fairly early on. The differences will appear weeks before the respective sex organs start to fulfill their reproductive purpose. You will notice the male or female differences before they start to pollinate. It’s during this stage that you will see what is called preflowers.

Preflowers will develop within about four weeks. However, depending on how quickly you’re sprouting phase took place, you might have to wait 6 weeks before you can confidently tell the sex of your cannabis plant. 

The preflowers might be very small at 4 weeks, incredibly difficult to identify with the naked eye so you can use a magnifying glass to take a better look. With a magnifying glass you can examine each of the nodes on your plant and look for the small, round sacs which indicate the plant is a male, or the two bracts with the hair like stigma in them which indicate a female. The hair-like stigma will appear after the two bracts so you might notice those first. 

But how do you get feminized seeds? 

Well, there is a theory that you can tell which seeds are male or female from the colour of their shell... but that's not really an accurate or consistent way to tell. 

Instead, Feminized seeds are actually bred to have a 99.9% change of being female. It is possible still for these feminized seeds to become male or to hermaphrodite if you put the plant under a ton of stress, but generally it will grow as a female plant.

Still have questions? Let us know below and we'll be happy to help!

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