Male Vs. Female Cannabis: How To Identify The Sex Of Your Plant

29 January 2020

Male Vs. Female Cannabis

When cannabis plants are pollinated in nature, they can produce male or female seeds, called regular seeds. In nature, as in most species, the split is about 50% - 50% between the two sexes. Here is how to tell the difference between male and female cannabis and how to tell if marijuana seeds themselves are male or female. In this article, you’ll also learn how to get a female weed plant.


1. Female cannabis plants
2. Parts of a female plant
3. Male cannabis plants
4. What are pollen sacs
5. Identifying weed gender
6. Can a female plant turn male?
7. What are hermaphrodites


Female Cannabis Plants

female marijuana plant

To get the cannabinoid-rich flowers that cannabis consumers look for, female marijuana plants are needed. These produce the large flowers that secrete resin, which are trimmed down to rounded buds. Naturally, growers therefore want female plants. Historically, growers have simply planted twice as many seeds, hoping that half the harvest will be female, but this practice is very costly in large harvest operations. These days, growers use feminized seeds that carry only female genetics and therefore produce only female plants. Modern breeders have perfected this technique and have a nearly 100% success rate, thus streamlining the growing space, time and cost.

feminized cannabis Open collection

Growers use certain techniques to produce feminized seeds. Stress can be induced on the female plant by interrupting the light cycle during the flowering phase to produce feminized seeds. More commonly, however, growers spray a colloidal silver solution on the plant to control its sex. The silver keeps the plant from producing the flowering hormone ethylene. This results in a female plant that produces male flowers with pollen sacs that develop only with female genetics. Those flowers can then be used to pollinate another female plant, and the resulting seeds will be female.

How many leaves does a female pot plant have? Generally, female plants have many more leaves than their male counterparts. While the first leaf pair is very small, the plant can have as many as 13 leaflets per leaf when fully mature, depending on growing conditions and the cannabis strain. At the top of the female plant, leaves are fewer as the buds and flowers develop.

Parts Of A Female Cannabis Plant – What Are Sinsemilla, Pistils And Calyx?


When male plants are removed from the growing area, female plants grow much larger. The female plants grow sinsemilla, which are large seedless buds with sticky resin. These are the buds that are harvested to produce cannabis products.

In fact, buds that are seeded are harsher tasting and of lower quality. The part of the female plant called the bract houses the female plant’s reproductive parts. One of the first signs of a bract is the tiny leaves that appear. Bracts are shaped like tears and contain numerous resin glands.

The pistil houses the flower’s reproductive parts, including the female plant’s characteristic hair-like strands called stigma, which collect pollen from male plants. Stigmas begin forming as white, wispy structures, then turn red or brown as the plant matures. While the stigma is important to reproduction, it does not add any value to the cannabis flower’s taste or potency.

The calyx is a clear layer that covers the egg inside the base of the flower. Glands called trichomes reside in the calyx as well as the leaves and stems, and these glands secrete the resin seen on cannabis buds. The resin protects the plants from weather and predators.

The resin contains aromatic oils called terpenes that give cannabis its characteristic smell. It also contains the cannabinoids inherent to the plant such as CBD or THC.

How do you tell whether a female plant has been pollinated? In this case, the bracts will be larger. The white stigmas will turn red or brown after the plant is pollinated, so their color is also an indicator. If you peel back a bract with a pair of tweezers, you can look inside. If it has a seed, the plant has been pollinated.

Male Cannabis Plants

male vs female marijuana

Male plants are sturdier and thicker. They also have fewer leaves and a much thicker stalk, necessary to support the weight at the plant’s full height, as male plants grow taller than females.

Since male plants take up quite a bit of growing space and use precious growing resources, they must be promptly identified and removed before they have a chance to pollinate the female plants. These days, male plants are usually only introduced to pollinate female plants when collecting seeds or breeding new strains.

Pollen Sacs – What Do They Look Like?

Pollen Sacs

Male plants produce small pollen sacs at the leaf base. What do pollen sacs look like? These tiny balls that form in the joints of the branches can be hard to spot in the baby male plants. When the sacs mature, they break open to spread pollen. Generally, male plants release pollen in the first three weeks of the flowering phase. Male plants therefore need to be closely monitored after pollen sacs form so that growers can separate these plants before they can pollinate the females. This is why male and female pot plants should always be separate.

Identifying Weed Gender

sexing cannabis plant

When both sexes of plants are present, growers have to cultivate both until the plants reveal their sexes. Some strains show signs early, but most plants don’t express their sex until they are well into the growing cycle.

A plant node is where the leaves and branches extend from the main stalk of the plant. Early bulbs form in the nodes of both plants. Male “flowers” appear as little balls where the branches meet the main stalk. Likewise, female plants have similar-looking bulbs in the early stages. This makes identification between male and female plants quite challenging. However, females will eventually develop long, wispy hairs that the male plants do not have.

Female plants produce buds while male plants produce pollen. Marijuana plants usually reveal their sex when the grower switches the light schedule to 12/12, as the stress of this change forces the plant to reveal its genetics.

Males generally reveal their sex earlier than female plants. For pot plants grown outdoors, males can reveal their sex three weeks before a female plant. For cannabis grown indoors, male plants will generally reveal their sex 7 to 10 days before the female marijuana plant.

About four weeks into the growth cycle, pre-flowers appear. After six weeks, the pre-flowers are well formed and easier to find to determine the sex of the plant. The flowers are still small, and many growers use a small magnifying glass called a jeweler’s loop to look at the pre-flower formations up close.

Growers examine the plant nodes to look for either sac or bract formations. The formation of small sacs in the node indicates a male plant. These sacs mature and spread pollen. A female plant will have two bracts and long tendrils that mature, and will produce hairy stigmas that catch pollen.

Can A Female Plant Turn Male?

Although the plants take a while to show their sex characteristics, the sex of the cannabis plant is already decided during germination. Growers can learn to identify male and female plants early on to ensure a successful crop. Females cannot turn into males and vice versa, although researchers are looking into this possibility.

If a male plant’s pollen lands on a female’s bud (flower), the female plant will produce seeds. However, it is still a female plant. If there are no male cannabis seeds to pollinate the female seeds, there is a possibility that the female seeds will turn into hermaphrodites.

Hermaphrodites – What Are They?

can a female plant turn male

Female plants can develop both male and female sex organs, meaning the plant develops buds as well as pollen sacs. These plants are known as hermaphrodite cannabis plants. These plants produce pollen and can also pollinate themselves. Self-pollination means that the seedless sinsemilla will not form. These plants also pass on their hermaphroditic genes.

Plant genetics can determine whether a hermaphroditic plant will form. Many growers call this “herming out”, and it occurs when the plant becomes stressed by plant trauma or disease, nutritional deficiencies or even bad weather. For example, a plant with a broken branch will often turn into a hermaphrodite plant.

Hermaphrodite cannabis

For indoor growing, stress occurs when temperatures get too high or light leaks in at the wrong time. The plants produce pollen sacs that rupture, but it also produces anthers, which are exposed stamen that produce pollen. Growers should remove plants that appear to have either pollen sacs or anthers so that female plants won’t be pollinated.


For a successful growing season, you want the large, sticky buds from the female marijuana plant. We hope this article has been helpful in helping you discover the differences between male and female plants. Happy growing!

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I hate being a novice grower.. Just read that male plants don’t produce smokable bud. I’m mad. So out of all my plants (9 in total) I might not get any that are female or would that just be bad luck?

Hello ChilleninFreddy,If you have purchased feminised seeds chance of getting male plant is low. However, regular seeds have 50% chance of getting male or female. Also you may find this article useful
Normally the ratio is 50/50, I highly doubt you’ll get 100% males from 9 seeds. In my experience, the worst I had was 7/11 males, but that’s rare
so do male plants not yield any smoke-able bud or is it just really shitty seedy bud? i'm sure this is really trivial but i didn't see a definitive explanation.
No smokable bud from males, bud. And only girls produce seeds, these are their babies. There’s still some THC in males though, but it’s too much effort to get high off it. Better toss them out as soon as you sex them as males.
Hi,It is better to protect female plants from males. You may find these article useful on this matter
can i switch 1 month old plants to 12/12 so they will show sex, then revert back to 18/6 to veg? they will go outside in holes after the males are discarded.
I think it is really tough on your plants to put into 12/12 to sex and then put back into veg to keep growing. I would estimate that if you put your plant in flowering to sex and then back into veg, it will cost you at least 3 weeks "growth time"--time it would have been growing and probably showed you its sex naturally. Taking a couple of cuts and putting those in flower is probably your best idea if you think you want to try and sex them now.
Just to add, if you get any males in your crop then don’t have no mercy on the bastards, rip them out as soon as you are sure they are males. P.S. A favourite of mine is to stamp on the males and then cuss about the fact that’s one less plant I got to grow:(
Great instruction into sexing. Well written. Thanks.
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