Male cannabis plants serve many important purposes and can provide pest control and gene pool diversity. The main difference between male and female cannabis plants is that males don’t yield buds, while females do. When it comes to cannabis, female plants produce flowers (or buds) and males produce pollen. Unless you plan on breeding, male cannabis plants…
Why Are Male Cannabis Plants Important?
Male cannabis plants serve an important purpose in cultivation.
When it comes to psychoactive cannabis, people have historically sought out female plants, often discarding male plants. Not only would male plants pollinate any nearby female plants in the vicinity (with the effect of producing seed rather than flower, which is not ideal unless you’re breeding), but they would also take up valuable time and space in small grow operations.
However, male cannabis plants can play a vital role in your cannabis cultivation and breeding programs. Learn about the crucial benefits of male cannabis plants and how to get the most out of them.
How Male Cannabis Plants Differ From Females
Before flowering, there are ways to tell if your plant is male or female. Once the vegetative stage is over and you start flowering your plants, they will usually display whether they are male or female within one to three weeks. Indoor grows tend to indicate their sex quicker. You can check the nodes or joints of plants to determine the sex. If there are sacs, the plant is male. If there are two hairs or bracts, the plant is a female. Other telltale signs of a male plant include thicker stalks and fewer leaves.
Male Cannabis Plant Anatomy
One way to recognize a male cannabis plant is by looking for what are called “pre-flowers.” During the vegetative stage, pre-flowers show up in fewer than four weeks in males, and longer than four weeks in females (this takes a little practice to distinguish). Pre-flowers can be found at the “V” where stems meet the stalk, particularly at the top of the plant, closest to the light. Female pre-flowers tend to have pistils or hairs, whereas males have small sacs.
Close-up shot of a female cannabis plant.
Benefits of Male Cannabis Plants
Male cannabis plants have many essential benefits, including gene pool diversity, pest control and potency.
Gene Pool Diversity
Cannabis is dioecious, an evolutionary advantage in breeding programs. “Dioecy” is when a species has distinct male and female characteristics. Unusually among the plant kingdom, cannabis also displays this characteristic, although cannabis can also self-pollinate.
Some people have taken advantage of this self-pollinating aspect to retain the characteristics of a specific female plant, but this also means that future plants will be prone to hermaphroditism, which will eventually become a weakened gene pool from inbreeding.
Keeping good male plants can ensure a specific gene pool can stay alive for generations to come. This way, you can retain specific characteristics, like growth patterns and terpene profiles.
There’s a greater number of characteristics to choose from when you have more variety. Not only does this mean the gene pool is kept alive, but we can also start selecting for resistance to pathogens, growth rate, general health and even different cannabinoid and terpene profiles. This results in a variety of strains that have unique and specific effects and aromas.
Some outdoor breeders will use male cannabis plants not only to stay stocked up on seeds, but also to use terpenes that male cannabis plants produce, like pinene, limonene and borneol, which act as insect repellents for other crops. Male plants will not fertilize if they are kept separated from female plants (unless you handle pollen and handle a female plant immediately afterward).
Cannabis plants carry half of the genetics from the mother and the other half from the father. Although cannabinoid concentration is generally higher in female plants, this doesn’t mean that the fathers don’t have some amount of CBD, THC and other cannabinoids and terpene of their own.
Male leaves also tend to contain more cannabinoids than their flowers (the opposite is the case with female plants). This means that, yes, males produce their own resin glands, and can be used to make limited amounts of hashish when harvested in large quantities.
However, most breeders would be looking at the resin and cannabinoid-terpenoid content of a male plant in order to create strains that are disease-resistant, high-yielding and potent. Male plants can also breed strains for specific cannabinoids, essentially breeding a male plant that contains a high CBD concentration with a female plant that contains a high CBD concentration.
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The Bottom Line
Male cannabis plants are an important part of any good breeding program. Male plants offer pest control and increased potency while contributing to gene pool diversity. While female plants are still the most desirable to cannabis cultivators, male plants definitely play their own vital roles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do male hemp plants produce CBD?
Yes, male hemp plants do produce CBD, but female plants produce higher amounts of CBD. In addition, the strength of the CBD that male plants produce is lower than that of more potent female plants.
How many leaves does the male marijuana plant have?
Male marijuana plants have between five and nine leaves, generally fewer than female marijuana plants, which are generally towards the higher end of that range.
What happens if you don’t separate a male from female plant?
If you don’t separate a male plant from a female plant, then pollination can occur. The presence of male cannabis plants can overtake a crop and drain the female plants of energy, resulting in a much lower yield or destroying the crop entirely.
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Female vs. Male Cannabis Plants: How They’re Similar (and Different)
The main difference between male and female cannabis plants is that male cannabis plants do not yield buds, whereas female cannabis plants do. This means female plants produce usable cannabis (buds), and male plants do not. There are many other obvious as well as subtler differences between male and female cannabis plants that can affect a cultivator’s crop.
What Are Female Cannabis Plants?
Female cannabis plants are the most sought-after plants for most cannabis cultivators. They contain the prized bud that comprises all cannabis products, whether smokable, topical, or otherwise. Female cannabis plants also contain the lion’s share of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Male plants, in contrast, contain only trace amounts of THC.
The output of female cannabis plants is far more potent than male plants. While male plants can be used occasionally to make concentrate products like hash, female plants are widely preferred for this purpose. The coarse, tough hemp material derived from female cannabis plants is also useful for making rope and other products that require a strong fiber.
What Are Male Cannabis Plants?
Male cannabis plants grow pollen sacs rather than buds. They pollinate female plants with their pollen sacs. Cannabis grown from male plants is not usable, as it contains no “bud.” Male cannabis plants are essential in breeding programs and provide 50% of the genetic material that the seeds inherit. This is why, for breeders, strong fathers are as sought after as strong mothers. Male cannabis plants also tend to contain more phytocannabinoids on their leaves. Male cannabis plants with particularly high cannabinoid concentrations in their leaves combined with strong roots can become key parts of a breeding program.
In addition, male cannabis plants are useful for making hemp fiber, especially for clothing. The hemp material of male plants is softer than that of female plants, making it desirable for shirts, tablecloths, or bed sheets. Finally, male cannabis plants are also effective at keeping harmful pests away.
How to Tell Male and Female Cannabis Plants Apart
Determining the sex of a marijuana plant is a visual process that you can begin early in the plant’s growth cycle. During the first four weeks of growth, you may be able to observe pollen sacs on the male and stigma or “pre-flowers” on the female. By the sixth week of growth, you can clearly distinguish between male and female cannabis plants. This point will fully view the pollen sacs and pre-flowers, allowing you to pinpoint male or female.
In rare instances, you may observe a cannabis plant with both male and female reproductive organs. These hermaphroditic plants often develop due to environmental stressors including inhospitable weather and nutritional deficiencies. Hermaphrodites are distinguishable by sets of pollen sacs and pre-flowers. A healthy marijuana plant grown in optimal conditions will not turn hermaphroditic.
Other clear physical characteristics will help you tell male and female cannabis plants apart at any stage.
Characteristics of Male Plants
Look for these physical traits in a male cannabis plant:
- Thick, sturdy stalks
- Sparse leaves
- Taller than female plants
- Pollen sacs that form green and white flowers
Characteristics of Female Plants
Look for these physical traits in a female cannabis plant:
- Slender stalks
- Abundant leaves
- Fine translucent hairs in white or orange
- V-shaped pistils with protective layer (calyx)
- Shorter than male plants
- Resinous buds
Growing Male and Female Plants
The first principle of growing male and female cannabis plants is to keep them apart. Male cannabis plants can overtake a garden and drain female plants of vital energy. Specifically, male plants may over-pollinate the females, which will stop or slow bud development and severely reduce your yield.
Generally, male cannabis plants are less desirable than female ones. So, you will want to keep female cannabis plants in your growing medium. If you are starting a breeding program, you will definitely need both male and female cannabis plants. But even in a breeding program, you must keep your male and female plants apart.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Do male or female weed plants grow faster?
Male weed plants tend to grow much faster than female weed plants. Fourteen days into the growth cycle, male plants will already be taller than female plants. In addition, male cannabis plants will start the flowering stage approximately 30 days before their female counterparts.
What’s the difference between male and female weed seeds?
Weed seeds that grow into female plants produce more THC than their male counterparts. Furthermore, female cannabis plants produce flowers while male cannabis plants produce tiny buds that resemble balls. V-shaped pistils will also appear on female cannabis seeds at the beginning of the flowering stage, but there are no such structures on male seeds. Finally, fine white and orange hairs are present on female weed seeds but not on male ones.
Can male and female weed plants grow together?
While the plants technically can grow alongside one another, you should not grow male and female weed plants together. Separate your male and female cannabis plants if you want to harvest buds from the females. This does not mean that male plants are useless; male cannabis plants can be an important part of a cultivator’s crop but should be kept separate from females to allow the females room and energy to grow.
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What do I do with a Male Cannabis Plant?
When it comes to cannabis, female plants produce flowers (or buds) and males produce pollen. Unless you plan on breeding, male cannabis plants will release pollen into the growing area and produce unwanted seeds in nearby female flowers. Cannabis flowers with seeds are usually lower in potency and less desirable. Male plants in a flowering room should removed as soon as they are identified.
You will only get a male cannabis plant is you grow from a non-feminized seed. In today’s world, if you get a clone from a trusted friend or local shop, they will always grow to be a female plant. Male and female plants can be easily identified in early flowering by looking for the following characteristics below:
Male cannabis plants have stamens and female plants have calyxes. To the untrained eye, an early calyx and stamen can look quite similar. As the cannabis plant begins to mature, multiple stamens will begin to appear on the males and the females will have pistols emerge from their calyxes. Over time the stamens will fill with pollen and eventually open, releasing it into the growing environment. Once a plant shows clear male characteristics, it should be removed from the flowering area and potentially used for future breeding projects.