Genders and their roles in society, or general identification, is trending worldwide in mainstream media. Males, females and transgenders alike. But gender genetics have always played a pivotal part in cannabis plants. And, in cannabis, females always come out on top. But, why? If you’ve ever heard the pop of a seed, or inhaled ones’ foul aroma…you have first-hand experience to the answer. To put it simply, it takes a female plant to produce the cannabis plants’ sweet buds with higher levels of THC and without seeds. So, now let’s learn more about genetics in cannabis plants, and how to sex a cannabis plant, specifically.
To grow cannabis successfully, you’ve got to grasp cannabis plant’s gender genetics, and their reproduction system too. Like humans, they play an important role in maturing and pro-creating. What makes cannabis plants unique from other plants, is they are dioecious. Or, have male and female species.
Cannabis plants, again, similar to humans, have pairs of X and Y chromosome in their genetics. Males possessing XY chromosomes, and females with XX. Cannabis plants even have their own genitalia, too. That being, a ‘pistil’ for male plants and ‘stamen’ which blossoms into a flower, for females.
But to blur the cannabis plant gender lines, is hermaphroditic plants. This is when the cannabis plant has both sex organs. In garden terms, you may have heard of a crop ‘herming out’. Meaning the plant is able to single-handedly produce pollen. Which is best to prevent for higher quality cannabis plants, and can potentially pollinate an entire garden.
Even more, cannabis plants don’t display their gender qualities until the plant has slightly matured. Usually within 2-4 weeks of their initial growth. Luckily, male plants do mature more quickly and tend to show their sex sooner than females. The telltale sign of a male plant is a ‘pollen sack’ which is found with a well-trained growers’ eye.
In addition to growing a pair, since male cannabis plants mature up to 2 weeks before female plants, they also tend to grow taller, too. Other signs to correctly identify the male sex of a cannabis plant, include –
- Straighter plant structure
- Less flowers, found at the top of the cannabis plant
- Tighter clusters
Female vs. Male
So, what happens if a cannabis plant matures into a male? Not quite the celebration at trending gender reveal parties for newborns. In fact, just the opposite.
Female plants grow into better quality cannabis that consumers desire. They produce THC, grow higher cannabinoid and terpene contents, and don’t develop undesirable seeds or sacks. But when a male enters a room of maturing, budding females…like humans too, their natural desire is to mate or ‘pollinate’.
One male cannabis plant in a room of female cannabis plants, can affect the entire crop. Meaning, the male cannabis plant will reproduce with all the female plants – with no judgements. This causes the females to ‘distract’ from the producing THC. And now that they’ve ‘mated’, the females develop seeds and overall, produce lesser amounts of beneficial compounds.
Preventing this pollination is obviously key when growing high-quality bud. And, the reason why ‘no boys allowed’ should be a sign on EVERY grow operation or room. Unless of course, you’re breeding new genetics. As in crossing two strains to (re)produce a new one. Cannabis and genetic breeders often sacrifice quality bud, for creating and crossing genetics. They then use the seeds to concoct new strains or crops with this process.
Growing Feminized Cannabis Plants
To begin growing a crop of female cannabis plants, where should you start? The latest trend in genetics and seeds are the autoflower variety. Autoflower is aptly named, as it’s basically a cannabis plant on auto-pilot. The modified seed and genetics skip a plants’ typical ‘vegetation’ stage and has a faster growing cycle, overall.
This is due to the automation or removal of necessary light cycles in autoflowering seeds. Standard cannabis plants are photoperiodic, or rely on periods of light and dark to produce their flowering buds. Typically 12 hours of light and 12 hours, dark. This means that if you were to leave a normal cannabis plant in the light without any periods of darkness…it could never flower.
Which is why many growers, choose the autoflower route for cultivating cannabis plants. It’s less work or worries, with a quicker turnaround to the harvesting of flower. Above all, feminized seeds, autoflowering or not, are most ideal. Feminized seeds or clones are gender guaranteed, to save your garden from male induced issues.
Let’s Talk About Clones
Another method to cultivate new cannabis crops, are clones. Cloning a mother cannabis plant is another efficient and quick way to begin growing a garden of females.
Cloning is taking a cutting, from a growing cannabis plant. Or, basically, reproducing aesexually, as the ‘clone’ that’s cut will be genetically identical to the one its’ taken from.
Since genetics are key in growing, clones are a sure-fire way to guarantee not only gender, but cannabinoid content, and cleanliness of the plant. Meaning, if the plant is free of molds, disease or pests…so will the clone. If the mother cannabis plant produces high levels of THC, so will the clone.
Growers typically clone plants about 2 months into their veg state. Cloning cannabis plants that are healthy and sturdy is ideal. To do so, you’ll need a rooting medium and a rooting hormone. Since, you’re cutting off a stem of the mother plant, and essentially ‘cloning’ a new root system.
The cuttings are immediately put in water, after being taken by a razor, from hardy, low branches, close to the main stem. Due to the delicate nature of the cannabis clones, a sterile environment is vital, too. The leaves from the cannabis clones are then cut off the stem, to support proper photosynthesis. This improves nutrient and water uptake.
From here, a rooting hormone is applied to the tip of the clone. A variety of options are on the market, including gels or powders that promote clone health and growth. Your clone is then kept in a medium, which is usually an auto-cloner, rockwool (or non-soil) cube, soil or even just water. And care for clones, are similar to that of a newborn too. Growers keep a close eye on oxygen, humidity, light and water to ensure the growth of a newly taken clone.
Sex a Cannabis Plant 101
Cannabis plants, their reproduction system, and gender or mating tendencies could be a lesson in cannabis sex-ed 101. The intricate and complex nature of their growing cycles is what draws many cultivators to try their hand at success. In addition, to users growing their own to enjoy the fruits of their own labor. And if you’ve learned anything, a common phrase from childhood lives on in the world of cannabis plants – girls rule and boys drool.
So remember, you’ll want to sex your plants before they begin releasing pollen as you don’t want to waste your time tending to plants that you’ll not use anyway.