Male vs. Female Cannabis Plants: How to Identify Genders in Cannabis

Nov 20, 2019 | Homegrown Weed Series

Genders and their roles in society, or general identification, is trending worldwide in mainstream media. Males, females, and transgenders alike. But for cannabis genetics, gender has always played a pivotal part in the plants. 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. Female plants produce cannabis’ sweet buds with ideal levels of THC and without seeds. So, now let’s learn more about marijuana genetics, and how identify the sex of a cannabis plant.

Genetic Genders

To successfully grow cannabis, you’ve got to grasp the cannabis plant’s gender genetics and their reproduction system. Like humans, they play an important role in maturing and procreating. What makes cannabis plants unique from other plants, is they are dioecious. In other words, they have male and female species.

Cannabis plants, just like you and I, have pairs of X and Y chromosomes in their genetics. Here’s a quick breakdown of the difference between male and female plants –


  • Chromosomes – XY
  • Genitalia – Pistils


  • Chromosomes – XX
  • Genitalia – Stamens, which blossom into flowers

But to blur the cannabis plant gender lines, there are also 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, leading to the pollination of an entire garden. When a plot is pollinated, it’s no longer full of females, the top-producing gender you need.

Even more confusing, is 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.

Determining the Sex of A Cannabis Plant

In addition to growing a pair, since male cannabis plants mature up to 2 weeks before female plants, they also tend to grow taller. Other signs to correctly identify the male sex of a cannabis plant include:

  • Straighter plant structure
  • Fewer 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, like trending gender reveal parties for newborns. In fact, just the opposite.

Female plants grow into better quality cannabis that consumers desire. They produce maximum THC levels for their genetics, 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. To be blunt, the male cannabis plant will reproduce with all the female plants – with no judgments. This causes females to be ‘distracted’ from producing THC. And, now that they’ve ‘mated’, the females develop seeds and overall, produce lesser amounts of beneficial compounds.

The Male Cannabis Plant

Preventing this pollination is obviously key when growing high-quality buds. It’s also the #1 reason why ‘no boys allowed’ should be a sign on EVERY grow operation or room. Unless of course, you’re into cannabis genetics breeding. Cannabis genetic breeders often sacrifice quality bud, for creating fresh genetics or a cross of two favs. Then, they use the seeds produced in the crop to craft new strain crops with this process.

Growing Feminized Cannabis Plants

To begin cultivating female cannabis plants, where should you start?

The latest trend in genetics and seeds are the autoflower variety. Autoflowering cannabis seeds are appropriately named, as it’s basically a cannabis plant on auto-pilot. The modified genetics skip a plants’ typical ‘vegetation’ stage and have a faster-growing cycle.

This is due to the automation or removal of necessary light cycles in autoflowering seeds, with the use of ruderalis genetics. Cannabis ruderalis plants historically grew wild and don’t require light cycles like regular varieties. Regular 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.

The Female Cannabis Plant

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 the flower. Above all, feminized seeds, autoflowering or not, are most ideal. Feminized seeds or clones are genders guaranteed to save your garden from male induced issues.

Let’s Talk About Clones

Another method to cultivate new cannabis crops is with clones. Cloning a mother cannabis plant is another efficient and quick way to begin growing a garden of females.

‘Cloning’ means to take a cutting from a growing cannabis plant. Or, basically, reproducing asexually, as the ‘clone’ that’s cut will be genetically identical to the one it’s taken from.

Since quality genetics and guaranteed gender are key in growing, clones are a sure-fire way to guarantee not only sex, but cannabinoid content, and cleanliness of the plant. Meaning, if the plant is free of molds, disease, or pests so will the clone be. 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. Cutting clones from 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, here are the steps to follow:

  • Using a razor, take cuttings from hardy, low branches, close to the main stem.
  • Trim the end of the leaves from the clone to support proper photosynthesis (this improves nutrient and water uptake).
  • Place the cuttings in water immediately.
  • Apply a rooting hormone to the tip of the clone.
  • Insert your clone into the rooting medium of your choice.

Due to the delicate nature of the cannabis clones, a sterile environment is vital. As for which rooting hormone to use, there are a variety of options on the market, including gels or powders that promote clone health and growth. The best medium options for cutting clones are auto-cloners, Rockwool (or non-soil) cube, soil, or even just water.

Most importantly, caring for cannabis clones is similar to that of a newborn. It’s important for growers to keep a close eye on oxygen, humidity, light, and water to ensure the growth of a newly taken clone.

Sex a Cannabis Plant 101

One thing you’ve learned today on cannabis genetics is a common phrase from childhood on in the world of cannabis plants – Girls rule, and boys drool. To cultivate a successful crop of craft cannabis, female plants are an absolute necessity. By following these simple steps, you can assure your garden will be packed with girl power for premium flower.


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About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Earl Carruthers | Founder of Canna Therapy Group</a>

Earl Carruthers | Founder of Canna Therapy Group

After fracturing his pelvis in his junior year of high school, Earl Carruthers became a medical cannabis user under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) in 2008. He intensely studied how to grow the plant and eventually opened the Green and Greener Grow Collective to help other medical marijuana patients experience numerous benefits. In 2012 Earl was pulled over while carrying what he thought to be a legal amount of medical marijuana for himself and four other patients. Since then, he has been in and out of court fighting these charges and attempting to re-define the term “usable marijuana” under Michigan law. Now Earl is committed to furthering medical marijuana rights for himself and his patients and continues to fight the good fight.