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Sexing Cannabis Hemp Plants

Sexing cannabis hemp plants is a crucial part of the growing and breeding process. Cannabis plants are generally dioecious plants, which means that they will produce either female or male reproductive organs.

In certain environmental conditions, however, cannabis plants can be monoecious, also known as “hermaphroditic.” Monoecious plants feature both male and female reproductive organs.

When growing from seed, growers keep a close eye on early plant growth to make sure they know which plants are female and which are male. Knowing the difference between the sexes tells growers whether the plant will be used to grow trichome-rich and dense flower buds or to produce exciting new genetics.

If you’re exercising your green thumb with cannabis plants, here’s everything you should know about sexing cannabis plants as early as possible.

Commonly asked topics and questions in regards to sexing cannabis are:

  • What is early sexing cannabis plants?

  • How do I sex cannabis plants?

  • How can I identify male cannabis plants early?

  • What is the difference when observing Male and Female cannabis plant comparisons?

  • When can you tell if your plant is male or female?

The Importance

When cannabis growers obtain a clone, the clone will have the same sex as its mother. However, cannabis plants grown from seeds require careful attention during their growth phase. There is a strong likelihood that as many as half of your cannabis seeds will grow into male plants.

If you’re trying to grow female flower buds to their maximum potential, male plants can ruin a harvest when they distribute pollen.

A single male cannabis plant can pollinate an entire cannabis grow operation. Some experts even recommend a minimum distance of 10 miles between outdoor cannabis fields to avoid cross-pollination. Cannabis pollen can reach even further than that, but the risk is drastically lowered.

If a female cannabis plant gets pollinated, it stops producing cannabinoids and dedicates all of its energy from that moment on to seed production. Non-pollinated female plants are also known as sinsemilla, meaning “without seeds.” These plants produce the most terpene- and cannabinoid-rich flower buds.

Removing male plants from the garden as soon as possible is one of the most important steps to growing high quality, cannabinoid-rich flowers.

Sexing Cannabis Hemp Plants

In order to determine the sex of your cannabis plant, you’ll need to pay close attention to the area of the plant where sexual organs grow. A cannabis plant’s sexual organs grow at the nodes, where the base of the leaf stalk (petiole) attaches to the main stem. Growers should use a 10x loupe or hand-held magnifying glass to locate and monitor stipules at these nodes.

Stipules resemble two narrow spikes, one on either side of the node. Examine the node region every day for calyxes emerging from the stipules.

If the calyx is raised on a small, short stem, and staminate primordia (small sacs) are growing between the nodes, it’s probably a male plant.

If pistillate primordia (two fuzzy white hairs) are growing between the nodes and the calyx is not raised on a small short stem, it’s a female plant.

Growers can get a good idea of whether a plant is male or female earlier in the flowering cycle, even without seeing the reproductive organs. If seeds of the same strain are planted at the same time, the difference in sex will usually manifest in different heights.

Female plants tend to grow shorter and bushier compared to male plants. Female plants also have a larger number of leaves near the top than males (where flowers will form).

As you grow more plants, you’ll learn to determine the sex of your plants during the vegetative stage of growth. Novice growers may take a few weeks longer to determine the sex of the plant.

At the very latest, plants will show their sex two or three weeks after the light schedule is switched to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness each day.

Removing Male Plants

Remove male cannabis plants as soon as you determine their sex. Male cannabis plants produce pollen filled clusters with very low cannabinoid levels. Still, there are many great uses for male cannabis plants. Instead of discarding your male plants, here are a few ways to make the most of them:

  1. Breed new genetics by pollinating select female plants.

  2. Juice the leaves of male cannabis plants or put them in a salad.

  3. Extract cannabinoids from male plants’ leaves, stems, and sacs to produce concentrates.

  4. Use the fiber produced to make clothing and other textiles.

Sexing cannabis plants gets easier the more times you do it. At first, you may have trouble identifying the distinct characteristics of the cannabis plant’s male and female reproductive organs. But with daily observation,  you can catch those male plants early enough to prevent your crop from going to seed.

Written By: Jeffrey Zorn

Edited By: Joseph Jackson

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