Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on January 12, 2023

If you’ve thought about starting to grow your own marijuana plants, you probably already know that the female marijuana plants are the ones that produce the resinous bus, while the male marijuana plants pollinate the female plants in order to produce seeds. 

For all of you first-time cannabis growers out there who are planning on having your own yield of female marijuana plants, you’ll want to know how to differentiate between male and female plants to prevent the former from pollinating the latter. So take your magnifying glass in hand and let’s find out what the differences between male and female cannabis plants are.

The 411 on Cannabis Plants

You can either grow your cannabis plants from seeds or by cloning the mother plant. With cloning, it’s certain that you’ll end up with female plants if the original plant is female. Growing from seeds is a different story since you can purchase either regular seeds or feminized seeds.

It’s a fact that 50% of all regular seeds will become male plants, unless you’re buying feminized seeds from your local seed bank. For those of you who want to save a few bucks and opt-out of buying feminized seeds, it’ll do you good to know how to spot the male ones.

The cannabis plant is a dioecious plant, meaning that it produces either male or female reproductive organs or flowers, although you can find both male and female flowers on hermaphrodite plants. The males are the plants that produce male flowers, while the females are the ones that produce female flowers. Female flowers contain higher levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), while the male ones have higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD).

That’s the reason why the female plants are more sought after compared to the male. Their resinous buds are covered in rich trichomes that contain the cannabinoids, as well as terpenes which give weed its distinct flavor. On the other hand, male plants release pollen into the air and pollinate the female plants which is an undesirable action if you’re cultivating female plants for their buds. Read on to see how you can spot the differences between both.

The Difference Between Male Cannabis Plants and Female Cannabis Plants

Even though you can see the sex prior to the flowering stage by observing the pre-flowers, it’s always best to wait for the flowering stage so you can be sure of it. During the flowering stage, the cannabis plants will have already revealed their sex, so you can start sexing them and separate the male from the female plants. Below are the telltale signs that will show you the gender of your cannabis plant.

Female Plants

Female cannabis plants produce resinous cannabis buds sought after by many cannabis users for both recreational and medicinal purposes. The female weed plants’ reproductive system is made up of bracts and tear-shaped calyxes with stigmas and upward-facing white hairs – pistils on the nodes (the part of the plant where the branches and leaves emerge from the main stem). The calyxes are empty unless a male plant pollinates them. 

Once the female plant reaches the flowering stage, its reproductive organs start to form and produce buds filled with the active compounds – the cannabinoids. The resinous buds we all know and love come from female plants called “sinsemilla” or “seedless” which means that the female plant hasn’t been pollinated.

Male Plants

On the other hand, due to male plants being responsible for the pollination of the female plants, they’re recognized by the male pollen sacs that appear on the plant’s nodes. They look like small balls that hang from the side of the plant, and once they’re fully grown, they open like a flower to reveal the stamen and anthers and release pollen in the air. 

Pollen is essential if you’re trying to grow your own cannabis strains or your own seeds. Male cannabis plants produce pollen sacs at the base of the leaves and release pollen into the air. If you aren’t planning on making cannabis seeds, make sure you remove the male plants from the grow room at the start of the vegetative stage to prevent them from pollinating the female plants.

When Do Cannabis Plants Reveal Their Gender and How to Determine Their Gender?

Once the cannabis plant is about 6 weeks old (during the vegetative stage), it will start showing its gender. You can take a magnifying glass and inspect the pre-flowers – this can alert you to the gender even before the beginning of the flowering stage. 

If you’re unsure about the gender, you can change the light cycle of your plant to initiate the flowering stage after which you’ll definitely be sure about the gender of your weed plant.

Then you can separate the male plants from the female plants in different grow rooms. If you’re cloning your plants from mother plants instead of growing your plants from seeds, make sure you label both the clone and the mother plant to prevent any mix-ups.

What Are Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants?

While a lot of cannabis plants only grow one set of reproductive organs, some of them grow both as a result of stress during the vegetative stage, if your plant has experienced rough growing conditions. Hermaphrodites or “hermies” are female cannabis plants that have also formed male reproductive sex organs apart from the female ones. To preserve the plant and guarantee the survival of its species, cannabis plants turn on their herma in order to pollinate themselves.

To prevent your female plants from becoming stressed and developing male reproductive organs, make sure you keep the conditions in your grow room optimal in terms of humidity and hydration and give your plants adequate amounts of light and nutrients.

If under any circumstance you spot hermaphrodite cannabis plants, there are still steps that you can take – but make sure you act fast. The aim is to remove the male reproductive organs that form on the nodes by gently pulling the pollen sacs off. After you’ve removed all the pollen sacs, wash your hands to prevent accidental pollination of the female flowers.

Final Word on Male Marijuana Plants

Growing your own cannabis strains and cultivating your own weed instead of relying on the few strains at your local dispensary is a very rewarding task. You can have your favorite strains on hand when you please, and even try cross-breeding to make a new strain out of two existing strains. However, to do so, you need to do your own research about the growth cycle of weed plants (so you’ll be able to distinguish between male and female plants). 

One option is to only buy feminized seeds or clones from female mother plants. Another option is to grow your weed from regular seeds and separate the male from the female plants before the flowering stage. 

Look below the nodes and check for the male reproductive sex organs (the pollen sacs), and you’ll be sure that your female flowers will grow undisturbed. Happy growing!

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


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