No Boys Allowed: The Vital Role of Female Cannabis Plants

This story originally appeared on Caliva Weekly.

We’re honoring women here at Caliva during the month of March, and what better woman to honor than Lady Cannabis? If you’ve ever smoked marijuana, you’re enjoying the fruit of a female’s labor – the flower, the buds, the good stuff with the THC and the terpenes – all of it comes from female cannabis plants. They alone create those sticky, resinous buds we all know and love.

In other words, in the cannabis realm, it’s a woman’s world and we all just live in it.

Male vs. Female Marijuana Plants

We won’t bore you with the specifics, but by about the sixth week of development, growers can identify the hallmarks of male plants – the image below, courtesy of Leafly, highlights a key difference.

Male marijuana plant vs female marijuana plant
Experienced growers know which characteristics to look for when sexing marijuana plants. Image courtesy of Leafly.

Those male plants? They’re…okay. Males don’t produce buds, and exist essentially to pollinate female plants. And once female plants are pollinated, they focus on seed production instead of bud production. That’s great if you’re a seed bank or a breeder creating new genetics, but for the rest of us, weed with seeds in it is considered low-quality cannabis. A pipe with a seed packed in it tends to crackle or even pop when lit, and the smoke it produces is harsh. For lack of a technical term: it’s pretty darn gross, and you should avoid it.

Unfortunately, cannabis plants grown naturally from seeds have a 50/50 male to female ratio – so half a grower’s hard work can figuratively go up in smoke before they even harvest a single plant. Traditionally, growers account for that ratio by planting 2x what they need, and identifying and culling the male plants from the herd as soon as possible.

To complicate matters, cannabis plants can be hermaphrodites; that is, there are both male and female sex organs on the same plant. There are a variety of causes for hermaphroditism in cannabis plants, including bad genetics, but even stressors like nutrient deficiencies or plant structural damage can cause a cannabis plant to “herm out”.

So what’s a grower to do? Well, there are a couple good ways to avoid male plants entirely – sorry fellas – including clones of plants and feminized seeds.

Mother Plants and Cannabis Clones

Marijuana clones are cuttings from female cannabis plants known as mothers. Growers choose their mothers based on strong genetics, overall plant health, and desired effects.

Cutting and growing marijuana clones guarantees female plantsTo create a clone, a grower will cut off a branch from a mother and place it in a special medium that promotes root growth. Once the clone develops roots, it can be planted like any other cannabis plant – and since it’s a clone of a female, there’s no need to worry about the plant’s sex.

Feminized Cannabis Seeds

Another way to take the guesswork out of growing marijuana is feminized seeds. Feminized seeds are exactly what they sound like: they are seeds that carry only female genetics.  In fact, these seeds can increase the probability of producing a female plant from 50 percent to up to 99 percent.

Knowing in advance that you have all female plants helps streamline the growing process, and saves time and grow space. That makes feminized seeds ideal for home growers and growers with limited room.

So the next time you’re sitting down for a session, remember to give thanks to the hardworking females that made it all possible!

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