Growing Cannabis: How to Mate Two Cannabis Plants

Bright Green Cannabis Plants
Photo by: Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock

Man Holding Blooming Stalk
Photo by: underworld/Shutterstock
Have you noticed that some of the best marijuana strains you’ve smoked are the ones you grow yourself? Are you hoping to create a super strain that combines all of your favorite effects?

Or maybe you’ve tried your hand at growing your own cannabis plants and found it to be almost too easy so you’re looking for a new challenge. Whatever your reasons, we’re here to help you perfect the art of mating two cannabis plants to produce your very own hybrid.

What Is a Hybrid Strain?

A hybrid marijuana strain is the offspring of two different strains of cannabis plant. The mating process between two strains starts off as most reproduction stories do, with a male and female plant; one from each strain. If you’re not sure how to identify male vs. female plants and parts, or you don’t know what a sexually mature plant looks like, take a look at this Leafbuyer guide.

Like human offspring, hybrid cannabis strains take on some characteristics from each parent plant. An indica-sativa hybrid might give you the best of both worlds (a cerebral buzz and a relaxed body), whereas a hybrid offspring of two sativa plants might feature an energetic flare and a fun case of the giggles.

Professional growers and labs have made cannabis hybridization into an art form, cherry-picking the effects they want to see and testing each harvest until the balance is just right.

Mating Your Cannabis Plants

Sounds fun, right? Here’s how to get started. As with most plants, the male cannabis plant produces pollen. This acts as a fertilizer in female plants and is produced between ten and fourteen days before a female plant is ready to receive it. This gap in sexual maturity is crucial to pay attention to.

While your female plant is blossoming into maturation, make sure your male plant stays healthy by pruning the buds that grow quickly and giving the rest of the flowers time to mature at a more relaxed pace.

Roughly two weeks after your male plant has started producing pollen, your female plant should be catching up. She’ll have decent-sized flowers with long, hair-like pistils, indicating sexual maturity. Now it’s time for pollination, and you have two choices on how to get’er done: put the two plants together and let them do their thing, or manually pollinate specific branches on the female plant (I swear this one isn’t as creepy as it seems).

While it may seem easiest to let nature take its course, at the end of the fertilization period, this will create much more work for you as a grower. Oh sure, it starts out simple enough: place the sexually mature male and female plants next to each other and give the male plant a good shake, once or twice a day for two days, to encourage the release of pollen. Ultimately, the pollen will spread around the air and land randomly throughout the female plant.

Easy, right? Well, so far at least. The thing about fertilizing a female plant in this manner is that there’s no way to control the number of cannabis seeds produced, or even where on the plant they’ll grow. This may not seem so bad (more is better, right?), but come harvest time you’ll be kicking yourself.

If you chose to fertilize your female plant like this, the harvest will bring you a boatload of work: most if not all of your bud will have seeds sprinkled throughout and buried deep within. This mass production of seeds will be more than just a hassle to remove, it will most likely end up being wasteful.

You may not (read: probably won’t) have enough room to plant all of the seeds you harvest, and all of the bud that remains after seed removal will most likely be less potent due to the female plant putting her energy into seed production. Think of it like pregnancy brain for your pot plant.

So let’s try the second pollination option, which is much more popular among growers. There is more prep time up front for this to work properly, but you’re likely to be much happier with your harvest. Start by turning off all fans and air circulation devices in your grow room.

If you’re growing your plants outside and can’t bring them in to mate, try putting up a screen around your female to avoid the wind accidentally bringing the male plant’s pollen where you don’t want it.

Prune the lower branches of your female plant, as well as the fan leaves that surround the branch(es) you wish to pollinate. She’s now ready for manual fertilization. Head over to your male plant and gently clip off some of the more full and attractive-looking flowers, placing them in long paper wine bags (at least one flower in each bag).

Ready for the tough part? It’s time to pollinate. Gently and carefully slide a paper bag containing at least one male flower around each prepared female branch. Once the entire branch is covered, do your best to seal the bag around the base of the branch using painter’s tape, a zip-tie, or string: something that can be easily removed but not easily undone.

When the bag is secured, give it a strong shake to encourage pollination. Repeat this once or twice over the next couple of hours. Then carefully remove the bag from the female plant. Try not to jostle the female branch or the male flower, as this could lead to the accidental fertilization of additional branches.

Come harvest time (usually within four to six weeks of fertilization), you’ll have a lovely amount of hybridized seeds to plant without feeling overwhelmed with seeds in each bud.

Hybrids Bred for Medical Benefits

Earlier we started to explore some of the reasons behind breeding hybrids, like getting the best possible combination of effects from two of your favorite strains. But commercial growers and recreational users aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the perfect hybridization.

There are several strains of marijuana that have been bred for the sole purpose of highlighting effects from the parent strains that have medical benefits, and one of the most impressive is Charlotte’s Web.

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte’s Web is a hybrid strain of marijuana with high levels of CBD (17%) and incredibly low THC levels (less than 0.5%), making it arguably as legal as most hemp products. This strain came about from growers breeding a regular marijuana strain with industrial hemp to help a three-year-old girl, Charlotte Figi, who had suffered from terrible epileptic seizures caused by Dravet syndrome since infancy.

By the time she was three years old, Charlotte was severely disabled and experiencing around 300 full-brain seizures daily, even with physicians treating her.

After making the switch to this non-psychoactive strain as a treatment option for their daughter, Charlotte’s parents noticed an immediate response, as did her physicians. The young girl’s seizures are now limited to roughly four times per month, a large improvement from the 300 per day that she had been experiencing. Due to hybridization of marijuana, Charlotte is now living her life much more completely.

Good Luck!

Bright Green Cannabis Plants
Photo by: Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock
While growing cannabis can be relatively straightforward, mating two cannabis plants is not quite so simple. It requires patience, thought, and more patience; chances are your hybrid won’t pick up the best traits of each parent on your first try. Take your time and try to understand the strains that you’re planning to breed (this is a pretty good place to start). Good luck; and let us know how it goes!

Article by: Daphne Eccleston