What’s the Difference Between Male and Female Cannabis Plants?

No matter what reason you have for wanting to consume cannabis, the content of the herb you consume comes from either a female or male cannabis plant. In rare instances, there are hermaphrodite cannabis plants, but most often, the cannabis plant has one gender.

Find out how you can tell the difference between male and female cannabis, the function each plant serves, and how this differentiation can help you when growing, consuming, and/or purchasing cannabis in the future.

Identification During Growth

marijuana growing outside

When growing cannabis, it’s essential to identify whether the plant is female or male. There are many differences between these two types of plants, starting with the fact that female plants produce useable cannabis whereas male plants do not. If a female plant is pollinated, it will stop growing flowers and instead it will start producing seeds. To prevent the cannabis plant from producing seeds, it’s necessary to separate the males and females before the males begin pollination.

Throughout the growing process, cannabis plants undergo two stages of life, including the vegetative stage and the flowering stage. The vegetative stage is similar to a plant’s childhood because the plant is only focusing on growing bigger and taller. It’s nearly impossible to tell which gender the cannabis plant is during this first stage. However, at around six weeks, the plants begin showing “pre-flowers,” which will allow you to identify the difference between the male and female plant(s) before flowering and potential pollination.

Once the cannabis plant is around six weeks old, look for the telltale gender identifiers such as the male and female pre-flowers. Oftentimes, male plants are tall with thick stems and contain sporadic branches with fewer leaves. Additionally, male plants begin to show their gender when they start growing a shape that looks like a clump of bananas at the inner joints of the plant’s branches.

Female cannabis plants, however, start showing their gender when they grow tiny white hairs at the joints and base of the plant’s branches. The white hairs typically grow in sets of two, and as the plant matures, the hairs increase in size and turn into a reddish color. In general, female plants grow tiny white hairs and male plants do not, therefore, when trying to determine the gender of your cannabis plant, look out for this.

Identifying Mature Plants

macro shot of marijuana bud

Another way you can tell the difference between a male or female cannabis plant is to identify the plant’s sex organ(s). The tiny white hairs that grow on the cannabis plant are called pistils, otherwise known as the plant’s primary female sex organ. Female plants are often coated with an extremely thick layer of resin, which helps the female flower capture pollen produced by its male counterparts.

Overall, a flower that has been kept away from pollen is much more potent than a flower that has been fertilized because it produces more trichomes. The unfertilized female plant is known to produce trichomes, the ultra-frosty layer that holds the most THC.

The appearances of male and female cannabis plants are different, especially since the male plants do not contain the flowering buds that people know and love. A typical male cannabis plant produces dozens of “pollen sacks” rather than those frosty trichomes. These pollen sacks look like groups of tiny hanging tulip bulbs when they are closed, and when they’re open, it’s quite a pretty sight. In general, male cannabis plants aren’t as potent as females, but they still do contain cannabinoids.

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Uses for Each

marijuana grow house

Rarely are cannabis plants neither male nor female. Sometimes, they’re classified as hermaphrodite, meaning the plant contains both male and female parts. For the majority of growing situations, the cannabis plant has one identified gender. When growing cannabis, it’s important to know that it starts flowering when it receives twelve hours of light and twelve hours of uninterrupted darkness in each 24-hour cycle.

Additionally, once the intended light cycle is initiated, the cannabis plants enter the pre-flowering stage, in which they increase in size as the plant’s branch structure prepares to bear and support the flowers. On average, the pre-flowering stage lasts ten days, and the first flowers should become visible within two weeks or so. As mentioned above, at six weeks, you should be able to identify the difference between a male and female cannabis plant.

Even though female cannabis plants produce the flowering buds and potent trichomes that countless medical consumers and recreational users love, male cannabis plants are important too, since they contain cannabinoids. When growing, it’s especially important to identify which plant you have before the flowering process.

Next time you decide to grow cannabis plants on your own, don’t forget the importance of identifying the gender of your plant(s) at the six-week mark to prevent the production of seeds rather than flowering buds. Regardless of which sex a cannabis plant may be, consumers find uses for both male and female plants.

Even though the male cannabis plant doesn’t produce useable cannabis as compared to the female plant, you can use the leaves from the male plant and blend them up or even use them to make cannabis butter or oil.