How to Tell Male vs Female Weed Plants

It’s important to know the difference between male vs female weed plants if you intend to grow cannabis. That’s because male plants will grow, but they don’t yield the flower buds that female plants do. Cultivators need both to effectively cultivate a good crop of marijuana, but they have their roles and understanding them is essential.

Read on to learn all about male vs female cannabis plants, including why it matters to know the difference, how to spot differences at various stages of growth, and more.

Why is it important to identify cannabis sex?

It is important that cultivators know the sex of a cannabis plant so that they know whether it will be a flowering plant or not. Male plants are pollinators, while females are flowering plants. The uses of male and female plants are different, as well.

For cultivators, it’s important to have the right balance of male and female plants. Plus, each has its own uses and therefore, will have different factors to consider in choosing the right ones. What you want in a male plant is entirely different than what you want in a female plant.

It’s also important for those who are growing cannabis because male and female plants need to be kept apart. Males can over-pollinate or take over a garden of female plants, so it’s important to keep the females in a separate space.

early signs of male plant

What are the different male and female characteristics?

Male weed plants have pollen sacs instead of buds, which they use to pollinate the female plants. The cannabis that’s grown from male seeds is not usable for consumption because there is no bud. However, the males are essential to breeding because they provide 50% of the genetics for the seeds they create.

This is why many breeders look for strong fathers as well as strong mothers. Male plants also have more phytocannabinoids and they can help make hemp fibers for clothing and bedding. Plus, as a bonus, the males keep pests away, giving the females a better chance of avoiding infestation.

Look for:

  • Thick, sturdy stalks
  • Tall plants (taller than females)
  • Sparse leaves
  • Pollen sacs with green and white flowers

Female weed plants are the plants cultivators want. Good female and feminized seeds and plants can go for exponentially more than male plants. They are the ones that create the buds of cannabis flower that we all love to enjoy. They also have the majority of the THC that gets you high when you smoke (or otherwise ingest) weed.

Female cannabis plants have higher output and more potent THC levels, while male plants only have trace amounts and don’t produce as much. For ropes and strong hemp products, female plants also make a coarser hemp material.

Look for:

  • Tons of leaves
  • Slender stalks
  • Shorter stature
  • Fine hairs that are white or orange
  • Resin-covered buds


How to identify a male seed

You can’t tell the sex of a male or female weed plant until it reaches the vegetative state. Therefore, if you’re just buying seeds, you’ve got a 50/50 chance as to whether they’ll be male or female. This can make it hard to get the plants that you want, since males are less desirable.

Early signs of male plant

Some early indicators that you have a male plant on your hand include small pollen sacs and a lack of leaves, while the females may have already begun sprouting small leaves or pre-flowers. By six weeks, the pollen sacs will be fully visible on male plants, making them easy to identify.

early signs of male plant

How to identify a female seed

As mentioned, you can’t really tell with seeds as to what their sex is (or will be), but you can do something about that. Instead of buying seeds and hoping for the best, many cultivators now choose to purchase feminized seeds specifically.

These seeds are ones that have come from feminized plants, which can be created by spraying them with a solution of silver thiosulphate in the flowering stage. This will cause the plant to develop male flowers with the characteristic pollen sacs, but with pollen that only carriers female genetics.

The end result is almost guaranteed female plants, which is why many cultivators prefer to go this route.

Early signs of female plant

The early signs that you have a female plant include more leaves than you would see on a male plant, as well as stigma, or “pre-flowers” that are starting to grow. Again, once you reach the six-week mark, you’ll easily notice the flowers of the female plant. It doesn’t take long to tell these plants apart, so that’s helpful.

Can you make a male weed plant female?

You can’t necessarily “make” a male plant into a female. However, there are situations that happen that are similar to this. One we discussed a little bit ago with the feminization of seeds—essentially feminized seeds are created from super-powered male plants that have female pollen sacs, so mostly female plants will be produced as a result.

The other situation is usually a case of mismanagement or malnourishment. There are some cases where weed plants can develop both sex characteristics. These are known as hermaphroditic plants, and while they’re interesting, they need to be removed from the females as soon as possible. Genetics and stress also play a role in this issue, but removal is essential.

These plants can pollinate females, while also developing their own seeds, which causes problems for all your plants. You don’t necessarily need to get rid of hermaphroditic plants, but if you find them, put them on their own or with the males to protect your bud crop.

Can male weed plants produce buds or consumable cannabis?

Male weed plants do not produce any form of consumable cannabis. While the plant’s leaves technically could be used to make concentrates and other products, the THC level in males is so low that it’s really not desirable for anyone. Some health experts suggest that you can use male plants for juicing to gain the benefits of the cannabinoids without the THC, but again that’s up to you.

Essentially, male cannabis plants are primarily used for breeding. They can be used for low-THC consumables like:

Male plants are also responsible for the production of terpenes, which can help repel pests from the garden and provide the terpene-related benefits in cannabis products when mixed with female plants to create offspring.

Final Thoughts

Male plants and female plants are different. They each have their place and purpose and anyone considering cultivating cannabis needs to understand how to identify them properly. This can ensure that you have the right balance in your marijuana garden and that you’re not putting your females at risk of being overtaken. Growing cannabis is a delicate science, but education can go a long way in helping you get your feet off the ground.

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