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1. A Guide to Cannabis Sexing – Early Signs of Male and Female Plants

What is cannabis sexing? Discover the early signs of a male plant and the early signs of a female plant – sexing cannabis is an essential step in the growing journey.

Sexing cannabis plants is essential if you want to maximize your harvest. Cannabis sexing helps to separate male plants from female ones. The best time to determine whether your cannabis plant is male or female is when the flowering cycle begins. Cannabis starts to flower after receiving twelve hours of light and twelve hours of uninterrupted darkness in each twenty-four-hour process.

However, you can check for early signs of the female and male plants before your plants enter the flowering stage. Early indications are not enough to determine the gender of your cannabis plant. The flowering stage will show more distinct characteristics between the male and female plants, enough for your cannabis sexing process.

The difference between male and female cannabis plants

Unlike some plants, cannabis plants have male and female genders and reproductive systems. Distinguishing these genders is crucial for breeders and growers as the sex of the cannabis plays a vital role in the value and quality of the final product. Specific traits of each gender make them have different uses and makes cannabis sexing easier.

Female cannabis plant without seeds produces potent buds, whereas male produce less of it. Males distract females from producing buds, so you must determine the sex before fertilization occurs. Preventing pollination ensures high-quality buds are produced.

Cannabis plant reproduction 

Like humans, cannabis plants are dioecious, meaning their male and female plants grow separately. Each plant possesses two pairs of sex chromosomes: X and Y chromosomes. Male plants have XY chromosomes, while female plants have XX chromosomes.

Nonetheless, there is a significant difference between the gender of cannabis plants and humans. A cannabis plant can also be hermaphroditic, where a single plant has both male and female parts. The female part responsible for reproduction is the stamen, while that of a male is the pistil.

Unlike humans, the gender of a cannabis plant depends on genetics and environmental factors. That is why it is essential you determine the different traits of male vs. female plants. Each gender exhibits unique characteristics which may or may not be desirable on your farm.

Telling the difference between male and female cannabis plants

Early signs of male plants

To identify the male cannabis plant in your garden in the early stage, it has flowers and tends to be taller than the female plant.

General signs that a cannabis is male

Sometimes it is hard to identify the gender of your cannabis plants until they are mature enough. Some will exhibit their gender when they are almost ready to start pollination. You can quickly identify male plants by their rapid maturity. They grow quickly and become taller compared to female plants. Quicker growth happens to promote the dropping of pollen on female plants. The flowering of male plants begins a month before females, giving you a chance to identify them.

However, some typical male and female signs that distinguish them. The male plants grow straighter and do not develop many flowers like females, located at the top of the plant. Male flowers present themselves as tight green clusters. Male flowers have a central part that looks like petal-shaped objects, five of which are located inside the sex organs.

If you are not used to cannabis sexing, the petal-shaped materials look like a tiny banana bunch. Male flowers are sometimes called false buds because they are pollen sacs. These clusters start opening with time until a stamen appears ready to pollinate the females.

Early signs of female plants

Early signs of a female plant include your cannabis plants having pistils. The female plants are also shorter than the males.

Other signs a cannabis plant is female

Although both male and female cannabis plants form flowers, the flowers from females bloom after males. The female cannabis plant flowers look like sacs that grow two stigmas, resembling feathers. Stigmas are located in a node region of the central stalk. The flowers eventually open to form little yellow, cream, or white flowers. They also have hairy, whitish pistils that trap pollen from males.

Though preflowers help determine the sex of a cannabis plant, it can be challenging, especially if you are a new grower. It is difficult because the period between when they appear and when the plant is fertilized is short. Preflowers develop at the tips of branches and on the main stem.

Preflowers are immature first flowers that precede the mature ones. A male cannabis plant presents preflowers as a raised calyx on a small stem or stalks, while in a female plant, it is not raised. First-time cannabis growers find it difficult to note the differences, but every farmer gets better at it over time.

The growth patterns of cannabis plants can help determine the sex. You can use vegetative growth when sexing cannabis plants, but this technique suits outdoor plants. Vegetative growth is applicable when your plants progress from the seedling stage to the vegetative level. Females tend to have more complex branching than male plants. An early veg sign of a male plant is slightly taller with less branching than a female plant.


Once your cannabis plants have developed their sex, they are ready for reproduction. The following are changes that happen during the process.

Female flower formation: A large cluster of buds called cola appears on a female cannabis plant, and it consists of many sub-units of buds. Each cola has many pistils which moderate the female reproduction processes. Each pistil contains stigmas that interact with male pollen.

Cola is preparing for reproduction during the flowering stage, and the plant stretches and develops its bud sites. These sites house groups of cannabis flowers waiting to be fertilized. New flowers grow on the top side of the subunits, and tiny stigmas emerge from the pistils.

You can notice stigmas because of their white hair. Pollination will still take place even if they are not white. If there are heavy rains or winds, stigmas can die, drying up and changing color from brown to red. Even if the color change occurs, the stigma will still receive pollination, and pollination will be successful.

However, the female flower has other hairs called glandular trichomes. They produce resin on the flowers and nearby leaves. Resin looks like a ball attached to a neck, and its shape is a good indicator of how delicate they are. If you handle the buds carelessly, some trichomes can break off.


Awaiting pollination: When a male cannabis plant matures, it releases pollen and seeks out female stigmas. The pollen travels to the egg cell situated inside the pistil, producing seed. If the process is not successful, the female flower starts to change.

Nevertheless, cannabis plants are designed to pollinate. Pollen from male plants can survive a few days attempting to reach a female, increasing the survival of a cannabis plant. Pollen can stay on fabrics and in air ducts. Plants can also store pollen for intentional fertilization.

On the other hand, females also do their best to be fertilized. Pistils grow more prominent when they are not fertilized, making it easier for them to locate pollen. This effect does not last forever. The stigmas die when the pistils mature completely, so pollen cannot fertilize them.

Lack of fertilization leads to a decrease or no resin production, and the trichomes begin to break down. The plant will die, not immediately but gradually. Pistil maturation happens slowly, giving you enough time to harvest.

Cannabis plant fertilization 

Fertilization occurs when the nucleus of pollen grain fuses with an ovule. After pollen lands on the stigma, it grows a pollen tube down through the style to the ovary. The nucleus of the pollen grain travels down the pollen tube and fertilizes the nucleus in an ovule. There, the fertilized ovule will develop into a seed. After fertilization, you can harvest your seed either for breeding or use.

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Is determining sex different with autoflowers?

Most standard cannabis plants start flowering at the end of summer because days become shorter, so the amount of light decreases. Regular plants recognize they need to start maturing before winter, but this is different from autoflowering plants. Autoflowering plants enter the flowering stage even if they get light continuously for 24 hours.

Autoflowering plants are best to grow in places with unusual growing seasons or when you want to harvest twice in a single growing season. Growing autoflowering plants in irregular seasons is possible because these plants do not need a drop in daylight hours to flower. Feminized autoflowering seeds have dual benefits of a quick harvest and are not required to identify plant sexes.

Autoflowering cannabis seeds also produce small plants fit for outdoor growth. It is possible to plant a couple for every square foot. Autoflowering plants take about ten weeks to harvest, yielding between 0.5 to 2 ounces depending on hours of sun.

Hermaphrodite cannabis plants

A cannabis plant will do everything to ensure it reproduces. In some cases, it means pollination by hermaphrodites. It can change its sex for reproduction to be successful. This intersexual ability is an evolutionary trait that protects the cannabis species.

A hermaphrodite, often called hermies, is a plant that exhibits both male and female reproductive characteristics. Cannabis plants can quickly become hermaphrodite cannabis plants due to environmental stress. They convert to hermaphrodites because the plant detects the growing conditions are not favorable, meaning they are less likely to reproduce.

Although this is annoying to you as a cannabis farmer, hermaphrodites are an excellent survival mechanism for the cannabis species. Poor conditions indicate that a cannabis plant is less likely to survive the complete season. Cannabis plants also change to hermaphrodites since there is no plant of the opposite sex to pollinate them.

Hermaphrodites present themselves in two forms, true and female hermaphrodites. A true hermaphrodite has both male and female features developing on different parts resulting from genetic characteristics. A female hermaphrodite is a female plant that forms small growth during the flowering stage. These growths look like bananas, and these types of hermies, often referred to as bananas or banners, and occur due to stress.

Not all true hermaphrodites become hermies even though they have the genetics for it. If you are an expert grower, they can grow into females. Under any stress condition, they may transform into a self-pollinating hermie. If a cut is taken, these plants always become hermaphrodites.

What are nanners?

Nanners, also known as bananas, are growth that develops in female hermaphrodites. Banana hermies have pollen sacs that are not round like true hermies. They are not pollen sacs but long stamen inside a pollen sac that looks like bananas giving them the name nanners. Nanners are also yellow and grow in bunches like miniature bananas. Sometimes they are lime green.

The best way to deal with male plants

A male cannabis plant does not produce the delicious buds that most cannabis growers target. Fortunately, male plants have various uses, which include:

Making hemp fiber: Even though both genders make hemp fiber, the ones from the male plant is softer. It is best for making clothes, blankets, and tablecloths.

Breeding: When breeding cannabis plants, male plants must be present. Male plants make good fathers if they have good genes to pass down to their offspring. They are majorly used for the production of seeds.

Protect your garden: Cannabis male plants can protect your crops, whether cannabis plants or regular vegetable gardens. They contain terpenes suitable for pest control and disease prevention. Male plants can be used to make terpenes oils, an excellent pest control.

Sexing cannabis plants helps minimize losses, and you can focus on specific plants to achieve the highest yield possible. Ensure you feed your plants with the required nutrients and provide the necessary environmental factors to get the desired results.

Picture of Marcus Smith

Marcus Smith

Marcus is a relative newcomer to the cannabis world. Though it may seem that his youth wouldn’t allow for a wealth of knowledge, this is untrue. Marcus Smith has close relationships with many cannabis breeders and grow owners which have allowed him to sample the best cannabis across the US and beyond while also gaining valuable insight into how different strains grow and develop. 𝕏

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