Can You Tell if a Cannabis Seed is Male or Female?
Friday August 17, 2018
W hen it comes to growing cannabis, sex is important. Not that kind of sex! We’re talking gender, as in being able to discern male from female. The reason for this is simple enough: only female seeds produce flower, also known as the buds you might have in your stash as we speak.
When it comes to growing cannabis, seeds can be male, female or hermaphrodites. Females produce the resin-secreting flower, and males make small sacs of pollen near the base of the leaves. Over the years, cultivators have learned that un-pollinated females (remember, males produce pollen) continue to make resin and flowers that have not been pollinated are much more likely to produce high-potency cannabis. But is there a way to know if a seed is female before growing?
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Determining if a Seed is Male or Female
If what you’ve got is a handful of seeds, it’s pretty much impossible to tell which ones are male or female. The only way true way to tell the plant’s gender is to plant some seeds, then wait. After a period of several weeks, it will begin to pre-flower, or form a small bud in the crux of a branch. One of the first signs your cannabis plant is female is the appearance of pistillates that are wispy and generally white in color.
If you’re looking for more precise, science-based methods to tell your plant’s gender, there are several labs that can sex your plant right after germination – eliminating the lengthy (usually around 6 weeks) wait to learn its gender. Portland, Oregon start-up Phylos Bioscience is in the business of studying cannabis genetics, and they sell a “plant sex kit” that’s pretty simple to do, even for the not scientifically-inclined. Simply press a cotyledon, or embryonic leaf, onto the kit’s filter paper and send it to their lab. They then test the leaf for the “Y” chromosome to determine its gender, just as would happen for a human male.
What are Feminized Seeds?
While it’s basically not possible to determine the sex of a seed from a random bag of seeds, a practice known as feminizing is becoming quite popular. Feminized seeds are selectively bred to produce female plants, however, some growers do worry about some feminized seeds turning into hermaphrodites.
Despite the potential for hermies, if growing cannabis is more hobby than full-time endeavor, and you want to guarantee you’ll have some consumable product, knowing your seeds are female from the beginning is probably your best bet.
There are many companies that sell feminized seeds, but, buyer beware, do your research to make sure the seller is reputable, especially if purchasing online. Thanks to modern technology, most feminized seeds from reliable brands will be 100% female as advertised – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people selling low-quality seeds out there.
Methods for Feminizing Cannabis Plants
If you have some experience growing cannabis and would like to bend a crop to your will to ensure that the seeds will be female, there are a few feminizing methods you might try. One such technique is to literally stress out a healthy female plant by interrupting the light cycle during flowering, called Rodelization Feminizing.
In the colloidal silver feminizing method, distilled water is mixed with pure silver and sprayed on female plants. This method works best when the plants are flowering. This results in pollen sacs being formed, which will allow the seeds to produce female plants.
Feminizing via the silver thiosulfate technique involves carefully selecting a nearly mature female plant, then spraying it with 50/50 mix of sodium thiosulfate and silver nitrate. This triggers a gender change, from female to male. Place this plant back with the others to pollinate other female plants, and female seeds are created.
How Important is Your Plant’s Sex?
How much time you want to spend figuring out the sex of your cannabis plants really depends on how much time and energy you’d like to devote to growing your own marijuana. If you are a medical cannabis patient or caregiver, for example, and need to know what kind of cannabis you are getting every time, buying feminized seeds from a trusted seller is the way to go. But, if you have some time, consider yourself a green thumb, and want to experiment with your grow, you could simply plant your seeds and see what comes up. Happy growing!
What are your thoughts on feminized seeds? If you’ve used them before, how did it go? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
If you're interested in growing cannabis, determining the sex of your plant is a critical aspect in the cultivation process. Learn whether or not you can tell if a marijuana seed is male or female and more information about feminized seeds.
What does the appearance of a cannabis seed indicate?
Can the visual appearance of a cannabis seed indicate anything useful about the future plant which it will produce? It’s a question which has been asked by many cannabis growers. And over the years there have been many different theories about this.
Cannabis seed weight. What does the weight of a cannabis seed indicate?
Dutch Passion created feminized seeds in the 1990’s. It was a revolution for cannabis growers. But in the days before feminized seeds, some people felt that ‘male’ and ‘female’ seeds could be separated according to their weight, appearance, size, shape etc. The idea behind this unproven theory was that cannabis seeds all had different sizes and shapes for a reason. One of the first difficulties with the theory is that different marijuana seed varieties often produce different size seeds. White Widow seeds, for example, can often look smaller than other varieties. And yet they produce excellent quality harvests. Seed size has no relationship to potency. The future sex of a cannabis plant simply can’t be determined by the weight or size of the cannabis seed. If it were that easy the seed companies wouldn’t spend as much time and effort to create feminized seeds.
Feminized seeds vs autoflowering seeds. Do they look different?
Every so often a home grower will accidentally mix up their seeds. Often this is done after a smoke/vape, perhaps when you are getting the cannabis seeds ready for germination. If you have ever mixed up your seeds it can feel impossible to be confident about their true identity. There is no certain way to distinguish between feminized seeds and autoflower seeds just by looking at them. The plants real future identity lies in the DNA inside the cells within the seed.
Stripes on cannabis seeds. What do they indicate?
Cannabis seeds have an undeniable beauty and appeal. The various shades of brown are delicate. Under powerful magnification you can see how a cannabis seed is a wonderful piece of natural beauty and design. When you examine a cannabis seed near a bright light you can see a shiny reflection, as if the seed has a coating of wax. Not every cannabis seed has a similar appearance to the next. Some seeds will have dramatic tiger stripes. Others will have a more homogenous surface coloration. The appearance of the seed isn’t a reliable indicator of any particular plant quality. Everything is coded in the genetics inside the plant tissue safely encased inside the shell. From the sex of the plant to the cannabinoid and terpene profile, plant DNA and genetics determine the future. That’s where you rely on the seed company doing their job properly. The highest quality cannabis seeds are not always the cheapest. But if you buy from a company with a reputation for quality you know that a great deal of skill and effort, and many years work, has gone into your cannabis seeds.
Are heavier cannabis seeds more difficult to germinate?
Some growers feel that the largest seeds can be more difficult to germinate due to the extra shell material. However, the shell material is designed to be weakened by water, it shouldn’t really be an obstacle to germination rates. As the fibres in the shell are penetrated by water, the shell structure swells and weakens allowing the tap root to emerge. Poor germination rates of cannabis seeds is often a sign of old seeds. It could also be the result of poor quality seed production practices. This is one area where established seed companies have the benefit of many decades of know-how and experience. Cannabis seed production is just like any other intricate and highly skilled process. The most experienced seed companies have people who are at the top of their profession with several decades of practical knowledge producing the best quality cannabis seeds. Dutch Passion do not recommend the use of sand paper to reduce the thickness of the cannabis shell. It’s too easy to accidentally damage the inner seed. Simply leave the seed to soak in a damp paper towel for a day or so. But never try to force open the seed, or use artificial abrasion techniques to try to weaken the shell.
Old cannabis seeds
Very old cannabis seeds feel weaker when gently squeezed. In the worst cases the shells crack easily and the powdery crushed contents are released. The best way to store cannabis seeds is in a dry, dark container in a cool place such as a fridge. Cannabis seeds will still have good germination rates after several years of cold (and dry) storage.
Immature cannabis seeds
Cannabis seeds which were harvested too early will have a green/whitish appearance. Often these will be small in size, and will struggle to germinate. Seeds that are clearly immature are not recommended for growing. Some seeds, such as Dutch Passion Frisian Duck, can have their own coloration. In the case of Frisian Duck the seeds have a slightly unusual grey appearance
Buy the best cannabis seeds online
The best way to achieve a good quality harvest of home grown cannabis is to invest in some high quality seeds. Buying cannabis seeds online from a high quality seed company guarantees fresh seeds with good germination viability. You also benefit from the security of knowing that your cannabis seeds contain the best genetics to deliver top quality cannabis at harvest.
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I revently bought a 5 pack of feminized Skunk #11 and the seeds are tiny and white and look very immature. Im trying to germinate one right now but Im not confident it will sprout, should I worry?
Through the years I myself have grown just about every any seeds I have run across and In my experiences a. Male is a male and a female is a female.until you are ready to start budding you just won’t know.also have planted some texmex dirt seeds and produced some of the best Bud I’ve ever smoked
I tried pots and many mediums but the best and quickest way I find is in a glass of tepid water, this will also show if your seed is fertile and will sprout. first get a small dark glass I use a brown pill bottle or tub. First fill 3/4 of your water vessel with tepid water. Get a seed or seeds and pop in. Now don’t panic if they float. After 2 hour if seed is floating just lightly push seed under water a few times if needed. If still floating leave for another 2 hours or overnight. You can put lid on pill jar or clingfilm to ensure you vessel is air tight. Place in a dark warm place for 24hours. Your seed should be sprouted. Thank out seed sandwich between Wet paper towel on a plate and leave back to same warm spot and ensure to keep moist..Your sprouts should be good to go in a total of 3-4 days. Best of luck Aido
2″ container filled with potting soil,1″deep where seed won’t corkscrew out,water,3 days sprouted. No muss no fuss.
A rule of thumb for gardeners is that a seed should be 1-2 times as deep as it is big. a pea at 2cm, a ganja seed at >1cm.
Hi Alf ! After 35 years of starting my seeds using fine, sieved soil in small plastic pots, last year I tried small Rockwool cubes (40 x 40 x 40 millimetres) for germinating my babies. This was extremely easy and I achieved 100% germination. It will now be the method I use for the rest of my days, so pleased was I with the results and how simple it is ! I plant my seeds pointy end down, one seed per cube. There is no need to pre-treat the seeds in any way or do any other various types of physical manipulation; the plants have been doing it themselves, unaided, for Millennia ! Start by soaking the cubes in a bucket of room temperature, aged / chlorine free, clean water for a few minutes, then remove the cubes and give them a couple of quick flicks in a downward direction to remove the excess water. I then make a small hole in the cube, about the same width of the seed and roughly twice as deep as its’ size, with a small pointed stick. After inserting the seed (a small bamboo skewer can be very helpful), I use a small “fluffy” piece of Rockwool, about 2-3 times the size of the hole and about 2-3 millimetres (1/8 of an inch) thick, taken from either the edge of the cube or another cube especially sacrificed for this purpose and cover the seed in its’ hole lightly, with this small tuft / fluffy piece, so it forms sort of a “hat” and very gently give the “hat” a pat so that it is in contact with the rest of the cube. There is no need to push the “hat” down hard. After this I use a water spray bottle (atomiser), with the nozzle adjusted to a misting setting, to lightly moisten the “hat”. Again, using clean, room temperature and chlorine free water. After all this, I place the cubes onto a saucer that has some very fine aquarium gravel or a similar substrate, covering the bottom (of the saucer). This is to provide air circulation and drainage, in case you are too generous with watering. You need to keep the cubes moist, but NOT wet. If you can feel moisture when lightly touching the cube with the back of a finger, this is moist enough. Resist the urge to water every day (unless necessary) and under no circumstances, do not use any fertilisers. The embryonic seed has / contains all the nutrition and energy it needs for the first 2-3 days of growth (think bean sprouts!). The best way to maintain the correct moisture level is to use the water sprayer bottle and mist the cubes gently. You will, after some experience, be able to judge the moisture content by the weight of the cube when / if you pick them up. Do not let the cubes dry out, but this is highly unlikely if you check the cubes at least once a day. Keep the moist cubes in a warm shady area and away from any direct winds / breezes that may dry the cubes out prematurely. Only once the seeds have sprouted should they be placed in / under any light, but the sooner they are, the better. There is no need to cover the saucer with the cubes on it with anything, such as cling film or a plastic bag and do not place them in a mini greenhouse or any other type of enclosed container, as this can cause the seeds to rot due to the extremely high humidity. I have found that the cubes will remain moist long enough for the seeds to germinate with little to no extra watering, with the sprouts taking between 1 and 6 days to emerge; so do not give up too soon! Plant the whole cube into your growing system once the seed has sprouted and the plants’ root(s) are coming through the bottom of the cube. By starting the seeds in the cubes you avoid handling the fragile baby plants and prevent any possible risks of damaging the emerging embryonic leaves and roots. I hope this helps and most of all, happy growing!!
I like the damp folded paper towel in an unsealed plastic bag (in a dark room) method — however have discovered one important trick/fact. Roots always try to grow down, so put the seed inside a folded damp paper towel, but ensure only one layer is below the seed and the other damp layers are on top. The root will try to work its way down. If there are many layers below it, the root can get entangled and be hard to extricate without damage.
I germinated frisian duck seeds straight on top of a soil plug with halfvthe seed showing. I put three into a plastic box and then into a drawer in my garage. It took 6 days until they had sprouted to about 30mm high and shed the seed cap.
Alf, 4th June 2019. There are several equally good germination methods. Many customers prefer the idea of germinating seeds between sheets of wet kitchen paper, inside a sealable plastic bag. Good luck!
What is your recommended germination process in general?
Some people think that the size, weight or appearance of a cannabis seed can tell you about the type of plant it will grow into. Read on to find out more.