Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
The main difference between male and female cannabis plants is that male cannabis plants do not yield buds, whereas female cannabis plants do. This means female plants produce usable cannabis (buds), and male plants do not. There are many other obvious as well as subtler differences between male and female cannabis plants that can affect a cultivator’s crop.
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What Are Female Cannabis Plants?
Female cannabis plants are the most sought-after plants for most cannabis cultivators. They contain the prized bud that comprises all cannabis products, whether smokable, topical, or otherwise. Female cannabis plants also contain the lion’s share of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Male plants, in contrast, contain only trace amounts of THC.
The output of female cannabis plants is far more potent than male plants. While male plants can be used occasionally to make concentrate products like hash, female plants are widely preferred for this purpose. The coarse, tough hemp material derived from female cannabis plants is also helpful for making rope and other products that require a strong fiber.
What Are Male Cannabis Plants?
Male cannabis plants grow pollen sacs rather than buds. They pollinate female plants with their pollen sacs. Cannabis grown from male plants is not usable, as it contains no “bud.” Male cannabis plants are essential in breeding programs and provide 50% of the genetic material that the seeds inherit. This is why, for breeders, strong fathers are as sought after as strong mothers. Male cannabis plants also tend to contain more phytocannabinoids on their leaves. Male cannabis plants with exceptionally high cannabinoid concentrations in their leaves combined with strong roots can become critical parts of a breeding program.
In addition, male cannabis plants help make hemp fiber, especially for clothing. The hemp material of male plants is softer than that of female plants, making it desirable for shirts, tablecloths, or bed sheets. Finally, male cannabis plants are also effective at keeping harmful pests away.
How to Tell Male and Female Cannabis Plants Apart
Determining the sex of a marijuana plant is a visual process that you can begin early in the plant’s growth cycle. During the first four weeks of growth, you may be able to observe pollen sacs on the male and stigma or “pre-flowers” on the female. By the sixth week of growth, you can clearly distinguish between male and female cannabis plants. This point will fully view the pollen sacs and pre-flowers, allowing you to pinpoint male or female.
In rare instances, you may observe a cannabis plant with both male and female reproductive organs. These hermaphroditic plants often develop due to environmental stressors, including inhospitable weather and nutritional deficiencies. Hermaphrodites are distinguishable by sets of pollen sacs and pre-flowers. A healthy marijuana plant grown in optimal conditions will not turn hermaphroditic.
Other clear physical characteristics will help you tell male and female cannabis plants apart at any stage.
Characteristics of Male Plants
Look for these physical traits in a male cannabis plant:
- Thick, sturdy stalks
- Sparse leaves
- Taller than female plants
- Pollen sacs that form green and white flowers
Characteristics of Female Plants
Look for these physical traits in a female cannabis plant:
- Slender stalks
- Abundant leaves
- Fine translucent hairs in white or orange
- V-shaped pistils with a protective layer (calyx)
- Shorter than male plants
- Resinous buds
Growing Male and Female Plants
The first principle of growing male and female cannabis plants is to keep them apart. Male cannabis plants can overtake a garden and drain female plants of vital energy. Specifically, male plants may over-pollinate the females, stopping or slowing bud development and severely reducing yield.
Generally, male cannabis plants are less desirable than female ones. So, you will want to keep female cannabis plants in your growing medium. If you are starting a breeding program, you will need both male and female cannabis plants. But even in a breeding program, you must keep your male and female plants apart.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do male or female weed plants grow faster?
Male weed plants tend to grow much faster than female weed plants. Fourteen days into the growth cycle, male plants will already be taller than female plants. In addition, male cannabis plants will start the flowering stage approximately 30 days before their female counterparts.
What’s the difference between male and female weed seeds?
Weed seeds that grow into female plants produce more THC than their male counterparts. Furthermore, female cannabis plants have flowers, while male cannabis plants produce tiny buds that resemble balls. V-shaped pistils will also appear on female cannabis seeds at the beginning of the flowering stage, but there are no such structures on male seeds. Finally, delicate white and orange hairs are present on female weed seeds but not on male ones.
Can male and female weed plants grow together?
While the plants technically can grow alongside one another, you should not grow male and female weed plants together. Separate your male and female cannabis plants if you want to harvest buds from the females. This does not mean male plants are useless; male cannabis plants can be an essential part of a cultivator’s crop but should be kept separate from females to allow the females room and energy to grow.