Female vs. Male Cannabis Plants: How They’re Similar (and Different)

closeup photo of female plant vs male plant

Table of contents

  1. What Are Female Cannabis Plants?
  2. What Are Male Cannabis Plants?
  3. How to Tell Male and Female Cannabis Plants Apart
  4. Growing Male and Female Plants
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

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 that 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.

Learn how male and female cannabis plants differ, how to tell them apart and whether or not you should grow them together.

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 that of male plants. While male plants can be used on occasion 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 useful 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 particularly high cannabinoid concentrations in their leaves combined with strong roots can become key parts of a breeding program.

In addition, male cannabis plants are useful for making 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 will be able to clearly distinguish between male and female cannabis plants. The pollen sacs and pre-flowers will be in full view by this point, 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.

There are other clear physical characteristics that 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 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, which will stop or slow bud development and severely reduce your yield.

Generally, male cannabis plants are less desirable than female ones. So, you will want to keep emale cannabis plants in your growing medium. If you are starting a breeding program, you will definitely need both male and female cannabis plants. But even in a breeding program, you need to keep your male and female plants apart.

Download Our 7 Page Guide to Growing Cannabis

Frequently Asked Questions

Do male or female weed plants grow faster?

Male weed plants tend to grow at a much faster rate 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 compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, female cannabis plants produce 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, there are fine white and orange hairs 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, in general, 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 that male plants are useless; indeed, male cannabis plants can be an important part of a cultivator’s crop but should be mostly kept separate from females to allow the females room and energy to grow.

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