In this article, we’ll tell you how to identify male, female and hermaphrodite Cannabis plants and how to tell the difference.

Table of contents

Perhaps the most frequently asked questions about cannabis home growing is how to identify male or female plants and how to tell the difference. Every grower has asked these questions at some point. Luckily, each gender has unique characteristics that set them apart and help growers identify them easily.

In this article, we’ll tell you about those features so you can easily tell if your plant is female, male or “hermie” and act accordingly.

First of all, a Marijuana plant may be either male or female (dioecious) or hermaphrodite (monoecious). Dioecious means each individual (plant) has either male or female reproductive organs. Monoecious means the plant has both the male and female reproductive organs in the same individual

What’s the difference between male and female flowers?

Female Cannabis plants

Female‌ ‌Cannabis‌ ‌plants‌ usually‌ ‌start‌ ‌to‌ ‌show‌ ‌sex‌ ‌with‌ small ‌preflowers,‌ ‌around‌ ‌week‌s ‌4-6‌ ‌from‌ ‌seed.‌ ‌Female‌ ‌preflowers‌ ‌look‌ ‌like‌ ‌a‌ ‌pair‌ ‌of‌ ‌white‌ ‌hairs (stigma) coming out from a green, round calyx. This structure is also known as “pistils”. Many of these small preflowers growing together will become the “buds” we all know, which ‌contain‌ ‌the‌ ‌largest‌ ‌cannabinoids’‌ ‌concentration‌.‌ Female Marijuana plants may sprout from photoperiodic, automatic or feminized seeds.

Female pre-flowers in Cannabis plants. White hairs, Pistils. Appear 4-6 weeks from germination
Identify male and female cannabis plants
Grow with Jane App Home view

Grow with Jane, the app for cannabis home growing.

Track your activities and trees.

Plan ahead by setting repeatable reminders.

Get smart insights customized for your crop.

Share your work with a community of like-minded individuals while learning to grow better.

Get Grow with Jane

Male Cannabis Plants

Male‌ ‌cannabis‌ ‌plants‌ ‌produce male flowers that ‌look‌ ‌like‌ ‌little‌ ‌balls‌ and appear ‌around‌ ‌week‌s ‌3-4 ‌from‌ ‌seed. ‌Those ‌are actually pollen sacs that contain ‌pollen‌ ‌grains‌, ‌but‌ ‌no‌ ‌trichomes.‌ Males are‌ ‌not‌ ‌capable‌ ‌of‌ ‌producing‌ ‌buds, but they are able to pollinate the females, which results in more seeds and fewer and smaller buds.

Male preflowers develop first and very fast! Once those pollen sacs are open, they are bound to start pollinating, not only your crop but most plants 5 km around. Look for early signs of male plants: they are usually taller and less bushy than female plants. Just eradicate them, unless you want to produce seeds in a controlled environment.

Male pre-flowers in Cannabis Plants. Little balls, no hairs or pilstils.
Appear 3-4 weeks from germination.
Identify male and female cannabis plants

Now you can identify male or female Cannabis plants! But there are other options…

What about hermaphrodite Cannabis plants?

Hermaphrodite‌ ‌Cannabis‌ ‌plant‌s ‌can occasionally occur. This means a plant develops both male and female flowers in the same individual. Hermies should be eliminated from your crop immediately after detecting them or else they’ll start pollinating your other plants. In fact, those seeds will produce more hermies plants. No Mercy!

Hermaphrodite pre-flowers in Cannabis plants. Both male and female pre-flowers. Resemble bananas.
Identify hermaphrodite cannabis plants

In fact, there are two types of marijuana hermaphrodite plants:

“Mixed-gender‌ ‌plants”‌ ‌have‌ yellow elongated ‌sexual‌ ‌organs‌ (anthers) ‌resembling‌ ‌“bananas”‌ ‌or‌ ‌“nanners”‌ ‌growing from‌ ‌female‌ buds.‌ ‌These‌ ‌”bananas”‌ produce pollen, ‌so they ‌may‌ ‌pollinate‌ ‌our‌ ‌female‌ ‌plants and, as a result, hermaphrodite seeds.‌

“True‌ ‌hermaphrodites”‌ ‌have‌ ‌both‌ ‌male‌ ‌and‌ ‌female‌ flowers ‌but‌ ‌in‌ ‌different‌ ‌parts‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌plant.‌ These are the less common but they can occur. Always continue to check your female plants after sexing them! Just in case they turn into hermies.

Some‌ ‌factors‌ ‌that‌ ‌lead‌ ‌to‌ ‌hermaphroditism‌ ‌are‌ plant‌ ‌stress,‌ ‌high‌ ‌temperatures,‌ ‌nutrient‌ ‌deficiencies,‌ ‌root‌ ‌rot,‌ ‌light‌ ‌leakage‌ ‌in‌ ‌dark‌ ‌periods and, finally ‌bad‌ ‌genetics.‌ Avoid these for a better chance to get female plants from your photoperiodic (or unknown) seeds.

Do not try to cut off male or hermie flowers in an attempt to stop pollination.

It won’t work! Just kill those plants if you are not planning on producing seeds or harvesting pollen from males. Remember, a hermie plant will pollinate your female plants and those seeds will be hermies as well. Be extra careful!

Sexual reproduction in Marijuana plants

Sexual reproduction in flowering plants involves a process called “pollination”.

Pollination occurs when pollen grains from male or hermaphrodite flowers reach female inflorescences (clusters of flowers a.k.a. “buds”). When this happens, a male gametophyte (sperm cell) enters the female flower, fertilizes the egg and, long story short, a seed starts developing.

A pollinated female plant will spend most of its resources growing lots of seeds and will stop developing the buds, thus reducing your yield significantly. 

Growing male and female cannabis plants together is not a good idea if you are planning on harvesting buds. But it has other uses, as collecting seeds to preserve Cannabis genetics or pollen.

Female‌ ‌plants‌ that ‌are‌ ‌deprived‌ ‌of‌ ‌pollen ‌produce‌ ‌bigger‌ ‌and‌ ‌fatter‌ ‌buds‌ ‌with‌ ‌no‌ ‌seeds‌ ‌in‌ ‌them. These‌ ‌are‌ ‌usually‌ ‌called‌ ‌“sinsemilla”‌ ‌(“seedless”‌ ‌in‌ ‌Spanish)‌. This is the best-case scenario for the majority of cannabis home growers who want to harvest their own weed.

How to tell when a marijuana plant is ready to flower

When plants are early in the vegetative stage, leaves and branches grow opposite to each other. They won’t start showing preflowers yet. Wait a few more days until your plant is sexually mature!
When plants are ready to start growing preflowers and switch to the flowering stage, they start growing alternate leaves and branches sets.
These changes in the phyllotaxy (leaves and branches growing along the main stalk) indicate sexual maturity in Cannabis plants, but they don’t show if a plant is male or female.

How to identify male and female cannabis plants

How to tell if your plant is male or female? Or hermaphrodite?? Let’s find out! Examine your plant closely! Preflowers are usually visible to the naked eye. A magnifying glass may be useful too.

WhyTo find out soon your plant gender and weed out the male and hermaphrodite plants before they start pollinating the females, especially if you don’t know where your seed comes from. 
Where to lookPre-flowers start growing where the branches meet the stems, usually in the upper part of the plant, near the lights. 
When to lookFemale pre-flowers appear: 4-6 weeks from germination.  When the plant has 5 or 6 internodes.Male pre-flowers appear: 3-4 weeks from germination When the plant has 5 or 6 internodes.
What to look forFemale‌ ‌pre-flowers‌ ‌look‌ ‌like‌ ‌a‌ ‌pair‌ ‌of‌ ‌white‌ ‌hairs in V form (stigma) coming out from a green calyx. This whole structure is called “pistil”.  Later they form clusters of female flowers called “buds”. Male pre-flowers look‌ ‌like‌ ‌little‌ ‌balls‌ ‌or‌ ‌bananas. Later they form bell-shaped clusters of male flowers. Hermies pre-flowers look like “bananas”.
What’s next?To start the flowering stage, just change the photoperiod from 18L:6D* to 12L:12D*.Kill all male and hermies plants ASAP, unless you’re planning on producing seeds.

* 18L: 6D = 18 hours of light, 6 hours of darkness. For vegetative stage.

* 12L: 12D = 12 hours of light, 12 hours of darkness For flowering stage.

First signs of flowering stage: preflowers

Female pre-flowers in Cannabis plants. White hairs, Pistils. Appear 4-6 weeks from germination.  Male pre-flowers in Cannabis Plants. Little balls, no hairs or pilstils.
Appear 3-4 weeks from germination.
Identify male or female cannabis plant
Hermaphrodite pre-flowers in Cannabis plants. Both male and female pre-flowers. Resemble bananas.
Identify hermaphrodite cannabis plants

If you don’t change the photoperiod to 12L: 12D, your plants won’t start the flowering stage and thus, won’t produce buds. You can let your plants vegetate and grow in size and height as long as desired before flowering. Or you can change the photoperiod before detecting pre-flowers. This will trigger the beginning of the flowering stage and your plants will show their pre-flowers soon.

Photoperiodic cannabis plants in outdoor environments should start flowering when the days grow shorter, usually in Autumn.

Tip: Preflowers are sometimes confused with stipules, which are small, modified pointy leaves that grow near the preflowers. You’re close, keep looking!

Full article: Flowering stage in Cannabis plants: a guide for beginners

Full article: The Cannabis plant life cycle (stages)

Conclusion

Now you can easily identify male or female Cannabis plants, even two types of hermaphrodites. If you are still not sure of what you are seeing, just wait another week for the plant to develop more preflowers. Send us a picture and we’ll help you! It’s better to be on the safe side, but don’t sleep on it!

When growing photoperiodic non-feminized (or unknown/random) seeds, it’s useful to set reminders to start checking every plant in your crop when the time comes! One male could pollinate all your female plants and ruin your prospects of harvesting buds, leaving you with lots of seeds, which may or may not produce female plants.

You can plan and track your crops, set reminders, take photos and more with the Grow with Jane app!