Male pollen sacks on cannabis plants are one of the early signs of male plant

Like all plants marijuana can be either male or female, however as you are reading this article I am guessing that you want to grow plants with plenty of smokable bud. If the answer to this is yes then it is important that you know the differences between the sexes and how to spot the early signs of male plants.

You are probably asking yourself about the significance of sex in cannabis plants. As indicated earlier, the sex of cannabis is essential to growers and users because of the advantages that female weed plants have over male weed plants. Female weed plants are the only ones with the potent buds that users love to smoke. The female weed plants produce large flowers that secrete resin that develops to round buds for smoking. Consequently, all consumer growers seek female plants. 

Regular cannabis seeds can be a bit of a raffle, typically you have a 50/50 split between male and female which means if you were to grow ten you are likely to have around five male plants among your crop. It is for this reason that when growing regular seeds you need to pay particular attention to the early signs of a male plant. If you desire to grow only female cannabis plants, knowing the difference between the different cannabis sexes and how to sex them is essential.

The success of your cannabis cultivation with regard to the sex that you desire is in your hands. Don’t allow chance to dictate what you will get from your farming. Instead, learn how to determine the sex of your cannabis plants by learning the essential skills of establishing the sex of your cannabis plants in this article. 

Why is understanding the variations in cannabis sex important?

Basically, cannabis plants can be found in three sexes: female, male and hermaphrodite. 

Female cannabis 

The buds found in cannabis dispensaries come from female weed plants. These buds are rich in cannabinoids and have a considerable THC concentration compared to the male weed plants. Additionally, female weed plants have a rich terpene profile and an overabundance of phytonutrients. Buds from these plants may be pollinated or not. Pollinated female weed plants will have an abundance of seeds.

However, if a female cannabis plant has not been pollinated by a male weed plant, the buds will have minimal or no seeds. As a result, plants that have not been pollinated will produce fatter, bigger, and more potent buds. If you are cultivating weed for medicinal purposes, it is essential to separate the female weed from the male ones to prevent pollination. Generally, female weed plants are the desired gender for personal and commercial growers. 

Although modern technology has led to most cannabis growers using feminized seeds with only female genetics and capable of producing only female plants, the success rate is not 100%. As such, there is still a need for the grower to identify any male plants and isolate them from the female ones.  

Male vs female weed plant

What are male cannabis plants

When it comes to growing cannabis, either for recreational or medicinal purposes, male cannabis plants are not normally desired. This is because these plants do not produce any buds, which are the smokable flowers that get you high. Hence why it is vital that you learn how to spot the early signs of male plants. They are only valuable for breeding purposes. Consequently, these are only desirable by the breeders who seek to cross-breed various strains to create new weed strains.

Additionally, the fiber of the male weed plants are used to make various products, including towels, clothing, and bed linens. Manufacturers of cannabis-derived products also use seeds from the male weed plants to create various products. Given the significance of male plants in breeding, identifying and isolating them from females is essential to prevent them from switching gender or starting to produce seeds because of unwanted and spontaneous pollination. 

The safest way to growing female cannabis plants is to use feminized seeds. That being said, many old school growers do still prefer to use regular seeds, because they are used to them or consider them more organic. There aren’t too many seed banks these days that produce regular seeds, as most have now switched to the more popular feminized seeds. However, MSNL seed bank and Marijuana Seed City are two that stand out as still producing good quality regular seeds.

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Hermie plants

Sometimes female or male cannabis plants may turn into hermaphrodites, otherwise known as a hermie. This is when the plant begins to produce both male and female parts and can often happen due to plant abnormalities or stress. Issues such as water stress, irregular lighting, and nutrient deficiencies can all cause a plant to hermie.

Hermaphrodite plants pose the same threat as male plants to your crop. As they begin to grow you will see both flowers develop along with pollen sacks, If you don’t intend on breeding strains or seeds, you should try to spot the early signs of a hermie plant and separate from any female ones to prevent pollination. Some cultivators opt to eliminate the male organs from the hermaphrodite plants using tweezers with the hope of producing female plants. 

Now that you understand why knowing the sex of your weed plants is significant, we will help you understand the common early signs of either female, male, or hermies sex. Identifying the signs before the plants begin to flower is particularly important because it will help you isolate the plants to attain the desired results effectively. 

How to tell if your weed plant is male or female before flowering

A careful grower should begin to look for the gender signs immediately after the cannabis seedling starts to grow, given that prompt separation is essential in ensuring the successful cultivation of your weed. Female and male cannabis plants have unique pre-flower features that can help you identify the sex of your cannabis plants.

The pre-flower period refers to the time of cultivation when the weed plants have not yet started to produce buds. Pre-flowers usually start to develop approximately after between four and six weeks. Therefore, at about four weeks of planting, definitive gender signs of your cannabis plants will begin to show depending on the environment and strain. However, sometimes it may take a bit longer before your cannabis plans show distinctive sex signs. 

Regardless, beginning to look out for these signs as early as four weeks increases your success levels. In particular, pay significant attention to the nodes of your marijuana plant to establish gender early enough. 

In the following section, we have detailed weed sex signs that you should see before the plants begin to flower. 

Male vs Female weed plant

Early signs of male plants

Generally, male weed plants start to show their sex earlier than females. At about three to four weeks after germination, you will usually begin to see the early signs of male plants. During this period, male plants normally have a minimum of five internodes.

The internodes are male organs and pollen sacs that present as tiny balls on the plant’s nodes. The ball-like organs on these plants produce pollen, which can fertilize female plants. Later, these pollen sacs grow collectively into clusters of male buds or male flowers. While the male plants develop buds, they are small and not as potent as the buds from female plants.

early signs of male plant
Early signs of male plants

Early signs of female plants

Female weed plants begin to exhibit the first signs of the flowering stage at about four to six weeks after germination, which is a bit later than the male plants do. Pre-flower females grow tiny V-shaped pairs of white hairs on the outer part of the calyx. These frosty white clusters of tiny shoots resemble fine hair. These hairs are what is referred to as the pistils that later cluster to create female buds or female flowers. The pistils are the desired signs that growers look for when identifying female plants. 

An important point to note is that female cannabis plants also develop calyxes, which are often confused for male genetics in weed plants. If you are a beginner, you are highly likely to make a mistake by uprooting and throwing your female plants unknowingly for confusing calyxes for the male genetics. Knowing what to look for in a male plant or asking for a second opinion with help you to eliminate only male weed plants. 

Bellow you can see a what a cannabis plant looks like as it begins pre flowering, which is the first sign of the flowering stage. These two sharp looking pistols are the early signs of female plants, which is what you want if you are producing bud.

cannabis pre flowers are the early signs of female plants
Cannabis pre flowers are the early signs of female plants

Early signs of hermie plants

As explained earlier, hermie weed plants have both female and male sex organs. When trying to establish if a cannabis plant is a hermie, begin by checking the calyx. Just like in the female plant, the calyx in the hermie weed plants will look like a crystalized or frosty flap with protruding pistils, which resemble small white hair. You should then examine the area surrounding the calyx near the stem. This is the spot where the plant’s seeds will grow in a hermie cannabis plant. 

You should also examine the plant to see if it has what is commonly referred to as nannas or bananas. These names are derived from the appearance of the organs. As they form, they look like little banana branches; hence, the name bananas. These male organs in the hermie cannabis plant will eventually burst open before pollinating your plants. 

Using feminized seeds to grow female plants

If you are not sure you can easily spot the early signs of male plant you may want to consider buying and growing feminized seeds instead to reduce the risk of having male plants among your crops. With feminized seeds, the success rate in only having female plants is 99%. 

The easiest way to prevent hermies from forming is to reduce stress on your cannabis plants. You can do this simply by not damaging them in anyway through issues such as temperature fluctuations, light leaks or under watering. Read our guide on controlling your grow environment for some advice on this.

Cannabis Sexing FAQ

Female vs male seeds – Whats the difference?

female vs male seeds

Cannabis seeds come in two main gender variations, regular seeds and female seeds. Many growers get confused by the term ‘regular’ seeds and assume these are male seeds when in fact that are a mixture of male and female seeds. Feminized seeds have undergone a process to ensure that they produce female plants 99% of the time. Whereas regular seeds grow as nature intended, this means that if you grow regular cannabis seeds, you are likely to get around half of them turn into male plants and the other half female. The main important difference is that female plants produce bud and male plants produce pollen.

Can you tell male from female weed seeds?

If you take a handful of regular seeds you will see that they all look pretty much identical. Cannabis seeds do come in various shapes and sizes, some strains are smaller or larger than others, however spotting the difference between male and female seeds is impossible without growing them. The safest way to grow female plants, is to use feminized seeds.

When do male cannabis plants release pollen?

Around 3 – 5 weeks after the flowering phase begins male plants will release their pollen. This gives you three weeks to identify the early signs of a male plant and pull them from your grow. If you are growing with regular seeds, it is advisable to check your plants daily for the first signs of pollen sacks. The first indication is if it begins to produce banana shaped growth spurts known as ‘Nanas’.

What should I do when I spot a male plant?

If you are growing regular seeds but do not intend on breeding, as soon as you spot the early signs of a male plant you should carefully remove it from your grow area. Most growers then discard the plant as there is very little use for it without any bud. If the male plant has already began forming pollen sacks be very careful when you remove it, the tiniest bit of pollen dust could pollinate your female flowers and jeopardise your grow.

How can I reduce the chances of hermie plants?

Cannabis plants are very receptive to their surroundings. Hermaphrodites can happen naturally but any excess stress on a plant such as light damage, light leaks, over or under watering, nutrient burn or extreme temperatures can increase the likelihood of a hermie. To put it simply keep your plants as happy as possible and you will greatly reduce the risks of a plant turning hermie on you.


As you have seen, identifying the sex of weed plants before they begin to flower is important. In particular, it helps you to isolate female plants and ensure that you only have the desired high potent female buds. As a consumer grower, you only want high-quality female buds as opposed to having pollinated ones that have low potency levels. However, if you want to cross-breed different strains, having male plants is required. 

As you contemplate cultivating cannabis, identifying the sex of your plants is critical. 

Joe Musgrave

An avid 420 enthusiast, grower, smoker and writer. Joe writes non stop, sharing his extensive knowledge in the field of cannabis with the wider online 420 community through blogs like ours at High Yield Strains.

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