‘Back in the day’ the only way to grow weed with seeds was with ‘regular’ seeds, (which are seeds that can express either male, female or hermaphrodite).
Cannabis plants are dioecious, which is a term used in botany to describe a plant that can express either male, female or hermaphrodite (both).
This was an evolutionary strategy of the plant to spread as far as possible, which it did with much success. One characteristic of dioecious plants is that they produce huge quantities of seeds. Many cultures utilized these seeds as food, fiber and medicine. (Map showing timeline of cannabis spreading by seed throughout the world)
Breeder created seeds are valuable, these seeds will almost always express into the desired strain with predictable results upon consumption. What most growers want is to have seed free bud, unless they are making seeds.
A lot of plant resources go into the production of seeds and those same resources become scarce for bud and resin production. Most growers grow cannabis to harvest the buds, which have the potent medicine, so they’re mainly interested in the female plants.
For this reason feminized seeds have been created.
Feminized seeds are bred to produce only female plants once they are planted, as opposed to regular seeds that have a 50% chance of producing male plants. “Feminized seeds can produce resinous buds after the flowering stage.” “Feminized cannabis seeds are bred to contain no male chromosome.”
When you grow with feminized seeds you will be sure you’ll get only female plants in your garden, almost always, never say never. The beauty of this is that it takes out a lot of unnecessary work. All plants will be female, instead of that genetic lottery of male/female.
If you plant regular seeds, you can identify female cannabis plants by five key characteristics that distinguish them from the males. The females grow the buds and are what you need to smoke or make other medicine like salves and tinctures.
There are a few distinct markers that help you identify the females from the males, and they have to do with their buds as well as their general plant anatomy. The female flowers have more THC and this is why growers focus on them.
After about six weeks, cannabis plants will start to show signs of being male or female.
Female plants grow two light hairs. These are the pre-flowers. The female calyx has long hairs that are tear-drop shaped with antennae. They can be a variety of colors such as purple, green, or white.
Male cannabis flowers are what I affectionately call dingle balls. When I see these dingle balls I move the male plant to a location that the pollen from these flowers, when they pop open, can’t drift onto any female flowers.
The pistil is the combination of the stigma and the ovule. It is only found on female plants. The stigma is the part of the female plant that looks like an antennae. Its purpose is to help the plant become pollinated. When the plant is fully developed, these will change to an orange color. They are covered in a sticky resin. The ovule and stigma together are the pistil. When a plant becomes fertilized, the ovule will swell up and develop a white, black, gray, or striped seed. These are also called the seed pods. The first pistil that you see are small, wispy hairs on the joining branches of the cannabis plant.
The female flowers can be rich in THC and 113 (they are finding new ones all the time) other cannabinoids, in varying quantities, the flowers are what is best to smoke and make other medicines. Growers keep male plants away from female plants because when the females are fertilized, they will use up energy making seeds instead of making flowers.
As they develop, the flowers grow larger and more colorful. In the second stage of a plant’s life, the flowering stage, the plant starts to grow crystal-like, fluffy, lighter buds that have fan leaves around them. The flowers grow together in bunches. The flowers are made up of ‘sugar leaves’, which are the green buds covered in crystals. The buds typically form largest on the top branches of the plant. On the branch they get smaller as they get closer to the stem.
As the plant progresses through the flowering stages, you will see the buds get larger and the flowers change colors. Most of the time, sativa strains are lighter in color than the indica strains.
The flowers become buds and the resinous crystals are the trichomes. These make kief and are what smell the strongest. The part of the flower that contains the most resin is actually in the ovule.
At the top of the plant and the biggest branches is the apical stem, or the cola. These are large rows of buds.
The colas are comprised of a stem, flowers, branches, and leaves. It is the best and the most desirable part of the cannabis plant. The parts that receive the most sun or artificial lighting will form the colas.
Only female plants grow these thick, vertical columns of flowers considered to be the most important part of the plant. It’s possible that different parts of the plant are at different stages of development at the same time.
If you harvest the plant in parts, then the energy will go to developing the other parts that haven’t grown as much. Then, a month later (or however long it takes) you can get a second harvest. We will talk about maximizing bud production by pinching, pruning and tying in a later post.
As always please give us feedback and let us know if this was helpful, and if it left you with more questions?