Marijuana plants are different from a lot of flowers: they are sexually dimorphic. Unlike mammals, most flowering plants have both male and female reproductive organs. Weed plants are different. You get males and females – and you gotta keep ‘em separated.
That’s why it’s super important to know the male weed plant stages.
The marijuana growth cycle is the same in the seeding phase and vegetative stage. At the start of the flowering phase, male and female plants will look different.
Let’s go over the growth stages of a male cannabis plant so you can know what to look out for.
Male vs. Female Cannabis Plants
In the battle of the sexes of weed plants, the ladies win. Only female plants produce buds. Male plants make pollen.
Your biggest concern here is a male weed plant pollinating nearby female plants. If this happens, your females will produce seeds, which lowers the THC content of your bud. If you’re a commercial grower, your cannabis crop instantly becomes unsellable if there are seeds in it. This can also really piss off your neighbors a lot if everyone keeps their marijuana plants outside.
If you discover you have a male plant, throw a plastic bag on it and chop it down right away. You can use it for edibles or hash since there is some THC in it, but it won’t be very strong.
How To Avoid Getting a Male Marijuana Plant
The easiest way to avoid getting a male is to grow from a cloned plant. It will be just like the plant it was cloned from, including sex. That said, clones are much harder to come by than seeds.
The average cannabis seed you find in a baggie has a 50/50 chance of being a useless male. The seeds you buy in seed shops are all feminized.
When you buy cannabis seeds, they will be labeled either “feminized” or “autoflower.” The naming comes from marketing. In reality, both are feminized seeds. “Feminized” means feminized photoperiod seeds while “autoflower” means feminized autoflower seeds. All marijuana seeds you buy in a shop have a 99% chance of being female.
The Seedling Stage of Cannabis: A Delicate Time
The early stages of the cannabis life cycle are identical for all weed plants. All young plants have the same growth trajectory in the germination stage and seedling phase.
Germinating cannabis seeds is a super simple process. If you ever had a seed germination project in grade school, you know exactly what to do. You take your seeds, put them in a wet paper towel, and let them do their thing. You’ll see sprouts in 1-7 days.
Germinating seeds will not need any light or nutrients. What they need is water and warmth, so a lot of people like to stick them in the sun. Once they begin to sprout, you’ll want to put them in soil or a hydroponic growing sponge. Place them root down about a knuckle (1.5-2 cm) deep.
The cannabis seedling stage lasts about 2-3 weeks. During this phase, the plant will pop out its first little proto leaves so it can make food from the light. You’ll want to make sure it gets at least 14 hours of light a day. You do NOT want to be overfeeding it with nutrients right now. In fact, if you’re using fertilized soil, there’s probably plenty in that dirt already.
After 2-3 weeks, your baby plant will start to get its first true leaves. If it’s not already in the main pot, now’s the time to plant it. It is now entering the vegetative stage.
Growth Spurt: The Cannabis Vegetative Stage
You still won’t know the sex of your cannabis plants here. Weed plants look the same in this growth stage. The vegetative phase lasts 2-16 weeks. It initiates after your seedling has grown its first true leaves. Once the weed plant gets less than 12 hours of light a day, it will begin flowering.
However, autoflowers will exit the vegetative growth phase whenever their genetics tell them to. If you’re growing autoflower, check your strains’ info for how long the vegetative phase will last.
The vegetative growth stage creates structures that can grow and support buds. This is when your cannabis plants will need a lot of nitrogen to support their growth. You do want to be careful and ease them into their higher nutrient levels. Getting too much fertilizer can cause a nutrient burn or even lockout.
This is also the phase where you can try advanced cultivation techniques like topping or training. At this point, it can recover from the stress these causes. Flowering cannabis plants cannot recover. If you’re growing in the ground, you’ll want to water further away from the plant. This encourages it to create a wider root system.
How long this phase lasts lends an advantage to indoor plants. Indoor growers can shorten this phase easily. All you have to do is switch your light to a less than 12-hour cycle, and the cannabis plant begins flowering. You do want a minimum of 2 weeks of vegging because otherwise, they won’t have enough roots and stalks to properly form buds.
Now You Know: The Cannabis Flowering Stage
This is the part of the cannabis growth cycle where you’ll finally find out the sex of your plants. There are three flowering stages: pre-flowering, mid-flowering, and late bloom.
The pre-flowering stage is when a healthy cannabis plant will form its reproductive structures. Look carefully at the nodes of your healthy plants. Female plants will have little white hairs that are pre-flowers. Male plants will have little tiny little pollen sacs. If you see balls, chop it down.
Be aware, at the first part of the flowering cycle, cannabis plants double in height. It’s that last stretch of vegetative growth that occurs right before the flowers grow on female cannabis plants.
When you get to this part of the flowering stage, you should have all female marijuana plants. At this point in the marijuana plant life cycle, male plants will release pollen. If that happens, any female plant you have will get seedy. It is very important to identify all male cannabis plants before we get to mid-bloom, which is 4-5 weeks into the flowering stage.
Cannabis cultivation requires fresh air at all growth stages, but here’s where ventilation gets critical. A female cannabis plant will start to get smelly. You should see a lot more white hairs, with a few turning orange. It’s also good to get a jeweler’s loupe to inspect the trichomes forming. They start off clear and then turn milky white.
We will only talk about female plants for late bloom because you really should have chopped down any male plants by now. This is when the buds have gotten about as big as they will get. You want to harvest when about 90% of the hairs have turned orange.
You will need to flush your plants about 2 weeks before harvest. If you’re growing in soil, you can start when you first start seeing a few trichomes turn amber. You want mostly milky white trichomes with a little bit of amber. When they turn amber, they’re converting the THC to CBD.
Sometimes female cannabis plants also grow the pollen sacs of male cannabis plants. These are called hermaphrodites, or “hermies.” This is a survival tactic for the marijuana plant. If it’s not a healthy plant, it tries to survive by reproducing with itself. This can also occur due to genetics.
Here are the main sources of stress that can cause hermaphrodite plants:
- Heating issues
- Too much humidity
- Unbalance nutrient diet
- Too high or too low pH soil
As far as genetics go, Kush variants are known to go hermie. Be careful with autoflowers, they’re crossed with hemp so it happens more often.
The Male Cannabis Plant Life Cycle
Marijuana plant growth is mainly the same before flowering. Near the transition between the vegetative and flowering stages look out for pollen sacs.
Be sure to monitor your plants at all points of the cannabis growth stages, but the first few weeks of flowering is when you need to look out. If you find a male, harvest immediately.
More about cannabis
- How To Treat A Magnesium Deficiency In Cannabis
- It’s Not O-K: Potassium Deficiency in Cannabis
- How to harvest cannabis (and use the entire plant)
- Male Weed Plant Stages: Don’t Ruin Your Crop
- How To Decarb Weed For Homemade Cannabis Products
- Loving the Ladies: Female Weed Plant Stages
- Patience is a Virtue: Curing Buds for Best Taste
- Understanding weed light cycles: Get the most from your harvest
- When to switch to flower nutrients for high cannabis yield
- How to make live resin at home, step-by-step