Imagine entering your grow room during the bloom phase, expecting to be greeted by a canopy filled with swelling buds that are packing on size, potency, and aroma.
Instead, dotted before you like rebellious agitators are several hermaphrodite flowers popping up on your cannabis plants.
While it’s a sign no grower wants to see, unfortunately, most growers will encounter it at some point during their career.
In this article, we’ll share how you can both treat and prevent hermaphrodite cannabis in your grow.
What Exactly Is A Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plant?
A hermaphrodite flower is one that has both staminate (male) and pistillate (female) floral structures on the same plant.
And the reason this is such a dreaded sight is because male structures release pollen. Unpollinated female flowers — the entire goal of sensimilla cannabis production — will become contaminated by the pollen and become seeded buds.
Seeded buds are only desirable when you’re breeding seeds. Otherwise, they are almost impossible to sell. The formation of seeds takes energy and resources that the plant could otherwise use to produce bigger buds and more THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenoids.
Many years ago, some growers looked at hermaphrodite cannabis, commonly referred to as “hermies,” as a benefit. Seeds produced by hermaphroditism tend to grow out to be female plants. They’re purebred cannabis seeds that can help a grower lock in desired genetic traits.
However, plants grown from cannabis seeds produced by hermaphroditic flowers also tend to be cannabis hermies.
In other words, the pollen problem occurs all over again.
So what causes them, and what can you do if you see them on your plants?
Common Causes Of Hermaphrodite Cannabis
Note that one of these causes, or a combination of two or more, can be to blame.
Genetic defect or a natural genetic trait.
Some cannabis strains tend to go hermaphroditic as a result of their natural genetic inheritance. Other strains that become hermaphrodite are victims of breeding errors that introduced hermie tendencies into the strain.
Unnatural types of seed manipulation can create hermaphrodite tendencies.
The majority of the strains that develop hermies come from feminized seeds. The process of creating seeds that don’t follow nature’s normal pathway to grow out as male or female can create hermaphroditism in some cases. Keep in mind that this can also occur with autoflowering cannabis, not just photoperiod varieties.
Some buds go hermie in the late bloom phase.
These plants have been waiting a long time for pollen and have not gotten any, so they decide to create male flowers themselves to make their own pollen. This is why it’s so important to time your harvest correctly, so you don’t allow overripe buds on your plants. If you let your bloom phase plants live too long, the buds may start to go hermie.
Stress is a Primary Contributor to Hermaphroditic Cannabis!
As a grower, you know that cannabis plants crave an ideal set of environmental and nutritional conditions. If you take them out of their comfort zone during the bloom phase, they might develop hermaphroditic flowers.
Plant stress comes in many forms, including…
- Grow rooms that are too hot or too cold
- Light cycles that are unreliable in their start and stop times, or light leaks or other light penetration interruptions during the night period
- Plants that are either too close or too far away from lights, diminished light intensity or over-amplified light intensity, and a radiation spectrum that’s not useful for cannabis
- Overfeeding, underfeeding, overwatering, or underwatering
- Using inferior nutrients or unbalanced pH levels of the nutrients solution and/or rootzone
- Plants that are rootbound, suffering from root rot, or growing mediums that aren’t aerated enough
- Using inferior bloom boosters with the wrong types, ratios, and amounts of phosphorus and potassium
- Trimming your plants too much, too often, or at the wrong time
- Pests and diseases
Hermies are far more likely to develop from seed-grown cannabis. However, some growers will see hermies from clones, even if the clone mother never displayed hermaphroditic tendencies.
The bottom line…
Anything that incites less-than-ideal conditions or actively harms your cannabis plants results in stress. And that stress can lead to hermaphroditism, especially if the plants already have a genetic propensity to go hermie.
What To Do If You Have Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
What to do if you see hermie cannabis plants depends on your personal grow situation. There is no generic answer.
Watching for hermie cannabis plants is time-consuming. These flowers can develop within hours. They hide under leaf junctions and inside female-dominant buds. If you have large plants, especially outdoor cannabis plants that can grow as large as a small tree, it’s probably not practical or possible to scope out every floral cluster every day to see if you have hermie structures, especially if you’re growing at a remote site.
If you do come across hermie plants, you can…
- Kill the first hermie you see. Then move the other plants of that strain to a different place in your garden where air movement is far less likely to reach them. (You don’t want air movement across potential pollen plants because then it will spread the pollen to every plant in your grow room. Even a few hermaphrodite flowers can ruin your seedless buds, especially on the hermie plant itself and plants next to it.)
- Take each cannabis plant of the strain out of the grow room and examine them from top to bottom. Kill any other hermie plants you find. Then isolate remaining plants of that strain in a grow tent away from any other flowering plants in order to mitigate the risk of any more hermie plants developing.
Or, instead of killing hermie plants you see, you can…
- Remove all the male structures from the hermie plants and examine them daily to see if more develop.
Some growers may run into the unfortunate circumstance of a room filled exclusively with hermie cannabis. If they kill all their hermies, they’ve lost everything and have to start over with a completely new crop. In this case, they have to remove male structures as often as they see them, and prepare for a partially seeded crop.
However, if you see extremely minor hermaphroditism, such as fewer than five hermie structures on a plant during the entire bloom phase, that might not be a full-on plant-killing emergency. If you remove hermie structures and no new hermie clusters develop, you win.
At the end of the day, you don’t want male pollen anywhere near your female plants. So if you’re growing cannabis from non-feminized seeds in a non-breeding facility, it’s ideal to kill the males as soon as they show their sex. And it’s why you want to consider killing all hermie cannabis plants as well.
Cannabis Hermaphrodite Prevention
The best way to prevent hermaphrodite cannabis in your grow?
Use the best cannabis genetics you can find, treat your plants with respect, and monitor them closely, especially in the bloom phase.
When your plants have early floral structures, examine them using a magnifying device, from top to bottom on a daily basis. Even though it’s a hassle, it’s worth it to protect your crop.
If they look hermie-free throughout the peak bloom phase, you can back off the monitoring a little, perhaps being vigilant every other day. As you approach the late stage bloom phase, start daily monitoring again. By that time, if you see hermaphrodite structures, you don’t have to kill the plant, because you’re going to be harvesting in a few days anyway, and the pollen won’t have a chance to seed the buds.
Also, be sure to supplement your feeding program with B-52®, which contains a potent B-vitamin complex to defend plants against abiotic stresses.
Hermaphrodite cannabis is something most serious growers experience at least once. Which is why you want to stay diligent about keeping a clean grow, use high-quality cannabis genetics, and monitor your floral structures closely.
We hope you never encounter a hermie in your garden, but if you do, you now know how to handle it.