Did you know plants have genders?
The female plant is the one used and grown almost exclusively in our industry, because it’s the female plant that grows buds containing the elements so often sought in the high-value plants we grow.
Understanding what a male and female plant does, and how to differentiate them from one another, is a crucial skill as a grower.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Some of the differences between female and male plants
- Learning how and when you can determine your plant’s gender
- Options for obtaining female plants
So let’s get into it.
Why Do Only Female Plants Produce Buds?
As is the case with many other organisms, male and female plants serve different reproductive purposes.
The male plant is nonflowering and thus produces pollen. When pollen comes into contact with the flowering female, it produces seed.
Female plants, on the other hand, produce flowers in the hopes of attracting said male pollen. When their flowers are not pollinated, they produce resin in increasing amounts.
In other words, the female buds as we know them are a means of attracting male pollen. This is why there is no such thing as male buds.
How To Identify The Two Genders
Female plants are usually the most useful to growers in our industry.
In addition to not producing buds, male plants can be detrimental to crops because, if they come into contact with females, they can induce fertilization and thus undesirable seeding.
For this reason, it is important to know how and when you should identify the gender of your plants.
Watch closely during the pre-flower window.
The earliest point at which you can determine your plant’s gender is 3–6 weeks from seed, during which time it will enter what is known as the pre-flower phase.
During this period, both plants will develop very small leaves that indicate gender.
A male plant grows more circular “ball” leaves, while the female plant’s pre-flower is longer and thinner.
Closely watch during flowering.
If you miss the pre-flower window, or are not able to determine the gender then, it will become apparent once your plant enters its flowering window.
When your plant enters its flowering stage, you have begun to change up its lighting schedule accordingly.
It’s during this stage that male plants will develop pollen sacs or balls, which do not flower. Female plants will develop long white hairs called pistils, which will continue to grow more prolifically. These are the beginnings of your buds!
You Can Also Have Hermaphrodite Plants
In some cases, you may find that you have a hermaphrodite plant, which will display both pollen sacs and pistils. There are several causes for a plant to become a hermaphrodite. These include:
- Severe changes in pH levels. (Check here for our tips on maintaining the best pH levels for your plants.)
- Waiting too long to harvest
- Disruption in lighting schedule
- Variations in temperature
- Hermaphroditic seed
Because hermaphrodite plants contain male sex organs, they should be kept away from female plants in the same way that male plants are.
If you discover a hermaphrodite plant:
Isolate it from the other plants
Use tweezers to remove the male sex organs
Take care not to handle your females after you have handled it, as you may risk spreading its pollen.
Wait at least 10 days to see if any additional pollen sacs develop before reintroducing the plant to your other females.
What Are Feminized Seeds And What Do They Do?
In nature, the ratio of male seeds to female seeds is 50/50.
This means that unless you want to go through the process of developing and checking each seedling, you will want to obtain feminized seeds.
Feminized seeds have been genetically modified to yield only female plants.
It is possible to feminize seeds at home using a few methods:
- Silver Thiosulfate – This creates a hormonal response to the seeds, which provokes a gender change.
- Colloidal Silver – When this substance is sprayed onto female plants, pollen sacs appear. These sacs in turn produce female seeds.
- Rodelization – Like the colloidal silver method, rodelization produces sacs in female plants. In this case, the sacs appear as a reaction to stress.
While these methods can be effective, they can also be difficult to execute correctly.
If you do not know how to feminize seeds, you may just want to order some from a seed bank.
Keep in mind, while feminized seeds produce female plants around 99 percent of the time, it is possible for male plants to grow out of feminized seeds.
Cloning Is The Only Guarantee Of A Female Plant
The only way to guarantee a plant’s gender before it reaches maturity is to clone it from one of your existing female plants.
As many growers know, cloning is certainly no easy task, so before you clone one of your existing plants, you should check out our article on how to clone your plants to ensure you’re giving both your mother plant and its clone what it needs:
- Vitamins and hormones — these are usually delivered via a cloning gel.
- Moisture — you should plan on making up for the moisture that is lost when you trim a branch off the mother plant
- Healthy mother — Never attempt to clone a plant that is not currently in good health.
It is important to recognize the different genders in the high-value crops we grow for a number of reasons.
Failure to identify even one male plant could lead to a disaster for the rest of your crop.
Many growers are also careful to take steps to avoid male plants simply because they do not want to spend valuable resources on plants that will not be productive for them.
Understanding the importance of maintaining your female crop of plants can help you make an informed decision on whether you want to take on the task of cloning, or look into obtaining feminized seeds. (For more on whether seeds or clones are right for you, check out our article on clones vs. seeds.)
In any case, it is a good idea to get in the habit of diligently checking each of your crops for signs of pollen sacs.
Remember, the less available your males are, the more beautiful (i.e. budding) your female plants will be inspired to be!
The Advanced Nutrients Team is committed to providing practical, factual and easy-to-use information designed to help the growers in our community continue to improve their production. We know how satisfying it is to see both your quality and output continue to increase. We are proud to be a part of your growing journey.
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