How to Tell if Your Plant is Male or Female Before Flowering

Being a new marijuana grower comes with its own set of challenges. One of those challenges is how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering.

Marijuana plants are dioecious, meaning they produce gendered flowers, and under stressful conditions, the cannabis plant can become a hermaphrodite, showing both male and female sex growers.

The plant’s gender becomes more apparent as they mature, but what if you want to sex your plant before it reaches the flowering stage. Today, let us look at how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering, the importance of determining the sex of the plant, and the difference between feminized and regular seeds.

Finding Marijuana Plant Gender
Finding Marijuana Plant Gender

Importance of Gendering Flowers

Determining early on the sex of your flowers is a crucial step, especially if your main aim is to get the most value from your plant. Most growers want to get female plants instead of male ones. That is because male plants are not necessary for harvesting quality products. Female plants are the ones with high-quality buds, which is why they are in high demand.

Female plants produce thick, resinous, and potent buds, which result in the incredible earthy aroma and flavor you want. Fertilized female plants not only produce a lot of seeds, but the lower THC levels take away from their quality.

Although male plants are not needed for quality, they are necessary for cross-breeding different marijuana plants and creating new strains. Female plants produce cannabinoid-rich buds and have higher THC levels compared to males. 

If you are growing your plants in one area, you might have to consider separating the male and female plants before flowering begins.

You want to reduce the chances of male plants fertilizing the female ones because fertilized plants have a lower cannabinoid content than their unfertilized counterparts. Fertilized plants focus their energy on creating seeds instead of producing THC buds. 

Unpollinated female plants will keep growing, producing more trichomes and getting more resinous, leading to a richer, more flavorful harvest. Seedless buds, known as sensimilla, are the ones with high THC levels and have a longer life producing healthy and high-quality buds.

Checking Marijuana Plants
Checking Marijuana Plants

When Can you tell if Your Plant is Male or Female?

It is important to know how long to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering. Doing this will help you separate the plants early on, a step that prevents cross-breeding and cross-pollination between the different types of strains, which can result in low yield.

The kind of grow setup you have will help determine how long it takes to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering. Indoor growers especially have to follow a specific routine that mimics the natural day and night hours and creates the perfect conditions for their plants to grow.

A normal plant starts pre-flowering at around four weeks from the day of germination. At about six weeks, the plants begin to reveal their gender, helping you identify whether they are male or female.

You want to make the identification as early as week 6 to enable you to separate the plants before flowering, which happens at week 8. Let us discuss some of the signs that will help you learn how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering.

Early Signs of a Female Plant

The main identification of a female plant in the pre-flowering stage is the appearance of stigmas. These are fine, white hairs. Since the plants all look alike at this stage, you might need to use a jeweler’s loupe or another magnifying object to look for the hairs.

These hairs, called pistils, form on the bud, in the node that connects the leaves and the stalks. You can see these early signs of a female plant at around four to six weeks from germination. They will get bigger and darker as they approach the flowering stage.

Another thing that can set female plants aside is their size. They tend to grow thicker and shorter, giving a more bushy appearance compared to male plants.

It is important to note that not all female plants produce pistils in the pre-flowering stage, so you might need more to determine the gender of such plants correctly.

Early Signs of a Male Plant

Male plants start flowering earlier than female plants. They form their pollen sacs early on in the pre-flower stage; this can appear as early as a week or two before the female plants start showing signs. The pollen sacs grow in the space between the stalk and the node and can be hard to identify because of their similarity to female plants.

Male plants do not, however, have stigmas protruding from them. Although the sacs look like the buds on the female, they have more of a spade shape instead of the ovate shape that the females have. Male plants also grow taller than females and have sturdier and thicker stalks than their female counterparts. They also tend to produce fewer leaves.

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Signs of a Hermaphroditic Plant

Hermaphrodite plants are also another type of plant you can get; these are plants with both male and female reproductive parts. They occur primarily due to stress, such as diseases and nutrient deficiencies. You must check as early as possible to see if your plant is a hermaphrodite.

Hermaphroditic plants can fertilize themselves because they have both reproductive organs. The fertilization usually occurs unintentionally and can lead to lower yields and a low-quality harvest. To prevent this, be very keen and identify the plants before they start flowering.

Two main signs can help you identify if the plant is hermaphroditic. The first one is the growth of both the female buds and the male pollen sacs.

The other sign is the growth of anthers, also known as bananas or “nanners”. They are curved and have a lime-green or yellow color. You might need to check different nodes on multiple locations to make sure the plant is not a hermaphrodite.

You need to isolate hermaphroditic plants as soon as you identify them because they can fertilize female plants almost immediately after they are formed. This is not a problem in an all-male section, but if you have an all-female garden, trim or remove the plant quickly before it fertilizes all the female plants, leading to the growth of seeded female plants.

Chemical Testing

This is another, lesser-used method of determining the gender of the plant. You can do this as early as a week after germination. Chemical testing uses a small amount of your plant’s tissue to help identify the sex. It is more expensive compared to manually identifying the plant, but it is more accurate and gives a definitive gender earlier than the other method.

marijuana seeds
Marijuana Seeds

Regular vs. Feminized Cannabis Seeds

You can use feminized cannabis seeds to eliminate the worry of wondering how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering.

Feminized seeds produce mostly female seeds, although there is a very slight chance that they might produce a male plant; only a 1% chance to be precise. If your garden is not a big one, then chances are you will not come across a male plant if you use feminized cannabis seeds.

Feminized seeds are in high demand because of their efficiency; they have an incredible track record of producing only female plants. However, you might also want to grow regular cannabis seeds if you are looking for more variety in your plants.

Be careful, though, as this could lead to cross-breeding and even fertilizing some of your female plants, making them seeded, which leads to low THC levels and even lower quality buds.

If you are more into the old-school method and want to ensure that your plants follow the natural path, use regular seeds. To avoid fertilizing the female plants, you need to keep an eye out for the early signs of a female plant and remove the male plants away from the females. You also need to be aware that about half of your regular seeds will be culled.


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What are Feminized Seeds?

Feminized seeds are cannabis seeds that have been altered and treated in a way that inhibits male chromosomes. This results in all-female seeds, which produce all female plants, with a few exceptions. They are created by spraying cannabis plants with colloidal silver, which makes the sprayed plant produce female seeds and pollen only.

Repeated spraying using colloidal silver represses ethylene, which is what creates male flowers. The plant then grows plants full of female pollen that breeders use to pollinate female flowers, leading to the development of fully feminized seeds. There are other ways to create feminized seeds, such as rodelization, but it is more unreliable.

Depending on what you want, you can choose to either use regular or feminized seeds to grow your plants. If you are tired of wondering when can you tell if your plant is male or female, use feminized seeds because this way, you will be sure that all your plants are female, and you will not need to worry about fertilization.


By now, you know how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering. Look for the early signs of a female plant represented by the pistil, the fine white hairs, and the pollen sacs that symbolize the male plants.

With all this knowledge, you are now ready to start growing your cannabis plants. Here at ILGM, we offer premium, high-quality cannabis seeds that will help you on your way, so visit our page to stock up on the best seeds you can get.

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