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Understanding Regular, Feminized, and Autoflowering Seeds

What’s the Difference? Understanding Regular, Feminized, and Auto-Flowering Marijuana Seeds


Buying marijuana seeds can seem complicated. There is an almost infinite amount of strains as well as three distinct types of marijuana seeds – regular, feminized, and auto-flowering. Before purchasing marijuana seeds it’s beneficial to understand the differences between the types of seeds, how to know which one will suit your capabilities and goals, and how to manage the specific traits each type presents.

Most beginners are going to choose regular seeds to start out with. These are just standard marijuana seeds taken directly from a plant and are available in just about any strain. Germinating regular seeds leads to the growth of male or female plants, or, in some instances, hermaphrodite plants. Beginners will want to make sure they understand how to tell female and male plants apart, why this is important, and the benefits and detriments of pollination.

Plants Can be Male, Female, or Both (Hermaphroditic)

Marijuana plants are gendered and reproduce through pollination. Unlike many plants that can self-pollinate, marijuana plants need a male and female plant for pollination to occur, unless the plant is a hermaphrodite plant that can self-pollinate. In general, regular marijuana seeds produce about 50% male and 50% female plants. However, in certain situations, a plant can become a hermaphrodite plant. This generally happens if the flowering cycle is overexposed to light beyond harvest time, or when the growing environment is stressful. If there aren’t any male plants to pollinate the female plants during times of stress or light-overexposure, the female plants may end up developing pollen sacs at the end of their flowering phase. This way, the pollen sacs release pollen onto the mature flowers, encouraging seeds to develop in those flowers.

Poor conditions can cause plants to become hermaphrodites. This can happen at any time in the plant’s lifecycle and can happen for a number of different reasons. Common causes of this include extremely bright light, issues with the light and dark cycles, not getting enough water or nutrients, the temperatures being too high for the plant, and problems with the soil’s pH. It can also happen because of poor quality seeds or seeds that have been feminized using rhodelization. It can also happen when plants from feminized seeds are cloned.

How to Tell the Difference Between the Genders

Most growers don’t desire pollination in their marijuana crop because they want to minimize the number of seeds present within the mature flowers. However, if they’ve purchased regular seeds, it’s crucial to identify and cull the male plants before their pollen sacs open and disperse pollen throughout the crop. Male plants can often be identified during the rapid growth stage at the beginning of the plant’s lifecycle. At this point, the male plants will grow much faster, and they’ll produce little pollen sacs where female plants produce small hairs (stigmas) that are meant to catch the pollen. Plus, the male plants will develop pollen sacs approximately one month before their female plant counterparts develop stigmas, staggering the development of reproductive signifiers, thus allowing for timely isolation of the genders.

Male plants tend to grow straighter and won’t grow as many flowers compared to females. While females will have flowers throughout the plant, males’ ‘flowers’ tend to grow near the top and consist of tight green pollen sacs/clusters.

In short, the way to identify males from females is to look for the preflowers that start growing. If there are tiny hairs (stigmas) it’s a female, if there are tiny sacs it’s a male.

Why is Understanding the Genders Important?

There are differences not only between the genders but between what happens if a female plant is pollinated and what happens when it develops unpollinated flowers. When planting outdoors, male plants can pollinate female plants up to a mile away with help from the wind, and it can be a race to identify a plant’s gender before pollination occurs. Those who want to make sure they get the highest yield with higher amounts of THC in the marijuana harvested will want to make sure they can find and remove any male plants.

If the female plant is pollinated, the buds will not contain as much THC as they would if pollination never occurred. Additionally, if the plant is pollinated, it will produce seeds. While it is possible to remove the seeds and still have consumable marijuana, the plants that do have seeds are much lower quality than the ones that do not. Instead, for the highest quality, the best yield, and the largest levels of THC, it’s crucial to remove all male plants as soon as they’re identified.

What are the Benefits of Preventing Pollination?

Preventing pollination is helpful for a few reasons. Female plants that are not pollinated tend to produce marijuana that is far more potent compared to plants that have been pollinated. Additionally, plants that are pollinated are simply not going to use as much energy to create buds. The biological goal of the plant is to ensure survival by creating as many seeds as possible. If the plant isn’t pollinated, it won’t make any seeds, which means the energy used to produce seeds will instead be put towards growing large, resin-rich flowers.

Along with avoiding pollination to ensure the flowers are large, avoiding pollination can also help ensure the flowers develop an abundant supply of phytocannabinoid-rich resin. Seeds will take up valuable real estate within the flowers where resin could be, thus limiting the overall potency.

Another benefit of preventing pollination is the result: flowers without seeds, or sinsemillas. Those who want to use marijuana for recreational or medical uses are not going to want to pick out a bunch of seeds from their dried flower before consuming it. By preventing pollination, growers prevent the propagation of seeds. If a grower wishes to obtain cannabis seeds without the hassles related to cross-pollination, they can visit an online seed bank like i49 Seed Bank.

Are There Benefits to Allowing Pollination?

Most people who opt to grow marijuana are going to be consuming the final product and they likely won’t want to have seeds in the final product. However, are there reasons to allow pollination? If the grower has produced a good harvest and has plenty of marijuana, they may want to let one or two of the male plants remain when they start the next batch. Though the potency and quality from the pollinated female plant won’t be as high, growers will be able to harvest their own seeds to use in the future.

Cannabis plants can have different traits like size, phytocannabinoid profile, lifetime expectancy, terpene profile, and more. If the grower has a plant that is presenting traits more desirable than others in a crop, the grower may opt to pollinate the plant to ensure the desirable traits are reproduced. When they harvest the flowers from the pollinated plant, they can then harvest the seeds as well.

Marijuana seeds need to be stored in a cool, dark place away from all moisture if the intention is to save the seeds for future cultivation. As growers and breeders continue doing this, they can create new strains containing specifically desired traits such as yield size, plant size, terpene profile, and phytocannabinoid profile.

When to Remove Male Marijuana Plants

Even after learning about the potential benefits for seeds, growers often opt to remove male marijuana plants to prevent the production of seedy flowers. Ideally, culling the male plants would be done immediately, though it can be hard to tell the two genders apart until the plants are well into their vegetative phase. Keeping an eye on the plants nodes, looking for signs of pollen sacs (male) or small hairs (female), will help the grower identify the plant’s gender and remove male plants accordingly. The process of identifying a plant’s gender requires vigilance during a specific window of time between the vegetative and flowering phases. Once any males are identified, they can be removed and disposed of or used for another purpose. The following section provides a list of alternative purposes of male cannabis plants.

What to Do with Male Cannabis Plants

Most of the time, beginners will simply toss the male plants to create space for new female plants. If the amount of grow space is limited, tossing male plants is especially common. However, there are other things that can be done with the male plants instead of disposing of them. Some possible options when faced with male cannabis plants are:

  • Make hemp – both male and female plants can be used to make hemp, but male plants are better for it. The hemp that comes from male plants is much softer than the hemp from female plants, so it’s perfect for making blankets as well as other products. Even if the grower can’t use the hemp on their own, it may be possible to sell it to someone who can.
  • Breed new strains – as mentioned, male plants can allow female plants to produce seeds that can be harvested and stored. Combinations of different strains can lead to brand new strains that meet certain recreational or medical goals such as phytocannabinoid profiles. Regular seeds can provide male plants and are therefore required for cross breeding and seed-saving goals.
  • Use them in the garden – marijuana plants can be used as companion plants for many types of flowers and vegetables. As male cannabis plants can pollinate female plants from up to a mile away, care needs to be taken to ensure the male plants won’t pollinate the surrounding female plants. If the female plants are isolated indoors, male plants can be grown outdoors as companion plants for many other types of plants.
  • Juicing– it is possible to juice marijuana fanleaves, though it’s a good idea to avoid the stalks and stems.

Ways to Avoid Having Male Plants

Although male plants do have their place and can be useful in some ways, many growers want to avoid having male plants. If they purchase regular seeds, they will need to make sure they identify any male plants and remove them quickly enough to prevent pollination. If the culling of males isn’t something a person wants to experience, it is possible to purchase feminized seeds that do not produce male plants, or to clone plants without worrying about seeds or germination.

Cloning weed is as easy as cutting off part of the plant, putting it in good soil, and keeping it watered. The cutting will then grow roots and develop into a seedling, and eventually mature into a genetic copy or “clone” of the plant it was cut from. Those who want to clone plants regularly will want to check out the different products available to assist with cloning to see if this can help them grow plants faster or ensure cloning is successful, but cloning is possible without the use of added products.

Feminized Cannabis Seeds and Their Benefits

The best way to avoid male marijuana plants is to purchase feminized seeds. Plants do not create feminized seeds automatically. Seeds that are taken from a standard marijuana plant will always be regular seeds and have the potential to grow male and female plants. To create feminized seeds, the plants need to be specially treated. One of the ways to do this is through rhodelization, though, as mentioned previously, this can lead to hermaphrodite plants. There are now special treatments that can be added during the rhodelization to minimize the potential for a plant to become a hermaphrodite and to ensure all of the plants that grow are female plants.

Feminized seeds are generally a little bit more expensive than regular seeds. However, the benefit is that the plants will all be female, so there’s no need to worry about male plants. Those who are limited to a certain number of plants or who only want to grow a few plants at a time may want to purchase feminized seeds so they can maximize the benefits from each crop.

Even if a grower can have as many plants as they would like, opting for feminized plants means they won’t have to worry about pollination occurring at all and won’t have to worry about inspecting the plants regularly to see if any male plants are mixed in. This means the plants require less attention and will still grow a large amount of marijuana that can be harvested and used. Since the plants will not be pollinated, there’s no need to worry about any seeds in the plants, either. If a grower wishes to obtain seeds, online seed banks offer a wide selection of strains.

Auto-Flowering Marijuana Seeds

Another option for growers is auto-flowering seeds. Auto-flowering seeds are typically feminized. This means that the grower gets the benefits of auto-flowering seeds without having to worry about growing male plants or accidentally pollinating their cannabis crop.

Standard, non-auto-flowering marijuana plants are photosensitive or developmentally photoperiodic. This means that they are sensitive to light and start to flower when the scheduled light to dark ratio is altered. Photoperiod cannabis plants that are grown outdoors will start flowering when exposed to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness, as autumn months provide. Indoors, however, growers must mimic outdoor light patterns by altering the indoor lighting schedule. Mimicking outdoor light means setting timers to expose the plants with 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark per 24-hour period.

Plants grown from auto-flowering seeds, however, are not dependent on changes in light schedules. Instead, they will start flowering with the same light schedule they were exposed to during their vegetative growth. Those who are growing plants outdoors may want to try auto-flowering seeds to ensure the plants will flower as quickly as possible. Those who grow indoors may not need auto-flowering seeds, since they already control the light cycle, but may prefer them to ensure a shorter cycle of growth or to avoid the risks associated to light leaks during critical periods of photoperiodic plant’s growth.

How to Choose the Right Seeds to Buy

The three main types of seeds (regular, feminized, and auto-flowering) all have their advantages, so it can be complex to decide which to grow. Here are a few guidelines for beginning growers to consider as they navigate the pros and cons of growing each type of seed:

  • The availability for a strain – certain strains may only be available in one type. If there are only regular seeds available for a specific strain the grower wants to try, they will need to purchase the regular seeds. This, however, is uncommon as many strains are available in all three types.
  • Whether pollination is desired – growers may want to have their female plants pollinated if they would like to save their own seeds. Though this does have its disadvantages, it can be a great way to create new strains or to collect seeds for future use. When pollination is desired, regular seeds are required.
  • To cut down on the cost of seeds – regular seeds are generally the least expensive, with feminized auto-flowering seeds being the most expensive. Those who want to cut costs may want to purchase regular seeds since they are less expensive. Another option, however, is to purchase feminized seeds to ensure all plants will produce flowers that can be harvested and consumed, meaning less time and money wasted on growing male plants.
  • The desire for male plants – someone who would like to grow their own hemp or attempt juicing marijuana may want to purchase regular seeds so they will get some male plants, because hemp from male plants is softer than hemp from female plants. Since the hemp from male plants is desired, it’s often better to grow male plants if harvesting hemp is the goal.
  • The desire for less work – regular seeds can be less expensive, but they do require more work if the grower wants to avoid pollination. For the least amount of work and to get to the point where the buds can be harvested faster, feminized auto-flowering seeds might be the way to go.
  • How many plants can be grown – some jurisdictions limit the number of cannabis plants permitted to grow in a single home, whether it be indoors or outdoors. Considering the limitations on the number of plants allowed to grow, it’s often best to choose feminized photoperiod or feminized auto-flowering seeds, since they do not produce male plants. This way, the grower doesn’t have to worry about tossing out male plants that have occupied valuable grow space.

Understanding the different types of marijuana seeds is crucial for even beginner growers. Even if you choose to get started with regular seeds, growers will want to understand how to discern between male and female cannabis plant anatomy and how to cull male plants in time to prevent pollination if seed saving is not desired. Experimentation with all types of seeds is possible, but it’s important for growers to be strategic and realistic regarding the limits imposed by local jurisdictions as well as the limits of their current gardening abilities. Once a grower decides whether to work with regular seeds, feminized seeds, or auto-flowering seeds, they may wish to browse the cannabis seed catalogue at to find the right selection for your goals.