Male cannabis plants produce very few cannabinoids, which means growers potentially have to scrap 50% of their crop. For this reason, we have developed feminized seeds. But just what are feminized seeds, and where do they come from? The answer is a remarkable feat of genetics and horticulture. Feminized cannabis seeds revolutionized growing cannabis at home. If feminized seeds are new to you, check out this article for lots of interesting facts. "Hermie" cannabis plants can look like normal female plants at first glance, but they produce pollen that causes seedy buds. Hermies are to be avoided!"
Feminized Cannabis Seeds Explained
L ike many living things, cannabis plants come in two sexes, male and female, which blend their genetics through pollination to produce seeds. These seeds then, have about a 50% chance of inheriting the sex of either parent. However, male cannabis plants produce very few cannabinoids, which faces many growers with the prospect of scrapping about 50% of their crop (unless, perhaps, they’re making their own rope). For this reason, we have developed feminized seeds. But just what are feminized seeds, and where do they come from? The answer is a remarkable feat of genetics and horticulture.
What are Feminized Seeds?
Feminized seeds are cannabis seeds genetically guaranteed to grow into a female plant. Female plants produce far more THC and CBD than their male counterparts, but once a female plant is fertilized, resources and energy are diverted from growing rich, sticky flowers, to growing a healthy crop of seeds instead. Those seeds are, of course, wonderful and necessary, but they may inherit the gender of either parent, and, as we have seen, males are nearly useless for harvesting cannabinoids.
Feminized sees will always guarantee a female plant, ensuring growers a plant that will produce cannabinoids. photo credit
When growing for cannabinoid production, pumping water, fertilizer, and time into your plants only to find half are male can be frustrating to say the least. A single male plant can pollinate an entire grow room, leaving whole crops producing seeds instead of flowers. Additionally, inspecting your plants for male attributes and removing them from the grow room takes time and attention that could otherwise go to treating female plants. For this reason, we have learned how to breed feminized seeds – seeds that we know will grow up to be female, and produce lush flowers rich with therapeutic cannabinoids.
How Feminized Seeds Are Made
Female seeds must come from two female parents, which on the surface sounds impossible. But under extreme circumstances, female cannabis plants can produce their own pollen. So the first step toward feminized seeds is inducing pollen production on a female plant.
The primary method is to douse the flowering sites with a solution of colloidal silver, or less commonly, with gibberellic acid, for about two weeks once the flowering stage has begun.
These chemicals will suppress the hormone ethylene, which causes the plant to produce male characteristics instead, including pollen sacs. And since the plant is still genetically female, the pollen within will carry 99% female genetics (a small margin of mutation is unavoidable). This pollen can then be harvested and applied to a flowering female plant to produce seeds with purely female genetics.
The less common, but more natural, method is called “rodelization,” often favored by organic growers. Near the end of a cannabis plant’s life cycle, unfertilized females will begin to express male pollen production as a final effort to continue their genetic line. This usually occurs after the prescribed time frame for harvesting, but not always. In fact, many growers keep a sharp eye out for these “nanners” – the banana-shaped growths that protrude from flowers – because they are capable of fertilizing other plants as well, thus halting flower production.
There is a debate among growers about the viability of this method because some believe hermaphroditic plants primarily produce hermaphroditic offspring. Others insist that offspring are not more inclined to be hermaphrodites, but rather may be more easily induced to be hermaphrodites, and that hermaphroditism has less to do with genetics than external stressors (high heat, nutrient lock, physical damage, etc.). Regardless, most growers agree that rodelization is less effective and carries a higher risk of accidental pollination. For this reason, it is more often used by more experienced or meticulous growers who want to maintain the organic integrity of the plant.
Feminized seeds have become the industry standard, especially for home growers who do not have the space or resources to scrap half of a crop that turns out to be male. Many sites now default to offering feminized seeds, some growers have undoubtedly planted them without fully understanding the science behind them. And one thing that makes these seeds so popular is that you can, you can grow them without knowing what they are or how they exist, and they will still deliver a lush, low-maintenance cannabis plant.
Interested in growing your own cannabis? Click here to purchase seeds and start your journey.
This is also a great process to practice if you want to take your growing skills to the next level. So next time you find some nanners growing in your bud, don’t panic, but rather appreciate the opportunity that has presented itself, and try breeding your own feminized seeds.
Do you prefer to grow with feminized seeds, or have you ever made you own? Share your experiences in the comments!
Trevor Ross is a writer, medical marijuana patient and cannabis advocate. He holds an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has previously worked as a copywriter, a teacher, a bartender, and followed Seattle sports for SidelineBuzz. Originally from Washington state, you can find him now working in his garden or restoring his house in Scranton, PA, and he can be reached through LinkedIn.
10 Most Interesting Facts About Feminized Cannabis Seeds
Feminized cannabis seeds are taken for granted by some growers, but they are still a source of confusion for others, especially for beginners! Here are 10 interesting facts about these feminized cannabis seeds to share with your friends.
Anybody who has ever used cannabis owes their delight to the female aspect of the plant. This is because female cannabis plants contain greater concentrations of the much-loved cannabinoid, THC. For this reason, growers separate male and female cannabis plants to protect the females from pollination. Feminized seeds remove the need for this kind of “sorting”, as plants are basically guaranteed to be female.
- Creating feminized versions of plant seeds did not originate with cannabis, but was a technique used in agriculture for many years before being successfully adapted for cannabis in the 1980s.
- There are several different methods of creating feminized cannabis seeds, but they all rely on stressing a female plant until it becomes hermaphroditic and produces pollen, which is then used to fertilize another female plant.
- When feminized cannabis seeds were first released, there were concerns from some growers that the plants they produced would be unstable hermaphrodites. These fears proved mostly groundless, and as feminization techniques continue to improve, this problem now rarely occurs.
- Feminized cannabis seeds produce feminized, not female, plants, according to the proper scientific definitions. However they are still sometimes referred to as ‘female seeds’. As all the plants they produce should grow and flower like females, it is easy to see how the two names are used interchangeably.
- When feminized cannabis seeds were first introduced for sale, they were more expensive – sometimes much more so – than regular cannabis seeds. Fortunately, nowadays there are many different varieties of good quality, very affordable feminized cannabis seeds available, giving growers a wide range of choice for their money.
- Feminized cannabis seeds grow under the same conditions as regular cannabis seeds and require no special additional nutrients, techniques or equipment.
- The storage conditions required for feminized cannabis seeds are exactly the same as those for regular seeds. They should be kept perfectly dry, at a temperature of between 5 and 7 degrees Celsius, and in the dark. The door of a refrigerator is usually an ideal place.
- Feminized cannabis seeds have advantages for pretty much all growers, but especially for people growing their own medicinal cannabis as they may have less time and energy to spend checking for and weeding out male plants when they begin to appear, as is necessary with regular cannabis seeds.
- There is a misconception about feminized cannabis seeds, namely that they are genetically engineered. Genetic modification describes selective breeding processes that could also occur naturally – Skunk #1 and all other cannabis hybrids could be correctly called ‘genetically modified’. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, is when the DNA of one species is directly infused with the DNA of another – tomatoes with fish genes, for example.
- Sensi Seeds has an ever-growing selection of feminized seeds, in response to many requests from our fans for feminized versions of our most popular and award-winning strains. For some of the most affordable and high quality feminized seeds available online, you can also explore the selection from White Label.
Still curious about feminized cannabis seeds after reading this top 10 list of interesting facts? Great – that’s exactly what we were hoping would happen! There’s a lot more to know about feminized seeds and how they are used to minimise intersexuality. So if your curiosity is piqued, keep reading for some more in-depth information.
Feminized seeds – Breeding to minimise intersexuality
When you purchase a regular cannabis seed, there is a 50/50 chance that the plant will grow to be female. However, under certain stressful conditions, even a female plant can mature and develop intersexual tendencies.
In fact, this forms the basic principle of how feminized seeds were developed. But mitigating these intersexual tendencies is also the objective of developing stable feminized seeds. Sensi Seeds has been perfecting the process of feminized breeding for years now, all so that home growers can minimize the chance of intersexuality in their plants.
Unlike more complex organisms, cannabis is not firmly one sex or the other. It’s a very unusual species in that it is an annual plant that is also dioecious (producing separate male and female flowers on different plants). However, every cannabis plant has the ability to produce flowers of the opposite sex under certain conditions. It’s a survival mechanism for the species, allowing cannabis to succeed and reproduce while being both annual and dioecious.
Some plants become intersexual quite easily, in response to stress in the growing environment such as temperature fluctuations, light cycle irregularity, physical damage, etc. This is a survival response. The plant detects that growing conditions are not favourable, which means that its chances of reproduction are lower. Poor conditions mean that a plant is less likely to survive the full season, and also that there’s less chance a plant of the opposite sex is close enough to cross-pollinate.
In these conditions, some female plants will grow staminate (male) flowers in order to produce their own pollen. They could then fertilise their own pistillate (female) flowers and produce seeds which will grow again the following season. Male plants will sometimes grow pistillate flowers, but this is less common.
10 Interesting Facts About Cannabis Seeds
Old and new methods for breeding feminized seeds
When feminized seeds were first being developed, breeders used two female plants to cultivate feminized seeds. One was identified as having hermaphrodite tendencies (prone to producing male flowers when stressed), while the other did not have this tendency. Light cycle irregularity and pruning were used to stress the intersexually-prone plant into producing male flowers. The pollen from this plant was then used to pollinate the other female plant.
There was a costly disadvantage to this method. As the “pollen donor” was a plant with strong intersexual tendencies, there was a very high likelihood that this tendency was passed on to the subsequent seed.
By the time Sensi Seeds and White Label decided to offer feminized seeds, the process was already infinitely better. Using different techniques, female plants with a very minor tendency to turn intersexual were forced to produce male flowers. This meant that their offspring had no more tendency than a normal female cannabis plant to turn intersexual.
For this technique, there was no need for a female plant that had a strong intersexual tendency, unlike earlier, developing methods. Therefore, the possibility that a plant grown from a feminized exhibits intersexual traits was drastically reduced. This is how the feminized seeds offered by Sensi Seeds and White Label are produced.
In short, intersexuality is a fundamental part of the cannabis genome. Each individual plant simply has a greater or lesser tendency to turn hermaphrodite in response to different conditions. There is unfortunately no way of predicting a plant’s predisposition to hermaphroditism. With that being said, feminized seeds are no more likely to be hermaphrodites than any other seed, thanks to new techniques and technologies.
Laws and regulations regarding cannabis cultivation differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.
Do Feminized Cannabis Seeds Make Hermies?
What Are Feminized Cannabis Seeds? These seeds all grow up to be female plants. That means every plant produces buds. With “regular” or unfeminized seeds, about half the plants will turn out to be male, which don’t produce buds. They can also pollinate your female plants (causing seedy buds). Therefore most growers will remove male plants from the grow room as soon as they’re identified. Learn more about male vs female plants. Feminized seeds let you plan your grow more effectively because you don’t have to throw half the plants away once they start flowering.
Every plant grown from feminized seeds will produce the buds we know and love. This plant was grown from feminized Swiss Cheese seeds.
What Are Hermies? “Hermie” is short for “hermaphrodite.” Hermie cannabis plants usually look like normal female plants for the most part, but they also grow some male parts that produce pollen. This causes seedy buds just like pollen from male plants. Hermies are to be avoided! Read the full tutorial on hermies.
It’s no good if your “female” plants start growing male flowers or parts of male flowers. That can cause seedy buds just like a male plant!
This bud got completely seeded due to a hermie in the grow space. Notice the lumpy round bits. Those are seeds forming.
What’s the matter with a few seeds?
Cannabis growers are trying to grow sinsemilla (seedless buds). A few seeds won’t hurt anything. But if you have very seedy buds, it significantly lowers your yields because plants are putting all their energy into making seeds. The buds also tend to be less potent if they are full of seeds. Seeds are not the end of the world, but it’s good to avoid if possible.
“Sinsemilla” means “no seeds.” Sinsemilla is the highest quality and most potent of all buds
Since most growers are trying to grow sinsemilla, having only 100% female plants in the flowering grow room is crucial to prevent pollination.
Feminized cannabis seeds can be a blessing for small-scale growers. While male plants produce pollen sacs, feminized seeds ensure all your plants will end up being bud-bearing females (instead of growing half male and half female plants like with regular seeds).
If you don’t have room for extra plants, feminized seeds can make planning your grow a lot easier!
Good feminized seeds should produce only 100% female plants, with no hermies or male plants. So starting with feminized cannabis seeds lets you make the most efficient use of your grow space. You don’t have to worry about identifying male plants and throwing them away before they pollinate your female plants. With good feminized seeds, you know that if you’re growing 10 plants, all 10 of them will make buds, and that makes it easier to plan out your grow ahead of time.
With all these bonuses, why would any small-scale grower use any other type of seeds?
Pros of Feminized Cannabis Seeds
All plants produce buds
You don’t have to throw away half your plants after nurturing them for weeks
You don’t have to worry about your buds getting pollinated, causing seedy buds, reduced bud quality and lower yields
But is there a dark side to feminized cannabis seeds?
One of the biggest worries growers have about feminized seeds is that they will produce hermies instead of 100% female plants as advertised.
This hermie is growing both male and female flowers. Can this be caused by feminized seeds?
Unfortunately, hermies can be a lot easier to miss than a male plant since it may just be a small part of the plant that’s affected. A male plant makes itself known at the beginning of the flowering stage, but a hermie plant may grow only buds except for just one or two tiny pollen sacs. A few yellow hermie bananas hidden in the buds can also produce pollen. Any type of male flower part that grows in your garden can add seeds to your buds, and hermies are some of the worst offenders.
This grower didn’t notice that the buds had been seeded until harvest. As he was trimming, he noticed seeds popping out. Since there were no male plants, chances are this was caused by an unnoticed hermie somewhere in the grow space.
Is it True that Feminized Seeds Sometimes Cause Hermies? Yes!
Many growers believe that feminized seeds can cause hermies, and there is some truth to that. In order to create a feminized seed, one of the parent female plants had to be forced in some way to produce pollen.
That pollen is used to pollinate another female plant, and the offspring of those two plants will all be female since both of the parents were female. That’s how you get feminized cannabis seeds. But that also means every time you have a feminized seed, that seed had a plant that produced male flowers in its recent genetic history.
There are different ways to feminize seeds, but only some methods produce seeds that turn hermie on you.
It’s important to understand that hermies can happen a couple of different ways. And the different types of hermies affect what genes are being passed on to the seeds.
This swollen calyx has a seed developing inside
What Causes Hermies?
Hermies can be caused by many things, including…
bad genetics – the plant comes from a line of plants that naturally create hermies for no reason, even in good growing conditions
high stress – high temperatures, light leaks, inconsistent light schedules, as well as other types of major stress can cause a healthy plant to hermie, though some plants/strains are more susceptible than others
letting buds over-mature – this is also known as “rodelization;” basically when the plant’s buds have gone past maturity without being pollinated (if the grower waits way too long to harvest), a female plant may make male pollen within its buds as a last ditch effort to pollinate itself and make seeds for the next generation
chemical stimulation – by exposing a female plant to certain substances like colloidal silver or gibberellic acid during the early parts of the flowering stage, you can force any female plant to create pollen. This is how seedbanks get female pollen to produce feminized seeds.
Seeds created from “female” pollen will turn out being female (or at least as female as the parents).
The pollen from a hermie plant makes feminized seeds
The pollen sacs on this masculinized female plant have opened and pollen has spilled onto the leaf below
Another type of hermie: a yellow “banana” can appear in your buds and make pollen. This male flower part would normally be inside a pollen sac. When it’s in the open like this, it becomes a little pollen generator.
Feminized seeds are susceptible to becoming hermies themselves when exposed to the same conditions as their female “father” who produced the pollen. But since any plant can be chemically induced to produce pollen, it doesn’t mean that the ability to hermie in a natural environment is passed on to the seeds.
So only some feminized seeds come from parents with bad genetics, and that’s what’s the grower cares about most.
The bagseed gamble… When you find seeds in your buds, that usually means that the buds were pollinated by accident. Seeds that were accidentally created are suspect. It could be that a stray male plant caused them, which means there were no hermies and you will get about half male and half female plants. But accidental seeds could also be the result of herming by an indiscriminate grower, and that means you have feminized seeds, sort of. Some of them may produce pollen on you just like their parents. Growing with bagseed is a big gamble… you never know what you’re going to get.
Are your cannabis bagseeds viable? Viable, good seeds usually appear either dark and striped or solid gray/beige.
If a seed is pure white it usually means it’s underdeveloped and won’t sprout. But it can sometimes be hard to tell. In the end, if a seed sprouts and grows it’s a viable seed! I’ve had very pale, flimsy seeds sprout into gorgeous fast-growing plants, so if you’re not sure the best thing to do is try to germinate it!
Seed Banks & Breeders
Commercial breeders and seed banks use chemical stimulation to create feminized seeds. What that means is they put specific compounds on developing female plants to force them to produce pollen. You can actually do this yourself at home.
This technique works on nearly any female plant, including plants that would never hermie naturally. So it can be used to take two plants with great genetics to produce female seeds. But the same process will also work incredibly well on plants that do hermie easily all on their own. That means it’s up to the breeder to test and make sure that they have a solid plant with unbeatable genetics before using the feminization technique.
The pollen that results from chemical stimulation is used to pollinate another female plant and make feminized seeds. If the parent plants would never hermie without chemical stimulation, then you have created feminized seeds that won’t ever make pollen in your grow room.
But if one of the parent plants was chosen because it does hermie easily, you’ll end up with seeds that likely will herm. The breeder might not have done any testing on the parents or the resulting offspring to even know.
Without testing, a breeder can’t tell whether they’ve created quality feminized seeds
Choosing the Right Cannabis Breeder
Unfortunately, some cannabis seed breeders are more trustworthy than others. The great ones have created stabilized strains that have been bred over several generations to produce a consistent product without any problems with plant sex.
Less scrupulous breeders might breed two random female plants together and sell the resulting seeds as a new strain without any testing. In this second case, you don’t know what to expect, and neither does the breeder.
If the breeder hasn’t tested their strains extensively in many situations, they won’t know whether their seeds tend to hermie or not. If they have carelessly bred plants that have a tendency to herm, then it’s really likely that at least some of the resulting seeds will have the same problem.
Breeder choice is important!
I have to admit I may be biased towards feminized seeds. I’ve grown almost exclusively with feminized seeds over the last decade. It has made my life so much easier! I only purchase seeds from breeders that I trust and all the resulting seeds have been bud-bearing females. I haven’t had any real problems with hermies.
On the flip side, I’ve heard of growers buying feminized seeds from untrustworthy breeders and having a big portion of their seeds turn male or become hermies even in perfect growing conditions. So there is truth to the fact that you can run into hermie problems with feminized seeds.
Yet there are good and bad breeders out there, and with good breeders, you have a very low chance of running into cannabis sex problems.
So if you do choose to purchase feminized seeds (or any seeds really), please make sure you get them from a trusted breeder!
Conclusion: Feminized seeds from a trustworthy breeder have a low chance of producing hermies, but the odds are much worse with feminized seeds from an untrustworthy source
The truth is it takes a hermie of some sort to create feminized seeds. That means that you always run the risk of running into hermies when growing feminized seeds… yet that is true for non-feminized cannabis seeds, too! Lots of regular seeds produce hermies.
What’s most important, whether you get feminized seeds or not, is to get your seeds from a breeder who has a reputation for producing quality genetics. That is the best thing you can do for any strain to ensure a smooth grow. With a great breeder, you have a very low risk of running into any sex or gender problems.
I personally prefer feminized seeds, and that’s the only type of seed I grow. It makes it easier for me in my limited grow space. I haven’t run into any significant problems with hermies, so I’m satisfied with growing only bud-bearing plants.
Yet a lot of growers grow with regular seeds because they’re easier to breed and produce at home. Many growers have created a system for weeding out male plants that is more convenient for them than using feminized seeds.
In the end, when it comes to feminized cannabis seeds you need to decide whether the small chance for hermies is worth the convenience of all-female plants. It’s up to you to figure out what’s best for your needs!