miracle grow marijuana

Top 7 Most Common Growing “Myths”

by Sirius Fourside

Some guy on an internet forum showed me a super-secret trick that he learned from his neighbor’s cousin who is a master grower…

All you have to do is crumble 7 goldfish crackers per gallon of water into your nutrients every other feeding. The crackers use a wheat compound that’s impossible to obtain for non-commercial use, and this compound contains enzymes that make buds grow 40% larger!

Does that sound crazy? Good! Because it IS crazy!

One of the downsides to an invention as incredible as the internet is that crazy, nonsensical “tips” can easily be spread to thousands of new growers without any fact-checking. Unfortunately, many misleading tips just as crazy as this one not only exist, but are followed by inexperienced new growers!

That’s why today, we’re showing you the 7 myths we hear most commonly, and our verdict on their usefulness. Protect yourself against faux-info!

Myth #1 “You can tell the sex of your plant by looking at the seeds.”

Since only female cannabis plants produce buds, most growers are very interested in knowing the gender of their plants! It would be incredibly convenient if there was a way to look at cannabis seeds and be able to definitively identify the gender. As appealing as that idea is, there just isn’t a consistent way to visually identify the sex of cannabis seeds. Despite that fact, there is this persistent diagram that has been circulating the internet since at least 2008 and we get a few questions about it every year even though it’s simply not true.

This is Not an Effective Way to Identify Plant Gender! Growers Have Asked Us Regularly About This Misleading Diagram Since At Least 2008. Let’s Put This Myth to Rest!

The main idea behind the “technique” is to look at the seed and identify characteristics that show the seed is female. However, it’s important to note that actual cannabis seeds don’t have “depressions” in the same place as the seeds in the picture. In fact, the seeds in that picture aren’t even cannabis seeds!

Cannabis seeds don’t actually attach to the plant at the place shown in the diagram. Compare the illustrations to real cannabis seeds below.

Despite the fact that the seeds in the picture clearly are not cannabis seeds, we’ve still had growers vouch for this image. I talked to one grower who told me they use this “method” on a regular basis, and he claimed that it works better than random guessing once you get some experience. But unfortunately, even he said the method has up to 70% accuracy in the best-case scenario. Even if his story is true, those aren’t good odds! That means about 1/3 of “female” seeds end up being male. It also creates false negatives, which means that about 1/3 of the “male” seeds you’re throwing away are actually female…and those best-case-scenario numbers!

The feminized seeds in the picture below all grew into female plants, but not one of them fits the description of a “female” seed from the diagram.

Did you know? The “tiger stripes” on cannabis seeds are actually part of a dark brown coating that can be easily rubbed off with your fingers. Seeds are tan underneath.

Even if the technique from the diagram performed better than 50/50 guessing (it doesn’t really seem to), it’s definitely not a way to ensure that all plants you grow are going to be female. As far as we know, it’s currently impossible to determine plant gender purely from just looking at seeds.

The good news is, you can determine the sex of your plants by looking at their pre-flowers, which appear as early as 3 weeks from germination. They will have appeared on just about all plants by the time they’re 6 weeks old, even if the plant is still in the vegetative stage! You can also start with feminized seeds from a reputable breeder, which guarantees that 99.9% of plants end up being female.

Due to recent advances in available technology, you can also test young cannabis seedlings for gender (when they’re as young as 3 weeks old). You take a small piece of a leaf and send it in to a lab for identification. Learn How to Use Genetic Testing to Determine Gender of 3 Week Seedlings

Check out our full tutorial on male vs female cannabis plants:

Myth #2 “You should urinate on your cannabis plants to give them extra nutrients.”

This myth isn’t as popular as it used to be, but it’s just too good (sensational) to not mention.

Despite how bad this one sounds, urine does contain some nutrients plants can use, the most notable one being Nitrogen.

With that being said, don’t do this. There are many cheap, effective, and readily available means of giving your plants Nitrogen without involving urine.

A real cannabis nutrient system allows you to control exactly how much Nitrogen you’re giving your plant, so you give the right amount of nutrients at the right stage of life. More Nitrogen isn’t always better, especially in the flowering stage.

Additionally, the amount of Nitrogen contained in urine changes depending on several factors and is extremely difficult to measure (who would want to anyway?). Peeing on plants may give them nutrient burn or nitrogen toxicity, and sometimes may suffer from other nutrient deficiencies at the same time due to nutrient lock-out.

I don’t know about you, but nutrient burn due to urine seems much worse (psychologically) than the standard variety of nutrient burn!

Myth #3 “You can grow weed in a [Insert Garden Gimmick].”

Many growers write into to ask if growing weed in various garden gimmicks will actually work.

One common one is the Aerogarden. There are even growers who have written cannabis tutorials for it, and some swear by it as a cannabis growing method!

Weed can be successfully grown in an Aerogarden, that has already been established. But the reason the Aerogarden makes this list is due to the impracticality of growing weed in it.

An Aerogarden does save you from having to buy growing lights and a DWC (hydroponic) kit. But a better hydro kit would be cheaper, and the light provided isn’t strong enough to produce significant yields in the flowering stage. The lights are also way too close to the tops of plants, and the roots will overgrow the too-small reservoir in just a few weeks.

Another hydroponic option that’s good for some plants and herbs but bad for cannabis is NFT (Nutrient Film Technique). These work best for small plants like lettuce. With cannabis, the plants at the bottom of the system often get nutrient deficiencies because plant roots are constricted and only get nutrient water after it’s been used by several other plants. It’s also common for plants to fall over and not be able to support their own weight.

NFT Systems Don’t Work Well for Growing Cannabis

There are lots of better (and cheaper) ways to grow hydroponically that are much better suited to growing cannabis! Learn which methods are great for growing hydroponic cannabis

It’s a good idea to avoid most items that are intended for non-cannabis plants. For example, the Topsy Turvy is okay for tomatoes but causes upside-down cannabis plants to grow all the way around the outside to produce buds. Having to do that extra work may reduce overall yields compared to letting the plant grow out the top of a container.

The Topsy Turvy is designed for plants with hanging fruit, like tomatoes. It is not suitable for growing cannabis plants. Cannabis plants don’t hang. Instead, they will constantly try to grow upward against gravity.

If the garden gimmick is made for herbs or other non-cannabis plants, it often isn’t a great choice for cannabis! Before you invest your time or money in a particular product, take a moment to search Google or check online and see what results other growers are getting!

Myth #4 “Male plants should be harvested for THC.”

Let’s just start with this: do not keep male plants unless your goal is to have them pollinate your female plants. Pollination results in seedy buds, lowered yields, and in bad cases, the potency is also affected.

It’s very easy for pollen to circulate your grow room and get on your buds. If growing outdoors, your pollen might even float through the wind and pollinate another grower’s plants!

If you’re looking to make seeds at home, consider skipping male plants and check out our article on making your own feminized seeds using two female marijuana plants!

But if you have just one plant, and if it turns out being male, you may want to extract any THC contained inside if you’re not looking to collect its pollen.

So, do male plants actually contain any THC?

The answer is that some male cannabis plants do produce some THC, albeit in much smaller amounts than female plants.

Male plants don’t grow THC-filled buds, and simply smoking the pollen sacs or leaves won’t have much effect because overall THC levels are low. Although there may be some THC in the plant tissue, the main way to get THC from a male plant is to extract trichomes that grow on the leaves and sides of pollen sacs.

Male plants typically don’t produce many (if any) trichomes, and contain only small amounts of THC.

Unfortunately, although there are some exceptions with certain strains, most male plants don’t produce a large number of trichomes. This makes it extremely difficult to harvest significant amounts of THC.

I highly recommend hobbyist growers who are just looking for bud start with feminized seeds so they don’t have to deal with male plants!

Myth #5 “More Nutrients = Faster Growth”

Cannabis plants need much higher amounts of nutrients than typical houseplants. If they don’t get enough nutrients, they will appear pale and grow slowly, often with deficiencies. Undernourished plants won’t produce a whole lot of bud. It can seem like more nutrients is always better, but unfortunately, it can be easy to go overboard.

The main sign of using too many nutrients is nutrient burn. I’ve heard several growers suggest that you should use as many nutrients as your plant can possibly take, right up until it gets nutrient burn, and to stick to that level.

I personally recommend avoiding nutrient burn if possible. In my experience, plants that are “pushed to the limit” with nutrients don’t seem to grow faster than plants given a standard amount of nutrients.

You want your plant to be green and healthy, but dark green leaves and burnt tips are signs your plant is getting more nutrients than it can use.

Giving the plant time with lower levels of nutrients can help use up all the extra nutrients in the leaves, and the color will slowly return to normal (though burnt tips never recover).

In the later part of the flowering stage, too-high levels of nutrients may add a ‘chemically’ taste to your buds, so it’s especially important to be careful. Nutrient toxicities are most common with mineral (non-organic) sources of nutrients because they are quickly absorbed by the roots regardless of whether the plant needs more.

Flushing during the last week or two is recommended to help improve the taste and smell. Using a flushing agent (sometimes called “Clearing” or “Salt Leaching” solutions) can also help the flushing process, though they can’t perform miracles.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure! Even Flushing Agents Can Only Do So Much. Don’t Over-Feed Your Plants During the Flowering Stage!

Myth #6 “More Nutrients = Faster Growth”

Many of us have grown up seeing Miracle-Gro being used in our homes, so we know that it works for ‘regular houseplants’. Cannabis is just a tough weed, so Miracle-Gro should be great for it, right?

The issue with the standard Miracle-Gro nutrient formula is that it’s one formula for the entirety of the plant’s life cycle. Even if Miracle-Gro soil is okay for the beginning of your plant’s life, it may not be as good in the flowering stage. The ratio of nutrients your plants need changes drastically between seedling and full flower, and marijuana needs a nutrient system to accommodate for those changing nutrient needs.

The original soil blend by Miracle-Gro has poor drainage and its slow-release Nitrogen can harm your cannabis plants and reduce yields in the flowering stage.

Many growers find it has poor drainage and water-holding capability compared to better soil or coco coir. But the main problem is that the standard Miracle-Gro soil contains “time-released” nutrients which contain high levels of Nitrogen. As a result, you may notice that your leaves in the flowering stage unexpectedly get nutrient burn or nitrogen toxicities out of nowhere, and can lead to an unpleasant or chemical taste in your buds. The low levels of Potassium and Phosphorus means your buds may not grow as big as they could have.

Use Good Soil for the Healthiest Cannabis Plants!

Myth #7 “Adding juice/food to plants before harvest increases taste/potency/flavor.”

Here’s a brief list of things people have been told to feed their cannabis to improve its taste/flavor/potency:

  • Orange Juice
  • Apple Juice
  • Urine (Urine? Again?)
  • Molasses diluted with water
  • Sugar-water
  • Egg whites diluted with water
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Kool-Aid powder
  • My tears

The only one of these that actually has any tested effect is…molasses! And even molasses is only used in tiny amounts right before flowering.

People love being able to do something productive for their plants while they’re growing and what’s better than giving them a treat like you’d give a pet?

Frustratingly, the best thing you can do during those times is to check on your plants and be patient if they’re doing fine. Adding any of the things listed above – except molasses – can cause your plant harm.

However, there are plenty of steps a grower can take to improve the taste/smell, density, number of trichomes and yields of their home-grown cannabis buds.

Bonus Myths:

Here are a few other myths we’ve heard that aren’t as fun and/or popular, but we thought were worth pointing out:

  1. Planting two seeds in the same hole makes a new strain. This one isn’t insanely popular, but it made me laugh so hard I had to include it! I guess the logic is that you have a mommy seed and a daddy seed and they make a new mixed plant? It’s definitely a myth and it might be my new favorite! No, it’s definitely my new favorite!
  2. Defoliation is Bad! These days, it’s pretty much common knowledge amongst growers that defoliation is a great tool for increasing yields, lowering humidity, and halting the “flowering stretch”. However, when Nebula and I were first starting out, we got a lot of flack (and quite a few angry emails) about how defoliation doesn’t work. Many people used the argument that “a cannabis plant’s leaves are like solar panels”, so you shouldn’t remove them.

It’s helpful to remember that cannabis plants didn’t evolve to grow indoors, so we make adjustments to accommodate their natural behavior. For example, cannabis plants grow in a Christmas-tree shape in nature, so we top them to make them have a falt canopy when growing indoors. Similarly, defoliation helps to deal with the fact that a healthy cannabis plant simply grows more foliage than needed for an indoor environment such as a grow tent.

  • “Buds are more potent when given an extended dark cycle right before harvest” (unconfirmed). Some growers will put their plants in the dark for 2-3 days right before harvest in order to increase the number of trichomes and overall potency of their buds. The idea is to stress the plant in a good way. Sounds plausible, but so far there is not a lot of evidence that this is effective. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, just that it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference compared to other things that increase potency or the number of trichomes. The one downside to the technique is that some plants respond poorly, and leaves may start turning yellow quickly. This isn’t a big deal on a green, healthy plant. But if the plant is already sickly, the yellowing can sometimes spread to the sugar leaves on the buds, and you may see a little bit of yellow on your buds even after trimming.
  • The yellow spots on the top bud are the result of yellow sugar leaves that are still somewhat visible after the bud was trimmed. Luckily, this is mostly a cosmetic problem, and the buds will still be a good smoke! The bud below had green sugar leaves until harvest.

    1. “The drying and curing process does not have a huge effect on bud quality.” Not only is the dry/cure process important, but it may also account for up to 50% of your final bud quality by improving smell, taste, and potency. Buds that are improperly dried and cured may cause headaches, cause “speedy” effects, smell like hay or have no smell and have reduced potency. Always dry and cure your buds!
    2. “You should use seeds from hermaphrodite plants.” While hermaphrodite plants can produce self-pollinated seeds, these seeds are likely to end up being hermies just like their parent, which means you’ll often end up with seeded buds once again. That being said, sometimes it’s your only choice, and with self-pollinated seeds you know that all the seeds will end up (mostly) female. Learn more about feminized seeds and hermies.
    3. Blowing cannabis smoke at plants helps them to grow faster. I would love to live in a world where this is the case, but in our world, it’s actually worse for them. Smoke is not good for your plants, but it won’t immediately kill them, either.
    4. Crushed up birth control pills will force a plant to be female. If you’ve never heard this, it probably sounds crazy! I’m not sure how this myth got started, but it’s just plain not true. Adding crushed up birth control pills to your plant’s water isn’t going to make your cannabis plant female.
    5. You can grow huge plants indoors with barely any electricity. When it comes to growing cannabis, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Whenever you read outrageous claims like “this LED grow light only uses 45W of electricity but produces the same yields as a 600W HID grow light,” you should be cautious. Cannabis plants need a lot of light to produce big yields and so far, there are not a lot of ways to get around that fact. Whether you’re using LED grow lights, HPS or LEC grow lights (the three most efficient types of grow lights for cannabis), your yields are directly proportional to the amount of electricity you put in. How much yields should you expect from different types of grow light?
    6. Cannabis plants grow like a weed, so just stick seeds in dirt. Sure, you can stick some seeds in the ground and wait to see what happens. But if you care about getting sticky, potent bud, you need to care for your plants and ensure they produce to their best. Think of a gardener – they can throw a bunch of seeds in their garden and see how things turn out, but serious gardeners don’t do that. By giving plants exactly what’s needed at the right time, yields and quality get increased 100x. Unless you just happen to live in an area with a perfect environment, perfect weather, and perfect soil, you will greatly improve your results by learning the basics of growing cannabis, and taking time to ensure plants get what they need to produce the best yields possible. That being said, this does not mean that growing cannabis is hard.

  • “You can tell the sex (or the strain) of your plant by the number of leaf points it has.” The explanation I’ve heard behind this one is: “The genes that control sex are linked to the genes that determine the leaf-tip structure. So if you have a plant with leaves that have [X] points, it’s a girl/boy!” In short, this is definitely not true. The number of leaf tips has nothing to do with the sex of the plant. It is related to strain and conditions and varies throughout the plant. The most common number of leaf points is 7, though I’ve seen leaves that have up to 13 points. The number of points is also not unique to any strain. Many different strains produce “many-fingered” leaves. I’ve also seen a plant that put out only 5 points on many of its adult leaves (very unusual) and even a case where the plant mutated to grow just one-point leaves (picture below)!
  • 13 Leaf Points on this Cannabis Leaf, Though Most Leaves on the Plant Had 7 or 9 Points

    This plant mutation caused each leaf to only grow a single point from when the plant was a seedling. This makes cannabis look like a completely different plant! This isn’t a re-vegging plant, this is how this plant naturally grew from seed to harvest.

    If you notice your leaves (which were growing normally) suddenly start growing with a weird number leaf points partway through the flowering stage, that’s a problem. It usually means your plant is re-vegging.

    Re-Vegging Plant – Leaves Start Growing Single Points in the Flowering Stage. Not Good!

    Got any awesome myths that we missed? Let us know by replying to our weekly newsletter!

    Myth: “Bagseed” is a great choice for beginners

    “Bagseed” is a term for random cannabis seeds that you find, for example, in bud you purchase. Some growers get lucky growing bagseed and produce great plants, but a lot of growers will be disappointed with their results from growing bagseed. Especially for beginners, bagseed comes with some downsides what will make things tougher for your first grow.

    Here’s what you need to keep in mind when growing with bagseed…

    • You’ll have no idea how the plant will grow – Will your plant grow short or tall? Fast or slow? High or Low THC? How long will you have to wait before harvest?
    • More likely to produce hermies – Cannabis plants grown properly will not produce buds that contain seeds – that means bagseed is always a mistake on the part of the grower. Often this means that the mother plant was a hermaphrodite, and as you learned earlier, that means your seeds are much more likely to produce hermaphrodite plants – plants that grow both male and female parts – so you’re much more likely to end up with seedy buds and lower yields
    • You don’t know which strain you’re growing – Unless you get genetics directly from the breeder, you can never be sure exactly which strain you’re growing, so you won’t know what to expect
    • You don’t know which strain you’re growing part 2 – Oftentimes the buds produced from bagseed end up nothing like the buds they were found in – this is because the strain has not been stabilized by a breeder to make sure that all seeds produce the same results.
    • Runts and stunted growth – This is the problem I’ve seen some growers have when trying to grow bagseed. I’ve seen seeds that just don’t sprout, stunted plants and sad, spindly buds. Professional cannabis breeders will nurture mother plants and store seeds properly so you get great germination rates. Since bagseed is always produced by mistake, it is highly unlikely the grower took steps to make sure the seeds end up being good to grow.

    Here’s one of my favorite plants; it was a very fun and rewarding grow!

    This plant is about 1.5 months into flowering, with about a month left to go. This strain is stabilized and all seeds consistently grow bushy plants that are easy to train. The potent buds have won several awards and cannabis cups around the world.

    Compare that to a Bagseed plant…

    (That being said, some bagseed plants come out great!)

    Birth control makes female plants? Urine is good for cannabis? You can determine the sex of seeds by sight? Nope! Learn about these (and more) myths inside!