Most experienced growers have already faced the problem of hermaphroditism among female cannabis flowers, and it is exactly the reason why almost every article about growing pot tells you not to stress the plants.
So, what is so dangerous about this phenomena, and what is it all about?
Usually, male cannabis plants produce pollen sacks while females form only pistils and buds. Hermaphrodite cannabis plants have both male and female flowers in different proportions. The main danger of missing a hermaphrodite plant in your garden is the same as having a male one: it will fertilize the flowers and seriously reduce the quality and quantity of the whole harvest.
The main difficulty is that this feature is natural, and you can never be 100% guaranteed that your plants will not show any signs of hermaphroditism. Some strains are more sensitive to this phenomena than others. For instance, Thai sativa lineage is known to have a high percentage of hermaphrodite plants. This is why it is so important to study the properties of the strain you chose for your growing project and read the reviews of other cultivators. If you are a newbie grower, it is better to start with a strain that has little chances to provide you with such a headache.
However, regardless of the genetics of the strain, hermaphroditism can also be caused by the environment. Stress of any origin can make your female marijuana plant form male flowers. It is a natural way for cannabis to adapt to stressful conditions. It creates male clusters (also known as “bananas”), they pollinate female flowers, and it leads to the shortening of the flowering period.
In wild nature, it helps cannabis plants survive in the changing weather. However, when you grow weed indoors, the source of stress for a plant can be pretty much anything. Among the most frequent reasons of hermaphroditism are:
You may happen to find seeds while harvesting. If you know for sure that there were no male weed plants anywhere nearby, it means that one or several plants turned hermaphrodite. Often, a really small male cluster can pollinate all the plants around within a meter or two in your garden and make them focus all their energy on forming seeds instead of producing more buds.
For this reason, carefully check every single plant after you switch the light regime to the 12/12 mode. You can easily spot male flowers as they have a yellow color and banana shape.
And of course, do not forget to check your garden for the most common pests and diseases to spot them on time and avoid additional stress for your plants.
Once you find a hermaphrodite marijuana plant in your garden, the best option is to eliminate it immediately. It is especially essential for the situations when the plants have both male and female buds from the very beginning of flowering. In most cases, it means that it will be impossible to detect which parts of the buds are male, and the risk of pollinating the entire crop is too high.
Another story is when you find a hermaphrodite at full flowering. If there are just a few male flowers, then you can remove all of them by hand. First, spray water on the flowers (it will sterilize the pollen) and carefully cut off all the male clusters with sterilized tweezers. This task requires lots of patience and determination. It may save your plant, but, at the same time, the risk of spoiling your crop remains significant.
If there are too many male flowers, you had better eliminate the whole plant from the growing space before the pollen is ripe. However, if your plant turns into a hermaphrodite by the end of flowering, you have another option: harvest this plant as usual but earlier than others. This way, you will prevent pollen from spreading on the neighboring plants and still manage to save most of your marijuana.
First of all, carefully choose the strain. Some growers believe that feminized seeds guarantee that no male clusters will appear on their plants. In fact, feminized cannabis is more sensitive to this phenomena than regular seeds, so you should be careful with any strain your choose.
In most cases, carefully reading the advice of seed banks and other growers is more than enough to have the general picture of what difficulties you may face while growing your strain. If you do not have much experience with growing cannabis yet, it is better to avoid the strains that can potentially turn into hermaphrodites or at least monitor them much more meticulously than others.
This feature is inheritable, so if you decide to clone your plant that has already shown hermaphrodite properties and “give it another chance,” the new plant may have the same traits.
Actually, if you buy seeds from a trusted seed bank, the chances to get a problematic strain are quite low. If there are too many complaints about the hermaphroditism of a certain strain, seed banks usually withdraw it from their stock.
But the best way to avoid hermaphrodite plants is to prevent any kind of stress. It is especially important for the plants in their flowering period. Perform all the topping, staking, and pruning manipulations during the vegetative period, before the buds start developing. Do not turn on the lights during the “night mode.” Moreover, try to maintain favorable environmental conditions: keep the temperature around 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit/18-30 degrees Celsius, minimize disturbance, and ensure the light is at the right distance from the plants (remember that cannabis can sometimes double in height during the flowering period).
And of course, the most important thing that you should do during the flowering period is check the trichomes regularly so that you do not omit any male clusters and do not miss the harvest deadline.