How to Grow Marijuana with Feminized Cannabis Seeds
What are Feminized Seeds?
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Spending good money on marijuana seeds, lovingly tending to them and going to great lengths to keep them happy, only to have them produce male plants, can be a heartbreaker. For those who want to stack the odds of getting female plants in their favour, feminized cannabis seeds are widely available on the market and are almost guaranteed to produce female plants. Most feminized seeds will come with a stated success rate, generally somewhere from 95% up to 100%. Feminized seeds are the offspring of pollen from hermaphroditic (hermy) plants.
What are Hermaphroditic Cannabis Plants?
As many unhappy growers know, when cannabis plants become stressed they can become hermaphroditic. This means that a plant will exhibit both male and female characteristics, producing pollen sacs, often at isolated points on the plant, as well as female seed bearing flowers.
The ability to become hermaphroditic is an evolutionary emergency strategy on the part of the cannabis plant. If the plants environment changes, for example if the plant experiences extreme weather conditions like flood or drought, it is genetically programmed to become a hermaphrodite. This allows the cannabis plant to self-pollinate, speeding up the process of seed creation and giving the plant a chance to reproduce before the environment becomes too inhospitable.
Stresses in the grow room can mimic these environmental changes. Things such as too much heat, lack of water, interrupted dark cycle, and others can cause a plant to hermy.
The pollen from hermaphroditic plants, when used to fertilize female plants, is much more likely to produce female offspring. It is the pollen that is feminized in the plant rather than the seeds. This trait has been used by cannabis growers to produce feminized seeds. As technology has advanced over the years, through the process of trial and error, the process has become more and more successful.
How are Feminized Seeds Made?
There are several ways of producing feminized seeds. Some organic growers and many keen home growers still deliberately stress their cannabis plants, causing them to hermy. By collecting the pollen from these plants it is then possible to fertilize a female plant (or many) to create feminized seeds.
Most large scale and commercial operations use chemicals to produce feminized seeds. There are two main chemicals used. Gibberellic acid is generally considered the most effective but colloidal silver is cheaper and more readily available, and consequently more frequently used. There are many internet sites telling you how to make your own colloidal silver.
When the process is carried out, rather than hermy the whole plant, the chemical is applied at points on the plant’s branches, causing stress sites which will then produce male pollen sacs. As with shock methods, the pollen is then collected and used to fertilise other female plants.
Another method of feminizing seeds is known as rodelization. This method relies on the principle that some buds, if left unfertilised and uncut beyond the time that you would normally harvest them, tend to make a last ditch effort to self pollinate by producing tiny male flowers just before they die. Some growers use this process to organically produce feminized seeds. Although this process alone is not as effective or reliable as the chemical methods, some commercial operations have refined the process with a chemical application to make it commercially viable.
How does the grow room environment effect gender?
The grow room environment is also known to effect the ratio of female to male seeds. The ideal environment to encourage the production of seeds that will produce female offspring must be provided throughout the life of the plant and is:
- more nitrogen (N), less potassium (K);
- more blue spectrum light and less red spectrum light. Learn all about marijuana lighting.
- shorter light cycles;
- a pH of 6.6 to 6.8;
- lower temperatures and higher humidity;
- higher soil humidity (non hydro systems);
- low stress conditions (no sudden temperature or humidity changes, no cloning etc.).
Whatever method is used the feminization process is not perfect and it is impossible to avoid some male plants, as it is impossible to completely avoid having plants turn hermaphroditic. Cloning is by far the easiest and most reliable way to ensure the gender of your cannabis plants. However if you have no access to clones, or no space to keep a mother plant and clone nursery, then feminized seeds may be for you. As with buying all seeds, use a reputable supplier, preferably one that you have had, or know someone who has had, a positive experience with.