When it comes to cannabis, female plants produce flowers (or buds) and males produce pollen. Unless you plan on breeding, male cannabis plants… Can’t fully get rid of that cannabis strain you grew for so long? Learn how to store seeds and pollen to clear space in your garden and hang onto those favorite genetics for another day. How to Pick Male Plants and Make Cannabis Seeds Why Every Home Grower Should Make Seeds (At Least Once) I encourage growers to make seeds for themselves. A lot of people have been asking how,
What do I do with a Male Cannabis Plant?
When it comes to cannabis, female plants produce flowers (or buds) and males produce pollen. Unless you plan on breeding, male cannabis plants will release pollen into the growing area and produce unwanted seeds in nearby female flowers. Cannabis flowers with seeds are usually lower in potency and less desirable. Male plants in a flowering room should removed as soon as they are identified.
You will only get a male cannabis plant is you grow from a non-feminized seed. In today’s world, if you get a clone from a trusted friend or local shop, they will always grow to be a female plant. Male and female plants can be easily identified in early flowering by looking for the following characteristics below:
Male cannabis plants have stamens and female plants have calyxes. To the untrained eye, an early calyx and stamen can look quite similar. As the cannabis plant begins to mature, multiple stamens will begin to appear on the males and the females will have pistols emerge from their calyxes. Over time the stamens will fill with pollen and eventually open, releasing it into the growing environment. Once a plant shows clear male characteristics, it should be removed from the flowering area and potentially used for future breeding projects.
Preserving Cannabis Genetics: How to Collect and Store Seeds and Pollen
Sometimes a grower has to move on from a certain strain. Maybe you’ve been growing the same strain for a long time and it no longer makes as much money as it used to, or maybe you just want to mix it up and start growing something else and don’t have the space for it.
It can be bittersweet saying goodbye to old genetics, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. You can take clones or keep a mother plant, but those aren’t ideal because they require a lot of care and maintenance, especially if they aren’t producing flower.
Fortunately, preserving genetics for long-term storage is easy and will save time, money, and space in the long run. Through seed and pollen collection, you can hang onto those genetics that you can’t fully get rid of and safely store them for future use.
The Benefits of Long-Term Storage
Cannabis genetics are often sourced from external companies and organizations such as nurseries and seed banks. For the individual grower, saving seeds and pollen removes this reliance on external companies. This is especially true with pollen, as very few (if any) companies offer pollen to the public.
Saving space is a big reason to consider long-term storage of seeds and pollen. Mother plants lay dormant in a vegetative state and take up lots of space. Maintaining this extra space is time-consuming and takes extra resources like water, soil, nutrients, light, and other costly elements, all for something that doesn’t produce flower. Even keeping clones of an old strain around will take up space and resources.
A grower or breeder can also freeze the progress of a breeding project for months or years without losing any of the long, hard work. Endeavors such as phenotype hunting and maintaining desired mothers for breeding and cloning can all be saved for later through genetic preservation. This process is like backing up work on a hard drive.
How to Collect Seeds
Cannabis is for the most part dioecious, meaning that the male and female reproductive organs exist on two separate plants (although hermaphroditic plants do occur). It is also a wind-pollinated plant, so pollen must be transferred from a male stamen to a female pistil via the air in order for pollination to occur and seeds to form.
A female cannabis plant that has received pollen from a male will produce many seeds over the course of its maturation cycle. Upon senescence, when the female plant is fully mature and ready for harvest, its seeds will be ready for stratification and collection.
To collect seeds, it’s important to wait until they are fully mature and ready for harvest. Cannabis with seeds takes longer to mature than cannabis that only produces flower.
To tell if a seed is mature, take a look at its shape and color. Premature seeds will be small and light in color, taking on a beige hue. Fully mature cannabis seeds are more full in shape and size and have a much darker brown hue, sometimes accented by black tiger stripes.
Deseeding cannabis can be done by hand or machine. This process typically takes place after the plant has been dried for one to two weeks after harvest. This way, seeds will have reached their maximum maturity and plant material will be brittle enough to break apart with minimal effort.
When collecting seed by hand, use a fine screen to help catch trichomes that will break off during the process. This material is valuable and it would be a shame to waste.
To release the seeds, simply break up the dried buds over a screen and they will fall out. You can release the seeds en masse by rubbing the flower between your fingers and lightly breaking it apart.
Separate or sift seeds over the screen to remove any unwanted plant matter from the seeds themselves. Brush off the seeds—they should be completely free of any remaining plant material such as leaves, stem, or trichomes, as these elements put seeds at a higher risk for contamination and spoilage during long-term storage.
Male cannabis plants will produce pollen several weeks into their flowering cycle. Once their pollen sacs have opened up and released, the plant will begin to senesce and eventually die. It is important to collect pollen right as the sacs are beginning to open up, as this is the time pollen is most viable.
The best way to harvest pollen for storage is to remove an entire male flower cluster and place it in a sealed storage container for several days. After the cluster has dried, place it over a micron screen with parchment or wax paper underneath, and give it a light shake. This will allow the pollen to separate from any remaining plant matter and fall through the screen and onto the wax paper.
Moisture is a death sentence for pollen viability. Because of this, many breeders opt to mix flour into their pollen at a ratio of 4:1 (flour to pollen) when storing it long-term. This additional step will help keep pollen dry for a longer period of time.
Seed and Pollen Storage
Long-term storage requirements for seeds and pollen are similar. Both require cool, dark, dry, and oxygen-deprived environments for optimal preservation.
When storing seeds, place them in an air-sealed container that doesn’t have any light leaks. Film canisters, medicine bottles (non-translucent), and any sealable storage jar will work fine. The idea is to reduce the amount of oxygen present in the storage space as much as possible. You can also add uncooked rice to the storage container, which acts as an absorbent, to reduce moisture content.
For a cool environment, store seeds in either the refrigerator or freezer. Seeds need a consistent temperature without fluctuation to remain dormant long-term.
As mentioned above, the best way to reduce moisture in pollen is to mix it with flour. For long-term storage, it can be kept in a sealed vial or freezer bag. You can keep it in the refrigerator or freezer, though for optimal long-term storage, the colder the better.
The Shelf Life of Seeds and Pollen
You can expect cannabis seeds that have been sealed and properly stored to last for several years, and in many cases, longer. Seeds may be dormant, but they are still alive. Over enough time, they will lose their viability.
It’s important to continually practice germination testing to be sure your stored seeds haven’t lost all viability. To test this, periodically plant a seed and document its ability to germinate.
Fresh seeds should have a germination rate close to a 100%, whereas older seeds will see a significant drop off over time in their ability to germinate.
Out in the open, pollen may be viable for one or two weeks under normal conditions. However, when frozen and sealed, it can last up to a year and even longer. Pollen is more unstable than seed and even under the most optimal conditions, it isn’t expected to have as long of a shelf life.
For both seeds and pollen that have been frozen long-term, it’s important to avoid defrosting until they are ready to be used. Fluctuations in temperature and moisture content will quickly destroy their viability, so maintain a steady temperature for as long as possible. Warming and freezing multiple times isn’t good.
When it comes time to use frozen seeds, remove them from their container and let them sit out on a dry surface for several hours. Letting the seeds reach room temperature will help ensure a successful germination.
Pollen should also be placed at room temperature before using. Since pollen can be much messier to handle, it’s best to carefully transfer a sample from its long-term storage container to a fresh container before using it to pollinate a plant. This way, you don’t have to use all of the pollen and saved pollen can go back in the freezer with minimal exposure to warm air.
How to Pick Male Plants and Make Cannabis Seeds
Why Every Home Grower Should Make Seeds (At Least Once)
I encourage growers to make seeds for themselves. A lot of people have been asking how, so I put together these basic tips. Hopefully, it helps a lot of people and is fairly straightforward. This isn’t meant to make you a breeder or share all my techniques or secrets, this is to familiarize you with the process of creating seeds.
It’s easy to make your own cannabis seeds at home!
It’s a shame that many grow books tell you only to throw away your males. New growers may not know, but anyone who’s grown for even just a few years gets to the point where they wish they still had something they grew in the past, which is no longer available in seed or clone for whatever reason. The older you get the more it happens. Seed lines disappear entirely once they run out, and due to people not making their own. It’s good to be self-sufficient.
While it’s always fun to check out the hard work of your favorite breeders and their strains, it’s equally as important to pollinate a branch or two for yourself here and there and see what magic you can create or preserve. Please share this article if it helps or inspires you. Big agriculture is coming to the cannabis growing world and has the ability to change the plant forever once contamination happens, just like in the veggie world. We are losing genetic diversity fast as thousands of unique strains are lost. Please do your part if you are passionate!
Make your own seeds to save special or unique genetics
How to Make Your Own Cannabis Seeds at Home
These are basic starting points for the home grower. I believe every person who grows cannabis needs to have this skill. Every strain goes away over time when people don’t make more seeds. Growers should know how to make their own seeds for preservation and sustainability. These skills can go a long way. The precursor to serious breeding is the basic technique of creating the seed.
1.) Grow Male Plants
Male plants can be grown in very basic conditions in an isolated space, then flowered for pollen. Males can be started flowering next to females with a close watch for the first week or two, but be careful and remove them before pollen sacks form, bursting open and pollinating everything.
Branches can be cut off and put into a cup of water on a windowsill or under a CFL bulb, even under veg light cycle once they are in bloom. Pollen can be collected within a week from these branches, saving lots of space. Males can also be cloned or flowered very small based on your needs.
Best, however, is flowering the males in their own tent or space. With a carbon filter and negative pressure, and careful practices, you can avoid spreading pollen to unwanted spaces. The longer you flower a male out past its initial beginning release of pollen, the more of its flowering traits you will see! (More on best male plant selection below)
A beautiful male cannabis plant
2.) Collect Pollen
Pollen can be collected by tapping a budding branch gently over a piece of paper. Pollen will spread easily in the air, so make sure to turn off all fans. Visit males only after tending to female plants so you don’t accidentally bring any stray pollen on your clothes or hair!
A male plant right as pollen sacs start opening
3.) Pollinate Buds
Take out your female to be pollinated or shut off all circulation fans. Gently apply pollen to a labeled branch. The pollen must meet the white flowering hairs to create seeds. Week 3-5 is best to pollinate, and you can do a single bud or branch per plant and keep the rest seedless.
Every pollinated branch should be labeled properly, your memory will not last as you think it will. A proper branch label includes dates, strain names, breeder/sources, and has the female listed first and male listed second. An example label looks like this: 4/20/2015 – Star Pupil (Mass Medical Strains) x Prayer Tower Sativa 9 (Bodhi Seeds) and the label should be kept with the seeds when they are finished. As years go by, you will be thankful for the dates and breeder information, which can escape our memory on occasion.
Overhead shot of a seeded cannabis plant. Strain is “Star Pupil”
4.) Deactivate Stray Pollen
Water generally deactivates pollen, wash clothes and shower if needed after handling. 3+ hours after pollination, the plant can be sprayed down with water to deactivate stray pollen and can be brought back into grow room and fans turned back on.
Avoid spreading pollen unintentionally. It can get everywhere!
A male cannabis plant exploding with pollen. Strain: Prayer Tower Sativa (below)
5.) Collect Seeds
Seeds are done in 2-6 weeks and should be dried in the bud when the plant is harvested. Seeds should be sproutable within one month of drying.
Female buds become swollen with seeds
A cannabis seed peaking out
What strains should I use?
Any strain with traits that you like, which speaks to you, or seems like a good cross, means your intuition is telling you something. Starting with stabilized or homogeneous lines is always a benefit. Certain genes such as Cookies, OG, and Diesels, are full of hermaphrodites and should be used with caution, only to be bred with if they are really your #1 passion. Follow your heart.
Crossing two unrelated strains for the first time is called an F1. Crossing a brother and sister F1 of the same strain creates an F2, and so on. Selections play a huge role in what the outcome will be. Making F2 seeds of an F1 you purchased, will not give you the same seeds. Rather, you will see new phenotypes resembling some of the parents and their parents, etc. With huge potential to find new special plants within.
Many combinations will work great, and some will not. If you fail, try again, selecting new parents. Each combination is unique. A and B might work great together, and C and D might work well together, there’s still a possibility that A and C combine to create junk. Every parental combo is unique!
If you see a unique trait that you like, make seeds!
Selecting a good female is easy, flower female plants from seed and again from clone to test stability. Smoke test is important. A potential mother plant should have all the high-quality traits that matter to you. Hermaphroditic plants are to be avoided.
Female plants to be pollinated should have all your ideal traits. Use only your best females.
Selecting a male, you have to use your senses a lot. The ones who grow best and smell best are a good starting point. Structure and root growth are important. Hollow stems may indicate high THC potential. Cut the top off a couple nodes down and find out. First showing or fastest flowering males are generally discarded. Very slow blooming late males are often times more recessive although not always. I like them. Males will start to drop pollen before they are “done” flowering enough to see their true traits. As a beginner, you can use the pollen at any stage, but those doing real selections are advised to always flower your males for weeks after the pollen starts.
For male selections, a strain you’ve grown before and enjoyed the females is a safe starting point.
Watch for resin production, look at how the flower clusters stack and produce. The male flowers form similarly to female flowers, large yield potential is often apparent in largely formed male clusters that can look almost like female buds from a distance. The more males you have to choose from, the more fun you will have!
Male plants can be a lot of fun to grow, too. Just like the females of the genetics they come from, they all have their own characteristics and unique traits. Once you get into “hunting males” you could get hooked! Some of my prized male selections from over the years are shown here. You’ll see resin production and traits of large floral clusters, as well as unique coloration!
This male Weapon X cannabis plant is about to pop!
Male Blue Magoo BX looking trippy under LEDs
Strain: Mr. E Reversed
For more advanced breeding selections, I recommend starting ideally a few hundred seeds. (For beginners, as many as you can is great, will help you find the best ones you can. Use your intuition!) Plants can be weeded out every few weeks selecting only the best contenders to flower out, and a lot can be achieved in a spare tent or closet this way, while still selecting through large populations! Clones of a prized breeding male may be kept in veg the same way females are, to be used again and again once their offspring are proven good! This is how a breeder can create the same batch of seeds for years and years, by using the exact same parents held in clone form.
These tips are just the beginning, and the purpose isn’t to teach you how to breed, but to teach you how to learn your own path and style of creating seeds and preserving our very special plant. The seeds you create will always be a very special grow for YOU.
Making your own seeds is more important than ever. We must do our part to preserve the natural genetic diversity of this healing plant as it has evolved for millions of years. Home growing is an important skill as commercial and medical cannabis is increasingly full of toxins and scary new technology. Please grow responsibly with love.
About the Author
Star Pupil strives to copy nature while incorporating breeding techniques and plant knowledge passed down from generations of experienced growers. Mass Medical Strains is located in western Massachusetts and all breeding and growing methods are 100% organic. Each and every plant is grown and harvested with wholesome intentions and positive vibes.