Growing your own cannabis for personal use is a rewarding practice—as well as a great way to save money. Today there are quite a few options open to home growers, and cultivating high-quality cannabis is easier to accomplish than ever before.
Commercial growers rely on clones for their mass production, and seed plays a much smaller role, mostly for breeding to create new strains. Growing numerous seeds from a new cross or true strain and selecting the best phenotypes, which are then cloned for large production, is the goal of these companies. For the majority of home growers, however, the opposite is true, and clones play a smaller role. Although cloning is done in home grows, seed reigns supreme!
Most seed companies present a few options for seed buyers: normal seed, auto-flowering seed, and feminized seed. For home cultivators—particularly beginners—feminized seed is a great choice.
What Is Feminized Seed?
Simply stated, feminized seed is seed that will only grow into female plants, which is the goal of nearly every home grower. Female plants, of course, are the sex that grows the lush, sticky, trichome-covered flowers that the grower will harvest and use for medical purposes or recreational enjoyment.
For seed companies to create feminized seed, the process is fairly straightforward. The fact that plants will reproduce when under stress is widely known. In fact, when some female cannabis plants are in full flower but not in the presence of a male cannabis plant, they will resort to self-pollenization by producing a very small number (sometimes only one or two) of male sex organs, which they then use to pollinate themselves to create seed and ensure future generations of their kind.
Known as hermaphrodites, these aberrant female plants with minor male traits are sometimes difficult to detect in a grow with other females. Usually, these “hermies” are an undesirable thing, but since they can be difficult to detect in a large grow, they slip by undetected when harvested, producing good flowers, but flower that also contains a very small number of seeds, usually just a few.
When a cannabis enthusiast discovers a seed or two in an otherwise excellent bag of cannabis flowers, the seeds are a result of a self-pollinating female plant. When germinated and grown, these “selfed seeds” will invariably grow into female plants, because the female that pollinated herself lacks the male chromosome to produce a true male plant. By reproducing herself without being pollinated by a true male, the best she can do is create more females just like herself. For this reason, “bag seed” often grows into plants that produce surprisingly good flower, although these plants also have the tendency to self-reproduce once mature—just like their mother.
How Is Feminized Seed Made?
True feminized seeds sold by seed companies are created intentionally by using select female plants. Feminized seed is not true self-pollinated seed, but is quite similar, created by using more than one female plant.
To create this seed, seed companies will select prime females of the same strain. These females are the best phenotypes of that strain—the best of the best. They’re the stickiest and hardiest females, the ones that have amazing terpene profiles and rich, tantalizing aromas. One of these select females is then stressed to encourage hermaphrodite traits.
There is more than one way to intentionally stress a female plant, but probably the most common method is to apply colloidal silver to the female. Exposing her to colloidal silver will cause the female to produce a fairly robust amount of male sex organs—the pollen sacks seen on pure male plants. The cultivator then collects an ample quantity of this feminized pollen, which is the consistency of fine dust. Dusted or brushed onto the flowers of other prime females of the same strain will result in an abundant amount of feminized seed of that particular strain.
Since these feminized seeds did not come from only one female plant like self-pollinated seed, they have less of a tendency to grow into females that will self-pollinate. Because two females were used to create these seeds, they are true feminized seed. These seeds are then packaged and sold to growers.
Regardless of the undeniable benefits feminized seed provides to home cultivators, there are pros and cons that come with this type of growing.
The Pros of Growing from Feminized Seed
The most obvious benefit of growing feminized seed is that all of the seeds grown will be females. If the home cannabis grower sprouts 12 femininized seeds, he/she can expect to grow 12 female plants. Since relatively few home growers are interested in breeding their own crosses, growing females is their prime objective. Growing males is undesirable and a waste of growing space.
For beginner growers, feminized seed provides advantages other than growing all females. When the grower flips the light cycle from the vegetative phase (18 hours of light to 6 hours of darkness per day) to the flower stage (12 hours of light to 12 hours of darkness per day), the plants will typically reveal their sexes within two to eight days. When growing normal seed, there will be a somewhat even ratio of female plants to male plants.
Males often reveal their sex first. Detecting these male plants and removing them (most home growers simply destroy them) immediately from the grow once identified is extremely important. Males grow very fast and release pollen in a surprisingly short amount of time. Failing to remove them in time will result in males pollinating the females and producing an enormous amount of seed (normal seed, since a male and female were used in the breeding process).
Heavily seeded flowers are desirable if breeding is the goal, but they are just about useless for consumption. Seeded flower stops creating the THC-laden trichomes that make sticky, frosty, sweet-smelling flowers so desirable. Seeded flower not only lacks potency, but its taste is nothing to write home about. The special terpene experience so many smokers and vapers crave is lost.
The Cons of Growing from Feminized Seed
As well as the desirable aspects of growing feminized seed, it does present some limitations and concerns for the grower. If breeding new crosses is the goal, feminized seed has limited use. While growing it will produce females, the grower will have to procure pollen from a male plant to breed to his females. Male pollen is sold by a relatively small number of cannabis companies, and this practice is not yet mainstream.
Most experienced growers who want to breed cannabis will have to grow both male and female plants, keeping the sexes completely isolated from each other once mature—which is easier said than done. Even a minor amount of pollen on the shirt or hand of the cultivator can pollinate female plants if it comes into contact with them, tainting prime female flowers.
An area of concern with feminized seed is the belief that it has a higher tendency to create females with hermaphrodite tendencies. Theoretically, this should not be grounds for concern because two females were used to create feminized seed, but the fact that one of the females provided her own feminized pollen seems to make the probability of growing females with minor hermaphroditic tendencies once her flowers are mature, slightly higher. There is anecdotal evidence to support this belief, but many females grown from feminized seed do not demonstrate hermie traits and are outstanding quality.
All things considered, for beginners, growing feminized seed makes a lot of sense. Even some highly experienced growers will enjoy growing feminized seed if breeding is not an objective. If the grower does his or her part and tends to the plants correctly, an abundant quantity of prime, high-quality flower will result. In addition to the significant savings this home-grown flower ensures, growing potent cannabis is fun and something in which the grower can take pride. So, when planning your grow, consider giving feminized seed a try. The pros far outweigh the cons!