What’s a feminised seed? In this post, we’ll try to answer this question and clear some of the misconceptions that even seasoned growers have
Today, feminized seeds are everywhere. You can grow weed for years without actually laying your eyes on anything else. As if marijuana were a single sex (female) plant all along. But it isn’t so, and it’s best to have clear answers to the following questions about feminized seeds: what does it mean and what exactly to expect from them? These questions are not just theoretical, but have a real practical value.
What is a Feminised Weed Seed Exactly?
As you may know, cannabis has two distinct sexes. If you take a bunch of seeds from plants grown in nature and sow them, some of them will grow into male plants and some — into female plants. The ratio will be around 50/50. Such natural seeds are called regular.
For some time, regular seeds were all that was available to weed growers. The first small batches of seeds that could be called feminized started to appear in the beginning of 1990s in Amsterdam. They were offered by the founder of Dutch Passion, one of the oldest commercial seed banks that is still around today.
The feature of this new type of seeds was that they grew into female plants more than 95% of the time, in fact closer to 100%. It was a God’s gift for bud growers because now they didn’t have to throw away half of their plants at the beginning of the flowering. They knew that there would be only females in their garden and that they would harvest buds from every seed they had sowed.
Feminised Seeds Definition (Short and Pragmatic)
Feminized seeds are cannabis seeds that are guaranteed by their manufacturer to turn into female plants only.
Are Feminised Seeds Always Female?
Well, ideally they should be, and serious breeders go to great lengths to ensure that ALL their feminized seeds become female, but in reality they never are. Not 100%. Even the best feminized seeds produce males occasionally. Fortunately, such occasions are rare. Statistically speaking, you should grow close to a hundred of plants before you see a male trespasser in what was supposed to be an all-girl team. So can feminised seeds turn male? Yes, they can, but it’s highly unlikely for you to have this issue with your very first attempt.
What Makes a Feminised Seed?
The feminized seeds definition we’ve given above doesn’t explain how exactly the beans are manipulated into producing only females. In a few words, cannabis plants can change their sex in response to stress or when exposed to certain chemicals, meaning that females can turn into males and produce pollen sacks instead of flowers.
Growers had long noticed this phenomenon. It’s called hermaphroditism and is a very unwelcome thing in your garden because you want buds without seeds and ‘female’ pollen will make all the buds go to seed and your whole crop will be ruined.
So, growers had been fighting ‘hermies’ for a long time, but they didn’t immediately realize that the seeds that they got in their buds because of female pollen would grow into female plants only. Well, hermaphrodite plants to be exact. Meaning that they will mostly produce female buds, but also some pollen sacks whenever they get stressed.
Believe it or not, the very first batches of feminised seeds marketed by Dutch Passion in the early 90s were made exactly this way: the plants were stressed to the point that they hermied and then hermies-prone seeds were harvested and sold. No wonder that those initial barbaric methods gave feminized seeds a bad reputation and still make some purists use only regular beans. You can read more about ‘feminised seeds vs regular’ controversy in a separate post.
Feminized Seeds Without Hermies is the New Norm
The time when ‘fems’ and ‘hermies’ were practically synonyms is long gone. Now, feminised seeds are produced in a totally different way. Breeders use special chemicals for this. It could be gibberellic acid, or silver thiosulfate, or such a simple solution as colloidal silver water made with the use of a homemade 9V battery feminisation kit. Anyway, NO stress is used in any of these techniques, and the resulting seeds are no more prone to hermies than their regular counterparts.
There is even a special method to make sure that a plant you choose for making feminized seeds isn’t predisposed to hermies at all. It works like this: you take a bunch of regular seeds, grow plants from them, put them into the flowering mode, and when they reveal their sex, discard all males. As for the remaining females, you wait till they begin to flower in earnest and then start to stress them with a constantly changing light cycle: when today it’s 12/12, tomorrow — 18/6, then — 14/10 etc. All weaker genetics (when ‘punished’ this way) will turn hermies at some point. And the ones that stay female despite all the stress are definitely keepers and deserve to be used for feminized seeds production.
So, we did our best to define feminised seeds’ meaning. Now let’s take a few moments to review and dispel some misconceptions that people have about this type of marijuana seeds.
Feminized vs Autoflowering
Some people, when they choose a strain, wonder what they should rather buy: feminized seeds or autoflowering. As if these were opposing terms. In fact, they are not. The confusion is understandable: seed shops offer seeds in two large categories:
- feminized autoflowering seeds -> usually shortened to just ‘autoflowering seeds’,
- feminised photoperiod seeds -> usually shortened to just ‘feminised seeds’.
The fact that the words not marked in bold are too often omitted has created this confusion. In fact, there are also regular autoflowering seeds and regular photoperiod seeds, but neither category is very popular, and most newbies don’t even see them when they shop for seeds. All they see are the words ‘feminized’ and ‘autoflowering’, and so they feel like they should choose either one or the other. The good thing is you can have both: seeds that produce only girls all of which will start to flower automatically.
This confusion aside, we’ve written a separate post discussing pros and cons of autoflowering vs non autoflowering seeds.
How to Tell Feminized from Non Feminized Seeds
Another misconception is that feminized seeds are somehow different from other types of seeds. Not by a long shot. A seed is a seed. It can be small or large, or it can look mature or immature, but, other than that, you can’t tell anything about the seed’s genetics by just looking at it.
It can be medical cannabis or hemp, sativa or indica, an auto strain or a photoperiod one, it can be a high THC or low THC variety, or CBD rich etc. and all of them will look just the same.
And if you insist on knowing what type of seeds you have — feminized or not — the only sure way is to wait till they flower.
Do Feminised Plants Produce Seeds?
They do if you pollinate them. After all, they are feminized, not castrated. The reason why people have seed-free harvest of buds from feminised seeds is because they don’t have any males in their grow room and no male pollen. But if you get some pollen inside your grow space (from outside or from hermies), your plants will get pollinated, no matter feminized or not. So, if you bought only fems and still your feminised plant has seeds, look for the source of pollen.
Taking Care of Plants Grown from Feminized Seeds
There is a whole group of questions from novice growers regarding germination and planting of feminised seeds, their grow time and flower time, light cycle and light schedule, phenotypes and what not.
We’ve already said that feminized seeds look exactly like non-feminized. Well, they also grow the same and should be given the same treatment as regular seeds. The only real difference is that you won’t have to do any sexing (culling of the males) when the plants in your garden show their sex.
Maybe there is one more difference: if the breeder hasn’t done his job properly and his fem seeds genetics are unstable, the seeds will be more prone to become hermaphrodites. In this case, take extra care not to stress your feminized plants at any point of their life. Other than that, take care of them just the normal way and you’ll be alright.