You should pride yourself on being very choosy when it comes to selecting a male – a male cannabis plant that is. Actually, the future of your cannabis breeding project rests on your ability to discern good genetics from bad genetics. In this article, you can learn which things to look out for to successfully choose a male plant!
Until just a few decades ago, choosing a male was left up to natural selection.
But these days, we get to play an active role in which genetics go on into the future.
And no, I’m not talking about a lady’s preferences when choosing a mate. This article is about carefully selecting a male cannabis plant in the process of breeding and creating seeds. Sorry to disappoint those looking for a husband.
The reason selecting a male marijuana plant is an art is because breeders are essentially mimicking nature. Taking the place of natural selection is a big responsibility! If the entire future of your cannabis garden relied on it, you would hope to choose a good male, right? So… how exactly does one do that? I assure you, it’s kind of like choosing a man.
By carefully choosing which male genetics you are going to use to make seeds, you can be well on your way to creating badass marijuana strains in your very own garden. So, let’s get to business and find out what to look out for when you’re choosing the father of your cannabis offspring!
1. Ideally, you’ve already started breeding
Before you start making your own seeds, you have ideally created your own first-generation hybrid strain. If you’re not up to that yet, you do that by crossing two great strains (ideally pure indica and pure sativa).
Hopefully, what you’ve created is consistent in phenotypic expression. However, in this stage it’s common to see a lot of variation. It’s in the next generations that as a breeder, you get to carefully select the phenotypes that you want to express.
Keep in mind that while phenotype is important during the growing process, you don’t actually know what your buds are like until after you’ve harvested – because that’s when you get to smoke them. For this reason, it’s good not to get ahead of yourself. Big buds and a delicious smell are nice. But if in the end, it’s a boring smoke, then has your selection really been worthwhile?
While the female plants are the ones you will finally sample, the male cannabis plants play a huge role in what you eventually get to experience. So, it can be a little bit involved and complicated to choose a male.
Ideally, your first-generation hybrid gave you a big batch of seeds to start off with, and that gives you a lot of choices during the second generation. And trust me, you will get better and better at selecting by third, fourth and fifth generation of your own hybrid strain.
2. Save some for later!
As mentioned, you only really know if you’ve selected the best parents after the future generation of seeds has been planted, harvested, dried and cured, and smoked. That’s a whole season since you decided on that male and that female! So paradoxically, we’re working a little bit in reverse to see if you’ve been a good substitute for natural selection.
Save some samples of each plant that you’ve decided to keep and “test”. You can do this by keeping cuttings and making rooted clones. Then, you can re-green the mother or the father (or both) and keep it in a vegetative state.
This allows you the possibility of going back to that parent plant after harvesting its progeny. Alternatively, you can collect some pollen, vacuum seal it, and put it in the freezer. This is for serious genetic seekers!
So now that you’ve got some tips and tricks up your sleeve, here are some things to look out for when it comes to actually choosing the male cannabis plant.
3. Let go of early-bloomers
Unless you’re trying to breed a plant that flowers early and fast, get rid of male plants that show this trait. Just on a side note, knowing what you actually want from your strains before selecting the male is extremely helpful.
Males that flower before you’ve flipped them to flower means they are naughty and don’t listen! Just kidding. It means that they are possibly prone to unwanted traits when it comes to flowering.
So, to ensure quality and avoid hermaphroditism, remove any early bloomers (but don’t throw them away!). They aren’t really selection-worthy.
4. Don’t be fooled by height
Tall, dark and handsome. They are the dreamy desires of every woman, right? Well, not in the case of Mary-Jane.
Plants that dedicate a lot of energy to producing the fibres that make them tall are probably better left for producing fibres, not buds!
It is better to eliminate male plants that grow too tall and too quickly. Unless they have other characteristics that you find very appealing, leave them out of the equation.
5. It’s all in the stems
This piece of advice is borrowed from Michael Stark’s book, Marijuana Chemistry, and it has been backed up by many breeders. What you’re looking for in the stem of a male plant is hollowness.
Yep, depth of character isn’t important in growing marijuana. A thick, dense and full main stem should be eliminated. Michael Starks (and many breeders) observe that a hollow stem is somehow linked to THC production.
For a more in-depth analysis of the chemistry and genetics there, you should probably read his book!
6. Males make flowers, too
Yes, male plants make flowers, too! Just not the kind that we finally smoke. However, the pollen that forms in these flowers is what you finally use to pollenate your females.
Observe the way that flowers have developed on your male plants. At the end of the day, you don’t want to pass on the genetics of a very whispy or unsubstantial bud. You want it dense and thick, just like buds should be! The writing is on the wall when it comes to the female plant, but it’s a bit trickier to tell with the males because we generally aren’t used to looking at their flowers.
You also want to inspect the buds of the male plant for mildew or mould. If the particular male is prone to mould or mildew, let it go. You want to produce robust seeds that are resistant towards these types of deadly problems.
You will notice that some of the male plants in your garden are somehow more susceptible than others. Let it be their natural end.
7. Do you scent something special?
Let your observation of male plants be a very scentual experience. The strength of the odour during the vegetative state should tell you a lot about its THC production. Keep plants that have a strong, delicious smell that you like. Let go of the ones that are weaker in odour.
The best way to test for the smell of a male marijuana plant is by rubbing the leaves and the stem. How much of a scent does it release? Can you still smell it on your hands even after you walk away from it?
Male plants don’t put on the light show of a female plant when it comes to trichomes, but they do exist. Inspect them. Just as you would with female plants, choose the males that have many trichomes! The potency of the male plant should contribute to the potency of its offspring, right?
9. The more seeds you grow, the better
To get the best out of your breeding venture, grow as many seeds as possible. The more you grow, the more phenotypes you will be able to observe, and consequently, the bigger your selection of choices.
It is unusual to find that special one, you know, so it’s better to keep your options open. The more seeds you plant, the more likely you are to find that extra special male plant.
Now, if you happen to have a male plant that shows all the desired traits, then you’re a very lucky breeder, indeed.
But that doesn’t usually happen in the first or second generations. Rather, your careful selection begins to show itself over the coming generations, when your plants more consistently show the same phenotypes and keep producing great seeds.
Before long, you’ll have a master strain that everybody will be after!