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Feminized Seeds vs Regular vs Autoflower:
What is the difference?

By Caroline | May 4th, 2020

After offering to deal with MSB’s support desk for a weekend while the breeders drowned their sorrows over the canceled Spannabis convention, I discovered two things: 

1) I have stellar customer service rep skills 😉
2) there is still a lot of confusion and misconception regarding the difference between regular, feminized and autoflowering seeds.

Such a shame since knowledge about specific growing characteristics offers a huge advantage. So, I have taken it upon me to enlighten you on this important piece of information!

Covering the basics

Before we get into the distinction between feminized seeds vs regular and autoflowering, we need to understand the fundamental differences between the sexes. Now since marijuana seeds are an 18+ product I am going to make a bold assumption that you are all well aware of the so-called " birds and the bees" but just humor me on this one ;-) 

Cannabis plants can be either male, female, or hermaphroditic.

Male plants, during the flowering stage, develop pollen sacks or, more commonly called " balls".

Female plants develop pre-flowers or pistils, which catch the pollen to create seeds. From there on it's all relatively straight forward. The male pollen pollinates the female flower, which produces seeds.

Hermaphroditic plants, a nightmare for growers, contain both pollen sacks and pistils. When a marijuana plant experiences stress (think the severe temperature fluctuations or sudden changes in lighting) their survival instinct kicks in. Under such conditions, the plant sees no possibility of fertilization anytime soon after which it resorts to a phenomenon called dichogamy. 

Dichogamy, as they call sequential hermaphroditism in botany, means that the female plant starts to produce pollen sacks for self-pollination to ensure the survival of its genes. There have been occasions of males developing pistols, but this is very rare. 

The following image shows the difference between the sexes very clearly.

female seeds vs regular

What are feminized seeds?

Feminized seeds have come a long way since the early stages of feminizing. What it comes down to is that feminized seeds do not contain any male chromosomes. This ensures that every plant that comes from a feminized seed will produce female flowers.

You get feminized cannabis seeds when the pollen you use to fertilize a female plant comes from a female plant. So, you cross the genes of two female plants, ensuring that the offspring will only be female. To get this feminine pollen, you will need to get your feminized cannabis plant to produce male flowers. There are two methods for this:

  1. Treating the female cannabis plant with colloidal silver (also called silver water) 
  2. By intentionally causing the plant stress 

When using colloidal silver, the likelihood of the seeds becoming hermaphroditic is minimal. This is because the female that produced the pollen barely has any genetic predispositions to become a hermaphrodite. 

By providing the female plants with trace amounts of colloidal silver, the silver ion inhibits the ethylene production needed by the plant to produce female flowers. This forces the female plant to produce male pollen sacs. This pollen subsequentially fertilizes the female plants that will, in turn, produce feminized seeds. 

When should you choose feminized seeds?

Unless a grower is breeding marijuana strains, the grower has no need for male plants. They just take up space and if their presence is undetected, they may pollinate female flowers, creating seeded buds.

Most growers prefer using feminized seeds because they are 100% female. 

Also, there’s no hassle of meticulously verifying the sex of the plant during the flowering period. You plant the seeds, you nurture the plant, you receive nice and juicy buds.

So, if you are looking for guaranteed females and have no intention to create new seeds or clones, feminized seeds are for you. No more sexing and therewith making better use of your growing space without the agony of hoping and praying for females, and simply germinating only the number of seeds you need. Easy as pie, right?

Pros:

  • Easier preparation, germinate the exact number of seeds you need
  • Saves time, resources and work
  • No need for sexing

Cons:

  • Subsequent generations will possibly have latent intersex tendencies (turn into hermaphrodites)

What are regular seeds?

Unlike popular misconception, there is no such thing as male marijuana seeds. While we do create feminized seeds, there appears to be very little interest in “masculinized” seeds. Seeds with a 50/50 chance of turning either male or female are called regular seeds.

When a male cannabis plant fertilizes a female cannabis plant, the calyxes of the females will produce regular seeds. Exactly like they do in nature without human intervention. 

The great thing about regular seeds is that you occasionally need a male to pollinate your female plants and you can also collect the seeds for future use.

On the downside, it is necessary to germinate twice as many plants, so that after removing the males, there are enough females left to properly fill out your growing space and therewith guarantee the desired yield.

When should you choose regular seeds?

Many professional growers prefer to grow regular seeds for several reasons. First, females deriving from regular seeds are better qualified to function as mother plants for cloning. Some consider the quality of the buds to be better from regular seeds, although this is widely debated.

Secondly, when growers wish to create strong crosses or amazing hybrids, they can prefer to use an actual male to pollinate a female, rather than using “feminized” pollen for seed production.

Third, if you are considering taking your cultivation hobby to the next level and breed your own seeds, you will need males to get those from.

Pros:

  • You can create new seeds
  • Males to pollinate your female plants
  • They are the originals, for many their genetics are purer

Cons:

  • Some growers do not desire males

What are autoflowering seeds?

Autoflowering seeds or ruderalis, originate from the wilderness of the colder regions of the world, usually above 50 degrees north of the equator (in countries such as Russia and China).

The main feature of the Ruderalis family is its’ self-flowering ability. This means that they do not rely on photosynthesis for their development. 

Almost all flowering plants receive a signal to reproduce once seasonal changes in its surroundings occur by the number of hours of daylight.

The ability to start flowering based on changes within the life cycle of the plant rather than the environment is how it earned the name autoflowering.

Autoflowering varieties generally remain quite small and grow rapidly. They produce very small leaves and only a few side branches.

They go through a life cycle, from the seed to the production of new seed, in just 10 weeks (although 12 to 14 weeks is more common).

Why should you choose autoflowering seeds?

There are many advantages to growing autoflowering plants. One of them is that they are incredibly low maintenance. This feature makes them very attractive for novice growers since the growers do not have to adjust the light cycle to induce the flowering phase. 

Another perk is the rapid flowering cycle that allows the grower to achieve multiple harvests in the span of one season outdoors. 

This is especially great if you have limited time or want to enjoy your weed as soon as possible. The plants grow dense and small which means you can still obtain a successful harvest with good quality bud, even when growing in a small tent or cupboard closet.

On the downside, a shorter flowering cycle also means a smaller yield. And they are less suitable for cloning. This because the cutting follows the same genetic timeline as the mother and enters the flowering period, regardless of size and development. With autoflowering strains, this usually results in small and underdeveloped plants that produce a minimum yield.

Pros:

  • Low maintenance 
  • Multiple harvests per season due to short cycle
  • Suitable for limited spaces

Cons: 

  • Lower yield 
  • Not suitable for cloning

What are autoflowering feminized seeds?

Autoflowering feminized seeds are fast-growing guaranteed feminized seeds. 

This means you will have all-female plants with the bonus of an autoflowering cycle. Very low maintenance and what I would advise for every novice grower that considers trying their hand at cultivation for the first time.

As previously mentioned, autoflowering plants or Cannabis Ruderalis starts flowering when it reaches a certain stage of maturity, around the time it produces its fifth to the seventh pair of leaves, which usually happens after about seven weeks of growing.

But the main selling of autoflowering feminized seeds is that it takes as little as 12 weeks from germination to the time you can roll your homegrown joint!

So, what's the difference between feminized seeds vs regular vs autoflowering?

Let’s recap. Regular seeds come from a male and female plant. The pollen from the male fertilizes the female, which in turn produces seeds. We call these seeds regular seeds because they arise the "regular" natural way. 

Feminized seeds, come from a female and another female plant. One exposes one of the females to stressful conditions to create pollen, which will fertilize the other female. It is the flowers of the cannabis plant that we use for their cannabinoid content. This makes the female plant desired by most growers. Many growers opt for feminized cannabis seeds to minimize the risk of getting a male plant. 

Autoflowering seeds can be found in both regular and feminized and will start to flower without depending on photosynthesis. This results in a rapid flowering cycle. With autoflowering seeds, you will be smoking your homegrown weed in as little as 12 weeks from germination.

Feminized Seeds vs Regular & Autoflowering, are you ready to choose your strain?

Now that we got to the bottom of this once and for all, you have all the knowledge to make a well-informed decision on which type works best for your situation.

I wish you the best of luck with your choice and don’t forget to let me know how this worked out!

Article by:

Caroline


Educated by one of the best breeders in the Netherlands, I chose to combine my passion for writing with the fascinating world of cannabis cultivation. What are the best strains for which occasion, what are the effects, and how to use responsibly? Let me take you on a journey.



Contributors:
Henk

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Happy growing,

Bob