How to Select Male Plants for Breeding & Seed Making

Often when selecting a male for breeding you should be looking for the same things you would generally like to find in a female plant. Look for vigorous males, in terms of growth rate and also root mass.

Selecting for Leaf & Plant Structure

Structure is very important. You want a plant with a sturdy structure that can hold some serious weight on its branches. As my males grow, I test their branch strength by pushing down on the middle of the branch with one finger with medium pressure. If it breaks, I cull the plant — don’t waste your efforts on a weak male. Remember, you’re looking to improve your cannabis in the hybrid, incross, or backcross you’re making, not water down its quality or strength.

Leaf structure is also important. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may or may not want fat-bladed leaves that can block light from the canopy. In most cases, I prefer thinner leaves and a high flower-to-leaf ratio in males. I’m shooting for something easy to trim that lets a lot of light and airflow penetrate to lower in the canopy.

Scent Matters

I look for males with the most smell in the vegetative stage. I like to rub the stems and see what smell comes off. Some plants will leave your fingers sticky with resin from rubbing the stems. Some stand out males will smell so strong in veg you won’t even need to rub the stem to notice how much the smell stands out.

What Male Flowers Show You About the Plant

The male flowers will tell you a lot about its potential in terms of yield, potency, health, etc. Things to look for:

  • Are the male flowers dense?
  • Do the male flowers get powdery mildew or mold if left untreated or in moist conditions? By growing enough males, you will see that some are more susceptible and others more resistant to these issues. Of course, choose the more resistant plants.
  • Are they big, fat clusters of flowers or are they smaller and thin?

When the flowers open, look for males that release copious amounts of pollen. You will see that some males release average amounts of pollen, but if you grow enough males you will see some true studs that produce an abundance of pollen. I’ve seen real stand out males drop insane amounts of pollen — ounces and ounces. Those males have always passed on large yielding plants from their seeds.

It’s About Timing

I’ve heard that the earliest to show sex and produce male flowers is something to avoid in males, unless your main goal is to shorten flower time. Some say the earliest males result in less potency in the progeny. I like to see early, fast flowering males, but I usually avoid using the very first to show sex and blow pollen.

Male Trichomes Do Exist

Do your male flowers develop trichomes? You don’t see it a lot, but when you do it’s exciting. I have heard some breeders say they think potency in males leads to less potent females in the next generation. Don’t listen to these breeders. Potency x Potency = Potency, at least in my experience. Pretty simple concept.

Selecting a Male For Your Breeding Needs

Sometimes knowing what you’re looking for is key. If you’re trying to preserve a certain female and looking for a male to use, you should look for a male that will pass on recessive traits so the female’s traits can dominate. It’s always a guess what’s recessive, but in this case I look for vigor and strength and less smell from a stem rub in the male.

Most of the time I’ve done this in a first generation hybrid, the majority of the plants grow flowers with characteristics dominant of the female with an improved yield and vigor. Of course, knowing what traits a male will pass on is always a guess until running the progeny. But by knowing the strain you’re selecting the male from, you can make an educated guess based on knowledge of the strain and observation.

Want Better Seeds? Grow More Plants

The best advice I can give is to grow more plants and plant more seeds. With your average cannabis seeds, you may be lucky to find a special male in 10–20 seeds. Grow 50–100 seeds of a strain and you’ll find something special.

It’s even more important to start with good seed stock. Know your source. The truth is, the cannabis seeds market is completely unregulated, so do your research on breeders and their practices. Keep in mind that average genetics will grow average cannabis. Growing from top notch seed stock is a must. Most plants will be worth growing, and choosing breeding males is much easier when you start with quality.

After making F1 hybrids and test growing them, you will learn which breeding selections were successful plant combinations and which ones were maybe not ideal. The experience is invaluable and you’ll learn a lot about the genetics you’re working with.

Make a Breeding Plan

Try to plan your goals ahead of time when you’re breeding or making seeds. Visualize what you’re trying to accomplish and spend time with your plants, really getting to know them. Observation is key, as it builds experience, intuition, instinct, and understanding. The better you get to know your plants, the more they will tell you and the more you will learn and understand.

I could keep going, as I love talking about breeding and male selections. But I’ll save some more for another time. At this point at Rebel Grown, we no longer use just one male from each strain for breeding. We open pollinate with several males selected from each strain to ensure the best of the genetics are passed on, instead of relying on just one selection and its genes and traits. I’ll break down our breeding practices and seed making process in a future read.

Anyone can make their own cannabis seeds and everyone should. With time you can make amazing seeds and grow your own unique creations for a lifetime!

— Ganja D