So you want to play around with plant intercourse! That’s great. I’m here to help you with that, and I’ve enlisted the help of some of the finest weed wizards on planet Earth to assist me. It’s not exactly simple, but it’s easy enough to accomplish in the comfort of your own home if you’re dedicated enough. For the sake of simplicity and efficiency, I’m going to boil this down to some very rudimentary and basic options. Breeding is a complex art that has an unlimited complexity threshold, and as such, it would be insane to explain all of it in a short article such as this.
First thing’s first, you’re going to need space, at least 4×4 feet if not 4×8 or more, and a grow tent. I’d recommend at least a 4×8 but you can make it work with a 4×4. Vivosun makes superb grow tents and I’ve used my 4×4 for years. They also have a whole line of at-home grow equipment that works great, with the exception of the lights. I haven’t tried them myself but we all know by now you’re either running 1000 watt HPS light or fancy-pants LEDs and this isn’t a how-to-grow article so figure out your own damn equipment and nutrients and all that.
As with most living creatures, drugs or otherwise, you need male and female cannabis plants to make seeds. If you grow cannabis enough to want to learn breeding, you probably know how to weed out male plants from female plants but to briefly summarize: in the little node under the branch of the cannabis plant are the plant’s sex organs. Male plants have actual balls or “pollen sacs” and female plants have “pistils” which look like wispy little hairs.
If male plants are allowed to pollinate the female plant, the female will grow seeds within the buds that you would normally smoke. Every seed will grow into a unique “phenotype” of whatever the “strain” is. So if you cross a DoSiDo plant with a Chemdawg plant and they produce 100 seeds, all the female seeds would grow up into unique combined versions of both the parent strains, each exhibiting slightly different flavor, smell, and effect profiles. That, dear reader, is where the fun part starts. You can build your own cannabis experience from scratch in a sense and every breeder likes to build differently.
“Most of the time, I’m looking for something hybridized with the best components and [traits] of each cross,” said Alex from Clearwater Genetics, whom I have personally dubbed the reigning king of Now N’ Laters crosses. “I need to see kind of the best of both worlds there. I need to see a real 50-50 hybrid, or, depending on what I’m going for, you know, maybe a 75-25, something like that. Otherwise, you just grow the fucking strain.”
Now it isn’t quite as easy as saying “I want to make a strain that tastes like Zkittlez, yields four pounds per light and gets you high like OG.” That’s what Scott from Sexual Chocolate Factory would call a unicorn strain and while they do come around every so often, they’re one-in-a-million. Genetics also don’t really work like that. There tends to be a give-and-take which is why you might notice strains that taste amazing don’t get you as high as you might like and vice versa. So keep that in mind when embarking on your breeding journey.
There are two main methods of doing this that you’ll want to consider:
Method 1 – Reversals
Reversals are a process of taking a female clone of a strain you want to cross and spraying it with Silver Thiosulfate spray during the early stages of flower to reverse it into a male plant which you would then use to pollinate your chosen female plants.
“It’s hard to find a good male of your favorite cultivar ultimately. If you have like a Trainwreck or Pink Certz or a Pave, it’s hard to find a male with those traits,” said Chris Compound, formerly of Compound Genetics and the mastermind behind strains like Apples & Bananas and Grape Gas. “With fems, you can create a male, reverse male of those strains.”
This method makes it much easier to pick traits you want to pass on to your cross because you don’t have to play a guessing game like you do with male plants, you can just take clones from your female plants like you normally would and pick your favorites to reverse and breed with after the previous generation has been harvested and sampled.
“My Oreocake cross with Now N’ Later #47 was the winner out of like 120 plus. So, we flowered it. They hit 3.8 pounds per light. All right, just a beast, just a fucking beast,” said Alex from Clearwater Genetics. “I’ll take that. and I have 27 that I’m reversing right now. I’ll take those. And I’ll spray those down with SDS and do our thing, and basically just have a huge fucking stash of pollen.”
Method 2 – Playing With Dudes
This method involves popping regular, unfeminized seeds and sorting through the males and females. You would then pick a strong male and use it to pollinate female plants of your choosing. Choosing a strong male is where it gets complicated.
“Your only indicator early on is stem rubs,” said Scott from Sexual Chocolate Factory, the company that bred the illustrious Randy Watzon. “Another indicator later on in life is pollen sacks. Pollen sacks and plant matter will start to develop trichomes just like the female plant, but just in different areas. So you’ll have indicators of what the resin and the fragrances will be, if you’re lucky to find a male that will exhibit these trichomes because it’s not all males that do it.”
Once you’ve chosen your stud you can either collect the pollen to apply to the female plants as you choose or just keep the plants in the same room until seeds form.
This method is a bit more complicated, especially in a limited home setup. You very well might fuck up the timing or choose a male that isn’t the best stud, which is why a lot of commercial breeders choose method 1. Method 2 just requires a bit more patience but it gets much easier if your at-home setup has a divider to create two different rooms, which is why I specifically recommended the Vivosun 4×8. You can keep your males and females separate and pollinate on your own time, rather than dialing everything in by the exact day of flower and all that jazz.
No matter which method you choose, you don’t have to waste all your bud just to get some seeds. If you separate your male plants and collect pollen, rather than keeping the plants together and allowing them to openly pollinate, you can literally take a paintbrush, dip it in pollen and place it on however many buds you wish to impregnate. Be sure to wrap the rest of the plant in a trash bag when you do this so you don’t get any pollen in places it shouldn’t go.
Breeding for Hash
I had to squeeze this in for all the low-temp warriors and hash dorks out there. A big topic in the industry seems to be how in the Sam-hell to intentionally grow plants that will produce a lot of hash. For those who don’t know, hash washing is the process of knocking the trichome heads off of the cannabis bud to collect, dry, and vaporize. As with the other traits of the cannabis plant, breeding for hash involves seeking out strains we already know produce good hash yield or good hash taste and choosing those strains to cross.
“When I cross, first of all, the plants I want to pollinate I kinda make sure they already have characteristics for hash washing like good trichome production,” said Compound. “If you’re doing a reverse you don’t want to reverse something that’s a bad washer to begin with.”
Other indicators of good hash yield include a “sandiness” or “grittiness” to the trichomes, but it is important to note that a good yield does not always equal a good flavor. Scott from Sexual Chocolate Factory explained that it’s a dichotomy between genetic traits, a give-and-take essentially between taste and yield that isn’t necessarily a direct correlation.
“Sandy [trichomes] is what you’re looking for when you’re touching flower, and you can feel the grittiness of the trike zones and between your fingers. That is an indicator of a good washer. Whether it’s a desirable washer is another story,” Scott said. “With race cars, you can have a lot of horsepower. But that comes with a lot of weight.”