The Ultimate Guide To Cannabis Pollen

The Ultimate Guide To Cannabis Pollen

Steven Voser
Steven Voser
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Pollinating your own cannabis plants allows you to create your own new strains or develop feminized lines of your favourites. You might create the next big thing! Here's what pollen is all about.

Sources Of Pollen

Cannabis is dioecious, which simply means it produces both male and female plants. The male plants produce a pale yellow pollen, which fertilises female plants to create seeds for a new generation. Pollen production is essential for breeding, whether it be to continue a strain’s lineage or to create novel hybrids. Pollen can be obtained in two different ways; either from genetic males, which have XY chromosomes and produce regular seeds, or from females with XX chromosomes that have been manipulated to produce pollen, which is where feminized seeds come from.

In the wild, cannabis is wind-pollinated, which is why the pollen is extremely fine—enough to be carried by the air. In a controlled environment like a grow room, pollen for breeding is carefully collected from male plants, and females are hand-pollinated. Letting a male have its way with a whole crop of females will produce a lot of seeds, but buds will have no recreational or medicinal value. This is desirable in commercial hemp industry as hemp seed is an invaluable product, but it's anathema to the marijuana producer.

Males Need Their Own Space

Cannabis Males Need Their Own Space

When breeding cannabis, males need to be kept separate from females at all times. This will at very least involve a separate grow space indoors, although keeping males in a greenhouse outdoors is highly recommended. Once true males are identified, or created as with feminization, they need to be cared for just as much as females to ensure production of healthy plants. Male flowers develop in loose clusters and begin as pods that mature and swell over time. When they are ready, they literally burst open to release the pollen from internal structures called anthers.

Big Things From Small Plants

Big Things From Small Cannabis Plants

Depending on how much pollen is needed, male plants really only need to be kept small. Each single male flower produces copious amounts of pollen, with only a few flowers providing enough pollen for any domestic breeding operation. To save space, once a breeding male is identified in the grow room, clone it; once the clone is well rooted, set it straight to a 12-12 light cycle. The same rule applies to cloned females for feminization. These small plants will produce more than enough pollen for any domestic use.

Harvesting Pollen

Harvesting Cannabis Pollen

Watch plants closely as the male flowers develop. When pods have swollen fit to burst, turn the air circulating fans off. Pollen will easily be blown around the grow environment and lost, or desired genetics might get mixed up when making a number of strains for breeding. In a still environment, pollen will simply drop away from the opened flower onto the leaves where it can be dusted off and collected. Even after the pod has opened, enough useful pollen will still be attached to the anthers. Gently remove the pod and tap onto a piece of clean paper—you will see a little pile of pollen.

Upon gaining a bit of experience making males, it is possible to squeeze the unopened flower just before it's ready to open itself and extract all the pollen. This requires experienced timing as pollen needs to mature properly to be viable. Forcefully opening a flower too early will only lead to frustration as the pollen will not be potent enough to fertilise a female.

If possible, use pollen the moment it is collected. It will be at its most potent and fertilisation is guaranteed. 

How To Use Your Pollen

How To Use Your Cannabis Pollen

Using pollen is easy. Simply use a soft brush, Q-tip, or the tip of a clean, dry finger to dab onto female pistils. Females that are at least 21 days into flowering are ripe for fertilisation; pistils are long and still white, and the calyx has developed properly. If fertilised too early when the calyx is not properly formed, seeds will not develop fully and will be small, white, and non-viable.

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It is only necessary to fertilise a single bud on a female plant. However, it is also quite possible to fertilise several buds on the same plant with different strains of pollen, or to use a single breed of pollen on several different strains of females. Keep obsessive track of who’s who in your cannabis zoo.

After a minimum of 45 days, a fully formed seed will be seen splitting the calyx seam, and is thus ready for harvesting. Dry plants as normal, and after 7 days, put seeds in a dry, cool place to dry properly for 4–5 weeks, then plant as desired.

The Importance Of Storing Cannabis Pollen Correctly

The Importance Of Storing Cannabis Pollen Correctly

Pollen is needed to fertilise female cannabis plants and produce offspring. Breeding cannabis, and creating a stable strain, is no easy task, but it is highly rewarding. If you have found the perfect male candidate but are still searching for a female counterpart, it is vital that, in the meantime, you store your pollen correctly. Doing so will ensure that when you do find a female cannabis plant with the right flavour, aroma, and bud density, you can begin crafting your masterpiece on the right foot.

Storing pollen is relatively straightforward as it can remain stable for several months (even years)—provided the right steps are taken. Before we cover off some ideal containers for storing pollen, it is essential to understand the impact of moisture. Allow moisture to take hold of your prized pollen, and you can kiss goodbye to the next cannabis cup winner (it doesn't hurt to dream big).

Moisture Is Your Biggest Enemy

Cannabis Pollen: Moisture Is Your Biggest Enemy

To guarantee moisture doesn't wreck your pollen stash, the first step is to ensure it’s completely dry before transferring it to your chosen container. Place your pollen in a cool, dry area with low humidity and spread thinly on the surface of a table or worktop. Ideally, you want temperatures to remain between 20–22°C (68–72°F) during the drying process. If humidity creeps up while your pollen is drying (around 40–50% RH), put a desiccant or silica gel pouch in with your pollen to soak up any moisture from the air.

Once pollen has been prepared and placed inside a container, move it to the fridge. Keep your pollen in the refrigerator for 2–3 days (with a silica pouch) before storing in the freezer. This is to ensure that temperatures lower gradually and the drop doesn't cause a buildup of moisture. As long as there isn't any moisture lurking inside your container, some growers claim pollen can be stored, without damaging its integrity, for up to 6 years!

When you finally need your prized pollen, follow the same procedure as above, but in reverse. Again, this is to make sure that temperatures rise slowly. As a budget option, if you cannot get hold of silica gel packs, rice is a simple alternative. Before transferring the pollen to a container, fill said container with a small layer of rice. The rice grains will work in a similar way to silica, pulling moisture from the surrounding air.

Choosing The Right Container

Cannabis Pollen: Choosing The Right Container

With the proper techniques outlined, all we need to do now is pick a suitable container. Thankfully, Zamensia has you covered with options to suit every budget.

• Stashbox Tightvac

Small, discreet, and airtight, the Stastbox Tightvac set is another perfect choice for storing pollen. Easily affix labels to the outside so you can keep track of your breeding exploits, or use the coloured lids as a means of identification. Either way, these containers are large enough to accommodate pollen, but small enough that they won't take up valuable space in your freezer.

• Weed Curing Jar

Available in a range of sizes, the glass mason jars available from Zamnesia are the cost-effective choice for storing pollen. For only a few euros, you get extra-thick glass construction and a rubber seal with a galvanised bracket to keep things 100% airtight. Not only are our Weed Curing Jars perfect for storing pollen, but once you've harvested your chosen mother, you can use the jars for curing your newly created super buds!

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Pollen For Your Pleasure

Cannabis Pollen For Your Pleasure

Pollen is the ideal way to produce your own seeds at home. Whether you are feminizing a favourite strain to ensure female plants every grow, or creating entirely new hybrids, by combining the characteristics of your favourite plants, it is quite possible to create the next big thing in cannabis breeding. Just look at strains like Gorilla Glue, Cheese, GSC, and Critical, each of which changed the course of cannabis history forever with their groundbreaking genetics.

Steven Voser
Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an independent cannabis journalist with over 6 years of experience writing about all things weed; how to grow it, how best to enjoy it, and the booming industry and murky legal landscape surrounding it.