Tips on creating hybrids and selectively breeding cannabis

Published Apr 28, 2019 12:03 p.m. ET
Photo Credit Graeme Roy

Growing marijuana is a relatively simple project that can be replicated by even the least experienced cultivators which is why so many people have chosen to develop their own weed strains. The thing is that basics like seed planting are a lot easier to pull off successfully than other more complicated tasks like producing hybrid weed strains through selective breeding. It might sound like a really exciting opportunity, but chances are you are going to end up with a mediocre result if you don’t know what you are doing. Here we'll share  some practical tips and tricks for cloning weed, and selectively breeding weed strains to help get you started in learning how to create a brand-new kind of cannabis.

What is a hybrid weed strain?

There are three different subspecies of cannabis plants including Sativa, Indica, and Hybrids. A hybrid marijuana plant will consist of the genetics of both Sativa and Indica weed strains. They may be Indica dominant (over 50% Indica genetics), Sativa dominant (over 50% Sativa genetics), or an even hybrid that contains both in an equal capacity.

Benefits of cultivating a hybrid strain

A lot of people aren’t aware of the benefits that can be obtained through selective breeding to produce hybrid weed strains, but there are many. Every type of marijuana that already exists will come equipped with its chemical profile that will vary from species to species. The effects of Indica cannabis products are in general, much more sedative than those expected from Sativa weed strains, but every person will react differently despite these general guidelines. The most significant benefit to selectively breeding is that if it is done right, you will have the ability to harness certain qualities from your favorite weed strains and combine them into one new species. Effectively personalizing the high and effects that will be experienced when marijuana is consumed.

How does selective breeding work?

When the chromosomes of one type of marijuana combine with another, the results are a brand-new lineage that contains an identical genetic copy of both parent plants. This means that everything including the growing time required, aesthetics, terpene profiles, and cannabinoid levels can all be altered to suit your own personal preference.

Tips on selectively growing marijuana to produce hybrids  

To begin growing marijuana to create your hybrid, you will first need to establish a breeding program that may be of any size. You will need both male and female cannabis plants to have a genetic pool to pull from, and as few as two or as many as one hundred or more can be utilized depending on your individual needs. Follow these seven useful breeding tips and instructions for the best chances at producing a marijuana strain that will work for you.

  1. Males and females should always be kept separate
    It is critical that the female and male cannabis plants are separated right from the beginning to avoid any unwanted cross pollination that could ruin a crop. They cannot be in the same room and should always be kept a safe distance from one another at all costs.

  2. Choosing weed strains to breed
    One of the most important decisions you will make in this process is selecting the weed strains that will suit your personal needs. A few things that should be considered might include:

  • growing length
  • average size
  • cannabinoid content
  • physical appearance
  • terpene profiles
  1. Selecting the parent plant’s
    Choosing a female plant is often much more straightforward than a male for several reasons. Below you will find a list of things to look out for when selecting your parent plants.

Female

  • Watch your female cannabis plants carefully, and monitor them for development rate, growth, appearances, and smell.

Male

  • Since male marijuana plants don’t produce the bud flowers and other outer characteristics that are visible in females, it can be more difficult to predict what genetic qualities they might pass off to their offspring. The only way other than monitoring the plant’s growth and overall health is to assess the size and density of their pollen sacs, but so far any data available shows very little difference in the result when that method is used. This is where things get complicated, as sometimes it will take several attempts at pollinating before you truly understand what each male weed species will provide to the mix. Your best bet is to look at females of the same species and assume that their genetic qualities will be passed down.
  1. Pollinate in the presence of pistils
    To create a new marijuana strain, most growers depend on cloning weed and using a very direct method of application of the male’s pollen. This can be done over approximately one month while the presence of pistils are obvious and remain a bright white color.

  2. Directly pollinate the females
    Although many of the original weed strains flourished under more natural circumstance, it’s not generally recommended to pollinate a female cannabis plant by placing a male nearby. Especially if you have multiple weed strains to experiment with and require a controlled environment to avoid cross contamination. The easiest way to pollinate when you are growing marijuana is as follows:

  • Use a collection container such as a plastic baggie, cup, or piece of tinfoil and place it directly underneath the male’s pollen sacs.
  • Gently shake the branch with the sac until you see the pollen begin to collect.
  • Remove the female that is being pollinated from the presence of any other females if you have them.
  • There are two approaches that you can take when pollinating cannabis plants. You can either sprinkle the pollen over the entire plant or use a brush or plastic bag to apply it to individual buds. The contained method will allow you to use multiple plants to pollinate one female, but that can get difficult to keep track of for beginners.
  1. Freeze extra pollen
    Chances are there will be plenty of extra pollen left in the male plant that you won’t need right away. Since males are typically disposed of after a few weeks, there is no point in wasting those genetics. Especially if you like the resulting weed strains. Pollen from marijuana plants can stay good for up to one year in a properly sealed container in a freezer, making for an easy go to solution later on.

  2. Cloning weed and selective breeding
    Cloning is an excellent way to preserve plant genetics when you are growing marijuana. Any cutting from a female cannabis plant will result in another female, making cloning a useful tool in multiplying plants which results in a much more abundant harvest. As mentioned above, some people will choose to only pollinate one branch of the mother plant. This allows them to experiment with many different genetic lines at one time, without needing multiple female plants. A technique that is often used to remove the branches and successfully start them as their own plant is cloning while the branch is still attached. This method can be used to when cloning weed of any species but is also really effective when used as part of a breeding program.

  • Use a sharp and sterile razor to make a slice right below the lowest node on the branch. The cut should be made on an angle much like with trimming roses. The difference is that you don’t want to cut the branch all the way through. Instead, you will make an incision that goes ¾ of the way through to start.
  • Paint the exposed plant material with a cloning liquid and powder solution.
  • Wrap the area that is coated in rooting compound and leave it undisturbed for 3 weeks.
  • After three weeks have passed, you can remove the bag to expose an already healthy and partially established root system.
  • Use the blade to cut the rest of the way through, to remove the branch from the mother plant.
  • Immediately plant the clone in nutrient rich soil.
    *Cloning weed should only be done at least one week after pollination has occurred. *

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