How to Collect Cannabis Pollen and Use It for Breeding

male cannabis plant with green pollen sacs

Cannabis pollen can be a scary thing for some cultivators. The idea of growing a male and collecting its pollen sounds too risky for most growers to undertake. It only takes a small amount of pollen to create thousands of seeds and turn your bumper crop into a seeded catastrophe. Though, if you want to create your own cannabis genetics, you’ll need to mess with the stuff at some point. There’s no reason to fear pollen though — with the proper knowledge and handling, you can create your own strains without worrying about seeding another crop. 

Identify the Males

The first step is to identify the male plants. When you germinate seeds, it can take up to 2 months to determine their sex. Checking plants for their preflowers will help you determine what sex they are before you flower them. 

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male pre-flowering cannabis plant with pollen buds appearing, next to a female pre-flowering cannabis plant with small green buds and hairs

Male pre-flowers have small round pollen sacs and tend to have thick stalks, while female pre-flowers grow more leaves and have round calyx (buds) with hairs.
Photo Credit: WikiLeaf

Once you have identified the males, they must be separated from the females and isolated to their own grow room or tent. This is because the male preflowers can create pollen, even if the light cycle hasn’t been changed to induce flowering. As soon as you see male pre-flowers, you’re at risk for getting unwanted pollen. 

Once identified and isolated, males can then be flowered and the pollen collected. A male plant will typically start releasing pollen after 3 weeks of flowering time. From weeks 3 to 7, massive amounts of pollen are continually produced from the opening anthers of the male flowers. You can collect this pollen by gently knocking the flowers over a sheet of parchment paper. 

cannabis flowers next to a dusting of cannabis pollen on a person’s hand

Pollen starts being released from male plants around week 3.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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The pollen should have a mustard yellow appearance. If the pollen is too white, it may not be as potent. Be sure to remove any bits of leaf or pollen sacs that might have fallen on the sheet. This is important as moisture from the plant material will destroy pollen during storage. Put more simply, water kills pollen almost instantly. 

Pollen Collection Technique

Dry it Out

To ensure that pollen is dry and safe for storage, we need to dry it out a little. Take a piece of porous, non-waxed paper (like printer paper) and fold it into an envelope. Be sure the sides are tight and the pollen won’t be able to escape. Pour the cleaned pollen from the parchment paper into the envelope, close it, and place in a dark, dry area. The paper will let moisture wick out and escape. 

Store the Pollen

After 1-2 days (longer for humid environments), the pollen should be dry and ready to store. Place the paper envelope in a mylar or plastic bag for long storage. One extra step is to add silicon dioxide balls or rice to be absolutely sure no moisture from the outside reaches the pollen. It’s not necessary, but we recommend it. 

Dry pollen will have a very powdery, dust like texture. If the pollen has a lumpy, clumped texture you should toss it — this means moisture has contaminated it and its potency has been compromised. 

Freeze the Pollen

At this point, the pollen envelope is safe to be frozen for later use. Double bag it and throw it in the back of your freezer. Without freezing, pollen’s shelf life will be, at best, 8 months to a year. After that its potency will rapidly decline, resulting in fewer seeds it is able to produce. If frozen though, pollen can be used for up to about 2 – 3 years depending on at what temperature it is held at — the colder, the longer. Keep in mind that once thawed, the pollen must be used immediately and cannot be refrozen. It might be a good move to make a few envelopes with a little pollen in them each, as opposed to one large envelope with all the pollen in it. 

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Unfreeze When Needed

Once you’re ready to do the deed, unfreeze the desired amount of pollen. A quarter teaspoon of pollen is enough to completely cover for up to 4-5 plants. The best time to pollinate females is around week 3-4, so they have ample time to finish their seeds. Take the plants that are going to be pollinated out of the flower room and into an isolated area. Set the mood, dim the lights, put on some Marvin Gaye or Al Green. 

Pollinate the Females

Take a small paint brush, dip it in the envelope, and get enough to cover the tip of the brush. With a flicking motion, fling the pollen all over the buds of the female plant. A cloud of pollen will erupt into the air with every flick, so make sure you are in a well isolated area that doesn’t share any air with other grow rooms. 

a thin paintbrush with a long red handle

Paintbrushes are an easy way to dust pollen onto your female plants.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

It only takes about 4-6 hours for the pollen to germinate and fertilize the females, but it’s best to give the plants a full 24 hours before returning them to the flowering room to maximize seed production. 

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Once they are ready to go back in, use a pump sprayer with only pure water in it to mist down the pollinated plants. The water will force germinate any remaining pollen on these plants. Once dried, the plants will be ready to go back into the flower room with no risk of accidentally pollinating other plants. 

If at any point you feel like you might have gotten pollen on you, or contaminated your clothes, use a pump sprayer full of water to mist yourself down. Once dry you’ll be pollen free. With a little knowledge and careful touch, pollen is nothing to be afraid of. 

How to Collect Cannabis Pollen and Use It for Breeding was last modified: by