How to Collect, Store, and Use Cannabis Pollen?

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Added 14 February 2023

Pollen from male cannabis plants — is it of any use or should you simply avoid growing male plants in the first place? The answer to this question is not straightforward and depends on what you want to achieve as a grower.

If your goal is to grow potent, delicious buds, you should avoid male plants. But if you are looking into breeding cannabis plants or want to preserve a specific gene line, learning about collecting and using cannabis pollen can come in handy more often than you’d think.

Read on to know all about collecting, storing, and using cannabis pollen the easy way. 

What is Cannabis Pollen?

What is cannabis pollen

Cannabis, like many other plant species, is dioecious — there are separate male and female plants. And the male plant produces pollen; and in some cases, female plants can also produce pollen if they undergo hermaphroditism

The plant produces pollen in sacs, the reproductive organ, which starts developing in the late-vegetative stage around the nodes. And once the male plant matures — around four weeks into bloom — the sacs open, releasing the pollen into the wind. 

Since pollen is a fine powder, the wind can carry it to large distances until it reaches the female plant, pollinating or fertilizing it. Once this process occurs, the female plant’s buds start growing seeds. 

Why Do Growers Harvest Pollen?

Why Do Growers Harvest Pollen?

Most cannabis growers exclusively grow female cannabis plants for their flowers, which contain all the goodies like THC, CBD, trichomes, and terpenes. These phytochemicals are why cannabis is held in such high regard, whether you are looking for recreational high or medicinal benefits. 

For such growers, a male plant can be a bane to their plant’s yields as it can make the female plant produce seeds, and they go to great lengths to eliminate any male plants from their gardens. This is because when the male plant releases pollen, it can potentially fertilize all the female plants in the garden, drastically reducing or even destroying the yield. 

But some of us intentionally grow male plants to harvest pollen. Typically, these growers are breeders that create new cannabis strains or varieties. And some harvest pollen to produce seeds, which they use to grow more plants or sell to other growers. 

Collecting pollen has another benefit for professional breeders and seed supplies as it can help them preserve the good genetics of their preexisting plants. By collecting pollen, you can essentially create an archive of pollen from the best specimens in your garden, which can later be used to revive a line or expand your operations. 

Even for regular growers, harvesting pollen can come in handy by saving a lot of time that would otherwise go into sourcing seeds from a seed bank. By having your own pollen, you can easily grow more seeds and start growing the next generation independently. 

How to Identify Pollen in a Male Plant?

How to Identify Pollen in a Male Plant?

If you are a cannabis breeder wanting to preserve good genetics or want to grow seeds, you need to start harvesting pollen. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. And the process starts with identifying the male plant and its pollen.

Fortunately, it is easy to identify a male plant. All you need to do is take a closer look at the nodes, where the branches meet the stems, and you’ll see the pollen sacs — they look like small bananas. Usually, you can determine the sex of your cannabis plants by the end of the second month. 

The same pollen sacs also appear in hermaphrodite female plants. And on the female plant, you’ll notice stigmas resembling small wispy hairs at the nodes.

If you’re growing both male and female plants in the same room, you must isolate the male plants as soon as possible, even if you haven’t switched the light cycle to 12/12 yet. It is better to be safe than risk pollinating your female plants. 

How to Harvest Cannabis Pollen?

How to Harvest Cannabis Pollen?

Collecting or harvesting pollen is a meticulous process, requiring a lot of patience and a light hand. At the same time, since pollen is too easy to be blown by the wind, you need to make sure the airflow in your grow room is at the minimum. 

Follow these steps to collect pollen from your male cannabis plant.

1. Prepare Your Workstation

To get started, you need to prepare your workstation with a few essential pieces of equipment. For example, you need an airtight container, latex gloves, goggles, and a good mask. 

You also need a container to store pollen, and the best option here is to use heavy-duty ziplock bags or airtight mason jars. And, depending on the harvesting method, you may also need sharp pruning scissors, parchment paper, and a micro screen.

Additionally, you should also wear tight clothing so it does not come in contact with pollen.

2. Collect the Pollen

When your male plant is in three or four weeks of its flowering cycle, you need to start monitoring the pollen sacs at the nodes. During this stage, when the plant matures, the sacs will open up and release the pollen into the air. 

Make sure you do not miss this window — if you’re too late, the sacs will empty and wither out. You need to collect the pollen as soon as the sacs open up. Also, if you are too early, the pollen may appear completely white and may not be as potent. 

Here are two ways you can collect pollen. 

  • First Method: Snipping 

This method involves snipping parts of the plants entirely and works best if you don’t mind damaging your plant. Here, you need to use sharp pruning scissors to cut off parts of the plant at a time, including the sacs, and collect them in a container or ziplock bags. 

Once the pollen sacs are packed in the container or bag, place them in a dim, dry place for up to a week so that the cluster dries out. Drying is a crucial step as it allows you to collect the pollen easily. 

After 5 to 6 days, take one of the bags or containers and give it a good shake. If the pollen spills out of the sac easily, it is dry enough. If not, wait for a couple of days before trying again. 

If the pollen is dry enough, shape the bag a little vigorously and let all the pollen spill out of the sacs. You now need to separate pollen from other plant material, which can be done using parchment paper and a microgreen.

Place a micro screen over parchment paper and empty the bag or container over the screen. The plant matter will be caught by the screen and the pollen will be collected on the paper underneath. Ensure there is no air in the room, or you may lose your pollen entirely. 

  • Second Method: Shaking 

If you don’t want to cut off parts of your plant right away, you can use the second method, which can be done with parchment paper. Here, all you have to do is shake your plant. 

Once the pollen sacs reach maturity, they are ready to open. During this time, you need to place a parchment paper beneath a branch and shake the branch. The sacs will open and the pollen will fall out onto the paper. 

You may still need to filter the pollen using a micro screen to remove any plant matter that may have accompanied the pollen in their freefall. 

Once the pollen is collected, use a clean brush to spread the pollen on the paper, and place it in a dry, warm, and dark place. Also, ensure that the temperature stays between 65°F to 76°F (18°C to 24°C) with a relative humidity of 30% to 60%, and let the pollen dry for around two days.  

Some Points to Remember

While harvesting or collecting pollen, you need to be meticulous. So, to help make the process easier, follow these tips while collecting pollen from your cannabis plant:

  • Turn off the ventilation system and fans to keep airflow to the minimum in the room
  • Before you even start, make sure your workstation is set up — this is a time-sensitive process and you don’t want to get caught with a missing container when you have pollen in your hands
  • Wear latex gloves while handling pollen
  • If you are allergic to pollen or susceptible to sneezing a lot, you should also wear a mask and goggles to keep the pollen from making you sneeze 
  • After the process, take a shower and put the clothes straight into the washing machine before setting them in your garden 

How to Use Cannabis Pollen on Your Plants?

How to Use Cannabis Pollen on Your Plants?

While breeding is a vast and in-depth subject, pollinating the plants using pollen is fairly straightforward in comparison. Follow these tips to use your collected pollen on your female plants.

Most female cannabis plants, depending on the strain, are ready for pollination between week 2 and week 3. Here, you need to first locate the stigmas on the female plant, which are tiny white hairs located at the nodes. The stigmas collect pollen to fertilize the plants. 

If you have frozen your pollen before use, let the container thaw for up to 24 hours, which will allow the pollen to reach room temperature without being affected by air or moisture. Once it is at room temperature, you can administer it to your plant. 

And you can use pollen in various ways. For an easy application, you should ideally use a soft brush to flick the pollen on the stigmas of the female plants. On the other hand, if you don’t mind wasting a little pollen, you can simply blow pollen onto the buds of the plant. 

Whichever method you use, ensure your room is sealed and the fans and ventilation system are switched off. 

Usually, the pollen will fertilize the female plants within 4 to 6 hours, but keep the female plant isolated for at least 24 hours before moving them back to the grow room. And when it is ready to return, use a sprayer to mist pure water on the plant — this will force germinate any remaining pollen. 

Again, you must change your clothes and take a bath before entering the female grow room. There might be some pollen still on you otherwise, which may germinate other female plants you don’t want to pollinate. 

Can You Use Pollen on Autoflowering Cannabis Plants?

Fortunately, you can administer pollen on autoflowering cannabis plants, too. To do so, collect some pollen from a male autoflowering cannabis and use the methods mentioned above to apply it to a female autoflowering plant. 

How to Store Cannabis Pollen Safely for Long-Term Preservation?

How to Store Cannabis Pollen Safely for Long-Term Preservation?

You might not always want to use pollen on your female plants, especially if you simply want to preserve the genes of a good specimen. In that case, you can store pollen for a long term, and under good conditions, pollen lasts a few years. 

Again, wearing latex gloves and a mask is a good idea while handling pollen. And prepare your workstation beforehand to avoid any distractions during the process. 

Once the pollen is collected, transfer it to an airtight container and place it in a cool, dark, and dry place for short-term storage. But if you want to keep it for longer, you should place the container in the freezer. The pollen will easily last a few years in the freezer. 

Speaking of containers, the best containers are airtight mason or glass jars since they offer superior isolation from air and moisture compared to plastic containers. And if you want to be extra careful, you can even place the jar inside another container — like a Matryoshka doll.

If you’re freezing pollen for long-term storage, avoid defrosting it unless you are going to use it. Thawing will degrade the quality of the pollen and temperature spikes can also hamper pollen viability. 

And during the end of its life, it will start turning clumpy — that’s a sign your pollen is too old and may not be easy or effective to use. 

Controlling Moisture 

Excess moisture is a problem that can hamper your pollen’s quality over time since pollen does not have any protective shell. When they come in contact with moisture, they can quickly start decomposing and losing their potency. 

So, when storing pollen, line the storing container with parchment paper under a micro screen to absorb excess moisture. 

Some growers also recommend diluting flour with pollen to keep the container as dry as possible and prevent moisture. If you choose this route, maintain a ratio of 5:1 of pollen to flour.

And while there are concerns over diluting pollen with flour, it is a safe process and does not harm the pollen in any way. And this trick is especially useful for novice breeders as it is easier and you don’t need to be a professional to store your pollen. 

Summary: How to Collect, Store, and Use Cannabis Pollen?

Isn’t it easy to collect, use, and store cannabis pollen? So, what are you waiting for? Get started by identifying male plants and isolating them. Once they grow pollen sacs, harvest the pollen using the tricks mentioned earlier.

Depending on your goals, you can either it quickly once it's dry using a small brush or store it in a freezer if you want to preserve it for a couple of years. 

In any case, keep a few things in mind. First, always change your clothes and take a bath after handling pollen or you may end up contaminating your female grow room with pollen. Second, consider wearing gloves and a mask while handling pollen — it can make you sneeze a lot!

Don’t forget to stay tuned to learn more nifty tricks on growing cannabis like a professional. 



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