What are F1 Hybrid Cannabis Plants and Seeds?

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Added 10 February 2023

F1 hybrids — wait, are we talking about Formula One hybrid race cars? 


We are talking about the next big thing in the cannabis industry — F1 hybrid seeds — that show promising potential to significantly change the way we grow cannabis plants. 

F1 is short for filial 1, wherein filial (Latin origin) means the offspring of two parents. But colloquially, F1 hybrids are generally referred to as first-generation hybrids. They are consistent in their growth and yield, and since they are identical to the parent plants, there are almost zero chances of genetic variation or mutations. 

This is not a new thing for farmers, but for cannabis growers, this is a new concept. However, replicating it at home can be challenging, and purchasing seeds can be expensive. But if you look past that, F1 hybrids can help you grow plants unlike ever before as they can give you up to 50% more yields!

But what are F1 hybrids and how are they created? And more importantly, how can you experience an F1 hybrid first-hand? Read this article for everything you need to know about F1 hybrids. 

What are F1 Hybrid Cannabis Plants?

What are F1 Hybrid Cannabis Plants?

F1 (first-generation) hybrid cannabis plants are specimens grown by crossing two pure and distinct cannabis strains. Here, F1 refers to the first offspring of the two parent plants. While this is a relatively new technique in the cannabis community, it has been used in the vegetable industry for decades to grow high-performing crops.

But this technique is drastically different from traditional cross-breeding, where you’d simply breed two distinct strains of cannabis. Instead, to grow an F1 hybrid cannabis plant, you must cross pure genetic lines, which follows intensive inbreeding. 

Yes, this technique is complex and requires a lot of patience and effort, but the difference it can make to your cultivation is drastic. For instance, when F1 hybrids were first introduced to corn cultivation in 1930 in the US, the yield substantially increased by 500% over the next 90 years, according to the annual USDA-NASS Crop Production Report

If enough growers start using this technique to grow cannabis plants, it wouldn’t be surprising to have super cannabis plants in the next couple of decades!

With this technique, your yield will drastically increase, but along with that, your plants will also be a lot easier to manage and grow since F1 hybrid plants tend to be more robust and stable while offering tremendous resistance to pests and pathogens. 

And perhaps the best part about F1 hybrid plants, or seeds in particular, is that whether you grow 20 or 200 plants using F1 hybrid seeds, each plant will be near-identical in terms of its structure and chemical profile. 

Why are F1 Hybrids so Desirable?

Why are F1 Hybrids so Desirable?

As mentioned earlier, F1 hybrids offer a ton of benefits that are unbeatable by a regular cannabis plant. Here are some of them.

1. Significantly Higher Yields

As was the case with corn in the US, you can expect a drastic increase in yields with an F1 hybrid plant. Sometimes, the yield can be as high as 50% with a higher cannabinoid profile. So, you can grow plants that yield a lot more buds, which you can then sell or consume with your friends.

2. Stability

The second benefit of F1 hybrids is that they offer tremendous stability — the seeds tend to produce consistent phenotypic expression which has nearly endless scalability. And the quality won’t decrease over time, either. 

This is a terrific advantage for growers who want to reap a uniform yield season after season without having to worry about genetic variations or mutations that may hamper the buds’ quality or potency. With an F1 hybrid, you know exactly what to expect from your plants, regardless if you are growing 2 or 200. 

3. Better than Clones

Cloning is a reliable way to replicate the desired traits of the mother plant, but it is not so efficient. Often, clones tend to have a lot of trait diversity. On the other hand, F1 hybrids can replicate the desired traits of the parent plant while offering uniformity. 

Plus, growing F1 hybrids don’t require as much space, and they are quite resistant to rooting issues and similar diseases that often plague many clones.

What are the Drawbacks of F1 Hybrid Seeds?

What are the Drawbacks of F1 Hybrid Seeds?

While F1 hybrids are a terrific choice for commercial growers, it does come with a couple of drawbacks.

One of its biggest drawbacks is genetic instability. 

All the cannabis strains that exist are heterozygous — produced by crossing two different strains. And the offspring generation often has increased genetic instability due to the varying genetics.

But this gets worse with F1 hybrids. In many cases, your F1 hybrid plant may not be able to produce seeds — it will be completely sterile — and if it does produce seeds, the offspring from that seed may not be so great. 

This is because the offspring of the F1 hybrid would contain a mixture of characteristics, often unpredictable, from the F1 hybrid’s parents. As a result, the F1 hybrid’s offspring may also be less vigorous, thanks to a lesser degree of genetic diversity. However, this won’t be a big issue for you unless you’re trying to breed new strains. 

If you want to continue growing F1 hybrids, you would have to purchase seeds all the time or keep producing new generations of F1 hybrids before each season to ensure your crop grows vigorously. 

Additionally, if you are purchasing F1 hybrid seeds from a specific seed bank, you may not get the same strain anywhere else. The breeders of F1 hybrids are exclusive and keep their IBL pairings confidential. 

And did we mention it? F1 hybrid seeds are expensive to purchase. 

How are F1 Hybrid Cannabis Plants Created?

How are F1 Hybrid Cannabis Plants Created?

Creating high-performing strains requires an in-depth understanding of breeding, especially homozygous and heterozygous genetics. This is because you have to first create a pure-line cannabis plant via inbreeding, and cross two distinct inbred, pure-line strains to grow an F1 hybrid cannabis plant. 

Let’s look at this concept in more detail.

1. Terminology

Before starting, it is crucial that you understand what all of these terms mean, so here is a short brief on the common terms you will come across when learning about F1 hybrid cannabis strains.

a. Alleles 

Each organism’s chromosome contains alleles, which are variations of a gene that exist in the same location in the chromosome. And each allele is responsible for a specific trait in the organism. However, each organism contains two different alleles in a single gene, one from each individual parent, and one of them is dominant while the other is recessive. 

Due to multiple alleles in a single gene, the organism experiences genetic diversity with the potential for specific traits to be passed on to the following generations.

b. Zygosity, Homozygosity, and Heterozygosity

Zygosity refers to the degree of similarity of alleles of a particular gene in a plant strain. For instance, if the alleles on a chromosome pair are identical, the gene is fixed. This makes the plant homozygote, where all the alleles of each gene are identical. The line is fixed.

On the other hand, in a heterozygote line, the alleles are not identical. This line would contain some alleles that are dominant, showing the most activity, and recessive alleles that show activity in the absence of the former. 

2. Creating an Inbred Line (IBL)

When two plants are cross-pollinated, the different genotypes of the parent plants lead to a lot of genetic diversity in the seeds. The seeds grow into heterozygous plants. But if you want to create high-performing and high-yielding F1 hybrids, you need to breed a line of homozygote plants.

So, the first step in creating F1 hybrids is to create an inbred line of plants by forcing a specific plant to self-pollinate. 

Now, doing this would be easier with a tomato plant, since it is naturally self-pollinating. Cannabis, however, is not. Cannabis is a cross-pollinator. But with the right method, you can force your cannabis plant to self-pollinate. 

For example, if you want to create a strain that produces highly aromatic flowers that contain 25% THC, you need to pick a parent strain with the desired characteristics. You then grow multiple specimens of that strain and choose a plant that outperforms other plants.

The next step is to force the chosen plant to self-pollinate. The seeds from this plant, which can be referred to as S1 seeds, must be grown into plants. You then choose the S1 plant with the highest levels of desired traits and self-breed it to create S2 seeds. And you keep doing so for multiple cycles until you reach a stage where the plants from the same generation turn out to be identical to one another.

But it must be noted that this is an intensive and meticulous process, with an array of challenges. First, you must ensure your plants do not cross-pollinate with other strains or even other plants of the same generation. They must self-pollinate in each generation.

Second, this inbreeding can sometimes lead to inbreeding depression, where the plants don’t grow any of the desired traits. 

Third, you have to sort through many plants to find specimens that have the most desirable traits, and if you are serious enough, the number can often go into the hundreds. And this process is long — often lasting multiple growing seasons. 

But if all goes well, in the end, you will have grown a group of plants belonging to the same generation that are nearly identical to each other. Congrats, you have created an inbred line of plants that is — for example — vigorous, aromatic, and potent.

And you must do this twice to create two pure lines or IBLs. In the next step, you cross-breed these two pure lines.

3. Creating a Heterozygote Offspring, aka F1 Hybrids

Here comes the interesting part, where you will finally be able to reap the fruits of your labor, literally. Once you have created two IBLs that are distinct from one another, you have to then cross-breed them to create the first generation of hybrids. 

An F1 hybrid is created by crossing two homozygous parent lines. 

For example, you can create one pure line that produces buds with 25% THC and another pure line of plants that grow well in colder regions. You will then cross-breed the two plants with pure genotypes, and the resulting plant of the first generation will contain both desirable traits — it will grow well in winter while producing buds with 25% THC content.

Once you have cross-bred the two strains, the seeds that grow on the female plant will be referred to as F1 hybrid seeds, and the plants that grow from the seeds will be F1 hybrid plants. 

How are F1 Hybrids Different from Regular Cannabis Strains?

How are F1 Hybrids Different from Regular Cannabis Strains?

While looking for hybrid seeds or growing hybrid plants, you will also come across other kinds of hybrids, like poly-hybrids, f2, f3, f4, and so on. And these are very different from F1 hybrids. Let’s take a look at the differences.

1. Poly-hybrids

The most distinctive of the low are poly-hybrid seeds, which are quite common these days in most cannabis seed banks. Poly-hybrid seeds are created by cross-breeding two different hybrid strains of varying genotypes. 

And in many cases, poly-hybrid plants tend to have unstable offspring, i.e., the offspring may not produce the same specific traits as the parent plants. They may showcase traits from their ancestral lineage that may not always be desirable for you. 

2. F2, F3, F4…

On the other hand, there are other kinds of hybrids like F2, F3, F4, and so so, and these plants have more in common with F1 hybrids, unlike poly-hybrids. 

F2 hybrids are produced by cross-breeding two F1 hybrid plants, hence, F2 is the second generation of hybrids. And these plants tend to grow a more diverse set of offspring, unlike F1 hybrids, whose offspring tend to be more uniform.

Generally, 50% of the F2 hybrid plant will be a mixture of traits from the parents, 25% of it will resemble one parent, and the remaining 25% will resemble the other parent. 

And when F2 hybrids are crossed with other F2 hybrid plants, the offspring is referred to as an F3 hybrid or third-generation hybrid.

Here is a table showcasing common differences you can expect between a true F1 hybrid and other subsequent generations. 

F1 Hybrid

F2 Hybrid

F3 Hybrid

This plant will inherit the exact qualities of the parent plant

This plant will contain around 50% of the exact qualities of the parent and the remaining would be genetically diverse traits

This plant will likely not contain any qualities of its F2 parent plant

Significantly higher yield, sometimes, up to 50% higher

Higher yield, but not as significant as an F1 hybrid

Usually, an average yield 

F1 seeds produce picture-perfect buds

F2 seeds sometimes produce picture-perfect buds, but other times, the buds may not resemble the parent’s buds

F3 seeds rarely produce buds that resemble their predecessor’s buds

F1 seeds are considerably more expensive 

The seeds are moderately expensive

The seeds are not so expensive

The quality is unmatched 

The quality of yield is higher than a normal plant

The quality of yield is usually comparable to a normal cannabis plant

3. Backcrosses or BX Hybrids

The last type of hybrid you may come across are backcrosses or BX hybrids. This is not a common technique and is usually used to correct a specific trait in a line of hybrid plants. And this is done by crossing the offspring plants with the original parents. 

For example, an F1 plant cross-bred with its parent plant would lead to a BX hybrid. 

Backcrossing can also be used to create a plant that replicates the desired traits of a clone plant but in a seed form. For instance, if you have a female clone and want to create seeds that grow similarly to the female clone, you can use this technique. 

Here, you must cross-breed the clone plant with another male plant and backcross the clone again with the offspring. And this cycle must be continued until you reach a generation that is almost identical to the original clone. 

Should You Purchase F1 Hybrid Cannabis Seeds or DIY It?

Should You Purchase F1 Hybrid Seeds or DIY It?

We have explained the process of creating your own F1 hybrid seeds above, but one can’t deny that it is a tedious process. You have to invest a lot of time and effort into producing F1 hybrids. 

This begins by choosing the right plants with the traits you desire and then in-breeding them individually. And you have to continue this cycle until you have successfully created a pure line for each plant.

This requires a lot of trial and error. You don’t just grow one offspring — you grow multiple and choose one that matches the parent plant the most and continue this cycle. Generally, you would have to grow many cannabis plants, sometimes, even hundreds of them. 

Growing so many plants will also require a lot of room — they must be protected from the elements, sure, but the two lines must also be isolated so they don’t cross-breed accidentally. 

So, can you create F1 hybrids on your own? Yes. But should you do that? Only if you are willing to take that effort and spend multiple years creating an F1 hybrid. Yes, the process is rewarding, but for most home growers, it does not always make sense.

Instead, it is better to purchase F1 hybrid seeds, even though they can be expensive. 

But there are some instances where it would make perfect sense to create your own F1 hybrid, especially if you are a commercial grower. F1 hybrids are in demand for their vigor and yield potential, and the seeds are expensive, so they can definitely boost your bottom line.

If you are a commercial grower wanting to stay ahead of the curve, you cannot go wrong with creating a unique F1 hybrid of your own and introducing it to the community. 

Summary: What are F1 Hybrid Cannabis Plants and Seeds?

The F1 hybrid method has helped the human race in a drastic manner, and without this technique, a lot of the vegetables, fruits, and crops that are household ingredients would have been a lot more exclusive. 

For example, peppermint is an F1 hybrid of spearmint and watermint. And to give you a perspective on how significant this method is for agriculture, in 1960, 99% of corn, 80% of spinach, and 60% of onions (among other veggies) in the US were F1 hybrids. 

And this method is not exclusive to agriculture. Scientists have even created F1 hybrids of animals. For example, mules are F1 hybrids of donkeys and horses, and the two popular cat breeds, the Savannah cat and the Bengal cat are also F1 hybrid breeds!

It is evident how F1 hybrids have impacted the world, and fortunately, we will get to experience how F1 hybrids impact cannabis cultivation. While this is still in its infancy, the potential is tremendous. 

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a future where cannabis plants are more vigorous, more resistant to common diseases and pathogens, and a lot more potent. 

So, if you are thinking of purchasing F1 hybrid seeds, or better yet, making your own F1 hybrid, you should totally go for it. The result will blow your mind. 



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