How To Germinate Weed Seeds

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Want to germinate your cannabis seeds? Not sure how to start? This guide will give you a few tips and tricks to get your journey started. Jorge Cervantes, veteran marijuana cultivator and author of “The Cannabis Encyclopedia” shares his process for germinating cannabis seeds into healthy sprouts. Figuring out how to germinate weed seeds isn't that hard, but choosing the right method can determine exactly how high your success rate is.

How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds

Just received your cannabis seeds in the mail? Great! Now what?

Now you germinate your seeds. But what does that mean, and how do you do it? Once again, Seedsman has all the information you need. This article will look at the germination process – both what it means and a step-by-step look at how to do it. Bookmark this one for future reference.

Table of contents

What is Seed Germination?

Put simply, germination is the first step when growing marijuana plants. It’s the first step in the cannabis plant life cycle before planting or potting your seeds, where the seed goes from seed to seedling. The shell will crack, and (all being well), you’ll see a white root emerge.

This sprout is known as a taproot, and it’s the first sign of life to burst forth from your seed. There are several different ways to germinate cannabis seeds, most of which are pretty straightforward. We’ll look at these methods in a bit more depth, and you can decide which method is best for you – and your seeds.

Getting the germination stage right is crucial to getting your cannabis cultivation off the ground. There’s a high chance of failure, and how you store your seeds, as well as how you handle them before attempting germination, is vital. If you get it wrong, your seed is useless, and you’ll have to try again with a new seed – but don’t worry! This guide will give you all you need to know to get you germinating seeds like a veteran.

Before you get started, there is a small caveat – even the most seasoned cultivators will often find themselves with a dud seed or a few dud seeds now and again. Taking great care of your seeds and using the proper techniques will serve you well, but sometimes a seed just won’t sprout. Bear in mind a seed is a living organism, and sometimes you’ll get a seed with bad genetics. If this happens to you, toss it aside and start again.

Inspect Your Seeds

Cannabis seeds are just the same as any other seeds in that they’re not all created equal. Upon opening the package, you may notice seeds of different sizes and colours. This is normal, and the shape and size of the seed aren’t indicative of its quality.

There’s a consensus among the experts that the colour of the seed may be a quality marker. Darker seeds may have greater viability, and pale green or whiter-looking seeds are more likely to fail. That doesn’t mean tossing out the pale ones, however. Germinate them all and see how you fare. Even a seed with slight damage to the outer shell can sometimes germinate and grow to produce good plants.

It likely suggests a good seed if a seed has a tough shell and can take a squeeze without sustaining any damage. An immature seed will typically be of a paler colour and more prone to shell damage if pressure is applied.

What’s the Score?

Some cultivators believe in scoring the seed’s outer shell with a sharp object before germination. This process is also known as scarification and is a good way to assist in the germination process. The idea is that weakening the seed’s outer shell makes it easier for moisture to permeate the hard shell. This should speed up the process somewhat and make it easier for the taproot to burst through.

Feel free to try this method, but take great care. Also, note that if you’re a hobbyist, scarification is fine, but if you’re a licensed cultivator with dozens of plants, you might find scarification to be an unnecessary, time-consuming endeavour.

As scarification involves a sharp implement (such as a pen knife or a thin file), there’s a reasonable chance you could nick yourself in the process. Your seed is at risk of damage because if you score too deep into the shell, you can damage the embryo inside the seed. Sure, you can toss the seed aside and start over with a new one, but can you say the same about your finger?

You can nip seeds with nail clippers to scarify them, but remember not to squeeze too hard – the aim is to put a score in the shell and not pierce it.

Another way to scarify seeds is to soak them in hot, but not boiling, water. Let the water cool to room temperature, and leave the seeds in that same water for around 12 hours.

A Word About Water

Home growers take note – many seasoned cultivators recommend using distilled water rather than tap water when germinating seeds. The advantage of distilled water is that it’s free of contaminants and seems to help seeds germinate quicker.

How To Germinate Cannabis Seeds

Once you’ve inspected your marijuana seeds and scarified them if you choose to, it’s time to begin the fun part – germinating your seeds. This is the first step in the life of your cannabis plant when the initial shoot of the plant appears, long before putting the plant under grow lights or into a growing medium. Seeing your first taproots is an exciting experience and is often documented like the imminent arrival of a child with a series of photographs from bump to birth.

Let’s talk about germination methods:

The Wet Paper Towel Method

This is a favourite of hobbyist cultivators worldwide, mainly due to its sheer simplicity. To germinate cannabis seeds using the paper towel method, you’ll need the following:

Cannabis seeds (of course)

  • Two plates
  • Four paper towels
  • Tweezers
  • Distilled water

Begin by laying the paper towels out flat. Dampen them with distilled water, enough to moisten without saturating them – you want them to be moist but not wet. Lay two of your dampened paper towels on top of one of the plates, and using tweezers, place your seeds on top of the paper towels a few centimetres apart from each other. Then, take the other two paper towels and lay them on top of the seeds. Finally, cover the lot with the last plate to seal in the moisture and create a nice, dark environment for your seeds.

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Store your plates in an environment where the temperature is between 20°C and 30°C (68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit) and check on them twice a day. You can buy a heating mat online to help create a stable temperature. Top Tip – if you find the paper towels are drying out, add a little more distilled water to keep them moist.

Resist the temptation to check on them regularly, as you don’t want to keep disturbing the ambience between the plates. Using the paper towel method, you should see taproots emerge within the first three days, although some strains and older seeds may need a little more time. When you have taproots measuring 2-3mm, remove your sprouting seeds and plant them in the soil.

The Glass of Water Method

A less common and perhaps less effective method is the glass of water method of germinating seeds. Here, you’ll need:

  • Seeds (of course)
  • A cup/glass/bowl – small container of water

First, ensure the water is at room temperature. Don’t heat it, don’t boil it, don’t pull a bottle of Evian straight from the fridge and have at it. Then, simply pop your seeds in and check back the next day. After somewhere between 3 to 5 days, you should find that your seeds have opened and those magical white tips have appeared. Once they’re around 2-3mm long, remove the seeds very carefully, and plant them in soil pots.

This is the simplest germination method, but the internet is awash with contradicting views and sob stories about using the glass of water method to germinate cannabis seeds. Some people found that seeds effectively drowned and were useless due to spending so long in the water, but others reported the process worked fine.

Soil Plugs

A slightly more hi-tech method of germinating your seeds involves using soil plugs. These contain ingredients such as key nutrients which should benefit seedlings to thrive. By investing in soil plugs, the idea is that you’re strengthening the plant from its earliest stage of life and providing head-start protection. Soil plugs can assist nutrient uptake and protect against pathogens which could attack the root zone.

For this method, you’ll need the following:

  • Seeds (of course)
  • Soil Plugs
  • A propagation tray
  • A spray bottle
  • A clear plastic lid (Tupperware style)

Begin by placing a single seed into each plug, then place each plug into the propagation tray. Grab your spray bottle and set it to mist to avoid overwatering, then mist each plug with just enough water to moisten them.

Then, pop your lid on the propagation tray to retain the humidity inside the tray. It would be best if you aimed to keep the temperature somewhere between 22°C and 25°C and relative humidity between 70% and 90%. Once roots begin to appear, soil plugs have the benefit of allowing easy transplant into soil, rock wool, coir or hydroponics systems.

The Soil Method

The advantage of planting seeds directly into potting soil is a notable one – you want to minimise handling as much as possible at this stage, and the soil method allows you to skip that altogether. For that reason, planting straight into soil is probably the safest method of germinating cannabis seeds.

  • Seeds (of course)
  • Small pots
  • Premium quality soil
  • Water
  • A spray bottle

Soak the soil you’re going to be using in water, and fill each pot with soil. Make a small hole about 15mm deep in the centre of the soil, then carefully place one seed in the hole in the soil in every pot. You’ll then lightly cover each seed with soil, but take great care not to compress the soil over the seed. Doing this will make it much harder for the root to break through the soil and can slow growth significantly. A light dusting over the seed should do the trick.

After this, lightly spray the top soil with water to keep it moist. Then, place the pots in an environment in that temperature sweet spot between 22C and 25C. It should take between four and ten days for the seedling to sprout in this method, but as it’s already in soil, the plant’s roots will also have started to spread underneath. The result is a plant that’s underway and has enough resilience that you can transfer it – and the soil – to a larger pot for the next stage of young plant growth.

Different Methods, Same Conditions

Once your seeds have germinated, pot them and transfer them to a windowsill to give young seedlings some light. You won’t have to worry too much about nutrients at this stage, but once you see the first set of leaves emerge (known as cotyledons), slowly introduce nutrients at around a quarter of the recommended dose, increasing in quarter increments per set of leaves.

Remember that no batch of seeds comes with a guarantee that 100% of them will germinate. Any of the above methods will successfully germinate most of your seeds, but no matter which way you choose, there are key conditions that remain consistent with each.

In nature, seeds germinate in springtime, so we want to replicate those conditions – warmth, humidity, and moisture are vital. Keep handling of your seeds to a minimum, and remember that checking a couple of times a day is recommended. Germinating cannabis plant seeds can be an exciting time, but resist the temptation to check in every 90 minutes.

Finally, buying your seeds from a top quality and trusted seed bank like Seedsman ensures high-quality genetics, which increases the likelihood of successful germination.

Got any top tip tips or hacks for germinating your cannabis seeds? Share them in the comments below.

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

How to Grow Weed: Germinating Cannabis Seeds

Jorge Cervantes shares his process for germinating cannabis seeds into healthy sprouts.

The gardening season is booming in North America, and it’s high time to start some tiny seeds that can grow into potent plants, says Jorge Cervantes, veteran marijuana cultivator and author of “The Cannabis Encyclopedia”.

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1) Soak seeds overnight in a glass of plain water. They may float on the surface at first but should sink to the bottom in a few minutes. Make sure seeds get good and wet so that water penetrates the outer shell and growth is activated. Do not let seeds soak for more than 24 hours, or they might get too wet, suffer oxygen deprivation and subsequently rot.

2) Remove seeds from the water. Pour water out onto two paper (or cloth) towels on a dinner plate. Fold the towels over the seeds to cover them.

3) Drain the water from the dinner plate by tipping it to the side.

4) Place the seeds in a warm location (70°F–80°F; 21°C–27°C), making sure they are in darkness. Some gardeners go so far as to set the plate in a vertical position (so taproot grows downward). The seeds can also be set on a grate for drainage and air circulation.

5) Check moisture level of towels several times a day, watering once or twice to keep them evenly moist. DO NOT LET THE TOWELS DRY OUT! Let excess water drain away freely. The paper or cloth towels will retain enough moisture to germinate the seeds in a few days. Each seed contains an adequate food supply for germination. Prevent fungal attacks by watering with a mild 2 percent bleach or organic fungicide solution.

6) In a few days, seeds will sprout. Once the germinating cannabis seeds have sprouted and each seed’s white rootlet is visible, use tweezers to carefully pick up the fragile, germinated seeds and plant them. Do not wait for the white rootlets to grow more than 0.25 inches (1 cm) before planting, or growth could slow. Plant each germinated seed with the white root tip pointing downward. Take care not to expose the tender rootlet to prolonged light and air. Cover germinated seeds with 0.25 to 0.5 inches (1-2 cm) of fine, moist planting medium.

Other Tips for Germinating Cannabis Seeds

Watering Issues

Over and under-watering are the biggest obstacles most gardeners face when germinating seeds and growing seedlings. Keep the soil uniformly moist but not waterlogged. Do not let the growing medium’s surface dry for long. Setting root cubes or planting flats on a grate allows good drainage.

A shallow flat or planter with a heat pad underneath may require daily watering, while a deep, 1-gallon (3.8 liter) pot will need watering every three days or more. A properly watered flat of rockwool cubes needs water every three to five days when sprouting seeds.

When the growing medium’s surface is dry (0.25 inches [1 cm] deep), it is time to water. Remember, there are few roots to absorb the water early in life and they are very delicate.

Hard Cases

Some seeds have a very hard outer shell (testa) and are difficult to germinate. Such testy cases can be softened or scarified to allow water to penetrate. To scarify, line a matchbox with a piece of fine-grain sandpaper or emery board. Put the seeds in the matchbox and shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove the seeds and make sure they have been scuffed a bit. Just a little scuffing will allow water to enter and set germination in motion.

1) Set seeds in a matchbox with an emery board or sandpaper on the bottom.

2) Close seeds inside the matchbox.

3) Shake matchbox for 10 to 15 seconds to scarify the seeds.

This is an excerpt from “The Cannabis Encyclopedia” by Jorge Cervantes, world-renowned indoor, outdoor and greenhouse cannabis cultivator. A veteran marijuana grower, Cervantes brings 30 years of experience traveling, studying and writing to bear in his best work to date.

How to Germinate Weed Seeds – Tips and Methods

Germinating cannabis seeds isn’t a complicated process, although it does require a few specific parameters in order to happen successfully. If you’re reading up on how to germinate weed seeds, you’re in the right place; it’s a relatively easy process, you just need to have some patience on hand. The first thing to keep in mind is that your seeds are going to need water, heat and air in order to germinate.

How to Germinate Weed Seeds – Basic Parameters

Water (moisture)

Moisture is one of the three elements required to successfully germinate cannabis seeds; it essentially helps the seeds to expand and therefore break their shell. Over-watering at this stage can be fatal for your seeds, although harder-shelled and older seeds can take longer to soak through, so some patience is required.

Heat

This can be the hardest thing to work with, because temperatures that are either too cold or too hot will mess with your seeds and they won’t germinate. Springtime temperatures are generally what you should be aiming for – seeds can still germinate in colder temperatures, although they can take longer.

How to Germinate Weed Seeds – Germination Methods

There are many different germination methods that growers tend to use, all of which involve water and heat, although they’re not all as effective as others. Some people prefer germinating by planting straight in the ground, using starter cubes or by letting them soak overnight, although our preferred and recommended method is the paper towel method using either plates or an opaque kitchen container. We’re going to give you a brief rundown of the other methods, alongside their pros and cons.

Starter Cubes

This method is more reliable than others, and they make germinating quite easy. All you have to do is place your seed carefully in your seed plug and follow the instructions when watering; different brands and models have different watering instructions.

Some cubes are made out of peat and soil, and you can move them straight into your flowerpot once they’ve popped. However, hydroponic growers can use rockwool cubes which can hold quite a lot of moisture.

One of the downsides to using starter cubes is that they’re not very handy if you only want to germinate one or two seeds, because they’re usually sold in packs of 50 or more, and once they’ve been opened most cubes tend to dry out within a couple of weeks. Another downside to Rockwool specific cubes is that they’re bad for the environment, can be bad for your health when inhaled, and they’re not the best method for new growers.

Direct Planting

Other growers prefer to get rid of the middle man and plant their seed straight into their first flowerpot – it’s essentially how it would be done in nature, so why not follow the natural order? One of the pros when it comes to planting straight in your growing medium is that you don’t have to stress out your little seedling when transplanting, although it can be a bit harder to get the humidity right and you need to bury it just the right amount so that it can sprout.

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Overnight Soaking

We highly advise against using this method, as it’s incredibly easy to accidentally drown your seeds. This method involves soaking your seeds in a glass of lukewarm water – it can be any type of cup, although people usually use a normal glass. This method can be effective for much older seeds or for seeds that have abnormally thick shells.

There are a few myths surrounding germinating in water overnight – some people say that if your seeds sink, they won’t germinate, however the truth is that most seeds start off by floating and then as they soak, they sink to the bottom of the glass. This has nothing to do with germination indication.

How to Germinate Weed Seeds – Paper Towel Method

This method is the method we recommend all readers and customers use, as it’s the one that has proven to give us the highest germination rate. We’re going to give an in-depth step by step guide on how to use this method. Keep in mind that you can skip the rooting hormone part if you prefer all natural results, although X-Seed does provide impressive results to start with.

Material Needed to Successfully Germinate seeds

  • Kitchen paper
  • Opaque plastic Tupperware or two plates
  • Viable cannabis seeds

We’re going to go through the X-Seed method – if you want to skip this, you can simply skip the steps involving X-Seed and place your seeds straight into your paper towel as stated in step 4. Before you start, make sure you have everything you need at hand, so that you don’t have to waste any time looking for stuff. Find the best strains at our Cannabis seeds – Buy Marijuana Seeds section.

Step 1: Soak the seeds

Submerge your seeds in your B.A.C. X-Seed liquid for an hour. Give it a stir every now and then so that the seeds are thoroughly soaked.

Step 2: Germination

While your seeds are soaking, you’ll need to prepare your paper towel and plates (or opaque Tupperware). Make a makeshift “bed” on the bottom plate with damp kitchen paper, but make sure it isn’t soaking. We tend to use 3 layers of kitchen paper; wet the paper and let it dry without wrinkling it, hanging it out kind of like a t-shirt so that all of the excess water can easily drain out. No need to worry about drying it, as you want the kitchen paper to be damp.

Step 3: Separation

After your seeds have been in the B.A.C. X-Seed liquid for an hour, by using a spoon you can carefully extract the seeds from the liquid and spread them evenly across the bottom of your plate or container. An even spread is important, so as the roots of each seed do not get tangled – about an inch apart is good.

Step 4: Cover the seeds

Once you have all of your seeds nicely placed on your plate or in your container, cover the seeds with another layer of damp kitchen paper, similar to the first layer that you put on the bottom. At this point, your seeds should be completely covered.

Step 5: Take care

Once you’ve finished covering your seeds with paper towel, cover them with another plate or put the lid on your container; if doing this in a container, the paper shouldn’t dry out as fast. A mistake made by many growers is that they add too much water to their paper towels if they’ve dried up, but by using a spray bottle you can moisten it some more without overdoing it. If your container is transparent, all you have to do is line the inside so that absolutely no light can get in.

Step 6: Temperature adjustments

Once you’ve isolated your seeds from light, you should leave it somewhere with a nice, neutral temperature. During winter it’s often harder to find a good spot, so you should try and find a heat source that isn’t excessive. You can use a computer modem, or even a softly powered electric blanket. Items like play-stations can get too hot and could end up cooking your seeds, so take care where you put them.

Step 7: After care

Once your seeds open up, they’ll shoot out a small, white root. This means you need to be extremely careful when handling them. Don’t leave them for long because once they’re open they should be moved to soil.

Step 8: Moving to soil

Now that your seeds have officially germinated. Now you need to move them to the medium in which they will remain for the rest of the growing process. Germinated seeds usually grown in soil, but rockwool for hydroponics is also a good option growing. Or even a coco jiffy if you want to cultivate in coco coir. In this article we’ll be dealing with the most common method: planting seeds in soil.

How to Germinate Weed Seeds

Start by filling a small pot with soil, no more than half a liter. Water it before even thinking about planting your seed. Once the soil is damp enough to weigh down the plant pot, use the tip of your finger to create a small 0.5-0.1 cm hole in the middle of the soil, and deposit the seed in the hole with the root facing downwards. Then, cover the seed with a little soil so that it’s just under the surface. The last step in this process is to put your plant pot in the sun or under your lamps (wherever you’re planning on growing it). Within a couple of days you should see that first sprout, that will keep on growing right until the end. In some cases, it may even take a matter of hours.

Keep an eye out on our follow up article on soil preparation for growing cannabis.

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