Growing cannabis seeds can be incredibly rewarding. Our step-by-step guide has all the info you need, from seed selection to storage.
Starting cannabis from seed can be extremely rewarding. Not only do you get to take your plants through a complete growth cycle, but you might also get to produce some seeds of your own. With seeds, anyone can go from a cannabis enthusiast to an amateur breeder. You’ll be able to custom tailor your plants to meet your specific needs or possibly develop a new strain or two. To help you experience the wonders of seeds, we’ve created the Seeds 101 series. This ultimate guide to growing cannabis seeds summarizes the series and tells you where to find more information.
1. How to find and choose the right seeds
If you’re growing from a clone, it’s unlikely that your plant will produce seeds. Seeds develop after a male cannabis plant pollinates a female. Only female plants produce seeds. Yet, when you smoke cannabis, you’re typically smoking the unfertilized bud of the female flower. This can make it a bit difficult to actually find seeds if you’re interested in growing from scratch.
There are a couple of ways you can source your seeds. If you live in a legal medical or recreational state, ask your favorite dispensary for reputable local seed companies. Many people also order seeds from online seed banks. Though, this is illegal in the United States. Seeds for “souvenir purposes” are legal in many regions around the world, allowing many seedbanks to ship worldwide.
Though ordering seeds is illegal in the U.S. and you can face criminal charges, seed arrests are uncommon in comparison to arrests from growing or germinating plants. It’s not uncommon, however, to have your mail-ordered seeds confiscated by U.S. customs. If you order seeds from an international seed bank and they are found, you will get a letter in the mail saying that your seeds have been tossed out.
Finding seeds may be a little tricky, but choosing the right seeds to grow is easy. There are a few qualities that set good seeds apart. When you’re picking out your seeds, watch for these features:
- Color: Look for a dark brown teardrop-shaped seed. Some seeds have dark stripes or splotches of different brown, black, or tan shades. Avoid pale or green seeds.
- Size: Indicas produce larger seeds with striping. Sativa seeds are a smaller and more uniform in color.
- Hardness: A good seed has a hard outer shell.Don’t pick seeds that are soft or damaged.
For more details on how to find and choose the right seeds, check out the full article here.
2. How to germinate and sprout your seeds
In many places, cannabis becomes illegal once seeds begin to germinate. Germination is simply the process of getting your sprouting your seed to grow a plant. If you are able to safely germinate your seeds, there are a few ways to go about the process. Almost every grower has their preferred germination method, but here is a brief summary of the most popular techniques:
Basically, pre-soaking means that you soak your seed in warm (not too hot!) water until they sink to the bottom of your glass or container. The idea is that soaking your seeds speeds up the germination process by making sure that your seed is completely moist before planting.
Some people soak their seeds for up to seven days, or until a root appears. Though, the major concern here is that pre-soaking increases the risk of rot and mold before you’ve even fully started your plant.
Paper towel method
The paper towel method is one of the most popular germination methods out there. It takes a little longer than the pre-soak method, but there’s less of a risk of rot if you’re observant. You simply moisten a paper towel, fold it, place the seeds inside the fold, and then place the damp towel into a plastic baggie.
Keep the plastic baggie in a dark, warm place, but keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t mold. After a couple of days, a root will appear. You can then transfer the germinating seed into soil.
Direct soil method
You can plop your seed directly into soil whether or not you’ve pre-moisten it in any way. Have a small container of prepared soil ready. Make a tiny, half-inch well in the soil. If you’ve pre-soaked your seeds, place the seed root-end down. If you’re starting with dry seed, place it pointed end down. Flick a tiny amount of soil back over the seed. Then moisten the soil with a sprayer or small amount of water.
If you started from a dry seed, cover the container with plastic wrap to create a greenhouse effect. Store your newly planted seed in a warm, dark place. After about 4 to 5 days, your seeds will sprout. At this point, move your seeds to a brighter, well-ventilated location and wait for them to get large enough to transplant.
Before you germinate, make sure to look over the step-by-step guide for each of these methods here.
3. How to sex your sprouts
When your little plants reach about the 6-week mark, you’ll be able to tell their sex. If you’ve started from feminized seed, you won’t need to worry about this step. Feminized seeds only produce female cannabis plants, making them great options for folks who plant to just grow from clone after their initial start with seeds.
If you’re not growing from feminized seed, sexing your plants is one of the most important parts of the early growing process. In order to get a good harvest of usable cannabis flower, you’ll need to separate your male and female plants. If you do not separate your plants, you risk unwanted pollination.
When female plants are pollinated, they stop spending energy on developing potent buds. Rather, they spend energy developing seeds. Here’s a brief summary of what to look out for.
Cannabis sprouts will produce “preflowers”. These preflowers will be found in the crux between the main stalk and the branch. A sure-fire way to tell that your plant is female is to look for preflowers with long, white hairs. These white hairs are pistillate hairs, part of the female sex organ of the plant.
Male plants develop flowers, too. However, male flowers are markedly different than female flowers. While females produce a conical bud covered in long white hairs, male flowers look more like little bundles of downward facing tulip. These little bundles are pollen sacks. To spot a male, look for a small bud in the crux between a branch and the main stalk. This bud will be bulbous without any hairs.
For a complete guide on how to sex your plants make sure to check out the full article here.
4. How to produce your own seeds
There are a lot of reasons to hang on to male cannabis plants. The best reason? You can use them to create your own seeds. You can either pollinate an entire female cannabis plant for a TON of seeds, or you can pollinate select branches to save some of your harvest and still have some seeds for next year.
Pollinating an entire plant is simple: take a female plant and place it next to a mature male plant. Give the male plant a good shake to release the pollen. You can rotate your female plant around a few times and shake again to make sure all areas of the plant have been exposed to pollen.
A better option is selective pollination. Pick out your favorite female plant and your favorite male plant. Keep the plants separate. Clip a couple of good flowers off your male plant and put them into a long, paper wine bag. Take the wine bag over to you female plant.
Carefully slip the bag with clippings over a low flower on your female plant. Using tape, a zip tie, or some string, secure the bottom of the bag around the branch. You’ll want to make the enclosure fairly tight to avoid pollinating other flowers on the female plant.
Once the bag is secure, give it a good shake. This will release the pollen and sprinkle a nice coating of pollen over the female flower. Leave the bag on for a couple of hours, and then carefully remove.
Selective pollination means that save the rest of your female flowers for consumption. Pollinating an entire plant wastes potentially good, smokable flower. Once you’ve pollinated your plants, expect seeds 4 to 6 weeks.
For more precise instructions, videos, and harvesting tips, read our full article here.
5. Preserving and storing your seeds
After you have found your seeds, germinated your plants, gone through the growth cycle, and cultivated your own seeds, you better know how to store them right. Cannabis seeds can last for years when kept in the right conditions. This means that if you’ve found a strain pairing that you really love, you can come back to it time and time again. For the most part, always remember these three rules:
- Don’t keep your seeds in direct sunlight. Find somewhere dark
- Keep them away from moisture. Store them somewhere dry
- Pay attention to temperature. Pick a cool place
There are a couple of common seed storage methods out there, and each one has its pros and cons. Here is a brief summary of popular techniques:
Some folks have been able to successfully germinate seeds after storing them for 10 years in a refrigerator. Though, this method is debated among growers and breeders out there. If you open and close your fridge a lot, the seed will be subjected to sudden temperature changes. You also risk exposing your seeds to excess moisture, allowing them to rot.
To protect against these concerns, keep your seeds in an opaque airtight container. Throw in a food-grade desiccant pouch to suck up any moisture. Vacuum sealing your seeds with desiccant also works well.
Freezing is another seed-saving technique that sparks debate. When you freeze seeds, some of the cells will rupture because of the bitter cold. You also risk drying the seeds out the longer they’re kept in such intense temperatures. However, some folks swear by the freezer method.
If you want to try some freezer seeds, keep them in a vacuum sealed container with a food-grade desiccant. Make sure they aren’t exposed to too much light or drastic swings in temperature.
With both the freezing and refrigeration methods, make sure you warm your seeds to room temperature before trying to germinate them. Just let them sit out for a bit in a dark container. You don’t want to shock the seeds with sudden temperature changes.
There’s a bit more that you need to know about saving seeds. Find more detailed information in the full article here.
Growing from seed is a beautiful thing. Taking your plant from seed to sprout to full-bloom is a miraculous and therapeutic experience. Growing great cannabis takes a bit of forethought and preparation, however. It’s best to do your research ahead of time and plan out what approach you’re going to take with your plants.
To continue your education from growing cannabis seeds and check out our How To Grow Marijuana and Super Soil series. You’ll learn something, we promise.
Do you have any go-to tips for growing cannabis seeds? Share them with us on social media or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
Germinating marijuana seeds and caring for marijuana seedlings is one of the easiest steps in growing marijuana. That said, if you do not know what you are doing, it is also an easy step to get wrong. High quality marijuana seeds are not cheap, and ordering them can be risky. So you want your germination rates as high as possible. Here are some of the surefire ways marijuana growers limit environmental stresses and help marijuana seeds grow into healthy, vigorous and hopefully female marijuana plants.
Selecting Marijuana Seeds
Entire books have been written on choosing the type of marijuana strain to grow, but here are some general guidelines for determining the viability of a marijuana seed.
It is not always easy to tell if a marijuana seed will germinate simply by looking at it, but it is not hard to weed out the weak ones. Healthy, viable marijuana seeds should be slightly oblong and shaped like a teardrop with a point at one end. Size varies ,but marijuana seeds are usually about 1/8th of an inch wide and 3/16th of an inch long. Their color is usually brown, often with darker stripes like a brindle dog. Marijuana seeds that are tiny, soft (immature), greenish, yellow, white, or chipped are not likely to germinate. In the end, there is really only one way to find out: try it and see.
Marijuana Seed Germination
Germinating marijuana seeds requires only the correct amount of water, heat, and air. Nothing more is needed; nor is it even beneficial.
Water – Marijuana seeds require moisture to trigger the hormonal changes that make the germination process possible. Planting your seeds in high quality soil or pH balanced Rockwool and watering regularly to maintain constant moisture will be sufficient for most marijuana seeds to germinate. As water passes through the seed’s shell, dormant hormones stored within the seed are activated. As the water continues to penetrate the shell, the seed will begin to grow and produce a taproot. Constant available moisture is required to continue the seed’s growth into a healthy plant.
Ideally, you should use bottled drinking water for germination. Tap water from a municipal water supply usually works fine, but contains chlorine. Well water can contain high levels of dissolved solids that can hamper early root growth. The chlorine in municipal water is not a major problem, and will dissipate if left exposed to the air.
Here is some further information to answer any questions about water quality and growing marijuana.
Heat – Marijuana seeds can germinate in many temperature conditions, but grow best between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (23-26 C). Cooler temperatures slow seed germination and promote fungal growth such as fusarium and pythium which can rot the seed and root. Temperatures above 90 degrees can also inhibit germination.
Oxygen – Marijuana seeds require air–specifically oxygen–to germinate. After germination the roots will require air, and the leaves will require CO2. Marijuana is native to primarily arid climates, not jungles and swamps. So if the growing medium is too moist or the seed is soaked for too long, the seed will not receive enough oxygen and will drown. Covering the growing medium with plastic wrap or a seedling dome will trap moisture and limit air exchange; so do not use them. Humidity above 50% promotes the growth of fungus that can damage and kill a marijuana plant while germinating or sprouting.
To promote the highest rates of germination and optimal health you want a warm, moist but not soggy growing medium, and warm circulating air that is under 50% humidity.
Steps 1 – 4 are Entirely Optional
You can use all of these steps, some of them, or none of them at all. Older seeds or seeds that have been allowed to dry out a bit too much are likely to benefit from steps 1 to 4. Marijuana seeds stored correctly that are less than three years old should germinate just fine without these extra steps. Using these extra steps on newer seeds generally does not create problems and can increase your germination rates, though some advise against them as they increase the potential for human error. If you skip earlier steps and your seeds do not germinate, you can always go back to earlier steps and try again.
Step 1: Scuffing Marijuana Seeds
By lightly scuffing marijuana seeds with sand, sandpaper, or an emery board you can create tiny scratches in the hull of the seed making it easier for water to penetrate the hull and reach the embryo inside.
Step 2: Soaking Marijuana Seeds
Soaking marijuana seeds in a glass of water can speed up the germination process. Simply place your marijuana seeds in a glass of room temperature bottled drinking water. If the seeds float you can dunk them under a few times with your finger. The seeds should be soaked for 2 to 24 hours, but certainly no longer.
Step 3: Paper Towel Germination
Place a paper towel on a flat but mobile surface like a dinner plate and then place your marijuana seeds on the paper towel. Cover the seeds with a second paper towel and pour bottled water over the top, until the entire paper towel is soaked with water. Tilt the plate to an angle of about 45 degrees so that any extra water will run down and drip off the plate. Place the plate on a heating mat if possible and set the thermostat to 75 F (24 C). Insert the thermostat probe under the paper towels.
As soon as the marijuana seed’s shell has opened and the tap root has begun to show, the seed needs to be planted immediately. This may mean that not all of your seeds get planted at the same time. Do not let the root grow to be several millimeters long before planting, or you drastically increase the likelihood of damaging the root and killing the plant.
Note: In nature, seeds germinate under soil where it is dark; so you do not need lights for germinating. Light can be used to heat a small area if you do not have a heat mat. Take care to monitor the germination process closely, however, as the light will dry out the paper towels more quickly and damage the root once the seeds open. Also remember heating mats can overheat, and either boil your poor little seeds or cause the paper towels to dry out more quickly. So be sure you use a thermostat for your heating mat.
Step 4: Planting Your Marijuana Seeds
Soil – Fill your small pots with a light and airy potting soil. Gently press the soil down to compact it slightly. Drench the soil with clean water, making sure that all of the soil is uniformly damp but not soggy or waterlogged. Make sure to test the pH of your water and balance it to 6.3 if needed. Create a hole in the soil about half an inch deep with the end of your finger. Gently pick up the marijuana seed with a pair of tweezers and place it taproot (pointed end) down at the bottom of the hole. Gently fill the hole with loose soil to cover the marijuana seed. If you are not sure about what kinds of soil use, here are some helpful directions on the best soil for germinating marijuana seeds.
Note – If you use pots that are too large you will be taking up unnecessary space which will make it more difficult to fit your pots on a heating pad. You will also be bringing a lot more moisture into the room, which means you are wasting money on nutrients each time you water. Also, remember that as this extra water evaporates it will drive up the ambient humidity of the room, increasing the potential for humidity-related problems such as bugs, mildew and mold.
Rockwool – Because Rockwool cubes start with a high pH, you need to adjust the pH down by soaking the Rockwool in lukewarm water with a pH of 5.5. Let the Rockwool soak for about half an hour and then remove it from the water, letting the extra water drain off. Next flush the Rockwool with fresh pH 5.5 water, not the water they already soaked in. After the Rockwool is flushed, create a small hole about half an inch deep with a pencil or screwdriver. Gently pick up the marijuana seed with tweezers and place the seed –tap root (pointed end) down–in the hole. Cover the seed with some loose Rockwool that has also been pH-balanced.
Note – Be sure not to pack the Rockwool around the seed, as it will need to move past or through it. Do not squeeze extra water from the Rockwool, as this can compress it and change the intended air-to-moisture ratio that Rockwool is designed to optimize. Also, remember when growing marijuana in Rockwool it is important to monitor not only the pH of the water you are supplying to the seeds/plants, but also the pH of the runoff water. To keep the Rockwool cubes from sitting in a pool of runoff water, try setting them on a thin layer of perlite.
Step 5: Watering In and Situating Stuff
If you properly drenched the soil or Rockwool before planting, watering in is pretty easy. Just take a few spoonfuls of pH-adjusted water and re-soak the area containing the marijuana seed. This may not be necessary, but will ensure moisture to that area. It is of utmost importance to keep the soil or Rockwool as evenly moist as possible, as dry areas will wick moisture away from the seed. If you allow your growing medium to dry out, it will likely be fatal for your seedlings. Be careful to water very gently. Otherwise, the flow of water can easily uproot a seed before the roots have taken hold. Misting bottles don’t penetrate deeply enough into the soil, so continue to water wit the spoon until the seedling is well-established.
Place the pots or Rockwool cubes in seedling trays, and place the tray on a heat mat with the thermostat set to 75 degrees F (24 C), and the sensor probe either in the soil or the Rockwool. The marijuana seedlings are going to need light as soon as they emerge. So you might as well turn the lights on from the start. This will give you a few days to observe the effects of the lights on temperature and humidity in the room, and make any needed adjustments. There is no need to throw huge amounts of light at tiny marijuana seedlings. I recommend T5 florescent grow lights with both Blue and Red color spectrum bulbs. T5’s are easy to set up and take down, and much less expensive to buy and operate than the HID grow lights that you will use to grow more mature marijuana plants. They also produce less heat. Make sure the ambient temperature of the room stays in the mid to high 70’s both day and night. Maintain the grow rooms humidity between between 20% and 40% if possible, and certainly no higher then 55%.
Step 6: Caring For Marijuana Seedlings
Within two-five days the seedlings should emerge from the growing medium and, shedding their shells, reveal their ovular embryo leaves (cotyledons). Occasionally, the cotyledons are not strong enough to shed the shell, and may need some very gentle assistance. Try to avoid this if possible, as it requires a jeweler’s precision and can easily go wrong. If you are using T5 Fluorescent Grow Lights, they should be between six and eight inches from the tops of the marijuana seedlings. Set the timer for 18 hours on and six hours off.
For Soil – Once the seedlings have emerged, I recommend waiting a week before adding a 20% strength nutrient to the water.
For Rockwool – You can begin feeding with diluted (20% maximum strength) nutrients as soon as you like. Remember the marijuana seedlings are very fragile at this point. Even a slight miscalculation in nutrient strength can easily kill the seedlings. If you like, you may wait up to a week to begin feeding.
What Not To Do
- Do not use humidity domes or anything else to cover the pots
- Do not use heating mats without a thermostat (80 degrees max)
- Do not use jiffy or peat pellets because the create pH problems
- Do not use soil that is high in N-P-K, “Hot” or otherwise unsuitable for seedlings
- Do not fertilize your seedlings in soil for the first week, or use more than 20% strength for seedlings in Rockwool
- Do not water-log your seeds or seedlings, or allow them to dry out
- Do not germinate seeds where they will get too cold
- Do not deprive seedlings of adequate light
- Do not use water with incorrect pH or other problems
- Do not foliar feed or spray anything, including water and pesticides, on seedlings
- Do not handle seeds with bare hands if possible. The oil from your hands can prevent water from soaking in.
Well, this should keep you busy for a week or so. In the meantime, I will be preparing some basic directions to help get you and your marijuana plants through the vegetative period.
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About the author:RamboView all posts by Rambo
I’m just your average Joe from a small town in the northern California hills. I’ve spent over half my life growing marijuana but I'll be the first to admit that I’m still no expert. It’s been a bumpy but fun ride and I've learned a thing or two along the way. This seems like a good way to share what I know.