How to germinate marijuana seeds

How to germinate marijuana seeds

Have you decided you want to begin your home grow journey, but aren’t sure how to germinate marijuana seeds? Germination is the first stage of the cannabis life cycle, the process that brings a marijuana seed from its latent period into its growth stage. Sometimes known as “popping” seeds, germination begins when a seed is exposed to environmental factors that prompt it’s growth cycle, letting the seed know that the conditions are right for it to try and flourish. Unsure where to buy your cannabis seeds for germinating? Check out our guide for the top Cannabis Seedbanks in the US. 

When a seed is exposed to an environment that has sufficient levels of moisture, it will expand slightly and begin to break out of its shell. This broken seed or seedling will continue to pop open until roots develop. Once a root appears you can transfer your seedling to a planting medium. Roots naturally grow downwards by force of gravity, helping the plant absorb all the rich nutrients your soil has to offer and stimulating plant growth upward towards your light source. High quality seeds help ensure that your germination efforts won’t be in vain.

Until you’re ready to begin germinating your weed seeds, remember to store them in a spot that is cool, dry, and dark. 

Why do you need to germinate cannabis seeds?

Germinating a seed before planting helps you break down the seed’s natural defenses, to promote a healthy and stable start to the cannabis plant’s life cycle. The hard shell of a seed protects it from environmental factors which could potentially be harsh or detrimental to its growth. The seed will only make itself vulnerable by popping a root if the conditions are optimal. Germinating marijuana seeds in soil is a viable natural method (more on that later!) but when you choose to germinate your seed before planting you’ll be able to make sure it pops correctly, weeding out any unhealthy seeds that might yield insufficient seedlings. Pre-soil germination also allows you to carefully position your freshly popped seeds with the new root facing down in the planting soil. Germinating your marijuana seeds is a crucial step that will help give your plant the best chance for success!

Ways to germinate marijuana seeds

There are several ways to effectively germinate cannabis seeds, and each method requires adequate moisture, warm controlled temperatures, and as little human interference as possible. Ultimately the best germination method is the one that works the best for you! Trying out a range of techniques and observing their effects can be a rewarding way to explore cannabis cultivation, but we’ll give you an overview of the most common ways to germinate weed seeds.

Some pros and cons to consider: germination in soil is a straightforward method and it mimics the way the cannabis plant would grow in nature. However, this approach affords the grower less control; you won’t be able to see your seed pop and thus won’t be able to toss any irregular or deficient seeds if necessary. Additionally you will not be able to carefully position your new root in the optimum position when planting (as the seed will expand and pop out of sight, within the soil).

For these reasons some growers prefer the paper towel or water methods, but these techniques come with their own potential drawbacks. Germinating weed seeds are incredibly delicate and growers should be very cautious when handling their germinated seeds – some experts even recommend using tweezers to help aid the transfer to the growing medium.

How to germinate weed seeds - step by step instructions

The Paper Towel Method

One of the most common and most accessible methods for germinations utilizes paper towels soaked in water. For this method you will need: two clean plates, fresh paper towels, cannabis seeds.

  1. Take four sheets of paper towels and soak them with distilled water. The sheets should be soaked but shouldn’t have excess water running off.
  2. Place two of the soaked paper towels on your clean plate. Then, place the cannabis seeds at least one inch apart from each other on the paper towel. Cover the seeds with the remaining two sheets of damp paper towels.
  3. Take your second clean plate and flip it upside down. Place the second plate on top of the first, creating a sort of dome. This warm, dark, and enclosed environment is great for germination!
  4. Place your plate and paper towel set up in a warm, safe location. Be sure to monitor the temperature of this spot, it should be between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  5. Wait! Now that you’ve set up your germination station, relax and resist the urge to interfere with the process. You should check the paper towels occasionally to make sure they’re still saturated. If they seem slightly dry, add more water to encourage seed development. It’s important to keep the seeds uncontaminated, so avoid touching the seed or root as the seed expands and splits. Some seeds will be quick to split and sprout, while others can take several days. Once you see the sprout, you know you have successfully germinated your weed seed.

The Soil Method

Perhaps the most straight-forward technique, the soil method involves germinating your un-popped seed directly in the soil you plan on growing your seedling in. While you won’t be able to ensure correct root position, the root will at least be protected by the soil. Use mildly fertilized potting soil. Do not add any nutrients, seeds are very sensitive during this stage and only need a mild amount of nutrients to thrive. 

  1. Fill your small pot with soil. 
  2. Poke a shallow hole in the middle using a pen or your finger, approximately a half inch deep. Carefully drop your seed into the hole and cover the top with a light layer of soil. 
  3. Use a spray bottle to moisten the soil without over-saturating and potentially harming your delicate freshly planted seed. Place your pots under a fluorescent light or grow lamp, your seedling’s soil should be around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid placing in a window sill or any other place which relies on sunlight, as the temperatures will not be stable enough for germination.
  4. Monitor your soil daily and make sure it’s always moist. Within 7-10 days you should see new stems breaking through the soil. Once your plants grow past the seedling stage, you can transfer them into larger containers in order to support further growth.

The Water Method

Another straight-forward approach, the water method is just what it sounds like! Avoid keeping your seeds in water for two long, monitor them daily and remove them from this setting once they have popped (within 7 days). 

  1. Fill a glass with tap or filtered water and leave it out for a few hours until it reaches room temperature (approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. Place 2 to 3 cannabis seeds into the water, ensuring that they are not too crowded depending on the size of your glass
  3. Refill the glass with new water every other day, making sure to maintain a consistent temperature for your seeds. In approximately 2 to 4 days your seeds should start to expand and split. You can plant your seeds at any time (even before the root appears, some experts recommend just a brief 24-48 hour soak to help the seed along before planting) but do not leave your seeds in this setting for more than 7 days to avoid oversaturation.

You can also purchase starter cubes or seedling plugs for germinating your marijuana seeds. Common materials include rockwool or peat. These reduce the potential for incurring any damage when transferring your newly germinated seed to its planting medium, as you typically plant the entire cube or plug into the soil after the germination period. For new growers looking to save on equipment, we recommend the simpler, more natural methods detailed above.

Germinating for indoor vs outdoor grows

So now you’re ready to grow! Whether you’re planning an indoor or outdoor grow, germinating weed seeds should always be done indoors. An indoor setting allows you to maintain normal temperature, light exposure, and moisture for your seeds. Regardless of your choice of germination method, indoor germination will help reduce the introduction of any unwanted variables to your seedlings. The more stable your setting is the more straightforward the germination process will be. Use any of the methods described above to germinate your marijuana seeds indoors, and within a few days you will be ready to transfer your seedlings to plant!

What to do after germination

After the root pops from its shell, it’s time to carefully transfer your germinated seed into the growing medium. Use loose regular potting soil (avoid any soil with excess fertilizers included, your young plant is sensitive and too many nutrients could jeopardize its growth), and poke a shallow hole in the middle using a pen or your finger. Use a pair of regular household tweezers to slowly pick up the germinated seed and place it in the hole, with the new root facing the bottom of your planting container. Cover the top with a light layer of soil. Use a spray bottle to moisten the soil without over-saturating and potentially harming your delicate freshly planted seed. With proper lighting, temperature, and watering some seedlings will grow quickly and new sprouts will break through within days. Other seedlings need more time however, monitor your plants for ten days for activity. If your seedlings haven’t shown any activity at this point, it’s likely that the seed itself was defective or damaged.

Final thoughts

Germination is an integral first step in your cannabis plant’s life cycle. Don’t be intimidated and embrace the process! The sight of your seeds popping and the first emergence of new roots can instill the same sense of excitement as plant growth or flowering for new growers. If your seeds are inert or do not sprout, don’t get discouraged. Keep trying, and remember to treat your germinating marijuana seeds carefully and purchase high quality products. Happy germinating!

FAQs

Keep trying! Cannabis is well known for its fast-growing and hearty plant growth, it’s possible that your seeds were sub-par or were damaged during germination. High quality seeds help ensure that your germination efforts won’t be in vain.

Depending on the seed and your environment, your seed should pop within 3 to 5 days of moisture being introduced. If you’re using the soil germination method, the root will appear within that 3-5 day window, but as the seed will be submerged in soil you will miss this milestone. However, you should see a sprout within 10 days of planting.

You should store your cannabis seeds in a cool, dry, dark environment until you’re ready to germinate.

The best time to germinate cannabis seeds is right around the beginning of spring, especially if you are planning an outdoor grow. Remember to check your state’s home-grow regulations before starting out.

Olivia Wood Written by: Olivia Wood

Olivia Wood is a writer, researcher and poet based in Montreal.

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