How to germinate marijuana seeds

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So you’ve decided to take the leap of faith from dispensary to home grown weed. Well, fortunately you’re in the right hands. The very first step on your journey to growing some top shelf dank at home yourself is to germinate your marijuana seeds. 

Cannabis seeds are delicate and expensive so it isn’t just as simple as just throwing them in some soil and hoping for the best. If you want to get the best return on your investment follow this walk through guide on how to germinate cannabis seeds and within 8-12 weeks you’ll be smoking some home grown.

What are the 3 requirements a seed needs to germinate?

Germinating marijuana seeds is a delicate process, but once you have it nailed then it will work for you for the rest of your growing life. Seeds require three main constants in order to germinate successfully.

  1. Water – Water needs to be able to penetrate the shell of a cannabis seed for it to wake up and begin sprouting. Without moisture present your cannabis seeds will remain dormant, so be sure that your germination conditions never dry up. We will cover this in more detail further on in the article.
  2. Warmth – You may have been able to germinate seeds in cold water, however if you want to achieve the best germination rates, cannabis seeds should be germinated in lukewarm water and then kept in a warm humid environment throughout the process.
  3. Oxygen – One water and oxygen penetrate the shell of the seed, the root wakes up and breaks open the shell. In order for the seed to have enough energy to grow it must have oxygen. This is because the embryo inside the seed breaks down its food stores during a process called aerobic respiration.
3 keys to cannabis germination diagram

How does germination occur?

Think of cannabis seeds as like dormant embryos, they will lie still and unchanged unless they have the three key ingredients; water, oxygen and warmth. When you introduce water to a dormant seed, the water penetrates the hard shell of the seed and softens it, this gradually seeps through and into the embryo and awakens it. At this point the embryos cells begin to expand and the oxygen carried with the water allows the embryo to break down its food stores inside the seed which it uses for energy. The seed then bursts through the weakened shell and makes a dash for the surface of the soil. Once it breaks the surface its first set of leaves will appear and from here on sunlight takes over the process of growing and becomes the seedlings primary energy source.

How long do cannabis seeds take to germinate?

Once the germination process has begun it can take anywhere from 3 to 10 days for the root to penetrate the shell of a seed. In normal circumstances you will see the shell crack and the start of a tap root within 24 to 72 hours of soaking the seed in water. However, this can take longer for a number of reasons including:

  • If the shell of the seed is thicker – Seeds cultivated during winter time typically have thicker shells. This is so that in the wild they can survive as seeds through the cold winter months and then germinate as the weather gets warmer.
  • If the seeds have been planted directly into soil – Germinating directly into soil means that the root not only has to break the shell of the seed but it also needs to then grow up through an inch of soil and break the surface. This adds an extra 1-3 days to the process and if the soil is packed too tightly and may prevent the seed from reaching the surface.
  • Temperature and humidity – Day and night temperatures can vary drastically even during summer. If you are growing outdoors, it is always safer to germinate the seeds inside first where you can control the temperature and humidity. Keep your seeds moist throughout the germination process.

H2: How long does it take for a marijuana seed to become a seedling?

The germination process typically occurs within 2-5 days. However a cannabis plant doesn’t become a seedling until the shoot emerges from the soil with its first set of leaves. Once it has fully emerged and has a set of visible leaves the plant has entered the seedling stage of life.

Start with good quality cannabis seeds

The majority of cannabis seeds will germinate regardless of the quality, however low quality seeds will produce a low quality plant. There’s no point putting in hours of work attempting to grow poor quality seeds, before you start the germination process take time choosing good seeds.

There are a few tell-tale signs that seeds are good quality. Seeds that are medium to dark brown, with stripes and lines on them (most people know these as tiger stripes) are usually good quality. Seeds that are pale white or very pale green are usually not of the best quality.

Some seeds may have cracks in them, or what appears to be cracks. This is sometimes just the outer layer of the shell peeling off and isn’t anything to worry about, seeds that are either peeling or slightly cracked should still be planted.

A good test to find out if a seed is poor, if you place the seed on a hard surface and press down on it with your finger with a little bit of pressure the seed should be able to easily take this without breaking. If the seed squashes under your finger then it is a bad quality seed that is probably passed its best. Don’t worry too much about damaging the seed when you do this, good quality seeds are harder to squash than you might think.

good marijuana seeds

Do good seeds float or sink?

When you place cannabis seeds in a glass full of water it is a good sign if all of the seeds sink. Some may sink immediately but It may take a few hours for others to sink, but once they have all sunk you know that the water has begun to penetrate the shell.

Contrary to popular belief if your cannabis seeds float it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are bad seeds. Some seeds have thicker shells and so it may take longer for the water to penetrate their shell. First try to push them down with the tip of your finger. If this doesn’t work leave them for 24 hours and if they have not sunk you can try scarifying them. Keep reading and we will explain this in more detail.

How do you germinate seeds quickly?

To speed up the germination process or if you have seeds with thicker shells you can use a method called scarification. To scarify seeds means to lightly scratch the outer shell, this weakens it and allows water to penetrate more easily speeding up the start of the germination process.

How to scarify cannabis seeds to speed up germination

Using a nail file – Hold the cannabis seed between your forefinger and thumb and gently run the edge of a nail file along the edge of the seed a few times on each side. You should be able to see light scratches into the surface of the seed.

Using sand paper – Line the inside walls or a cup with some sand paper. Next place the seeds inside the cup and swirl the cup around in your hand so that the seeds scrape along the sand paper on the inside of the cup.

Scarification shouldn’t be necessary to germinate cannabis seeds, however if you are having difficulty getting your seeds to pop this can help to get the job done.

Once you have successfully germinated your seeds, the next stage of the plants life if the seedling stage. The seedling stage begins.

Scarifying seeds with a nail file to weaken the shell

How to germinate marijuana seeds?

There are various ways to germinate cannabis seeds. Here are the most successful and easy methods to use.

How to germinate seeds directly into soil

Planting straight into your growing medium of choice is one of the simplest ways to germinate marijuana seeds. This process is just as nature intended with the seed sprouting and the taproot forming within the growing medium. The advantage to planting your seed directly in to the growing medium is that the young seedling roots will noot get damaged during transportation.

  1. Have your soil ready in its pot and make a hole in the surface of it 0.5 – 1 inch deep using your finger.
  2. Gently place seed into the hole. If the seed has already been germinated, make sure the root is facing down in the hole.
  3. Lightly cover the seed with soil being careful not to pack it down to tightly.
  4. Spray the surface of the soil with some water to keep it moist.
  5. Make sure you keep the surface of the soil moist. Some growers place a plastic cup over the top of where the seed was planted to create a humidity dome-like effect.
  6. Within 3-7 days you should see the seed hatch and brake the surface of the soil.
germinating cannabis seeds in soil

How to germinate seeds using paper towels

By far the most common way of germinating cannabis seeds is the paper towel method. Another very similar variation of this approach is to use cotton pads, but both methods follow the same principles. You can choose whichever suits you.

  1. To start, place a kitchen towel sheet onto a plate.
  2. Make the towel damp by spraying it with a little bit of lukewarm water.
  3. Next place the seeds onto the paper towel spaced a couple centimetre’s away from each other so that when the roots do pop out, they have plenty of room.
  4. Next place another paper towel on top of the seeds and spray this with water too so that it is damp but not wet.
  5. Finally place another place over the top so that the seeds are sandwiched in between them in a kind of dome. This helps to sustain a perfect amount of warmth and humidity.
  6. It should take 2 – 7 days for the seeds to germinate. But keep checking on them every 3-6 hours, you should keep the paper towels moist so if it begins to dry out sprinkle some more water on it.
  7. You will eventually see a tap root appear as the seed begins to germinate.
germinating cannabis seeds in paper towels

How to germinate seeds in a glass of water

One of the most straightforward methods of germinating cannabis seeds is to place them into a glass of water.

  1. Please the seeds into a glass of water, the water should be around 22 degrees Celsius, this is the optimum temperature for germinating seeds.
  2. Leave them somewhere warm so that the water stays at around this temperature.
  3. It can take between 1-3 days for the seeds to germinate using this method. Normally after 24 hours the water will have penetrated the shell and you will start to see a crack appear.
  4. Once the tap root begins to show you can remove the seeds from the glass of water and transplant the seeds into soil.
  5. Be careful when you are taking the seeds out of the glass of water, tap roots are very delicate and even the slightest knock can damage them beyond repair. Some people pour the water out of the glass and gently transfer the seeds into the soil with tweezers touching them.
germinating marijuana seeds in a glass of water

How to germinate cannabis seeds with starter plugs

Starter plugs are becoming a more and more popular way of germinating cannabis seeds. They are incredibly simple and effective to use and make germination easy for beginners.

There are various brands that produce starter plugs, Rapid Rooters being the most well known. All of them have pretty much the same concept. Read the instructions that come with them as they may vary slightly from the advice given below.

  1. Take your starter plug and soak it in distilled water for a few hours.
  2. Place the plugs into a grow tray.
  3. Next place 1 seed into the centre hole of each of the starter plugs.
  4. I normally tear a little piece of one corner of each starter cube and use it to fill in the hole. This keeps the seed in complete darkness.
  5. Place the lid on the tray to keep the moisture in.
  6. It should take 1-5 days for the seeds to germinate.
  7. Keep spraying the surfaces of the starter plugs daily to keep the moist.
  8. Once the seeds have germinated in your started plugs you can simply transfer them and plant the entire starter plug directly into your soil or growing medium.
cannabis germination tray

How do you transfer a germinated seed into soil

Once your cannabis seeds are germinated you can transplant them into the soil. To do this you first need to make a small hole about 0.5 – 1 inches deep in the surface of the soil. Next gently place one of your germinated seeds into the hole with the tap root facing down, then cover the seed lightly with a layer of soil. Do not pack the soil down tightly on top of the seed as this could prevent if from reaching the surface. Give the surface of the soil a spray with some water to make sure it is moist.

Now all that is left to do is sit and wait for your seeds to break the surface of the soil and become seedlings.

When can you start feeding cannabis?

When seeds are germinated they already have all of the energy they need to reach the seedling stage. Plus if you are using a good quality soil such as a living soil or home made mix there should be enough naturally occurring nutrients in there to see them comfortably through the first few weeks. Cannabis plants are very delicate when they are seedlings so it is best to avoid feeding them any nutrients until they are 3-4 weeks old. By this stage they will have grown 3-4 sets of leaves. Giving your seedlings any nutrients prior to this could give them nutrient burn or kill them.

Joe Musgrave

Joe Musgrave is a keen 420 blogger who writes about all things cannabis. After harnessing his green thumbed skills through years of working on cannabis farms, Joe now shares his knowledge with the rest of the online 420 community.

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