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what to do once your cannabis seed pops

How To Germinate Cannabis Seeds: A Step-by-Step Guide

“It all starts with a seed.” Learning how to germinate cannabis seeds is essential to all future growing success. Properly popping beans puts you on the road to healthy plants and heavy harvests. But there are a few things to consider in order to master how to germinate cannabis seeds the right way.

Step 1: Choosing Seeds

First, you must decide on what seeds to grow and where to get them. Seek out trustworthy seed companies that have been around and have a track record of successful breeding. Take a look at our High Times Seed Bank Hall of Fame for a list of 50 of the most well-known and accomplished strain creators.

Don’t have seeds mailed to the location where you’re growing or planning to grow. Beginners might want to start with an indica-dominant strain that will stay small and stocky with a short flowering time.

Sativa-dominant strains tend to stretch more and have longer flowering times. If your seeds have been sitting around in storage for a while, check out these tips for germinating old seeds.

Step 2: Sprouting Seeds

Some people choose to use the moist paper towel method to germinate their seeds but I recommend just sowing them directly into the medium you plan to grow in. This reduces any stress the seedling will suffer through the transplanting process and secures the young plant firmly into your chosen mix.

Moist Paper Towel: Place seeds on a plate between two moistened paper towels. Put a plate on top to cover and within a couple of days, you should see the seed cracked open and a taproot emerging. Immediately and carefully (using tweezers) place your seed into your growing medium taproot down and water it in.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with using a moist paper towel, as long as you’re gentle with the emerging tap root and as long as you don’t let the taproot grow too long before planting. My belief is simply to start the plant in its own medium to reduce the likelihood of damaging the tender young roots and shoots.

Straight Into Medium: Poke a hole in your pre-moistened grow medium of choice. Drop your seed in about a quarter- to a half-inch deep. Cover the seed with more of your medium and tamp it down gently.

The important thing is to not plant too deeply and to keep the medium moist and warm for the best germination success rate. Clear plastic wrap placed over the top of the container helps maintain humidity. A heating mat underneath your plastic tray will increase your success rate as well.

Step 3: Seedling Care

Within a few days, you should see a minuscule green shoot emerging from the top of your medium. Immediately get your seedling under adequate grow lighting. Ideally, for the strongest growth rate, you want Metal Halide (MH) lighting, but Fluorescent or LED (Light-Emitting Diode) lighting works fine and won’t produce as much heat.

No matter what lighting you choose, always remember not to keep your grow-light too high above your seedling as this will make it stretch to reach the light and leave your young plant looking long and lanky.Use a timer to make sure the lights are on for at least 18 hours per day. Learning how to germinate cannabis seeds also means treating the emerging seedlings with the proper care.

Temperature and Humidity: You never want your seedlings to dry out. Keep your medium moist but not soaking wet. The air in your grow space should be kept warm, between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit and with a relative humidity between 50-60 percent.

Use a thermometer/hygrometer to keep track of these factors at all times. As your plant adapts to its new environment, you will see new foliage sprouting forth. Your plants are now well into their vegetative stage of plant growth.

Final Hit: How To Germinate Cannabis Seeds

Now that you know how to germinate cannabis seeds, you’re ready to begin the process of growing your own weed. Just remember, provide light, food and water to your plants when they need it and keep the environment within acceptable levels of temperature and humidity. You’ll avoid so many problems by simply maintaining the proper parameters.

One last tip: Remember to label your seeds, seedlings and clones to avoid confusion and costly mistakes. Now get growing!

How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds

Germination relates to the process of a new plant growing from a seed. It is the first step when adding to your cannabis garden. You can purchase the requisite seeds from a variety of sources. On the downside, it means that cannabis seeds vary enormously in quality. We recommend looking at reputable online seed banks to get your supply. However, please note that there are legal issues to contend with if you buy seeds. This is especially the case if you decide to buy them from a source outside the United States.

When buying seeds, opt for mature options with a dark brown appearance and a firm feel. Once you have them in your possession, make plenty of space for them to grow and thrive. Learning how to germinate weed seeds correctly is crucial to enjoying years of healthy plants and fruitful harvests. In this guide, we outline the ideal germination conditions and show you five different methods.

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Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Seed Germination

In theory, germinating cannabis seeds is a simple affair. They only need three things: Air, water, and heat. The famed ‘paper towel’ method is incredibly easy as long as you follow the steps outlined below. Here is a quick overview of the best germination practices before we show you the various methods.

Water

Be careful not to over-soak your seeds. Hard seeds should be soaked for a maximum of 32 hours, although 24 hours is usually enough. Soaking too long can damage them. Marijuana seeds begin to sprout when they receive the twin signals of water and heat.

Once the right conditions occur, the taproot starts burrowing through the shell of the seed.

If the root breaks through the shell and there is no water, the seedling will die. Keep the roots moist once the seed sprouts, and make sure there is ample moisture at all times.

This is arguably the trickiest aspect of germination. You have to strike a balance between ‘warm’ and ‘hot.’ Spring temperatures are ideal in a ‘normal’ year. While cannabis seeds can germinate in colder weather, the process takes longer. Seedlings also germinate faster when there is plenty of humidity in the air. If you are concerned about low temperatures, invest in incandescent bulbs, and place them over the seed area.

First and foremost, seeds perform at their best when they are left alone! When you check them for the taproot, handle with care! Try to avoid touching the white taproot because it can easily break off.

Planting

You don’t have to plant germinated seeds too deep in the soil, or whatever growing medium you choose. 0.5” – 1” below the surface is plenty. Point the white root downwards into the earth to ensure the seedling is ideally oriented.

Are Your Seeds Good or Bad?

Always opt for dark cannabis seeds as they are the most likely to germinate when kept in the right conditions. White or pale-green seeds have little or no chance of growing.

You may have heard the age-old advice on checking for viable seeds. Apparently, if you can crush seeds between your fingers, they are ‘bad.’ First of all, they won’t be good seeds because you have destroyed them! Secondly, experienced growers know that even flimsy seeds can germinate when exposed to the right conditions.

How to Germinate Marijuana Seeds – 5 Methods

1 – The Paper Towel Method

This is the easiest method and requires cannabis seeds, paper towels, and two clean plates. A word of advice: Choose cheap paper towels because they are non-porous. As a result, you can lay seeds and roots on the surface and not worry about them getting stuck. If you use high-quality paper towels, the roots will grow into them!

It is a simple method, but also a risky one. You could damage the taproot while moving the sprouted seeds, or else the paper could dry out and kill the seeds. In any case, here is the process:

  1. Use up to four sheets of paper towel and soak them in distilled water. While you must soak the sheet, make sure there is no water dripping off.
  2. Place two of the paper sheets on one of the plates. Lay the seeds down at least 1” away from one another. Cover with the other two layers of paper towel.
  3. Cover the seeds with the second plate to lock in moisture. You have created a low-cost dome! Make sure you check the seeds often to see if they have sprouted.
  4. Keep the seeds in a room where the temperature is between 70- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Now you must wait! Seeds typically sprout within 1-4 days, although older seeds often take up to a week.
  6. When checking the seeds, make sure the sheets are saturated. If they are drying out, add more water.

You will know that germination has occurred because the seed will split, and a little root appears. Make sure you don’t touch the taproot when it sprouts or during the transplantation process.

EDITOR’S CHOICE – Homegrown CannabisCo

Homegrown CannabisCo are the masters when it comes to seeds. Offering a massive variety of cannabis seeds that are well categorized, not only does this company create a resource for superb quality options including feminized seeds, it also provides extensive growing information for those looking for some support along their journey.

2 – Direct Planting

In nature, a marijuana seed will germinate in the soil and emerge with its taproot growing into the earth. Therefore, you can plant cannabis seeds straight into your growing medium of choice. The main benefit here is that you don’t have to worry about ‘shocking’ the seedling while transporting it.

Your seedling should instantly adjust to the new environment and grow. When using this method, dig a hole 0.5” – 1” deep in soil that is moist but not saturated. Keep things warm with a heating pad or lighting.

3 – Starter Cubes and Seedling Plugs

This has been championed as the easiest germination method. It is effectively a foolproof method. All you have to do is place the seed into the cube/plug and add water. Assuming you put the seeds in a room with the right temperature, germination should occur automatically within a few days. There is a pre-made hole for the seeds, so it is a ‘set it and forget it’ method.

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The main downside with this germination method is that such plugs are generally available in packs of 50. Waste is inevitable if you only plan on planting a few cannabis seeds. The plugs dry out in a week or so and become unusable.

You can also use Rockwool cubes as they are cheap and easy to find. However, they are a terrible burden on the environment and bad for your health. Rockwool also has a high pH (which means you must rinse the cubes first) and offers a low cloning and germination success rate.

4 – Overnight Soaking

This is as simple as option #3. It involves nothing more than placing the seeds in a glass of lukewarm water overnight. It is a good idea if you’re using old and hard seeds. The soaking process can breathe new life into them. When you place the seeds in water, they float for a few hours before sinking to the bottom.

The soaking process can breathe new life into old seeds.

If you use a transparent container such as glass, you get to see the white taproot break out! You shouldn’t leave seeds soaking in water for more than 32 hours. Otherwise, seeds that haven’t sprouted yet will drown. If the seeds haven’t germinated by the 32-hour mark, put them in a warm and moist place to complete the process. You should probably use the paper towel method at this point.

5 – A Germination Station

You can purchase a readymade version online. Alternatively, attempt a DIY station by placing a plastic dome over a plate that you then add to a heating pad. Professionally made stations are relatively inexpensive and work rather well. You can buy one for under $40, and their plastic tops ensure better humidity control. With top brands, all you have to do is choose your growing media and plugs to start growing.

Transplanting Germinated Cannabis Seeds

There is no room for a delay once your cannabis seeds have begun to sprout. Now is the time to transfer the seed to its growing medium. Most growers prefer to use small pots, to begin with. Make sure you fill enough pots with loose potting soil and use a pencil to poke a hole around 0.25” deep. Remember, you could break the taproot very easily. Transfer it using tweezers and drop the seed into the hole with the root facing down. Finally, cover it with a thin layer of soil.

For the first few days, use a spray bottle to water the seeds, because adding too much water can drown them. It is worth investing in a pH meter to test the soil regularly and make sure it has enough moisture. If all goes well, the seed should sprout from the earth within a week. If it hasn’t sprouted within ten days, it will probably die.

Turn on your grow light once you have planted the seeds. The heat improves germination rates and speeds up the process of the seedlings opening their first set of leaves. These leaves will remain yellow until exposed to a sufficient level of light in any case. When you plant multiple seeds, you will find that they grow at different rates.

Inevitably, some will fail, while others will flourish. You will have seeds that pop fast and proliferate. Don’t be disappointed if you have a few failures because that’s part and parcel of the growing process. Even when you get everything right, you will inevitably lose a few seeds, and it won’t be your fault!

EDITOR’S CHOICE – Homegrown CannabisCo

Homegrown CannabisCo are the masters when it comes to seeds. Offering a massive variety of cannabis seeds that are well categorized, not only does this company create a resource for superb quality options including feminized seeds, it also provides extensive growing information for those looking for some support along their journey.

Seed Starting, Part 2: What To Do After Germination

Check out our latest tutorial video below about what to do with your seeds after they have started to germinate (when they’ve started to grow). Then keep scrolling for some tips and links to help you out! If you missed the first video on How to Successfully Start Seeds, be sure to check that out first, as it will get you started on growing a great garden – whatever your skill level.

>> Download: When to Start Seeds Indoors

We also have for you an easy-to-follow written guide on when to start what.

1. Light

Your seedlings will need light, but they also need periods of rest (darkness) too. A good rule of thumb is to turn the grow lamps off when you go to sleep, and turn them on when you wake up (or use a timer). Read all about different types of grow lights here.

Seedlings need blue night and red light. Sunlight includes both. Red light stimulates the growth of leaves and flowers. Blue light regulates the growth/size of plants.

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Don’t use incandescent light, use fluorescent. Full spectrum bulbs include both red and the blue light, or you could use one warm (red) light and one cool (blue) light.

The grow lamp should be about 2-4 inches above the seedlings, so adjustable lights are helpful. You can find the Tabletop Garden Starter® Grow Light Kit shown in the video (and in the photo above) from Gardener’s Supply.

Be sure you clean the lightbulbs, as dust and dirt can cut down on the amount of light emitted.

Hold your hand above the seedlings. If it feels warm, the light is too close.

2. Water

Water from below, not above, to ensure that you don’t squash the seedlings. Make sure your seedlings aren’t sitting in water, or you’ll have issues with rotting, fungus, and soil gnats.

Your seedlings might need to be watered if:

  • The soil looks lighter
  • The soil pulls away from the edge of the cell

Self-watering seed starting kits use capillary mats, but be sure to check the water levels on those as well.

3. Food

Seedlings need food when they get their “true leaves.” The first leaves that come up are typically embryonic leaves from the cotyledon (part of the seed) so look for the second (“true”) leaves to appear before you start fertilizing. Use fertilizer at a weaker strength than you would for full-sized plants.

There are several different options for how to fertilize your seedlings. The ones shown in the video are Sustane Compost Tea Bags and Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1 Concentrate 1 Quart

4. Airflow

Your seedlings will be healthier and more sturdy if air is flowing above and around them. A fan can be used – we recommend putting it on a timer, just like your grow lights.

5. Room to Grow

Most people put more seeds than are needed in each cell, so you’ll need to either (carefully) pull out the weaker ones from each cell, leaving one healthy one, or cut them off at the base. Monica demonstrates both methods in the video.

Be sure to check your seed packet to see how long it should take your seeds to germinate. If no seedling has appeared by a few days later than expected, sow some new seeds.

6. A Bigger Pot (optional)

It’s not needed, but if you’re not moving your seedlings into a garden for several weeks, you might want to transfer them to a larger container. If your plant is about two times the size of the container it’s in, or you can start to see roots below the cell, you might want to move it to give it more room to develop, access to more nutrients and more moisture, and the roots will have more space to grow. A 3 to 4″ pot should work well.

If you’re reusing pots, be sure you wash them well before you use them.

You can also use Eco-friendly Seed-starter Cowpots, which you eventually plant into the ground, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

Use a potting mix (such as the Organic Potting Mix, 20 Qts. from Gardener’s Supply) when you transplant your seedlings. Make sure that it is adequately moist – if you grab a handful and squeeze it, it should hold together, but if you move your hand, it should fall apart (see the video at about the 23 minute mark for a demonstration of this).

When transplanting, never grab a seedling by the stem, or you could damage or kill the plant. It’s better to try to push it up from the bottom of the cell, and try to take it out in one piece.

After transplanting, be sure to still water your seedling from below.

Important note: when you do move your seedlings outside, you need to do something called “hardening off,” which is slowly exposing them to the conditions they will encounter in your garden.

7. Label

Be sure to label your seedlings so you know what they are!

Ones shown in the video include ones similar to these seed markers. The garden stakes from Botanical Interests are currently sold out. One of our YouTube viewers also suggested using venetian blinds as labels. We thought that was a great idea!

What are you growing from seed this spring? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

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Disclaimer – All opinions expressed here are those of the author based on personal experience using the product.

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About The Author

Sarah, originally from Wisconsin, prefers to be outdoors whenever possible. She has been known to high-five trees on hikes, tests the limits of her balance on kayaks, and is re-discovering a love of cycling. She works behind-the-scenes at the Gardening Products Review, located in sunny Tucson, Arizona.