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 this article – the ultimate guide to growing cannabis seeds.
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Cannabis seeds are obviously the seeds of our favorite herb, but can you grow any old seed into a flowering weed plant? The important thing for successfully growing cannabis is to only cultivate female plants. Female plants will provide you with the highest quality flowers for smoking. However, those same female plants should be seedless, so where do cannabis seeds come from?
Cannabis seeds are produced when a male plant fertilizes a female plant. You don’t want this to happen if you’re growing females for smokable flower because then the buds are cluttered with seeds. That’s why cultivators isolate their female plants as soon as they identify the sex, and you should too.
Of course, if seeds are desirable for reproduction or hemp seed oil, then this process is allowed to happen. However, when it comes to creating cannabis seeds to produce a new generation of plants, there are some other techniques experienced cultivators will use.
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 seedbanks such as ILGM. 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.
Cannabis plants only produce seeds after a male plant pollinates a female plant. It’s uncommon to find seeds in dispensary quality bud, and it’s also unlikely that your plants will develop seeds if you’re growing from a clone. When you smoke or vape marijuana, you’re typically consuming the unpollinated, seedless female flower. This part of the plant is named sinsemilla, meaning “without seed”.
Female plants produce significantly more resin than male plants, which is why bud from female flowers is what we’ve come to cultivate for harvest. Marijuana resin in the form of trichomes produces has a crucial role in the plant’s reproductive cycle.
The trichome-heavy female marijuana bud is designed to capture male pollen spores in order to develop seeds and reproduce. When females are kept away from the males, not do you create sensimillia, but you also kickstart trichome production.
So, while all female plants are capable of producing seeds, pollination is required for their development. Breeders and seed banks play the part of geneticists and help spur evolution by selectively mixing pollen from specific male plants with the genes from selected female plants. This creates seeds featuring hand-selected and carefully chosen traits.
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:
Thanks to all of the innovative breeders out there, modern day marijuana has become a very diverse plant. You can find fast-growing varieties, varieties designed for perfect outdoor yields, and strains selectively bred to grow well indoors. Short, stocky indica plants are typically the best indoor choice. If you’d like a plant that grows to a manageable size but has more of a sativa high, you can find a balanced hybrid with ease.
Doing a little research ahead of time will help you avoid splurging on seeds that are difficult to grow in your intended environment. If you’re lucky enough to have a great outdoor grow space, a slower-growing sativa will make the best of the outdoor season.
You can order cannabis seeds online from seed banks, but it can get confusing with all the different types of seeds available. The first thing you want to do is decide which strain you want to grow. Most seed bank sites will have a selection, sometimes organized by indica, sativa, hybrid, high-CBD, or by their medical or recreational uses.
The first category of cannabis seeds you’ll likely come across is “feminized seeds.” As you probably guessed, this is referring to the gender of the plant. While female plants are desired for growing smokable flower, there are pros and cons to feminized seeds.
The most obvious pro to growing weed from feminized seeds is getting a female plant. In fact, many breeders advertise having a “100 percent” success rate with their feminized cannabis seeds. This saves growers the time of identifying and separating male and female plants.
However, as experienced breeders are well aware, feminized seeds run the risk of developing into hermaphrodites. Female cannabis plants can form a hermaphrodite condition, where male flowers grow on the same plant, alongside female flowers, for a variety of reasons. But the biggest danger here is the male flowers self-pollinating the female flowers. All the resulting buds will be littered with seeds and not ideal for smoking.
At the same time, feminized seeds are an easy option for newbie growers and medical cannabis patients. Just be sure to keep an eye on those plants.
The next term you’ll come across when shopping for weed seeds is “auto-flowering.” If you’re familiar with some cannabis cultivation basics, you know that the plant has a vegetative growth period and then switches into a “flowering” period where it grows the buds we know and love. What activates that switch is the change in light, from long days to shorter ones as would happen naturally when the seasons change from summer to fall.
In the spring, blue light wavelengths are more predominant. Plants rely on this blue light to prosper during vegetative growth. During the late summer and early autumn, red wavelengths of light from the sun become more abundant. This red light is packed with the energy the plant needs to develop complex flowers.
To flower photoperiod plants early, most indoor growers put the plants on a strict 12/12 light schedule. Meaning 12 hours under the lights followed by 12 hours of complete darkness.
Auto-flowering seeds, however, are different. Auto-flowering cannabis seeds don’t require a change in light to enter the flowering stage in their life cycle. They naturally begin flowering after a certain amount of time instead.
As a result, most auto-flowering plants are ready to harvest in under 10 weeks. Flowering often begins at a mere two to four weeks.
Cultivators developed these seeds by breeding regular high-THC Cannabis sativa with its very close relative Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis ruderalis is a type of cannabis that grows in the wild. It’s typically smaller than Cannabis sativa and has a much lower THC count. However, when crossed with high-THC strains, breeders have developed auto-flowering plants with high THC counts that are low maintenance.
Though there is variation from strain to strain, auto-flowering strains tend to be much smaller than their standard counterparts. As a result, yields from auto-flowering plants tend to be slightly less. On the high end, some auto-flowering cannabis seeds can yield up to 150 grams per plant, though the average is somewhere in the double digits.
Auto-flowering seeds are particularly useful in northern climates, which have extremely long summer days. Once the nights become long enough to trigger flowering, the rain and frost soon follow.
This means that many plants fail to develop full flowers before the cold arrives.
Auto-flowering cannabis seeds also have some advantage indoors, especially for those who love sativas. Auto-flowering plants are generally small, compact, and can handle a wider range of grow environments.
Sativas, on the contrary, are tall plants with a long flowering period. Starting with auto-flowering, sativa seeds makes it easier to grow these wily plants indoors.
Most indica plants, however, are also short and perform well indoors regardless of whether or not you start with auto-flowering seeds.
Critics of auto-flowering seeds often find fault with the low yields of the plant. A photoperiod sensitive indica will produce short, manageable plants with a much higher yield than many auto-flowering varieties.
However, auto-flowering strains provide growers with the ability to produce extremely fast, easy to grow crops with excellent adaptations to the cold.
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.
The benefits of pre-soaking your seeds are debated among growers. Some people swear by it, and others suggest that you risk exposing your seed to rot if it gets too far along in the germination process before it’s removed.
Pre-soaking speeds things up a bit by ensuring that the seed is fully moist before being put into the soil. It also helps you test the viability of the seed prior to planting – a seed that will germinate will absorb water and become soft. You may also notice a root beginning to emerge after taking the seed out of the water.
1) Fill a shot glass or small tumbler halfway with purified or bottled water. Avoid using tap water as it’s often treated with chlorine or other substances which can impact growth. Most of the time tap water is OK, but if you really want to give your seeds the best chance of producing a top-quality product, it’s worth it to be picky.
2) Add in your seeds. Avoid overcrowding. You want the seeds to float at the top of the waterline, so don’t put in so many that they’re completely submerged from the get go.
3) Place the seeds in a warm, dark place with a constant temperature. Germinating seeds do not like light, but they do need a certain amount of heat to get going. On top of the water heater is usually a good spot. Consider covering the shot glass with another plastic cup to help keep things clean and dark. The ideal temperature is around 75-80 degrees F or 22 degrees C.
4) Wait for the seeds to sink. Many growers suggest letting the seeds soak for up to 24 hours. But, the most important thing is to wait until the seeds sink to the bottom of the glass. When they sink, you know that water has permeated the outer shell and the seeds are thoroughly moist. Don’t let them sit submerged for too long, as that may drown them or increase the likelihood of rot.
5) Gingerly remove the seeds from the glass. Because the seeds are soft and possibly already showing root, you want to avoid damaging them. One way to easily get the seeds out of the glass is to carefully pour them out over another glass or a large strainer that has been covered by a paper towel. You can then more easily pick them up from there.
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.
1) Dampen the paper towel with purified water. You’ll want to make sure that the paper towel isn’t dripping wet, as that increases the opportunity for rot. Misting the paper towels with a spray bottle rather than dunking them into water will ensure that they don’t get too wet. Damp cotton rounds can also be used in place of paper towels.
2) Place your seeds in the middle of the damp paper towel and fold. Make sure your seeds are decently spaced from one another, and are completely covered by the paper towel.
3) Keeping the paper towel horizontal, slip the moistened cloth into a plastic baggie. Seal the bag part way, and make sure it stays horizontal.
4) Blow a bit of air into the plastic bag. Once the bag is slightly puffed up, seal the air inside. Seeds need a little air to germinate. Store the baggie in a warm, dark place.
5) Check your seeds daily to see if they’ve begun to sprout. Once a taproot begins to show, they’re ready for soil. As with the pre-soak method, make sure you handle your seeds with care to avoid damaging them.
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.
1) Fill a small container filled with prepared soil, a peat pellet, or rockwool. If using soil, use your finger or a pencil eraser to create a divet about 5mm deep. Aim for a well about twice as high as the seed you’ll be putting in.
2) Place your seed inside the well. If you’ve pre-soaked the seed, place the root-end down. If you’re germinating in the soil itself, place the seed pointed end down. Gently flick a little bit of soil over the seed, but don’t compact it down. You just want a light dusting that will help keep the seed moist and dark. You don’t want to make it too difficult for a sprout to push out.
3) Use a spray bottle or mister to moisten the soil. You’ll want to make sure that the soil is damp, not overly wet.
4) If your seed hasn’t germinated prior to planting, cover your container with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap creates a greenhouse effect and retains soil moisture by capturing evaporated water and condensing it back into sweat. If you’re using peat pellets or small soil cups, you can also purchase a greenhouse box with a plastic lid at a local garden store. The ideal humidity is between 70 to 90%.
5) Wait for your plant to grow! After about 4 or 5 days, you’ll notice that your seeds are beginning to sprout. At this point, you’ll want to make sure your plants are well ventilated and have access to light. Remove any plastic wrap or take off the greenhouse lid. Place the seeds in front of a south-facing window where they’ll have access to the sun. Or, place them under a plant light. 18 hours under light and 6 hours in complete darkness typically yield the best results. At this early seedling stage, plants are still fragile. Make sure their environment is still warm. The soil should be damp, but not too wet.
Once your seedlings have well-established roots, you can then transplant them into a bigger container. They’ll typically reach this point after 2 to 6 weeks as seedlings.
The tell-tale sign that they’re ready to be moved is when you see a sudden spike in leaf growth, indicating that the plants are now in a vegetative growth phase. The leaves will be recognizable as marijuana leaves.
Giving your seeds a fighting chance from the beginning is a must if you want a top-quality harvest. Like in humans, what happens in the initial stages of development is important for the overall survival and health of the plant.
If you happen to have enough seeds, you may want to try each of the methods outlined in this article to see which garners the best results for your particular growing style.
Some may claim that they can tell whether a plant is male or female simply by looking at the seed. Is this actually possible? No.
Unless you specifically buy feminized seed, there is no way to tell whether or not your plant is a male or a female prior to early bud development. Both male and female seeds look exactly the same.
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.
The first and foremost way to tell whether or not your plant is a female is to watch for the development of pistillate hairs. When you pick up some dried bud at a dispensary, you’ve probably noticed the orange hairs that cover the dried flower. The bud of a growing female plant will begin to grow these hairs as soon as a flower begins to form.
These pistillate hairs are white while the plant is young and growing, but they’ll often turn dark orange or red once it matures and the flower is cut and dried.
In a young plant, look for a small bud with one or two long, white protruding hairs. These hairs are unique to females. So, if you see them, you’ll know that the plant will produce a potent, smokable flower as long as it remains unpollinated.
As female flowers mature, they grow to look like the flower we’re most familiar with finding in marijuana dispensaries. Male flowers, however, develop bulbous “pollen sacks” which make them easily identifiable.
Look for a tiny, tulip-like bulb without any pistillate hairs sprouting from the top. Once your plant begins to show signs that it is male, you should separate them from female sprouts. If you leave the two together the male plant will produce pollinate the female plant as it matures.
Once the female plant is pollinated, it will begin to expend energy producing seed rather than further developing its flower. This is great if you’re hoping to create and save your own seeds. But, if your goal is to get a great harvest from your female plants, you’ll want to avoid pollination.
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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.
To begin, you’ll need at least one mature male and one mature female cannabis plant. As we mentioned before, male marijuana plants produce the pollen needed to fertilize female plants and create seeds.
Male plants tend to mature about two weeks ahead of female plants. So, you’ll want to keep them alive and thriving while you wait for female plants to mature. You can do this by selectively pruning back your male flowers throughout the growing season until you’re ready to pollinate your females. Prune male flowers that are growing the fastest, while allowing slower growing or late buds to mature.
A female plant will be ready for pollen after she’s begun to produce good flowers. The flowers themselves should have developed numerous long pistillate hairs and be decent in size. Once she’s reached the proper developmental stage for pollination, you have a couple of choices when it comes to how you’d like to go about and produce seeds.
If you’ve been following along, you know that your male plants and female plants should be grown in separate locations to avoid unwanted pollination. One slightly difficult way to pollinate your females is to simply move one of your female plants into the same room as your favorite mature male plant.
Once together, give the male plant a good shake to cause the pollen to spread around the air and fertilize the female. After a day or two and a few good shakes of the male plant, you can then return the female to a proper growing environment so that it has the light and resources it needs to produce seeds. Or, you can continue to grow the two together if there’s enough of the proper light and nutrient resources around.
While this option mimics what typically happens when pollen just-so-happens to reach female plants in the natural world, this method isn’t exactly ideal if you want an easy, controlled way to produce your own seeds. For one, pollinating an entire female plant means that you’ll be doing an awful lot of digging once seed-harvest time roles around.
You also waste some potentially good bud this way. Pollinating an entire plant will produce a whole hell of a lot of seeds. If you’re growing as a hobby or for your own personal use, you really won’t need that many seeds.
This option is a little nicer for home growers who may not have very many plants to begin with and don’t want to use an entire female for seed creation. In this option, you’ll only be pollinating a few select branches of a specific plant. This will give you significantly fewer seeds than pollinating an entire plant, but it is relatively easy and will give you enough of a yield to replenish your next round of crop.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Once you’ve selected both a male and female plant that you would like to breed, you’ll need to prep each one for pollination. For the female plant, this means pruning back the fan leaves surrounding the branch(s) that you’d like to fertilize.
For the male plant, you’ll need to make some clippings of some good looking flowers and place them into the wine bags. Use at least one sizable clipping per bag. Paper sandwich bags are also OK, but make sure they can fit both male clippings and fully encompass your female branch. Long bags really work the best.
Next, place the bag containing the clippings around the prepped female branch and tightly secure the end of the bag around the branch with either, string, easy-to-peel masking tape, or a zip-tie. Give the bag a good shake. Let it sit for a couple of hours, shaking one or two more times.
Be careful during this entire process. You’ll want to avoid pollinating nearby branches that you’re trying to save for a harvestable crop. It’s advisable to avoid wind, and turn off fans while you’re pollinating certain branches,
After a couple of hours are up, remove the bag very gently. Again, avoiding pollination of other branches. If you’re worried about getting pollen on crop flowers, you can mist off the pollinated bud after about 48 hours.
Finally, after all of that tricky pollination business, you can expect mature seeds in about 4 to 6 weeks. As the female plant develops its seeds, you’ll notice that fertilized bud looks quite different from an unfertilized flower. For one, you won’t get the huge colas and beautiful, thick, dense trichomes that you’d expect to see from your standard, consumable sinsemilla. Rather, seed buds look a little more bulbous and are much, much smaller.
After several weeks of ripening, you can test to see if your seeds are mature by picking one out. A developed seed will be dark brown or a deep tan, have an incredibly hard outer shell, and may feature visible stripes. If you’ve fertilized only select branches, you’ll want to leave the pollinated branches on the plant a bit longer than your crop flowers.
Once you’ve determined that your seeds are mature, don’t be afraid to really dig into the plant to get them out. The remains from seed-producing flower are significantly less potent to consume than unfertilized plant material.
And there you have it! Those are some very basic tips to produce your own marijuana seeds. Now you’ll be able to crossbreed your best growing male plants with particularly high-yield females to ensure that you’re getting a premium crop with every new batch of seeds you plant.
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:
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:
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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.
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.
Choosing the right cannabis seeds will depend on your goals, experience level, and grow space. If you’re growing outdoors, you won’t need auto-flowering seeds. But if you’re growing indoors for the first time, opting for auto-flowering, feminized seeds is definitely an easy place to start.
If you want to try growing some weed seeds you found in your bud, it’s important to check if the seed is mature. If the coloring is a dark brown color with an almost tiger-strip-like pattern, then you’re good to go. But if the seed is a light, off-white color, it’s not ready to be germinated.
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If you’re lucky to live in a state that allows home growing either recreationally or for medical use, then you may have an easier time finding seeds. In California, for example, medical cannabis patients can obtain seeds that were produced inside of the state without violating state law. However, they cannot be sent via mail and you must have your medical marijuana authorization verified in order to acquire them.
Every marijuana state, whether it’s medical only or includes recreational, has its own unique cannabis laws. Asking a local dispensary or connecting with an in-state breeder can give you more information about the laws in your particular region. For the most part, viable seeds that come from out of state sources, be it domestically or internationally, are still illegal.
U.S. Customs laws are quite odd. Having seeds shipped to you domestically, from another U.S. state can get you into trouble. But, ordering seeds from another country seems to be a weird gray area. There are quite a lot of international seed companies out there, and many that ship to the U.S. have been in business for quite some time.
This is quite strange, considering that sale and trade of marijuana products is federally illegal. Many seed companies attempt to get around this by selling seeds as “souvenirs” that are not to be germinated.
According to GrowWeedEasy, if your marijuana seeds are confiscated while in route from another country, they’ll most likely be tossed out by customs officials. You’ll also get a letter saying that your package has been taken because it violates customs laws (see video above). If that happens, many seed banks will typically send you another package free of charge.
Having seeds is illegal under federal law as well as in states that don’t allow home growing. It’s definitely still possible to face legal repercussions from ordering seeds, but many mail-order enthusiasts will tell you that it isn’t that likely. If it’s illegal to grow in your region, you will probably face legal repercussions if you’re caught with germinating seeds. Having viable seeds in your possession is still a risk, however. So, it’s really up to you to make the personal decision of whether or not you want to order.
Beware of fraudulent seed companies that will take your money without sending you anything, or will send you things you didn’t order.
Growing from seed can be extremely rewarding. Not only do you get to watch your plant sprout from what seems like nothing, but you also have more of an opportunity to mix and match and play with genetics. Clones are typically easier to come by in most marijuana states, but if you’re lucky enough to have access to seed, it’s definitely a worthwhile experience.
Do you have any go-to tips for growing cannabis seeds? Share them with us on social media. We’d love to hear from you!
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