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Woman shows how to germinate cannabis seeds
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How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds in a Few Easy Steps

Wondering how to germinate cannabis seeds before you plant them? There’s several different methods. Find which one is best for you.

Nov 30, 2018 - Rob Hoffman

Photography by Jonathan Coward for HERB

Woman shows how to germinate cannabis seeds

Photography by Jonathan Coward for HERB

Germination is the first step in the cannabis growing process. It’s simple to do but requires attention and care. The first step is to get your hands on some 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 plant. 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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Size: Indicas produce larger seeds with striping. Sativa seeds are smaller and more uniform in color.
  3. Hardness: A good seed has a hard outer shell. Don’t pick seeds that are soft or damaged.

How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds

How to Germinate Seeds 2 How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds in a Few Easy Steps

Germination requires three things: heat, water, and air. The process typically lasts between 2 to 7 days.

In many places, cannabis becomes illegal once seeds begin to germinate. Germination is the process of getting your seed to sprout. 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.

Tip: If you’re using newly harvested seeds, put them in the refrigerator for seven to fourteen days before attempting to germinate them. The point of this is to trick the seeds into believing it’s winter so that when you begin the germination process, they all come out of dormancy at the exact same time. This will create a more uniform germination process.

Pre-soak Method


Basically, pre-soaking means that you soak your seeds in 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 seeds are completely moist before planting.

Some people soak their seeds for up to seven days or until a root appears. The major concern here is that pre-soaking increases the risk of rot and mold before you’ve even fully started your plant. It’s recommended that you only allow your seeds to soak overnight.

Paper Towel Method

The paper towel method is one of the most popular germination methods. It takes a little longer than the pre-soak method, but there’s less of a risk of rot if you’re observant.

Step 1: Put seeds in a glass of lukewarm tap water and allow them to sit overnight. Do not allow the seeds to sit in the water for more than 24 hours or they could end up rotting when you try to plant them.

How to Germinate Seeds 8 How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds in a Few Easy Steps
Photography by Jonathan Coward for HERB

Step 2: Wet two pieces of paper towel, then put them on top of each other on a plate. Take your seeds out of the water and put them in the center of the paper towel. Fold the wet paper towel over the seeds. (If you don’t have paper towels, you can also use a regular cloth.)

Step 3: Put the plate holding the paper towel with the seeds in it in a dark, warm place that has a temperature of 70°F – 80°F (21°C – 27°C)

How to Germinate Seeds 5 How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds in a Few Easy Steps
Photography by Jonathan Coward for HERB

Step 4: Pour water over the paper towels containing the seeds once or twice a day. The key here is not allowing the paper towels to dry out.

How to Germinate Seeds 11 How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds in a Few Easy Steps
Photography by Jonathan Coward for HERB

Step 5: After a few days the seeds will sprout a little white root. As soon as you see this little root poking out, it’s time to plant the seed. Handle this seed with extreme care (it’s recommended that you use tweezers). Plant the seed so that the tip of the white root points downward. Work fast so that the seed is not out in the light and air for too long.

How to Germinate Seeds 12 How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds in a Few Easy Steps
Photo courtesy of pxhere.com

Step 6:  Cover the now-germinated seeds with 1 – 2 cm (0.25 to 0.5 inches) of moist planting medium (like soil.) If you’re using a rockwool cube, this isn’t necessary.

Direct Soil Method

You can plop your seed directly into soil whether or not you’ve pre-moisten it. 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 into a larger pot.

If you want to learn more about cannabis seeds, look here.


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