Germination begins the life of your plant, so it is essential to understand precisely how to do it. There are many methods for germinating marijuana seeds – some more successful than others. This guide will discuss the many ways to germinate your seeds as well as some strategies for ensuring you get the best results possible.
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It Starts with the Seed
Like all plants, marijuana starts as a seed. What looks like a pebble is actually an entire plant conveniently stored with a few day’s supply of food to support itself. During germination, this food is converted into sugars that the plant uses to break through its shell and form its roots. From that point forward, the young seedling depends on its environment to provide the nutrients it will need to survive.
Germination brings a seed out of its slumber and triggers the growth process. A seed will begin germinating once it receives enough moisture. At that point, it will increase in size and break open its shell. A germ opening forms and a root will emerge, which will help the plant absorb nutrients from the earth. Nature and gravity ensure that the root grows downwards and the stem upward, creating a young seedling that can survive off light and earth.
Since all marijuana grows from a cannabis seed, many people want to know how to identify a healthy seed. Honestly, it is difficult to tell if a plant will be healthy based on its seed alone. There are, however some tell-tell signs. Generally speaking, a pale-green or white marijuana seed will not germinate. A dark seed, on the other hand, is always worth trying. If you are unable to use all of your seeds, store them in a cool, dark and dry place until you can. A refrigerator is ideal.
Planning for Germination
Seeds are designed to germinate, but they are more likely to do so if given the ideal environment. There are many methods of germination, but they will all require:
- Moisture to help the seed expand and break through its shell
- Minimal interference so that delicate structures aren’t accidentally broken
- Temperatures that mimic springtime (between 20°-22° Celsius or 68°-72° Fahrenheit)
If you remember these three things, your germination attempts are more likely to be successful.
It should go without saying that successful germination is important. Your seed is the foundation for your plants – which is why many successful growers choose to start with high-quality seeds. You can also improve your germination attempts (and possibly speed up the process) by soaking your seeds in 1% hydrogen peroxide or a compost tea solution for 12 hours before using them. This process will kill any infectious agents.
3 Simple Ways to Germinate Your Seeds
The best germination method is the one that works for you, and if you are like me, you’re going to want something simple and natural. My favorite way to germinate seeds is a 24-water soak followed by soil germination, but something else may work better for you. Here are three of the easiest ways to germinate seeds.
Directly in the Soil
Planting your seeds in the soil that you intend to grow in is the most common and often, most successful method of germinating marijuana seeds. This method is perfect for ensuring young seeds have minimal interference since the fragile root is protected by the soil. It’s also the most natural way for marijuana plants to grow.
When using soil, first make sure you use the right type. Use mildly fertilized potting soil or a seed starter. It should have a pH of approximately 6. This type of soil will have spores and mineral that help young marijuana plants thrive. Do not add nutrients – potting soil has enough nutrients for at least the first two weeks of the plant’s life. If you add any more nutrients, you risk killing your seedlings due to a nutrient overdose. Place your soil in a small pot.
To prepare the soil for your seed, push your finger into it to create a small hole that is up to 1.5cm (0.6 inches) deep. You can also use a pen or pencil. Place one seed into the prepared hole and cover it with soil. If you’ve already germinated, the seed will have a root - place the root facing downward. (More on that later) After you’ve covered your seed, do not mess with it. That includes pushing it down further – this will happen naturally as you water it.
Use a plant sprayer to moisten the soil and place the pots under a fluorescent lamp. Don’t use a windowsill, because the temperature is not stable enough for germination. The temperature of the soil should be 22° Celsius or 72° Fahrenheit which is easy to achieve with lighting.
Keep monitoring your soil to make sure it stays moist. Within a week (or as little as 4 days) you should start seeing stems emerge from the soil. You now have a seedling! Once your plants are 2 to 4 inches tall (5 to 10 centimeters), move your plants into a larger pot with the stems further in the ground. Your plant will now have many roots that will support it for the rest of its life.
As I mentioned above, germinating in water is my favorite way to start my seeds. It may seem like a bad idea, as there is more water and light than recommended when using this method, but it works! I’ve found that it is around 90% effective. The “trick” is not leaving the seeds in water too long. I tend to leave mine in water for around 24 hours, but you can leave them soaking for up to 7 days without too much of a worry.
Water germination is useful because it assures that there is the right amount of moisture to begin germinating. If done for just a short period, it can help crack open the shell, pre-spouting the plant right before your eyes. Water germination shortens the process by making it easier for the plant rather than having to push through soil.
To germinate with water, fill a glass with tap water and allow it to reach room temperature over a few hours. The temperature should be around 18° C or 65° F. Do not add nutrients. Drop 2-3 cannabis seeds into the water and watch for any changes. Refill the glass with fresh water every other day while maintaining its temperature.
After about 2 to 4 days the seeds should start to split. You can place your seeds in soil at any point, but once the roots are 3 to 5 mm (.1 to .2 inches) long, they must be moved.
As much as I prefer to germinate my seeds in water, it does have its downside. At some point, you will need to handle your seeds, and this is risky. Germinating seeds are delicate, and the roots are especially fragile. If you harm them in any way, your plant might not develop well. Be very careful when placing your sprouted seed into the soil, and if possible place the root facing down.
In between two cotton pads
Another easy way of germinating your seeds is to use cotton pads or paper towels. This is a common way of doing it because the cotton pads or paper towels can keep the seeds moist and protected. While cotton pads (or balls) or the best for this method, cheap, non-porous paper towels will work as well. Just make sure they are plain single-ply paper towels – the cloth-like ones may cause your roots to grow into the towel.
To germinate using cotton pads, place a few seeds between two cotton pads and moisten with a plant sprayer. When using a paper towel, place the seeds in between two paper towels and store the towel-cushioned seeds in between two plates, under an upside-down bowl or in a plastic bag. Keep the temperature around 22° Celsius, or 72° Fahrenheit, and (once again) do not place the seeds on a windowsill. In about 2 to 5 days, the seeds will start to split open, and a tiny root should appear. Place them in the soil when they are 3-5 mm or 0.1- 0.2 inches long.
Like the water method, germinating this way has its risk. If you are not careful, you can damage fragile roots while transporting them to the soil. You can also tangle the root in the wet paper towel if you are not extremely careful. Use your fingers or tweezers to move delicate sprouts, and don’t allow the root to grow too long before moving it into the soil.
Other Germination Methods
Water, soil and cotton balls are the easiest ways to germinate your seeds, but they aren’t the only ways. You can also use starter cubes or plugs. Simply drop the seed in, add water, and wait for it to germinate. They aren’t always as successful, but they eliminate the risk of damaging your root when transporting a young sprout to its final growing home. Below are two types of starter materials that can safely germinate your seeds.
Rockwool provides the perfect environment for germinating seeds. It is a mineral wool that is made from volcanic rock and other materials (such as basalt and limestone). Rockwool is man-made by melting its ingredients into molten lava that is quickly spun into threads. These threads are then compacted, cured and cut.
Rockwool is an ideal growing environment, but it will need to be amended slightly for marijuana plants. First of all, you will need to add some fertilizer before you use it to start seeds. The TDS should be around 600ppm. You’ll also need to lower the pH since Rockwool has a pH of 7.0, which is too high for germination. To lower the pH, soak Rockwool plugs in water for at least a day. Since water has a pH of 5.5, this will bring down the pH.
It should also be noted that there are some serious drawbacks to using Rockwool. Because it does not occur naturally, it’s not the best for the environment. It’s also not the greatest for your health; wear gloves and cover your mouth and eyes when handling this stuff.
Because of the extra steps involved (such as adjusting the nutrients and pH) and handling issues, this method is not recommended for beginners, although it is not terribly difficult to do. You’ll need to purchase and TDS meters for the most successful germination, but outside of that, the material is very affordable and easy to find. Because it does not require soil, this method is ideal for those who plan to grow hydroponically.
Peat pellets are another way to germinate seeds without the risk of damaging young roots. Peat pellets are compressed peat, which is made of partially decomposed vegetable matter and is simply yummy for young plants. The pellet enlarges when you add water to it, forming a container of nutrient-dense soil alternative around germinating seeds.
Unlike Rockwool, peat is already optimized for cannabis germination. It has a pH of 5.5 and a TDS of 625, so you don’t have to worry about making any adjustments. The only preparation required is soaking the pellets in warm water. Once the roots become visible, (by popping out of the peat), simply move the entire pellet into soil, rockwool, or coco coir, where it will continue growing. This type of germination is not recommended for hydroponic setups.
Peat pellets have a good germination rate, are easy to use and are suitable for beginners. They are also ideal for cloning. I recommend the Jiffy brand of peat pellets which can be purchased on Amazon.
In addition to the material used to germinate your seeds, the environment you provide will play a huge role as well. Your seeds will need the correct temperature and levels of moisture to sprout into a strong, healthy plant. Below are some tips for creating the perfect germination environment.
Watering is essential throughout the cannabis life cycle, and germination is no exception. Not enough water and your seeds do not germinate, too much and that root doesn’t survive. Excess water keeps oxygen from the roots and can attract mold, which is why you have to be very careful not to overdo it.
When germinating indoors using soil or another growing medium it is relatively easy to monitor the water levels. You should water your seed until you see water dripping out from below (and not more). Even though the seedling cannot absorb that much water, it will evaporate quite quickly, so you need to make sure there is always enough around. If you water it until it reaches this point, it should supply enough moisture for a few days.
Lighting and Temperature
Like water, lighting is essential to a cannabis plant. In a mature plant, light enables the plant to form sugars from carbon dioxide and water. The plant then uses those sugars to power its growth – something we humans call photosynthesis.
For a seed, lighting is important as well because it provides heat, which a seed needs to push open its shell and send its root into the earth. The best way to give your seeds the temperature it needs is with fluorescent lights. (T5 high output with a color temperature of 6500K). Fluorescent lights are ideal because they do not use too much power, and they don’t give off too much heat. You can place them as close to a young plant as you need, and although your seed doesn’t need it at this point, it will as soon as those first leaves start peeking out from the top of the soil.
Incandescent bulbs can also be used because they are great at generating heat. You can’t use them as grow lights, but for germination, they work just fine. You can also use a seedling heating pad (available at most gardening stores). These heat the seeds from the bottom instead of the top. They will not be enough once your plant has started growing, however.
Keep the temperature of the soil around 72 degrees. Seeds germinate best in warm, humid temperatures, similar to springtime. To create a humid environment, wrap plastic wrap around your pot, creating a biodome for your plants. Just remember to remove the plastic wrap the minute you see any sprouts emerge from the soil. If the soil, or water, or whatever you are growing in is hotter than 72 degrees Fahrenheit, move the lamp further away from the plant. Dry air won’t kill seedlings, but if you can reduce it, even better.
It’s best to germinate seeds indoors. This is because indoors it is much easier to maintain the correct temperature, water levels, and light exposure. Even if you plan to grow your plants outdoors, you do not want to try starting them outside (unless you absolutely need to). Outdoors you must worry about rain, clouds and plenty of other things that could keep your seeds from sprouting. You’ll also have to wait until the final frost has passed, meaning your growing season may be delayed compared to if you had started the seeds inside. Starting indoors give you a head start and your plants a better chance at survival.
If you still plan to germinate outdoors, choose a location that will support the plant its entire life. You will not be moving the plant, so choose wisely. Plant seeds when corn is typically planted in your area. Dig 6x6x6 holes at least three feet apart and fill them with potting soil. This will give the seeds enough nutrients to start. Then, dig a small, quarter-inch deep hole into the potting soil and drop the seed in. Soak that soil with water, and water it again in a few days if the weather is warm enough. You can use row covers to protect your seeds and keep the area warm but be careful to not leave them on too long – young plants will need the light once they break through the soil.
There is, of course, a benefit to starting your seeds outdoors if you plan to grow outdoors. Your plant will have more time to adjust to its environment and will be less likely to suffer from shock when moved outdoors. So it might be worth it if you know what you are doing. Just remember to leave plenty of space for your plants (those little seeds can grow quite large), know the weather patterns in your environment, keep your eye out for animals that may eat your seeds and use potting soil to provide the right amount of nutrients.
Planting your Germinated Seeds
Once your seeds have sprouted, they should be planted. If you’ve used a germination method that requires you to move your sprouts, do so carefully, as the taproot is very fragile. You do not want to touch it. If you touch it or break it, it may survive, but it will definitely stunt your plant’s growth.
When planting, drop the white root downward. It should be placed about half an inch to an inch in the growing medium (knuckle deep). The top of the seed should sit just below the surface. Cover lightly and allow about a week (10 days maximum) for the seedling to break through the soil. It may emerge the same day – but if it hasn’t peeked through by 10 days, it likely did not survive.
If your seed is accidentally planted upside down, do not worry. Nature has a way of working itself out. As long as there is enough room for the roots to grow down eventually, they will. Give it some time and let it do its thing!
Germination doesn’t have to be hard. Are you ready to start growing? It all starts with the right seeds. Our high-quality seeds will improve your germination efforts and even come with a guarantee.