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Seedling Stage

Seedling Stage

Keeping your marijuana happy and healthy comes down to how carefully you care for them through each stage of a marijuana plant’s life. This is especially important in the younger stages of your plant’s life when they are at their most fragile condition.

A marijuana seed that sprouts will split along the seam that joins the halves of its husk. Driven by gravity , the tail grows longer rapidly, screwing its way down into the soil until the root can supply sufficient leverage to raise the husk containing the two seed halves upright.

From that position, the two halves fold out to act as biological solar panels that gather energy and begin a marijuana plant’s first chlorophyll production even as the tiny taproot sprouts hairlike feeder roots that stretch outward to strengthen its grip in the soil.

In this article, we take a look at the ways to protect your seedlings through their most delicate stage of life.

What are seedlings

The key thing to do during this stage is simply to pay attention and keep tabs on every development or change that occurs in your marijuana seeds. When they sprout, the seeds’ seams will split and allow a white tendril to poke through within several hours of this split. This tendril will grow very quickly, moving downward until it’s deep enough for it to hold up the rest of the plant (namely the stalk and the seed husk).

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Sprouting cannabis seed

Sprouting cannabis seed

The husk, now split into two, emerges from the ground and functions as a sort of makeshift leaf - in other words, it absorbs energy that can be used to produce chlorophyll within the plant. While you see the stalk growing upwards, you can also be sure that more roots are sprouting and growing downwards at the same time.

The first two leaves, completely unique from any future leaves that will grow, pop out of the middle of the seed’s split. These leaves are called sucker leaves and mark the beginning of more leaf growth.

Two lobed leaves will then grow from the middle of the sucker leaves. These two-lobed leaves usually resemble chicken feet, since they have three lobes. After the three-lobed leaves come two leaves with five lobes, and then two more with seven. Seven-lobed leaves are the ones everyone recognizes as the marijuana leaves.

Two lobed leaves cannabis

Two lobed leaves growing from the middle of the sucker leaves

If you were able to keep your marijuana plants healthy throughout its entire sprouting stage, they would most likely go through a very productive vegetative stage. Protecting your young plants is about more than just survival: it’s about investment in your future harvest. Read the article How to germinate marijuana seeds for more about germinating tips

This article covers the various elements you will need to keep a constant eye on to ensure the well being of your seedlings. These elements are protection, water, nutrients, heat, and sunlight.

How to protect seedlings

You will need to protect your young plants from more than just discovery by the authorities. Even if you live in a location where growing marijuana is legal, you have plenty to worry about with protecting your seedlings.

You should keep your plants in some sort of protected area, such as a rooftop, and shelter it using some sort of a transparent, plastic dome or bubble. These domes can keep your seedlings from being eaten by insects, rodents, or other pests, and they are easy and cheap to make yourself.

Tip: make sure to download my free Grow Bible for more information about seedling stages

Simply slice a clear plastic bottle in half, then recycle the top half and keep the bottom half. You should cut small slots around the edges of this half so that your young plant will have some airflow. Place the dome over your little plant, completely covering it. This will have the additional bonus of insulating your plant in case an unexpected frost occurs.

In addition to insulation and protection, your seedlings will need the most important elements on Earth: water and sunlight. You have to constantly keep the soil and the seedling moist around the clock, and you need to make sure they are receiving plenty of sunlight.

If you live further north, you could have some more trouble with this since your spring days will be shorter than latitudes further south. One big problem that can happen to outdoor growers is their seedlings not receiving enough sunlight. When this happens, the plant stretches taller and taller in an attempt to reach more sunlight, and then it is too tall to hold itself up any longer.

If you have the space and resources, you can try sprouting your cannabis seeds inside of a closet to begin with. Using the proper equipment in this environment can give your young plants plenty of sunlight, giving them enough energy to sprout large, healthy leaves right from the beginning.

indoor sprouting cannabis

Sprouting indoors

This type of growing also would ensure that their stems won’t get too long and weak; rather, they will be short and strong. You will be able to avoid the hassle of stabilizing tall, weak stems with sticks. If they don’t do this while the plant has leaned to the ground, it could begin to rot.

That being said, if you start to grow your seedlings indoors, transplanting them later will be necessary, which presents its own difficulties and safety concerns for your young plants. Ultimately, it depends on which option is best for you.

How much water do they need

One common problem that occurs when trying to care for a seedling is giving them too much water. It is actually less of an issue having to do with too much water, but actually has more to do with too little oxygen reaching your plant’s roots. This happens most commonly with seedlings being grown in containers since water can only go so far as the walls of the container.

watering seedlings cannabis

Watering your seedlings

If your plants are being over watered, you will most likely see symptoms such as drooping leaves. There are plenty of ways to avoid this, however, as long as you keep reading for a better understanding. Your planting situation is the most important factor that comes into play when considering how you have managed to overwater your plants, and how you can fix or avoid the issue.


Your pot is too big for your seedling
Since a young plant’s tiny roots absorb much less water than their more mature counterparts. If you water as much as the container can hold, these tender roots will not be capable of taking it all in. This situation, occasionally referred to as “overpotting,” leads to over watering. So how do you prevent this situation from happening?

small pots seedlings cannabis

Use small pots while growing seedlings

The best thing to do is to begin your seedling’s life in a smaller container to begin with. Once they have grown a fair amount, you can move them to a bigger container. If it’s too late and you need to fix the issue, simply direct your watering to a specific area: a little circle right around your plant. Once the topmost inch of soil is dry again, you can do another round of watering. You can only begin watering normally.

If you plan well enough in advance, you can have a separate container for each of your marijuana plants’ stages of life. If your plants will be living in containers for the entire growing season, you will need to know in advance the size of your last container.

In other words, you will have to have a good idea of how large you would like your plants to become. Because roots grow more rapidly when they are left in one container for a long time, fewer transplants mean a larger size plant (and therefore container). Take that into account when planning your container sizes.

Your pot is too small for your seedling
You can plant seedlings in very small individual containers, such as a solo cup. You can’t keep them cooped up in a solo cup forever, though since their roots will quickly outgrow the small space. If your plants are left in a small container for too long, they will become “root bound.” This means that the roots have wrapped themselves around the outside of the cup, keeping water on the inside from escaping.

transplant cannabis plants

Transplant your plants when needed

Why is being root bound such a bad thing? It can lead to some pretty big problems, including overwatering, nutrient deficiencies, wilting, and more. You can avoid this problem simply by changing the size of their containers as frequently as necessary. (Use these containers)

Poor drainage
If your plants’ container does not have an efficient drainage system (i.e. holes punched in the bottom of the container, plus the right kind of soil), overwatering will quickly become a problem that could be life-threatening to your plants.

One way to keep this from happening is to start growing your plants in a soil that drains well from the very beginning. Soils that are clay-based, for instance, retain water and, therefore, should be avoided.

You can also begin with a smaller container, which would help prevent the issue that was mentioned above. Make sure your container has lots of holes where water can drain from.

Don't overwater your plants by poor drainage system cannabis

Don't overwater your plants, make sure to have good drainage system

If you ever notice that water isn’t draining as fast as it should, you can add perlite to your soil to increase the oxygen content. Don’t water your plants quite as often until you notice them drinking more, or try using a Smart Pot instead of a normal pot.

If you follow these tips and are careful about watering your plants, you should be able to avoid overwatering them altogether.


If you’re sure you haven’t been watering your plants too often or too much and they are drooping or wilting, the culprit could actually be a lack of water. Sometimes people who know about the common occurrence of overwatering seedlings have overcompensated, therefore actually watering their plants less than is required.

The roots of your plants need to constantly be able to access water. Plants lose the water they have absorbed through their leaves in a process called transpiration. They do this by sucking up the water from the roots like a straw. If this process keeps going and the roots down below are not receiving enough water, the plant will undergo some serious problems.

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underwatering seedlings weed

Effect of underwatering your seedlings

If you are able to visibly notice your soil separating away from the container it’s in, you probably have an underwatering problem on your hands.

If your soil is enriched with nutrients and you underwater your plants, the effects will be even more devastating. Your plants will turn a dark green color and will have twisted new growths of a strange color. In this case, the only thing you can do is give your plants more water to re-establish their roots and begin growing once again. If they receive enough water to fight these effects, they will probably be able to combat this situation.

What kind of nutrients

Giving your plants nutrients can come with its own issues. If you give your plants too high a dosage of nutrients, for example, it will turn into nutrient toxicity. Your plant’s leaves will have tip burn and turn darker in color.

Nutrient toxicity can be caused by using a “hot” soil or a type of soil with a lot of nutrients. As long as you are watering your seedlings enough, they should be able to grow out of nutrient toxicity that comes from using hot soil.

Some soils are “slow-release,” such as Miracle-Gro. Avoid these soils at all costs, as they will not help your plant be healthier - in fact, it makes them even more susceptible to nutrient toxicity.

Nutrient toxicity seedlings cannabis

Nutrient toxicity seedlings

If you provide your seedlings with nutrients when they are too young, they might have a sort of nutrient overdose. As long as your initial potting mix is high quality, you shouldn’t need to worry about adding any more until after a minimum of a few weeks.

If you feed your plants with a large amount of nutrients all at once, you could end up with nutrient toxicity in less than a day. If you’re using a nutrient schedule that comes with the store-bought nutrients, half the amount it says and see how your plants react before adding any more.

If you use the wrong type of nutrients or bought a potting mix that isn’t right for cannabis seedlings, your plants could end up with a nutrient deficiency. You can identify this problem by yellowing, folding leaves starting to form on your plant. They will eventually wilt and drop off.

Theses leaves are located on the bottom of the plant, but if they are located only at the top, then nutrient deficiency probably isn’t a problem for that plant. Nutrient deficiencies always affect your older leaves first.

You can avoid any such problems by making sure that your plants have the right type of nutrients and by providing more nutrients as the plants “use up” their current soil. Additionally, if you’re growing your plants without soil, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to provide nutrients.

Deficiency seedlings cannabis

Deficiency on your plant

Problems could also arise if the soil isn’t kept at a balanced pH level. Even if the right nutrients are present, with the wrong pH level, your plant could experience nutrient a deficiency. If you are watering your plants poorly, this could also have a nutrient-related effect on your plants.

Additionally, keeping your plants in a container that is too small for them for too long will cause nutrient deficiencies, simply because it will become root bound and will keep your roots from working properly.

For a list with all nutrient deficiencies check the article Nutrient deficiencies in marijuana plants

The ideal temperature

The temperature should remain near 73 degrees, but if it’s too hot then simply move the lamp further away from the plant. If your seedlings are experiencing temperatures that are too high, their leaves will start to curl upwards and form a canoe shape.

temperature for seedlings weed

Perfect temperature for seedlings

You can solve this problem simply by lowering the heat. These symptoms occur more easily when your marijuana plants are also not receiving enough water.

How much light

If you're germinating your seeds indoors it's best to place your seedling in containers under fluorescent lights , since the lights do not use too much power and don’t emit much heat, allowing you to place them quite near the plants (2 to 4 inches).

Make sure to have the cfl on at intervals of 18 hours on, 6 hours off. If you're using HPS grow light place them as close to the seedlings as possible but don't let temperature exceed 77.

If you're germinating outdoors it's different. It is safe to say that sunlight is most important when your plants are first starting to sprout. Don’t be afraid of giving them too much light - it is almost never enough, as long as you keep your plants’ other needs in check (i.e. keeping their soil consistently moist).

outdoor sunlight growing outdoor seedlings

Outdoor sunlight while growing your seedlings outside

It will be obvious when you aren’t giving your plants enough light since their stems will be somewhat white-colored, tall, and thin. Basically, it’s your plants’ way of trying to reach as much sunlight as possible.

That being said, every plant has something called their “light saturation point,” or the point when plants can’t utilize every bit of sunlight that they are being exposed to. As long as you keep your lighting within a reasonable amount, your plants will probably not reach their light saturation point.

If they do, it turns into a waste of light, electricity, and time - when a plant is receiving too much light, it actually does not grow as quickly, since there is no point for it to grow bigger for the purpose of receiving more sunlight when it already gets too much.

Tip: make sure to download my free Grow Bible for more information about seedlings

A simple way of reducing the amount of light your plants are receiving is by moving your lamps higher, making them further away from the plants. If they need more light, move the lamps closer. It’s as simple as that!

Avoid stretching seedlings

Marijuana plants that are stretched out tend to be that way because of certain environmental factors. Stretched out marijuana plants will not produce sturdy stems that can support several branches, buds, and leaves. So, it’s important to ensure that the marijuana plants aren’t stretching out too thin.

stretching seedlings

Stretching seedlings

A simple solution to this problem is to bend the stem back and forth. While this might seem to put a lot of stress on the plant, it actually forces the stem to tear and then rebuild in that space. The stems become much sturdier as a result.

Other solutions to this problem include using an excess of blue light, maintaining temperatures at around 80*F, or making sure that plants have all the light they need available to them. If light is scarce, the plants will start to elongate in order to reach the light source. For more tips on how to avoid stretching, read the article Stretching marijuana plants

Tip: read everything about the vegetative stage or flowering stage

Thanks for reading. Please leave comments or questions below and don't forget to download my free grow bible


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Comment Section

31 thoughts on “Seedling Stage

By medMUser on 20 February 2016

It's important to note that the pointed end of the seed should be placed up in soil. When the root tip emerges, it's from the pointed end. The tip will go up a bit at first, then curve down towards the big end. After bit when the root is long & strong enough, it'll lift the big end up out of the soil. The big end will then go nearly straight up in the opposite direction of the root.

You can plant seeds sideways & get away OK, but avoid putting the big end up. The seed will still grow, but will be upside down & will usually correct the mistake, but NOT always. Plus it has to waste a lot of energy correcting itself as it re-orients & uses time that could have been spent looking for the light as the seed case cracks. I learned all this the hard way. 😉


By Jennifer ILGM on 22 February 2016

Thanks for the tip and sharing medMUser.

By Mr. X on 29 August 2018

Although the comment that I'm responding to is a bit over 4 yrs old, the response should still be helpful for others people that may be new to growing. The best advice that I can give to anyone who's thinking about growing cannabis for the first time is this: Do yourself a favor & get acquainted w/growing plants, ANY Plants. Get a small houseplant and see how you do. If you live in a warmer climate or it's summer time, try growing some vegetables, especially tomatos. Just make sure that you familiarize yourselves with the basics of what it takes to grow a healthy plant. It can be very tempting to just jump in head first & tell yourself that you'll figure it out, which could be the case. Just remember though that even seasoned cannabis growers will still have problems from time to time; how well do you think it will go if you've never even grown one plant? Cannabis seeds aren't exactly inexpensive, especially when compared to other seeds like vegetables. It will serve you well to learn the basics before plunking down a chunk of change on some seeds and diving in. As for the comment from Firesoul, if you bought only 10 seeds and are new to growing, you probably shouldn't have planted them all at once in case you run into problems, but I'm sure that you already figured that out a few yrs ago. Plant a few to get a feel for them if you must jump right in, but a little knowledge goes a long way. Puff, puff, pass

By Brian T on 24 September 2015

I'm pretty certain that cannabis plants are a lot tougher than we give them credit for. I am equally certain that they do not need all the interference with their growth that are listed in many grow books in order to produce the results that are required from them. These species have lived with humans for many thousands of years growing on their own for the most part with no assistance from us. I do not bother with soil PH or any other measurements for that matter and i am convinced that the suggestions that they be done are just to sell the gadgets to the gullible and there are a lot of gullible stoners out there with more money than sense.

My grow is doing very well thank you with none of these gadgets. I grow indoors in a filtered tent under CFL lighting and with fairly small quantities of nutrients. Because my current grow is hydroponic I just change the water completely every week or so and add fresh nutrient. Once flowering starts I change to a higher Phosphorous nutrient and change to 2 red spectrum lights 2700K at about 650watts (output) per lamp with lots of white reflectiors to spread the light. Yields are good to heavy and usually in the region of 250 to 500g a plant dried and cured weight. Which if I were to buy it would cost me between 2.5 to 5 grand at current UK street prices and will last me for a very long time 🙂

By Peter Sokol on 21 July 2018

Growing hydroponic now Brian....could you point me to some reference on controlling ph and algae......having a bit of a problem there

By Tim on 30 September 2015

I would like for you to talk about growing in hydoponics from seedlings to harvest

By marquise on 9 April 2016

is it okay to plant tour seeds into soil without germinating them in water first?
how long should it take to see sprouts?

By latewood.ILGM on 12 April 2016


You can sew your seeds directly into soil. You will have to be diligent in keeping the seedling alive. A good seed will germinate under proper conditions in 2-3 days. I cannot advise you how long it would take for a seed to sprout in open soil.. 🙂

It is always advisable to start seeds in a controlled environment and allow seedling to flourish before setting it outside. There are no shortcuts to successful Cannabis cultivation. 🙂

By Doc on 16 May 2016

Sprouting and growing plants in large nursery containers on a sunlit deck--which I have done for more than a decade in NC--I have found the biggest problem faced was the sprouts being bitten off within a day or two of breaking ground. Experience taught me that after eliminating all the obvious, slugs cutworms et al., it was the resident garden birds, primarily Cardinals and Siskins, to be the culprits. However this behavior was easily controlled by placing clear plastic (store bought) plastic cake containers over the nursery containers. After about a week of growth the seedlings are large enough so the birds no longer feed on them. But as the plants begin to reach maturity and seed, the birds will be back to feed, oftentimes destroying the forming budheads, which is a more difficult, yet not impossible, problem the control.

By Me on 8 June 2016

Where is my free book

By Me on 27 December 2016

Wher is my free book!! I didnt get one either.

By Art on 14 February 2017

Hi ok getting nice sprouts on 2 of 3 WW so far. Those 2 seeds have sprouted closer to the edge of the pots center, probably from my improper watering at the beginning. How major is this and does it mean I should transplant earlier?

By latewood_ILGM on 16 February 2017

Hello Art,

Hopefully you have your seedlings in a small pot. I would let them go, and when you transplant work out the placement of each towards the middle in the new pots

You can always join our support forum for friendly grow advice. Happy growing.

By Joseph on 26 February 2017

Hi. Northern California. I live where I can grow outside. But I'm thinking it's best to start plants inside? Say, in March. Then move them outside when they have a foothold. In about a month or how long do you think I should keep indoors before moving out? Indoors there is no direct sunlight at all so I'm going to have to use a light but I obviously want to invest as little money in that as possible as most of the grow will be outside. Can I get away with using these LED floodlights I happen to have? Or should I get a grow light of some variety? And how long should light be on daily?

By latewood_ILGM on 28 February 2017


Most growers use a 18/6 photo period for the veg cycle. I like a shorter period more like 16/8. (better root development)

I would want my plant to be about 1-1/2 to 2' tall 🙂 before I moved her outdoors.

Go cheap and you grow cheap. IN order to produce a plant that will withstand outdoor conditions when you move it outdoors will need to be developed well in order to have a strong finsih result. Cheap low output indoor lamps will produce only a weaker plant.

I suggest you spend a couple hundred bucks on a nice Iposer digital 600 watt lamp.

If you join our forum; We have lights listed in our buyers guide for you to research and make an informed choice.

Peace, lw

By Joseph on 28 February 2017

Thanks I really appreciate your time. I ordered seeds from here and I'll join this forum after I finish this message.
I had a change of strategy... I located a spot in my house that receives direct sunlight from a window. The light is gone by 2 or 3 in the afternoon but surely this enough to get the plants started, for just the first month inside, then transplant and move outside. So if I plant seeds first of April, move month old plants outside first of May.. and then if the plants are harvested in October that's a growing season of over 5 months. Is this too long should I wait to plant seeds later in the spring? Or no? I'll be growing in 5 and 7 gallon pots and might try to put some directly into the ground. THANKS

By christopher wilson on 21 August 2017

what is the height from light to early growth when starting off

By Saurav das on 13 March 2018

I want this book 'marijuana grow bible '

By FrikkinFrank on 5 April 2018

I noticed the mention of using excess blue light to help seedlings strengthen their stems. I'm doing an experiment with that right now. I had heard blue light was needed in the veg stage much more than in flowering, so I wanted to see if it made a noticeable difference.

By David on 22 April 2018

" If you’re using HPS grow light place them as close to the seedlings as possible "
This practically guarantees to kill your seedlings. Furthermore, direct, intense High Pressure Sodium light isn't necessary at this point. Try a fluorescent or CFL. If you must use a HPS, place it on lowest setting (if dimmable) and keep at least 2 feet away.
BTW, thanks for re-sending the shipment. 100% germination within 24 hours using towel method.

By Colin on 7 August 2018

Actually David, He said this ..."If you're using HPS grow light place them as close to the seedlings as possible but don't let temperature exceed 77."

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