Germinating cannabis seeds is important because it gives the grower an advantage in cultivation and it speeds up the process Growing your own autoflowering cannabis is easy, cost-efficient, and produces fast results. As you can see, sprouting autoflowering seeds is easy and produces rapid results. Here's a complete guide to autoflowering marijuana seed germination. Learn everything there is to know about how to germinate autoflowers!
How to germinate all types of cannabis seeds: Three methods
A seed is like an egg in many ways. Inside are very similar components: an embryo, a radicle, a plumule and cotyledons, and outside is a protective shell.
Germination is important because it gives the grower an advantage in cultivation and a faster start. And it makes sure you’re not planting a small rock where nothing will grow out of the ground.
The different types of cannabis seeds
For those who want to cultivate for recreational or medicinal purposes, the female plant is the only one that matters. Only she can produce the flowers we expect at the end of the cycle.
Cannabis is a dioecious plant, that is, it has a female and a male plant. The male flower produces pollen after calyx development, which, when it meets the flowers and pistils of a female plant, will be fertilized, generate a new seed, and guarantee the survival of the species.
Cannabis seeds have undergone several modifications and are currently available in three main categories: normal, feminized, and auto-flowering, also called automatic. Recently, a new category, quick flowering seeds, has gained popularity.
Regular or normal seeds
Regular seeds are mostly chosen by breeders and established growers seeking stable genetics. (Algirdas Gelazius/123rf)
If the cultivator’s desire is to perpetuate a variety or make improvements, he should choose seeds of the normal or regular type. They are created by crossing a male with a female plant.
We call them regular or normal because they develop naturally. This type of seed can produce species of both sexes. Here, the grower has no control over gender. The odds are divided. Regular seeds have a 50% chance of being a female plant and generating flowers, or 50% of being male, which will result in small bags which grow very quickly into clusters of calyxes and flowers with pollen grains, essential for the multiplication of the species.
Regular seeds are mostly chosen by breeders and established growers seeking stable genetics or new cannabis terpenes or profiles by pheno-hunting through regular seeds which become the mother stock for all feminized seeds. Traditional landrace growers continue a long tradition of growing flowers and pollinating their crops which lose commercial value but guarantee sufficient seeds for the next season. Traditional landrace growers are slowly disappearing from the most remote regions on earth due to feminized seeds and readily available hybrids seeds which fetch a higher commercial value.
- Breed and create new strains
- Equal probability of male and female plants
- Create pollen bank
- Sex of the plant is unpredictable
- Male and female plants can be confused by a novice grower
- Pollinating males will seed female plants, resulting in fewer flowers to be harvested by the grower
- Preparation of different grow tents
Feminized seeds are obtained by crossing two female plants. One of them is exposed to a high level of stress. (Shutterstock)
In the late 1990s, with the need to cultivate seeds that guaranteed the appearance of female plants, feminized seeds emerged. As the name implies, they are those that will result in female plants. Males are unlikely to appear unless cannabis is under stress or someone has offered it a “cat for a hare.”
In the beginning, these plants had quality problems or were genetically unstable. Furthermore, they could transform into hermaphrodite plants. Over the years, with improvements and new technologies, feminized seeds have achieved high levels of quality both in production and in taste and final effects.
Feminized seeds are obtained by crossing two female plants. One of them is exposed to a high level of stress until it becomes a hermaphrodite. After crossing them, feminized seeds are obtained.
Another method to get feminized seeds, and perhaps the most commonly used one, is the application of a solution of colloidal silver, a famous and easily found natural antibiotic. The solution placed on female cannabis plants induces the production of pollen, which fertilizes other female plants that will generate feminized seeds.
Feminized plants are photoperiodic plants and depend on hours of daily light to transition from the vegetative phase to the flowering phase. Photoperiod plants allow the grower greater control over the moment when the cannabis starts to flower by maintaining the light hours. Thus, growers can wait as long as necessary to remedy any problem with the plant still in its vegetative state, such as excess water or nutrients, or take clones or cuttings to ensure the survival of your favorite cannabis plants.
Less experienced growers should start with feminized plants until they get some experience. This is more likely to ensure that they are always healthy and within the correct growth parameters.
- Production of female plants
- Ideal for growers who want flowers
- Simplification of the cultivation process
- Not suitable for breeding
- Must be started from the seed
- Can turn into hermaphrodites
Automatic and autoflowering seeds
A few weeks after germination, autoflowering plants start flowering, regardless of the structure or health it presents at that time.(Shutterstock)
After feminized seeds, in 2008, automatic or autoflowering seeds appeared which were bred from Cannabis Ruderalis plants found in areas such as Eastern Europe, Russia, and Alaska. They flower in a shorter time, where there is no need for different photoperiods between the vegetative state and flowering, but they do require more attention.
Many people think that it is easier to cultivate, as it doesn’t need to change the photoperiod and the whole cycle happens in an “automatic” way. But not quite. A few weeks after germination, the plants start flowering, regardless of the structure or health it presents at that time. With that, the cultivator has no margin to correct eventual unforeseen events, such as excess or lack of nutrients, pests and diseases, and slow growth due to inadequate parameters.
- No need to change photoperiod
- Fast flowering time
- Lower yield
- Difficult and risky to clone
- Little time for care
Photoperiodic plants have the advantages of greater control by the grower during the plant cycle, a richer THC and CBD profile, better terpenes and higher production. There is also the advantage of producing clones from a selection of mother plants.
Autoflowering plants, on the other hand, have a faster cultivation, more than one harvest can be made during the year and the possibility of cultivation with the light always on.
|Type||Male||Female||Possible to clone|
Sativas, indicas, or hybrids?
Firstly, you need to decide whether you want to use it medicinally or recreationally. Certain cannabinoids are more present in certain genetics.
The differences between indica and sativa plants are quite significant, such as the shape, height and even the effects. Their morphological differences are much greater than those attributed to them in dispensaries and in popular culture, however.
Indica-predominant plants originally obtained from landraces in drier, more arid regions such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India have a shorter and more shrubby stature, a greater number of branches and a shorter space between nodes. This makes it a more compact and ideal herb to be grown indoors. They have a shorter flowering time, are easy to grow and especially under artificial light.
Indicas are more resistant to cold, require less water and do not handle high humidity well.
Sativa plants originally obtained from landraces in tropical and higher altitudes have a greater height, a “pine tree” structure, and the space between their nodes is greater.
Flowering times are longer and are usually a little more difficult to grow. They don’t like the cold, are more heat resistant and better suited for outdoor use.
Nowadays seeds that are predominantly sativa or predominantly indica are landraces which are still available from select breeders and keepers of cannabis history. Hybrids are more common and have some characteristics of each variety.
How to check if my seed is ok?
The best seeds have a rounded shape, are big and fat. The closer your seed is to these characteristics, the greater the chances it will germinate. (Shutterstock)
There are a few ways to find out if your cannabis seed is ready to be germinated or not.
You can start by using your senses of sight, touch, and smell to determine if cannabis seeds are good or bad.
To test using vision, you can resort to using a magnifying glass. The best seeds have a rounded shape, are big and fat. The closer your seed is to these characteristics, the greater the chances it will germinate.
Bigger, harder seeds are best. The surface should have a slight sheen.
They are dark in color (usually brown, black, or gray). The darker the color, the more likely they are to grow and produce a better plant. The dark bark means they came from a better-quality plant.
If they are pale, white, or light green, they were picked too early and are probably immature. This means they are not good and are unlikely to germinate. If they are light-colored and dusty, they are probably old and slower to germinate.
Another tip is to check if the seed has light streaks. Good seeds are usually darker and some look like they have tiger stripes and are also referred to as tiger backs.
You can’t always judge a seed by its color alone. It is necessary to know what is inside the seed. If you break a seed and it is oily and moldy, it is spoiled. If it’s black inside, it means it’s fermented and won’t germinate.
Other tests that can be done to verify that a seed is in good condition is the touch test. Just lightly squeeze a seed. If crushed easily, it probably won’t grow well. There should be no small cracks or holes. If they have these characteristics, they probably won’t germinate. They must not be wrinkled or cracked. If they aren’t cracked, you know they’re intact. If it resists the susceptibility test, the seed has a good chance of germinating.
The other test consists of placing the seeds in a container of warm distilled water for two hours. If they sink, they’re good. If they float, they are premature and probably will not grow and therefore are unusable. Healthy seeds are heavy enough to sink or sink once a little water is absorbed.
How to germinate my seeds?
To germinate seeds, four simple elements are needed: humidity, warm temperature, oxygen, and darkness.
Most seeds germinate between 24 and 72 hours, but some may take longer.
There are several methods to germinate a seed. The first and best known is germination on paper (it can be on napkins, cotton, or paper towels). In a pot, place a sheet of kitchen paper, separate the seeds so that there is a few inches between them and add another layer of paper on top. Both sheets should be damp but not soaked. If the paper loses moisture, add a little more water. Once the white root reaches 2-3 mm, carefully transfer the seeds to the pot. Do not close the pot, as oxygen is essential for successful germination. (You may also consider soaking the seeds for a few hours before placing them in the paper towels.)
Another method to germinate the seeds is with a glass of water, but it is not as effective as using paper. Place your seeds in a glass of water, preferably at a temperature of 22ºC. After 3-5 days, the seeds will start to open, and the small white radicle will appear. Then, just transfer to the soil already prepared to receive it. This is a simple method and suitable for first-time growers.
The grower can also place their seeds directly in the soil, in which case transplanting is not necessary. It is a safer option due to the fragility of the small root that appears when we germinate in a glass of water or on paper. Put the soil in the pot where your plant will be. Poke a hole to a depth between 10-15mm. Introduce the seed and gently cover it with more soil, but it is not necessary to compress it on top of the seed. Put some water on top to make the soil moist. After 4-10 days the grower will watch the plant sprout as the roots go under the ground.
Remember to always wash your hands and have all materials clean to prevent mold.
How to store my seeds?
Cannabis seeds should be stored in a cool, dry place. They can be stored in drawers and cabinets if there is no great temperature variation in these places. They can also be preserved in the refrigerator or even in the freezer.
Rapid temperature variations are the main problem when storing seeds and can harm genetic integrity.
If storing for just a few days or months, the grower can use a Ziploc-type bag, a glass jar, or an airtight container. If you want to keep the seeds preserved for a longer time, the most recommended method is in a closed vacuum package.
If you are going to keep your seeds in the refrigerator, choose a place further away from the door. That way, they suffer less from changes in temperature when opening the refrigerator.
Remember that by freezing your seeds every time they are thawed and refrozen, they become less viable.
By storing your cannabis seeds correctly and properly, they can last up to 10 years.
Special thanks to Sunshine Coast Genetics for helping fact-check this article.
How to Sprout Feminized Autoflower Cannabis Seeds
Growing your own autoflowering cannabis is easy, cost-efficient, and produces fast results. This makes growing autoflowering cannabis a great option for beginners and veteran growers alike. In this article, we discuss the first, crucial stage of growing autoflowering cannabis seeds germination and overview several easy, simple ways to sprout your autoflowering cannabis seeds. As you’ll see, germinating autoflowering cannabis requires little effort and can be achieved in just a matter of days.
Different Methods for Sprouting Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds
Another advantage of growing autoflowering cannabis is the versatility of its growing cycle. There are several different methods you can use to sprout your autoflowering cannabis seeds, all of which are equally effective.
Growers can easily germinate autoflowering cannabis with materials that are readily available in their own homes. One simple method for autoflowering cannabis seed germination is using plain water. To begin, fill a small glass with room-temperature water. If you use water from a tap, you may want to invest in a pH monitor to ensure that the pH of your water does not exceed 7.3.
Next, scoop your autoflowering seeds into a spoon – it is extremely important to handle them delicately–and gently slide them into the glass: the seeds should fall and float on the water’s surface.
Having followed these steps, you can proceed to relocate the cup into a proper environment. Place the cup of water with your seeds in a dark environment (the darker, the better) with an average temperature of 75 to 80 degrees. After completing this step, your work for the germination phase is done; simply leave your seeds undisturbed for two days, and check back to see if they’ve sprouted–if they haven’t, continue to leave them in the same environment until they sprout.
The “paper towel method” is another easy way to sprout autoflowering seeds with materials that you’ll already have in your home. This method involves using a wet, folded paper towel and a plastic container to sprout your autoflowering cannabis seeds.
This method is easy and produces rapid results. To begin, you’ll need a wet paper towel and a plastic container with a lid.
Begin by cleaning and drying your plastic container to ensure a proper germination environment. Next, fold a paper towel two to three times over, then saturate it with water: though you’ll want your paper towel to be soaked all the way through, it should not be dripping water.
Next, cut two holes in the top of the lid of your container; these perforations will allow excess water to escape the container during germination.
Having done so, place your autoflowering cannabis seeds on the wet paper towel, tucking them between folds to ensure that the seeds are in direct contact with the paper towel on all sides. Proceed to place the folded paper towel with your seeds inside inside of your plastic container, and fasten the lid.
Like any other germination technique for autoflowering cannabis, the paper towel method requires a proper germination environment–and darkness is the most important factor. Store your container in the darkest possible environment. With this, your work is done: simply wait for two days to check on your seeds, which will likely have germinated–if they haven’t, continue to check the container until they sprout.
You can also germinate your autoflowering cannabis using seed starter cubes, which are easily obtainable online. Do some research to find the best starter cubes, which you will place knuckle-deep into your soil. Be sure to have your hole ready before you insert your starter cube with your autoflower seeds inside.
Make sure that your cube is moist–if it’s too dry, moisten it slightly with distilled water. Then, gently pick up one of your autoflowering cannabis seeds, and insert it into the the premade hole at the top of the starter cube. Next, insert the starter cube–with the precut hole and autoflower seed facing upwards–into a hole in your soil.
Finally, place a cup overtop of where you inserted your seed starter cube in your soil. Leave the cup in place for at least seven days after you plant your starter cube; this will help retain humidity levels during the germination process. Once your seed has sprouted, you can remove the cup and move into the next phase of the growing cycle.
Though the aforementioned methods are easy and great for beginners, some growers prefer to use soil as a natural medium. This will require specialized resources such as a pH monitor, the correct soil for growing, and a humidity monitor.
To sprout your autoflowering cannabis, begin by moistening your soil and establishing a proper growing environment with an average temperature of 77 degrees. Ensure that pH levels do not exceed 7.3 . Finally, dig a hole of the appropriate depth in the top of your soil, and bury the seed inside.
The Advantages of Autoflowers: Quick, Easy, Methods to Sprout Your Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds Germination
As you can see, sprouting autoflowering seeds is easy and produces rapid results. It is also cost efficient, as many of these methods involve materials that most people already have in their homes. Growing autoflowering cannabis is much faster and easier than growing photoperiod plants; using these easy germination methods, your autoflower seeds will sprout in no time, and with minimal effort. And the easy part doesn’t stop there–every stage of the growing process for autoflowering cannabis is rapid, productive, and easy for all growers, no matter their experience.
Autoflower Seed Germination Guide
Autoflowering cannabis seeds are just like any regular ones and the process of germination is the same, in fact, the only differences are in the way you treat you seedling when it has sprouted. Some growers say that autoflower seeds can be germinated in colder temperatures but I have not tested this hypothesis myself and have not seen side by side tests that show temperature differences and autoflower seed germination rates.
There are basically two methods of germinating autoflower seeds and they are natural seed germination and germination without growing medium. In nature autoflowering cannabis seeds usually drop down in the autumn, then they survive the winter and in the spring when the temperature reaches optimal level and the surrounding area gets moist they start to germinate. Autoflowering seeds don’t like overly wet conditions and if the seeds drop into a puddle or any other water reservoir or even a swamp then they usually start rotting and die. Looking from the other extreme when a cannabis seeds germinate it looks for a wet environment and if the tap root encounters a dry environment it shivers and dies. From the environments that these seeds encounter in nature we can see that they need to be really strong to survive different conditions and that is why autoflower growers in perfect conditions can achieve more than 99% seed germination.
Autoflower marijuana seeds can germinate in a wide range of temperatures. The optimal temperature for the surrounding air is 27 degrees Celsius but a bit of variation won’t harm the germination rate.
The soil temperature should be a bit lower and it should be around the 25 C mark, but again a little variation won’t affect the germination process that much.
If you are in a colder environment you need to get a heating pad that can heat up your growing medium and if you are in a hot environment get some fans or install an air conditioning unit.
More about autoflower temperature you can find in my previous post!
Autoflowering germination process requires a certain amount of water and water is the life-juice of the seedling that encourages it to start the growing process. Cannabis seeds require clear water, they can be germinated in tap water but you should check the PH level of it because it should be in the 5.6 – 6.2 range, but you can also use distilled water.
You should definitely avoid any nutrients at the germination process and first weeks of growth because the little seedling has a certain amount of nutrients inside the seed, and too many nutrients can halt its growth.
Growing medium preparation
Before putting your seed inside a growing medium you should fully wet that medium by flushing and only after it has dried up a bit you can put the seed in it. Almost any growing medium will be suitable for autoflower seed germination and you just need to check if the PH level is not too high or too low.
After the seed is put inside that growing medium, keep it damp but not too wet as the too humid environment can cause bacteria to spread rapidly causing the new seedling to rot away.
Natural autoflower seed germination
Just take your autoflower cannabis seed and put it in a wet growing medium 2 to 3 times as deep as the width of the seed. That little plant will shoot its tap root down into the ground and with those seed leaves will try to find the light.
Because the seed leaves are growing as they search for the light they will sprout into the air and the little seedling will be firmly held into its place by the taproot. If you plant your autoflowering seeds any deeper the seedling will struggle to push itself towards the light but if you plant it right at the surface the root can get in the light that can stun the plant’s growth.
This is the easiest germination method and this is how nature intended the seeds to be germinated, so you can pretty easily germinate seeds this way and they will pop 90 to 99% of the time depending on the seed quality and age.
Some growers prefer to put the seed in water for 24 hours before planting it in the ground but that does not increase the germination rate for young seeds and usually is done for older seeds.
This method is easy and if you don’t put those automatic seeds into the water for soaking then you just need to dig a small hole and put that seed inside.
This method is the least stressful for the little seedling as you don’t move it around and the soil acts as a buffer if there are any temperature or light fluctuations.
One of the disadvantages is that you cannot control every aspect of this germination process and you can’t know which seeds will germinate and which won’t.
This not knowing also creates a need for more pots and ultimately can cost you money because some seeds will not germinate and you can’t tell which will, but you need to plant each of them inside a different container.
Autoflowers are no good for transplanting and if you want to grow your plants into 5-gallon pots then you need to put each seed inside the end pot/rock wool cube and if some of them don’t germinate you have wasted your resources.
Autoflower starting without growing medium
This is a common method between experienced growers as it gives them full control of the germination process but in a sense is a bit more difficult. This germination method has a number of variations but the most common is the method of putting autoflower seeds in a wet paper towel in an almost closed environment.
If you are using this method you need to control your humidity and it should be at the 80 % level. You also need to control the temperature of the surrounding air because there is no buffer (soil/rockwool) that can protect the seed.
You also need to put your seed germination tray in a dark room and twice a day check if the paper towel has not dried yet. I will give an autoflower germination guide (wet paper towel method) at the end of this article.
Growers can see which seeds will germinate and put only those seeds in their containers not wasting any materials.
By germinating autoflower seeds in this manner you also have full control over the germination process and you can give the seed perfect condition for germination.
Seeds will also pop faster than if they were grown right in the growing medium!
Inexperienced growers can damage seeds while handling them to their growing medium or just getting some of the environmental variables wrong.
If they are left in the paper towel too long the growth can be stunned and they can even die.
This method requires a lot more work than just putting seed into the ground. Basically there are more things that can go wrong.
How to germinate old seeds?
Old seeds are those cannabis seeds that have been produced some 3 and more years ago but that doesn’t mean that you can’t germinate them.
Usually, seeds stay valid for 3 to 5 years if stored properly but with every passing year the seed germination percentage drops and it is harder and harder for you to germinate them. In time the seedling inside the seed loses its moisture and starts to shrink getting weaker and weaker up to the point that it is no longer alive and no moisture levels can’t bring it back to life.
The process of germinating old autoflower seeds is similar to regular seed germination, but you need to let them soak in water for a while so that the seed shell can soften and moisture can get inside the seed giving energy to cells to crack that shell and push out the tap root.
In the picture below you can see seeds in water soaking up that moisture. One of these seeds has drowned and two are floating on the top.
Usually, seeds will drown in a couple of hours and if they don’t drown in a day or two then they could be damaged. This drowning indicator is not as viable because the water surface pressure will hold even the healthiest seeds floating so you can gently push them down and if they don’t sink then, the seeds are probably damaged.
Autoflower growers usually let old seeds stay in water for 24 hours before putting them inside a growing medium or putting them in a paper towel, but be careful as leaving them in the water there for longer can harm them!
While germinating seeds you can easily stress them so you need to look out for the environmental stresses that can damage your seed germination rate.
The first thing is the light cycle fluctuations and the light itself. When germinating autoflower seeds they should be in complete darkness and no light should be shining on those newly sprouted tap roots, as it happens in the ground where there is complete darkness. After the seedling has sprouted you should not change the light schedules and let those newly grown plants grow in perfect conditions.
The second stress that those seeds should not encounter is temperature fluctuations as they can also damage the germination rate, in the ideal conditions temperature should stay the same all the way till the autoflower seed has sprouted and won’t dip in the night time or rise in the daytime.
The last stress that can damage the newly sprouted tap root or seedling itself is nutrients. For the first days and weeks of cannabis growth, you need to supply only pure water with no salts and nutrients.
Method for fixing seeds that are not sprouting:
If you tried to germinate your seeds and some of them did not crack open after 5 days or more you have one last hope and it is to gently try to crack open the seed shell hoping not to damage the seedling if it is still alive.
This method is not going to work 100% of the time and in most cases, you won’t get even 50% success rates but you can apply this method as the last resort if that seed doesn’t sprout naturally.
You can do this in a number of ways and the most common are:
Try to crack it open between your teeth, by lightly crushing one end till the seed shell breaks.
Another method is to do this with tweezers trying to get an opening at one end
The last method is just taking a small knife or scalpel and cutting around the seed till the seed shell breaks off, but you should be very careful not to damage the seedling if it is still alive.
Autoflower seed germination guide
First of all select a viable cannabis seeds that you will be germinating. You need dark-colored seeds that are strong and not too old. If you bought your autoflower seeds from a seed company then you probably should not worry about the quality of them as usually seed companies sell only the best quality seeds.
After selecting the best autoflowering seeds you have two options: putting them right in soil or germinating on wet paper towels. In this guide, I will show the second method.
You will need a container, clear water, and paper towels. For this autoflower seed germination guide, I chose to document one of my micro grows with a yogurt container as a pot, but the principles are all the same for any grow and the basic germination methods stay the same!
The seeds I used were Sweet Seeds – Fast Bud #2, the soil was a basic potting soil with balanced N-P-K and I used tap water.
First of all, you need to germinate your selected autoflower seeds!