In this post our collaborator Light Addict explains which the three main methods to germinate cannabis seeds are as well as their pros and cons. In this guide, we’ll walk through the cannabis life cycle. When thinking about growing cannabis,… Jake Randall is a journalist, author, and student with expertise in all things cannabis (especially edibles), along with knowledge in economics, the environment, and everything in between. Originally from Canada, Jake has taken on the role of a senior cannabis correspondent at The Cannabis School.
How to germinate marijuana seeds
Seeds. Such a gift to this world. From something so small, may we grow ourselves, our own food, shelter and in our case, medicine! So really, it seems only fitting we give them the best odds at a successful start in life. In this post, our collaborator Light Addict explains how to germinate cannabis seeds in order to be successful.
Having said this, let’s look at how compost inoculant teas can be used to help nullify the risk of unwanted bacteria and pathogens encountered once the cannabis germination/planting process has begun. This is managed through the introduction of beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi to the process via compost teas used for either pre-soaking your plugs, cubes, potting medium etc. or drenches to the media shortly after germination. These beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi colonize the rootzone creating a symbiotic relationship with your cannabis plant roots, leading to improved levels of nutrient/water uptake, general plant health and resistance to stresses.
Now a cannabis seed only needs 3 simple requirements to germinate:
So why are there so many different methods bandied about? Simply put, there are lots of different ways to give your cannabis seeds these 3 basic environmental requirements. So, within these simple basic provisions, what are the best ranges to promote a successful germination of your cannabis seeds? With moisture: you’re looking for a medium level of dampness, never soaking, (water method not inclusive). Temperature wise: you’re seeking to provide a range somewhere in the vicinity 23-26C/75-80F. Then lastly, darkness; total light deprivation isn’t truly a requirement. However, as it’s so simple to provide, it’s the option most of us choose. With all 3 of the above requirements, maintaining consistent levels can also aid in success.
Methods to germinate cannabis seeds
One of the oldest, most widely-known methods to germinate cannabis seeds for small-scale growers is the paper towel method. Using some folded up paper towel, we create a bedding layer for the seeds. Place this bedding layer inside an opaque container of suitable size, then dampen it with water via a spray bottle. Place your seeds on top, before covering with more paper and spraying once again with water. Close your container up and then place it somewhere warm to await germination. Once the tap roots have shown, simply plant it in chosen medium.
For simplicity, methods don’t come much easier than this, although again it’s only really suited for the small-scale grower. Drop your seeds into a shot glass, then fill it around 3-quarters with water, before placing your glass in a warm, dark area. You may need to return after a couple of hours, just to tap any remaining seeds that are still floating down to the bottom. Wait once more until the tap root has shown, before planting it to medium. However, please keep this in mind: if germination hasn’t begun within 36 hours, I’d recommend removing the seeds from water and placing them in paper towel to prevent your seeds drowning.
Seed plugs, rockwool cubes and peat pellets
These 3 different starting mediums share the same basic process when it comes to actual seed germination and are all suitable for any size of operation, although some require a little more care and caution when being prepared.
Versatility here is key, as they’re suitable for use with any medium or style of growing utilized further along in the growth process. Root plugs are specifically designed to make the germination process simple and successful, being made of a composition that holds moisture levels within an ideally suited range. Another big plus when it comes to root plugs is that generally they’re made from composted and broken down organic materials. Yet please, check your chosen brand ingredients for yourself. Take your seed and insert into the plug’s hole. Tear a small section of the plug away from a corner or the bottom section and stuff this into the hole to cover the seed. Then place your plugs into your germination space or propagator, using a constant light source and again remembering to keep an eye on moisture levels as you await germination.
CAUTION. Rockwool is a hazardous material. Somewhat like fiberglass, its dust can be breathed in, yet not expelled from the lungs. It also happens to be an irritant. So, both gloves and a face mask should be used when handling it. Rockwool is an inert medium, suitable for all general growing practices. This means, soaking your cubes in pH-adjusted water prior to use is a necessity. Once soaked and let drain, drop your seed into the hole, then tear a corner section off your cube and use it to cover the seed up from the light. Then place your cubes in your propagator under your chosen light source and wait.
Peat pellets are quite similar in appearance and design to the plugs once expanded. One major issue with peat pellets is that peat is not a sustainable source of material, or an eco-friendly one. Peat pellets come dried out, making pre-soaking them necessary. Once ready, they’ll have expanded to over double their original size. Then just make your own little insertion into the top of the pellet, before dropping your seed in and then covering over with another section you’ve torn off your pellet.
Seed, straight to medium
Take your desired pot of media and water an hour beforehand (pH’d, if required, as with soilless). Make a small hole, 0.5-0.75 of an inch is a good depth, then place your seed in and cover over. Finally, place your pot under your light source and wait. As with the other methods, keep an eye on your moisture levels as required. Although we strive to keep moisture levels at a constant, please remember that overwatering the medium can sometimes cause failure of germination. Then take into consideration the feeding requirements for new seedlings: no nutrients are needed in the first week or so of a seedling’s life, even if using an inert medium such as Coco or Rockwool. This is because the seed will be using its own stores of energy up.
If you are starting with seeds, you’ll have to germinate them to get the grow started. In this chapter, you’ll learn all about the natural conditions that cannabis seeds germinate under and then we’ll show you a failsafe way to germinate your seeds.
What is germination?
A cannabis seed is just an embryonic plant enclosed in a protective shell and germination is the process of reactivation of metabolic machinery of the seed. The outer shell splits apart and the embryonic plant emerges as a seedling. For cannabis seeds, this process takes between 1 and 7 days.
What makes seeds germinate?
Cannabis seeds lie dormant until they meet the right conditions to begin germination. In tropical conditions, cannabis seeds germinate in the warm rains of early spring. The well-drained soil of the forest floor wouldn’t be waterlogged, but it wouldn’t dry out. The ideal temperatures would be between 70°F-80°F (21°C-26°C), with 60-80% relative humidity. These spring seasonal signals tell the embryonic plant contained in the seed that conditions are right to begin its life cycles. These are the same conditions you will emulate to germinate seeds.
What’s the easiest way germinate cannabis seeds?
Peat moss pellets are pucks of dried peat moss enclosed in a fine netting. As a mostly inert medium that retains water well, peat moss pellets do a great job of mimicking the natural conditions of spring jungle floor.
What you need
Peat moss pellets – Get them online or at local department/hardware stores – they are widely available.
Filtered water – You probably have this in your fridge. pH balance between 5.5 and 6.5.
Cannabis seeds – Learn more about cannabis seeds in our guide
Step 1 – Flood the Peat Moss
Peat plugs come dried and compressed, so you need to flood them with water. Use some warm filtered water from your fridge, rainwater, or distilled water that’s pH balanced between 5.5 and 6.5. Add water until the plugs are saturated, then drain the excess water. The plugs will swell 4-5x their original volume.
Step 2 – Insert Seed
Most plugs or pellets have a small hole in the top. Insert the seed between 1/4-1/2″ (6-12MM) deep and lightly cover with an excess medium.
All emerging seedlings look identical, and most mature plants look very similar. If you start multiple strains at once, make sure to label them. Plastic plant labels can be fixed to peat moss plugs to identify the plant through its life – adding dates makes it a self-contained record.
Step 3 – Wait for it!
The next few days is mostly a waiting game. Put the pellets in a partially covered container to prevent drying out and follow these two simple rules:
DO keep the pellets warm and moist throughout germination, cannabis seeds germinate best in these conditions.
DO NOT flood or over-saturate the pellets after the initial flooding, since this will prevent the roots from getting enough oxygen. Too much water and the seedling will ‘damp out’ and fail.
One easy method to ensure that you get the right amount of water is to use a spray bottle to wet the outside edges. Another is to quickly dip the bottom of the pellets into the water; moisture will wick upwards to the rest of the pellets. Either method will encourage roots to grow outward.
Step 4 – Care for it!
As your young seedling emerges from the seed, you’ll notice that it has a set of ‘built-in’ leaves that don’t look a lot like pointy cannabis leaves. These are the cotyledons, and they are there to help the young seedling bootstrap the photosynthesis process. Young seedlings need light right away – but not too bright for the first few days
Keep the peat pellet moist until the seedling is ready to plant in a growing medium, but never saturate the pellet since that can drown the young plant. Add water from the bottom up by dipping the pellet quickly in water. This will promote rapid root growth as the roots will grow down after the water.
When is it time to plant the seedlings?
You’ll know when it’s time because roots will be bursting out of the bottom of the peat pellet. Plant the pellet in a solo cup sized container using a quality soil mix. Water without nutrients for the first few weeks.
Optimizations & Alternatives
Germination Heat Mats
Germination heat mats are just like heating pads, but they don’t get as hot and are water resistant. These are especially useful for germinating seeds in colder conditions.
One of the best ways to simulate tropical climates is to use an enclosure to conserve moisture and heat. You can make your own from cheap plastic containers, or buy a special purpose kit made for peat pellets. Used along with a germination heat mat, you can easily set up a tropical jungle climate anywhere.
If you want professional results with no hassle and complete stealth, try a professional grow-box.
Can I germinate seeds in paper towels?
Yes, you can germinate marijuana seeds in moist paper towels. Just put a damp paper towel down on a plate or other container and spread the seeds around. Add another damp paper towel or fold over the existing towel to cover all the seeds. You will need to keep the paper towels damp at all times throughout the germination process – a spray bottle can really come in handy for that. Covering the seeds with another plate or plastic will prevent it from drying out too quickly, just make sure that there is still some airflow for when the seedling emerges.
After a few days, the seed will crack and the embryonic cannabis plant will start to emerge. Once you see a solid root begin to emerge, you will need to transplant it into your growing medium. While this approach might be slightly faster than the other methods we’ve shown here, we don’t use this method because of the risk to the plant and main root during transplanting.
Can I germinate seeds directly in the growing medium?
That’s how it works in nature and it’s easy to do. Use a solo cup sized container filled with soil or coco and place the seeds about 3/4 inch (~ 2cm) deep. Keep the medium moist but not wet until you see the seedlings emerge between 3 and seven days later. The reason we recommend peat moss over directly planting in soil is that it is easier to control moisture levels in peat plugs due to the texture and qualities of peat. Experienced growers often sew directly into the growing medium.
Many farmers use rock wool cubes for starting clones and germination, particularly hydroponic growers. While these work well and are economical, they come with drawbacks. We recommend that new growers begin with peat pellets.
How long does it take to germinate?
From the time that you place your seed into the germination medium, you should start to see the emerging seedling within 2-5 days. Cannabis seeds germinate faster when they are kept at the correct temperatures, between 70°F-80°F (21°C-26°C), with a 60-80% relative humidity. Cooler temperatures will slow the germination process or stop it altogether. Germination is usually complete, and the plant is a young seedling within seven days. If you warm the seedlings with a heat mat, they can emerge in as little as 24 hours.
Should I germinate with nutrients?
Germinating plants don’t need any nutrients; it can burn their new leaves and roots. That’s why it’s best to grow seeds in an inert medium, like peat moss pellets or a paper towel. Young seedlings don’t need nutrients until they are a few weeks old.
Do cannabis seeds need light to germinate?
Not really, but they need light within the first day or so of emerging from the seeds, so it’s a good idea to germinate with a light source. Light sources also help increase the temperature, helping the germination process. Sunlight, fluorescent or low powered LED grow lights are all great options.
What if the seed gets stuck on the seedling?
They usually loosen and come off after a day or two. If it doesn’t come off, you can try to separate them. The easiest method is to find the direction of the crack and use a pair of tweezers to ‘help’ the seed continue cracking. Be careful that you don’t clamp the seed down or you can clip the folded embryonic leaves.
Next up, read our seedling care guide to learn how to care for your new seedling.
How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds
How to germinate cannabis seeds with for beginners the easiest possible way. This was my first time growing indoor cannabis in my entire life. I had no clue where to start, so I just bought some cannabis seeds and told myself I would figure out the rest later.
The first problem I faced was how to germinate the seeds.. what does germinate even mean?
Seedlings breaking through the dirt.
“Germination is the process by which an organism grows from a seed or similar structure. The most common example of germination is the sprouting of a seedling from a seed”
Materials and Equipment Used:
What does germinating a cannabis seed mean?
Germination is the process of getting the seedling to begin sprouting/growing. So the problem I faced was finding the most efficient method of doing this. I did my research online and there were a few different ways, but I found them very unclear.
Seedlings a week after germination.
Germinating a cannabis seed with a paper towel for beginners
There is one common method where you drop the seedling in water for 24 hours. Then transport the seed into a wet piece of paper towel, which is then placed in a ziplock. Then after a few days, you need to carefully transport them into the soil. This methods success rate is a lot lower due to all the different variables and careful handling required to do it.
I saw this method and thought to myself there must be an easier way. To germinate cannabis seeds for beginners this is too hard. Then I started finding more and more people talk about jiffy pellets. I did my research and found some very interesting things. The first being that all you need to do is add water. That’s it.
How to germinate cannabis seeds for beginners with jiffy pellets
After discovering jiffy pellets I quickly decided this was the route I’d take in starting my first indoor cannabis grow.
I bought a pack of 36 jiffy pellets as the 12 pack was out of stock. When starting this you need to choose how many plants you want. I wanted to grow 4 plants.
Jiffy Pellets are the best invention I have come across. Here is a link to Amazon to check them out.
How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds Step by Step Guide
Here is a 6 step guide on how to germinate cannabis seeds for beginners using jiffy pellets. This method was 100% successful for me and i wanted to share it with everyone else looking to start growing for the first time.
Step 1: Decide how many plants you want to grow
I want to grow four plants in total. Therefore to be on the safe side I planted 50% more than I intended to grow in case anything happened.
So I planted 6 feminized auto-flowering seeds in 6 separate jiffy pellets.
I planted 50% more seeds then I wanted in the event some didn’t sprout or died in the early stages. I planted 1 seed per jiffy and cannabis seeds can be expensive.
Step 2: Add water to the jiffy pellet
You need to let the jiffy pellet absorb water so it expands. I added 35 mL of water to the pellet using a plastic syringe. Once it had absorbed all the water I peeled back the mesh and dug a small hole in the center. The hole was about half an inch deep.
Step 3: Place cannabis seeds inside the jiffy pellet
I then carefully placed the cannabis seeds inside the hole with a small pair of tweezers. This ensures no harm is done with my fingers. After placing in the dirt, I covered up the hole carefully. I did this for all six pellets.
Step 4: Wait for cannabis seeds to sprout
Once planted you need to leave them inside the container at room temperature for up to eight days. The germination process takes anywhere from 2 – 8 days to get the seedlings to sprout. After the first 24 hours, the pellets seemed very dry. I then proceeded to add a little water to each to keep them moist.
Cannabis seeds sprouting from the jiffy pellets after two days.
After waiting a gruelling 56 hours (Just over two days) I was going to sleep and noticed the first seedlings erecting from the jiffy pellets. It worked! Over the next 24 hours, the others sprouted one by one. This happened until all six plants were standing strong. The jiffy pellets had a 100% success rate. This was amazing for my grow. After they sprout they are ready to be placed under your grow lights (or in the sun if your doing it that way)
The other three sprouted one day after this.
Step 5: Transplant the pellets into your pots
Day 3, I moved the cover off the jiffy pellet structure. I had my grow pots already in place and filled with them with soil. The jiffy pellets have a fabric string cover that holds all the dirt together. It says you can leave it on but I didn’t want to damage the roots and I wanted them to be able to grow freely. I carefully cut each mesh with a sharp knife.
Unfortunately, each pellet was left a little to long and the roots had started growing through the mesh. When trying to remove the mesh from around the pellets, the roots were stuck and the endings of all of them ripped off ☹ But the plants are doing GREAT!
Furthermore, I cut around the mesh so it was just the jiffy pellet by itself. I dug a small hold in the middle of my Vivosun 3 gallon fabric woven pots These pots allow oxygen to flow through the walls and allow the plant to grow to the maximum potential. I then transported the pellets into the holes I dug in the middle of the pots.
Step 6: Water the plants and start the grow!
After they were transported I watered them generously. Each day the leaves started growing bigger and bigger until I could see the ridged edge leaves start appearing.
Now the grow actually starts !
After one week under the LED grow lights the plants are looking bigger than ever !
My results from the germination process
In conclusion, for the first time ever growing indoors, I couldn’t have thought of a more easy process.
- The seeds are already growing in soil when they sprout.
- There is no transplant risk associated because the roots have already secured the structure.
- All you do is place the seed inside the wet pellet.
- Then all you have to do is wait for them to sprout.
- Transplant to your pot and you’re all done!
If I had to rate this process compared to others it absolutely blows them out of the park. To germinate cannabis seeds for beginners this is the best method. There is no secondary care needed. Just place the seed inside and wait. I was so excited to write this blog as I knew I had to share this process with every other beginner grower trying to germinate seeds for the first time.
This germination method is the best I have seen and the success rate backs that claim up. I have a 6/6 , 100% germination success rate. That’s pretty good for the first time.
Let me know if this article helped you out ! Good luck growing !
Jake Randall is a journalist, author, and student with expertise in all things cannabis (especially edibles), along with knowledge in economics, the environment, and everything in between. Originally from Canada, Jake has taken on the role of a senior cannabis correspondent at The Cannabis School.