The complete guide to germinating cannabis seeds
Before you can be met with bountiful hauls of dank buds, there are several stages of cannabis growing that take precedence. Unless you can successfully germinate cannabis seeds, you won’t have a plant to harvest. Give your seeds the best possible start in life by reading our definitive guide to germination.
THE ART OF GERMINATING CANNABIS SEEDS
Often overlooked, it is all too easy to assume that the vegetative and flowering stages of cannabis growth are the most critical parts of the plant’s life cycle. However, with the chance of failure high unless you know what you’re doing, poor planning when it comes to germination can make or break your next grow. Giving your cannabis seeds the best possible start on their journey to bulging buds is a surefire way to encourage a healthy and robust plant.
Small, fragile, and in desperate need of a helping hand, there are several ways you can germinate your cannabis seeds. All methods have varying degrees of success, with both advantages and disadvantages. It is important to note that even with advanced growing expertise and top-of-the-line equipment, you may still end up with a few failed seeds. This is a natural part of dealing with a living organism. At Royal Queen seeds, we only sell feminized cannabis seeds, so there is no need to worry about removing male plants.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN CANNABIS SEEDS
Regardless of where you get your seeds from, it is best to give them a slight (and delicate) inspection before planting. Most of the time, all seeds will germinate; however, poor-quality seeds will produce a weaker plant. Unfortunately, that is something you will not find out until well into the vegetative and flowering stages.
To avoid disappointment, seeds that have a darker colouration stand a better chance of germinating, while pale green or white seeds are likely to fail. Even if dark seeds look slightly damaged, they should be planted anyway. There is a good chance they will still germinate, even if the outer shell is somewhat crushed.
GERMINATION TEMPERATURE PLAYS A CRUCIAL ROLE
Before we jump straight into the germination methods, there are a couple of germination golden rules. For the best results, we recommend staying within these guidelines, no matter how you choose to germinate. That being said, of all the factors to consider, temperature is one of the most critical. Seeds will always seek out even the smallest amount of moisture, but they use temperature as a sign that they need to do so.
• The ideal temperature is between 22° and 25°C (71–77°F)
• Your growing environment should be damp/moist, but never wet
• Relative humidity range should be between 70% and 90%
• Seeds favour fluorescent lighting (Cool White code 33)
• Minimise the amount of seed handling you do
• In hydroponic/rockwool plugs, the ideal PH value is 5.8–6.2
WHAT IS AN EXPECTED GERMINATION TIME?
Three fundamental principles will trigger that first small taproot to appear: warmth, moisture, and darkness. With the promise of moisture, a single root will take shape before slowly developing into the cannabis plant we know and love. In the right conditions, seeds will begin to develop within 12–36 hours of moisture being introduced to them.
Timescales can vary, as it all depends on how ideal your germination environment is (see the golden rules above). Even the worst grower could make a seed germinate, but it may take a few weeks and, of course, increases the risk of a weaker plant.
CHOOSING YOUR GERMINATION METHOD
GLASS OF WATER APPROACH
Arguably one of the least effective methods, but it is still viable. Incredibly simple to facilitate, beginner growers may opt to germinate their seeds in a glass of water. Half-fill a glass or bowl with water that is approximately 22°C (71°F).
After 3–5 days, the seeds will start to open, and you should see tiny white tips appear. Once these roots reach 2–3mm in length, use extreme care to transfer them from the water to pre-prepared soil pots.
The soil pots will need small holes (roughly 10–15mm deep) for the newly germinated seeds to be placed into. Once the seeds are secure, you will want to place a fluorescent light 13–15cm (5–6 inches) away to encourage growth. Finally, don’t risk overwatering your seeds at this early stage. Use a plant mister to make sure they stay damp but not soaking wet.
WET KITCHEN TOWEL METHOD
Probably one of the most common methods of germination. The kitchen towel method comes in several iterations. Some growers use cotton wool pads or absorbent pieces of paper. For this guide, we will be using kitchen towel as it is readily available and holds moisture relatively well.
Place one sheet of damp kitchen towel on a flat surface. Space your seeds a few centimetres apart before placing the second piece of kitchen towel over the top. You need to ensure both pieces are damp, not wet. Once again, when the white root tips reach 2–3mm, move the seeds (carefully) to soil pots. Use the same guidance found above for planting techniques.
PLANTING DIRECTLY INTO SOIL
Planting directly into your growing medium prevents having to move seeds when they are at their most fragile. That first root tip is covered with microscopic filaments that are easily damaged. Given that both a cup full of water and moist paper towels are more prone to temperature fluctuations from their environment, planting in soil is a much safer option.
Start by filling pots with a premium-quality soil that has been soaked in water. Many growers also choose to lace the water with a root stimulator. Make a hole roughly 10–15mm deep. This will be your seed’s new home. Remove the seeds from their packet and place them into the pre-dug holes. Loosely cover the seeds, but be careful not to compress the soil above the seed too much. The root will struggle to penetrate solid soil, slowing plant growth. Lightly spray the top of where you placed the seed so that your growing medium stays moist.
If you don’t like the idea of pre-soaking your soil, you can use a spray to moisten the holes before you plant each seed. With enough moisture surrounding your seeds, you can still encourage a root to develop.
Your growing pots will need to be placed in a damp climate that is within the temperature range listed under our golden rules. After 4–10 days, you should see a young seedling sprout, while the roots will have begun to develop underneath the soil. The entire plant and its soil can now be transferred to a larger pot, where normal growing routines should start.
USING STONE WOOL BLOCKS
Maintaining the ideal temperature (between 22–25°C/71–77°F) and moisture for germination is tricky. Leaving seeds out in the open environment or on a windowsill is far from ideal; a DIY climate-controlled cupboard would do a much better service. A warming mat is perfect for maintaining a constant temperature, but it doesn’t tackle the issue of moisture.
You will need to invest in a few pieces of unique equipment, but by using stone wool blocks, you can create a perfect utopia for germinating cannabis seeds. Soak the stone wool blocks in the same way you would a soil medium. The wool will retain the moisture and prevent the need to water during the early stages of germination. After the wool blocks are soaked, stick them in a plastic tray that also has a lid. Large cake tubs are ideal.
The dome of the plastic container will create your seeds’ own mini tropical climate. If you then place all the components in a temperature-controlled cupboard, you will have created a self-perpetuating supply of moisture—no need to touch the seeds again until they are ready to be transferred to your final growing medium as a young seedling. Using the stone wool block method, your seeds should germinate in one to two days.
Two or three weeks after germination, your young seedlings should be ready for their new home. At this point you have two options; transplanting them into soil pots, or taking on the challenge of hydroponics. You’ll know when the seedlings are ready to be moved because the root system should start to poke out of the bottom of the wool blocks. As long as the roots haven’t begun to engulf the bottom half of the wool block, they will seek out water and nutrients in their new surroundings and continue to grow downwards.
ROYAL QUEEN SEEDS FEMINIZED STARTER KIT
There is, of course, a far simpler way to germinate seeds. Ideal for beginners, the feminized starter kit by Royal Queen Seeds has everything you need to kick-start your next cannabis project.
The Royal Queen Seeds Feminized Starter Kit contains:
- 3x RQS Critical feminized seeds
- 20x Easy-Start seedling pots
- 1x Propagator Pro
- 1x pack of Bacto
- 1x perlite
- 1x fluorescent lights
- 1x instruction manual
- 4x AA batteries
- 1x Royal Queen Seeds catalogue
*You will also need a measuring cup and a stirrer (not included in the kit).
1. Gently remove the foil from the back of the seed packet and place them carefully into a dry container.
2. You will need a shallow container that is large enough to accommodate the seed tray. Fill the container with one litre of lukewarm water (22–25°C/71–77°F). Pour in the packet of Bacto enzyme, allowing it to dissolve before setting the seed tray into the container to soak. The seed tray only needs to be immersed for 5–10 seconds. Do not discard the Bacto mixture after the seed tray has been soaked.
3. After removing the seed tray from your shallow container, poke a 10–15mm deep hole into the soil of each pot, and delicately transfer your seeds from their dry container into each hole. Remember, one seed per pot.
4. Using the supplied propagator, sprinkle a 15mm-thick layer of perlite into the bottom of the tray.
5. Place your seed tray into the propagator, adjust the walls, and position the lid. The lid comes with an on/off switch for the already-attached lights.
6. Check the water level in your reservoir once a day. Your aim is to maintain an even level. After 1–7 days, the seeds should have sprouted, with visible leaves appearing. Once the seedling is 3mm tall, transfer it to your final growing medium.
IF IN DOUBT, THINK SPRINGTIME CONDITIONS
No matter which method you choose, always think about what conditions would naturally be like in spring. In their natural environment, cannabis seeds would start to sprout in-line with the seasonal change from winter to spring. Moisture is still high, and temperatures will be naturally rising. Always ask yourself the question, “Does my germination setup replicate spring conditions”. If the answer is yes, there is a good chance germination will be a success.
Time then to whip out our packages of seeds and get to work. But how do you best set to work, to get these tiny, fragile seeds to grow without problems into small plants?
Germination Guide for Autoflowering Seeds
Seed germination is the first part of a successful grow cycle, to help you start your cannabis plants with the right foot, here’s an autoflower germination guide that can be used not only for cannabis but for tomatoes, mangos, strawberries. you name it!
So here’s how to germinate cannabis seeds with the best-known methods and a couple of tips that will get you harvesting in no time.
1. First Things First: Know the anatomy of your cannabis seed
The process of autoflower germination can take up to 10 days, in order to do everything correctly and know if everything’s going well, we need to know a little bit more about the seed.
First of all, we need to understand the anatomy of a cannabis seed.
The cannabis seed has a dark brown, hard, and often striped, shell, this shell is what protects the insides which are extremely fragile.
When germinating, we need to hydrate the seed, this will soften the seed’s shell and allow water to reach the embryo, when the water reaches it, the embryo will “activate” and start developing.
Have in mind that it’s possible to drown the seed, so we need to keep an eye on moisture levels, also making sure it doesn’t dry out.
With a softened shell, it will be easier for the radicle to come out and this is when you’ll see the white taproot slowly appearing, and once it reaches 2-3cm, it’s time to plant it.
As soon as the seedling comes out of the medium, you’ll often see the shell stuck on top of the cotyledons, which are the tiny round leaves that you’re able to see once the shell has detached from the seedling.
Those leaves are responsible for feeding the plant until the first set of true leaves appear.
Also, there isn’t the best way to germinate marijuana seeds, you can do it any way you want, as long as you keep proper conditions, your seeds will germinate.
So, if you’re wondering how do you germinate autoflowering seeds? Read along for the best methods.
2. The Best Conditions For Germinating Seeds
As you may know, cannabis plants need certain conditions depending on the stage they’re in, maintaining these conditions are the best way to ensure your plants will thrive, and when talking about seeds and germination, it’s no different.
Obviously, you can grow cannabis plants in less-than-ideal conditions and they will still grow but it may end up affecting the yields or quality of your harvest.
When talking about germinating auto seeds, germinating in less-than-ideal conditions will decrease the chances of sprouting, so unlike growing cannabis in bad conditions, which will still grow but can affect the harvest, germinating in bad conditions can end up killing your seeds.
So when germinating autoflowers you should keep the temperature between 21-26°C and the humidity as close as 90% as you can.
3. Top Tricks For Germinating Old Seeds
As said above, germinating in the ideal conditions will guarantee a successful germination but sometimes seeds may be old or have been kept in bad conditions and can be hard to germinate.
So, to help you germinate old seeds, here are a couple of tricks that will increase the chances of germination.
But first of all, you need to know the best conditions to avoid these problems.
How To Properly Store Seeds
If you are storing seeds for your next grow cycle, you need to keep them in ideal conditions.
If you’re going to germinate them during the next couple of days there’s no need to do anything extra, other than keeping them in a cool place and in complete darkness but if you’re planning to store them for months or even years, you should keep them in the fridge.
You should keep your seeds in an airtight container in a fridge set at 6-8°C with a relative humidity of between 20-30%, if you can’t set your fridge to the temperatures mentioned, just keeping them in the fridge will increase the chances of germination.
Just have in mind that the better the conditions, the longer your seeds with last.
Soak in supplemented water
As cannabis seeds get old, the shell hardens and can make it hard for the water to reach the embryo, and if the water doesn’t reach the embryo, your seeds won’t sprout so if you’re dealing with old seeds, you can soak them in supplemented water.
To do this, you can fill a glass cup with water and add around 30ml of hydrogen peroxide and leave your seeds soaking for 12hs, this should do the trick.
You can also use germination boosters that you find in grow shops but usually, hydrogen peroxide works, also, make sure the water is around 22°C and it’s not getting direct sunlight.
Scarification is a method used to make ridges on the seed to help water pass through, to do this properly, you will need a piece of sandpaper but you can improvise and do it with a matchbox.
The goal is to thin out the shell so that the water can reach the embryo easily, just make sure you don’t overdo it and end up harming the embryo inside.
Slightly Open The Seed
As you may have seen, the seed is made out of two halves and has a ridge around it, if your seeds are old, that ridge may end up hardening too much and the seed won’t sprout.
So to help your weed seed germinate, you can use a knife or any other tool with a thin point to gently insert it in between the ridges and slightly separate it, after this process, you can soak your water and germinate it like you normally would.
4. Paper Towel Germination Method
The paper towel method is the easiest of all methods. You’ll need :
- 2 paper towels
- a plastic container or plates
Moisten the paper towels and wring them out so they’re damp but not completely wet.
Place the seeds on the paper towel, fold it over the seeds and place it in a plastic container, cover it with the lid to keep moisture in (can also use two plates instead of the plastic container, place the paper towel on a plate and use the other one to cover).
Place the container in a slightly warm and dark place.
Remember to check on it daily, we must ensure the paper towels never dry out, the seeds need to keep absorbing moisture, it’s likely that the seeds will never germinate if they don’t.
Sprinkle a little bit of water if needed, you’ll know they’re ready to be transplanted when the radicle is around 1-3cm long.
Tip: If the paper towel starts having a bad smell, it’s a sign of too much water, let it dry for a couple of days, and if the papers continue smelling bad, change the paper towels.
5. Soaking Overnight In A Glass Of Water
After many years of experimenting and looking for the best way to germinate our Fast Buds seeds, we must say that this is definitely one of the most effective ways.
This method is especially effective for seeds with a harder shell or older seeds. You’ll need:
- Glass cup
As the title says, grab a glass cup and fill it half with water.
Place the seeds in the glass and leave it in a dark place, let the seeds soak for up to 32 hours.
Most viable seeds will sink after a couple of hours and you should see the radicle after a couple of days.
Remember that some seeds may need longer until you see the radicle coming out.
If they haven’t sprouted after 72 hours, add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to kill accumulated bacteria in the water and return to the darkness for 2 more days.
6. Using A Germination Chamber
When you get a bit more experienced, you’ll wanna look for more professional tools and the germination chamber is one of them.
It consists of a plastic base with small square cells (can come with up to 256 cells, each cell supports 1 seed), on top of a heat mat, also comes with a humidity dome, basically looks like a small greenhouse. They’re very cheap and you can make one at home.
The chamber can be used with any type of medium, Rockwool cubes, peat pellets, coco fiber, perlite, or even soil and they keep the best environment for sprouting seeds and the first days of the seedling.
To start germinating, make a small hole (1-2 cm) in moisten medium, cover without applying pressure, turn on the heat mat and spray the humidity dome, it should take a couple of days to see the seedling coming out.
7. Rockwool Cubes And Peat Pellets
Rockwool cubes are small cubes made of rock and sand fibers, with the consistency of cotton candy almost, they absorb a lot of water and usually are used for germinating seeds and clones.
Using them along with the germinating chamber has an advantage, being easy to transplant to the next medium or container.
They also can be used along with clay pellets in hydroponics. One of the bad aspects of Rockwool cubes is you can easily overwater and get root rot.
Peat pellets are similar to the Rockwool cubes but are made of compressed peat moss and come in a small disc shape.
To germinate in either one of them, we will use the same technique explained before, moisten the Rockwool or peat pellet, make a little hole (1-2cm) and place the seed inside, cover it gently without applying pressure and you’re all done.
You can place the pellet or cube directly in any type of medium or hydroponics chamber, after sprouting, the roots will continue to grow down, even if they reach the end of the Rockwool or peat pellet.
8. Planting Directly In Medium
Sometimes the simplest way is the better way. As it happens in nature, we can also sprout our seeds in our medium of your preference (coco, soil, perlite, etc..)
Just grab a pencil, or even with your fingers, make a little hole (1-2cm deep), and place the seed in it, the medium must be moist but not soaking, then cover with soil without applying pressure.
Every time you transplant a seedling, it needs some time to readjust and can cause stress, thus one of the biggest benefits of this method is you don’t have to worry about damaging your seedling when transplanting or shocking it because it already is in its final place.
9. In Conclusion
There’s no such thing as the best way to germinate marijuana seeds, a successful germination is considered when you see the first leaves, known as Cotyledons, cannabis seeds germinate correctly with relatively high temperatures and humidity. To successfully reach the flowering stage you’ll have to use different techniques, not only for sprouting but to keep the plant happy and healthy until harvest.
Whether deciding which germination method to chose or getting ready for your first successful grow setup, our advice for beginner growers will be to start with autoflowering strains. If you look for something easy, quick, and easy to maintain, like Zkittlez Auto and Gorilla Glue Auto, there’s nothing better than choosing to grow autoflowers.
The most known methods to sprout your seeds and get your grow cycle going in no time.