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How to germinate cannabis seeds

January 6, 2017
Close up of hemp seeds with other hemp seeds in the white background
Germination is the process in which a new plant begins to grow from a seed. Also referred to as “popping,” germination is the very first step in starting your cannabis garden.

Cannabis seeds can be acquired from an array of sources and can vary in quality. Online seed banks are generally your best bet for quality and genetic diversity, but it should be noted that overseas transactions exist in legal gray areas in many countries.

Related

Cannabis Seeds 101: All You Need to Know and More

When acquiring seeds, you want to make sure they are matured and that they appear dark brown with lighter accents and a hard feel. You don’t want a seed that feels fresh and looks green, which indicates that the seed hasn’t reached full maturity.

Once you have your cannabis seeds, make sure you have the space necessary to allow your plants to grow and be healthy. Don’t pop seeds when you are unsure of your grow space, time availability, or intention with your garden.

What’s the best way to germinate cannabis seeds?

Germinated Hemp Seeds

Cannabis seeds require three things to germinate: water, heat, and air. Because of this, there are many methods to germinate your seeds. The most common and simplest method involves the use of paper towels saturated in water.

For this method you will need:

  • Two clean plates
  • Paper towels
  • Seeds

Step 1: Take four sheets of paper towels and soak them with distilled water. The sheets should be soaked but shouldn’t have excess water running off.

Step 2: Take two of the paper towels and place them on a plate. Then, place the cannabis seeds at least an inch apart from each other and cover them with the remaining two sheets of water-soaked paper towels.

Step 3: To create a dark protected space, take another plate and flip it over to cover the seeds (like a dome).

Step 4: Make sure the area they’re kept in is warm, somewhere between 70-90°F.

After these steps have been completed, it’s time to wait. You can check the paper towels to make sure they’re still saturated, and if they seem to be losing their moisture, you can apply more water to keep the seeds happy.

Some seeds germinate very rapidly while others can take several days. You know a seed has germinated once the seed splits and a single sprout appears.

This is the tap root, which will become the main stem of the plant, and seeing it is a sign of a successful germination. It’s important to keep this area sterile, so don’t touch the seeds or the tap root as they begin to split.

Transplanting germinated cannabis seeds

transplanting germinated cannabis seeds

Once you see the tap root, it’s time to transfer your germinated seed into its growing medium. Small 2-inch pots are a good place to start. Fill the pots with loose, airy potting soil and poke a hole in the middle about a quarter-inch down using a pen or pencil.

To transfer the seed, use a pair of tweezers to gently pick it up, then drop the seed in the hole with the tap root facing down and lightly cover it with soil.

Next, you’ll need to water the soil. Initially, use a spray bottle to provide moisture without over-saturating the soil. You want to give the seed water, but over-watering can suffocate and kill the delicate sprout.

Pay attention to the temperature and the moisture level of the soil to keep the seed happy, and within a week or so you should see a seedling begin to grow from the soil.

Related

How to tell if a cannabis plant needs watering

Germinating seeds doesn’t always go as planned. Some seeds will be duds. Others will be slow and take longer to sprout. But some will pop quickly and grow rapidly.

This is the beauty of seeds—often, you can tell which plants or genetics will thrive right from the get-go. This will help you determine which plants you want to take cuttings from for clones and which to breed with other strong plants to create a seed bank of your own.

Trevor Hennings's Bio Image

Trevor Hennings

Trevor is a freelance writer and photographer. He has spent years in California working in the cannabis industry.

View Trevor Hennings's articles

  • Darius A Stokes

    You can also use thin a thin amount of oil closest to the viscosity of water and add flavoring contracting in the oil yo concentrate it Remember the more flavor extract you use and to oil the more it holds. In a single drop of oil you can place i believe 10 drops per each seed and it will germinate with the flavor the flavor added will also need to be dried. Then plant an d water life normal.

    • Brock Gibson

      bs

      • Mike

        Lol, such bs

        • Sheba Love

          close this thread before he tells us we can also throw the seeds in a glass of water, drink them, then let them germinate in your stomach and just pick tap roots the out of the toilet with chopsticks.

          • Darius A Stokes

            Wording was off but thx for the vote of confidence or support.

          • William

            Let’s play nice; we all have the illusion of thinking we know, yes? “Don’t believe everything you think” Ex-wife’s psychiatrist, of all people…#:-)…peace; believe what you want, the truth will speak for itself, yes? (Most speak with absolute certainty, and without a clue..#:-)

          • Darius A Stokes

            Sentence was off but thx for the vote of confidence or support.

          • xmindbender

            this aggression will not stand man

          • JohnandMallory Braun

            OMG……just spit my coffee……sheba love nailed it LOL

          • DreadfullySorry AboutThat

            Brilliant! Must give that a try. Does a good laxative help?

        • Darius A Stokes

          Letters was off but thx for the vote of confidence or support.

      • Darius A Stokes

        Wording was off but thx for the vote of confidence or support.

    • Willy Brown

      You sir, are a moron

      • Darius A Stokes

        Typos was off but thx for the vote of confidence or support.

        • Bild

          Flavor oils or essential oils contain volatile chemicals, some burn and will probably kill the seed or stress the seedling. I doubt very much that it would transfer its scent or taste to the adult plant. You could try this on some beans or edible sprouts and that might make them taste like the flavoring but as far as the adult plant, for example the bean seed…I do not think you will get minty flavor beans or bubblegum tomatoes etc.

          • JAM661

            It is nice to read a thoughful opinion on why putting flavor oil probably would not work. For the others maybe they should learn some manners. Oh wait we dont do that any more in this country we just attack what we dont like.

          • Lower Tones

            “…we dont do that any more in this country…”. Which country? You do
            realize that this IS the internet, right? Typical comment from the
            bowels of Exceptionalistan LOL

          • Sapper Sittner

            I love how exceptional and privilege and similar words have now become insults. It always amazes me how bitter, uneducated people love to completely redefine words in common usage in order to more easily attack others. Can’t you just feel the brotherly love and tolerance? Such concern for the fair and equitable treatment of one’s fellow man or woman. We’re all human and equal and great, unless you can be said to be exceptional or privileged somehow, lol. Then you’re just trash that has somehow usurped some vague power base.

          • JacKaL

            Whoa, that got real deep for a how to germinate seeds article…

    • Marisol Mejia

      I appreciate the theory. Even if it doesn’t work, at least you gave an opinion. Might’ve worked for you.

    • Brian khumalo

      you were high when you wrote this right?, Thought one becomes smarter after smoking weed rather.

  • Darius A Stokes

    A new way of germination and growing cannabis vines move seeds in the air and space to grow it and in a vented container swing the container in different direction. I also grows faster and produce more (OVERNIGHT GROWTH). Will work for other products spray the air with the moisture ingredients (water flavored sugar) and aerated container in moist ingredients environment. Counter clockwise and clock wise thermodynamics wishy washy field motion is what a sphere with a cylinder in the middle to hold the seed it does hold in all ways. Like a ceiling fan motor or plastic bag.

    • Stephanie Thanem

      Everything you just said confused me. lol ……….Did you just say water flavored sugar? and who the hell has time to swing a seed around and how the hell does that germinate a seed? WTH!

    • DT Collins

      Are you some kind of a nut?

    • Bonnie Rush

      Troll

    • kai

      This is the best tip on how to germinate seeds I’ve ever read. I followed every step you mentioned and had in fact overnight growth. The step when I had to counter clockwise and clock wise thermodynamics wishy washy field motion was a bit tricky but I managed to do it after a couple of tries. You man are a genius! Thank you!

  • Darius A Stokes

    A Leafly supporter
    Im consulting through support thankyou for great job your doing for the world.

  • Two Bears

    The author left out the best way to pop seeds.

    Pour water in snall container fill with water and cover 24-48 hours. Then transfer to wet paper towels.

    This will allow the seed cover to be soft and ready for sprouting.

    If you drop the beans in water. The heavier ones will sink. The seeds floating on top will be slow to sprout if ever

    • corners

      you can skip the paper towels if you soaked them for that long, and put them into the soil after soaking. 24 hours is usually plenty to soften the shell.

  • Bild

    I germinate my seeds right in a wet peat pellet in my yogurt maker. It works like a charm and I have almost 100% sprouts within days and no need to transplant the seedling, I just put the pellet into the grow bag. I hate yogurt but love this machine.

    • alacrity

      ok, that’s f’n brilliant!

  • Tony

    I just sprouted one by wrapping it in a wet (but not dripping) cotton ball. I put the cotton ball at the bottom of a tall shot glass. It germinated in about two days. My very first seed, I just did it for the heck of it and it worked.

    • Nathan Pilson

      cool

  • Bobbie Stankowski

    I got three seeds and germinated two – put them in a shot glass filled with water and let sit for 40 hours when seeds popped and sprouted – then transferred to starting pot (peat cup) sitting in bowl of (1″) water – the other I placed in large plastic grow (finishing) pot – I have always done this and she grows nicely without having to transplant her; however, I have always grown without reading INSTEAD of reading then growing – so didn’t know the benefits of transplanting. Wish me luck!

  • Larry Sites Jr.

    I’m a first timer so I’m learning bout growing from different sources

  • Doug

    i always put the seeds in wet paper towels, put them in a baggie and duck taped to a window that gets alot of heat/sunlight. when they sprout they get transferred.

  • Rente Mailad

    I’ve been straggling on starting my first marijuana plant I have no idea that planting would be this complicated, a lot of things to consider. I’m trying to grow this https://www.gyo.green/cannabis-seedbanks/fast-buds-cannabis-seeds.I decided to grow my own just for personal use and it’s been very effective on treating my chronic back pain

  • fitz

    if you’re new to germination please do not ever get discouraged!! through trial, self doubt and error I discovered that it is about 5% technique and 95% seed quality. I’ve failed and succeeded at all of the standards – wet paper towels, water soaking and straight to soil finding that bad seeds will never grow no matter how much you paid for them (don’t get me started). for example, with ten seeds from the same source, same strain, in water, I’ve had five sink & five float in the same cup – the five that sank grew, the five that refused to sink never even cracked open. btw – Trevor’s method explained in this article is pretty much bulletproof with decent seeds. cheers!!

  • Mr.Meeseeks

    I have been incubating chicken eggs over the winter and threw some seeds in a baggie with a damp paper towel. Threw the baggie in the incubator and the seeds started sprouting a day 1/2 later.

  • My hovercraft is full of eels

    So many flavours of no. That is literally the worst technique possible. It’s a grade three science experiment not gardening. Just plant the damn things.

  • Joe Sixpac

    I might suggest getting information from a different source than Leafly. Add “edu” to your searches and find university research and processes for anything related to growing and learn from the people who have been growing plants for centuries.

  • David Brooks

    Seeds germinate in the dark. You want to keep them in a warm, dark place until they sprout then provide light.

  • Atheist Libertarian

    My first ever grow I used paper towels, but this time around I just can’t get it to work so I am trying the peat pellet method.

  • tony

    i just put my seeds in potting soil they grow

  • youngandinformed

    I did the paper trick and saw about 0.5″ root (white and healthy). I decided to begin the grow in a plastic bottle (with made slits at the bottom) with roughly 60 cubic inches of soil. Used an index card to gently put the seed inside a 3cm hole which I covered. Added water (via spray bottle) to the soil to make sure 20% runoff (leaving the soil soaked) and waited ~2.5 days in between waterings. It’s been a week and there has been no sign of life and I’m wondering whether or not I killed in the watering process or I should wait longer for the sprout.

  • My hovercraft is full of eels

    Absolutely have light on them. they will be spindly if you don’t. Also just plant the poor things.

  • Debbie Franzen

    Hello Gardeners, my first post, also first time trying to grow. I have 9 seeds and no idea. I am going to split them up trial and error. They came in my medical flower bag so I thought I give it a try not a extra cost. I been finding them here and there in my flower and put them in soil waiting to see any results, Today day 4 I had put 3 in soil.

  • Tyler Mikos

    Has anyone had problems letting the seed germinate in the towels to the point the first leaves are out. Point being i was lazy and that happened, I thought the thing would grow like a champ, but when i put it under the LED lights, it withered away. I use miracle grow organic blend, with verm, and peat moss. Does anyone think going from a dark cabinet to full blown light could have killed it? Thankyou.

  • Nick Johnson

    The bit about the seeds isn’t really true. Lots of people have reported having seeds that weren’t hard and were light colored that still germinated. It also doesn’t mention using peat pellets which are super helpful if you plan planting in soil.