Everything You Need To Know to Propagate Seeds and Clones. You can propagating your plants in two ways: clones from cuttings or sprouts from germinating seedlings. The best way to germinate seeds and (almost) guarantee rooting is with the Wet Paper Towel Method. Growing marijuna at home is easy with our complete guide, including choosing supplies you need, caring for your plants at each stage, and how to harvest.
Everything You Need To Know to Propagate Seeds and Clones
Propagation means to reproduce an organism through natural or unnatural processes.
When it comes to plants, this is considered the 3rd happiest moment for any indoor grower. The 1st happiest moment is harvesting your hard-earned fruits or flowers and the 2nd happiest moment is knowing that your plant is a female.
Propagating your plant happens in two ways: clones from cuttings or sprouts from germinating seedlings. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For the most part, they require similar equipment to get the job done so we’ll be going over them both.
Seed Germination (aka Seed “Popping”)
Let’s start talking about the easiest of the two to propagate: Seeds
There are many ways to germinate seeds. I’ve seen people shave seeds down to have a thinner outer shell, people dunk seeds in water and let them sit for 24 hours in the dark, and I’ve even seen people do it the old fashion way– bury them in soil, water, and let it sprout.
The best way to germinate seeds and (almost) guarantee rooting is with the Wet Paper Towel Method. The initial setup doesn’t require any fancy equipment, just a paper towel, saran wrap, your seeds, and a dining plate.
When you’ve got what you need, just follow this 4 Step Germination Guide:
Step 1: Rip a piece of paper towel from the roll and wet it under the sink with warm water. You want to have just enough moisture so you don’t drown your seeds. The rule of thumb is to lightly squeeze out the excess water until the paper towel isn’t dripping anymore.
Step 2: Lay your wet paper towel flat on top of the plate. Then place your seeds on one half of the paper towel evenly spaced in a row. Make sure they all face the same direction.
Step 3: Fold the other half of the paper towel over the seeds and gently press around each seed, making a ‘cocoon’ for them to incubate in. Then, with another wet paper towel, you want to add a single drop of warm water on top of each seed.
Step 4: Saran wrap the plate to keep it moist and keep it in a dark location with temperatures between 70-85 degrees.
After 48 hours, you should see taproots coming out of your seeds. If you find some seeds that haven’t popped yet, leave them in there a little longer.
*Note: After 3-4 days, if they haven’t popped, then they’re a lost cause– throw ‘em out!
Once your taproots show you’ll want to transplant those sprouted seeds immediately before they form micro-roots that can be torn when removed from the paper towel. When micro roots form they will temporarily retard germination and growth as well as stress the plant, which could result in unfavorable male/hermaphrodites.
(*Note: If the taproot is stuck on the paper towel, go ahead and rip the piece of the paper towel with the seed)
Transplanting Germinated Seeds
Once you’ve got your seeds popped you’ll need to put them into a starter cell or tray to let them grow into seedlings.
Use a starter cell tray like the Accel-A-Root 50 Cell Starter Tray for transplanting your seeds. Cut out the appropriate amount that you need and set the rest aside in a cool location.
Each Cell should come pre-moistened, but if you need to, run it under some water and gently squeeze out the excess. Take a toothpick and slowly dig a small hole for your seeds. You should dig deep enough for the taproot and shell to be covered under the surface of the cell.
After the cells are prepped here’s how you properly transplant them into the cells:
- Grab your seeds and gently lower your taproot in the hole, making sure you do not bend or snap it. Once you have it comfortably in the cell, lightly bury the top of the seed. Do not pack it with the cell soil.
- Then place the cell trays in a propagation tray, like the 10” x 20” EXTREME. Add a cup of water into the tray for humidity and moisture and cover the tray with the dome top. Place the entire setup on top of a heat mat under some bright lights.
- Keep the entire thing under direct light. The heat and brightness from the light will help the seed navigate upward towards it. You want the light to be strong to prevent stretching.
- So how do you do that? We know that the high power lights are strong but the problem with them during the first stages of plant growth is that the lights produce a lot of heat and you don’t want to fry your babies. Plus big HID grows lights and LED grow lights are better suited for more mature plants.
Turning Germinated Seeds into Seedlings
After your seeds start sprouting you’ll want to start getting them under lights and turning them into seedlings. Some growers put their young plants directly into the medium they’ll grow to maturity in, but we think it’s better to start things off by lighting your plants with a lower-powered light until they’re ready to fully veg. In this case, we recommend going with one of two options:
- Fluorescent grow lights-T5 and CFL fluorescent lights are great for newly sprouted seedlings. They provide strong intense lights with very little heat and can be placed 4-5inches away from the seedlings for intense direct light.
- 50w LED grow light- LED grow lights give you the least amount of heat, which is perfect for young seedlings. Using an all blue or multi-band grow light will stimulate plant growth without overpowering the plant as an HID will
Once you find the right light for you, keep an eye out while they grow. Thankfully the germination stage is only around 7 days at the longest, so keep an eye out because once they’re ready to start vegging you’ll need to remove them from their cells and plant those seeds into their grow medium.
So what’s happening when we clone plants?
It’s nothing fancy. Plants have been doing this to themselves over hundreds of thousands of years. When a leaf is cut from a plant a mass of non-specialized cells called a callus is exposed. In the right conditions, that callus will fall into the right situation when it can receive nutrients, grow, and form a new plant out of itself.
The same thing happens when you want to take a clone from a plant. When you cut the leaf from a plant (exposing the callus) and dip it in root stimulator the callus will grow, divide and form various specialized cells (roots, stems), eventually forming a new plant that has the identical genetic makeup as the donor plant.
Taking Cuttings From Your Plants
If you’re planning on taking multiple cuttings from your plants, start by cutting the leaf off closest to the stem to assure you have plenty of room for roots to grow. After that, make sure to drop them in a cup of water to prevent air from getting into the mass of the stems.
Grab a starter tray like the one you’d use for seedlings and moisten the starter cells.
Once you’re ready to transplant your cuttings into your tray, start by making a 45-degree angle cut close to the base of each stem. The reason the cut is in a 45-degree angle is to increase your cloning success rate by exposing more of the branch’s mass.
For a precise cut, we recommend using a surgical scalpel like the Gro1 Disposable Scalpels.
After you’ve cut your leaves dip the ends of each branch into cloning gel, like the X Nutrient MX Clone Gel. Dip your cutting about an inch above the 45° cut, and make sure to coat the living hell out of it.
Once they’re dipped, place your clones in a moist starting tray. After a day or two, you’ll start to see For successful cloning propagation, you use the same dome and tray setup found in the complete clone and rooting package.
Unlike seedlings, humidity needs to be much higher for cuttings. That’s why you’ll need a humidity dome over your clones to make sure they get enough moisture for their roots.
Keep the dome on and make visual checks every day for signs of mold or mildew on your clones. If any show up, remove the infected plant or clip off the infected portion of the plant to keep the mold from spreading to your other cuttings.
Too much humidity is bad for your plants, so your dome should have vent holes on the sides and on the top of it that can help you regulate the humidity level during the stages of cloning.
After 3-4 days open your side vents halfway- this is referred to as “burping” the plants. This will lower the humidity in the dome and aid in drying out the environment. You want to slowly dry out the starter cells so that the clones’ roots that are forming can start looking for water, thus they grow stronger roots.
Around day 7 open up your vents all the way. This is also a good time to water your tray again to keep things moist. Feed plain water to your cuttings.
Roots will start showing on the bottom of your tray medium within 7-8 days, though it can take a little longer. By the 10th day, most of the cuttings should form roots. Keep in mind that depending on the strain of your plant, it may take up to 14-21 days until they take root, so if there’s no mold and you’re doing everything right just hang in there.
Which is Better: Starting from Seeds or Starting from Clones?
By now you’re wondering why one would start with clones vs starting fresh with seeds. There are pro’s and con’s to both, so here are a few reasons why you’d choose one method over the other:
Growing with Clones– If you discovered favorable traits from the plants you grow, cloning will help get the same results over and over. What kind of traits can be passed down through cloning?
- Easy/fast growth
- Tight internodal growth,
- Delicious fruits or beautiful flowers,
- Immunity to pests
- Resistance to molds or other diseases
And that’s just some of the traits you want to go with. Clones can be temperamental, though, so if you plan on growing with clones you have the ability to keep a close eye on them to prevent overwatering or disease.
Growing with Seeds– Seedlings are a great way to introduce new genetics into your garden. Compared to clones that you may have to nurse back to health in one way or another, seeds that are well taken care of are going to grow into strong plants.
Seeds also make for great mother plants that you can take clones from for a long time to come.
The worst and most disheartening part of growing from seeds, though, is that you don’t discover issues with them months after they are mature. If you have mislabeled genetics, for example, you won’t know if you have a male or female until months after you start growing. For indoor growing especially, this wastes time, money and energy that you could have used on healthy plants.
So to recap:
- Seeds are a great way to introduce new genetics into your garden. Not only that, but they take less time to propagate your garden than cloning.
- The best way to germinate seeds is with Paper Towel Method.
- Transplant your seedlings into a high humidity environment until the sprouts show.
- Cloning is a great way to keep favorable genetics.
- Cloning is a longer process than seedlings but well worth the trouble. Especially what you do after you receive your clones.
- We try to be as comprehensive as possible but in case we missed anything, let us know!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published March 2015 and has been updated on 4/12/2018 for quality, accuracy, and comprehensiveness
June 14, 2021 at 15:33pm
We can help you out there, when you are placing a light over your plants you want to be sure they are close enough but not too close where they can possibly get damaged. However, in this case we would suggest keeping the light above your plants 20 to 25 inches for the vegging state of your grow. When your plants are flowering we would suggest keeping the lighting about 15 inches from the plants. We hope this information was helpful for you, please let us know if there is anything else we can answer for you. Happy Growing!”
June 14, 2021 at 15:33pm
That’s a great idea! When it comes to germinating seeds you can place them directly in to the soil and have them sprout up. Now we should mention that if you plan on doing that you’re going to need to get some humidity over that seed to make it pop, so when you’re planting seeds directly in to the ground start off with moist (not soaked or dripping) soil. Push about 1/4″ down in to the soil and cover the seed. If you’re not getting the humidity you need, place a little plastic shrink wrap over the top of the pot you’re germinating the seedling in and place it back under your light. You’ll see moisture collect on the plastic wrap, and within a week or so you’ll see your plant come up out of the soil. Then take off the humidity and let your plants grow.
June 14, 2021 at 15:33pm
what about just placeing in soil to start 98% germination rate ? but the method you mention works well, too
How to Grow Weed at Home
Legal marijuana has come to many parts of the U.S., but high prices and taxes discourage some consumers from shopping at legal dispensaries. This easy-to-follow guide for beginners will help you in each step as you grow your own marijuana at home.
Marijuana is legal in some capacity in over half of the country, which means every day more consumers become interested in how they can grow weed in their own home, saving money and reducing trips to the pot shops. Growing at home also ensures that the cannabis you consume is safe and genuine marijuana.
A common misconception is that growing marijuana is challenging. It is not. Marijuana will often grow on its own outdoors from discarded seeds, often popping up in city parks and flower beds. While growing your own marijuana at home does take a little bit of planning, set-up, and care, even beginners will find that cannabis grows easily.
Generally, to grow marijuana at home you only need to follow these three steps:
- Decide on a Grow Area
- Gather Your Supplies
- Take Care of Your Plants According to Their Growth Stage
Now let’s dive into each of these three steps a little more to show you how to grow your own marijuana.
Decide on a Grow Area
The first step in growing your own weed is figuring out where in your home to grow it. Really, though, it can be almost anywhere, provided that the space is dry and cool, and that you can seal it from outside light. When growing marijuana indoors, common grow areas include:
- A closet
- A cabinet
- A corner in a spare room
- A special grow tent
Beginners may want to start with a small area. A small grow space constructed for one to a few plants is easier to manage and less expensive to set up than a large room.
You can also grow your marijuana outdoors, using the sun’s power to grow your marijuana plants naturally. Choose a place with plenty of light to maximize growth. Growing outdoors saves money on lighting fixtures and electricity, but comes with problems of its own, including pests like insects and nosey neighbors. Check your local laws first to see if you are able to grow outdoors in your community before planting outside.
Gather Your Growing Supplies
Once you have an idea of the size and location of your grow space, you’re ready to gather all of the supplies you’ll need.
Cannabis seeds or clones
While cannabis seeds are available from an array of sources, including some dispensaries, you’ll likely have better success getting quality seeds from an online seed bank. Your cannabis seeds need to be matured before they’re ready for germination. This means they should feel hard and appear dark brown with light accents, rather than feel fresh and look green.
You can also buy marijuana clones in many legal marijuana dispensaries. These clones are already rooted and ready to plant in your garden at home, bypassing the sprouting stage for seeds. Clones are also a great way to ensure you get a female plant, saving you many weeks of work and time if your seed turns out to be a male.
Organic potting soil
Growing your marijuana in soil is ideal for beginners. Compared to hydroponics, a medium used by some advanced growers, soil is more forgiving. Any high quality potting soil will work, provided it doesn’t contain artificial extended-release fertilizers. You may want to consider organic pre-fertilized potting soil, sometimes tagged “super-soil,” which can save you from having to buy nutrients to feed your plants later on.
Marijuana growing outdoors can be planted in pots or directly in the ground. If putting them in the ground, you will still want to surround them with quality soil to ensure they have the best growing conditions.
You’ll need two sizes of containers for your marijuana plants. Pots about 2 inches in diameter are ideal for when your marijuana plants are seedlings. Later on, you’ll move your weed into bigger, 3-gallon containers. Ones that offer breathability like fabric pots are ideal, but plastic or terracotta pots or buckets with holes drilled into their bottoms for drainage also work just fine.
If you are growing inside, your lighting setup will be the most expensive part of the process. Beginners growing just one or two plants at home can get away with using almost any type of indoor grow lights.
HID (high intensity discharge) lights are the most widely used because of their efficiency, although they’re more expensive and require specialized HID ballasts (fixtures). Fluorescent light fixtures are more economical, but are less efficient. There are also all-in-one HID and fluorescent light kits available that are designed for indoor grow spaces.
Beginners and experienced growers alike also take advantage of indoor growing systems that include lights, watering systems, and fans, making it easy to set up a marijuana grow. Some indoor growing systems even have smartphone connectivity to adjust settings on the go and a camera so you can see your marijuana plants from anywhere.
If you aren’t using a pre-fertilized organic soil mix, your marijuana plants will need to be fed throughout the vegetative stage. Nutrient solutions are sold in either a concentrated liquid or a powder, both designed to mix with water. Feeding your plants these nutrients can prevent nutrient deficiency to help ensure big, healthy buds.
You’ll need a bottle of macronutrients containing:
You’ll also need a bottle of micronutrients containing:
Take Care of Your Marijuana Plants According to Their Growth Stage
Like all plant life, cannabis plants go through a life cycle of growing stages. Each stage of growth requires different care, so it’s important to adjust the amount of both light and nutrients your marijuana plants receive accordingly. Overall, it takes about 3-5 months from germination to harvest, depending on growing conditions.
The life cycle of cannabis is made up of four stages:
- Germination (1 week)
- Seedling (2-3 weeks)
- Vegetative (3-5 weeks)
- Flowering (6-8 weeks)
Germination (1 Week)
Once your cannabis seeds have matured, they’re ready for germination.
- Wet four paper towels, soaking them with distilled water.
- Lay two paper towels on a plate. Place the cannabis seeds atop the wet paper, with at least an inch of space between them. Cover them with the remaining two paper towels.
- Take a second plate, flip it on its face and cover the seeds, creating a small dome to keep out the light.
- Keep the seeds in a warm area.
- Periodically check the seeds, looking for them to split and produce a single sprout. This process could take from a couple of days to two weeks. Wet the paper towels as necessary to keep them saturated.
- Once you see tap roots sprout from the seeds, transfer them into the small 2-inch pots filled with soil. In a couple of days, you’ll see the stem sprout from the soil and two rounded cotyledon (embryonic) leaves emerge.
Keep in mind that some cannabis seeds will be duds and not sprout. Others will take longer to sprout.
Seedling (2-3 Weeks)
Once your cannabis plants emerge from the soil, they are considered seedlings. During this period, the stem will produce more healthy green leaves with multiple fingers. The plants are considered seedlings until their leaves each develop five to seven fingers.
Throughout this 2-3 week stage, you’ll want to give your marijuana plants 18 hours of light or more if growing inside. Water only periodically, because the cannabis plant’s roots are small and don’t need much.
Once your plants’ leaves develop five to seven fingers, transplant your cannabis plants into your larger, 3-gallon pots or place them in the ground in your organically boosted soil.
Vegetative (3-5 Weeks)
Ready for your cannabis to really grow? Now’s the time.
During the vegetative stage, you’ll see the plant’s foliage rapidly flourish. Within the soil, the roots will also continue developing.
For these next 3 to 5 weeks, begin by providing your plants 24 hours of light and then gradually decrease the light cycle each week until your marijuana plants are getting 13 hours of light.
Water regularly, but don’t overdo it, as cannabis plants are susceptible to fungal root diseases when they’re overwatered. Some growers wait until the lower leaves of their plant start to droop slightly before watering. Additionally, water further away from your marijuana plants’ stalks to encourage the roots to continue growing outwards.
If you’re not using pre-fertilized organic soil mix, feed your plants with your nutrient mixes about once a week.
When growing from seeds, keep an eye on your plants toward the end of the vegetative stage to see if they are exhibiting as male or female. You will want to pull males from your garden as soon as possible to prevent the females from becoming fertilized. Female plants that are fertilized have a lower potency and produce seeds.
Flowering (6-8 Weeks)
It’s during the flowering process that your female marijuana plants produce resinous buds, which will eventually become useable cannabis flower. At this point, you’ll want to cut down the light your weed receives to less than 12 hours per day. This will stimulate your marijuana plants to flower.
Keep your watering steady as before. Avoid feeding your plants the nutrients used during the vegetative stage. You may want to add a trellis or other type of support to your plants to help buttress the plant (the buds can make it top heavy).
We continue to detail the steps to follow during the marijuana flowering process and more here.
Learn More about How to Grow and Harvest Weed
As the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana reaches more states in the U.S. , more people are looking into how to grow their own marijuana. While growing your own cannabis can at times seem overwhelming, beginners with a little bit of patience will soon get the hang of it.
You can learn more about growing your own weed, and drying and curing your cannabis flower, by visiting our Cannabis 101 Page .