How To Germinate Weed Seeds In A Bag

Many cannabis consumers have found an occasional seed in their bag of marijuana. But can you actually use them to grow your own weed? Learn more about germinating bag seeds and turning them into flourishing cannabis plants. Growing cannabis from seeds is no more difficult than growing any other plant. It doesn’t take a magic touch or a green thumb, and it doesn’t require special knowledge of horticulture. No germination method is perfect (some seeds just won't germinate), but I've gotten 100% germination ever since I started using this method.

How to Germinate a Bag Seed

F inding a seed in your bag of weed used to be regarded as an insult, an indication you scored some inferior product. But it’s a new millennium, and growing cannabis is perfectly legal in some states and territories. While buying seeds online is still recommended for reasons we will detail further, finding a healthy seed can be as valuable as an ounce of gold. Or at least the cost of the bag.

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In this article we review the steps to germinate cannabis seeds, tips and tricks in the process, and how to keep your seedling healthy.

Germinating a seed is the first step in the growing process, and a cannabis seed will sprout with a voracious hunger, so if you are about to germinate seeds, start thinking ahead about where the seedling will eventually be moved to. This includes lighting, ventilation, and something to feed the lady. Those things don’t need to be decided before you begin, but try to have a plan in place by the time the second set of leaves emerges — as soon as two weeks.

The Germination Process

Begin by soaking the seed overnight. Soaking the seed saturates it with moisture, and moving it shortly after to a warm home tells the seed that it’s someplace comfortable, and it’s time to grow. Tap water is fine for this, but a micronutrient solution like liquid seaweed may be included.

Once your seed has soaked, the most common method for germination is the “paper towel method.” Wet a piece of paper towel and wring dry, then fold in half. Place the seeds between the halves of the damp paper towel, and slide the whole thing into a ziplock bag. Seal with some air inside. Leave this bag someplace comfortably warm for about a week, checking frequently for spots of mold. After about a week, a taproot should emerge.

Then it is time to transfer the seed into a proper growing medium. Be careful plucking your seed from the paper towel!

A grow medium is the “stuff” the seed will sit in. The easiest option is soil, healthy black earthy scooped up from your yard, or potting soil purchased from any garden center. Rock wool cubes are a common option for hydroponic growers, but can later be transplanted into soil as well. Compost and worm castings are great for a seedling, but it will need to be transplanted into a more diverse mixture later.

It is far too early to begin any nutrient cycle, or to introduce any fertilizers to the soil. Now that the seed is confirmed as alive, and placed into a more comfortable medium, simply make sure that the seed is watered and warm.

The first set of leaves to emerge are called “sucker leaves,” and their sole purpose is to drink in as much light as possible to fuel the growth of the more recognizable serrated leaves, which will begin to grow over the next week. After that you’ve got a proper seedling, and in a few weeks it will be ready for a bigger home!

For further guidance and resources about growing cannabis, see our Beginner’s Guide to Growing Marijuana, or our guide to growing for personal use.

Cultivating a Healthy Cannabis Seedling

The seedling that emerges will be as tender as an infant, and susceptible to diseases and cross-contaminations, so keep your germination station as sanitary as possible, and wash your hands before handling them. Avoid rubber or latex gloves at this stage as they have too much grip, and one wrong movement of your finger could accidentally grab and tear the soft plant material.

A seed’s health may be fortified by soaking it with a solution rich in micronutrients, like liquid seaweed. Be advised, however, that these will be very diluted solutions. Carefully read the mixing instructions of any product you purchase.

Seedlings can be protected against certain diseases by including worm castings in the medium. Research out of Cornell University has shown the microbial life in worm castings colonizes the seed’s surface, making it more difficult for pathogenic microbes to establish themselves.

Disclaimers and Downsides Regarding Found Seeds

It’s worth pausing to remember that seeds shouldn’t wind up in your bag of cured, smokable cannabis. So before planting anything, let’s assess what this seed is, and how it got there.

Only female cannabis plants produce flowers, and if they are pollinated by male plants, then they produce seeds instead. So all the cannabis we smoke is from unpollinated female plants — or nearly all of it.

When female plants are stressed — for instance, by drought conditions or nutrient problems — an evolutionary alarm can induce them to produce seeds with only their DNA. The problem with these “hermaphrodite seeds” is that the offspring, having benefited from this process, will be more prone to repeat it. If this is how a seed got in your bag, it can result in seedy weed, even under the closest care.

A seed is not guaranteed to sprout at all. Examine the seed for any obvious health issues. Immature seeds are lighter greys-to-green, while mature seeds are darker tan, brown, or even black. A healthy shape is a teardrop or nearly round, while bunk seeds will appear shrivelled or irregular. Finally, healthy seeds have a hard, whole shell, while cracked or brittle shells will likely not sprout, or produce a less healthy seedling.

A found seed is also not a guarantee to produce a replica of the strain you smoked, and may present latent traits from the strains it was bred from. Cultivating a complete copy of a phenotype is called “cloning,” and the cloning process must begin with a living plant, not a seed.

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Remember, it could also just result in a male plant, which won’t grow any buds. None of this is guaranteed to happen with a bag seed, it’s just more likely than with a stabilized seed from a producer.

Summary

If you want to germinate a seed you’ve found, begin by soaking it overnight in water to saturate it, and soften the shell. Micronutrient solutions can be mixed in at this stage to fortify the health of the seedling (if you do, be sure to read the mixing instructions on the label).

The “paper towel method” is the most accessible way of germinating almost any seed. Once a taproot has emerged (after about a week) plant the seed into a small container with your chosen grow medium, like soil. Do not fertilize at this stage, as the seed and resulting seedling are very tender, and concentrated fertilizers are abrasive chemicals. Within another week, “sucker leaves” will sprout, synthesizing light to produce further growth.

Remember, found seeds are not always healthy or even viable. A healthy seed has a hard, unbroken shell and a dark color, while brittle or misshapen seeds may not produce a healthy plant, if anything at all. A found seed is also not guaranteed to replicate the precise phenotype of that cannabis you found it in.

That said, it’s almost always worth trying, and experimenting with whatever results. Growing cannabis can be an enriching experience, and perhaps even save you some riches. As long as you know what to look for from a seed, and how to handle them, finding one in your bag could be a golden ticket.

How To Germinate Cannabis Seeds

Growing cannabis from seeds is no more difficult than growing any other plant. It doesn’t take a magic touch or a green thumb, and it doesn’t require special knowledge of horticulture.

Growing cannabis from seeds is no more difficult than growing any other plant. It doesn’t take a magic touch or a green thumb, and it doesn’t require special knowledge of horticulture. For many reasons, growing cannabis plants from seed is a better, more reliable route to success than growing cannabis plants from clones, and the road to healthy plants yielding high-quality buds begins with the germination of the seeds.

What Is Germination?

If you’ve never grown any kind of plant before, germination is simply a term for the sprouting and initial growth of a seed. Every plant seed, though tiny, hard and dry in appearance, harbors a delicate plant embryo, water, and even stored food. All it needs is a jump start from you to sprout and begin its life, and there are several different methods for doing this. Each method can be successful, and you may decide to try one or two and see which technique brings you the best results. Think of it as a really fun science experiment, with the ultimate grand prize being a healthy, hearty cannabis plant.

Purchasing seeds online is the best way to get a good, reliable cannabis plant that will have the best chance of producing buds. You may find seeds in your regular product, but the chances are good that those seeds are either dead or dried out. Dry, old seeds are extremely difficult to germinate. Those seeds in your bag are probably pretty dark and dull looking, and that’s a sure sign that they are either dead, or old and dry. Healthy seeds bought online will look fresh and waxy, and that’s how you can tell that they are young, healthy and ready for germination.

The Paper Towel Method

Wherever you live, the springtime is when you see incredible plant growth and new, green life sprouting up all around you. The key to successful cannabis seed germination is to replicate a spring-like condition for the seeds, inducing them to vegetate. This means that seeds should be moist but not soaked, and warm but not hot.

An easy way to accomplish this is by placing seeds between layered, moistened paper towels. It’s best to use real rainwater for this method, and if you live in a rainy area you can collect rainwater in any receptacle left outside. If you don’t get much rainfall where you live, you can substitute bottled, distilled water instead. Moisten the paper towels with the clean water, making sure that they are not sopping or dripping, and place the seeds between the layers.

Next, you’ll want to place the towel-covered seeds into a plastic bag. This creates a humid, warm atmosphere, like a greenhouse. You can also place the paper towels on a glass plate or baking dish and cover them with plastic wrap. Find a dark place in your home to put them while they are getting ready to germinate. A drawer in your kitchen or a closet shelf would make an ideal germination environment.

Check the seeds daily to make sure that the paper towels have not dried. When they begin to dry, simply pour more water on them and squeeze it out gently. Do not let standing water accumulate in the bag or plate you have placed them in. This process should take between five to twelve days. Sometime in that period, you will see the seed casing burst, and a small but strong root will emerge.

The Straight-To-Soil Method

Many growers believe that it is easiest and most natural to simply plant cannabis seeds directly into the soil in which they will grow and thrive. If you choose to use the soil germination method, remember that you should always keep the potted seeds indoors. Seeds planted outdoors will have very little chance of germinating, as the environment is too uncontrolled. The benefit to planting seedlings directly into the soil is that you will not have to transplant them after germination. The transplant process can be a shock to a young plant’s root system, and some people have difficulty nursing a cannabis seedling through this process.

For the soil method, you will need to purchase sturdy containers with drainage holes, potting soil, and a secondary plant fertilizer. Mix the fertilizer and potting soil together and fill the containers, tamping it down slightly. It’s best to start out with very small containers, no more than three inches wide. Moisten the soil with distilled water or rainwater, taking care not to drench it. Make a small hole with your finger approximately one and half inches deep, and place a seed into the hole. Try to position the seed with the pointed edge facing downward.

See also  Pulling Weeds And Planting Seeds

The containers with the newly planted seeds should be kept in a warm area indoors. A plant heating pad can be placed underneath the soil containers to help warm them, or you can create warmth and humidity by cutting plastic soda bottles in half and placing them gently over the containers, creating a greenhouse effect. It’s important that the seedlings remain undisturbed, so resist the temptation to uncover them to check if they’re sprouting. You should see plant growth sprouting out of the soil somewhere between seven and fourteen days, depending on the strain and age of the seeds.

An another great way to germinate cannabis seeds is to use a seedkit. For an excellent explanation of how to use the seedkit, go to Zambeza Seeds.

Alternative Germination Mediums

There are a few other substances that can be successful mediums for germinating cannabis seeds, and the technique used with any of these substances is the same as the soil method. Rockwool is a matted fiber material that is favored for its porous nature, and seedlings can be planted directly into it for germination. It can be purchased inready-made cubes for easy planting, and is readily available in home improvement stores.

Lava rock is another medium that has proven successful in germination and is notable for providing a large surface area for healthy root systems to grow. However, it does not hold water as well as regular soil or rockwool, and it may not be the best alternative for an inexperienced grower.

How to Germinate Seeds via Paper Towel Method

Cannabis seeds are natural things and you can’t expect 100% germination every time. Unfortunately, that’s just not how nature works. Many factors can affect germination including genetics (some strains germinate easier than others), the age of seeds, and how well they were stored. But I’ve been lucky and gotten 100% germination ever since I started using this method.

Paper Towel Method – Germinate seeds between wet paper towels, lock in the moisture with two plates, and place on a seedling heat mat for a few days

Pros

  • High Germination Rate – Almost every seed with germinate if you follow the instructions
  • Fast – Often takes only 1-3 days to see roots
  • Keep Track – You can check on seeds without disturbing them
  • Less Space – Use less space than planting seeds in pots (helpful if germinating lots of seeds at once)
  • Fun – I personally love seeing the whole germination process and it makes me genuinely feel closer to the seedlings
  • Multiple Steps – Not as simple as planting seeds directly in soil!
  • Requires Supplies – You need cheap paper towels, seedling plugs, and a seedling heat mat
  • “Bucket Head” Seedlings – I’ve found that shells are more likely to get stuck on the seedling leaves with this germination method because seedlings aren’t pushing themselves out of the soil. You may want to use tweezers to remove the shell gently, or just leave them be. However, this can happen with any method (instructions at the end of the article explain how to remove stubborn shells safely) and I personally find the increased germination rate makes this worth it.

Seeds typically germinate in 1-3 days!

Create happy little seedlings in less than a week!

How to Germinate via the Paper Towel Method

Supplies

  • Cheap paper towels – Why cheap paper towels? Seed roots grow into expensive cloth-like ones and have to be cut out (learned that one from experience)
  • Two Plates – You need to lock the moisture in during the germination process
  • Cannabis Seeds – If you need seeds, here’s a list of seed vendors that ship worldwide
  • Rapid Rooters with Tray – The perfect environment for newly germinated seeds
  • Seedling Heating Mat – Or any warm surface that stays about 70-85°F (20-30°C) to keep seeds warm

Cheap paper towels (don’t use the expensive cloth-like ones!)

Rapid Rooters (note: extra Rapid Rooters can be stored in a cool place for future grows)

Seedling Tray to hold Rapid Rooters

Seedling heat mat to keep seedlings warm (or any surface that’s about 70-85°F or 20-30°C)

1.) Put 3-4 Layers of Paper Towels on Plate

You don’t want to load your plate up with tons of paper towels, but it’s nice to have several sheets so they can hold plenty of water. If necessary, fold or cut the paper towels to size so everything fits completely inside the plate. If a paper towel is sticking outside the plates, everything will dry out quickly.

You may need to cut (or fold) paper towels so they fit completely inside plate

2.) Label the Strains

If growing more than one strain at a time, label the paper towels so you’ll know which seed is which.

3.) Add Water & Seeds

Add some water on top of the paper towels so they’re soaked through, then place seeds down. I add water first to avoid accidentally moving seeds. It’s also a good idea to keep the plate flat so seeds don’t roll around.

4.) Cover with 1 Sheet of Paper Towel

Put a single sheet of paper towel on top. With just one sheet you will be able to see whether the seeds have germinated without having to disturb them. You may need to add a little extra water so that the top sheet is moist all the way through.

With a single sheet on top, you can still mostly see the seeds

5.) Put 2nd Plate on Top

Lock in all the moisture by putting another plate on top.

6.) Place on Seedling Heat Mat

Plug in your seedling heat mat. It should warm up quickly. I’ve put the plates directly on the mat before, which worked well, but sometimes I worry my little weed seedlings may get too hot with the plate directly on the mat. Since I already have a Rapid Rooter tray for later, I place it between the mat and the plate. Feel free to use something else like a book or towel. The basic idea is to put some space between the heating mat and the plate so the plate still gets warm but the extra air space keeps the heat nice and even.

Why a seedling heat mat? Seeds germinate significantly faster when they’re kept 70-85°F (20-30°C). A seedling heat mat keeps seeds warm during the germination process. However, any warm spot works just as well (for example, on top of the refrigerator is the perfect temperature for some people). When you touch the wet paper towels, they should feel warm but not burning hot.

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7.) Check on Seeds at Least Once a Day

Ensure paper towels don’t dry out. You may have to add more water occasionally to keep them wet. You can usually tell when the seeds have germinated without looking under the top sheet. This means you can check on your seeds regularly without disturbing them by picking up the top plate.

Seeds typically sprout in 1-3 days. Certain strains and older seeds may take a few extra days.

8.) Put Germinated Seeds in Rapid Rooters

Once seeds have germinated, gently pull off the top paper towel to reveal the seedlings underneath.

Carefully and slowly remove top paper towel sheet

Did you know the first two round seedling leaves were already fully formed inside the shell? The germination process only releases them. New leaves are yellow at first but turn green once they start getting light.

At this point, you may see some seedling leaves have already broken free of their shells. That’s awesome. These seedlings often grow the fastest.

If there’s a short root or seedling hasn’t germinated yet, put the paper towel back and gave the seedling one more day. Seedlings grow faster if they have a bit more root before being planted.

This Critical Purple Kush seed took an extra day to germinate compared to the other seeds. I gave it one more day after this so the root could get longer before I put in a Rapid Rooter.

I recommend cutting your Rapid Rooters in half to make it easier to place germinated seeds. Even a seed with a long wiggly root will usually easily fit into the “crack” of the Rapid Rooter. This prevents you from bending the roots.

Cut Rapid Rooters in half to make it easier to insert germinated seeds

Try to place the seed head close to the top so they don’t have far to go. I’ve found that some seedlings don’t make it to the top if you put them too far down.

If the seedling has already lost the shell, place the leaves close to the top. These seedlings often grow the fastest.

Otherwise, add the seedling, root down, with the shell close to the surface

Gently close around the seedling

Put into the Rapid Rooter tray (make sure they’re moist all the way through!) The bottom shell of the tray will hold extra water so plugs don’t dry out.

Add enough water that all the Rapid Rooters appear dark, but not shiny from too much water. Once you’re done, put the trays back on the seedling mat. Young seedlings love warmth!

9.) You Have Seedlings!

The leaves should appear above the Rapid Rooters within a day or two.

Just 12 hours later, several seedlings have already appeared above ground.

At this point, the seedlings are ready to be put under a gentle light. A sunny window works well, though your regular vegetative grow light should be fine as long as you keep it twice the normal distance away. Avoid touching the seedlings if possible. This is when they’re most vulnerable.

Within a day or two under a light (or in a sunny window), you’ll have a bunch of happy seedings!

The seedlings are ready to go in plant containers once they’ve spread out their first set of serrated leaves (to about the width of the Rapid Rooter)

At this point, you can plant the whole Rapid Rooter. Don’t forget to label the strains!

Move the grow light down to the standard distance once the plants have 3 sets of leaves. By now they should be growing fast!

Note: Move grow light down early if seedlings start getting tall with long stems. Tall, stretchy seedlings are telling you they want more light.

What If the Seedling Shell Gets Stuck? (“Bucket Head” Seedlings)

One downside to this method is sometimes a seed shell will get stuck on the seedling. Here’s how to deal with that.

Helpful Tool: Pointy tweezers (though most tweezers will work in a pinch)

Sometimes leaves get stuck in the shell. Here’s what to do.

First, give the seedling 24-48 hours to see if it pushes the shell off on its own. Many seedlings just need a little extra time and don’t need your help.

Ignore stuck shells if the leaves are already free. The shell will fall off on its own.

If you don’t see any progress and leaves still seem trapped after a day or two, you may need to remove the shell to release the leaves contained inside. If leaves can’t break free and see the light, the seedling may die.

Close tweezers so they are as narrow as possible and put inside the crack. Then slowly allow tweezers to open, which will gently pry the shell apart.

I used to use my fingers to remove shells but it can be hard not to disturb the seedling. Then I learned that a pair of pointy tweezers can be inserted into the crack and allowed to gently open to pry the seed apart. Don’t tug or use any force whatsoever. Just gently and slowly release the leaves. The leaves may be stuck to the shell at first and it can take several seconds of gentle tugging for the leaves to slowly loosen and pull away from the shell. If you’re having trouble, add some water to the stuck part and wait a few minutes to help soften it up.

If the seedling leaves aren’t opening up because they’re stuck inside the seed membrane, wet the membrane and give it a few minutes soften up. Then use tweezers to gently remove the membrane. In some cases, it’s easier to stick the tweezers inside and pry the leaves apart just like with a shell.

If leaves are stuck inside the shell membrane for more than a day or two, do this: Wet the membrane, wait a few minutes, then use tweezers to gently pry it away from leaves.

Once you can see the two individual leaves are separated, you’re good to go!