So, you’ve decided to grow your own marijuana from seed. How do you know if those little, round nuggets in your hand will grow up lush and produce beautiful, productive buds? How do you know if they are duds? While ultimately the genetics will determine the destiny of those little seeds, and proper care will help them to realize their full potential, there are some markers you can assess to see if what you have is quality seed, indeed.

What to look for in a cannabis seed

#1 Color

While all cannabis seed is not identical in color, there are some consistencies. Healthy, viable seed will be light to dark brown in color. Seed that is light green or even whitish in color is underdeveloped and should be tossed out. Healthy seed will also have a burled or turtle shell-like pattern on its seed coat.

#2 Sheen

A quality cannabis seed will have a waxy, protective coating. Seeds that appear dull are probably not as viable and should be avoided if given a choice.

#3 Shape

Quality cannabis seed will look like a plump teardrop. Flat or misshapen seeds will not likely produce quality plants.

#4 Texture

Quality seed will be firm. Cannabis seed should have a strong seed coat protecting the pre-emerged life inside. Any seed that is tender, pliable or squishy should not be planted; poor results will follow if attempted.

#5 Size

Size is relative, but if you are able to compare several seeds at once, the higher quality seeds are larger. When it comes to seeds, less is more. The fewer seeds that comprise any given amount, an ounce or a gram for example, is generally an indicator of higher quality seeds. The biggest seeds within a species generally have more energy stored within them and have a greater potential to mature into a productive plant. Note that indica strains tend to produce larger seeds than sativa strains so make sure the comparison is made among like seeds.

#6 Weight

Weight often goes hand-in-hand with size, but heavier seeds are generally of higher quality than lighter ones. The older a seed gets, the more potential loss of moisture and nutrients, reducing its overall weight. Damaged seed, which has been cracked can potentially lose those same necessary qualities.

#7 Float test

Quality seeds will sink in water. In glass or vessel, place room temperature water deep enough to full cover the volume of seeds to be tested. Place your seed or seeds in the water. After a couple of hours, anything still floating, should not be considered a quality seed. Soaking seeds will allow moisture to cross over the protective membrane and signal the seed that it is time to grow. As such this test should not be performed if the intent is to store the seeds after testing as it may render otherwise quality seed unviable if not meant to be immediately germinated afterwards.

#8 Storage

You may not have access to see or have verified information on the storage conditions of seeds, but if you can find this out, it is critical to maintaining quality seed. While cannabis seeds can be viable for over 10 years in some instances, the best seed in terms of productivity is not more than 12 to 18 months old. It should have been stored in dark, cool and dry conditions to prevent mold or the onset of any fungal issues. Storing in a freezer can prolong seeds as well, essentially suspending time.

#9 Age at harvest

This is another aspect you, the buyer may not be privy to. Quality seed is harvest when fully mature. If seed was collected before the plant was able to load as much stored energy into it as possible, then that seed will be starting out life in a deficit. Color, as referenced above can be an indicator of whether or not a seed was harvested at the appropriate time.

#10 Cost

You get what you pay for and cannabis seed is not exempt from this maxim. Quality seed is not cheap (at least when compared to other agricultural seed). This isn’t to say that inferior seed couldn’t be overpriced, but if you find cannabis seed proclaiming excellent genetics for sale at a price that seems too good to be true, caveat emptor.

This is not meant to be a definitive list, as new varieties of cannabis emerge on the scene all the time that may have “normal” traits that would otherwise be viewed as deficiencies in other strains. As always, do your homework, ask other growers who know and buy your seeds from a reputable source.