How to Germinate Your Cannabis Seeds

By Luis Cordova
Published: September 16, 2022 | Last updated: September 16, 2022 07:37:17
Key Takeaways

Some TLC at the seed stage will set you up for a great harvest. Luis Cordova shares his expertise to help get you started on the right track.

Germination is the development of seeds becoming sprouts. Sprouts are when the seeds crack open with a white tendril emerging. Many growers start from seeds because they want to breed, trial new strains, can’t access clones, pheno-hunt, or geno-hunt. In this article, I will cover some of the factors and different methods of seed germination.


Are These Seeds Viable?

Generally, non-viable seeds that are green, white, cracked, moldy, or very old will not germinate. Moldy seeds may still germinate if cleaned with a 10 percent bleach solution for 15-30 minutes, but success is limited. Some companies do produce white seeds that sprout quicker than others. Seeds that germinate well are viable seeds with dark black-brown streaks or tiger-striped. Typically, seeds that are plump and can’t collapse with minimal applied pressure are viable regardless of color.

How to Choose Seeds

Before buying seeds, look for trusted seed banks and read reviews of the cultivars. Not all seeds from the same cultivar or seed bank will be a perfect match. Base your cultivar choice on your environment, breeder location, CBD content, THC content, smell, and where you will be growing. For example, a seed developed in the Netherlands in a greenhouse may not be the best choice for an outdoor grow in the tropics. Sometimes the best alternative is to buy from breeders in your general area. Most growers may experience variability in cultivars the farther they move from their breeding location. When learning to germinate, start with cheap seeds.


Expensive seeds will work, but if you aren't sure what germination method works for you, save some money and future headaches. Here are the most often-used methods that are proven to give good results.

Germinating on Paper Towels or Cotton Pads

germinating seedsThis method requires a paper towel or cotton pads, a dish, and a plastic bag. Place a paper towel on a tray, then spray the paper with water, place the cannabis seeds on the moist paper towel, and fold it in half. Then place the tray into the plastic bag. Additionally, you may add rooting hormones or mycorrhiza. Seeds have everything they need to sprout and will not need any fertilizers. Leave the tray in the bag for up to two weeks. Check on them every couple of days for sprouts. Lightly wet the towel or cotton pads if they are dry.

When sprouts emerge, transfer them to starter soil. Seeds germinated in cold temperatures may need a heating pad or warm area to survive.


Benefits: easy to use, seeds can stay in the moist environment for weeks, germination rates are high depending on the seeds, and ensures optimal control of the environment.

Disadvantages: over-wetting of the seeds can occur, mold will rapidly spread, transferring seeds can cause breakage of the tendril, and tendrils can develop root rot.


Germinating Cannabis Seeds in Soil

cannabis seed in soilGrowing in soil is the most ancient and my favorite way of germinating seeds. Germinating seeds in soil is easy and requires minimal preparation. First, consider the starter soil type. Germination soil or starter soil needs little to no fertilizers. However, starter soils should utilize good organic worm castings. Worm castings will provide everything your sprout needs to grow for the first two weeks.

My starter soil recipe is topsoil, compost, worm castings, perlite, pumice, lava rock, fine coco coir, rice hulls, dolomite lime, and azomite. I also use a sprinkling of a mix of mycorrhizae and other beneficial microorganisms. However, a starter soil can be 45 percent peat moss, 45 percent perlite, and 10 percent compost. Mainly, a starter soil that drains well and has minimal nutrients is needed. Sprouting seeds only need watering once a week or two to three times per week for hot seasons. I use fresh homegrown aloe for every watering with a pH of 6.5 to stimulate root growth.

Alternative Germination Methods

seeds in stonewool cubesSo far, I have covered the most common germination methods, but there are more. Products like starter plugs or cubes are a good start for anyone. Starter plugs soak in water, swell up, a seed is then placed into the hole and pinched closed. Alternatively, seed soaking can be on fresh seeds, old seeds, and seeds with hard shells. Older seeds need soaking to wake them up and increase their germination rate. Seed soaking is when you add your seeds to a small cup of water for 15-18 hours but no longer than 24. This method works best when the seeds reach the bottom of the water. Using tissue paper to push the seeds down allows for even water absorption and increased germination.

Germination can also be performed on plant tissue culture gel and germinated in a controlled environment. These gels are a mix of hormones, growth regulators, and agar. Transferring of sprouting seeds can be on soil or multiplication gel. Multiplication gel will multiply the cannabis plantlet into many copies. Copies are transferred to rooting gel and eventually to a greenhouse.

Best Methods for Best Results

The method you choose should be one that you accomplish. Using different methods with cheaper seeds will help you figure out what works. Just remember to keep seeds viable in an airtight container, with minimal moisture, in a fridge or freezer. Growing cannabis isn’t tough but does require experimentation with methods. Hopefully you now have some insight to begin your own germination practices.


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Written by Luis Cordova | Plant Biotechnician, Pharmaceutical Scientist

Profile Picture of Luis Cordova

Luis holds a M.S. in Plant biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science. He is a long-time cannabis grower He has put his focus on breeding cannabis and development of organic soils for tropical regions. He loves how much the industry has grown and changed. He hopes to pass on new and old knowledge to all growers across the world.

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