How to germinate a weed seed with paper towels

How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds

Germination relates to the process of a new plant growing from a seed. It is the first step when adding to your cannabis garden. You can purchase the requisite seeds from a variety of sources. On the downside, it means that cannabis seeds vary enormously in quality. We recommend looking at reputable online seed banks to get your supply. However, please note that there are legal issues to contend with if you buy seeds. This is especially the case if you decide to buy them from a source outside the United States.

When buying seeds, opt for mature options with a dark brown appearance and a firm feel. Once you have them in your possession, make plenty of space for them to grow and thrive. Learning how to germinate weed seeds correctly is crucial to enjoying years of healthy plants and fruitful harvests. In this guide, we outline the ideal germination conditions and show you five different methods.

Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Seed Germination

In theory, germinating cannabis seeds is a simple affair. They only need three things: Air, water, and heat. The famed ‘paper towel’ method is incredibly easy as long as you follow the steps outlined below. Here is a quick overview of the best germination practices before we show you the various methods.

Water

Be careful not to over-soak your seeds. Hard seeds should be soaked for a maximum of 32 hours, although 24 hours is usually enough. Soaking too long can damage them. Marijuana seeds begin to sprout when they receive the twin signals of water and heat.

Once the right conditions occur, the taproot starts burrowing through the shell of the seed.

If the root breaks through the shell and there is no water, the seedling will die. Keep the roots moist once the seed sprouts, and make sure there is ample moisture at all times.

This is arguably the trickiest aspect of germination. You have to strike a balance between ‘warm’ and ‘hot.’ Spring temperatures are ideal in a ‘normal’ year. While cannabis seeds can germinate in colder weather, the process takes longer. Seedlings also germinate faster when there is plenty of humidity in the air. If you are concerned about low temperatures, invest in incandescent bulbs, and place them over the seed area.

First and foremost, seeds perform at their best when they are left alone! When you check them for the taproot, handle with care! Try to avoid touching the white taproot because it can easily break off.

Planting

You don’t have to plant germinated seeds too deep in the soil, or whatever growing medium you choose. 0.5” – 1” below the surface is plenty. Point the white root downwards into the earth to ensure the seedling is ideally oriented.

Are Your Seeds Good or Bad?

Always opt for dark cannabis seeds as they are the most likely to germinate when kept in the right conditions. White or pale-green seeds have little or no chance of growing.

You may have heard the age-old advice on checking for viable seeds. Apparently, if you can crush seeds between your fingers, they are ‘bad.’ First of all, they won’t be good seeds because you have destroyed them! Secondly, experienced growers know that even flimsy seeds can germinate when exposed to the right conditions.

How to Germinate Marijuana Seeds – 5 Methods

1 – The Paper Towel Method

This is the easiest method and requires cannabis seeds, paper towels, and two clean plates. A word of advice: Choose cheap paper towels because they are non-porous. As a result, you can lay seeds and roots on the surface and not worry about them getting stuck. If you use high-quality paper towels, the roots will grow into them!

It is a simple method, but also a risky one. You could damage the taproot while moving the sprouted seeds, or else the paper could dry out and kill the seeds. In any case, here is the process:

  1. Use up to four sheets of paper towel and soak them in distilled water. While you must soak the sheet, make sure there is no water dripping off.
  2. Place two of the paper sheets on one of the plates. Lay the seeds down at least 1” away from one another. Cover with the other two layers of paper towel.
  3. Cover the seeds with the second plate to lock in moisture. You have created a low-cost dome! Make sure you check the seeds often to see if they have sprouted.
  4. Keep the seeds in a room where the temperature is between 70- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Now you must wait! Seeds typically sprout within 1-4 days, although older seeds often take up to a week.
  6. When checking the seeds, make sure the sheets are saturated. If they are drying out, add more water.

You will know that germination has occurred because the seed will split, and a little root appears. Make sure you don’t touch the taproot when it sprouts or during the transplantation process.

EDITOR’S CHOICE – Homegrown CannabisCo

Homegrown CannabisCo are the masters when it comes to seeds. Offering a massive variety of cannabis seeds that are well categorized, not only does this company create a resource for superb quality options including feminized seeds, it also provides extensive growing information for those looking for some support along their journey.

2 – Direct Planting

In nature, a marijuana seed will germinate in the soil and emerge with its taproot growing into the earth. Therefore, you can plant cannabis seeds straight into your growing medium of choice. The main benefit here is that you don’t have to worry about ‘shocking’ the seedling while transporting it.

Your seedling should instantly adjust to the new environment and grow. When using this method, dig a hole 0.5” – 1” deep in soil that is moist but not saturated. Keep things warm with a heating pad or lighting.

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3 – Starter Cubes and Seedling Plugs

This has been championed as the easiest germination method. It is effectively a foolproof method. All you have to do is place the seed into the cube/plug and add water. Assuming you put the seeds in a room with the right temperature, germination should occur automatically within a few days. There is a pre-made hole for the seeds, so it is a ‘set it and forget it’ method.

The main downside with this germination method is that such plugs are generally available in packs of 50. Waste is inevitable if you only plan on planting a few cannabis seeds. The plugs dry out in a week or so and become unusable.

You can also use Rockwool cubes as they are cheap and easy to find. However, they are a terrible burden on the environment and bad for your health. Rockwool also has a high pH (which means you must rinse the cubes first) and offers a low cloning and germination success rate.

4 – Overnight Soaking

This is as simple as option #3. It involves nothing more than placing the seeds in a glass of lukewarm water overnight. It is a good idea if you’re using old and hard seeds. The soaking process can breathe new life into them. When you place the seeds in water, they float for a few hours before sinking to the bottom.

The soaking process can breathe new life into old seeds.

If you use a transparent container such as glass, you get to see the white taproot break out! You shouldn’t leave seeds soaking in water for more than 32 hours. Otherwise, seeds that haven’t sprouted yet will drown. If the seeds haven’t germinated by the 32-hour mark, put them in a warm and moist place to complete the process. You should probably use the paper towel method at this point.

5 – A Germination Station

You can purchase a readymade version online. Alternatively, attempt a DIY station by placing a plastic dome over a plate that you then add to a heating pad. Professionally made stations are relatively inexpensive and work rather well. You can buy one for under $40, and their plastic tops ensure better humidity control. With top brands, all you have to do is choose your growing media and plugs to start growing.

Transplanting Germinated Cannabis Seeds

There is no room for a delay once your cannabis seeds have begun to sprout. Now is the time to transfer the seed to its growing medium. Most growers prefer to use small pots, to begin with. Make sure you fill enough pots with loose potting soil and use a pencil to poke a hole around 0.25” deep. Remember, you could break the taproot very easily. Transfer it using tweezers and drop the seed into the hole with the root facing down. Finally, cover it with a thin layer of soil.

For the first few days, use a spray bottle to water the seeds, because adding too much water can drown them. It is worth investing in a pH meter to test the soil regularly and make sure it has enough moisture. If all goes well, the seed should sprout from the earth within a week. If it hasn’t sprouted within ten days, it will probably die.

Turn on your grow light once you have planted the seeds. The heat improves germination rates and speeds up the process of the seedlings opening their first set of leaves. These leaves will remain yellow until exposed to a sufficient level of light in any case. When you plant multiple seeds, you will find that they grow at different rates.

Inevitably, some will fail, while others will flourish. You will have seeds that pop fast and proliferate. Don’t be disappointed if you have a few failures because that’s part and parcel of the growing process. Even when you get everything right, you will inevitably lose a few seeds, and it won’t be your fault!

EDITOR’S CHOICE – Homegrown CannabisCo

Homegrown CannabisCo are the masters when it comes to seeds. Offering a massive variety of cannabis seeds that are well categorized, not only does this company create a resource for superb quality options including feminized seeds, it also provides extensive growing information for those looking for some support along their journey.

Germinate Seeds With the Paper Towel Method – How to Guide

Check out our beginner grower’s guide to learn how to germinate seeds with the paper towel method. Every cannabis plant starts off as a tiny seed with the potential to grow huge yields and bountiful buds. If you want to start your garden on the right foot, the germination phase is critical to its future growth.

What Is Germination?

Germination refers to the process in which the plant begins to grow from a seed. As the first stage of the growth cycle, germinating a seed requires a grower to create the perfect environment to get those seeds to break open and pop with a fresh and vigorous growth.

So, what is needed to get these seeds popping?

A seed requires plenty of moisture to absorb, increase in size, and gradually break out of the shell. You know you’ve done the germination process right when a seedling emerges from the hard seed shell. This growth will be the basis of the roots and the part of the seedling that absorbs nutrients from the growing medium.

Starting off with a high-quality seed is critical. Avoid seeds that feel fresh and soft and look green. Mature seeds have a hard outer shell. However, they can get too old and mishandled and won’t sprout as effectively. Before you get to the germination phase, it’s important to store your seeds in a dark, dry, and cool space.

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What Is the Paper Towel Method?

For seed germination, the paper towel method is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get your cannabis seeds to pop. Essentially, you’re germinating seeds between two damp paper towels and a couple of plates, which are used to create a contained and dark environment for a few days. During this time, the seeds will begin to sprout, if done correctly.

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.

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.

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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!