Jorge’s Cannabis Encyclopedia: Seed Germination
Cannabis seeds need only water, heat, and air to break dormancy and germinate; they do not need extra hormones, fertilizers, or additives. Seeds sprout without light in a range of temperatures. Strong, viable, properly nurtured seeds germinate in 2 to 7 days. At germination, the outside protective shell of the seed splits, and a tiny, white sprout (radicle) pops out. This sprout is the root, or taproot. Cotyledon, or seed, leaves emerge on a stem from within the shell as they push upward in search of light.
Break dormancy: Put newly harvested seeds in the refrigerator for a week or two to simulate winter. Remove and germinate. Seeds will germinate more uniformly because they all come out of dormancy at the same time.
Timeline for Germinating Most Seeds:
At 36 to 96 hours – Water is absorbed, root tip (radicle) pops through outer shell and is visible.
At 10 to 14 days – First roots and root hairs become visible.
At 21 to 30 days – At least half of seeds are rooted by day 21. Seeds not rooted by day 30 will probably grow slowly.
Once seeds are rooted, cell growth accelerates; stem, foliage, and roots develop quickly. Seedlings develop into full vegetative growth within 4 to 6 weeks of germination.
Seeds are Prompted to Germinate By:
Water: Soaking seeds in water allows moisture to penetrate the protective seed shell within minutes. Once inside, moisture continues to wick in to activate the dominant hormones. In a few days, hormones activate and send enough signals to pro- duce an initial root tip. The white radicle (rootlet) emerges to bring a new plant into the world. Once a seed is moist, it must receive a constant flow of moisture to transport nutrients, hormones, and water so that it can carry on life processes. Some seeds need lots of moisture to wash out the dormancy hormones in the seed coat, and if they do not get enough moisture, they do not germinate. Conversely, too much water deprives the seed of oxygen, reducing its quality or destroying it. If fragile germinated seeds are allowed to suffer moisture stress now, seedling growth will be stunted. Soaking most seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours is all they need to initiate germination. All the nourishment for a seed’s initial growth requirement is pulled from the fleshy cotyledons, or seed leaves. Water seedlings with low-EC (electrical conductivity) household tap water during the first week or two of life. Supple- mental nutrients are unnecessary and if applied in excess can disrupt internal seed chemistry. Some gardeners prefer to germinate seeds using distilled or purified water that contains virtually no dissolved solids.
Temperature: Overall, cannabis seeds germinate in temperatures from 70°F–90°F (21°C–32°C) and grow best at 78°F (26°C). Temperatures below 70°F (21°C) and above 90°F (32°C) impair germination. Low temperatures delay germination. High temperatures upset seed chemistry causing poor germination. Seeds germinate best under the native conditions and temperature ranges where they were grown.
Air & Oxygen: Sow seeds twice as deep as the width of the seed. For example, 0.125-inch (3 mm) seeds should be planted 0.25 inches (6 mm) deep. Adequate oxygen is un- available for seeds planted too deeply, and tender seedlings have insufficient stored energy to drive through deep layers of soil or crusty hard soil when sprouting.
Agricultural Astrology — Planting by the Moon
Ancient Babylonians and Egyptians planted and harvested based on moon phases in relation to geographic location. The premise is that plants grow better when planted during the appropriate moon phase.
Moon phases cause ocean tides to rise and fall. They also affect the rise and fall of moisture in soil and fluids inside plants. The moon phase influence is said to be the same indoors, outdoors, and in greenhouse-grown cannabis.
Cannabis gardeners who plant by the moon report faster-sprouting seeds that grow into vigorous plants. However, scientific evidence is lacking in regard to cannabis and other plants’ relationship with agricultural astrology.
Seeds need oxygen from the air to germinate. Growing mediums that are too moist (soggy) will cut off oxygen supplies and the seeds will literally drown. Cannabis seeds germinate best when moisture is between 60 and 70 percent.
How to germinate cannabis seeds
So, you’ve decided to grow your own cannabis plants. You purchased a pack of seeds, assembled cultivation materials, cleared a space in your garden, and are ready to grow your first cannabis crop . With everything in hand, it’s time to begin the very first step of cannabis cultivation : germinating seeds.
What is germination?
Germination is the first stage of the cannabis growth cycle : the process that brings a cannabis seed out of its hibernation period and starts the cannabis growth process. After all, seeds in a bag don’t spontaneously start developing roots. Also known as “popping” seeds, seed germination begins when a seed receives environmental cues letting it know the setting is perfect to start growth.
Germination is the process that brings a cannabis seed out of its hibernation period and starts the cannabis growth process. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
When a seed enters an environment with enough moisture, it will increase in size and slowly break out of its shell. A seedling or germ forms from which roots will emerge, helping the baby plant absorb nutrients from the soil. Seeds naturally develop roots facing down and stems stretching upward, allowing the young cannabis plant to simultaneously feed off light and earth.
It’s essential to acquire high-quality cannabis seeds for germination, as these will go on to become high-quality cannabis plants. Seeds that are fresh-feeling or too green indicate that they haven’t reached full maturity, while pale-green, white, or very dark cannabis seeds may have trouble sprouting. However, it’s tricky to know the outcome of a popped seed, so trying may be worthwhile. If you’re not ready to pop your seeds yet, store them in a dark, cool place until it’s time for germination.
Preparing to germinate cannabis seeds
Germination itself is a crucial aspect of cannabis cultivation. The seed germination process is the foundation of every marijuana plant, and steps can be taken to boost successful popping. For example, some cultivators improve germination attempts by soaking seeds in 1% hydrogen peroxide or a compost tea for 12 hours beforehand to kill any dangerous pests.
The environment in which seeds germinate also plays a role in the outcome. While there are several different germination methods, each requires proper moisture, minimal handling, and warm springtime temperatures between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to germinate cannabis seeds
The best germination method depends on the cultivator’s choice. Here are some of the most common ways to pop your cannabis seeds.
How to germinate seeds in soil
Soil is an easy, more natural method with which to germinate your cannabis seeds. The soil protects the fragile roots from any interference, and soil is, after all, where a cannabis plant would grow in the wild.
Soil is an easy, more natural method with which to germinate your cannabis seeds because the soil protects the fragile roots from any interference. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
First, make sure you use the correct type of soil, either gently fertilized potting soil or a seed starter with a pH level of approximately six (6). The soil contains the right acidity and enough nutrients to strengthen your young cannabis plants for the first two weeks. Be careful not to add more nutrients, or you risk overfeeding and killing your seeds.
Place the soil in a small pot and use your finger or a pencil to push a small hole in the dirt, a bit more than half an inch deep. Insert the seed into the hole and bury it with soil. From this point on, don’t touch your seed. The young plant is fragile and knows how to position itself in the soil bed.
Gently water the soil with a spray bottle and situate your pots under a fluorescent lamp. Keep seeds away from the windowsill, as the temperature is too volatile for germination. In general, you’ll want to keep the temperature in the range of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Monitor your soil every day and keep it moist. Within four to seven days, you should see tiny stems sprouting from the soil.
When the seedling stems reach two to four inches in height, it’s time to transplant your cannabis into larger pots with more room for roots to spread down and out. After you’ve done this, you’ve successfully germinated your cannabis seeds into proper, young plants.
How to germinate seeds in water
You can also germinate your seeds by placing them in water. It’s slightly faster than the soil method, but you need to adjust your environmental factors accordingly. Remember, successfully germinating seeds requires a perfect balance of ideal growing conditions. When germinating in water, seeds need only 24-48 hours to pop their stems, though cultivators can keep them soaking for up to a week as needed. Water germination is faster because the seed gets all the moisture it needs immediately, and the shell softens and cracks more easily after soaking.
To employ water germination, fill a glass with tap water and let it sit until it reaches room temperature or around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Add two to three plant seeds per cup and allow them to sit, watching for any changes. Change the water to fresh tap water every two days, making sure it stays at room temperature.
The seeds should start sprouting in about two days, though older seeds can take up to a week to sprout. You can remove them from the water and place them in the soil at any point once they’ve sprouted. Once the roots are about five millimeters long, they need to be planted.
The downside of water germination is that once they’ve popped, you’ll need to maneuver them into their growing medium manually. This is a delicate process, as germinating seeds are extra fragile, and any harm risks the development of your plants. Make sure to place the seed roots down in the soil when you transfer to a pot.
How to germinate seeds using paper towels
The paper towel method is also a common way cultivators pop their seeds. Some even use this method with cotton pads instead of paper towels, but the necessary steps are the same.
To germinate seeds this way, lay one paper towel on top of a countertop, place a few seeds, and cover them with a second paper towel.
Lay one paper towel on top of a countertop, place a few seeds, and cover them with a second paper towel. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Use a spray bottle to moisten the paper towels and then store the cushioned seeds between two plates, under a face-down bowl, or gently place them in a plastic bag. Maintain a temperature of about 72 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping the paper towel wrapped seeds in the dark and away from a windowsill. In two to five days, the seeds will pop inside the paper towel sandwich and emit tiny roots, ready to plant when they reach about five millimeters in length.
Use a spray bottle to moisten the paper towels and then store the cushioned seeds between two plates, under a face-down bowl, or gently place them in a plastic bag. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The paper towel method also has its risk, as the fragile seedlings can be damaged during the potting process. The tiny roots can also get tangled in the paper towels, so make sure to move the seeds to potting soil before roots grow too long. Use your hands or tweezers to gently remove each seed from the paper towels and place them in a prepared growing medium.
How do you germinate seeds indoors?
Whether you’re planning an indoor cultivation or outdoor grow, it’s best to germinate your seeds indoors. It’s easier to maintain proper temperature, light exposure, and moisture inside, and you can protect your seeds from the elements. Indoor germination, whether using soil or paper towels, will ensure your cannabis seeds have the best chance for survival.
To germinate seeds indoors, use any of the methods described above. Within a few days, you’ll have popped seeds ready to transfer to a growing medium.
Do you need to germinate seeds before planting?
While many plants can be germinated in the ground, cannabis seeds are fragile enough that you should germinate them before planting.
Once your seeds have sprouted roots, they should be planted in soil, a soil-less medium, or in your hydroponic setup. Make sure not touch the root, caring for and navigating the seedling so that the roots face downward. Plant the seed about one inch deep in your growing medium, cover lightly, and allow for about a week for the seed to emerge from the soil. If the seed hasn’t poked through by day ten, it likely didn’t survive.