Cannabis seeds are ready to plant and grow once they successfully germinate or once the root has broken through the protective outer shell of the seed. Cannabis seeds are available in regular, feminized, and auto-flowering forms. Home growers of cannabis often choose feminized seeds to ensure that the adult plant will be a flowering female.
Cannabis seeds are brown and about the size of a peppercorn. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
More about marijuana seeds
As with all angiosperms, or flowering plants, cannabis produces seeds that contain all of the genetic information needed for growth and reproduction. When a seed is planted, the translation of this genetic material dictates each unique physical characteristic the mature plant will have. If these are desirable traits, like potency, smell, vigor, etc., a breeder can select for these through a long process of genetic stabilization through generations, which eventually leads to the creation of a cultivar, or strain.
Anatomy of a cannabis seed
Cannabis seeds are about the size of a peppercorn, ovular in form, and pointed on each end with a ridge that transverses longitudinally on only one side from tip to tip. It is this ridge that opens up during germination. The opposite side is rounded. The body of the seed is brown, but underdeveloped and unfertilized seeds can have an off-white color and are typically smaller in size.
Photo by: Illustration by Weedmaps
The body of a marijuana seed is spotted or striped, most commonly with light brown specks, but some varieties of cannabis can have red or yellow markings. Plant embryos are contained within seeds and house all cells that will eventually differentiate into leaves, roots, and stems. Embryos, found within the reproductive organs, are protected by an outer envelope called the pericarp. Crucial components of the plant embryo are the cotyledons, the first leaves to appear from the seed, and the radicle, which develops into the primary root. Once the seed germinates and begins its growth into a mature plant, special structures called root caps protect the growing tips of the plant.
Today’s commercially cultivated cannabis does not contain seeds. The cultivation practices that have made this widespread are rooted in fundamental biological concepts. Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning it has separate male and female organisms, just like humans. If a female plant matures in the presence of a male plant, pollen from the male will fertilize the female, and its bracts will contain seeds at the end of the flowering cycle. Seedless cannabis is commonplace even when it originates from mass-produced outdoor cultivation, but not too long ago, this was not the case.
Around the middle of the 20th century, growers discovered that culling male plants as soon as they display their sexed traits would result in a crop containing exclusively unfertilized females, yielding cannabis flowers higher in THC that don’t require the removal of seeds before smoking. This seedless cannabis was from then on dubbed sinsemilla, which translates to “without seed” in Spanish. It is also commonly spelled sensimilla.
How cannabis seeds are produced
Commercial growers who produce cannabis flower desire seedless plants but there are also cultivators interested in selling seed to the growing home-cultivation market. Cannabis seed production begins with the pollen grain of a male plant. From this grain, a pollen tube grows, producing male generative cells that disperse in the form of pollen. The migration of pollen into a female plant ovule triggers pistils to fall off and seed production to begin. The bracts, which contain the ovule, will then fill with seeds. Since seeded plants are a natural outcome of pollen fertilizing eggs, producing cannabis seeds is a matter of letting nature take its course.
What’s the difference between feminized, regular, and autoflower seeds?
There are a few differences to note between these cannabis seed types.
- Feminized seeds: The key difference between feminized cannabis seeds and regular cannabis seeds is that feminized seeds have been engineered to produce exclusively female plants. This matters for cultivation since smokable flowers are produced only by female plants. A male plant can potentially ruin a harvest if it pollinates nearby female plants, causing them to produce flowers full of seeds.
- Autoflowering seeds: Autoflowering seeds have been carefully bred to begin and complete the flowering process based on the plant’s maturity rather than how much light the plant receives each day. Autoflowering seeds tend to be simpler to grow and don’t require as much light, making them perfect for places where the growing season is short or for indoor grows.
Is it illegal to buy marijuana seeds?
Marijuana seeds are a cannabis product, so if you live in a place where cannabis is illegal, then seeds are also illegal. However, some people who live in places where weed is not yet legal purchase marijuana seeds from marijuana seed banks as a “souvenir.” Either way, if you want to buy marijuana seeds and cannabis is illegal where you live, then you face some degree of risk. On the other hand, if you live in a state where cannabis is legal, especially one where home cultivation is allowed, then you should be able to purchase seeds legally. Remember, even in states where cannabis is legal, it’s still illegal nationally in the US. To cut your risk as much as possible, purchase cannabis seeds from in-state or local providers so they don’t have to cross state lines or be transported by mail.
Where to buy marijuana seeds
Seeds are sold in brick-and-mortar locations legally in many countries across Europe and are often traded online. As cannabis legalization expands in North America, more retail locations are carrying seeds as well. Feminized seeds are the most popular, but providers likely have access to many strains of mixed male and female seeds. Carefully sifting through cannabis flower before using the grinder will usually turn up a few seeds, too. Professionally sourced seeds assure quality genetics and viability, but saved seeds can be a cheap source of cannabis genetics for the hobbyist grower.
Do dispensaries sell seeds?
If you live in a state or country where cannabis is legal, and where individuals are allowed to grow their own plants at home, then you should be able to buy seeds at most legal dispensaries. This might not be the case if you’re in a location that does not allow home growing. The best thing to do is simply check your local laws and ask your local budtender.
How much do marijuana seeds cost?
A pack of marijuana seeds—typically containing around ten or so seeds—will run you anywhere from around $40 on the low end and as much as $400 or $500 on the upper end. The price of marijuana seeds depends on a number of variables including:
- Quality of genetics
- The reputation of the breeder who produced the seeds
- How rare or potent the strain is
- Whether they’re regular, feminized, or autoflowering (feminized and autoflowering marijuana seeds tend to cost more)
How many seeds should I buy?
If you’re trying to grow just a handful of plants for your own private consumption, then you can get away with purchasing one or two packs at a time. Since most commercially sold marijuana seeds come in packages of 10 or so seeds, 10 to 20 seeds should be enough to ensure a good harvest even if a few seeds fail. This is a baseline for a small, private crop andany larger operations should scale up accordingly.
How to store cannabis seeds
Seed providers sometimes vacuum-seal and freeze seeds for long-term storage, but commercially-available seeds in Dutch headshops are sold in small, plastic vials at room temperature and low humidity (6-12%).
Humidity and light is the main enemy of seed storage. Beyond that, seeds can remain viable for up to two years when stored in even the most haphazard conditions. Marijuana seeds swept up off the floor or found in the bottom of a drawer have been known to grow into vigorous young plants.
Germinating cannabis seeds
Germination is the process of beginning the vegetative growth of the new cannabis plant. Sometimes referred to colloquially as “popping,” this process starts when the seed is exposed to water and light. The seed abandons its state of dormancy, or quiescence, and resumes essential metabolic processes that feed on energy stores to delicately rupture open the shell and grow its first root. This root will elongate until it has taken hold of the medium, after which it will pull two small embryonic leaves (cotyledons) from the seed shell. Cotyledons are in the seed before germination and are not considered “true” leaves. The cotyledons will grow until they are about one centimeter long, and once the stem below this is around five centimeters tall, another set up true leaves will grow out of the top and the stem between the true leaves and cotyledons will continue to elongate.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Generally speaking, cannabis is a hardy plant that will grow and even thrive in a diversity of environments. However, to assure germination, several steps can be taken. One method calls for a moist paper towel inserted into a plastic bag. Once the first root appears, the seedling must be carefully transferred to some soil before the root takes hold to the paper towel.
Cannabis seeds can also be germinated in a peat pellet. Plant the seed only just below the surface. Once the seedling has taken hold in the pellet, directly transfer it to a pot; the roots will grow right through the soft fabric that encases the peat, at which point the pellet can be directly placed into soil. Whichever method is used, keep the temperature between 70 -90 degrees Fahrenheit (21-32 degrees Celsius), ideally at 78 degrees Fahrenheit (about 26 degrees Celsius), keeping seedlings covered to maintain humidity. Seedlings and young cuttings require photosynthetically active radiation that is more heavily weighted in the blue portion spectrum; a common fluorescent desk lamp will suffice until they are about 5 inches, or about 13 centimeters, tall.
I have an indoor growroom and in my recent harvest I found seeds in the buds, but I’m sure there are no male plants in the room. I’ve heard that light leakage can cause plants to become hermaphrodites. Is this true, and if so, do you have any tips for avoiding this?
Cannabis plants are monecious. This means they have the ability to be either male or female. Or in the case of hermaphroditism, they can be both. The reason to make sure there are no males or hermaphrodites in your garden is because male flowers make pollen. When pollen touches the white hairs on a flower, it makes a seed, and seeded weed gives you headaches. Even though there are reasons in nature hermaphroditism could be important, such as continuing the species in case there is no male present, hermaphroditism is generally a bad thing when talking about cannabis plants.
Light poisoning is the most common cause for a normal plant to hermaphrodite.
Light poisoning refers to the flowering night cycle of a plant being unnaturally interrupted with light. The best way to prevent this is to close yourself inside your darkened room during the daylight, and then after allowing a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, check for any light leaks from covered windows, door jams, etc. Also cover all timer and appliance lights with tape.
Negative stressors can combine with small interruptions of the light cycle to cause hermaphroditism, especially with less-stable, clone-only hybridized strains. When the night cycle is abnormally interrupted, it sends a mixed hormonal signal to the plant. This can cause a full female plant to throw some male flowers. Male flowers are easy to identify, especially when side by side with female flowers. Male flowers look like small bunches of bananas, which will take a week or two to swell before they burst and release their pollen.
Finding a hermaphrodite in your growroom can happen at any stage of the flowering cycle and is indicated by the presence of male flowers growing on the same plant as female flowers. As with all species in nature this can occur in varying degrees. A plant can become slightly or majorly hermaphroditic. In cases where singular male flowers are found between the branch and stalk nodes, you should be diligently removing them as they grow. You must re-inspect the plant top to bottom every few days to be sure pollination and seeding doesn’t occur. If you find male flowers (anthers) actually growing from within the female flowers (buds) the situation is a little more dire. You can still remove all the male anatomy as it appears, but it will be harder to find and much more prevalent. This is a horrible discovery that leads to a tough decision: Should you let the plant live and risk the whole crop being ruined by seeds?
In either case, once hermaphroditism has compromised the safety and purity of your sensimilla, the plant should not be propagated further. Remember, once a hermy, always a hermy. The plant pictured here is in the tenth and what should have been the final week of ripening, but a timer failed and one light stayed on continuously for almost two weeks, causing this vegetative regrowth. Because the light was continuous, the plant made no pollen. This method of re-vegging can be used to save a flowering plant you have no copies of, but be careful, as this may cause some strains to hermaphrodite.
Purposefully causing a plant to hermaphrodite is called selfing. Gibberellic acid or colloidal silver is typically sprayed onto the female plant. This technique is used to make feminized seeds and uses the plant’s ability to be both male and female to force a female plant to produce male flowers. The pollen contained in these male flowers can only produce female seeds. Just keep in mind that feminized plants should not be used for breeding, as they were produced without a true male, making them genetically inferior.