What to Look for When Buying Cannabis and Hemp Seeds
Purchasing hemp and cannabis seeds is an exciting part of any planting endeavor. Cannabis and hemp is no exception, but it can sometimes be difficult to know which seeds to purchase.
When picking cannabis or hemp seeds, some important things to consider are:
- Is the seller reputable?
- What type of grow are you planning?
- How much room do you have to sow your seeds?
- Are you planning to use natural sunlight or lamps?
- Are you planning on growing indoor, outdoor or in a greenhouse?
- How much water is available?
- What is the quality of the soil you are planting in?
Ultimately, deciding the end product being produced is an empowering and memorable moment for any grower. Regardless of what species you choose there are a few things to take into consideration when purchasing cannabis and hemp seeds.
The first thing to consider when purchasing cannabis and hemp seeds is how long has the seller been in business?
Maybe the seller is new to the commercial market and has been growing for years. Possibilities like this allow buyers to get in on the ground floor of their first selling season.
Or, the seller has built a reputation. They are trusted by the majority of industry professionals for providing reliable seeds each year, and you know that doing business with them will result in a bountiful harvest.
No matter how long they have been in business, ensure that they are a reputable dealer. Be sure to do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions.
Here are some important questions to ask any seller before buying cannabis and hemp seeds:
- How were the seeds harvested? Is it conventional or organic?
- Do they breed their seeds in house?
- When were the seeds harvested?
- Does the seller have any customer reviews, referrals through blogs, reputable sites, or message boards?
- Where are they located?
Location matters. Not only for shipping cost, but location is also critical because certain areas impose strict regulations on farmers.
Regulations limit certain chemicals from being used, which is better for your seeds, your clients, and the planet. Although these regulations are good overall, sellers unfamiliar with local restrictions may not understand your needs. Remain mindful and remember to reach out to the seller before you buy. Ask any unanswered questions you have on specifics prior to purchase.
The next question every growers should ask is, what is the end goal of planting this crop?
Would you like to extract CBD or THC? Are you using stalks for biomass fibre? Maybe you want to harvest seeds for culinary endeavors or for resale.
Each of these unique goals require a specific species of cannabis bred for that goal.
For example, almost all industrial hemp seeds produce very little THC. If extracting THC for recreation is your goal, it is going to be almost impossible to do this with industrial hemp seeds.
Vice versa some THC dense strains of cannabis produce shorter & thinner stalks. This means that they would not be sought after for harvest hemp biomass fibre.
Be sure to do your research to confirm that the seeds you are purchasing will meet you end goals. Each seller should provide the specifics for each package of seeds they offer. If you are buying seeds through Kush, make sure to ask your seller what they have used these seeds for in the past.
Next, you’ll want to consider how much room you have available to sow your seeds.
I prefer to map out my planting plans by drawing a blueprint of where I am going to plant certain seeds. This process allows not only a physical reference for pre-planting prep, but a physical reminder of where each plant is located for the coming months.
This helps tremendously at the time of harvest. It allows everything to be documented by number or name. This ensures the exact location of each plant, no matter how many other things are on the harvest to-do list.
Natural Sunlight or Lamps?
If you are planting outside, select a space with full-sun.
If your plants are going indoors, ensure that your “grow room” has ample space for the plants to spread out. You also want to make sure you have a secure place to hang or mount your UV lamps.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have the ability to have full darkness as well. UV light plays a primary role in the bloom cycle for cannabis plants. When it comes time to set the plants in motion to bloom, any other light source can negatively affect their transition. The ability to have 100% darkness in the grow room is recommended.
[PRO TIP] If you must work in the grow room during the “night-cycle,” light from a green bulb emits a frequency that does not affect the plants negatively and allows for adequate visibility.
Indoor, Outdoor or Greenhouse?
While lighting is an important factor, there are many other things to consider when choosing seeds. Some of the things to consider when growing indoor cannabis or hemp are:
- Water distribution
- Pest control
- Temperature levels
- Potting soil rejuvenation
Growing outdoors the plants grow in their natural environment. Be sure to check the following:
- Soil pH
- Mineral levels
- Adequate drainage/irrigation
- Pest control
Pest control is more difficult when growing outdoors. Certain natural remedies can be used in the place of harsh chemicals to keep insects at bay.
Greenhouse grows split the difference between both mediums. Greenhouses allow for a more energy efficient environment, humidity control, natural light cycles, ease of harvest, pest protection, and, if large enough, could allow for a post harvest dry facility as well.
Cannabis and Hemp are drought tolerant plants once they get to a certain level of maturity.
Water should be easily accessible for a seamless growing season, but you won’t need to worry if you live in a drier climate.
Depending on the size of your crops you may need a simple watering pail from your local hardware store, or a fully functional mobile irrigation system.
Be mindful about the cost of water in your area as well as accessibility to the source.
Cannabis/Hemp prefers soil with a pH of 6.5-7 and adequate amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen. This can be achieved a number of ways, but here are a couple that I recommend.
Planting common buckwheat as a cover crop before you sow your first seeds will enrich the soil with phosphorus.
Alfalfa hay planted as a cover crop will increase the levels of nitrogen, naturally.
To benefit from a cover crop, you’ll need to do a few things.
First, plant the crop as the packaging suggests. Allow the crop to reach maturity, and before it “bolts” or begins to seed.
When ready, cut it or till it and allow it to break down into the soil. This will give you the full benefit of using each plant respectively for the health and rejuvenation of the soil.
Mineral supplements can be purchased from retailers, should you want to forgo growing a cover crop.
Premixed potting soil is another solution. Potting soil can be constructed by your local lawn care or landscaping company. Premade mixtures are also available from companies such as Kellogs for raised beds or potting applications.
A guide to buying cannabis seeds
The first couple months of the year is a great time to start planning your cannabis garden to get a head start on the outdoor growing season, which roughly runs from March to November, depending on where you live.
Navigating the cannabis seed market can be challenging when states have different degrees of legality. This guide will answer your questions on buying seeds so you can be on your way to growing your own cannabis.
Is it legal to buy marijuana seeds?
Marijuana seeds are considered a cannabis product just like flower, edibles, and concentrates. Their legality depends on which state you live in. People living in states with adult-use legalization can buy, produce, and sell seeds within their own state, but seeds can’t cross state lines. People living in states with medical marijuana legalization can only buy seeds if they have a medical card.
Seed banks exist outside of the US and can sell them for “souvenir purposes,” but it is illegal to bring seeds into the US and Customs will seize any cannabis seeds they find in packages or on a person.
Where can I buy cannabis seeds?
Many world-renowned seed banks are overseas in the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, and other countries where cannabis laws are less restricted. Seed banks provide seeds from a variety of different breeders.
In states with adult-use legalization or a medical marijuana program, you can buy seeds within your own state, either at a dispensary or through a specific seed company’s website.
Can you buy cannabis seeds online?
Before you purchase seeds online, you’ll need to figure out what strain you want to grow and what breeder you want to buy from.
Because US federal law still prohibits cannabis, it can be hard to find information on seed banks and breeders. Breeders who have a long history and positive reputation are usually a good place to start.
Check out our explainer and buying guide to cannabis seed banks for more info on buying seeds.
To get an idea of what well-established breeders look like, check out:
- Sensi Seeds
- DNA Genetics
- Green House Seeds
- Southern Humboldt Seed Collective
- Exotic Genetix
You can also do some research and find an online grow journal that details the whole growing process of a specific strain from a particular breeder. Through these, you’ll be able to look over another grower’s specific notes and see pictures of the final results.
If you grow some seeds and like the results, try growing another strain from that same breeder and see how it goes.
Do dispensaries sell cannabis seeds?
Some dispensaries in medical and adult-use states sell seeds, but not all. Be sure to check or call ahead to see if they sell seeds. Buying marijuana seeds at the dispensary is far more straightforward, however, your options will be more limited than shopping online.
Dispensary staff should be able to give you information on the seeds they’re selling, but keep in mind that a lot of dispensaries focus on selling flower and end-products. It’s a good idea to call ahead and talk to staff to see if they are knowledgeable about seeds and can give you specific information on growing.
How to look for quality genetics when buying marijuana seeds
Breeders talk about “unstable genetics,” meaning that a seed’s origin is unknown. Make sure that when you buy a packet of seeds that it or the breeder who produced them can list where the seeds came from and how they were crossed and/or backcrossed to get the seed that you hold in your hand. If you can’t get a seed’s history, it could be anything and the result of poor breeding practices.
An inexperienced breeder might cross a male and a female one time and sell the resulting seeds as a new hybrid strain, but professional breeders usually put their strains through several rounds of backcrossing to stabilize the genetics and ensure consistent plants that reflect those genetics.
Which strain should I grow?
Even one weed plant can produce a lot of buds come harvest time, so make sure you grow a strain you like. Note strains you enjoy when you pick something up at the dispensary or smoke with friends, and look for seeds of it when you want to start growing.
Some strains are easier to grow than others because they are more resistant to mold and pests, so if you’re new to growing, you may want to try an easier strain to start.
Some strains also take longer to grow than others. Depending on whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors, you may want to grow a quicker marijuana strain if you live in a climate that get cold and wet early in the season. For example, indicas are known for having a shorter flowering time than sativas.
All of this information should be available to you when buying quality seeds.
What’s the difference between regular, feminized, and autoflower seeds?
If you buy a packet of regular seeds, they’ll come with a mix of males and females. A lot of cultivators prefer to grow these because they haven’t been backcrossed—essentially inbred—as much as feminized or autoflower seeds. You’ll need to sex out the seeds once their reproductive organs show during the flowering phase and discard the males—because they don’t produce buds and will pollenate females, resulting in seeded flowers.
Seeds can come feminized, meaning you can just put them in soil and start growing for buds. These seeds are guaranteed to be bud-producing females and growing them cuts out the step of having to sex out plants and discard the males.
It also reduces the risk of having a stray male sneak into your crop—just one male can pollinate a huge crop, causing your females to focus their energies on producing seeds instead of buds.
Autoflower plants change from the vegetative to flowering state with age, not the changing of their light cycle. They have a short grow-to-harvest time and can be ready to harvest in as little as 2 ½ to 3 months from when you put the seeds in the ground. The downside is that, typically, they are less potent, but autoflower seeds are great for people who want to grow cannabis but don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it.
How much do marijuana seeds cost?
Cannabis seeds usually come in a pack of 10 or 12 seeds and start at around $40 a pack and go up from there. Some high-end genetics can run between $200 to $500 a pack.
Feminized and autoflower seeds will cost more because more breeding work was put in to creating them and they take less time for the grower to get buds.
How many seeds should I buy? Are they all going to survive?
When you grow any amount of seeds, a percentage of them won’t germinate, even if you get them from a reputable breeder. Always count on a few not germinating or dying off, or roughly 1/4 of the total you put in the ground.
When growing regular seeds, some won’t germinate and some will have to be discarded because they’ll turn out to be males. With feminized seeds, some won’t germinate, but a higher percentage of them will turn into flowering plants because there won’t be any males.
If you want six total cannabis plants to harvest for buds and are growing from regular seeds, start with about 4 times as many, or 24 seeds. Some won’t germinate and some will turn out to be males, and then you’ll want to discard down to the six best phenotypes. If growing feminized seeds, you can probably start with about twice as many seeds in this case (about 12); a couple won’t germinate, and then discard down to the six best phenotypes.
Make sure to always stay within your state’s legal limit of growing plants.
How do I buy strain-specific cannabis seeds?
Strains like Blue Dream, Gelato, and Original Glue have gained in popularity in recent years. Check out these resources on how to buy these types of cannabis seeds:
What to Look for When Buying Cannabis Seeds
I t’s not too early to start planning an outdoor garden. Aside from determining the layout, working the soil and gathering supplies, home growers should begin stocking up on seeds in preparation for early germination to ensure plentiful garden growth for a fraction of the cost of store-bought plants. The same can be said for growing cannabis from seed.
Benefits of Growing Cannabis From Seed
Though many indoor cultivators prefer to grow their cannabis from clones, opt to start from seed for many different reasons. One common reason is the seed’s ability to produce a “tap root” which anchors the plant in the soil. Clones are not able to produce tap roots (only fibrous root systems) and are therefore less sturdy and less capable of absorbing nutrients. Tap roots dig deep into the ground in search of water and nutrients, which is especially valuable in outdoor environments.
There is also a greater variety of seeds available (as opposed to clones) which is ideal for medical patients or anyone interested in a customized cannabinoid content. Online seed banks are known to sell seeds from many breeders and can often ship anywhere in the world, but often vary in quality and always come with the risk of confiscation (as it’s illegal to mail marijuana products to or within the U.S.). For those living in states where it is legal to cultivate cannabis , your best bet will be to purchase seeds from local, legal marijuana businesses.
Cannabis plants grown from seed also tend to experience less stress resulting in a higher yield, better resin production and an increased likelihood of survival. They are also less likely to experience transplant shock when transitioning from an indoor to an outdoor grow environment and better for breeding because of the chance of a male plant (if breeding is not an objective, male plants should be removed from the grow area as soon as possible).
Things to Consider When Buying Cannabis Seeds
Gardening requires a lot of planning and cannabis cultivation is no different. Some of the things to consider when choosing the best cannabis seeds include:
Distinguishing Cannabis Seed Quality
Leftover seeds from sacks gone by are very different from seeds in a seed bank or dispensary; they may be male or hermaphroditic, weak and unable to germinate or prone to stress and genetic disease – or they may not.
It is possible to determine the quality of cannabis seeds based on their appearance, however. For example, immature seeds (seeds that are small, brittle, shriveled and a light green or grey) and old seeds (seeds that are cracked and dry) have a low success rate for germination. These can be planted (and may even produce flowers) but should never be purchased.
Healthy seeds should be dark brown with a glossy finish and free from cracks. The shell should be very firm (it shouldn’t break under minor pressure) and stored in a cool, dark, air-tight container.
Feminized vs. Standard Seeds
Many cannabis seed distributors sell feminized seeds for a slightly higher price tag than standard seeds due to the effort involved in their production and the increased likelihood of producing a female plant. This is especially favorable for personal growers who are strictly limited on their plant count.
Want to grow your own cannabis? Click here to purchase seeds.
Feminized seeds are produced by either cross-breeding two female plants (one of which has been stressed to the point of becoming hermaphroditic) or forcing a single female to become stressed and pollinate herself. The results are an almost guaranteed female (otherwise hermie) plant every time.
Growing marijuana is not only an adventure, but an expression of our new-found freedom in the US. If you’ve been thinking about growing your own marijuana, consider starting with seeds for both stability and an awesome variety. Do you have any cannabis cultivation tips you’d like to share with us? Sound off in the comments below.
Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.