Learn how to grow the best indoor plants from seed to harvest with this complete, in-depth guide. Read now. Find out how to tell if a weed seed is good by looking at visual characteristics. Learn ways to determine if a seed is viable and discover where to get them. How do I germinate marijuana seeds? Cannabis germination is the process of getting your seeds to sprout, and you know sprouting has occurred when a little white tendril pops out of the seed.
Complete Beginner’s Guide to Growing the Best Plants from Seed to Harvest
Want to grow plants at home? Wondering how to get started or what equipment you might need? Not sure you’ve got enough space or whether it’s going to be cost-effective? Whatever your question, in this step by step grower’s guide we’ve got you covered. Think of this as Cannabis Growing 101. You’re about to start learning, step by step, how to grow your first crop of lush, green marijuana.
The First Step: Choosing The Right Seed
True, there is another way to get started, by taking a cutting from an existing plant and cloning it… However, for beginners, we’d recommend growing from seed. Germination rate is 85% or above, whereas the success rate for growing cloned plants is around 50%. And you need to have access to a plant to take the cutting from, which isn’t going to be the case for most beginners.
How to Choose Cannabis Seed
The seed is like a sleeping embryo, the result of sexual propagation between male and female flowers. Only healthy parent plants will produce healthy top quality seeds. All the features of the plant, be it the height, color, aroma or quality, all depend on the seed. If you want good quality marijuana, you need good quality seeds. Check this well-known site that offers a wide variety. But how do you select a seed worth growing? Avoid pale seeds, green seeds, and soft or damaged seeds. These are not mature or ready for germination. Cannabis seeds should have a hard outer shell. So what you’re looking for is hard, dark brown teardrop-shaped seeds, with darker tiger stripes (these are usually Indica seeds) or brown, black or tan mottling (usually Sativa). There are numerous strains of seed available. But whatever the strain, you’ll also need to choose between regular seeds that could produce male or female plants and feminized seeds that should produce only the bud-producing female plants you’re aiming to harvest. However, with feminized seeds, there’s still about a 5% chance of hermaphrodite plants, which produce both male and female flowers and self-pollinate. (You can also check out this beginner’s guide to choosing your first seeds.)
Germination of Cannabis Seeds
After selecting the right seed, the next step is germination. https://youtu.be/x4Eg7qw0x2U Germination is a process in which the outer shell of a healthy and mature seed, kept in the correct environmental conditions (moisture, air and warmth), breaks down and a white colored root begins to sprout from it, dropping downward. Here’s what you need to learn: only 2 or 3 out of 10 non-feminized seeds will become healthy female marijuana plants, others may spoil or grow as male plants. So take that into account when deciding how many seeds to germinate. The average time, a healthy seed takes to germinate is about 2 to 7 days, but the period may vary depending on quality of seed, temperature, moisture, etc. After the germination process, you’ll be looking to remove all the male or less developed sprouts and focus on raising the healthy female marijuana plants. (More on that later.) If you don’t have as many female plants as you’d like, you may want to begin another germination process as soon as possible. Our advice is also to germinate in the hot months for more effective results. A growing/grower mat can help germination too, but is an extra expense. Once the seed has germinated, the white colored, root-shaped sprout should grow longer and longer. When the size reaches about a quarter inch it’s the perfect time to transfer it to another medium such as rockwool tray or any other pot where it has space to become a baby plant. From there, it will eventually be transferred into the garden or a hydroponic system.
How to Germinate a Cannabis Seed
There are many techniques to start germination. But one good tip for the beginner is to practice them on other common seeds first, rather than waste expensive marijuana seeds. The different techniques for germinating seed are as follows:
This is the most reliable technique of germinating marijuana or any other seed. In this method you need a normal coffee cup filled with warm water. Put the seeds into the warm water. If some seeds float to the top, remove them. The next step is to cover the cup with a lid so that light is unable to reach inside. Expect the seeds to germinate in the following 48 hours or so. Some seeds will even begin to sprout within 24 hours.
Germination in Soil
Some farmers prefer to germinate in the soil. This method is also easy and it really works. You need to take a pot filled with soil, pour water in it and let it drain from the hole at the bottom of the pot. Dig a little soil from its surface and push a pencil or any other pointed tool down about a quarter inch deep. Now put the seed in and then fill up the space with the soil you dug from the surface. Spray water and keep it moist until you find a small sprout coming up from the soil. Remember that it will require a normal room temperature to germinate in soil, which is around 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, with this method seeds take 5 to 7 days to germinate.
Propagation kits are inexpensive and give good results. They will come with their own instructions, but generally you have to pour the seeds into tiny pots or compartments, add the germination hormone or nutrient mix that comes with the kit, and the process gets started. You can even create your own propagation machine, although purchasing it from market doesn’t cost you much.
Paper Towel Method
Two dishes, two paper towels and some water is needed for this method of germination. You have to boil some water, rinse both the dishes with it so that there are no germs left. Now soak the paper towels in the hot water and squeeze them so that they become damp and warm. Place one paper towel on a dish, put some seeds on it, cover them with another paper towel and then use the second dish as a lid. This is necessary to prevent light entering this environment. Seeds will take 2 to 5 days to germinate through this method. Remember that you don’t want to leave the germinated seeds on towel for too long. Transfer them from the paper towel as soon as the sprouts show their tips.
Germinating in Peat Briquettes
Soak a peat briquette in water and let it swell. Now push a seed into the hole. Keep it in a hot temperature, like in 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep it moist and wait for the sprouts to come out. This is the safest and most reliable method of germinating a marijuana seed. Note that you can select any of the above mentioned methods of germinating seed. Go with whichever suits you the best.
Once you see that the sprout is a quarter inch long then it’s time to replant it in a pot, where it will grow up to become a small marijuana plant. A marijuana seedling is basically a pair of two leaves that is generally called a ‘seedling leaf’ or ‘cotyledon’. The function of the cotyledon is initially to store the food and make the up-coming plant healthy. When the real leaves arrive, the cotyledon gets paler, yellow and then drops down. Real leaves at this stage of marijuana plant growth have 3 lamina. At this early stage, a baby plant needs intense care. Don’t water the plant too much—big mistake. Also pay attention to the amount of light it’s getting. If you’re a newbie grower, it’s worth noting here that the growth of plant appears slow at this stage. But in fact what’s happening is that the root system is developing. So do not over-fertilize or over-water the plant to increase its growth rate. It can kill your plant. Remember also that the marijuana seedling requires approximately 16 hours of light on a daily basis. Set your light to 15/30/30 (15% red, 30% blue, 30% white).
Whether you have your seedling process in a rockwool tray or in a pot, now is the time to transplant those seedlings into the garden or hydroponic system, where they will start to really grow and produce the material for some top quality weed. When transplanting the seedling, you should dig a hole in the soil and place the seedling carefully inside. You can drop the seedling in along with the rockwool tube, don’t worry. It won’t affect the growth of the plant in any manner, and removing it could damage the roots.
What You’ll Need to Monitor During Growing
Now that your plants are growing and becoming a strong crop, you need to be careful with a few things. First and foremost, keep an eye on nutrient deficiency or excess. Both can have similar symptoms. But in general, look out for: lightening then yellowing in older mature leaves; spots of different kinds; various sorts of discoloration. The 3rd to 5th week can be the best time to determine whether your plant is growing healthily or not. If the color of the plant is perfect green, branches are strong and dense and everything looks fine during this period then you should be satisfied that it is growing the right way. Sometimes it appears that the stems of the plant in its early days are purple in color. Don’t worry. it’s a normal thing. It happens just because of genetics and nothing else.
Low nitrogen level is good for female plants, while high nitrogen levels produce and nourish male plants efficiently. Too low and you’ll see lightening and yellowing of the leaves. Moreover, keep the potassium level low for encouraging the growth of female plants and vice versa for male plants. Too low and you’ll see a brown burnt-look to the tips and edge of the leaves, turning yellow further into the leaf. A general excess of nutrients—usually known as “nutrient burn”—is diagnosable by yellow or brown tips to the leaves. If nutrient levels aren’t reduced, you’ll see the discoloration travel further into the leaf and the tips will start to curl and become brittle. However, don’t worry too much when you see initial signs in young plants, as the more they grow the more nutrients they need. The soil might be too rich for them now, but when they’re a bit larger it will likely be ideal. Try to keep control over humidity and temperature if you are growing plants indoors. High humidity helps in increasing the growth rate of female plants, while low humidity is good for the growth of male. Likewise with the temperature: low temperature is helpful for female plants’ growth, while high temperature is good for male plants.
Temperature and humidity levels for female plants at different growing stages:
- Seedlings: 20-25ºC with lights on, 4-5º lower with lights off; 60-70% humidity.
- Vegetative: 22-28ºC; 40-70%.
- Flowering: 20-26ºC; below 55%.
- Late flowering (1-2 weeks before harvesting): 18-24ºC, 5-10º lower with lights off; 30-40%.
Recommended light settings for indoor cannabis at each growing stage
- Seedlings: 15/30/30 (15% red, 30% blue, 30% white). Once seedling has leaves and has been above ground a week, 30/60/60.
- Vegetative: 30/60/60, 45/80/80 or 60/100/100 (depending on plant type, check recommendations when buying the seeds).
- Flowering: 100/100/100.
- Late flowering: 100/70/100.
N.B. These are the settings recommended by Kind LED. Their LED Grow Lights (some of the best on the market) allow setting red, blue and white levels individually.
How to Grow Seedlings into Mature Marijuana Plants
Now you are going to learn the most important things you need to know to become a perfectionist marijuana grower. It’s up to you which method and medium you select to grow your indoor marijuana. The topics we’re going to cover in this chapter include:
- Growing with Soil Using Germination Process
- Growing by Cloning Process
- Growing Hydroponically
We recommend first-time growers go with the most reliable means of cultivation, which is soil. The reason is simply that it is a cost-effective method and has fewer risks, compared to other methods. However, we’ll give you the step by step guide for all three of these cannabis growing methods, so that you have a proper idea of what method suits you the most and why.
Growing with Soil Using Germination Process
We’ve already covered why growing marijuana with soil is the best method for beginners. It is cost effective, fruitful and reliable. If you’re not interested in turning this growing thing into a large business, then you may choose to grow in the containers. For the beginners, growing in containers is easy to handle and has less chance of failure.
Growing in Containers
Growing in containers, you have a chance to look after each and every plant individually. This allows you to identify weak or poor quality marijuana plants early. A container can be of any sort including a pot, small bucket, wooden box or other similar thing. All you need to do is to make some holes (about 1 centimeter diameter) to drain out excess water and get air to the roots. Make sure that the color of the container is dark, ideally black, as it is helpful in ensuring light doesn’t penetrate to the roots. You can start off with small containers as they are much easier to handle. But you must be aware that as the roots of your plants grow longer you’ll eventually need to shift the plants (very carefully, so as not to damage the roots) from small containers to the larger ones—usually soon after you realize that rapid growth is beginning.
Make Your Own Container
You can prepare your own container using old and rejected pots, broad sized bottles and bowls. You should clean them first and then make appropriate sized holes beneath the pots. The holes must be big enough to drain all the excess water out. And ideally the container material shouldn’t let in the light.
Growing in the Ground
If you are growing marijuana at home, then you may not be able to find a suitable space to grow marijuana in the ground, outside, where there is abundant sunlight. But if the option’s available to you, it’s worth doing. You have to be careful about the spacing of the plants. Try to leave an appropriate but uniform space between each plant (3-4 feet, or more if you have the space) so that the productivity is maximized.
Choosing Soil Type
Remember that if you are growing cannabis in soil then you have to be choosy in selecting the type of soil. Make sure that the soil you are using for marijuana cultivation is drainable but does not completely drain all the water. It should be capable of retaining some water. The three factors to consider in selection of appropriate soil for marijuana include nutrients, PH level and texture. Organic soil has the capability to produce the best quality cannabis crop. Texture of soil also has a major role in the growing process of cannabis so make sure that it is fluffy, light and can drain excess water but retain what’s needed.
Transplanting Cannabis Plants
Transplanting means to convert the plants from small containers to bigger ones or shifting them from containers to the ground of your cultivating area. The method of transplanting is simple, but not easy. You need to take the plant out of the container carefully, along with the roots and all the soil around them. Dig the next home for this plant from its center and then place it in the hole. Transplantation can cause a little damage to the root system and some stress to the plants so they need some time to settle down. We would advise transplanting at night so that plant has an appropriate time to rest before light starts it growing and photosynthesizing again.
Main Nutrients Needed For Growing Cannabis
Plants need vitamins and minerals just like people. You can mix and match your own nutrients using our directions on the required ingredients, but why not choose an all-in-one starter pack like the one below? If you decide to make your own nutrient concoction, below are the main nutrients which play an important role in the growth of marijuana:
Nitrogen is the most essential element that helps in leaf and stem growth. Too little nitrogen leads the plant’s leaves to turn yellow. So use as much nitrogen as you can, especially during vegetation to make sure that the growth of the plant occurs in the finest way.
Phosphorus plays a key role in the process of photosynthesis and respiration. It is advised to use more phosphorus than nitrogen during the flowering.
Potassium is necessary for the building and transferring of sugars for marijuana plants. It is also an important element for absorption of water and nutrients, aiding rapid growth of the plant.
Watering of Marijuana Plants
Watering depends on the size of the plant’s container and the light’s intensity. HID lights due to the high level of heat given off affect the water level of plant. In general, you need to water your crop every other day. Roots want air as well as water, so a little bit of dryness is healthy for the plant—but not too much, otherwise the plant will suffer from dehydration. Water until about 20% of the water drains through the runoff hole at the bottom of the container. Then empty the runoff tray, rather than let the container sit in that water and reabsorb it.
Checking pH Levels
The pH level of marijuana plants needs to be monitored very carefully. 6.7 to 6.2 level is the best condition for the survival of your marijuana plant. Not paying attention to pH levels can lead to the devastation of the whole crop. Over feeding of fertilizers and organic compounds may cause disturbance in the pH level of a plant, so make sure to do your research before using any fertilizer. As far as fertilizers go, common manure fertilizer will do just fine for marijuana. You don’t really need to find some super extraordinary ultra-nutrient. So you are now almost done with the main guidelines about marijuana cultivation in soil. The only thing that remains is the level of lighting, which we will guide you through in detail later on, after we’ve talked about cloning…
Cloning Method for Growing Marijuana
Cloning is one of the smartest methods to grow marijuana and is widely used by farmers and indoor marijuana growers.
How Do You Clone?
Choose some donor plants, then take cuttings from them and grow the cuttings in a separate medium. You’re essentially creating mini-copies of the original plants. The big advantage is that each clone will turn out to be a female plant—i.e. the kind you’ll harvest hopefully giant buds from.
There are, however, some drawbacks as well to cloning, but if you already have some healthy and productive marijuana plants it’s a great way to produce more. You can easily select some donor plants from existing plants in your crop and then make some clones out of them. But let’s have a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks:
Benefits of Cloning
- It is a time saving process, because all you need to do is to select some plants, make the clones and place them in their growing mediums. In the seed method, it takes days in germination, growth of seedlings, and so on.
- It saves money as well, because you don’t need to buy any seeds.
- Your plants are guaranteed to be female.
- They grow much faster than seedlings, since they’re essentially already as mature as the plant the cutting was taken from.
- Rooted clones of marijuana take less time in flowering.
- Growing lots of marijuana at once becomes a much easier process, as clones take so much less time to grow.
- The characteristics of your final product will be the same or even better in taste, aroma and effects every time.
Drawbacks of Cloning
- Due to the genetic uniformity, there is more chance of plants succumbing to pests and diseases.
- Less variety. If you go with the seed process, you can grow something different every time—try different tastes, aromas and effects.
- Cloning can be workable and reliable if you are taking cuttings from your existing marijuana plants that you know well. Finding them from other sources and getting perfect results is far from guaranteed!
- If you choose a poor plant to clone from, you’re stuck with that plant’s flaws.
- They can easily die of shock if a little mishandling happens. QUICK TIP: Always take more clones than you need to allow for the inevitable.
- Clones are very sensitive, so are not that easy to handle at all.
- All the clones are always going to be females. Which makes breeding a problem in the future.
Step by Step Guide to Cloning Cannabis Plants
Below is the easy and step by step guide to making your clones:
- The first and most important thing you need to do is to choose the mother plant. Remember that all the future product depends on it, so choose a healthy, productive and disease free mother plant.
- You should cut 50% more clones than the number of plants you need. Not all the clones are going to become healthy plants. Many of them may die from shock.
- You can cut the clones at any time during the plant’s cycle but supposedly the best time is before the plant starts flowering.
- Your hands must be washed with a good antibacterial soap; all your tools and growing area/medium must be clean too.
- For immediate planting, a pH balanced medium should be prepared.
- Keep all the clones nearby you within immediate reach at the time of their planting; exposed clones will wilt quickly.
How to take a cutting
- Select the appropriate clones: actively growing plant tops, having two to three nodes/branches only with fan leaves (mature plants have alternating leaves, rather than facing ones). See photo below.
- Cut a lower node or two at the stem.
- Treat your clone in a good quality rooting solution, and make sure at least the lowest node is thinly covered.
- Now fix this clone in a rockwool cube.
- Do not forget to prep the rockwools by soaking them overnight in a pH balanced solution.
- Clip large leaves in half to ensure that the clone focuses on creating roots.
Growing clones into mature plants
- The next step is dome and lighting. Spray inside the humidity dome or propagator with No Damp solution (or equivalent). Do not spray the clone direct as it may result in powdery mildew.
- Place the covered clone tray with humidity dome at a spot where an appropriate amount of white fluorescent light is available. This light can be natural sunlight or T9 grow light, or even an HID light if you’re careful.
- The humidity dome should be removed from the clone tray on the 5th day. But remember also to lift the lid daily for air exchange.
- Water every other day. Then once a day when the dome has been removed.
- Now you have to check if the plant is rooted yet or not. For checking, you can tug the plant lightly toward upward side. If the plant is rooted, it will not come out of the cube. If it is not, it will come out of the cube easily. Please note that you are not supposed to do this until the 5th day. Rooting can take 5-10 days.
- If you see some leaves turning to yellow at this early stage, it is actually a good sign so don’t worry. It happens because during the process of rooting, the plant consumes all the nutrients from its fan leaves. Add a little weak nutrient at this stage.
- Till the time plant is in the process of rooting, you have to spray it with water. Once you have seen signs of plants being rooted, water them properly.
- You should also drain the rooting solution out from the cube as it is of no use now.
- Now, at this critical stage, you are supposed to check whether the plant is wilting. You can check it by opening the grow tent a little bit. If you find no wilting for 4 to 6 hours it means you are ready to move ahead.
- Now you can put these clones under HID or LED lights or you can plant them outdoors in soil.
- Make sure that they get 15 to 18 hours of lighting. They need this much light to get to the vegetation phase.
How To Avoid Wilting When Growing Clones
Don’t worry if you find your clones wilting, just check if they are placed properly in their respective mediums. Also keep a close eye on your lighting. It should not be too bright and should be in line with the light levels needed by the plant. New clones need relatively gentle light: 25/45/45 (red/blue/white percentage settings for a Kind LED grow light). If you follow the above criteria, you should get successful results. And over time and with experience you’ll be able to refine the process and learn even more.
Hydroponics for growing marijuana results in the greatest yields. But it has both advantages and disadvantage, so let’s discuss them first before going into the core details of how you can grow your own Cannabis Sativa using hydroponics.
- There is no need for soil in this method so it is a clean process. All the process is done making no mess at all.
- Due to the controlled system, pollution in the environment is eliminated.
- It produces large amounts of high quality weed.
- Due to the controlled and monitored system of hydroponics, there should be no dry spots or root drowning.
- It reduces water costs because water remains in the system.
- Nutrients are controlled under the system, so it save you money here as well.
- It is easier to prevent the hydroponic system from getting infected or attacked by insects.
- The time of growth is rapid and quantity of yield is greater.
- With the right hydroponic system you can even grow your own weed in your bedroom.
- This is an expensive mean of growing marijuana.
- You need to regularly monitor on the system.
- It totally depends on electricity.
- A little mistake can destroy the whole thing that took you ages to prepare.
Step By Step Guide to Growing Marijuana Hydroponically
Now let’s show you how to grow marijuana in your hydroponics system. Make sure to follow each step correctly and in the right order.
- First of all collect all the basic necessary items that you need. The items may include seeds or clones (whatever you prefer); some white paint; hydroponic nutrients; containers or pots; growing medium for the pots (such as Coco Coir); fluorescent, HID or LED lighting system; timer; pH detector.
- Now you’ll need to prepare your walls in order to maximize your weed production. Growing indoors, means it’s up to you to provide your crop with an appropriate amount of light. Painting the walls of your grow room with semi-gloss white paint helps reflect the light source back onto the plants.
- You can also use mylar to line your walls, or grow within a mylar-lined grow tent or grow box, as mylar is highly reflective. The drawback is that mylar reflects both light and heat extremely efficiently, so you need to be careful not to burn your plants.
- Next you have to set up the lights. Hang them to give your plants the maximum amount of coverage. Your light should come with instructions giving suggested heights for each stage of growth to ensure each plant in your grow space gets enough light. Also check any instructions that came with your plant or seeds, as some strais need more light than others.
- If you’re using HID (High Intensity Discharge) grow lights, the general rule of thumb is 40w per square foot, going up to 60-70w to maximize yields.
- If you’re using LED grow lights, to ensure good coverage, check your light’s PAR value. PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) is the section of the light spectrum that the plant can actually absorb and use to photosynthesise. This is the range from 400nm to 700nm. A full cycle LED light will produce the PAR values you need at every stage of your grow—and won’t waste your electricity bill producing light your plants can’t use.
- PPFD, Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density, is the main measure of how much of that usable light is falling on the plant per square meter per second. It’s basically the intensity of the light. This is often what people mean when talking about PAR rating or values. For good light coverage, the higher the better.
- When buying an LED grow lights, as well as looking out for high PAR values, you also need to check out the spectrum it produces. This is basically the quality of that light. The ideal is a full spectrum grow light.
- The simplest rule of thumb for making sure your plants are adequately covered by an LED grow light is to assume a minimum of 32w per square foot. However, note that this refers to how many watts the light draws at the wall socket, not its stated output.
[N.B. We could go a lot more in-depth on ensuring even light distribution, PAR and the various measures and ratings involved with grow lights. It’s a large and sometimes controversial topic in the growing community. However, for this beginner’s guide we decided to stick with the simplest rules of thumb, to get you growing more quickly. And as we mentioned above, the instructions that came with your light and seeds/plant should see you right. However, if you want to learn more, check out this article or our guide to choosing a grow light.]
Temperature, humidity, ventilation, nutrients
- Careful not to overheat plants with the lighting. The maximum temperature a marijuana plant can bear is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Check this guide for how to measure and control temperature and humidity in your grow setup.
- Every plant needs proper ventilation. This is one of the most important requirements for an ideal growing environment. So make sure that your growing area is properly ventilated.
- If you are not using the cloning method, then you’ll obviously need seeds. Seeds need to germinate before planting. (We’ve covered how to pick seeds and germinate them above.)
- The next destination for a germinated seed is a rockwool block. This is where the initial growth of the plant will take place.
- Now you can start feeding your plant with water and other nutrients in your hydroponic system. The ideal water pH level at this stage is 5.0 to 6.0. Do not overfeed the plant with some extraordinary amount of nutrients—too many nutes can spoil a plant very quickly. Start off with an average amount of nutrients and increase gradually.
- At this stage, a plant needs intense care and careful monitoring to ensure maximum yield in the future. Keep an eye on the pH level of the tap or filtered water you are growing with. Also keep a careful eye on nutrients and lighting. As plants grow they obviously get closer to the light, so be careful they’re not getting too much.
Vegetation and flowering
- After seeding, the next important phases in a plant’s life are vegetation and flowering. You need to make sure that the environmental conditions are perfect for these stages to maximize your yield and yield quality.
- You can use height to determine the growth time for your plants in the vegetative phase. The plant may double its height during the phase of flowering. Ideally the plant should be left in a vegetative stage till its height is 6 to 18’’.
- Once your plant has grown up to 18’’, it’s time to start the flowering process. Balance of lighting has a vital role at the flowering phase. Adjust the light schedule to provide 12 hours of light a day.
- As plants begin to flower, within the first couple of weeks you’ll be able to judge the sex of the plant.
- Female plants will start growing white hairs around the nodes/branches, these will turn into white wispy almost shoot-like ‘pistils’.
- Whereas in male plants, after a week or two, small grape-like balls will become visible, which will grow into bunches (pollen sacs). These bunches may also resemble bananas, in shape and color. (So, yes, balls and a phallic shape. If that helps you remember.)
- Check, too, for hermaphrodite plants. Sometimes a plant will develop female pre-flowers on one part and male on another. So continue to keep an eye on plants that you thought were female, and don’t just judge on one preflower.
- Remove all the male plants now as they will pollinate females. Also remove hermaphrodite plants that will self-pollinate and may pollinate other plants too.
- Continue to keep an eye on flowers as a stressed female plant can begin to grow elongated yellow pollen sacs from the center of the bud. These ‘bananas’ produce pollen as soon as they emerge. Remove or separate them immediately, and if you see too many ‘nanners’, begin harvesting and cut your losses.
- Now comes the most patience demanding phase, as you wait for a plant to reach maturity. How long this takes totally depends on your system and the type of strain you’re growing. As a general estimate, it takes about 6 to 12 weeks for Cannabis Sativa to mature.
- One week before harvesting, only feed the plant with water. If you use other nutrients at this time, they can affect the taste when smoking your weed.
- Harvest when resin on the buds is clear and sticky, some of it beginning to darken to brown or amber.
- For greater control over flavor and effects:
- When you see 50 to 75% of pistils have turned red/brown, you’ll get a lighter flavor and mellower high.
- When 70 to 90% are brown you’ll get heavier stronger weed.
- 90 to 100% and it’s very nearly too late, the taste will be heavy and the effects more narcotic.
How Important Is Light for Marijuana Growing?
Marijuana requires a lot of light. This is the key factor in producing greater yields. The crop will not be sustainable if an appropriate amount and type of lighting is not provided. Whether you are growing cannabis in soil medium or in a hydroponic system, correct lighting is probably the most needed nutrient for healthy plant growth.
When it comes to lighting systems for indoor growing, there’s an almost overwhelming amount of choice available these days. And of course each option has its respective advantages and disadvantages—which we’ll cover shortly. Lighting systems can include bulbs, reflectors, ballast, timers, different color spectrums and various other features. But whatever the system, the intention is to activate rapid growth in your cannabis plants and maximize your yield.
Important Information About the Role of Light
What you need to determine before choosing the lighting system is the color and temperature of light. Different colors have different impacts. Look at CCT/Kelvin rating to determine color of HID fluorescent lights and CRI rating to gauge the intensity of the color. The higher the CRI the more natural and vibrant the stated colors will appear. For Kelvins, 2700K will be a warm red, 4200K a cooler blue color, 6500K is closest to sunlight; the lowest Kelvin rating is white, the higher the number the bluer the color. You will find varying advice on wattage of lights, with the maximum used by most growers being 1000W for the cultivation of Cannabis Sativa. More than 1000W will usually be harmful, but setups with lower wattages can work well. (However, when it comes to LED grow lights, you’ll find some much higher wattage LED models on the market. Because one of the great advantages of LEDs is that they run so much cooler than other grow lights.) A simple way to gauge light emitted per square foot by a non-LED bulb or any other non-LED light source: look at a light or bulb’s lumens rating. A marijuana crop needs luminosity of at least 3000 lumens per square foot. Although, for maximum productivity, you should provide 7000 to 10,000 lumens per square foot. A broader color spectrum lamp will tend to outperform a grow lamp with a higher lumen output. They need bright light, but it’s the blue and red parts in particular of the visible light spectrum that plants actually absorb and use to photosynthesize. Having said all that, though. we want to reiterate the importance of PAR values.
Lumens really only measure the intensity of the light to the human eye. For plants, which can only use wavelengths within the 400-700nm range of the light spectrum, it’s PAR that really matters, and the spectrum of light produced. Various kinds of bulbs can produce a broad spectrum of usable light for growing cannabis. Or you can have different lights for different stages of the growing cycle. But a good LED grow light is the simplest option. It will give you every kind of light the plant needs (and none that it can’t use), more efficiently, cheaply and with more user-friendly controls. However, a lot of available growing advice (especially for non-LED grow lights) still discusses lumens. Hence the discussion above.
Sources of Light
Growing a crop indoors you’ll obviously need some artificial light source—and you simply cannot afford to ignore good lighting if you are a serious grower and want results. Fluorescent and especially LED grow lights are great for the growth of marijuana plants. Compact fluorescent lights are also available on the market, commonly abbreviated to CFL. The best thing about CFLs is that they are available almost everywhere. HID lights may not be available in some places, but CFL is available pretty much anywhere in the world. Early LED lighting systems were not ideal, but the technology and costs improved rapidly and LED lights are now highly regarded for indoor growing of plants. As we said above, they’re by far the simplest option and increasingly the best option too—especially for a beginner. There are numerous benefits to using LED grow lights, but the one most worth mentioning here is that they produce full spectrum light with a low level of heat.
Placement of Light
The ideal distance of light from your plants totally depends on the type of source you’re using. If you are using heat emitting grow lights then you’ll need to place this type of light a bit higher above the plant. Check the light’s instructions. However, if you’re using something cooler like LED grow lights, hang them about 10 to 14 inches from the plant.
Lighting Schedules for Different Stages of Marijuana Plant Growth
- In the seedling phase, Marijuana needs 16 to 18 hours of proper lighting.
- In the vegetative stage, the requirement increases to 18 to 24 hours daily.
- In the flowering phase, give the plants 12 hours of light and increase the red part of the spectrum.
Remember that lighting plays the main role in nourishment of your marijuana crop. If lighting is not good enough, your harvest won’t be either.
Harvesting of marijuana
Let’s get one thing out of the way, harvesting marijuana doesn’t demand some sort of rocket science. Harvesting is actually a fun thing. It’s the reward for all the hard work you’ve put into all the growing phases of your crop. Here’s what you need to know to get it right…
When Should I Harvest My Marijuana Crop?
Let’s cut straight to the chase. The right time to harvest the marijuana is easy. In fact, we’ve already covered it above. Just look at the color of the pistils or hairs covering the buds. At the beginning of flowering they’re white, but when they’re ready for harvesting they start to turn dark brown. When around 70% have turned brown is a good time to get your harvesting tools ready. After that, it all depends how you like your weed to taste and the effects you’re after. The browner, the stronger heavier and more narcotic.
How Do I Harvest My Marijuana Flowers?
On the day you decide to harvest your marijuana, it’s a good idea to start off early in the morning. Harvesting isn’t difficult but can certainly be time-consuming work—especially if there’s plenty to harvest. You should start by cutting the plant wholly from its root. Cut all of the plants that you nourished in your grow area. To make things easier, begin by cutting the larger, heavier plants first. After cutting them, remove some of the larger fan leaves. Then hang some wire horizontally from the ceiling and hang the cut plants from it, upside down, keeping some space between plants for good air circulation. Once you’re done with that, it’s time to dry your plants. The cheap, economical and most reliable way to dry the plants is to leave them in open air. However, drying cabinets and automated curing machines are also available on the markets these days and can be very helpful in drying your cannabis quickly and efficiently. The latter are more for commercial growers though. Some people also use oscillating fans to improve ventilation when drying. The fans should be circulating air around the plants, not blowing directly on them. If your plants are moving, your fans are not positioned correctly.
What Time of Day Should I Harvest My Weed?
Time of day is important in the harvesting of cannabis. Ideally, harvest in the dark. Because at night, the female plants store the food which they prepared during the daylight by photosynthesis. However, that’s for outdoor growing. For indoor growing, night time is dependent on your plant’s lighting schedule. If lighting was scheduled during night hours, for instance, then harvest the product in the morning. Since it can be time-consuming work, check how many plants you have, estimate how long it’s going to take to cut them all, and make sure you’ve set aside enough free time to get it all done.
How Do I Prepare my Weed for Smoking?
The first thing to note is that plants don’t die when you cut them, they die when their water is dried out. So, before doing anything else to your harvest, you need to leave the plants for at least 7 days in an environment of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent humidity to dry the remaining water from the plant. Keep the room dark too. And check periodically that no mold or mildew is developing. Remove any affected parts immediately. A fan to increase air circulation will help to prevent this.
A quick note of caution:
During the first few days of drying, the plants will give off a strong, unmistakable scent of marijuana! But don’t be tempted to hurry things along. Drying is not a process to rush—it can take up to two weeks. Sometimes a few days longer. However, drying slowly ensures heavy, flavorful, aromatic buds. After drying, the final step to producing tasty, smokeable weed is curing proper (technically, the whole drying process from the moment the plants are cut is curing). When the twigs inside your buds become brittle and the outside of the bud feels dry to the touch, you’re ready to begin. The buds should just snap off, with no stringiness left behind. Ideally, larger stems should still bend. Some growers, however, like to trim the buds before curing. If you do so, use clean sharp scissors to trim away any remaining leaves. (But save them for making edibles, as they will still contain trichomes.) And if you have more than a couple of plants, a good bud trimming machine can save you a lot of time and hard work.
What is Curing and Why is it Necessary?
- Breaks down chlorophyll to improve taste and smoothness of buds.
- Brings out the unique flavor mix and aroma of your chosen cannabis strain.
- During curing and drying turns all the THC in fresh marijuana into psychoactive elements that make you high when smoking it.
- Reduces “harshness”, so that you’re less likely to cough or get a headache.
- Properly cured buds are less likely to cause negative side-effects such as anxiety and paranoia.
- Lessens the risk of mold or bacteria growing on your buds.
- Increases potency, according to many.
As a first-time grower you might be eager to try the fruits of your labor ASAP. But as you can see, it’s worth waiting—good curing accounts for almost 50% of the quality of your final product!
How Do I Cure My Marijuana?
Simply put the dried buds in mason jars (ideally 1 quart jars, which will hold about an ounce), about 75% full. Any that don’t feel dry to the touch, keep drying them. If buds already in a jar start to stick together when you shake the jar, they may still be too moist. Just leave the lid off for a while until they feel dry to the touch again.If you choose to invest in a hygrometer to test humidity in the jars, you’re aiming to keep your buds at a relative humidity of around 60-65%. Also, keep your jars in a cool dark environment. For the first 1-2 weeks remove lids and check your buds every 24 hours—they need air. If you smell ammonia or feel moistness, leave the jar open to air for 2-4 hours. If buds feel wet, remove them entirely for 12-24 hours. Don’t worry too much about over-drying. It’s best avoided, but even over-drying improves the cannabis. After a couple of weeks, when you’re sure that the buds are curing nicely, you can start to remove the lid just once a week. If all remains well for several weeks, once a month will do. Buds will continue to cure for up to 6 months. For long term storage, keep in an airtight container (such as the mason jar). Buds should have been curing for at least 3 months first. After 6 months, consider vacuum sealing them, or freezing the buds in tightly packed mason jars.
How long before you can smoke it?
Up to you. You can try a little at any stage in the curing or storage process and see what ‘vintage’ suits you best. That’s it—you’re done! You’ve got your first smokeable crop of marijuana.
In writing this step by step guide to growing weed indoors we wanted to help out newbie growers, many of whom can get confused by or bogged down in lengthy and overly-technical books. That’s not to say the information in those books is wrong, by any means—in fact, we gathered plenty of information for this article from those books. The problem we found with those books was that they just weren’t aimed at the newbie. Too much jargon. Too easy to get lost in advanced techniques you don’t need to know until you’ve tried growing a few times. We decided there needed to be an accessible guide for the beginner which focused purely on all the most useful starter information about marijuana and marijuana growing methods and gathered it all together in a concise, convenient manner. This guide will get you started. The rest you can learn along the way as you step up your growing, encounter new problems and solutions and hone your techniques. We hope that you’ll benefit from our efforts and that you enjoyed this beginner’s guide to growing marijuana indoors. We look forward to hearing from you through your feedback. And we wish you the best of luck in your budding weed growing career. Happy growing!
Next Level Weed Growing
Made it through our beginner’s guide and starting to get the hang of this whole weed growing thing? Looking to step up your marijuana growing game to pro level? You couldn’t do much better than to invest $57.00 in a copy of Ryan Riley’s 839-page Growing Elite Marijuana: The Complete Guide—revised and updated for 2017.
We know, 57 bucks looks pricey at first glance. But when you’re really getting serious about growing, a comprehensive grower’s bible like this could swiftly pay for itself many times over in better quality weed, higher yields, and fewer costly mistakes—and save you a lot of time-consuming trial and error into the bargain. Moreover, it’s not just one monster book you’ll get—it comes with a whole package of invaluable guides, including an audio version. If you think you might want to buy this book, go the page and skip almost all the way down to the bottom to avoid the incredibly long sales pitch. You will find the order form and the details for everything else at the bottom of the page. In short, this is all the most up-to-date professional knowledge you could ever need to take your marijuana growing to the next level—and have you literally living the life of Riley! (Sorry. We couldn’t resist.)
How To Tell If A Weed Seed Is Good?
Every cultivator knows how critical seed quality can influence the growth outcome. If you get duds, they won’t sprout. Some bad seeds will germinate but won’t reach their potential yield. It’s essential to know how to tell if a weed seed is good if you want your cultivating efforts to pay off.
Join us as we explore the characteristics of seeds and how to differentiate the good ones from the bad. We’ll also show you how to select the right vendor and where to buy quality seeds, so you get value for money and a bountiful harvest.
Let’s start with answering the question, what do good weed seeds look like?
How to tell if a weed seed is good
If you buy your seeds from reputable seed banks, you can be sure of getting quality seeds almost all the time. You’re more likely to get poor seeds from your local dealer. However, if you know how to tell if a marijuana seed is good, you can rule out bad ones immediately.
One way to judge the quality of cannabis seeds is by looking at their appearance. Be aware, though, that seeds from the same plant can have unique characteristics, just as with human siblings. Quality seeds will differ visually.
What do cannabis seeds look like? Here’s a summary:
- Color – ranges from green to brown
- Shape – some are spherical while others are pointy
- Size – there are small and large seeds
Now, let’s find out how to tell if a marijuana seed is good. Here are a few signs you can look for:
The appearance of weed seeds can indicate their quality. Typically, the outer shells of superior cannabis seeds have dark colors, such as black, brown, or grey. Avoid seeds with lighter hues—white, pale green, and yellow are of poor quality.
High-quality cannabis seeds will not have damaged shells. There won’t be cracks that expose the inside of the seed. You’ll also notice a healthy waxy coating when you look at the seeds under bright light.
While appearance offers a guide, it’s not a reliable indicator of a seed’s quality.
Shape and size
Healthy marijuana seeds may differ in size but look alike in terms of shape—they’re round or symmetrically shaped like a teardrop. Poor quality seeds usually have deformed or flat shells.
Seed size varies between cultivars. Larger ones are easier to grow because they have more stored energy and can potentially develop into healthy plants.
The weight of the seeds also matters when evaluating quality marijuana seeds. If you have two seeds and the smaller one weighs more than the larger seed, the former is of better quality. The bigger seed is lighter because it loses moisture and nutrients as it ages.
Darker high-quality cannabis seeds are hard when you touch them. To feel how firm a seed’s shell is, without using excessive pressure, squeeze it with your thumb and index finger. If the seed doesn’t crack or bend, it’s viable.
Bad marijuana seeds are usually supple or soft. It’ll save you time and effort if you identify them and exclude them at the onset.
Your cannabis seeds will degrade over time, so it’s important to choose freshly harvested ones up to four months old. If you preserve them well, healthy marijuana seeds can remain viable for some time.
It’s impossible to know a seed’s age unless it’s from your own plant. When buying seeds, you probably won’t know the age unless you buy them from a seed bank known for quality genetics. Check the data they provide.
Having inspected the seeds by sight and touch, a quick way to separate viable seeds from bad marijuana seeds is to do a float test. Fill a glass with distilled water and drop in the seeds you intend to germinate.
Check after an hour. Germinate the seeds that sink. Most growers dispose of the floaters as they probably won’t sprout. Even if they do, it’s unlikely you’ll get a healthy plant.
If you want to know how to tell if seeds are viable quickly, use the float test.
Suppose you don’t have time to inspect every seed for viability, germinate all your seeds and watch what happens. You can put them in soil or use other germinating methods. The quality of the seedlings will tell you if you’ve used healthy marijuana seeds.
The challenge here is wasting precious time using this method because you only see results when the germination process is over.
What does a healthy marijuana seed look like?
There are several ways to determine the viability of your seeds. One is by looking at the color of the seeds—healthy marijuana seeds are usually brown with varying shades from light to dark. You may also come across seeds with tiger stripes or turtle-shell patterns.
Seed colors may change due to genetics or environmental conditions, but they’re healthy if they remain in the range. It’s when they display a greenish shade that you have a reason for concern.
They’re not bad marijuana seeds per se, but green hues are a sign that the seeds did not have time to develop properly. There’s a high risk that these seeds will not germinate.
Another way to identify healthy marijuana seeds is to look at their size and weight. If they meet the color criterion, bigger seeds are usually healthier because they’re packed with nutrients and energy. However, you may have smaller seeds that are more viable if they weigh more than their larger counterparts.
Healthy marijuana seeds typically have a body shaped like a teardrop. If you notice seeds that are flat or distorted, they may have a genetic flaw. You’ll have issues germinating them, and if they do sprout, they’ll produce plants that are below par.
Another clue that’ll show that you have healthy marijuana seeds is the appearance of their shell. Good seeds will have shiny-looking shells as though there’s a layer of wax on them. Avoid seeds that look dull and have a matte finish.
How long are cannabis seeds viable?
Now that you know how to tell if marijuana seeds are healthy, the next question is how long are cannabis seeds viable?
The short answer is, it depends on how well you preserve them. Weed seeds get the signal to sprout when there’s heat and moisture. According to some cultivators, if you store your cannabis seeds in a dark and dry space, they can stay viable for as long as 5–10 years.
Pro tip: place a cotton ball with your seeds to absorb excess moisture.
Fresh, healthy marijuana seeds will germinate quicker than older seeds. While you can keep seeds viable for years, some of them may not sprout. The longer you preserve them, the fewer seeds will be productive.
Choose healthy marijuana seeds that are less than a year old. Some established seed banks may indicate the age of the seeds.
If they don’t, you can use the touch test that we mentioned earlier. Squeeze the seeds lightly with your thumb and index finger. If they’re firm, you’ve got young and healthy marijuana seeds. Older seeds may feel soft crack under pressure.
Where is the best place to order cannabis seeds?
Where’s the best place to order marijuana seeds? If marijuana is legal in your state, you can get your seeds from dispensaries or buy them online from seed banks. The latter may be your only option if state laws prohibit the sale of cannabis.
When buying seeds from dispensaries, be sure to check that their staff knows how to tell if a marijuana seed is good. If you’re not happy with the answers you get, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
You should do the same when shopping online. To get high-quality cannabis seeds, we recommend that you only buy them from reputable seed banks such as Homegrown Cannabis Co.
Stay away from small dealers that offer cheap seeds. There’s a high chance that you might end up with duds or low-grade seeds. It’s better to pay a bit more for quality marijuana seeds than endure the heartache of seeds that don’t sprout.
Most recognized online cannabis seed providers offer seeds at competitive prices. We have regular promotions such as Buy-One-Get-One (BOGO), which are money-savers. You get two packets of seeds for one price.
Established seed banks like ours offer a seed replacement guarantee because we stand by the quality of our marijuana seeds. If you have seeds that don’t germinate, we’ll replace them once at no cost.
Another reason to buy from reliable vendors is that they usually have an extensive collection of high-quality cannabis seeds. You’re likely to find the strain you want without searching many websites. Your order and private details are also safe because they have secure payment systems.
3 tips on how to get high-quality cannabis seeds
If you want healthy marijuana plants, you need to grow high-quality cannabis seeds. Sub-par seeds will only cause you to waste time and money because most won’t germinate. When they do, you end up with crops that don’t live up to their potential.
Getting high-quality cannabis seeds may not be as tricky as you think. Here are some tips to improve your odds of having seeds that’ll give you the crops and yield you want.
Choose the right supplier
Buying your seeds from an established seed bank is a reliable way to ensure you get only quality marijuana seeds. Most of these vendors pride themselves on providing customers with the best seeds. Homegrown offers replacement seeds if they don’t germinate.
You have a wide range of cannabis seeds to choose from. If you want sativa or indica cultivars, these seed banks will likely have the strain you want. Some may even have hard-to-find ones.
Get professional advice
When buying high-quality cannabis seeds, you want to know as much about them as possible. Reputable sellers have weed experts who prepare detailed information about the seeds and answer your questions.
These professionals will also advise you on the type of seeds that are suitable for your cultivation goals. You don’t need to figure out for yourself if you should grow regular, autoflower, or feminized seeds.
Create your own seeds
You can create high-quality cannabis seeds if you want to, but it’ll take some knowledge of the subject. You need to pollinate the flowers of your cannabis crop. To do so, you need the male part of your plant to send pollen to the female, which has flowers.
Except for plants grown from feminized seeds, most have both male and female parts. If you want to produce your own quality marijuana seeds, you should choose regular seeds.
Before you act on this knowledge, make sure you understand your state’s weed laws. Some states still prohibit the home cultivation of cannabis. If yours is one of them, don’t despair. Not being able to grow pot doesn’t mean that you can’t buy quality marijuana seeds.
U.S. Federal law allows citizens to purchase seeds as souvenirs. You can preserve them until it’s legal to cultivate in your location, as long as you don’t germinate them.
Get your high-quality cannabis seeds today
Once you know how to identify quality marijuana seeds by sight and feel, you’re able to rule out the bad ones before you germinate them. There’s no experimenting involved, which is a waste of precious time.
If you’re unsure of how to inspect the seeds properly, use the float test. It’s simple to do and separates the seeds that’ll germinate from those that won’t.
The no-brainer way of getting high-quality cannabis seeds is by buying them from reputable seed banks like us. You’re assured of premium-grade seeds 99% of the time. If not, we’ll replace the ones that don’t work.
About the Author: Kyle Kushman
Kyle Kushman is a legend in the cannabis community. He is the modern-day polymath of pot: cultivator, breeder, activist, writer, and educator. After winning no less than 13 Cannabis Cups, there’s nothing this guy doesn’t know about indoor growing – he’s been there, done it, and is still doing it to this day!
How do I germinate marijuana seeds?
Cannabis germination is the process of getting your seeds to sprout, and you know sprouting has occurred when a little white tendril pops out of the seed.
The little white tendril that emerges from a cannabis seed during germination is your plant’s first root, known as a “taproot.” All other roots made by your cannabis plant in its lifetime will sprout from the taproot.
The taproot – and maybe a few tiny early offshoots of the taproot – will get longer and longer, pushing the seed up, and after the shell breaks through the surface of your growing medium, the first leaves (these first round leaves are known as “cotyledons”) will emerge from inside the cannabis seed.
The cotyledons were already created as part of the plant embryo in the seed itself, so the cannabis seedling doesn’t have to grow them. In fact, the emerging first leaves are what break apart the shell after it’s cracked open by the taproot, as pictured here.
The next set of leaves after the cotyledons are your plants first “true” leaves and will have jagged edges (serrations). At least, they are the first leaves that your seedling cannabis plant has grown all on its own, unlike the cotyledons which were already formed in the seed.
Cannabis seeds can be expensive, don’t waste your seeds with bad germination methods!
(Wait, where can I get cannabis seeds?)
What Do Marijuana Seeds Need to Germinate?
Marijuana seeds need the following to get the best germination rates:
- Moisture – Keep things moist but not soaking (you can soak hard seeds for up to 24-32 hours, but do not leave seeds soaking in water for longer than that).
- Peace – Seeds need to be left alone while you’re waiting for the taproot to show up.
- Warmth – Keep things warm to get the best germination rates, but not too hot! Think springtime. Seeds can definitely germinate in cooler temps, but germination tends to take longer when it’s cool.
- Gentle – Be careful when checking seeds, and treat them gently when you have to move them. Avoid touching their white root if possible; the taproot is very fragile and easily snaps off!
- Plant Root Down – When planting germinated seeds, point the white root downwards into the growing medium to prevent the seedling from having to reorient itself.
- Plant Knuckle Deep – When planting germinated seeds, they don’t have to be placed too far under in the growing medium, about a half inch to an inch (1.3 cm – 2.5 cm) down from the surface of the medium should be enough.
When germinating cannabis seeds, think springtime conditions. In the wild, your cannabis seeds would germinate in the spring so they can be ready to take full advantage of long summer days!
Never let your young sprouted seeds dry up!
The main signal that tells a marijuana seed to start sprouting is the presence of moisture and heat. The combination of warm and wet (aka spring conditions) “tells” the seed to start burrowing their main root (called a taproot) through their shell.
If a seed’s root breaks through the shell and the water around has dried up, your seedling will die. Plain and simple.
Seedlings are fragile at first. Once sprouted, the roots need to stay constantly moist to stay happy and healthy. It’s important to make sure the seeds have access to water the entire time during germination, no matter which cannabis germination method you end up using.
Keep things warm!
Seeds germinate best in warmer temperatures and young marijuana seedlings do better with higher relative humidity in the air. When seedlings are young, they grow faster and healthier when they can absorb moisture from the air through their leaves while their roots are still developing. Dry air won’t kill your seedlings, but it doesn’t make things better. Again, think springtime conditions!
You can use an incandescent bulb (or two) placed over the marijuana seed germination area to help keep things warm. Incandescent bulbs are the opposite of what a grower typically wants: they can’t be used as grow lights, but they’re great at generating heat. Some people will also place a heating pad (the kind you get from a garden store for seedlings) underneath seeds to help aid germination.
Basically, you want to make sure any seeds or sprouts are kept warm and moist at all times, that their roots are unexposed to light, and that they get planted right away.
There are several different methods to germinate your cannabis seeds, and in this article we’ll go through some easy techniques that have proven to be effective.
How do I know if my seeds are good?
Assume all dark seeds are viable, even if seeds can be crushed
Generally, pale-green or white seeds will not germinate, but most dark seeds will germinate when given good conditions.
I used to believe that marijuana seeds were only “good” if they were extremely hard and very dark. One of the first tests I heard to check new cannabis seeds for viability was to try to crush them between my fingers. If the seeds could be crushed, they weren’t good, or so I was told. This has proven to be absolutely terrible advice!
Some of the best plants I have ever grown have emerged from seeds which were flimsy and could be crushed between my fingers. As long as you provide great marijuana germination conditions (as explained above), I’ve found that a lot of seemingly “weak” seeds germinate and produce amazingly hardy plants and great buds.
I do not believe the health of the plant is directly tied to the apparent “health” of the seed. If the seed germinates, it’s a good seed!
Here’s a picture showing several healthy and viable cannabis seeds
Remember! Most of the medical strains of marijuana we grow today (learn how to get seeds) have been bred over many years to produce plants that are easy to grow and which produce potent, medicinal buds. However, these strains have not been selected for the toughness of the seeds they produce since that isn’t important to us as growers. Just remember…
As long as a seed germinates, it’s a good seed!
Germination Method 1: Starter Cubes & Seedling Plugs (Recommended)
One of the best cannabis germination methods is to use specifically-made starter cubes and seedling plugs. These plugs make cannabis germination easy. You simply place the seed in the cube or plug, add water as directed, and seedlings automatically get the perfect conditions for germination.
Each cube or plug already has a hole specifically for you to place your seed. Just stick your seed into the precut hole and pinch the top closed a bit with your fingers. Don’t worry, you can’t mess this part up As long as the seed makes it in there, you should be good.
This is one of the easiest germination methods and doesn’t leave a lot of room for error. Cannabis seeds and clones can be expensive, and sometimes we have genetics we just can’t afford to lose. When that’s the case, germinate your cannabis with one of the following recommended options to ensure as close to 100% germination rate as possible.
Which Starter Cubes Work Best for Germinating Cannabis?
Rapid Rooters (Highly Recommended For All Setups)
Rapid Rooters are easy to work with – you just stick your cannabis seed in the Rapid Rooter (pointy side down), keep your seed warm and slightly moist, and let the Rapid Rooter do its magic.
Sprouts emerge and roots appear in just a few days.
Rapid Rooter starter cubes are suitable for all growing methods, including hydroponics, coco coir and soil. They work for every setup and come from General Hydroponics, a trusted company (the same one used by NASA) which is known for the quality and consistency of its products.
I highly recommend using Rapid Rooters over any other starter plugs. They are less prone to problems and work great with any growing medium (including hydroponic systems).
Pros of Rapid Rooters
- Easy to Use – You Can’t Really Mess Up
- No Prep or Setup – Open the Package and Go
- Some of the Best Germination Rates of Any Method
Cons of Rapid Rooters
- Can only get 50+ at a time (General Hydroponics currently does not offer fewer plugs per package)
- After opening the package, you only have a week or two before they dry out, so if you’re only germinating one or two seeds, you’ll end up having to throw many of the Rapid Rooters away.
There are a few different options for Rapid Rooters, which can be confusing if you’re not sure what you want. The 3 different options for Rapid Rooters are listed here…
Bag of Rapid Rooters
These are round on bottom instead of being a cube, which means they cannot stand up on their own. These are best suited to a hydroponic setup where the Rapid Rooter will be placed directly in the final destination. In our hydroponic setups, we’ve had near 100% germination rates with Rapid Rooters, better than any other seedling cube we’ve tried.
- Round on bottom (won’t stand up by themselves without support) unless you squish the bottom so it’s flat like this grower did (pic)
- Great for starting with Rapid Rooter directly in final destination (hydro, soil, coco coir, etc)
- Get 50 Rapid Rooters at a time
Rapid Rooters Mat
This type of Rapid Rooters comes in a mat of (usually 98) Rapid Rooters. All the individual Rapid Rooters are sectioned off and have a hole for the seed, but they must be cut or pulled away from the complete mat. Unlike the type of Rapid Rooters that comes in a bag, these ones are made into cubes and are flat on the bottom so they can stand alone. This makes them good for germinating in a shallow pool of water where the cubes need to be able to stand up on their own.
- Easily break cubes off the mat (already sectioned off with pre-cut holes)
- Already shaped like cubes with flat bottoms, so they easily stand up by themselves
- Good for seamlessly transplanting your seedlings somewhere else
- Get 98 Rapid Rooters at a time
Rapid Rooters Tray
The Rapid Rooters tray is perfect for seeds or clones. Allow your young plants to sit in the tray with water until their roots are well formed and ready to be transplanted to your final destination. The standard size tray fits most humidity domes. You can refill the tray with Rapid Rooters from the bag or mat.
As you can see in the pictures below, the Rapid Rooter Tray comes packaged up. Once you open the package, you will see 50 Rapid Rooters already set in the tray. The resting place for each Rapid Rooter has a hole on the bottom so water within the tray is wicked up. The top part comes apart from the bottom.
Just add you seeds and pour some water into the tray – the Rapid Rooters will do everything else for you.
- Perfect for cloning or starting seeds with a humidity dome (standard 10-inch by 20-inch dome like this one – 7-inch height recommended for cannabis seeds or clones)
- Easy to transplant to new destination
- Just add water and seeds, that’s it!
- Whole tray can be refilled with any type of Rapid Rooters (from bag or mat)
- Comes with 50 Rapid Rooters, ready to go
Rockwool Cubes (Not Recommended)
It’s often hydroponic cannabis growers who use Rockwool cubes since these can be safely placed in hydroponic setups, hold a lot of moisture, and are resistant to mold. Rockwool is cheap and easy to find. It comes in convenient cubes. But it does have some major drawbacks…
Pros of Rockwool
- Cheap & Easy to Find
- Inert Medium (useful for hydroponic growers)
Cons of Rockwool
- Bad for the environment (unnatural material that does not break down)
- Bad for your health (especially your lungs) – wear gloves and cover your mouth/eyes when handling Rockwool
- Has a pH that is too high for cannabis, so it must be thoroughly rinsed and treated
- Poor cloning and germination rates
- Difficult for new growers
Rockwool cubes are bad for the environment
Rockwool is not a natural material – it’s made by heating rock and chalk to 3,000°F and air is blown through the mixture to create thin fibers of rocky material
It does not break down naturally and therefore after Rockwool is created, it will remain in that form basically forever, filling up landfills without breaking down for thousands of years.
Rockwool cubes can be bad for your health
Rockwool is dusty and needs to be rinsed thoroughly before use. Little pieces of Rockwool and dust can easily get in your eyes, skin and mouth. Small strands or fibers can get lodged in your lungs if you breathe in Rockwool dust, and it’s unknown if these fibers can ever get out again.
Protect yourself! Always use a mask, goggles and gloves when working with Rockwool.
Rockwool cubes have a high pH until they’re treated
New Rockwool cubes have a high pH – too high for healthy cannabis seed germination. Therefore it’s important to thoroughly rinse Rockwool cubes in pHed water, then let them soak in pHed water overnight before use. Since Rockwool holds onto a lot of water, after soaking they should be given a few days to dry out before planting seeds or making clones.
Rockwool cubes do not get great germination rates
Rockwool can be difficult to germinate marijuana seeds in, so I recommend most beginner growers sprout their seeds using another method like Rapid Rooters (mentioned above) which can also be used in hydroponic applications but are less prone to germination problems.
Many growers have placed seeds in Rockwool cubes, only to wait for weeks and never see seedlings appear.
Some growers seem to have no problems, yet many other growers suffer through very poor germination rates. Some seed companies will not honor seed germination guarantees if the grower uses Rockwool because it is notoriously bad for germination.
If you do use Rockwool, it’s recommended you germinate your seeds using another method like the paper towel method, then transplant your seeds to the Rockwool cubes after roots have already appeared.
Even when following all the best practices, we just have not gotten great germination rates with Rockwool cubes, and it’s common for new seedlings not to make it. When we were using Rockwool (before we switched to Rapid Rooters), we usually lost at least 1 seed out of a batch of 6 or 8.
We also had trouble rooting clones in Rockwool. Rockwool cubes just don’t hold enough air to get plenty of oxygen to the roots, and they tend to hold onto a lot of water and get waterlogged easily. Since Rockwool can hold a lot of water, it’s prone to “drowning” seeds
I highly recommend using Rapid Rooters instead for your hydroponic application (or any grow setup), as they are much more user-friendly and tend to get far better germination rates.
Jiffy Pellets (Recommended for Soil or Coco Coir)
Jiffy Pellets are used in a similar way to Rockwool cubes, though these tend to get much better germination results. Jiffy pellets are not suitable for most hydroponic setups where the roots are grown directly in water, but Jiffy Pellets can be directly transferred into soil or coco coir.
Pros of Jiffy Pellets
- Good Germination Rates for Soil and Coco Coir
- Good for Cloning – read a cannabis cloning tutorial using Jiffy pellets
- Come in dried pellets, so they can be kept for a long time
Cons of Jiffy Pellets
- Not suitable for hydroponic setups
- Must be soaked to expand each pellet before use
How to Use: Soak Jiffy pellets in warm water, which makes the pellets expand in size, as pictured below.
Once the compressed Jiffy pellets have expanded in warm water, gently squeeze excess water from each pellet and you’re ready to go. Treat them the same as Rapid Rooters.
Germination Method 2: Plant marijuana seeds directly in growing medium
Sometimes nature’s way is the easiest way. In nature, marijuana seedlings would sprout in soil, and they would emerge as their taproots start growing down.
As a grower, you can also plant your seeds directly in your final growing medium. This works in all growing mediums, though some can be tougher than others.
One of the biggest benefits of planting your seed directly in the growing medium is you don’t have to worry about shocking your young seedling during transplant. Because your seed is already in its final resting place, your new seedling will immediately start adjusting to the environment. Every time you transplant a sprouted seed, it can cause stress as the young plant needs to readjust its new surroundings.
- Soil – Plant seeds a knuckle deep (0.5-1 inch OR 1.3 cm – 2.5 cm) in moist yet not soaking soil. Use a light or a heating pad to keep things warm. This is one of the easiest marijuana germination methods for beginners.
- Coco Coir or other soilless growing mediums – Plant in a similar way to soil
Germination Method 3: Germination Station
One option for growers is to use a tool which has been specifically designed to provide optimal germination conditions like this germination station with heat mat.
You can make a DIY germination station at home by putting a plastic dome over a plate on a heating pad.
There are benefits to the professionally made germination stations as they work very well and are pretty cheap to buy.
When growers start their cannabis seedlings in a germination station, the seeds are usually germinated in a starter seedling cube.
One of the advantages of starting seeds in starter cubes is your sprouted seeds can easily be transferred right to their next growing medium or container.
I recommend Rapid Rooters as these starter cubes work great for cannabis seeds and can be used in any growing medium including hydroponics, soil, or coco coir. Other starter cubes include Jiffy Peat Pellets, and Rockwool cubes.
Once your seed has sprouted, just make a little hole in your growing medium, and place the entire pellet inside. Make sure growing medium is also moist yet not soaking, like your pellet or cube. The roots will emerge from the bottom of the cube and burrow directly into your growing medium.
Germination Method 4: Soak Marijuana Seeds in Water Overnight
Another method to germinate marijuana seeds is to soak them overnight in slightly warm water, usually done in a glass drinking cup.
This method is especially effective for seeds which have extra hard shells, or seeds which are older (more than a few years old).
The warm overnight soaking can help “wake up” older seeds.
Most viable seeds will start out floating, and then eventually sink to the bottom of your glass after a few hours of soaking.
If soaked in a clear drinking glass, you will see when the little white tap root first breaks through the shell.
Some seeds take longer than others to sprout. Especially older seeds tend to need longer to pierce through their shell. However, if seeds are left soaking too long, and haven’t yet sprouted, they can drown.
Therefore, do not leave seeds soaking in water for more than 24-32 hours.
After 24 hours, I recommend putting any still-ungerminated seeds in a warm, moist place to finish germinating.
Germination Method 5: Paper Towel Method
One way to germinate seeds is to wet a paper towel and then fold your seeds in it, then leave the paper towel in a warm place.
Use cheap paper towels! For some reason, the really cheap paper towels work best because they’re so non-porous. Seeds and their roots lay on top without getting stuck to anything. This is important! The more expensive “cloth-like” paper towels (like Viva brand) aren’t good for germination because the roots actually grow into them instead of laying on top.
If you germinate your seeds in a paper towel, there is the risk of hurting the tap root (the little white root that grows out of your seeds) when moving the sprouted seeds so make sure you are careful when you’re checking to see if the seeds sprouted.
There is also the possibility of having the towel dry out which will kill your new seeds so I recommend putting your paper towel under an upside down bowl or between two paper (or regular) plates.
Check on germinating seeds once every 12 hours or so (don’t disturb them or their roots). You can plant any seeds which have sprouted right away, or leave them for another day or two, to let the others keep up.
How to Plant Your Germinated Cannabis Seeds
After you see that your cannabis seeds have sprouted, you should plant them right away.
You don’t want to touch the little white taproot with your fingers, so either carefully move the seeds, or use tweezers. If you do touch or break the root, the seedling may still survive, but any damage to the root will definitely stunt and slow down growth right in the beginning.
Plant seeds so that the white root faces downward, about a knuckle deep into your growing medium. The top of the seed should be just below the surface of your growing medium.
It can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days before you see the young seedling emerge from the soil or growing medium. If your marijuana seedling hasn’t sprouted from the soil within 10 days after being placed root-down, it probably isn’t going to make it Even with the best practices and the best seeds, you will occasionally lose a seed. Many times it has nothing to do with you!
First sign of taproots. These are ready to be planted!
Rapid Rooters are nice, but not necessary. You can use them before you transfer your seedlings to their final container. The Rapid Rooter should be cut open lengthwise if you plan on using them for germinated seeds. I use big scissors.
Gently place the germinated seed inside, root down. Place the seed close to the surface so it doesn’t have far to go.
Sometimes you’ll have a taproot that is curved or bent. You don’t want to try to straighten it out! Open the Rapid Rooter you split, and lay the germinated seed down gently. The seed and root will naturally lay on the flattest side. Slowly close the Rapid Rooter, and you’ll see that the bent parts of the root will end up in the “crack” of the Rapid Rooter from where you cut to split it open from the side.
After closing a Rapid Rooter, it’s hard to tell it’s been opened. The texture of Rapid Rooters causes the seeds to stay in place and not “fall down” further into the hole once you’ve got it closed.
Sometimes the shell can get stuck on the seedling, but it will often fall off on its own. If it seems really stuck, you can help the seedling by gently removing it.
Within the first week of germinating seeds, you will notice that some seeds germinate right away and others take a little bit longer. This can be caused by a lot of things, from the age of the seed (old seeds have worse germination rates and tend to take longer) to simple chance. The amount of time does not necessarily have anything to do with how healthy your plant will be in the long run.
Once your seeds are safely planted, you can turn on your grow light. The heat from the lamp improves germination rates, and the light can help your new cannabis seedlings open their first set of leaves. In fact, the first set of leaves will often stay yellow until they get light.
If you will be transplanting your seedlings again, avoid transplanting until they are well established and have a couple of sets of leaves (nodes). Some growers will plant seedlings in a growing medium in a solo cup or peat pot, so they can just cut away the cup for easy transplanting.
When you move seedlings around a lot, it stresses them out and potentially stunts their growth. Too much stress can even kill them. So try to plan from the beginning so that you move your seedlings around as little as possible. once they get bigger, they are a lot more hardy and can stand a lot more stress and movement.
Here are some pictures to give you an idea of the timeline to expect
Sprouted seeds planted in Hydrofarm pellets and placed on soil
If you want, you can put bottles on top to help retain extra humidity (like a cheap humidity dome).
It’s a steady 85 degrees F in there, no idea about the humidity in the bottles.
Marijuana seedlings under T5 Grow Light
Day 7 from seed
Your Cannabis Seedling’s First Few Weeks
During the first few weeks of a young marijuana plant’s life, you have to be careful.
Marijuana seedlings, especially seeds from some of the most potent strains, tend to be a bit delicate.
Seedlings definitely won’t be able to withstand full-strength grow lights or nutrients. They need to have a moist environment, but also can easily be drowned or overwatered.
If you’re planting in soil, start with a balanced potting soil that doesn’t contain extra nutrients. I recommend Happy Frog potting soil mix for young cannabis seedlings, but any plain potting mix from your local garden store will do. Never use Miracle-Gro soil or any soil that has “time-released” nutrients already mixed in. After your plants have grown a few sets of leaves, you can transfer them to a stronger potting mix that contains higher levels of nutrients like Fox Farms Ocean Forest soil, or you can start supplementing with cannabis soil nutrients. Don’t want to use nutrients? Learn how to mix up your own super soil so it has all the nutrients your cannabis plants will need!
If you’re planting in coco coir, a soilless medium, or hydroponics, only add cannabis nutrients at seedling strength, or 1/4 the regular strength, until your plants have grown a few sets of leaves. Then you can slowly start working your way up to full strength nutrient levels.
With young marijuana seedlings, less is more.
You’re trying to give young plants a very small dose of nutrients at first. However, even with young marijuana seedlings, the pH of your water and growing medium is important. Some growers get lucky and happen to have water with the right pH, but if you’re noticing deficiencies and problems with your seedlings, definitely take the time to understand about marijuana root pH and how it affects the plant’s overall health.
If you plan on eventually putting your marijuana seedlings under high intensity grow lights (such as HPS or MH grow lights), you may want to start them out with less intense fluorescent grow lights or compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Or just keep your high intensity grow lights several feet away at first, and slowly move lights closer as your seedlings gets older
CFL bulbs (twisty/spiral bulbs as pictured to the right) are a great source of light for young marijuana seedlings
- CFLs provide the right types of light for seedlings
- CFLs are extremely cheap to buy
- CFLs are easy on your electric bill
- CFLs can be found almost anywhere, at your local hardware store, supermart, grocery store, or online
Keep CFLs or fluorescent lights about 6 inches away from your seedlings. Place your hand where the leaves are to make sure it doesn’t feel too hot. If it’s hot for your after 10 seconds, it’s too hot for your plants.
Once your seedlings have developed their first two sets of leaves, then you can move these lights as close as 2 inches away as long as the lights aren’t too hot.
Remember: If grow lights feels too hot to your hand after 10 seconds, they’re too hot for your marijuana seedlings
Make sure to keep a close eye on your seedlings to ensure they don’t grow too close to the grow lights and burn themselves. Seedlings can grow fast, and many growers have been surprised to find plants have actually grown into the light overnight.
If new seedlings are showing signs of stress, try moving the lights further away and see if that helps.
Once marijuana seedlings are about fourteen days old, they’re ready to start being treated as if they’re in the vegetative stage.
This Timeline Will Help Show You What to Expect
Two round cotyledon leaves, then two “real” (serrated) single-finger cannabis leaves
Next, the single-finger leaves expand, and the next set is usually 3-finger leaves
Next, the cannabis plant will start making 5-finger leaves
Finally, most cannabis plants stop at 7-finger leaves
If you look closely at the above plant, you can see that some of the newer leaves on this plant actually have 9 fingers. It is normal for there to be some variation between leaves – some plants will grow leaves with 11 or even 13 fingers. But the above guide will give you a general idea of what to expect.
Once your cannabis seedling is about fourteen days old, it’s ready to start being treated as if in the vegetative stage.
Make sure you learn about plant training techniques to make the most of your time in the vegetative stage!
Wait! My seed is growing upside down with the roots up; what do I do?
As long as the roots of a cannabis seedling are able to grow down, they will. Roots never grow upward on their own. Seedlings can sense the difference between up and down. Roots always try to grow down. Roots never grow upwards.
So how come sometimes it looks like a cannabis plant is growing with its roots pointing up?
When the seed end is still bent down, all you see is a U-shaped stem/root
Cannabis seeds can look a bit different when germinating. When in doubt, always wait a few days to see if leaves appear before you try to interfere.
Sometimes the stem of a brand new cannabis seedling can look like the roots growing out the top. But if you wait and watch, you’ll see that it’s all part of the plan. Hope these pics help someone!
Sometimes you’ll see what appears to be roots emerging from your cannabis seed, but this is actually the stem. The stem pushes the seed and leaves up, and the main taproot is currently burrowing down to support the seedling
As the seedling emerges you’ll be able to see the leaves (sometimes it will still have the seed stuck on the first leaves, like in the picture above).
The cotyledons (first, round leaves) unfurl, and then the regular cannabis leaves between to grow. Here’s another view of that same seedling from above. Even though it may have looked a bit weird at first, this seedling is completely normal and will grow just fine from now on.
What Size Pot Should I Use?
When growing cannabis plants in a container, you have to choose the size of your pot.
A general guide is to have about 2 gallons per 12″ of height. This isn’t perfect since plants often grow differently, but this is a good rule of thumb.
When in doubt, get a bigger final container size as opposed to a smaller one. Plants that get rootbound from being in a too-small container will grow more slowly and be prone to problems. It’s not good to transfer plants during the flowering/budding stage, so you want to have your cannabis plants in their final container at least 2 weeks before the beginning of flowering/budding. How do I get my cannabis plants to start flowering?
Final Container for Desired Plant Size – General guide
12″ ~ 2-3 gallon container
24″ ~ 3-5 gallon container
36″ ~ 5-7 gallon container
48″ ~ 6-10 gallon container
60″ ~ 8-10+ gallon container
But what size pot should you use for your seedlings?
For fastest growth rates, it’s better to plant young seedlings or clones in a very small container, like a disposable plastic solo cup.
For new seedlings and clones, use a small container if possible
The reason you want to start with a small container is that your plant’s young roots thrive on oxygen. Cannabis plant roots “breathe” oxygen, just like we breathe air, and it’s important that young cannabis roots get plenty of oxygen so the plant can grow as fast as possible.
However, young plant roots do not drink much water yet. When you water seedlings or clones in a very big container, they will use up all the oxygen quickly, and the large size of the container will prevent the growing medium from drying out.
A big plant will drink up all the water quickly, but with seedlings, you’re basically waiting for the growing medium to dry out by itself. While you’re waiting for the container to dry out, your cannabis roots are sitting in a wet environment and not getting much oxygen, slowing down their growth rates.
Poke holes in the bottom of your cup so water can drain out easily!
By planting young seeds in a small container with holes in the bottom, the growing medium will dry out much more quickly, allowing you to water more often. The young cannabis will get plenty of oxygen and water.
Alternative to Solo Cup: Start plants in seedling cube
If you don’t want to have to transplant your young plants, you can start them in a seedling plug or cube and wait until you start seeing roots come out the bottom. At that point, they will be ready to be transferred to a larger container.
What happens if I plant seeds or clones in a big container?
Your cannabis seedlings and clones will definitely survive in a bigger container; they just won’t grow as fast for the first few days or weeks because they aren’t getting as much oxygen.
With a bigger container, you will need to wait longer between waterings, and during that time your plant roots will be getting reduced oxygen.
If you’ve planted your young plant in a large container, try to give only a little bit of water at a time (enough to wet the area around the seedling roots) until the plant is growing vigorously. Once the plant has grown a few sets of leaves, you should start watering cannabis normally so that water drains out the bottom.
One of the advantages of starting young plants in a big container is you won’t have to transfer them to bigger containers as they get older.
If you would like to take advantage of faster vegetative growth from transplanting, view the Complete Cannabis Transplant Guide (with pics!)