How to germinate Cannabis seeds: a guide for beginners

Last updated on May 24, 2021

In this article, you’ll learn to germinate Cannabis seeds in 3 easy steps. How to germinate seeds indoors step by step, what do you need to start, how to store your seeds and tips to get your seeds started!

This is how the life of the Cannabis plant begins. A viable seed looks brown with some stripes, hard to the touch and dry. If it feels weak or it’s white or light green, it’s probably an undeveloped seed and it won’t produce a healthy plant.

You can start your seeds indoors or outdoors, but we recommend doing in indoors because there’s a bigger chance of seed survival. When germinating seeds outdoors, the small plants are exposed to cold/hot weather, wind, pests and mold. In this stage, plants are very vulnerable and it’s important to keep them safe. On the contrary, when germinating seeds indoors, we reduce or eliminate the possible negative outcomes caused by temperature changes and insects, for example.

There exist many methods for germinating seeds indoors. For example, placing your seed between cotton balls or paper towels sprayed with water, placing your seed in a jiffy or a small cup directly into the soil.

In this article, we’ll explain how to germinate with the paper towel method, as it requires simple equipment and has a high rate of germination. But first, a brief intro about Cannabis seeds, in case you haven’t chose yours yet.

cannabis seed
Cannabis seed macro

Cannabis seeds

Autoflowering vs Photoperiod seeds (Switch to flowering automatic or photoperiod)

Photoperiodism is a developmental response to the changes of duration in the cycles of light and dark periods.

Photoperiod Cannabis seeds

Photoperiod seeds may produce male or female plants.

Cannabis is an annual plant, its flowering period is determined by the seasons and when the cycle ends, the plant dies. Cannabis plants stop growing in size and start to flower and produce buds in Autumn when the days grow shorter.

To replicate this process indoors, growers shorten the light period usually from 18 hours light and 6 hours of darkness (18/6) to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness (12/12). If the plant continues living under an 18 / 6 hours of light regime, it will stay in the vegetative stage and will not start flowering.

Autoflowering Cannabis seeds

Autoflowering Cannabis seeds produce female plants that don’t need photoperiod conditions in order to change from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage. The switch to the flowering stage is “automatic”. They are designed to start flowering at a fixed period of time, despite the environmental conditions and light stimuli.

This makes Autoflowering Cannabis a good choice for beginner growers because they don’t have to worry about guessing if the plant is male or female or when to change the photoperiod. They have fixed and shorter life cycles so they will develop faster than photoperiod strains.

Feminized vs Regular seeds

Regular Cannabis Seeds

Regular seeds may produce male or female plants. Even hermaphrodite plants. Growing regular Cannabis seeds is one of the most popular and easiest ways of growing marijuana plants. It’s easier to find and produce regular Cannabis seeds, and they are obviously cheaper than feminized seeds.

Feminized Cannabis Seeds

Feminized Cannabis seeds will produce only female plants. They can be costly but you know your resources (fertilizers, light, soil, space, time…) are being used at their full capacity in plants that will develop female cannabis flowers. Feminized photoperiod strains produce female plants that need 12 hours of light/12 hours of darkness to enter the flowering stage.

How to germinate Cannabis seeds in 3 easy steps

For starting seeds indoors you need:

  • Cannabis Seeds
  • Plastic container with a lid or 2 plates
  • Paper towels
  • Water sprayer with clean water
  • Small cup or glass of water

From 12 hours to 7 days.

How to germinate Cannabis seeds – Paper towel germination method step by step.
For germinating, Cannabis seeds need high relative humidity, air, and water.

  1. Put seed on a paper towel and inside a container, spray with room temperature water

    Put your Cannabis seeds on a paper towel, inside a plastic container, or between two plates. This container must remain dark, warm, and humid at all times. Spray the napkin with warm water and cover it with a lid or plate. Place your container in a warm place and leave it there.seed germination container

  2. Open container every few hours and spray with water until the seed opens

    Open the container every few hours and spray it with water. Never let the napkins dry up or your seed won’t sprout. The napkin must stay moist, but not soaking wet. Get ready your next growing medium as soon as you see the seed opening. cannabis seed opening germinating

  3. When the seed opens and show tap root, plant it in a small cup, jiffy or plug

    When the seed opens up and starts showing the first white tap root, it’s time to put it in its next growing medium (soil, coco, peat) in a small cup, jiffy or plug. cannabis seed germination tap root

Start your germinated seed in a small container

cannabis seedlings in solo cups
Cannabis seedlings in solo cups
Cannabis seedlings plug
Cannabis seedlings growing in plugs
cannabis seedling jiffy
Cannabis seedling growing in a jiffy, ready for transplant

TIPS before starting to germinate Marijuana seeds:

  • Store your seeds in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge and take them out when you decide to plant them. This mimics the season change from Winter to Spring when Cannabis plants usually sprout and promote germination.
  • Soak your seeds in a glass of clean water, at room temperature (20°- 25° C) for 12 hours. Keep in a warm place and signal it to prevent accidents (like drinking the water or throwing them out).
  • Soaking your seeds in a glass of water for more than 24 hours will deprive them of oxygen and they are likely to drown and may not sprout. A seed that sinks after 12 hours it’s likely to be viable and good for germination. If it floats, touch it, and it will probably sink. On the other hand, seeds that float after 12 hours are not likely to sprout soon.
  • Get a water sprayer and set reminders to spray your germinating seeds. A dry napkin may also damage a recently sprouted tap root and kill off your plants before starting.
  • It is very important to track germination dates and stage changes during your grow. Do not forget about your germinating seeds! If you leave them for too long in the container and do not plant them, they’ll grow a long taproot but they’ll end up dying without proper growing conditions. Set reminders and schedule your tasks. Use our free app Grow with Jane to make it easy and fun!

Frequently Asked Questions about Cannabis Germination

What is the best temperature and humidity for Cannabis germination?

The best temperature to germinate Cannabis seeds is 25° C / 77°F
The best relative Humidity to germinate Cannabis seeds is 70 / 90%  

Do I need growing lights for Cannabis germination?

No! You can start the germination process and you won’t need any lights yet, but it’s recommended not to wait too long to get them because you’ll need them soon!
The Cannabis plant needs light as soon as it pops out from the soil. In the first weeks, young plants are not yet able to process high-intensity light. Led lights or lower wattage lights as CFL are better for this stage. A cold (blue) spectrum light is better for this stage, as they promote vegetative growth.

Seedlings growing in a space bucket with led light

A Cannabis seed just sprouted but the seed shell is stuck on the seedling. What should I do?

The seed shell normally falls off when the first pair of round leaves (cotyledons) are formed. Sometimes, this shell is very hard and gets attached to the already formed cotyledons. You can spray it with clean water to soften the shell and leave it for a few more hours. If you decide to take it off, you can try spraying it a little with water and gently take the shell off using sterilized tweezers. Be very careful not to damage the seedling!
Notice that in the following pics, the seedling finally manages to get rid of the seed shell by spraying water on it, but the soil mix seems muddy and not of good quality. Overwatering may cause stunted growth in seedlings!

seed shell stuck on seedling 2
seed stuck on seedling
seed shell stuck on Cannabis seedling 3

When is the best time of the year to germinate Cannabis seeds?

The best time to germinate a Cannabis seed for outdoor grow is at the beginning of Spring. Cannabis plants are annual, they would grow all Spring and Summer and start flowering towards Autumn when days grow shorter. Growing indoors, you may germinate your seeds whenever you like if you manage to give them the right environment to live in. Read our Growing Checklist to find out how to do it!

How long does it take for a Cannabis seed to germinate?

A Cannabis seed may take from 12 – 72 hours (best conditions) to a few days to germinate, or even more if the environmental conditions are bad. Storing your Cannabis seeds properly and giving them the best environmental conditions to germinate will increase the chances of success.

My Cannabis seeds won’t sprout after a few days, why?

Sometimes seeds won’t sprout because for many reasons: they are old or dry, wrong storage conditions, wrong germinating methods, problems at the seed bank, etc.
I do not recommend disturbing or trying to crack the seeds, as they are very fragile at this stage and you may damage them. Try the above-mentioned “glass of water” method to “activate” your seed. It’s better to be patient right now, make sure they have the above-mentioned sprouting conditions, and wait.

How to store Cannabis seeds

Keep your seeds in a dry, dark, and cold place, for example, in the fridge (in the original packaging if possible), inside a ziplock plastic bag for better conservation. When the time of germination comes, get your seed out at ambient temperature.

Germinating is the first step towards your next Cannabis plant!

If you’ve read the whole article, now you know the basics of how to start growing your own Cannabis plant. Patience is key for success when growing Cannabis and this stage is no exception. Taking notes is a very good method to track your progress and see what’s working and what’s not.

Remember to keep your seeds in the fridge until you’ve got everything ready to start and follow the steps closely.

Growing Cannabis requires a bit of reading and experimenting, but it’s not rocket science and it’s a VERY rewarding experience. We hope you feel encouraged and start germinating your Cannabis seeds soon!

Tell us in the comments if you tried this method and how it’s going!

Read the following articles and become a Cannabis home grower!

21 thoughts on “How to germinate Cannabis seeds: a guide for beginners”

    • Hello Anna! Usually, between 2 days and a week. It depends on the relative humidity in your growing room and how fast the seedling grows. For seedlings, it is recommended to keep humidity levels to prevent dehydration because this could easily kill a small plant. Remember to spray water on it and do not overwater the growing medium, especially on these first days. This may also kill a seedling, be careful!
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Reply
    • Hi Bob! Once germinated, it’s recommended to plant the seed with the white tap root pointing down for your seedling to sprout easily. Despite how you place the seed in the soil, roots can sense gravity and will respond growing down, while the stem will grow upwards to reach the light.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Reply
  1. I can get my seeds to germinate pretty easily but once I carefully put them in jiffy pot they haven’t come up. I put them about 1/4 – 1/2 deep. one set I covered loosely with plastic the other attemp I did not cover. I keep them in a tray on seedling heat mat. Not sure what to try next and will be end of my seeds and its getting late to start. Help?

    Reply
    • Hi Rhoda, this may happen due to many reasons, for example too low/high temperatures and/or excessive/poor watering. We’d love to give you personalized advice, please download our free growing app https://growithjane.com/ and write an in-app message. We’ll be happy to help! As Grow with Jane app users, you also access our growing community where you can share photos, ask questions and more. https://social.growithjane.com/
      Thanks for commenting, have a nice day!

      Reply
    • Hi Ori! We’re back! Spraying the soil with water after planting the germinated seed is the best way to keep the right levels of humidity. If the soil is damped and muddy, the seed can’t breathe oxygen and dies (drowned). If the soil is dry, the seed also may die. The soil must be kept humid but also avoid overwatering.
      Placing the planted seed in a small container with some kind of cover helps keeping humidity levels high and there’s a better chance of survival.
      Here’s an article about how to keep the best conditions for a recently planted seed to become a seedling, including watering, recommended temperature and humidity levels and more.
      I hope it helps!
      https://growithjane.com/cannabis-seedling-grow-healthy-plants-avoid-stunted-growth/
      Thanks for reading commenting, have a nice day!

      Reply
  2. I germinated two seeds and planted them in small planters (the half pint size that seedlings come in from the nursery).

    I lightly watered them every couple of days, and they looked good, but the leaves stayed the same size while they shot up to 4-5″ in height, now they’re drooping and looking sick/dead.

    How can I prevent this from happening again?

    Reply
    • Hi Mica, we’re back! Seedlings elongate their stems when the light/lamps are too high or far away from the plant. Keep in mind the distance between the plant and the grow lights, which depends on their intensity and temperature. Filling the pots with soil mix to cover the elongated and weak stem, leaving out only 3 cm of stem and leaves may help to keep the plant up. Eventually, the stem will grow stronger and roots will expand.
      Here’s an article with recommendations about how to take care of seedlings, including watering, pot size, and lamp distance.
      https://growithjane.com/cannabis-seedling-grow-healthy-plants-avoid-stunted-growth/
      I hope it helps! Happy growing!
      Alicia

      Reply
  3. Hi- I have a couple of plants that I started from seeding inside. Once they reached about 1’, I planted them in 7 gl. Fabric pots in Kellogg organic plus soil outside in direct sunlight for 6 hours per day. They are growing daily, but every day the new set of leaves at the bottom that reach decent size will turn pale yellow, then light brown and fall off. The next day this starts all over again with the next set of leaves from the bottom. Any ideas of what I should do? 1 plant has 13 healthy sets of leaves on top 1/2 of plant because the bottom ones keep falling off. The other plant has 3 sets of leaves and was seeded a month after the 1st one….. same issue. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
  4. Let’s hope I have sum beginners luck.
    Today’s date 07-14-21
    Im gonna try Journaling, w notes and see where I go from here.

    Reply
    • Hi Julie, thanks for commenting! We recommend trying our free growing app https://growithjane.com/ for journaling and keeping track of your grow, we also offer grower support and personalized advice. Just write an in-app message and we’ll be happy to help! As Grow with Jane app users, you also access our growing community where you can share photos, ask questions and more. https://social.growithjane.com/
      Thanks for reading! Best luck and happy growing!

      Reply
  5. I always just put it in a wet paper towel ,never knew to use warm ,and mine was always super we, always works, maybe it takes an extra day or two ,i also just put it in the soil and water that works also.I have had only one not pop success rate is very hi

    Reply

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