First Day of Spring: Germinating Cannabis Seeds

Vegetative cannabis plant growing.

Spring is here with all it brings! With the recent rains and fresh soil, today marks an ideal day to start germinating some cannabis seeds. Germination is defined as, "to cause a seed to begin to grow." It is also known as "popping" seeds, and is the first step to cultivation. The process tricks the seeds to believe they are planted, triggering the seed casing to open and root. We gathered some information out there to get you started on tending your own cannabis garden.

(Separately, if you're looking to set up a grow operation, refer to this 'Guide to Starting Your Own Grow' put together by Once you have your equipment set up, the next step is germination!)

What to look for in a cannabis seed.

Leafly states, "Cannabis seeds can be acquired from an array of sources and can vary in quality. Online seed banks are generally your best bet for quality and genetic diversity, but it should be noted that overseas transactions exist in legal gray areas in many countries." You may even find some seeds with your recent purchase of cannabis flower!

When picking out good seeds for germination, you want to make sure they are mature. A mature cannabis seed appears darker brown with lighter accents in the shell casing pattern. The shell casing should also feel harder when lightly squeezed. Look out for fresh, green and light brown/almost white seeds, as these are seeds that never reached full maturity and may not survive the germination process.

Mediums used for newly germinated seeds.

Once you have your cannabis seeds, it's best to know what the next steps are as you begin this process. What medium will the plants be growing in? Which germination technique will you use?

Popular mediums include soil, coconut coir and rock wool. Soil is one of the easiest and messiest, but definitely recommended for outdoor garden grows. Rock wool and coconut coir are more popular among hydroponic grows. Coconut coir's primary benefit is its improved water retention and great aeration properties. Small rock wool starter cubes, paired with a bio-dome (you can even make a quick and cheap one, or just buy it at your local gardening store) set up the germinating seeds to have a solid base, making transplanting to hydroton or even soil itself, a breeze. If you're using a planter pot, a 2-4" sized pot is a good place to start for the mary jane seedlings.

Germination process and transplanting your seedlings.

So now you have your cannabis seeds and know how you're going to start off those soon to be seedlings, lets get into the germination process. puts it nicely:

"Successful seed germination is reliant on environmental factors such as temperature, water, oxygen, and darkness. The seeds will absorb water until they swell and break open. Oxygen then provides their main source of energy until the seedlings grow leaves. All seeds germinate differently, but cannabis seeds prefer a dark, warm environment around room temperature (60-70 F)."

Some popular techniques for germinating seeds are the 'Paper Towel Method,' the seed soaking method, and the starter cube method.

Germinating seeds. Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett,

The Paper Towel Method

One of the most common and friend taught methods for germinating seeds. The Paper Towel Method utilizes the moisture retention of a paper towel in a container to get the seeds to sprout. Leafly set out some nice directions for this one:

"For this method you will need: Two clean plates, paper towels, distilled water, and seeds.

Step 1: Take four sheets of paper towels and soak them with distilled water. The sheets should be soaked but should not have excess water running off.

Step 2: Take two of the paper towels and place them on the plate. Then, place the cannabis seeds at least an inch apart from each other and cover them with the remaining two sheets of water-soaked paper towels.

Step 3: To create a dark protected space, take another plate and flip it over to cover the seeds (like a dome).

Step 4: Make sure the area they’re kept in is warm – somewhere between 70-90°F.

After these steps have been completed, it’s time to wait. You can check the paper towels to make sure they’re still saturated, and if they seem to be losing their moisture, you can apply more water to keep the seeds happy."

Soaking Seeds

Soaking your marijuana seeds is another effective, easy and cost effective way to germinate your seeds. lays out the process:

"For this you will need: A glass container, water, and seeds.

Step 1: Gather a glass container--if you are germinating less than 10 seeds, a shot glass will work perfectly. If you're germinating more than 10, use a container with a larger surface area.

Step 2: Fill your glass container with water.

Step 3: Pour your seeds into the water.

Step 4: Place container with seeds into a warm, dark cabinet.

That’s it! Leave your seeds in the cabinet for a couple of days, trying not to disturb them. Some genetics germinate very rigorously and will begin rooting within hours. Most seeds won’t pop this fast but it won’t take longer than 3 days." also recommends this method if putting the seedlings into an aeroponic cloner.

Start with a Cube

Using starter cubes requires more equipment than the above mentioned methods. However, it does make transplanting very easy. From

"Supplies needed: Bag of starter cubes, seedling starter tray, humidity dome, heat mat *optional, water, small watering can, and seeds.

Step 1: Open the bag of starter cubes and place the cubes, one by one in the tray.

Step 2: Gently place your seeds into the starter cubes, one seed per cube.

Step 3: Pour water into the tray.

Step 4: Place humidity dome on top of your tray.

Step 5: If you have a heating mat, find a dark spot to plug it in and station your tray. Or just place your tray in any dark, warm location.

You’ll want to check on the seeds daily to make sure the cubes aren’t too wet or too dry. The moisture level should be right in the middle, which means you’ll probably be giving them water every other day."

Final Step: Transplanting the Seedlings

Some seeds may germinate quickly, while others take longer or never sprout at all. That's why using a good amount of seeds can be beneficial to your grow. Once the seeds split and a single sprout, or 'tap root' appears--or they pop up out of the top of your cube, depending on your method--this marks the time when the seedlings are ready to transplant into your growing medium.

Make sure the tap root stays sterile, and plant each seedling into the grow medium about 1/4" under the surface with the tap root facing down, with good aeration to the soil. Then cover the sprout lightly with soil. You'll also want to keep the soil moist, so we recommend using a spray bottle to not over-saturate the grow medium. You can then place the planters in a windowsill or under vegetative grow lights. Be sure to monitor the moisture and temperature, and in a few days to a week or so, your seedlings will start popping out and begin growing. Have fun developing those green thumbs!