5 Fatal Mistakes For Germinating Seeds
It’s a few weeks before spring, and gardeners everywhere are starting baby plants from seed. Germinating seeds isn’t usually a difficult process, and for most veggies, the process is quite simple.
For complete instructions for starting seeds, get the seed starting guide.
But what do you do if your seeds don’t germinate?
When seeds don’t sprout, you should always take time to evaluate what happened. So I thought it would be helpful to talk about the most common reasons you might have seed germination problems.
Some years our germination is a little patchy, and occasionally whole rows of seedlings will not germinate. It is important to keep up with our germination rate to evaluate our technique and seed health.
For us, a minimum acceptable germination rate is when at least 80% of our seeds sprout. But ideally, 100% of our seeds come up, so anything less than 80 or even 90% germination rate, and we start looking at what went wrong.
Learn the 5 fatal mistakes for germinating seeds
When vegetable seeds are not germinating, there are a few common problems that you should look for.
1. You used old seeds
The first thing to consider is whether the seeds were viable in the first place. If your seeds have not sprouted within the appropriate number days (this will depend on your seeds), then you may want to consider using a pen or pencil to gently dig around in your soil and find the seed.
- If you don’t find the seed, think back. Did youforget to put the seeds into the mix? Don’t laugh! It could happen!
- If you find the seed, take a good look at it. You may see that it looks just the way it did when you put it in the soil. In this case, the cause for a low germination rate might be that it was an old seed or not properly stored.
If you have some old seeds and are unsure of whether your seeds were viable, you can always sprout a couple of them in a wet paper towel to check prior to planting.
For new seeds or seeds you saved last year:
- When you saved seed, did you put them away without letting them dry completely? This can cause seeds to rot or mold.
- Were they exposed to extreme temperatures during storage? For example, if you left seed packs in your car over the summer. High temperatures over 90 can kill the plant inside the seed.
- Was the parent plant healthy? Seeds can harbor infection from the parent plant that may prevent sprouting, however, this is not usually the case.
2. You didn’t use new or sterilized containers
Disease issues can be a factor in seed germination. Think back to last year and whether you had any disease issues with your seedlings.
- Most plastic containers can be reused for several years, but they need to be sanitized.
We clean ours by submersing them in bleach water at the beginning of the season.
If you are looking for a bleach alternative, try the environmentally friendly bleach alternatives that use hydrogen peroxide as their active ingredient.
Fungal and mold infections are the most common infection from dirty containers. If infection occurs you will notice a fuzzy growth on the top of the planting medium.
- You may also see that a seed sprouts, but then rots at its base and falls over.
This is called damping off and is caused by a funal infection in your soil. A hydrogen peroxide or colloidal silver solution can help treat fungal disease on your tender plants.
3. Your technique is not right
- If you started seeds in any mix that includes non-sterilized soil from the yard, your seeds may have been affected by disease organisms in the soil.
In order to use garden soil for starting seeds, you should sift it carefully to remove sticks and clumps. Then bake it on a cookie sheet in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. That should kill most weeds and pathogens.
You’re better off using a seed starting mix. Seed starting mix is usually a soiless mixture that has a finer grain and is free of clumps, sticks, and pathogens.
- Did you plant your seeds too deep?
Planting your seeds too deep can cause problems with sprouting. You should also avoid pressing down on top of your seeds after you plant them. If the soil in your container is too compacted, the seeds cannot sprout or form healthy roots.
4. You didn’t provide the correct temperature
The temperature of your soil is of utmost importance in getting a good seed germination.
- Temperatures that are too high or too low can cause problems germinating seeds.
Given all else is equal, even tray germination requires even temperatures. If temperatures plunge at night, or peak over 100 for a prolonged period, seeds will either remain dormant or die.
- Did you leave the heat mat too high or too low?
Even when using seed starting heat mats, accidents happen. If you forget to put the temperature probe into the seed tray, the heat mat can overheat and cook the seeds.
Sometimes heat mats get accidentally turn off, or you forget to plug it in.
An alternative to the heat mat is to put them in a sunny south facing window or on top of the refrigerator. You can also use grow lights to provide heat above, and I have even seen people use rope lights to generate warmth.
5. You watered incorrectly
Seeds need to be moderately moist to sprout.
- Seed germination is highly dependent on watering. Too dry and they won’t get the message to sprout, too wet and they will rot in the dirt.
Very young seedlings are even more tender. Seedlings do best in what we call the “Goldilocks zone.” You know Goldilocks. She likes her porridge not too hot and not too cold, but juuust right.
- Tender seedling babies can’t tolerate drying out. While young, even a short dry period can mean death after the first wilt.
On the other hand, their tender roots will be the first victim of conditions being too wet. They can’t get the oxygen they need to carry about their business, and it will stunt or kill the seedling.
What other problems have you had germinating seeds?
If you’ve had troubles germinating seeds and this article didn’t answer your question, leave me a comment below. I’m happy to help you work out what’s going on.
Fail-Proof Cannabis Germination Method in Soil or Coco
We have a cannabis seedling germination page that includes everything you need to know about all the different germination methods, but this tutorial is different. In this tutorial, I’m going to share exactly how I do my seeds from beginning to end. Just follow these instructions and you’ll end up with healthy, fast-growing plants that germinate in just a few days. It’s basically fail-proof.
Turn your cannabis seeds…
This step-by-step tutorial will teach you how to germinate seeds and provide basic seedling care
Soon you’ll have healthy cannabis plants to admire
1.) Get Cannabis Seeds
There are a few different ways to get cannabis seeds, with the most common being ordering seeds online and growing seeds you find in weed that you buy. Learn how to research and find the right strain.
Here’s a picture showing several healthy and viable cannabis seeds
2.) Prepare Your Soil or Coco Containers
Before you start germinating your seeds, set up your soil or coco. It will still be a few days until your seedlings arrive, but you want to have everything ready before the seedlings need to be planted.
Get your containers ready before you start germinating
When it comes to new growers, it seems like the most fool-proof method (at least for me, and many of the new growers who write in) is the Paper Towel Method! It’s so simple, but there’s something about wet paper towels that a young seedling loves Learn About Other Ways to Germinate Seeds.
Paper Towel Method – Place your seeds inside a folded wet paper towel (Important: use cheap brand!)
This method is hard to mess up if you follow the instructions. Place your seeds inside a folded wet paper towel, and put that between two plates. The purpose of the plates is to prevent the seeds from drying out. Don’t let any part of a paper towel hang out the edges or it will wick away all the moisture and dry out. Keep everything totally contained between the plates.
Surprisingly, the really cheap paper towels work the best because the seeds and 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.
Wet a paper towel (use the cheapest brand you can find). If growing multiple strains, you may want to label the paper towel so you know which is which. Place each seed on the wet paper towel next to their label.
Cover with another wet paper towel
Add another plate on top to keep the paper towels from drying out. Make sure now paper towel is sticking out the sides.
- Check on your seeds every 24 hours but try not to disturb them. When they’ve germinated, you’ll see the seeds have cracked and there are little white roots coming out.
- They should germinate in 1-4 days, though some seeds can take 7 days or longer (especially older and smaller seeds).
- Keep them warm if possible. Seeds germinate a little faster is to keep them in a warm place (75-80°F). Some people use a seedling heat mat but in most cases that’s unnecessary. I leave mine near a sunny window. I usually put a thermometer in the same place to make sure it’s not too hot or cold (or just check the plate with your hands)
Here are those seedlings about 2 days later. Be extra careful when removing the paper towels. Don’t let the seeds roll around or you won’t know which is which. This is when you’ll be glad you used cheap paper towels, as they are much easier to peel off without disturbing your seedlings.
You can see some of the seeds sprouted, but some of them haven’t yet. That’s totally normal! Each seed is different. If this happens to you, you have two choices. You could plant the ones that have already sprouted and let the other ones stay in the paper towels until they germinate. Or you could just put all the seeds in Rapid Rooters now, and hope for the best as far as the slow-sprouting ones. It’s up to you. Letting the unsprouted seeds stay in the paper towels longer improves the germination rate in my experience, but it’s simpler (easier) to move them all at once.
Seeds often germinate at different rates even if they get the exact same conditions
4.) Place Germinated Seed in a Rapid Rooter
Now it’s time to get your Rapid Rooters! Alternatively, you could place your sprouted seeds directly in the final growing medium (coco or soil). I think these help them get started, but I’ve grown many successful plants by just putting the germinated seed directly in its final home.
Rapid Rooters are nice, but not necessary
The Rapid Rooter should be cut open lengthwise. I use big scissors but you could also use a knife.
Gently place the germinated seed inside, root down. Place the seed close to the surface so it doesn’t have far to go.
If you have a root that is curved or bent, don’t try to straighten it out. Open the Rapid Rooter and lay the germinated seed down gently. It will naturally lay on its flattest side. When you slowly close the Rapid Rooter, the bent parts of the root will end up in the “crack” of the Rapid Rooter that you cut to split it open from the side.
Most seedling plugs will go back into place easily, and you’ll barely be able to tell it’s been opened. I love Rapid Rooters because their texture causes most seeds to stay in place and not “fall down” further into the hole once you’ve got the Rapid Rooter closed.
5.) Water the seedling in the Rapid Rooter until you see a root come out bottom, 1-2 days.
Make sure to always keep the Rapid Rooter moist but not soaking wet and give plain water.
Since your seed has already sprouted and been in placed into the right growing position, it’ll often pop its head out within just 12-24 hours! Sometimes you see just the leaves, but often you actually see the seedling push the shell above ground.
Don’t touch the shell if possible because a tiny tug in the wrong direction can pull the seedling out of the plug and break off the taproot.
Try to let the seedlings break free if possible. But if you have a seedling that’s stuck in a shell after a day or two, and doesn’t seem to be getting any better, you need to go in and help.
I’ve found that pointy tweezers are perfect to pry open a shell that’s stuck. Just close the tweezer, stick it inside between the shell halves, and let it slowly open to pull the shell apart without you ever touching the seedling.
Sometimes a “film” from inside the shell gets stuck on the leaves. If that happens, try putting a drop of water on the film a few times a day to soften it. If the seedling doesn’t push it off on its own, hold the stem between your fingers (so it doesn’t pull at the root) and use tweezers to gently tug at the membrane and release the leaves.
Don’t use a dome on seedlings unless it’s very dry where you live. If you do use a dome, consider keeping a vent open and watching the humidity. A young seedling doesn’t require as high humidity as clones (which are what the domes are designed for), and seedlings tend to get “wet feet” and stop growing as fast in constantly wet conditions.
Water your seeding in the Rapid Rooters until you see a root coming out the bottom. Keep Rapid Rooters moist but not wet. During this time, give seedlings bright filtered light. A CFL or LED light bulb kept several inches away works well. I’ve left mine on the kitchen table next to a sunny window, and that’s also worked fine for me as long as it doesn’t get too hot.
You should see a root come out the bottom in just a day or two!
After you see your first root, it’s time to…
6.) Put Seedling in its New Home
You are about to water your seedlings for the first time, so prepare your water now.
- Coco – Prepare water with seedling-strength nutrients, and make sure to pH your water to 5.5-6.5 right before giving it to plants. Unlike soil, coco does not naturally contain any nutrients so you must provide nutrients in the water from the first watering.
- Soil – Prepare plain water at 6-7 pH. You don’t need to add nutrients for the first 3 weeks or so because your plants will live off what’s in the soil. Adding extra nutrients at this point might overload and burn the seedlings.
Now that your water is ready, dig a hole that’s a little smaller than the Rapid Rooter, and place your seedling plug inside. The idea is to let the Rapid Rooter stick up above the soil a little to help the roots get more oxygen. It’s okay if the plug goes in flat with the soil, but don’t bury the stem as that can cause stem rot in some cases. Even if you’ve got a tall seedling, you usually won’t notice the extra length once the plant is bigger.
Gently pack the nearby soil/coco to hold the Rapid Rooter in place so the seedling is stable.
Your seedlings get a little extra oxygen if you let the Rapid Rooter stick up into the air slightly as opposed to burying it.
Example of cannabis seedlings growing in coco coir, about to get seedling-strength nutrient water. If they were in soil, I would give plain water for the first few weeks.
Water immediately in a small circle around your seedling. For most grow mediums and containers above 1 gallon, you can give 2 cups (500 ml) of water immediately without overloading your seedling. If the grow medium feels moist (for example coco that was recently re-hydrated), give 1 cup (250ml) of water this first watering.
Give 2 cups (500 ml) water in a circle around the seedling. If the grow medium is already wet, give just 1 cup (250 ml)
How to Water Seedlings in the Beginning
Two Main Goals
- Seedling roots never dry out (most important)
- Seedling roots aren’t staying soaking wet (roots need oxygen)
Seedlings “drown” and die due to lack of oxygen if they get too much water too often. To avoid this, try to provide an amount of water that lets you water seedlings every few days. Avoid giving so much water that the seedling roots are in a super wet grow medium for days as this causes “damping off” and root problems. Some grow styles like high-frequency fertigation call for watering more frequently. Just remember that the more often you water your plants, the less water you should give at a time. Also, keep in mind that a smaller container tends to dry out fast while a bigger container holds onto the water for longer
Try to maintain a schedule that lets you water your plants every few days without them looking droopy
- Water in a small circle around the base of the plant at first
- If the growing medium feels dry within 1 day, give more water next time. Otherwise, give the same amount again next time you water
- Repeat, until you can give enough water to get at least a little runoff, and have it dry in a few days
If the medium is drying in less than 2 days, it means you need to give more water to the plant at a time, or possibly transplant to a bigger container if the plant has outgrown its current one.
If your growing medium takes longer than 3 days for the top inch to dry, it means the soil is staying wet too long, and plant roots aren’t getting enough oxygen. It also puts your plants at risk of getting fungus gnats . Try giving less water at a time until the plant is drinking more. It’s possible you may have a problem with drainage in your medium ( what is good soil? ) or there are no drainage holes so extra water can’t come out the bottom of the container. Always remove any runoff water instead of letting the plant sit in it.
More seedling resources
Some growers like to put seedlings in solo cups and then into their final container. When done right this can increase the rate of growth by providing more oxygen to the plant’s roots. If you go that route, I recommend paper cups as they’re not as bad for the environment.
Autopsy: Why Aren’t My Marijuana Seeds Sprouting?
If your seeds still aren’t sprouting and growing properly, consider the following factors.
If there’s no germination at all…
- Temperature may be too hot or cold – aim for 75-80°F
- Too wet – seeds and seedling roots should always be moist, but should not be soaking wet
- Too dry – if a root dries out the seedling can die
- Bad seeds – It might not be you, it could be the seeds themselves. Even if you purchase from a good breeder, sometimes you still get duds. How can I tell if seeds are viable?
If seeds sprout, but then stop growing…
- Temperature is too hot or cold – aim for 75-80°F
- Too wet – new seedlings don’t like “wet feet” so make sure your Rapid Rooter or growing medium never looks shiny or muddy, as that means there’s too much water! For this reason, it’s also usually recommended to avoid using a humidity dome with seedlings unless your air is dry. Although clones love humidity domes (they need water from the air because they don’t have any roots to get water), seedlings like it a little drier or roots tend to get mushy.
- Too dry – less common unless you live in a very dry area, but sometimes your medium dries out too fast if you’ve got a heavy-drinking, fast-growing seedling!
- Too much light – if the seedlings get blasted with high levels of light right away, it can shock them. They may need some time to adjust to higher light levels. Simply starting your grow light a little further away than normal is usually enough. Think sunny window at first, and start ramping up after a week of healthy growth.
- Not enough light – if seedlings are growing long and stretchy without growing new sets of leaves, it means it wants more light.
- No light for more than a day – if the sprouted seed doesn’t get light within 24 hours after sprouting, it may die. Once seeds are sprouted, get them in a Rapid Rooter and under at least some amount of light as soon as possible!
- Roots damaged – If somehow your roots got damaged, it can sometimes stop the seedling from growing
Unfortunately, sometimes you will never know why certain seeds just don’t thrive. It’s all part of nature. But if you follow this tutorial you will get the best results possible.
Top 10 germination and seedling mistakes
Most seed germination issues can be sourced back to the germination method. This is an area where Dutch Passion have extensive expertise and can offer accurate, professional advice for seed germination issues.
Dutch Passion have been helping growers with their cannabis seed requirements since the 1980’s. Few in the seed business can claim more experience. Many of the early problems that growers deal with involve issues with germination of the cannabis seeds and subsequent growth of the seedlings.
Below are the 10 cannabis seed germination topics which generate the most feedback and questions from growers. Hopefully you will learn something which can improve the success of your future grows.
1. Watering too much, or too little… or both!
Perhaps the most common seed germination issues are related to the amount of water (and the germination technique) used to produce seed germination. A lot of cannabis seed germination issues are caused when the seeds are overwatered and soaked. Soaking seeds, or giving them an environment with too much water, causes seeds to stagnate and stop developing.
Soaking cannabis seeds causes them to stagnate.
When a cannabis seed germinates, a small white root will emerge. However, if the cannabis seed is soaked for too long in waterlogged conditions the root will stop growing and eventually start to rot. An indication of root rot is a brown colouration on the root or the root tip. Cannabis roots need oxygen as well as moisture to thrive. But if the roots are soaked for too long, there is insufficient oxygen for root health to be maintained and root rot can begin.
Conversely, seed germination issues are also seen when the cannabis seed dries out due to insufficient moisture. This can happen when growers try to germinate their seeds between moist cotton pads but forget to put them in a sealed container e.g a dinner plate sealed with some transparent kitchen film.
Without moisture, the cannabis root simply dries out and dies. Under high magnification you will notice that the tap root is covered with numerous delicate root hairs. These will dry out and die unless the root is kept in moist (but never soaked) conditions. You will notice the cannabis root turning brown. Just as with an over-watered seed, once the root is showing discolouration and dying it is often damaged beyond repair.
Soaked cotton pads, saturated tissues or even waterlogged soil in a closed container all show the same issue when soaked. Soaked seeds won’t develop roots at all or they will stop their development.
So make sure your environment is moist but never soaked, and give your feminised seeds and autoflower seeds the best chance to germinate. Note that there are no differences in the techniques used to germinate feminised seeds and autoflower seeds, the same germination methods are used.
It’s also worth adding that the appearance of a cannabis seed (colour, size, shape etc) won’t have any influence on the speed of germination.
|Everything you need to know about cannabis roots
What does the appearance of a cannabis seed indicate?
How much water should I use for a successful germination?
If you are germinating your cannabis seeds between lightly sprayed cotton pads, the pads only need 5 short sprays to moisten them. Remember, the key principle is to provide a healthy environment with both moisture and some air. If you try to germinate your cannabis seeds in a water-saturated environment for too long the roots will simply rot. It doesn’t matter whether that environment is cotton pads, soil or any other material. Moist conditions will work, but sodden/saturated conditions will eventually cause the root to rot and die.
One of the most reliable ways to germinate cannabis seeds is simply to place them between two cotton pads which have been lightly sprayed 5 times with water. Just leave the pads for a couple of days in a sealed environment so that the cotton pads don’t dry out. The golden rule is to spray the pads lightly. Cannabis seeds thrive in moist conditions but can die quickly in soaked conditions
|Cotton Pad germination video tutorial
Soil germination video tutorial
How long for germination of weed seeds?
Usually it takes somewhere between a couple of days to a week for your cannabis seeds to germinate. Occasionally seeds can take a couple of weeks. To avoid seed germination issues, remember the important basic principle for cannabis seeds; offer an environment which balances moisture with some aeration for root development. Therefore, germinating your seeds in a light soil mix will give better results than a heavy clay-based soil.
How often to water weed seedlings? / When and how much water to give to cannabis seedlings?
Watering should be offered only to keep the soil moist and prevent it from drying out. Remember that the small cannabis root (often called a tap root) will need to absorb very little moisture initially. The main focus is to allow the root to develop through a light, aerated grow medium which doesn’t obstruct the root growth, not should it allow the root to dry out.
2. Germinating cannabis seeds outdoors
Many people love to germinate their cannabis seeds outdoors, especially outdoor/greenhouse growers. Why not? That’s the way that seeds have evolved over millions of years to germinate. However, it’s worth noting that in nature a plant can produce hundred/thousands of seeds but only need a few of them to make it past germination in order for the next generation to survive. Cannabis growers, on the other hand, like to see germination rates of 90%-100%, especially if they have bought premium cannabis seeds for their specific requirements and grow location.
However, outdoor growers can struggle to achieve good germination rates if they rely on outdoor seed germination. Conditions can fluctuate dramatically, especially during the unpredictable early season weather.
Temperatures and/or weather can swing significantly between night and day, reducing germination rates and killing weaker seedlings. If the weather is cold and wet with persistent rain, the seeds may simply rot in the ground and never emerge. Even if they do, slugs/snails/birds may get to the seedlings before you do.
If the early season weather produces a heat wave, your seeds may dry out if the roots haven’t been able to reach deep enough for moisture. Germinating cannabis seeds outdoors may work for some seeds, but it’s not recommended for the highest germination rates.
Those that germinate cannabis seeds outdoors in containers may find that the containers get very hot in direct sunlight – especially dark/black coloured containers which absorb the suns heat. Temperatures around (or above) 35ºC/95ºF can kill the seeds/seedlings through excessive heat. That’s why many successful outdoor cannabis growers prefer to germinate their cannabis seeds indoors where conditions can be opted to minimise seed germination issues.
What is the best temperature for germinating cannabis seeds?
The temperatures found in an average house, 20ºC – 25ºC are perfect for cannabis seed germination.
Many serious outdoor growers germinate their seeds indoors to maximise germination rates and then perhaps grow their seedlings indoors under artificial light for a couple of weeks to give them the best possible start before risking them in the great outdoors. It’s the best way to avoid seed germination issues and ensure the maximum number of your precious cannabis seeds make it into healthy adult plants.
|Outdoor cannabis seed collection from Dutch Passion
Best ways to grow cannabis outdoors
3. Overheating seedlings with heating mats
For good cannabis seed germination rates you need both moisture and warmth. Seeds which might germinate at ambient indoor temperatures in summer may not germinate quite so easily in winter in a cold part of your house. Sometimes during the cooler months, the indoor temperature may need a small boost. That’s why many growers use an electrically powered, plug-in heating mat. This can be set to a specific temperature to provide the warmth required to avoid seed germination issues.
Overheating cannabis seeds will slowly cook and destroy your seedlings.
The plant pots, or propagator, simply sit on top of the heat mat. These can be a great solution for cold periods in winter. However the Dutch Passion team have come across cases where heat mats are used all year round. In summer, this is unnecessary and can result in overheated plant containers and seeds which have been damaged/destroyed by the high temperature.
When indoor temperatures are already 20-25 ºC there is no reason to risk adding extra heat, especially if it can’t escape. The danger is overheated soil and sterilised seeds. In combination with excess moisture/excess water, cannabis seeds and the delicate tissues inside are slowly cooked and destroyed. This can occur if the excess heat from the mat can’t escape and builds up in the plant containers over time.
Should I use a heating mat for germination?
Yes you can, but use them during colder periods such as winter time. You may also wish to use a thermometer to confirm that temperatures are being maintained within the preferred 20-25ºC range.
What temperature should I put my heating mat on?
Because heat can build up in soil or in a propagator, be sure not to set the temperature too high. Temperature settings of around 20-22 degrees should ensure a nice warm environment, without risking overheating.
4. Fertilising cannabis seedlings incorrectly
When seedlings first sprout they are very sensitive to their growing environment. Strong light at close range will damage their delicate leaf tissues easily. Temperature extremes and large temperature swings/cold nights can also be fatal to them. That is why you have to be careful growing your seedlings in the first 1-2 weeks.
A common mistake seen by the Dutch Passion customer service team is excessive nutrition/fertiliser being given to seedlings. Cannabis growers often use a wide variety of nutrients/fertilisers to grow their plants. Sometimes they make the mistake of adding a lot of these during the first stages of growing. In the worst cases, this can permanently stunt growth, or kill the plant.
Seedlings and their delicate root systems can’t handle a nutrient rich environment very well. Nor were they designed to. The seedlings have everything they need for a healthy initial germination and development inside the seed itself. That is how nature made them. So when seeds first sprout, they don’t need any fertilizer at all!
When to start using nutrients with germinated cannabis seeds?
Many growers prefer not to add any fertilizer or additives during the first week of growth. Your seedling will not need it at this time, and will only be damaged if exposed to an excess of nutrients or fertilizer. If you are growing in a good quality soil, you may not need to add any extra nutrients for a week or two. Even then, you should only consider weak/starter nutrients and slowly build up concentrations.
5. Germinating seeds in jiffy pods, coffee filters and rockwool cubes
Of all methods used for germination, these methods are the ones that give the most issues and are often done incorrectly. This is backed up from customer feedback and the 30+ years of experience from the Dutch Passion customer service team. During the decades of seed supply, Dutch Passion (and their customers) have accumulated extensive experience of which cannabis seed germination methods are safe to use, and which are best to avoid.
Of course, many growers will argue that these methods have always worked well for them. But that doesn’t mean that the methods are completely bullet-proof with a wide working latitude for everyone.
Some growers find that cannabis seed germination in jiffy pods work pretty well. The main concern for the Dutch Passion team is that these methods are not quite as bullet-proof with the same wide-latitude as the preferred method of germinating cannabis seeds between moist cotton pads.
Experience from the Dutch Passion team is that there are many ways to incorrectly perform cannabis seed germination with jiffy pods, coffee filters and rock wool cubes. You may be better off using a safer, less troublesome method with a wider working latitude and reduced risk of getting it wrong. Therefore Dutch Passion recommend customers not to use them.
What is wrong with germinating seeds in Jiffy pods?
Water has to be added to jiffy pods in order to use them. The Dutch Passion team have seen many cases where growers completely soaked the jiffies before use. Other growers will even stand the jiffy pods in a shallow tray of water while seeds are germinating in them. In the worst cases, this results in a soaked environment in which cannabis seeds won’t germinate (or with reduced germination rates).
Jiffy seed pods work well for larger seeds e.g. beans, where there is less to go wrong. But for cannabis seeds there can be seed germination issues when used incorrectly and for that reason Jiffy pods are not recommended.
What is wrong with germinating seeds Rock wool cubes?
Rock wool cubes are sometimes used for germination, but perhaps they are used more often for creating clones and allowing cuttings to develop new roots. For that purpose they work well. When used for germination, however, the same issues can occur as with the jiffies. Overwatering, overheating or placing the seeds too deep in the rock wool (glasswool) cube can cause seed germination issues for less experienced growers. Therefore rock wool cubes are not preferred if you’re looking for a low risk method for germinating your autoflower seeds or feminised seeds.
What is wrong with germinating cannabis seeds in coffee filters?
One of the more unusual and unwieldy methods for cannabis seed germination is the use of coffee filters. The seed tip is placed pointing downwards inside a wet coffee filter, inside a large sealed bag. This is often hung from a hanger against a door or inside a closet. The idea is that the roots grow downwards by hanging them vertically.
Along with many things that can go wrong with this method, we feel it’s unnecessarily complicated, gravity will always make sure roots find their way down anyway. Therefore we do not recommend customers to use it. One of the main risks is that the coffee filter will hold too much water and soak the seeds, causing root rot.
What methods work best for germinating cannabis seeds?
There are a lot of methods that can be used, but some have higher margins for errors. The methods may work fine for others but not necessarily you e.g. due to too much water being present at the root level. One of the most common cannabis seed germination methods is still the moist cotton pad method (or moist kitchen tissue). Customers are free to use a method which works best for them. However the Dutch Passion team feel that there are less things to go wrong, and maximum chances of success with the moist cotton pad method.
Is soaking seeds in a glass of water a good germination method?
As previously mentioned, cannabis seeds like a moist environment but do not perform well in soaked/saturated one. When they are exposed to a soaked environment e.g. several days in a glass of water, you may experience seed germination issues. This is especially the case when the seed is left soaking for long periods.
Many people soak their seeds in a glass of water for a day before putting them on moist cotton pads or moist kitchen tissue. The Dutch Passion customer service team feel that this is an unnecessary step. Seeds will absorb moisture from water or cotton pads in just the same way without the risk of root rot associated with over-soaking your seeds.
If you are planning to germinate your cannabis seeds in soil and wish to soak them in a glass of water first, we advise to soak them for no longer than 12 hours.
6. Damping off cannabis seedlings
‘Damping off’ is a disease which affects seedlings. It is caused by several different fungi (and fungus-like) organisms. This disease causes a thin stem which is unable to support the emerging seedling. The result is that the seedlings collapse, often under a white mass of fungal growth.
Damping off is most common in young seedlings and can be caused by overwatering your soil. It also happens when you use contaminated soil, e.g. from your back garden. The fungi Rhizoctonia and Fusarium, alongside Pythium plant parasites are the most common pathogens responsible for damping off. Note that Pythium is often transported around on the feet of fungus gnats, which can be a common pest in soils made with composted wood.
Once your seedling starts suffering from damping off, there is little you can do to save it.
How to avoid damping off my seedlings?
If you use fresh soil, and make sure you don’t overwater it, there should be little risk of damping off. Once plants have mature leaves and a well developed root system, they are better able to naturally resist the fungus that causes damping off.
7. Stretching seedlings caused by lack of light
After your cannabis seeds have successfully germinated it’s time to provide good care for your seedlings. This includes light, one of the most important factors for healthy plant development. Once your seedlings have sprouted it’s important to provide it with good quality lighting, either natural sunlight or an artificial indoor grow light. If the lighting is too powerful, it can kill a vulnerable new seedling. Some growers like to use specially designed ‘T5’ fluorescent tubes for cultivating seedlings, or perhaps some LED light bars designed for seedlings.
Stretching cannabis seedlings due to insufficient lighting.
But if the lighting is of an insufficient strength, the seedlings will ‘stretch’ upwards in an attempt to find the light. In the worst cases, this can cause serious issues or cause the seedling to die. This happens when the elongated stem simply is unable to support its own weight.
Light remains one of the most important environmental factors in growing a cannabis plant. Growing in a poorly illuminated environment with low light levels results in a stretched out plant with few leaves. What leaves there are tend to be very small in size. Because leaves are the “solar panels” that collect energy for the flowers, your yield will also be minimal in low light conditions.
How do I fix stretching cannabis seedlings?
It’s not necessarily the biggest problem if your seedlings have stretched, so long as you support the stems in time. This can be done with a small support, such as a small stick/cane. Some growers support a stretched seedling with a short length of drinking straw which has been slit down the side with scissors.
Most plants will recover and grow up to become healthy plants. Once the seedling has sufficient light it will stop stretching and instead use the energy to develop bigger/more leaves and a healthy plant/root structure. If you have stretched seedlings in their original pre-grow containers, you can also fix the issue by transplanting them into a new container and covering the elongated stem with soil.
The use of gradually increasing light is highly recommend for seedlings after a successful germination.
What is the best type of lights for cannabis seedlings?
The use of gradually increasing light is highly recommend for seedlings after a successful germination. Initially this can be done with relatively simple Fluorescent lights (e.g. T5/T8) or CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent lights). Both types are frequently used for the first couple of weeks after germination and provide the plants with ample blue dominant light for the first weeks of growth.
Other relatively inexpensive options are LED seedling light bars like the SanLight Flex series. These are long-lasting, high quality lights. Many modern growers have invested in specialist lighting for seedlings and get great results. But note that these seedling lights lack the power to grow mature cannabis plants. You will need a high powered light for bloom. HPS lights are a common choice and are cheap, though a high quality LED grow light will give a superior light spectrum, reduced heat stress, longer life and superior quality/results.
|How to grow weed easily indoors, expert tips and advice|
How do you know when it’s time to go from seedling to veg lighting?
Once cannabis seedlings are a couple of weeks old, many growers will move them from their ‘seedling light’ to a light which is a little more powerful. Allowing the seedlings a week or two to gain some strength before transferring them to a grow room containing the more powerful full spectrum lights is generally regarded as good practice.
Some lights that are perfect for seedlings are:
- Fluoresced lights T5/T8
- San light flex series
- Growspec Sunray Series
- California Lightworks Solar System Veg Light (Or SolarSystem + optional controller).
Since their introduction, LED lights have improved significantly. Affordability has also improved and LED is now the first choice for serious, professional cannabis growers.
Quality LED lights with full spectrum control can be used from the vegetive phase through to harvest. Light spectrum can be adjusted along the way ensuring that the plants always receive optimised light. The best spectrum for veg is blue dominant spectrum with perhaps some white. Blue spectrum light (400-500nm) will promotes healthy vegetative growth producing large, strong and healthy leaves and branches.
Examples of LED lights with a full cycle (veg to harvest) controllable spectrum are those from California Lightworks and GrowSpec. The California Lightworks Solar System series also includes purpose designed ‘veg’ lights with a fixed blue dominant spectrum.
Of course, cannabis seedlings can also be grown with excellent quality results under full spectrum (LED) lights as long as the correct light distance-to-canopy is maintained. Check with the manufacturers guidelines, which will vary according to the size and power of the LED light. Growers are often cautious to carefully acclimatise their seedlings when switching them from seedling lights to powerful ‘main grow room’ lights.
This can be done simply by ensuring that the main grow light is hoisted to a high position in the grow room, well above the seedlings. As the seedlings start to mature the light-to-plant distance can be gradually reduced. Once in full bloom, the plant is ready for maximum light levels.
When and how long to put seedlings under light?
It’s best to refer to the specific guidelines from the lights manufacturers. Grow lights come in a wide range of sizes and power outputs designed for different hanging heights and different sized grow rooms.
How long to light seedlings? Most people give the seedlings 18-24 hours of daily light. This allows them to grow leaves, roots and branches but not buds. Flowering only starts when light hours are reduced to around 12 hours per day, usually after around 4-6 weeks of vegetative growth.
8. Choosing the wrong type of soil to germinate seeds
Using some soil from their back garden to germinate cannabis seeds in is something the Dutch Passion customer service team see from time to time. This is usually a beginners mistake, or an attempt to cut a few corners and save cash. But it really isn’t recommended.
Sometimes the soil is healthy enough, and seeds will germinate without issues. But in many cases, the soil is too sandy (or too heavy with a high clay content). Garden soil may also contain unhelpful mold/fungi/pests or it may be too strongly fertilised. Often soil from the growers compost pile is used for seedlings.
The logic is that it is fresh, natural and perfect for growing. However, freshly composted soil can often be very nutrient rich. Perfect for mature plants, but toxic to seedlings, which are delicate and need only light nutrition (if any).
In other cases where garden soil has been used you may see mold developing over the soil surface, giving it a white discolouration. Seedlings affected by mold can have a high risk of damping off and dying.
What type of soil should I use for germinating cannabis seeds?
For the best result make sure you use clean, fresh soil. This can be found in a garden centre or grow shop. It may be described as a ‘light soil’ mix or a seedling soil. Don’t use strongly fertilised soil. Normal potting soil is often good to use. But for optimal results we advise a 50/50 mix of light-mix and coco substrate. This mixture is very easy for roots to grow in, and has just enough nutrients for the seedlings to get started.
When your seedling is 1-2 weeks old, the roots and plant can handle more nutrients and a very light feeding schedule can be used. When it comes to nutrients and young plants, err on the side of caution. It is better to feed plants with weak nutrients and slowly build up nutrient concentrations than to start with strong nutrients which can damage or kill young plants.
Also recommended are products like the Biotabs Starterkit. This allows you to prepare your soil in advance for the entire grow with slow-release organic nutrients. All you have to do then is water your plant, and leave nature to do the rest.
9. Not transplanting autoflower seedling to a larger size pot in time
Since the introduction of autoflowers years ago, this has been a common issue. While photoperiod plants can stay in a small container for a longer period of time during veg growth, autoflower plants may not always respond well to it. Autoflowers benefit greatly from a good start and a decent sized container. Therefore providing good care of them during the first weeks is important. Remember that autoflower seeds produce plants with a fixed life span and no time to recover if they have been root bound in a small container for too long.
A key role in this is the cannabis root system. Autoflowers have a main root stem that grows straight down. If this root is interrupted or damaged, it will result in a tiny plant. So it’s very important to transplant your autoflower to a large pot in time, also known as “potting up”.
Many growers will tell you that you have to germinate your autoflower in it’s final pot. However this can make the germination process a little more difficult. Instead, germination in a smaller sized container e.g. about 1 litre is a good alternative. You can keep your autoflower in this pot for about a week (maximum 2 – 2.5 weeks) and then transplant it to the final pot. In many tests over the years this has never caused a problem. When “potting up” do make sure the main root has enough room to point all the way down, by digging a deep enough hole.
When and how to transplant cannabis seedlings in a bigger pot?
How to transplant a seedling? One easy way is to fill the larger container with grow medium and then make a ‘hole’ in it with the small container currently containing your seedling. This will be the perfect size for the root ball of your seedling. But make sure that you don’t over-compact the new grow medium when you make the hole.
Many growers will water the new grow medium well before transplanting the seedling in it, this allows the roots to quickly expand into their new territory. Some growers sprinkle some beneficial Mycorrhizal bacteria into the hole to assist onward root development.
What pot size should I use to grow autoflowers?
When growing autoflower seeds most growers find that they perform well in any pot from 10 litres and above. However, because of the limited life cycle of about 11 weeks, there is no need to go much larger than 30 litres. And of course you can also plant your autoflower plants directly into the outdoor earth in your garden, without any pot restriction.
What pot size should I use to grow photoperiod cannabis plants?
When growing feminised photoperiod seeds, the plant can be maintained in veg growth until you are ready to reduce daily light hours to induce bloom. This means that you can keep a plant for several weeks in a smaller plant container, perhaps 10 litres or so, until bloom.
As you get ready to flip the plant into bloom, many growers will take the opportunity to first transplant it into a larger container. But much depends on the space constraints in your grow room, the number of plants you wish to grow, the period of veg growth and other factors. There will be a large difference, for example, in the container sizes used for Sea Of Green (SOG) growing vs Screen Of Green (SCROG cannabis cultivation method)
|How to grow cannabis with the Sea Of Green (SOG) method
How to grow cannabis with the Screen Of Green (SCROG) method
10. Sowing cannabis seeds too deep in the soil
Cannabis seeds don’t need to be buried deeply to germinate well. Placing your autoflower seeds or feminised seeds 3-5mm deep is sufficient for a fast and healthy germination. Your seed should not be deeper than 10mm. If you place the seed to deep, it will have trouble making it to the surface. While it’s trying to do so, the risks of rotting, overheating and getting damaged increase.
Sowing your autoflower or feminised seeds 3-5mm deep is sufficient for a fast and healthy germination.
In rare cases some growers have been known to simply scatter their seeds on top of the soil, like sowing a grain field. This method is definitely not recommended.
How deep do you sow cannabis seeds?
We advise a 3-5mm depth. But make sure not to go deeper than 1cm.
Bonus tip: How to get the seed shell off a weed seedling
many growers have been tempted to ‘help’ their plants germinate by trying to pull the seed shell off the weed seedling. This is simply never recommended. Pulling the seed shell off before it is ready can damage the seedling which derives some nutrition from the seed before it is discarded.
In the worst cases, the seed shell simply sticks to one of the cotyledon leaves (the first pair of baby leaves) where it will do no harm. Just leave the seed shell, it’s not worth risking the removal of it.
Hopefully this article has given you some useful advice and helpful information. Cannabis seed germination isn’t difficult if you follow a few proven rules and principles. Good luck, and enjoy growing!
11 Comments . Leave new
excellent article thank you very much Dutch passion,realy good one.
Had a seed shell stuck, so much that it ripped off the other cotaledan off at the base. It’s almost three weeks old now, still just a nice green 1 coteledan leaf, sure hope she pulls out of it and grows. As long as it stays sturdy and green I’ll let it be. Let ya know what happens. If and when that may be, I try to make a few leafs appear everyday when I scope it, but so far nothing yet. There’s still hope
if your talking about an auto my friend then that seedling is finished due to the life span they have once they sprout they have a life span of about 10 to 11 weeks and in that time they have to veg and flower if ur veg cycle is weak then ur flower cycle will be almost none existant
Can I start my seeds inside in my grow room, and then transfer them to my greenhouse with different lighting and different lighting time due to the early season?
As long as you are not too early in the growing season this should be fine.
Your plants can get a nice start if you start the growing process indoors
Thanks for the actual sound information, I wish I found this a few weeks ago. As a new grower I’m finding the hardest part of growing to be finding solid reliable information amongst the sea of first year masters.
This is my first year growing from seed and am 1/7 with my first batch and 1/14 (two days in) on my second run of seeds. I’m gearing I’ve over watered both times in my pods. Is it worth while trying to ring them out to try and dry them out a bit or just leave them be and pray?
We are very welcome!
When seeds are starting to germinate they are very delicate, so I do not advice you to try to take them out and let them dry. Best to hope these will survive and next time you should follow our guides
I have a small amount of seeds from a plant I grew last year. Second generation. Unknown origin. Extremely potent. The female plant sprouted a single male pollen sac stem, and produced the small amount of seeds on the plant. The seeds are like no other that I have ever seen in my over 50 years of using, and over 10 years growing cannabis. When put in a small container, they stick to each other, and glaze over with a resin-coated glaze. Have you ever seen or heard of seeds like these? Even when removed from container and separated, then put back in container, they reglaze over again. Excited to attempt to grow this year, outdoors. Any germination tips for such sticky seeds? Thank you!
Hello Bud Farmer,
That’s is a strange occurrence you have with your seeds, the thing we think of when you say a resin-coated glaze is THC. But this is not a normal thing for seeds to contain. Our advice is to stick to the regular germination advice we give here and wish you good luck with this years grow!
I have never grown a plant before. I hot some homegrown and it was littered with seeds, so I planted two, and now have two plants. The are doing well, I can see the little round leaves, then two little pot leaves, and today I noticed two more little pot leaves growing from the middle of that. They are loving the outdoors. I water in the AM and in the PM. I have been doing alot of reading, and now I am so confused. What stage am I in and what should I be looking for if they are doing good? Oh, and how do I know if it is a male or female?