If you are starting with seeds, you’ll have to germinate them to get the grow started. In this chapter, you’ll learn all about the natural conditions that cannabis seeds germinate under and then we’ll show you a failsafe way to germinate your seeds.
What is germination?
A cannabis seed is just an embryonic plant enclosed in a protective shell and germination is the process of reactivation of metabolic machinery of the seed. The outer shell splits apart and the embryonic plant emerges as a seedling. For cannabis seeds, this process takes between 1 and 7 days.
What makes seeds germinate?
Cannabis seeds lie dormant until they meet the right conditions to begin germination. In tropical conditions, cannabis seeds germinate in the warm rains of early spring. The well-drained soil of the forest floor wouldn’t be waterlogged, but it wouldn’t dry out. The ideal temperatures would be between 70°F-80°F (21°C-26°C), with 60-80% relative humidity. These spring seasonal signals tell the embryonic plant contained in the seed that conditions are right to begin its life cycles. These are the same conditions you will emulate to germinate seeds.
What’s the easiest way germinate cannabis seeds?
Peat moss pellets are pucks of dried peat moss enclosed in a fine netting. As a mostly inert medium that retains water well, peat moss pellets do a great job of mimicking the natural conditions of spring jungle floor.
What you need
Peat moss pellets – Get them online or at local department/hardware stores – they are widely available.
Filtered water – You probably have this in your fridge. pH balance between 5.5 and 6.5.
Cannabis seeds – Learn more about cannabis seeds in our guide
Step 1 – Flood the Peat Moss
Peat plugs come dried and compressed, so you need to flood them with water. Use some warm filtered water from your fridge, rainwater, or distilled water that’s pH balanced between 5.5 and 6.5. Add water until the plugs are saturated, then drain the excess water. The plugs will swell 4-5x their original volume.
Step 2 – Insert Seed
Most plugs or pellets have a small hole in the top. Insert the seed between 1/4-1/2″ (6-12MM) deep and lightly cover with an excess medium.
All emerging seedlings look identical, and most mature plants look very similar. If you start multiple strains at once, make sure to label them. Plastic plant labels can be fixed to peat moss plugs to identify the plant through its life – adding dates makes it a self-contained record.
Step 3 – Wait for it!
The next few days is mostly a waiting game. Put the pellets in a partially covered container to prevent drying out and follow these two simple rules:
DO keep the pellets warm and moist throughout germination, cannabis seeds germinate best in these conditions.
DO NOT flood or over-saturate the pellets after the initial flooding, since this will prevent the roots from getting enough oxygen. Too much water and the seedling will ‘damp out’ and fail.
One easy method to ensure that you get the right amount of water is to use a spray bottle to wet the outside edges. Another is to quickly dip the bottom of the pellets into the water; moisture will wick upwards to the rest of the pellets. Either method will encourage roots to grow outward.
Step 4 – Care for it!
As your young seedling emerges from the seed, you’ll notice that it has a set of ‘built-in’ leaves that don’t look a lot like pointy cannabis leaves. These are the cotyledons, and they are there to help the young seedling bootstrap the photosynthesis process. Young seedlings need light right away – but not too bright for the first few days
Keep the peat pellet moist until the seedling is ready to plant in a growing medium, but never saturate the pellet since that can drown the young plant. Add water from the bottom up by dipping the pellet quickly in water. This will promote rapid root growth as the roots will grow down after the water.
When is it time to plant the seedlings?
You’ll know when it’s time because roots will be bursting out of the bottom of the peat pellet. Plant the pellet in a solo cup sized container using a quality soil mix. Water without nutrients for the first few weeks.
Optimizations & Alternatives
Germination Heat Mats
Germination heat mats are just like heating pads, but they don’t get as hot and are water resistant. These are especially useful for germinating seeds in colder conditions.
One of the best ways to simulate tropical climates is to use an enclosure to conserve moisture and heat. You can make your own from cheap plastic containers, or buy a special purpose kit made for peat pellets. Used along with a germination heat mat, you can easily set up a tropical jungle climate anywhere.
If you want professional results with no hassle and complete stealth, try a professional grow-box.
Can I germinate seeds in paper towels?
Yes, you can germinate marijuana seeds in moist paper towels. Just put a damp paper towel down on a plate or other container and spread the seeds around. Add another damp paper towel or fold over the existing towel to cover all the seeds. You will need to keep the paper towels damp at all times throughout the germination process – a spray bottle can really come in handy for that. Covering the seeds with another plate or plastic will prevent it from drying out too quickly, just make sure that there is still some airflow for when the seedling emerges.
After a few days, the seed will crack and the embryonic cannabis plant will start to emerge. Once you see a solid root begin to emerge, you will need to transplant it into your growing medium. While this approach might be slightly faster than the other methods we’ve shown here, we don’t use this method because of the risk to the plant and main root during transplanting.
Can I germinate seeds directly in the growing medium?
That’s how it works in nature and it’s easy to do. Use a solo cup sized container filled with soil or coco and place the seeds about 3/4 inch (~ 2cm) deep. Keep the medium moist but not wet until you see the seedlings emerge between 3 and seven days later. The reason we recommend peat moss over directly planting in soil is that it is easier to control moisture levels in peat plugs due to the texture and qualities of peat. Experienced growers often sew directly into the growing medium.
Many farmers use rock wool cubes for starting clones and germination, particularly hydroponic growers. While these work well and are economical, they come with drawbacks. We recommend that new growers begin with peat pellets.
How long does it take to germinate?
From the time that you place your seed into the germination medium, you should start to see the emerging seedling within 2-5 days. Cannabis seeds germinate faster when they are kept at the correct temperatures, between 70°F-80°F (21°C-26°C), with a 60-80% relative humidity. Cooler temperatures will slow the germination process or stop it altogether. Germination is usually complete, and the plant is a young seedling within seven days. If you warm the seedlings with a heat mat, they can emerge in as little as 24 hours.
Should I germinate with nutrients?
Germinating plants don’t need any nutrients; it can burn their new leaves and roots. That’s why it’s best to grow seeds in an inert medium, like peat moss pellets or a paper towel. Young seedlings don’t need nutrients until they are a few weeks old.
Do cannabis seeds need light to germinate?
Not really, but they need light within the first day or so of emerging from the seeds, so it’s a good idea to germinate with a light source. Light sources also help increase the temperature, helping the germination process. Sunlight, fluorescent or low powered LED grow lights are all great options.
What if the seed gets stuck on the seedling?
They usually loosen and come off after a day or two. If it doesn’t come off, you can try to separate them. The easiest method is to find the direction of the crack and use a pair of tweezers to ‘help’ the seed continue cracking. Be careful that you don’t clamp the seed down or you can clip the folded embryonic leaves.
Next up, read our seedling care guide to learn how to care for your new seedling.
How to germinate cannabis seeds in peat pellets
Not all germination methods are equally successful. Some will disappoint you, while some can surprise you in quite a positive way. One of those methods that tends to provide awesome results and is quite simple and easy to achieve is germinating cannabis seeds in peat pellets.
Before we head onto the actual process of germinating marijuana seeds in peat pellets, let’s check out what the benefits of using jiffy peat pellets are and why you should choose this method of germination.
What are the Benefits of Peat Pellets?
If you’re not yet sure whether this method is suitable for you, check out some of the main benefits of using peat pellets to germinate your seeds below!
- They are easy to work with.
Peat pellets are super easy to work with. They are lightweight and highly compressed and they transport quite well. They can be planted into small and large containers or directly into the ground.
- They are the full package.
Peat pellets are a container and a medium all in one. They meet all the requirements your seeds need to grow with a consistent quality. They require less labor, less water and provide faster and better germination.
- They are eco-friendly.
Using peat pellets means growing in a medium that’s safe for the environment since its biodegradable, unlike other popular choices like rockwool.
Step-by-Step Guide to Germinating Marijuana Seeds in Peat Pellets
Now that you’re familiar with the benefits of using peat pellets to germinate your cannabis seeds, let’s go over the entire process step-by-step so you can consistently record higher and faster levels of germination and get a more consistent quality and results.
Jiffy pellets have easy to follow instructions, particularly suitable for novice growers. Here are the main steps you need to follow when germinating marijuana seeds in peat pellets:
Step 1: Get your container and your pellets ready
While you can use any type of container, ideally you should get a pellet tray that acts as a pellet holder and can typically contain up to 25 pellets per tray.
Make sure your pellets don’t overlap and have small borders between each so they can extend as they soak up the water.
Step 2: Cover with water
Pour water onto the tray to expand the pellets. Use warm water (up to 95°F/35°C) to help them expand faster. While you can use both tap or distilled water, we recommend using distilled or purified water so as not to expose the seeds to harmful substances which can be found in tap water, such as certain minerals. Keep on pouring water as they soak it in, allowing them to rise up and fully extend. Repeat the process as long as it takes until your pellets have fully risen and are ready for planting. Once they do, remove all of the excess water from the tray and head onto the next step.
Step 3: Place your seeds
Once the pellets have fully expanded, take your seeds and place one in each pellet. Place them in the middle at about 3/8 of an inch (1cm) or so. Don’t put them in too deep as this will prevent them from sprouting.
Once you plant the seeds, cover them with the excess peat from the sides and cover the tray with a lid or a plastic wrap. If you decide to purchase the specialized peat pellet tray, you’ll see that it comes with a humidity lead that goes on top, so use that one to cover your tray.
Step 4: Continue watering
You will need to water the pellets in around a week after planting your seeds. Just make sure not to water them from the top down as this can disturb the germination process. Keep your tray by a window or a warm, sunny spot and just wait for the seeds to sprout in a few days.
Step 5: Transplant
After about two weeks your seeds should be ready for planting. Then, you can plant each pellet directly in the soil or in a pot, depending on your preference.
As you can see, germinating weed seeds in peat pellets is an easy process that doesn’t require a lot of work. However, if you still have some unanswered questions on the subject, we hope this list of some of the most commonly asked questions on the subject can help answer some of your dilemmas.
Is there a certain way to plant cannabis seeds in peat pellets?
Yes, there is. To make sure you get the best results, you’ll want to place your seeds about 3/8th of an inch (1cm) deep, as if you plant them deeper within the pellet, they may not sprout.
Can I germinate autoflower seeds in peat pellets?
Absolutely! Germinating autoflower seeds in peat pellets is a simple and easy process and it follows the same steps as germinating any other marijuana seeds.
How many days does it take to germinate a cannabis seed?
Once planted, the seeds should start to sprout within two days, but it may take up to a week. Once they’ve sprouted you can remove them from the tray and plant them in soil at any point after they’ve sprouted, although we recommend waiting for a week or two to make sure they are ready for planting.
What if I don’t have access to peat pellets?
While this is quite an effective and sustainable way of germinating seeds, there are a few other ways you can use to achieve the same results. Germinating marijuana seeds in water is also a perfectly viable and safe option and can provide excellent results, which is great when you don’t have pellets at your disposal and are looking for an alternative solution.