Why Are Your Cannabis Seeds Not Germinating? Many first-time growers and inexperienced planters often experience this problem when trying to cultivate cannabis seed. They end up languishing and There are many to consider when germinating cannabis seeds — not only the germination method you choose but also the conditions your seeds require to thrive. We often get beginning growers in the store looking for seed starting advice. This blog will help you set up the right environment to germinate seeds.
Why Are Your Cannabis Seeds Not Germinating?
Many first-time growers and inexperienced planters often experience this problem when trying to cultivate cannabis seed. They end up languishing and wondering why their effort is not yielding since a cannabis seed has a pretty high germination rate (99%). However, many things might not promote the germination process.
Generally, cannabis seeds are powerful and grow pretty fast. If the seeds do not germinate, there is likely a problem with the germination method. This article will explore many things that can go wrong when trying to cultivate cannabis seeds.
The chances of having a viable seed increase significantly if the genetics is good. This is pretty important as it can avoid wasting energy and effort trying to germinate a bad seed. When you buy good quality seeds from trusted banks, you can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that your actions will not be wasted.
As a result, it is not a good idea to grow seeds that you stumbled on inside a cannabis bag you got. Such seeds could be infertile and may not germinate. If it eventually germinates, you might not like cannabis. Make sure to buy the right seed from reputable stores and increase the chances of germination.
Direct Soil Germination
This is one of the top reasons your cannabis seed is not germinating. If you do not water the substrate before sowing the seeds and water afterward, there is a high probability that the seeds will not grow. This is not surprising as the seeds could be buried too deep, and adding water after sowing worsens this.
You can obtain good results by germinating the seeds in jiffy pellets, peat plugs, or using kitchen paper and later transplant them to a pot or the soil when the small seedlings come out. Make sure to care for your tender plant at this stage. Limit irrigation, support the right temperature and use Northern lights when growing indoors.
Wrong Temperature and Humidity
The ideal temperature for germinating cannabis seeds is high humidity and high-temperature levels. It is essential for people in tropical countries to provide external support of heat to get the temperature within reasonable and acceptable ranges. This is where heated greenhouses come in. Not only do they provide the right temperature, but they can get the humidity level to the ideal range essential for germinations. A cannabis seed needs 70% relative humidity and an average temperature of about 270C for germination.
If the temperature and relative humidity ranges are lower than the ideal value specified, the growth rate will be slow and unsuccessful. Excessive range, on the other hand, can lead to fungal problems.
Seeds Planted too Deep.
The amount of energy available to a germinating cannabis seed is limited. As a result, if planted too deep, it might not have the required energy to make its way up. A seed planted underground will have no light and is not producing food yet since no photosynthesis. Planting seed too deep creates extra stress for the seedling as migration to the surface becomes an issue.
As a result, you should plant your cannabis seed around 2 to 3 cm down or half inches deep. With this, they have enough room to grow taproots. This might be one of the reasons your cannabis seed didn’t grow.
Using Old or Unsterilized Pots and Soils
A fungus is one of the greatest enemies that might affect the germination of cannabis seed. If you reuse soil and it is not sterilized, there is a high chance of mold and other unhealthy organisms like insects and bacteria. As a result, the seeds may not sprout at all. Even if they grow, these organisms might kill them after a couple of days. For instance, a sprouting seedling might suddenly bend and change color to brown in a process known as damping off. This is common when you supply the seed with too much water when there is poor drainage or the aeration is poor.
Due to this, consider planting seedlings in a sterilized pot as the tendency of containing harmful organisms is low. Also, make sure the containers are clean as it can reduce the tendency of fungus.
Planting lots of Seed in one Pot
Planting a lot of seed in a single container might seem like a good idea due to the ability to save cost. This is like shooting yourself in the leg, as it might lead to a wasted effort. Even if the seeds germinate, they will compete for limited space, nutrients, and water. A cannabis plant needs enough space for its root to travel down without restriction to prevent severe intermodal distance.
Limited space translates to severe competition not only for nutrients but light as well. This is not a good idea if you want to get the best from your cannabis seed. If the seed eventually germinates, they will be weak, which will affect the plants and overall output.
Cannabis Seed left underwater for a long time.
Some growers prefer to soak their cannabis seeds before planting them. This is an essential step to break the dormancy and soften the shell to prepare the seed for planting. With a softshell, the taproot will easily break the body and push its way out of the shell. Typically, the seed will be put inside a glass of water and left until it sinks before the grower plants it. However, this is not as simple as it sounds.
A cannabis seed needs to be continually breathing, and a fully submerged seed will not get the necessary air supply. This might kill the seed if left for long inside the water. Once the seed sinks, take them inside the paper towel as soon as possible.
There are many intricacies involved in germinating a cannabis seed. Getting it wrong with any of the systems might not make the cannabis seed grow. You can arm yourself with these essential tips to ensure that your cannabis plants germinate. Use these tips as a guide when trying to germinate your cannabis seed. Also, if your seed does not germinate, this guide can help you troubleshoot.
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Care and Caution When Germinating Cannabis Seeds
For growers looking to produce top-shelf cannabis, it all starts with the seeds. Rich Hamilton explains there’s far more involved than simply burying a seed in a pot of dirt.
There are many to consider when germinating cannabis seeds — not only the germination method you choose but also the environmental conditions your seeds require to thrive. These conditions include temperature, light exposure, moisture, and oxygen levels. Get any of these wrong and it could spell the end for your grow before it even begins.
Cannabis seeds can be very delicate and temperamental even when germinating in the perfect conditions. You can understand why you should approach this task with best-practice knowledge and caution.
To try and give your seeds the best chance, we are going to look at some tips and methods to help you get better results, first time, from your germination efforts.
Firstly, what is germination? Well, germinate means “to bring to life.” Germination is the first part of a plant’s life, the growth or shooting of a seed into a seedling and then hopefully a plant.
Cannabis seeds germinate via epigeal germination which sees the cotyledons (seed leaves) pushed upward and out of the soil as the plant begins to grow. For germination to occur, several natural elements and conditions must be present in the correct ratios. Let’s have a look at them.
Water — This is needed to start the germination process as the seed is dry, holding only five percent water and needs to absorb a lot more to begin the germination process. Seeds store starch, oils, and proteins and when germination begins, hydrolytic enzymes are activated, releasing the stored supplies and giving the plant just enough of the right chemicals to get it started. Water is also needed to expand the seed’s shell and soften it, allowing it to split for the beginnings of the plant to emerge. The hardness of a cannabis seed shell can vary quite a lot. If your seed is ripe and mature enough for germination, then you shouldn’t have any problems. A more immature cannabis seed, however, will have a more rigid shell and may fail to germinate.
Oxygen — Seeds need to breathe, but without oxygen the seed may drown or suffocate. Overwatering can suffocate your cannabis seeds preventing oxygen from getting to them, so keep them moist but not soaked. Don’t overwater your seeds — use a spray mist rather than pouring water directly onto them.
Temperature — Ideally, your cannabis seeds will germinate best at their “sweet spot” between 70-75°F. If you germinate a cannabis seed outside this range, then it can negatively affect the plant’s growth and health in the future. When temperatures are too cold, it can ultimately stunt germination so keep seeds away from any drafts, open windows, or fans.
Light conditions — Cannabis seeds germinate best in dark conditions. During germination, your cannabis seed is working to develop its first root (the radicle), and roots (unsurprisingly as they exist underground) do not like light! It is therefore vital to keep your cannabis seeds somewhere dark until transplant. But as soon as germination occurs and your new seedling develops leaves, it will need to be exposed to light to start the vital task of photosynthesis. Now that we understand what your cannabis seeds need, let’s explore the most popular methods used to germinate them.
The Glass of Water Germination Method
You can leave your cannabis seeds in a glass of mineral water in a dark environment until the radicle/tip of the root shows.
Depending on the seed strain, you should generally see something happening within one to five days. Why mineral water? Well, depending on where you live, your tap water can vary immensely in terms of chemical composition and pH. The ideal pH for water when germinating is pH 7. Anything outside of this can have adverse effects on your seed. Using mineral water is a cheap and effective way of keeping a stable pH environment. If you use tap water, however, leave it to stand for 24 hours first. The tap water needs a chance to settle and dissolve any chemicals that are present and may be harmful to the seeds.
You can use an air stone and pump to oxygenate the water whilst it stands for 24 hours. By doing so, you will reduce the chance of the seeds drowning and helping to dissolve any unwanted chemicals at a faster rate.
The Paper Towel Germination Method
Using a paper towel to germinate your cannabis seeds is both reliable and straightforward. You should find that 90 percent or more of your cannabis seeds will germinate when following this method correctly.
Take a sheet of premium paper towel and fold it in half, then place the seeds to the left of center. If you are germinating more than one seed, then you can use the same piece of kitchen towel but do not let the cannabis seeds touch each other. Now fold the kitchen towel in half again so all the seeds are covered up and then saturate it with water.
Mineral water is excellent to use, or if you are going to use tap water, then follow the recommended process for the glass of water method as previously discussed. Now leave the kitchen towel on a plate in a dark place as the roots will hopefully begin to develop soon and they do not like the light.
Humidity levels are equally important and keeping the seeds in the paper towel will keep the humidity levels where they should be. Keep the kitchen towel moist at all times and do not let it dry out. If you have been successful, it should take about two to four days for you to see until the radicle begins to emerge.
It is best practice to place the moist kitchen towels between two clean plates. Doing so helps to stabilize temperature and humidity and block out any light. The plates should be face-to-face, with the germination towel in between. Once a cannabis seed starts showing signs of successfully germinating, you can easily remove them whilst leaving the others, which may not yet have germinated, undisturbed.
Direct Germination Method
Germinating “directly” is where you place the cannabis seed directly within a pellet or block of a medium of your choosing. You can germinate your seed within a soil or coco pellet, however, I would recommend choosing a one-inch rooting sponge or stonewool cube.
You can use a soil pellet, but the risk here is that soil already contains a certain level of minerals and elements that could cause an imbalance in your seed, affecting its development later on in life.
For seeds in their natural environment, there can be double, triple, or a hundred times more plants growing in the soil at any one time. From those plants, thousands of seeds are dropped for germination and of those thousands, only half may germinate, even under natural conditions.
We are trying to grow our seeds under controlled conditions and in much smaller numbers. The margin for error, therefore, is much smaller. Using a rooting sponge is an excellent alternative for germination as it eliminates any risk of deficiencies or toxicities you may otherwise experience when using a natural medium such as soil at this early stage.
The direct method of germination can be hard to control as you must wait until the seedling first shows itself out of the chosen medium to know whether it has been successful or not.
As the cannabis seed is buried within its medium, you cannot check on it during the process to see if it has begun the germination process. As a result, this process can take much longer than the methods already discussed.
If you are germinating “directly” then firstly you should moisten your medium by misting it with a spray bottle. The cannabis seed will then need to be carefully inserted into the chosen medium and be surrounded by its encasing environment to keep any light out.
Now that you have chosen your method and you have successfully germinated some seeds. What now? How do you know when you should transplant? If everything goes according to plan with your germination efforts, you will see the radicle/root tip of the cannabis seed breaking through the shell. This new root is the first sign germination has occurred. It is best to transplant each seedling when the radicle is around three times the length of the seed.
A rooting sponge is a perfect choice for transplanting as it is compatible with whatever medium or system you use later. Rooting sponges are also an excellent choice for those who are looking to sell their seedlings.
Rooting sponges and stone wool blocks make for more robust root systems. It can take longer for the roots to break through, but when they do, they will be stronger.
When you are transplanting the seed, it must be placed radicle first into its new home, quickly, gently, and precisely as it only has a minimal amount of energy to survive and develop into a seedling. Once your seeds are transplanted, they should go into a propagator, ready for the start of the growth phase of their lives. Your cannabis seed holds all the potential to give you the vibrant, robust, healthy plants, and bountiful yields you desire.
Taking the time and care to get your seeds off to a good start should be a no-brainer. Knowledge is power if you want to be a better grower, so think of the learning process just like a seed itself. Nurture it, cultivate it, and you will soon harvest success.
How We Germinate Seeds Indoors
We often get beginning growers in the store looking for seed starting advice. To germinate seeds, or take them from dormancy to sprouting, you need to set up the environmental triggers to assist the seed. There are many different techniques for germinating seeds, and a lot of products and advice out there for how to get started if you’ve never done it. So much advice, that it can be very confusing. The following is a little advice for what we have found that works for a wide variety of seeds for flowers, vegetables, herbs, and even cuttings/clones:
When is the best time to start your seeds? If you are going to be growing your plants indoors, then anytime you’re ready is the best time. If you will be transplanting to an outdoor space, then it depends on the weather where you live. Check with The Farmer’s Almanac, or the back of the seed package will usually tell you how many weeks before the expected last frost date for your area to plant. Don’t know the last frost date for your region? This is a good page to help you figure that out.
Getting Your Seeds Planted
Always wear a mask when working with perlite!
Always wear a mask when working with perlite! Perlite is a form of obsidian characterized by spherlulites formed by cracking of the volcanic glass during cooling, used as insulation or in plant growth media. It is like tiny shards of glass and is very dangerous to your lungs if it’s inhaled.
Step one: Coco coir comes in a dehydrated brick. I hydrate the coir according to the package directions. Before doing this you would benefit from reading the notes in the Watering section of this post.
Step two: I mix perlite into the coir at a ratio of one-part perlite to two parts coir. The coir in our mixture holds moisture without staying too wet. The perlite helps aerate and loosen the media for water to drain easily while also retaining moisture. To keep the dust down, we recommend using water from a spray bottle to wet the perlite prior to handling. I stress again to wear your dust mask when handling perlite.
Step three: I have found that using a product with mycorrhizae increases germination rate and root growth rate after the seed sprouts. I mix the package-recommended amount on whichever product I am currently using.
Step four: Fill the seed tray with media and plant your seeds! Tip: A general rule for seeds is to plant them no deeper than one to two times the diameter of the seed. For very tiny seeds (i.e. lettuce) I simply drop a few seeds on the surface of the media and leave them uncovered.
Seeds respond to warmth and need heat to germinate. If your media, or the water you’re using, is too cold, the seeds will stay in their dormant state. Most cool weather plants or plants that do best in spring and autumn (i.e. spinach, kale, etc.) generally need temperatures between 45°F and 70°F to germinate. Seeds that require warmer weather (i.e. tomatoes and zucchini) will germinate better generally between 65°F and 90°F. Most seeds have about a 25-degree range in which germination will be activated in the seed. This is great for us beginners trying out lots of plants for the yard. If your room is cool, and you’re trying to germinate seeds, pick up an agriculture heat mat and thermostat from your local hydroponics store to dial in the ideal temperature.
Our seedling/clone rack at the Lush Lighting Hydroponic Store
The light requirement of seeds is a tricky subject. Some seeds do not require light to germinate (mushrooms), some do. There is a ton of scientific research available about this if you’re interested in learning about the phytochrome system in seeds. If you would rather just grow the plant what do you do? My advice: Use a light. Here’s why: All sprouts need light. As soon as that sprout emerges from the media it needs light; even if it didn’t need light to germinate. A seed that needs darkness, planted at the right depth, will be far enough under your media and will be shaded from the light for germination. In the store, we use a Lush Lighting Herbal Vador LED grow light hung beneath a shelf. Others have used CFL’s which are widely available (we also have CFL’s available in the store). Some others have had great success placing their seed tray in front of a south-facing window.
A few notes about water:
- Seeds like to be kept moist, and they don’t like to be immersed in water for too long. If seeds stay too wet for too long they will rot. If seeds stay too dry for too long they will dry out and die.
- Doing a pH test on your water is a really good idea. When water pH is too high or too low, your seeds will not germinate. Most seeds germinate between pH levels 5.8 and 7.0. Matt Johnson wrote an excellent explanation of the importance of checking water pH.
- Water quality can make a big difference in your success rate. If you live with city water consider using RO filtered, or bottled distilled water (READ LABELS! You might be really surprised at some of the stuff that is in bottled water being sold on store shelves!). City water has been treated with all kinds of chemicals to remove bacteria and the like. Some of those chemicals (i.e. chlorine) are not good for plants.
- Water temperature matters. Cold water from a tap is often too cold for germination. Use water within the best temperature range for your plants. Leaving your water to sit out overnight to come to room temperature before you water your seeds is a good idea (Matt Johnson’s article –mentioned above—can give you more good reasons). The water we use to water all the plants here at the store has come to room temperature before it goes on the plants, including the seeds.
How often do we water? Water as often as it takes to keep the media moist and not drenched. We use a variety of techniques to keep our seeds happy: a mister, bottom-watering container, and/or a humidity dome.
The mister has a gentle mist that does not “skate” the tiny seeds (like lettuce) across the top of the media. It’s very important to make sure your seeds stay where you initially place them.
Another watering technique we use is bottom-watering. Put about ¼” of water in the bottom tray for your media to wick up. This technique is very helpful if your media is drying out too fast. If your growing room is dry, bottom-watering combined with a humidity dome may be a good option for you. If you need to step away from watering for a few days, it will retain the moisture for the seeds and keep any small sprouts from drying out. Small plants generally do well with a humidity level around 60%.
Be patient! Sprouts will come in due time!
How Long Will It Take before I see something happening?
A common question with an answer most of us don’t want to hear… it depends. I will say, the highest success rates come from recreating each particular seed’s ideal germination environment. Most seed packages will give you a time range anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. All seeds are a little different, even the same packet of seeds can have some that sprout quicker than others. Be patient, monitor your temperature and moisture and then you will be rewarded greatly when those first seeds germinate and those little sprouts emerge. It’s exciting to watch those small seeds become large plants. Happy Gardening!
About Matt Johnson
Matt is the President and Founder of Lush Lighting, Inc. He is a leader, a visionary, a mentor, and caring family man. Matt openly shares his wisdom, generosity and assistance with everyone he encounters. He is a sharp business man, admirable, loyal, and willing to step out of the box to make things happen. Whenever he gets a chance, he squeezes in a round of golf or a movie with his wife.
If you want to check more on different techniques for germinating seeds, we can share to you our hidden steps.