Generally speaking, cannabis is a hardy plant that will grow, or even thrive, in a diversity of environments. However, to assure germination, several steps can be taken. One “quick and dirty” method calls for a moist paper towel inserted into a plastic bag. Once the first root appears, the seedling must be carefully transferred to some soil before the root takes hold to the paper towel. More professionally, marijuana seeds can be germinated in a peat pellet. Plant the seed only just below the surface. Once the seedling has taken hold in the pellet, directly transfer it to a pot; the roots will grow right through the soft fabric that encases the peat, at which point the pellet can be directly placed into soil. Whichever method is used, keep the temperature between 70 -90 degrees Fahrenheit (21-32 degrees Celsius), ideally at 78 degrees Fahrenheit (about 26 degrees Celsius), making sure to keep seedlings covered to maintain humidity. Seedlings and young cuttings require photosynthetically active radiation that is more heavily weighted in the blue portion spectrum; a common fluorescent desk lamp will suffice until they are about 5 inches, or about 13 centimeters, tall.
If you live in a state or country where cannabis is legal, and where individuals are allowed to grow their own weed at home, then you should be able to buy marijuana seeds at most legal dispensaries. This might not be the case if you’re in a location that does not yet allow home growing. The best thing to do is simply check your local laws and ask your local budtender.
In 1982, Indian breeders made a major advance in cannabis botany with the development of the feminized seed. The key difference between feminized marijuana seeds and regular marijuana seeds is that feminized seeds have been engineered to produce exclusively female plants, whereas with regular seeds you can’t really predict if the mature plant will be male or female. This matters for cultivation since smokable flowers are produced only by female plants. Further, a male plant can potentially ruin a harvest if it pollinates nearby female plants, which produces flowers full of seeds.
Cannabis seed production begins with the pollen grain of a male plant. From this grain, a pollen tube grows, producing male generative cells that disperse in the form of pollen. The migration of pollen into a female plant ovule triggers pistils to fall off and seed production to begin. The bracts, which contain the ovule, will then fill with seeds.
Cannabis seeds are about the size of a peppercorn, ovular in form, and pointed on each end with a ridge that transverses longitudinally on only one side from tip to tip. It is this ridge that opens up during germination. The other side opposite to the ridge is rounded. The body of the seed is brown, but underdeveloped and unfertilized seeds can have an off-white color and are typically smaller in size.
Germination is the process of beginning vegetative growth of the new cannabis plant. Sometimes referred to colloquially as “popping,” this process starts when the seed is exposed to water and light . The seed abandons its state of dormancy, or quiescence, and resumes essential metabolic processes that feed on energy stores to delicately rupture open the shell and grow its first root. This root will elongate until it has taken hold of the medium, after which it will pull two small embryonic leaves (cotyledons) from the seed shell. Cotyledons are in the seed prior to germination, and are not considered “true” leaves. The cotyledons will grow until they are about one centimeter long, and once the stem below this is around five centimeters tall, another set up true leaves will grow out of the top and the stem between the true leaves and cotyledons will continue to elongate.
The body of a marijuana seed is spotted or striped, most commonly with light brown specks, but some varieties of cannabis can have red or yellow markings. Plant embryos are contained within seeds and house all of the cells that will eventually differentiate into leaves, roots, and stems. Embryos, found within the reproductive organs, are protected by an outer envelope called the pericarp. Crucial components of the plant embryo are the cotyledons, the first leaves to appear from the seed, and the radicle, which develops into the primary root. Once the seed germinates and begins its growth into a mature plant, special structures called root caps protect the growing tips of the plant.
In other words, you’re not “creating a seed” as much as you are creating your own unique strain. Hone in on traits that you enjoy for the most pleasant smoking experience possible.
After reading the above, starting with seeds might seem like perfection. However, everything in life has a downside. With that in mind, let’s shift the discussion to the not-so-advantageous aspects of using seeds.
THEY DON’T ALWAYS GERMINATE
Because clones are exact copies, cuttings taken from a female mother plant will produce another female. This allows growers to sidestep the 50/50 chance that comes with growing from regular seeds. It also avoids the minor risk of feminized seeds throwing out a male.
Seeds are tough. They can be thrown straight into the soil. Clones are delicate and need to be treated as such. If you handle cuttings aggressively or fail to give them a good start, they’ll die before they put out roots.
Every seed from the same plant will feature a slightly different genotype—a unique genetic code. There will always be genetic variation from parents to progeny, and sibling to sibling.
A grower or breeder can also freeze the progress of a breeding project for months or years without losing any of the long, hard work. Endeavors such as phenotype hunting and maintaining desired mothers for breeding and cloning can all be saved for later through genetic preservation. This process is like backing up work on a hard drive.
It’s important to continually practice germination testing to be sure your stored seeds haven’t lost all viability. To test this, periodically plant a seed and document its ability to germinate.
The Benefits of Long-Term Storage
Saving space is a big reason to consider long-term storage of seeds and pollen. Mother plants lay dormant in a vegetative state and take up lots of space. Maintaining this extra space is time-consuming and takes extra resources like water, soil, nutrients, light, and other costly elements, all for something that doesn’t produce flower. Even keeping clones of an old strain around will take up space and resources.
Fortunately, preserving genetics for long-term storage is easy and will save time, money, and space in the long run. Through seed and pollen collection, you can hang onto those genetics that you can’t fully get rid of and safely store them for future use.
To tell if a seed is mature, take a look at its shape and color. Premature seeds will be small and light in color, taking on a beige hue. Fully mature cannabis seeds are more full in shape and size and have a much darker brown hue, sometimes accented by black tiger stripes.