Want to control budget or have trouble finding clones? Learn how to grow cannabis from seed with this 10-step guide. Starting cannabis from seed is an affordable and fulfilling way to start growing. It all starts with germinating cannabis seeds, followed by creating the ideal warm, humid environment for seedling growth. Giving your seeds (and then the seedings) the best support from the very start, you'll set yourself up for success Want to grow cannabis from seeds? Read on for everything you need! Includes info on your genetics, lights, nutrients, grow tents, soil media, and more!
How to Grow Cannabis From Seed In 10 Easy Steps
Whether it’s to control budget or because it’s hard to acquire clones, many are interested in learning how to grow cannabis from seed. Growing marijuana has never been easier or more accessible. Our guide to growing cannabis takes you from the planning stages to the final stages of your harvest. If you’re ready to start growing your favorite strain, keep reading.
Step 1: Sourcing and Germinating Seeds
If you can’t or don’t want to grow from clones, seeds are a great (and some may say better) alternative. Finding high-quality seeds is easier said than done. Dispensaries in states with medical or adult-use cannabis may carry cannabis seeds. In states without cannabis laws, finding seeds is strictly limited to online cannabis seed banks.
Do your research on the many available seed banks that ship to the U.S. While many say they ship worldwide, they may exclude the U.S. in the fine print. Seed banks differ in seed selection. They also offer a variety of payment methods and discreet shipping. Some of the most popular seed bank sites include Attitude Seed Bank, True North Seed Bank, Amsterdam Marijuana Seeds, and Seedsman.
Cannabis seeds require germination to jumpstart the growing process. The simplest way to achieve this is through the paper towel method. During this process, the germ in the seed breaks through the outer shell forming a root, also known as a taproot. Germination can take a day or up to a week. Germinated seeds can be placed in the growing medium.
Step 2: Location and Light
Cannabis can be grown indoors or out. However, most towns that allow for home cultivation require gardens to be secured and away from public view. Regardless of where you choose to grow, your space must have the right amount of light and space to grow.
If you’re growing outdoors, consider any large trees that may cast a shadow or shrubs and bushes that can limit its space. North American growers should plant their garden in a space that faces the South to increase the amount of light it gets.
Growing indoors? Consider the height of your space and garden. Don’t forget about including the hanging lamp height in your calculations. Grow lights need to be a certain distance away from lights to prevent burns and avoid stretching if the light is too weak.
Indoor growers can grow in basements, garages, rooms, and even closets. Many growers start off with a grow tent, which provides a contained space for cannabis gardens. Many tent options come with all the necessary pots, lighting, filters, and fans needed to start growing from seed.
Once you’ve chosen your preferred space to grow your garden, it’s time to consider lighting, an integral part of the process. Most growers choose metal halide (MH) lamps during the vegetative stage. They switch over to high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs during the flowering stage.
Others may stick to their fluorescent and LED options. These can provide the right level of supplementary lighting for HID lamps. If you’ll be depending on LED lamps for your garden, make sure they have a full spectrum of white light. Full-spectrum LEDs are a bit more expensive than conventional HID lights, but they can save you money on energy bills. 250 to 400-watt HID lights can work for small gardens.
Step 3: Medium and Container
The medium of your plant refers to the base structure of your plant’s roots. A container keeps your medium, nutrients, and water contained when needed. Outdoor growers can use dirt, topsoil, compost, and other soil amendments to create a thriving microbiome needed to feed the plant’s roots.
Indoors growers, on the other hand, are increasingly preferring soil-less growing methods. Mediums made from peat, sphagnum, and coco act like soil. They hold the moisture and air needed to absorb the necessary nutrients.
Many smart pot options have holes around the sides and bottom of the container to improve water drainage. These breathable pots allow roots to get oxygen during the dark cycle. The pots prevent water build-up, which can lead to root rot and mold.
Step 4: Nutrients
Choosing the right nutrients is important for the best growth possible. Cannabis plants require certain nutrients to grow its roots, foliage, and buds. Nutrient solutions usually include an N-P-K ratio (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Nutrient solutions come in grow and bloom formulas for vegetative and flowering stages, respectively. Grow formulas have higher ratios of nitrogen compared to bloom formulas due to their differing needs.
Start off by reading your nutrient solution’s instructions and create a diluted solution at ½ to …” the recommended dosage. Starting off with a lower-than-recommended dose ensures you don’t overfeed and ruin your crop. If within a week or 10 days you don’t see any signs of nutritional deficiencies, you can increase the dosage to the listed levels on the packaging. If however, your plant looks healthy, you can continue your feeding levels.
Ideally, you want to use organic fertilizers to avoid salt build-ups in the medium. Organic and veganic nutrients are pricier than synthetic fertilizers, but they produce a far better product. Organic nutrients are helpful to bring out the cannabinoid and terpenes from your strain.
Some outdoor growers choose to feed their gardens through a composted medium that has many of the minerals needed for the plant’s growth. Others use time-release pellets that contain nutrients that are slowly released into the medium.
Step 5: Vegetative Stage
A plant’s vegetative stage is the first (some might say most important) part of the growth process. Much of the plant’s size and yield are produced during this time. Some may say that longer vegetative periods can lead to bigger yields. Vegetative periods can last between a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
Plants will remain in a vegetative stage when the light-dark cycle has more light than dark hours. Indoor growers set light timers to provide their plants with a minimum of 18 hours of light per day during this stage. During its dark cycle, the roots develop, so every hour of light and darkness matters.
Many growers use MH bulbs during this stage. MH bulbs have blue wavelengths, which are necessary to keep your plants from growing tall and wild. Indoor growers may prefer this set-up to keep their plants short and bushy. MH bulbs can produce plants with short internodal lengths (the distance between the main stem and the branches).
During this stage, you can employ different training and pruning techniques to maximize growth and yields. For instance, topping a plant involves removing the top shoot of the main stalk near the end of the vegetative stage. When cut, the plant produces additional shoots under the shoot’s cut, where buds can form during the flowering stage.
Grow Guide: How to Start Cannabis from Seed
Starting cannabis from seed is an affordable and fulfilling way to start growing. It all starts with germinating cannabis seeds, followed by creating the ideal warm, humid environment for seedling growth.
Giving your seeds (and then the seedings) the best support from the very start, you’ll set yourself up for success come harvest. Here are the basics to growing cannabis from seeds.
Where to Find Cannabis Seeds
At this point, there are hundreds of different online options for sourcing cannabis seeds . If you are growing indoors, the world is your oyster, as many websites are willing to ship nationally (or even internationally). Plus, if you master the indoor environment, you can recreate perfect conditions for even the most demanding of strains.
For those growing outdoors, try to locate a local breeder who also cultivates outside. These cultivars will be adapted to your unique climate and will likely produce better results.
No idea where to start? Seed Finder is an excellent resource for sourcing specific genetics and breeders in your area. But this is just one place among many in today’s weed-friendly world.
How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds
What You’ll Need:
- Cannabis seeds
- Paper towel
- Plate or tray
- Ziplock bag
- Heating mat (optional)
The first step to growing cannabis from seed is learning how to germinate them. Place cannabis seeds on a sheet of paper towel, laid on top of a tray. Dampen the towel with water so it’s wet but not soaking.
Fold the towel in half to cover the seeds, and enclose it inside a Ziploc bag. Place the entire tray on a heating mat, the top of a fridge or other warm area of your house. Cannabis seeds germinate between 71 to 77°F (22–25°C).
Check back every day for signs of life. If your seeds are viable, they should sprout within a week. If you are still waiting for a few to emerge after a week, toss those and begin again. If no seeds have sprouted, your seeds are no longer viable.
Ed Rosenthal recommends soaking seeds for 12 hours before germination. His formula uses water, a cannabis rooting solution and hydrogen peroxide.
This solution is a good option for commercial and large scale growers, as it reduces the risk of fungal infection and encourages rapid sprouting. Compost tea is another excellent option for a natural alternative.
Ideal Conditions for Cannabis Seeds and Seedlings
What You’ll Need:
- Germinated Cannabis Seeds
- Potting Mix (or Root Riot Plant Cubes )
- Propagation Tray with Dome
Once germinated, you must carefully move these tiny seeds into the soil or soilless growing medium like Root Riot Plant Cubes. When you start cannabis from seed, the aim is a warm and relatively humid environment.
Starting Cannabis With Soil
If using soil, choose an organic potting mix suitable for seeds and starts. Water soil mixture before use, and fill potting containers that have a drainage hole. Avoid pellets that are commonly sold at garden centers, as they don’t retain moisture well, and it’s challenging for cannabis roots to break free of the netting.
Using a popsicle stick, tweezers or a toothpick, lower the germinated seed into a premade hole roughly two the three times the height of the seed. As you gently fill in the hole, be careful not to damage the sprout.
Starting Cannabis for Hydroponics
For hydroponics, you’ll want to use Rockwool cubes or Root Riot Plant Cubes. These come pre-cut into perfect starter plugs, often with a hole in the middle for the seed.
Before use, soak the cubes in water and rooting solution until they are wet but not dripping. Gently lower the germinated seed into the hole using a popsicle stick, tweezers or a toothpick. Be extremely careful not to damage the early sprout.
Whatever option you choose, keep the seedlings at a consistent temperature: 68 to 77°F (20 to 25°C). Depending on where you live, a heating mat may be necessary. Use a propagation tray with a clear dome to trap the humidity in, but open up once a day to encourage a bit of airflow.
Lighting Requirements for Cannabis Seedlings (& How to Eliminate Stretch)
Seedlings and starts require 16 hours of light a day and eight hours of dark. You can even bump this up to 24 hours a day, and the seedlings will continue to eat it up.
What kind of grow light do you need for this early stage of development? Not the same capacity you’ll need for veg and bloom. Higher wattage types of HID lights (Metal Halide and High-Pressure Sodium) are far too powerful for sensitive seedlings.
Most growers use a simple LED grow light or a CFL fixture. Ed Rosenthal recommends 40 to 60 watts per square foot.
While these may not be entirely enough for veg and bloom, they produce enough light for seedlings without the added heat. This means you can place the lights close to the tops of the seedlings.
Place lights as close as possible to the tops of the starts, without raising the temperature over 77°F. You want seedlings to get enough light without burning them.
The goal is to avoid early stretching in your small cannabis seedlings. Healthy seedlings are short and wide, not tall and skinny. Stretching is when the sprout reaches tall for the light without putting out leaves.
Typically, under outdoor conditions, plants remain short for the first few weeks as they focus energy on building structure and root development. Stretching inside demonstrates the seedling is not getting enough light. The light source is either not intense enough or too far away.
When to Transplant Cannabis Seedlings
The primary goal for starting cannabis seeds in small pots is to encourage healthy and strong root development. Once the seedling has three to four sets of leaves, begin checking root development. This will likely be three or more weeks after germination.
Another telltale sign it’s time to transplant is when you notice roots begin to creep out from the drainage holes. If working with Rockwool, a key indicator it’s time to transplant is when the roots begin to outgrow the cube. A plant’s growth trajectory slows down if it is root-bound. If the roots have consumed the available space, it’s time to move up a size.
Cannabis Seedlings From Germination to Transplanting
Starting cannabis from seed gives growers access to a much larger genetic pool than what you can find locally from a clone supplier. Plus, if you’ve got the time to invest, it’s a much more affordable way to grow cannabis. Finally, if you are already set up with a veg and bloom room, you have everything you need to get started from seed.
How to Grow Cannabis from Seeds in 7 Steps: The Ultimate Guide to Your Best Cannabis Grow – 2020
Growing cannabis from seeds is easier than you might think. Read on for info on genetics, soil & other grow media, grow tents, lights, nutrients and more!
Before we begin, I’ll be straight with you: All you really need to grow cannabis from seeds is a pot, grow media like soil or coco, seeds, water, plenty of light, and a few nutrients. That’s it. Of course there are other supplies you could use such as a grow tent or high performance LED light, but they’re not always necessary. Cannabis has a long history of wild growth without any help from people. There’s a reason they call it “weed,” and that’s because it grows like one.
But even though you can grow cannabis without any special equipment, there’s an advantage to spending a little money on the right equipment. Industry experts are constantly improving their products which in turn help produce higher cannabis yields and a better flower. So today, as part of our mission to educate and provide valuable information, we’re going to go through each stage of your cannabis grow and highlight some of the equipment that can help you maximize your harvest.
Do you want to learn how to grow cannabis? Check out Growers Network University!
1. Cannabis Genetics
Genetics is just a fancy word for your seeds, and that’s what you need if you want to grow cannabis from seeds! The term can also refer to cannabis clones, but for the beginning grower, seeds are much easier to source. If you are interested in starting from clone stock, you can generally purchase them from a qualified local grower, assuming there are no laws against clone sales in your jurisdiction.
But which Cannabis seeds to buy? That depends on your grow style and personal preference. You’re going to choose an Indica, Sativa, or hybrid or course, but do you want regular seeds, feminized seeds, autoflowering seeds, or some combination? With regular seeds you’ll have to remove any males before they mature and pollinate your females or you’ll end up with seedy, low-quality buds. Additionally, cannabis grown from regular seeds will only flower in response to a change in the photoperiod (how many hours of light they are exposed to) so farming these types of seeds requires a bit more care and attention than autoflowering strains (which produce buds when they are old enough, not in response to the light) or feminized seeds which eliminate the need to monitor for males. If you’re looking for the simplest type of seed, you can go with autoflowering, feminized seeds.
Note: See our cannabis seed FAQ section below the article.
2. Cannabis Germination
Germinating refers to sprouting your cannabis seeds prior to planting. This isn’t always necessary when growing cannabis from seeds, but it WILL improve your chances of germination. The easiest way to do this is to fold your seeds inside of a moist paper towel and wait for a few days, making sure your paper towel remains moist. In this time you should see your seed “pop” as the tap root emerges. Now you’re ready for planting.
If you want a more controlled germination of your cannabis seeds, there are mini-greenhouses available with starter pods which allow your seeds to begin rooting prior to transplanting them into your grow media and offers an overall safer transition from germination to pot.
You can have a look at germination domes here.
3. Grow Media, Grow Tents, & containers
More than likely, you’ll be growing indoors in a grow tent and in soil. There are a variety of media types available including soil, peet, and coco. We recommend soil for the beginner, but whichever you choose it’s important not to skimp on the media. Spending a little extra money on your media will pay off in terms of cannabis quality and help you avoid problems such as pests, unbalanced pH, and poor nutrient delivery. You can see a few recommended soil and other media products here.
You’ll probably also need a pot. The pot you choose should be at least one-gallon and allow excess water to drain off. Once you’ve added the media to your pot and have your seeds, you’re ready to plant. Just insert your finger into the soil to create a ½ inch to 1 inch divot and place your popped seed inside. Cover and water appropriately. We recommend fabric pots which are reusable, lightweight, and drain very well.
The last thing to consider when planting your germinated seeds is where are you going to grow them? Are you growing in a closet? Do you have a dedicated space somewhere in your home? If not, a grow tent is an excellent option for creating a highly controlled growing environment. Grow tents are easy to assemble and their reflective interior maximize light efficiency. There are even kits that will provide everything you need including a fan to generate necessary air flow and a filter that will help keep the smell of your plants from wafting from your grow tent into your personal space. Even if you don’t mind the smell, your neighbors might! You can check out this grow tent configurator which will guide you through the best grow tent set up depending on the space you have available and the number of plants you plant to grow. You can check out our recommended soil media here. Need a pot? Check these out.
4. Cannabis Grow Lights and the Vegetative Phase
The vegetative stage is where your plants bulk up and develop the frame necessary to support the eventual flowers. As mentioned in the genetics portion of this guide, your seed choice will influence the amount of care and attention you’ll need to provide. If you choose regular seeds, the vegetative stage of cannabis growth will require an 18-6 light cycle (18 hours on and 6 hours off). The size of your grow will determine your light requirements and there are many choices. I tend to recommend LED lighting because they’re energy efficient and produce less heat than other types of grow lights, which will help keep overall temperatures down in your grow. Check out a few LED recommendations for your cannabis grow here. Keep in mind the size of the light if you’re using a grow tent to assure it will fit.
Fluence is a great LED brand, but far from your only option.
The vegetative phase is also where you begin monitoring the sex of your plants and then remove and destroy the males as soon as you identify them. If you have access to female clones, this step isn’t necessary, but it will be if you grow cannabis from seeds. You can check out our guide to sexing your plants here. Again, this is a step you need to take when growing from regular seeds. If you use feminized seeds you can be nearly 100% certain that all of your plants are female (1 in 1000 feminized seeds may turn out male).
Since the vegetative stage of growth is where your plant will bulk up and develop its framework, you’ll want to make sure you use some quality nutrients to ensure your cannabis grows strong and healthy. Click here for our recommendations.
A nutrient bundle is a great way to save money
Last but not least, an important consideration during the vegetative stage is pest control. It’s important that you monitor for pests and diseases during the duration of your grow to deal with any problems before they reach crisis level and threaten your crop. Fortunately, close monitoring and cleanliness will help you avoid most of these problems, but should you encounter pests or disease, there are a number of great, organic products that can take care of nearly any problem. And don’t worry, we recommend only products suitable for treating consumable plants. Check them out here.
5. Flowering & Nutrients
The flowering stage is when your cannabis plants will develop their buds. Again, if you choose to grow from “regular” seeds, you’ll change up the light cycle from the 18-6 you used in veg to a 12-12 cycle (12 hours on and 12 hours off up until harvest); autoflowering varieties won’t require this change as again, they flower when they are mature enough.
During this stage you are going to want to continue monitoring for pests and also add a “bloom formula” nutrients to help make big healthy buds. See our recommendations for your cannabis grow here.
6. Cannabis Harvest
A week or so before harvest you’re going to want to “flush” your media. This simply means that you stop feeding your plant nutrients and give only water. This allows your cannabis to use up all the available nutrients remaining in the soil so they won’t end up in your buds. Also, you can expect a degree of leaf yellowing during this final week as your plant converts its available resources into energy for continued bud development.
You can see our full article on when to harvest your buds here, but generally, you can determine when your buds are ready for harvest by examining the trichomes. You can use microscope to get a close up look at the trichomes. Clear trichomes generally mean it’s too early to harvest and your buds won’t be as potent. Milky white-amber trichomes means you are ready to harvest and can expect decent buds. If you wait longer, until the trichomes are completely amber in color, you’ll get a stronger psychoactive effect as CBD levels decline.
Harvesting generally requires scissors or gardening shears to remove your colas (bud sites) from your cannabis plants. Be gentle as to not disturb the potent trichomes.
7. Drying and Curing
Before we go into drying and curing, we should quickly revisit trimming. Trimming can be done before drying (wet trimming) or after drying (dry trimming). Either method is fine and will depend on your preference. The goal when trimming isn’t only to make your buds pretty by removing any fan leaves (which it definitely does) but also to collect the “sugar leaves” that surround your buds. Don’t get rid of these sugar leaves. They’re great for extracts, hash making, and in a pinch you can even smoke them, though smoking them will be a bit harsh.
With proper temperature and humidity control, you’ll be able to dry your cannabis in the same space you grew it. Most growers I’ve spoken with dry for a minimum of one week and often up to 10-14 days. There are a number of drying racks available that will allow you to spread out your buds for even drying. If you choose to dry trim, you’ll do this after drying but before curing.
Curing is a specialized drying process that comes after the initial drying and trimming. The goal is to cure the buds much like you would with homegrown herbs. You want a dark space with low humidity. You can cure in a glass jar, plastic tub, or a specially designed c-vault. You’re going to want to “burp” your container daily to remove any moisture remaining in your buds, and this is accomplished by simply opening the container and closing it again. The curing process can last anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks. Check out a few helpful products here.
A hanging mesh drying rack is only one option for your drying needs.
The CVault is designed to provide complete darkness and airtight bud curing.
So are you ready to grow cannabis from seeds? Hopefully we provided some good tips for media, lighting, and grow tents to get you started. We’d love to hear from you regarding your grow so please leave a comment in the survey below or click one of the “Join Now” buttons at the top and bottom of this article to get into our private, vetted, professional forum. And don’t forget to check out Growers Network University! See you there and happy growing!
A few questions about mail order cannabis seeds
Where can I buy cannabis seeds safely?
There are a number of good seed vendors out there. Our recommendations are established companies with great customer reviews so you know you’re purchasing quality cannabis seeds.
Is it safe to order cannabis seeds through the mail?
People always wonder about the legal risk of purchasing cannabis seeds through the mail. Legitimate seed vendors (including those we recommend) ship discreetly to most locations. Seeds can be stopped by customs, but this doesn’t happen often. You also want to make sure that wherever you decide to purchase your seeds will also ship to your country. This information should be transparent and available on the vendor’s website.
Before You Purchase
Questions you should ask before purchasing Cannabis seeds online
- Do you recognize the name of the cannabis seed company name? Branding goes a long way and a recognized, established brand is something to consider when purchasing Cannabis seeds online.
- What are customers saying in their reviews? Did they receive their seeds? Were they high quality?
Researching these questions will increase your chances of being happy with your Cannabis seed purchase.
- Do you know anybody who has used them as their Cannabis seed supplier?
Word of mouth recommendations are very powerful in the cannabis community. Someone else’s first hand experience can be helpful if you aren’t sure about which brand of Cannabis seeds to purchase.
- What’s their return or refund policy?
A good seed shop should at least have generally positive reviews and a well-defined refund or exchange policy.
Beware of cannabis Seed Scams
If you’re contacted via social media to purchase seeds, chances are you’ve been targeted for a scam. We recommend using established cannabis seed vendors such as those linked above.