Learn about cannabis seeds, the anatomy of the marijuana seed, and seedless cannabis. Discover the differences between feminized, regular, and autoflower seeds and how to germinate weed seeds. Some people think that the size, weight or appearance of a cannabis seed can tell you about the type of plant it will grow into. Read on to find out more. If you're looking to start growing your own marijuana, the first place to start is with the seed. What should you look for? How can you tell a good cannabis seed from a dud? Chris Bond tells us.
Cannabis seeds are ready to plant and grow once they successfully germinate or once the root has broken through the protective outer shell of the seed. Cannabis seeds are available in regular, feminized, and auto-flowering forms. Home growers of cannabis often choose feminized seeds to ensure that the adult plant will be a flowering female.
Cannabis seeds are brown and about the size of a peppercorn. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
More about marijuana seeds
As with all angiosperms, or flowering plants, cannabis produces seeds that contain all of the genetic information needed for growth and reproduction. When a seed is planted, the translation of this genetic material dictates each unique physical characteristic the mature plant will have. If these are desirable traits, like potency, smell, vigor, etc., a breeder can select for these through a long process of genetic stabilization through generations, which eventually leads to the creation of a cultivar, or strain.
Anatomy of a cannabis seed
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 opposite side 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.
Photo by: Illustration by Weedmaps
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 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.
Today’s commercially cultivated cannabis does not contain seeds. The cultivation practices that have made this widespread are rooted in fundamental biological concepts. Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning it has separate male and female organisms, just like humans. If a female plant matures in the presence of a male plant, pollen from the male will fertilize the female, and its bracts will contain seeds at the end of the flowering cycle. Seedless cannabis is commonplace even when it originates from mass-produced outdoor cultivation, but not too long ago, this was not the case.
Around the middle of the 20th century, growers discovered that culling male plants as soon as they display their sexed traits would result in a crop containing exclusively unfertilized females, yielding cannabis flowers higher in THC that don’t require the removal of seeds before smoking. This seedless cannabis was from then on dubbed sinsemilla, which translates to “without seed” in Spanish. It is also commonly spelled sensimilla.
How cannabis seeds are produced
Commercial growers who produce cannabis flower desire seedless plants but there are also cultivators interested in selling seed to the growing home-cultivation market. 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. Since seeded plants are a natural outcome of pollen fertilizing eggs, producing cannabis seeds is a matter of letting nature take its course.
What’s the difference between feminized, regular, and autoflower seeds?
There are a few differences to note between these cannabis seed types.
- Feminized seeds: The key difference between feminized cannabis seeds and regular cannabis seeds is that feminized seeds have been engineered to produce exclusively female plants. This matters for cultivation since smokable flowers are produced only by female plants. A male plant can potentially ruin a harvest if it pollinates nearby female plants, causing them to produce flowers full of seeds.
- Autoflowering seeds: Autoflowering seeds have been carefully bred to begin and complete the flowering process based on the plant’s maturity rather than how much light the plant receives each day. Autoflowering seeds tend to be simpler to grow and don’t require as much light, making them perfect for places where the growing season is short or for indoor grows.
Is it illegal to buy marijuana seeds?
Marijuana seeds are a cannabis product, so if you live in a place where cannabis is illegal, then seeds are also illegal. However, some people who live in places where weed is not yet legal purchase marijuana seeds from marijuana seed banks as a “souvenir.” Either way, if you want to buy marijuana seeds and cannabis is illegal where you live, then you face some degree of risk. On the other hand, if you live in a state where cannabis is legal, especially one where home cultivation is allowed, then you should be able to purchase seeds legally. Remember, even in states where cannabis is legal, it’s still illegal nationally in the US. To cut your risk as much as possible, purchase cannabis seeds from in-state or local providers so they don’t have to cross state lines or be transported by mail.
Where to buy marijuana seeds
Seeds are sold in brick-and-mortar locations legally in many countries across Europe and are often traded online. As cannabis legalization expands in North America, more retail locations are carrying seeds as well. Feminized seeds are the most popular, but providers likely have access to many strains of mixed male and female seeds. Carefully sifting through cannabis flower before using the grinder will usually turn up a few seeds, too. Professionally sourced seeds assure quality genetics and viability, but saved seeds can be a cheap source of cannabis genetics for the hobbyist grower.
Do dispensaries sell seeds?
If you live in a state or country where cannabis is legal, and where individuals are allowed to grow their own plants at home, then you should be able to buy seeds at most legal dispensaries. This might not be the case if you’re in a location that does not allow home growing. The best thing to do is simply check your local laws and ask your local budtender.
How much do marijuana seeds cost?
A pack of marijuana seeds—typically containing around ten or so seeds—will run you anywhere from around $40 on the low end and as much as $400 or $500 on the upper end. The price of marijuana seeds depends on a number of variables including:
- Quality of genetics
- The reputation of the breeder who produced the seeds
- How rare or potent the strain is
- Whether they’re regular, feminized, or autoflowering (feminized and autoflowering marijuana seeds tend to cost more)
How many seeds should I buy?
If you’re trying to grow just a handful of plants for your own private consumption, then you can get away with purchasing one or two packs at a time. Since most commercially sold marijuana seeds come in packages of 10 or so seeds, 10 to 20 seeds should be enough to ensure a good harvest even if a few seeds fail. This is a baseline for a small, private crop andany larger operations should scale up accordingly.
How to store cannabis seeds
Seed providers sometimes vacuum-seal and freeze seeds for long-term storage, but commercially-available seeds in Dutch headshops are sold in small, plastic vials at room temperature and low humidity (6-12%).
Humidity and light is the main enemy of seed storage. Beyond that, seeds can remain viable for up to two years when stored in even the most haphazard conditions. Marijuana seeds swept up off the floor or found in the bottom of a drawer have been known to grow into vigorous young plants.
Germinating cannabis seeds
Germination is the process of beginning the 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 before 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.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Generally speaking, cannabis is a hardy plant that will grow and even thrive in a diversity of environments. However, to assure germination, several steps can be taken. One 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.
Cannabis seeds can also 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), keeping 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.
What does the appearance of a cannabis seed indicate?
Can the visual appearance of a cannabis seed indicate anything useful about the future plant which it will produce? It’s a question which has been asked by many cannabis growers. And over the years there have been many different theories about this.
Cannabis seed weight. What does the weight of a cannabis seed indicate?
Dutch Passion created feminized seeds in the 1990’s. It was a revolution for cannabis growers. But in the days before feminized seeds, some people felt that ‘male’ and ‘female’ seeds could be separated according to their weight, appearance, size, shape etc. The idea behind this unproven theory was that cannabis seeds all had different sizes and shapes for a reason. One of the first difficulties with the theory is that different marijuana seed varieties often produce different size seeds. White Widow seeds, for example, can often look smaller than other varieties. And yet they produce excellent quality harvests. Seed size has no relationship to potency. The future sex of a cannabis plant simply can’t be determined by the weight or size of the cannabis seed. If it were that easy the seed companies wouldn’t spend as much time and effort to create feminized seeds.
Feminized seeds vs autoflowering seeds. Do they look different?
Every so often a home grower will accidentally mix up their seeds. Often this is done after a smoke/vape, perhaps when you are getting the cannabis seeds ready for germination. If you have ever mixed up your seeds it can feel impossible to be confident about their true identity. There is no certain way to distinguish between feminized seeds and autoflower seeds just by looking at them. The plants real future identity lies in the DNA inside the cells within the seed.
Stripes on cannabis seeds. What do they indicate?
Cannabis seeds have an undeniable beauty and appeal. The various shades of brown are delicate. Under powerful magnification you can see how a cannabis seed is a wonderful piece of natural beauty and design. When you examine a cannabis seed near a bright light you can see a shiny reflection, as if the seed has a coating of wax. Not every cannabis seed has a similar appearance to the next. Some seeds will have dramatic tiger stripes. Others will have a more homogenous surface coloration. The appearance of the seed isn’t a reliable indicator of any particular plant quality. Everything is coded in the genetics inside the plant tissue safely encased inside the shell. From the sex of the plant to the cannabinoid and terpene profile, plant DNA and genetics determine the future. That’s where you rely on the seed company doing their job properly. The highest quality cannabis seeds are not always the cheapest. But if you buy from a company with a reputation for quality you know that a great deal of skill and effort, and many years work, has gone into your cannabis seeds.
Are heavier cannabis seeds more difficult to germinate?
Some growers feel that the largest seeds can be more difficult to germinate due to the extra shell material. However, the shell material is designed to be weakened by water, it shouldn’t really be an obstacle to germination rates. As the fibres in the shell are penetrated by water, the shell structure swells and weakens allowing the tap root to emerge. Poor germination rates of cannabis seeds is often a sign of old seeds. It could also be the result of poor quality seed production practices. This is one area where established seed companies have the benefit of many decades of know-how and experience. Cannabis seed production is just like any other intricate and highly skilled process. The most experienced seed companies have people who are at the top of their profession with several decades of practical knowledge producing the best quality cannabis seeds. Dutch Passion do not recommend the use of sand paper to reduce the thickness of the cannabis shell. It’s too easy to accidentally damage the inner seed. Simply leave the seed to soak in a damp paper towel for a day or so. But never try to force open the seed, or use artificial abrasion techniques to try to weaken the shell.
Old cannabis seeds
Very old cannabis seeds feel weaker when gently squeezed. In the worst cases the shells crack easily and the powdery crushed contents are released. The best way to store cannabis seeds is in a dry, dark container in a cool place such as a fridge. Cannabis seeds will still have good germination rates after several years of cold (and dry) storage.
Immature cannabis seeds
Cannabis seeds which were harvested too early will have a green/whitish appearance. Often these will be small in size, and will struggle to germinate. Seeds that are clearly immature are not recommended for growing. Some seeds, such as Dutch Passion Frisian Duck, can have their own coloration. In the case of Frisian Duck the seeds have a slightly unusual grey appearance
Buy the best cannabis seeds online
The best way to achieve a good quality harvest of home grown cannabis is to invest in some high quality seeds. Buying cannabis seeds online from a high quality seed company guarantees fresh seeds with good germination viability. You also benefit from the security of knowing that your cannabis seeds contain the best genetics to deliver top quality cannabis at harvest.
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Jay – Dutch Passion
Hello @ Esox Fables 2022-02-27 02:28:25, You can read some tips here on how to germinate your seeds: https://dutch-passion.blog/the-best-ways-to-germinate-cannabis-seeds/ If your seeds have not sprouted you can reach out to us at [email protected] and we can help you from there! Greetings, Jay Dutch Passion
Hello, I recently purchased some WW auto CBD seeds from you and I’ve been waiting for a week for them to sprout. Prior to use they were kept in my fridge as advised. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong but they are in a room at 21° and 40% humidity. Is it normal for them to take so long to sprout? Any advice would be much appreciated Thank you, Mick
Jay – Dutch Passion
Hello @Trichy Dicky – 2021-04-03 13:19:57 If a plant hermies it does not mean that all offspring will be hermaphrodite as well. But the plant will definitely be more sensitive to become a hermaphrodite. Many famous varieties have come from a bag seed, so for breeding it can definitely still be used! Greetings, Jay – Dutch Passion
I am finding seeds in cannabis grown indoors and away from males, so a plant decided to hermaphrodite I guess. I THINK all seeds from a hermie will also be hermaphrodite? I wonder! Great company @Dutchpassion
I revently bought a 5 pack of feminized Skunk #11 and the seeds are tiny and white and look very immature. Im trying to germinate one right now but Im not confident it will sprout, should I worry?
Through the years I myself have grown just about every any seeds I have run across and In my experiences a. Male is a male and a female is a female.until you are ready to start budding you just won’t know.also have planted some texmex dirt seeds and produced some of the best Bud I’ve ever smoked
I tried pots and many mediums but the best and quickest way I find is in a glass of tepid water, this will also show if your seed is fertile and will sprout. first get a small dark glass I use a brown pill bottle or tub. First fill 3/4 of your water vessel with tepid water. Get a seed or seeds and pop in. Now don’t panic if they float. After 2 hour if seed is floating just lightly push seed under water a few times if needed. If still floating leave for another 2 hours or overnight. You can put lid on pill jar or clingfilm to ensure you vessel is air tight. Place in a dark warm place for 24hours. Your seed should be sprouted. Thank out seed sandwich between Wet paper towel on a plate and leave back to same warm spot and ensure to keep moist..Your sprouts should be good to go in a total of 3-4 days. Best of luck Aido
2″ container filled with potting soil,1″deep where seed won’t corkscrew out,water,3 days sprouted. No muss no fuss.
A rule of thumb for gardeners is that a seed should be 1-2 times as deep as it is big. a pea at 2cm, a ganja seed at >1cm.
Hi Alf ! After 35 years of starting my seeds using fine, sieved soil in small plastic pots, last year I tried small Rockwool cubes (40 x 40 x 40 millimetres) for germinating my babies. This was extremely easy and I achieved 100% germination. It will now be the method I use for the rest of my days, so pleased was I with the results and how simple it is ! I plant my seeds pointy end down, one seed per cube. There is no need to pre-treat the seeds in any way or do any other various types of physical manipulation; the plants have been doing it themselves, unaided, for Millennia ! Start by soaking the cubes in a bucket of room temperature, aged / chlorine free, clean water for a few minutes, then remove the cubes and give them a couple of quick flicks in a downward direction to remove the excess water. I then make a small hole in the cube, about the same width of the seed and roughly twice as deep as its’ size, with a small pointed stick. After inserting the seed (a small bamboo skewer can be very helpful), I use a small “fluffy” piece of Rockwool, about 2-3 times the size of the hole and about 2-3 millimetres (1/8 of an inch) thick, taken from either the edge of the cube or another cube especially sacrificed for this purpose and cover the seed in its’ hole lightly, with this small tuft / fluffy piece, so it forms sort of a “hat” and very gently give the “hat” a pat so that it is in contact with the rest of the cube. There is no need to push the “hat” down hard. After this I use a water spray bottle (atomiser), with the nozzle adjusted to a misting setting, to lightly moisten the “hat”. Again, using clean, room temperature and chlorine free water. After all this, I place the cubes onto a saucer that has some very fine aquarium gravel or a similar substrate, covering the bottom (of the saucer). This is to provide air circulation and drainage, in case you are too generous with watering. You need to keep the cubes moist, but NOT wet. If you can feel moisture when lightly touching the cube with the back of a finger, this is moist enough. Resist the urge to water every day (unless necessary) and under no circumstances, do not use any fertilisers. The embryonic seed has / contains all the nutrition and energy it needs for the first 2-3 days of growth (think bean sprouts!). The best way to maintain the correct moisture level is to use the water sprayer bottle and mist the cubes gently. You will, after some experience, be able to judge the moisture content by the weight of the cube when / if you pick them up. Do not let the cubes dry out, but this is highly unlikely if you check the cubes at least once a day. Keep the moist cubes in a warm shady area and away from any direct winds / breezes that may dry the cubes out prematurely. Only once the seeds have sprouted should they be placed in / under any light, but the sooner they are, the better. There is no need to cover the saucer with the cubes on it with anything, such as cling film or a plastic bag and do not place them in a mini greenhouse or any other type of enclosed container, as this can cause the seeds to rot due to the extremely high humidity. I have found that the cubes will remain moist long enough for the seeds to germinate with little to no extra watering, with the sprouts taking between 1 and 6 days to emerge; so do not give up too soon! Plant the whole cube into your growing system once the seed has sprouted and the plants’ root(s) are coming through the bottom of the cube. By starting the seeds in the cubes you avoid handling the fragile baby plants and prevent any possible risks of damaging the emerging embryonic leaves and roots. I hope this helps and most of all, happy growing!!
I like the damp folded paper towel in an unsealed plastic bag (in a dark room) method — however have discovered one important trick/fact. Roots always try to grow down, so put the seed inside a folded damp paper towel, but ensure only one layer is below the seed and the other damp layers are on top. The root will try to work its way down. If there are many layers below it, the root can get entangled and be hard to extricate without damage.
I germinated frisian duck seeds straight on top of a soil plug with halfvthe seed showing. I put three into a plastic box and then into a drawer in my garage. It took 6 days until they had sprouted to about 30mm high and shed the seed cap.
Alf, 4th June 2019. There are several equally good germination methods. Many customers prefer the idea of germinating seeds between sheets of wet kitchen paper, inside a sealable plastic bag. Good luck!
10 Markers of a Quality Marijuana Seed
If you’re looking to start growing your own marijuana, the first place to start is with the seed. What should you look for? How can you tell a good cannabis seed from a dud? Chris Bond tells us.
So, you’ve decided to grow your own marijuana from seed. How do you know if those little, round nuggets in your hand will grow up lush and produce beautiful, productive buds? How do you know if they are duds? While ultimately the genetics will determine the destiny of those little weed seeds, and proper care will help them to realize their full potential, there are some markers you can assess to see if what you have is quality seed, indeed.
What to Look for in a Cannabis Seed
While all cannabis seed is not identical in color, there are some consistencies. Healthy, viable seed will be light to dark brown in color. Seed that is light green or even whitish in color is underdeveloped and should be tossed out. Healthy seed will also have a burled or turtle shell-like pattern on its seed coat.
A quality cannabis seed will have a waxy, protective coating. Seeds that appear dull are probably not as viable and should be avoided if given a choice.
Quality cannabis seed will look like a plump teardrop. Flat or misshapen seeds will not likely produce quality plants.
Quality seed will be firm. Cannabis seed should have a strong seed coat protecting the pre-emerged life inside. Any seed that is tender, pliable or squishy should not be planted; poor results will follow if attempted.
Size is relative, but if you are able to compare several seeds at once, the higher quality seeds are larger. When it comes to seeds, less is more. The fewer seeds that comprise any given amount, an ounce or a gram for example, is generally an indicator of higher quality seeds. The biggest seeds within a species generally have more energy stored within them and have a greater potential to mature into a productive plant. Note that indica strains tend to produce larger seeds than sativa strains so make sure the comparison is made among like seeds.
Weight often goes hand-in-hand with size, but heavier seeds are generally of higher quality than lighter ones. The older a seed gets, the more potential loss of moisture and nutrients, reducing its overall weight. Damaged seed, which has been cracked can potentially lose those same necessary qualities.
#7 Float test
Quality seeds will sink in water. In glass or vessel, place room temperature water deep enough to full cover the volume of seeds to be tested. Place your seed or seeds in the water. After a couple of hours, anything still floating, should not be considered a quality seed. Soaking seeds will allow moisture to cross over the protective membrane and signal the seed that it is time to grow. As such this test should not be performed if the intent is to store the seeds after testing as it may render otherwise quality seed unviable if not meant to be immediately germinated afterwards.
You may not have access to see or have verified information on the storage conditions of seeds, but if you can find this out, it is critical to maintaining quality seeds. While cannabis seeds can be viable for over 10 years in some instances, the best seed in terms of productivity is not more than 12 to 18 months old. It should have been stored in dark, cool and dry conditions to prevent mold or the onset of any fungal issues. Storing in a freezer can prolong seeds as well, essentially suspending time.
#9 Age at harvest
This is another aspect you, the buyer may not be privy to. Quality seed is harvest when fully mature. If seed was collected before the plant was able to load as much stored energy into it as possible, then that seed will be starting out life in a deficit. Color, as referenced above can be an indicator of whether or not a seed was harvested at the appropriate time.
You get what you pay for and a cannabis seed is not exempt from this maxim. Quality seeds are not cheap (at least when compared to other agricultural seeds). This isn’t to say that inferior seeds can’t be overpriced, but if you find cannabis seeds proclaiming excellent genetics for sale at a price that seems too good to be true, caveat emptor.
This is not meant to be a definitive list, as new varieties of cannabis emerge on the scene all the time that may have “normal” traits that would otherwise be viewed as deficiencies in other strains. As always, do your homework, ask other growers who know and buy your seeds from a reputable source.