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How to Germinate Weed Seeds: The Definitive Guide

Germinating weed seeds refer to the process of making your seeds sprout, that is when white, little tendrils pop out of the seeds.

Your marijuana cultivation project usually starts with this process. It could be challenging if you are not familiar with the method just yet.

To help you out, read through this guide and learn more about the water soaking + paper towel germination method as the best way to germinate Cannabis Seeds.

Cannabis Seed Germination – Cup of Water + Paper Towel Germination Method

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The cup of water + paper towel germination method is a tested way to germinate Cannabis Seeds. In this guide, we will discuss this process in detail.


Before starting the germination process, it is best to prepare everything that you need, including your workspace. Make sure that all the tools are cleaned accordingly. This is to make sure that cross contamination is avoided. Also, it is important to ensure that all necessary materials are available.

Preparing a checklist would also help. Make sure that you have the following:

  • A glass/cup
  • A plate
  • Tweezers
  • Bottled Spring Water/Distilled Water
  • Absorbent Kitchen Paper Towels

For the water, make sure that you only use bottled spring water or distilled water. Boiling water does not help either. It only kills the germs but does not necessarily remove impurities.

For the absorbent kitchen paper towels, use the really absorbent ones, not Kleneex tissue.

Optional Step

To further encourage the seeds to start germinating, you may do light scuffing of the seeds. This can be done using fine sandpaper, or even an emery board. You may also opt to shake the seeds inside a pill bottle. This process will enable the outer shell to loosen it. At the same time, the water will be able to penetrate easier, thus starting the germination process accordingly, and earlier.

Fill a glass with water, leaving it to stagnate inside a room with a temperature higher than room temperature, specifically between 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.

Place the seeds into the glass and observe them as they float. Allow the seeds to soak for about 12 to 18 hours. Take note that the process of soaking the seeds is the most important step.

After soaking the seeds, check each of them, tapping gently with your finger. You may even see the seeds sinking to the bottom.

You may observe the seed shell cracking, with a small, white root starting to appear. This is the signal that the germination process now is starting. You may wonder how long to leave seeds in water. Leaving them for 14 to 18 hours is fine. Still, it is just fine if the shell has not yet cracked towards the end of this time period.

Take note that it is not advisable to soak your seeds in the cup for more than 18 hours. Also, the tap roots should be allowed to grow to a length reaching 3 cm to 1 inch.


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After seeing the seeds crack open, with white root forming, you can start using two or more paper towels in order to make a thick, folded layer on top of the plate. Using distilled rainwater, make sure to moisten the paper towels enough for them to be damp, but not soaking wet. If there is any excess water, make sure to drain them.

After 14 to 18 hours of soaking the paper towel, place the Cannabis Seeds between the two folded paper towels. Give enough space for the seeds in order to prevent the tangling of the new taproots.

The germination plate should be stored in a closed, dark space, but make sure to keep the layers moist. This can be done by dripping water at least every 5 to 12 hours. They just need to be kept wet, but not soaked.

Another thing that needs to be taken seriously is to make sure that the paper towels do not dry out. They need to stay moist. This may have to be given more depending on the humidity levels of the environment. This means the need to regularly check the dampness of the towels throughout the process.

Also, the plate with the completed germination should be placed away from direct sunlight. Rather, it should be placed on a heat source, a warm appliance perhaps, in order to help the seeds to absorb more water. The room temperature should stay at 21 to 29.4 degrees Celsius. With enough darkness, moisture, and warmth, better results are encouraged.

Important Notes

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It is very important to check the paper towels and the Cannabis Seeds at least twice or thrice a day for every 24 hours. During this period, make sure that you do not touch the seeds. Ensure that there is a proper moisture level in the towels, and wait for the taproots to surface.

If there is a need to touch the Cannabis Seeds, using tweezers is recommended. Take extra care in moving the seeds because they are so fragile at this stage that they can be damaged quite easily when transplanted or transported. The taproots should be especially untouched.

When the taproots reach about ¼ inch or ½ inch in length, the process of germination is now complete. The Cannabis Seeds are now ready for transplanting into the soil, with the taproot facing down.

Most of the seeds will begin germination within just 24 to 48 hours. However, there are some seeds that may take as long as a period of 7 days, mostly depending on the strain. So long as the directions mentioned above are followed, then you can expect up to 80% success in germination. This method has been designed to replicate the actual process that the seeds usually go through when grown in a natural environment.

Germinating Cannabis Seeds – Summary

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Before you start with germinating seeds, there are certain things that you need to take into consideration as something very important. For example, it is recommended by expert growers to use only bottled spring water.

With this said, you can now proceed with the process in germinating Cannabis Seeds.

Step 1: Prepare Your Seeds. First, place your seeds in a cup. Make sure that the water is at room temperature. This should be done for 14 to 18 hours. Since the seeds normally float, you can sink the seeds to the bottom of the cup using your fingers.

If you notice that some of the seeds do not sink, do not worry. This is just fine. It also does not matter at this point whether the seeds start cracking or remain uncracked. It is also advised not to PH your water, use water coming from a well, or use reverse osmosis.

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Step 2: Get two pieces of thick paper towels and place them on top of a dinner plate.

Step 3: Pour the seeds together with the water on the paper towel. Afterwards, fold the towel over the Cannabis Seeds to cover. Drain any excess water. This is a vital step to ensure that the seeds could feel air, moisture, and heat simultaneously.

Avoid putting the seeds in a drawer, cupboard, as well as other small, closed spaces. Doing this will only pose more difficulties for the seeds to crack and open.

Step 4: The seeds will start to crack open at this time. You will see a taproot beginning to develop. With this, you can allow the taproot to grow half a centimeter to three-quarters of an inch before you transplant the seeds.

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Note that the number of days in which the seeds will germinate may depend on the type of strain of the seeds that you are trying to grow. Still, it may take between 2 to 7 days to crack open.

At this point, it is recommended to use only plain soil for plotting. Avoid using nutrients on the soil, especially during the first three weeks of growing.

It is important to avoid covering the plate using another plate, a ziplock bag or plastic wrap. Doing so will only stop the free flow of oxygen as the weed seeds also require airflow, warmth, and moisture.

Possible Reasons for Germination Failure

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Since there is still a percentage of failure during the germination process, it is best to know what the possible reasons are.

  • The seeds should be allowed to sit on the paper towels for about 14 to 18 hours. If you fail to do so, perhaps removing them earlier, then the seeds will fail to germinate as the seeds were not soaked in the cup of water long enough.
  • Another reason for failure is if the paper towels end up either being too wet or too dry. The seeds could drown, or dehydrated.
  • The seeds can also die if the temperature in the place where you are placing them is too hot. This could also be the same if the temperature is too cold.
  • Avoid suffocating the seeds in plastic. Seeds also need air to breathe.
  • There is a possibility of failed germination if you are using tap water. Tap water often has too many impurities.

Emergency Germination

In such a case that your seeds end up failing to germinate, the reason is most likely due to lack of water. To save the process, make sure to drop the seeds in a cup of distilled water, leaving them right there until you start seeing a tap root surfacing. When it does, you can then start with the paper towel method until you notice that the tap root reaches ½ inch long.

Planting Your Germinated Weed Seeds

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After seeing that the Cannabis Seeds have finally sprouted, it is very important to plant them right away. At this point, it is very important to make sure that you do not touch the taproots using your finger. If you do, the seed may still survive, but damage to the root may slow down or even stunt the growth of the seedling right from the start.

Plant with the Root Down

When you plant the seeds, do so in a way that the white root faces downward. The root should be about a knuckle deep into the growing medium. The top, on the other hand, should be just beneath the surface of the medium. Keep in mind that while the success rate of the paper towel germination method is high, there will be instances wherein you will lose a seed. Keep in mind that most of the time it has nothing to do with how you did it.

Within the first few weeks of germination, you may notice that some seeds start germinating right away, while others may take longer. There are a number of reasons behind this, ranging from the age of the seed to the temperature, and several others. Usually, the amount of time does not have to do with the health of the plants in the long run.

Once the seeds are planted safely, you can now start turning on your grow light. The heat that comes from the light source will also improve the germination rate, and it can also help the seedlings to open their leaves.

If there is a need to transplant the seeds from one pot to another, avoid doing so until you notice that they are already established well, and have at least a couple sets of nodes, or leaves. As suggested by some growers, planting the seedlings in a peat pot or solo cup is a good option so that they can just cut the cup away for easier transplanting.

Keep in mind, however, that moving the seedlings a lot may stress the plant, even stunting their growth. Too much of this stress can even cause your plant to die. Therefore, it is best to plan right from the start so that you can easily plant your seeds after germination without having to move them around a lot.  

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