Did your cannabis plant just die for no apparent reason? Frustrating, isn’t it? There is a whole range of reasons why this might have happened and in Cannabis seed germination is the first step of cultivation, and if we make a mistake in this first phase, any subsequent effort will be in vain. There are several germ… Cannabis sativa sp. is commonly known as marijuana and has been grown throughout the world for thousands of years. Cannabis seeds germinate in 3 to 7 days, though some varieties may take 10 to 15 days. While germination is a natural…
How to prevent the death of cannabis seeds and seedlings
Every grower, almost without exception, will have occasionally suffered the death of a plant during cultivation, just when it seemed that everything was going along nicely. In this article, we’ll focus on the main reasons why seeds may not germinate properly, or why seedlings may end up dead in the first weeks of life.
Seeds dying before germination
Cannabis seeds can die even before we start to grow them, in which case, when the grower comes to germinate them, they won’t open up and sprout at all.
The seeds of the cannabis plant, like many other types of seeds, must always be kept in the correct conditions, especially if you want to save the leftover seeds for later use and ensure that they germinate well in the future.
The same goes for unopened whole packs of seeds that have been purchased to store for later use. Sometimes, certain varieties are in high demand and there is limited stock, so the more astute growers will make sure they grab a few packs to keep in the vault until they find the time to germinate the cannabis seeds.
Cannabis seeds must be stored in the correct conditions
What to do with leftover seeds or unopened seed packs
Cannabis seeds need very low relative humidity and relatively low temperature for their proper storage, so the best plan is to keep them in a “no frost” refrigerator, in which both the humidity and temperature are maintained at very low levels for better conservation of food.
If we want to keep a seed package that’s still sealed, simply put the whole unopened pack into the fridge. The best place for its conservation is usually the small shelf where the eggs or butter are kept, although really any part of the fridge is ideal for storage.
If we want to save the leftover seeds from a pack for later use, we recommend storing them in the original Eppendorf tube or container used by the bank. In the original packaging, these Eppendorf tubes hold the seeds and usually also contain a few small silica gel balls, included to maintain very low humidity (10 to 20%) and help to ensure that the seed does not lose any germination viability.
If, however, we leave the seeds for a long period of time in any corner of the house it is possible that over time their viability to germinate will decrease, and when we plant them they may take a long time to germinate or indeed not germinate at all. it is also important to protect them from sunlight.
So if you wish to save the seeds in the best conditions, always keep them in the refrigerator, well protected from air, light and moisture.
How do we store leftover seeds to grow at a later date?
Death during the germination of cannabis seeds
Death during the germination of cannabis seeds is one of the most frequent failures suffered by every grower over the course of his or her cultivation career. There are several possible reasons that can lead to the seeds dying before they even open and begin to grow, which we’ll examine here.
Not all seeds have the same resistance to the errors that may occur during the germination process. Just as not all siblings are not all equal, neither are all seeds. By this, we mean that in the case of one seed germinating and the rest of them not doing so, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those that didn’t germinate were not strong or resistant, but simply that they were less so than the one that did germinate. If this occurs, we must ask ourselves why they did not germinate and look for any possible failings in the process.
Death by drowning the seed during germination
We start from the basic premise that the seeds require moisture, oxygen and a suitable temperature for germination; If one of the three aspects is not taken into account, it is quite likely that the seeds won’t end up germinating.
Putting the cannabis seeds in a glass of water and waiting 24 to 48 hours for their germination can be a fatal error for them. Re-hydrating the seeds in water is a good idea as long as they are not out of contact with the air for long, as they will be deprived of oxygen and most of the time they will end up dying; so if we use this method, we only leave them to re-to hydrate in water for a few minutes, although, preferably we will avoid any previous soaking or re-hydration (which in any case is not necessary).
We must maintain suitable levels of humidity for germination
The reason for this is that tap water contains chlorine, which sterilises the water to make it suitable for domestic use. However, this chlorine disappears by evaporation after a few hours, so if the water then gets contaminated, the seed can be attacked by any number of pathogens and eventually die. This example also illustrates why we must always touch the seeds with clean hands; If the seeds are handled with dirty fingers, it can lead a fungal or bacterial infection to contaminate them and severely compromise their development.
The same can happen in other germination media such as jiffy plugs, where the most common mistake is usually not draining away the excess water after re-hydrating the compressed peat. To this error, we can add that of burying the seed at more than twice its own depth, in which case it may not emerge despite having germinated perfectly well, but instead, simply end up rotting due to excess water and lack of oxygen. This error is also frequent in growers who germinate directly in the soil because when they first irrigate, the seed can be washed down into the soil resulting in them being buried too deeply, which makes it difficult for the seedling to reach the surface. It is always better to wet the substrate first, before sowing any seeds.
If you want to sow the seed directly into the soil and do it properly, when growing outdoors you must also act to prevent seed predators. Ants, birds, and many other animals or insects are another common cause of seed failure during germination. In the case of ants, they eat the small, delicate root, leaving the plant unable to develop and condemning it to imminent death.
Placing the seeds between moist serviettes/paper towels is one of the best germination methods for beginner growers. Since you can easily see if the seed has taken root or not. But we must also bear in mind that the germination medium, the kitchen paper, is made of cellulose, meaning it is an organic material that will decompose and rot, just like any product of this type.
Planting the germinated seed is also a crucial moment
It is, therefore, obligatory to change the napkins every day and a half, more or less, to avoid the seeds being contaminated by the pathogens that can appear as the napkins begin to rot. For this reason, we recommend placing the napkins in a deep plate and covering it with another one, leaving a small gap between the two so that air can enter, oxygenate the microclimate that is created during the germination of the seeds and avoiding them rotting.
Seeds dying due to lack of moisture
Just as excess water is one of the most common causes of germination problems, the lack of moisture is equally detrimental to the process.
If outdoor temperatures are around 20 to 24ºC, then we shouldn’t need do much more than start the seeds to germinate and wait for them to open, following the precautions already discussed. But in case of having warmer or cooler temperatures, we must act to raise or lower the environmental temperature for optimal germination, and find the best location for germination to be successful.
If it is winter, the plates holding the seeds are often placed on top of a low heat source to raise the temperature. We must, however, be careful: if this heat source emits hot air, the paper towels will dry out and the seeds will run out of moisture, affecting germination. If you realise this in time, you can re-hydrate the seeds and they will usually recover from and continue to germinate, although it is also possible that there will be consequences that may affect the subsequent development of the plant during its cultivation.
Not long after sowing the seed, we will see our little plant emerge from the soil
If we haven’t noticed soon enough that the seeds have been left without moisture, we can assume that they will have dried up completely, with their consequent death, and this is even more likely if the seeds had already opened up to show the root. This can also happen very easily if we germinate during summer when temperatures are high and humidity is usually very low compared to other times of the year.
Death of the plants during the growth period
The start of the growth period is a very important stage in a plant’s life, so several aspects must be taken into account so that it does not die of any of a number of causes.
One of the most frequent problems is root rot due to excess irrigation and lack of oxygen in the substrate. Up till now, this has been one of the most common causes of plant death during the growth period, especially with beginner gardeners who lack previous cultivation experience. In addition, the likelihood of this happening increases considerably in crops with auto-flowering varieties; we’ll explain what to do here.
When the plant emerges from the substrate, leaving behind its germination stage, it is crucial to take care with any excess water and the lack of humidity in its aerial parts such as leaves, stems and branches.
The proper conditions guarantee good germinación
When the plant is young and only has a very small root, its needs are few, it feeds and drinks very little. If we saturate the substrate with too much water, apart from halting the growth of the root (leading to little or no growth in the aerial parts), it creates the ideal conditions for the small roots to slowly rot. If the plant loses a part or all of its tiny root system in its first stage of life, it is almost guaranteed that it will die within a few days.
If we use a small 0.5L to 1L plant pot for the first part of vegetative growth, before transplanting them to a bigger pot, we will be covering our backs in case of any excess of irrigation, since the substrate will dry out again much faster than in larger pots. For this reason, this issue is very common for novice growers who are cultivating auto-flowering cannabis plants, where the use of 20L pots is recommended from the start.
It is often said that you must irrigate with an appropriate amount of water and nutrients for the size of the plant. As this is often complicated to carry out, as a rough guide we can irrigate the plants with an amount not more than 10 or 20% of the plant pot’s capacity. So, if they are 1L pots we will water from 100 to 200ml as long as it is not an auto-flowering plant.
If the plan is to grow automatic varieties, then during the first two weeks we water with 100 to 350ml per irrigation, every 1 or 2 days. Remember that the substrate must maintain a minimum of humidity to allow the plant to feed and continue to develop normally. If it is raining and the plants are outdoors, it’s a good idea to move or cover them, to prevent the substrate from getting soaked, which could easily lead to root zone problems.
The first stages of growth survived with success!
We hope that this information will be useful and help to stop your seeds and seedlings dying. Don’t hesitate to leave any comments or questions, we’ll be pleased to help.
The articles published by Alchimiaweb, S.L. are reserved for adult clients only. We would like to remind our customers that cannabis seeds are not listed in the European Community catalogue. They are products intended for genetic conservation and collecting, in no case for cultivation. In some countries it is strictly forbidden to germinate cannabis seeds, other than those authorised by the European Union. We recommend our customers not to infringe the law in any way, we are not responsible for their use.
The most common mistakes when germinating cannabis seeds
Germinating the seed is the first step in any cannabis grow. It is the process during which the seed begins to develop, and the radicle emerges. There are several methods of germination and there are a number of common mistakes made in each of them, which can be easily avoided.
Here we explain what not to do during germination in each case, and we tell you that the method recommended by Dinafem Seeds is germination in Jiffy, as it is the simplest and has the lowest error rate.
Mistakes when germinating cannabis seeds in Jiffy
Jiffies are dehydrated peat discs, pressed into a biodegradable mesh which, when moistened, become tiny sacks of earth. Water is usually applied so that the wet discs swell and become mini containers of substrate where you can plant the cannabis seed so that it germinates inside the peat. What could go wrong with this method so that we don’t get to see the seedling emerging from the Jiffy?
- Adding too much water to the Jiffy: the disc must be moistened so that it swells, but it should not be drowned. The goal is to keep the soil in the Jiffy moist during the germination process, but never drowned. Some growers water the Jiffy too much, and more often than necessary, and end up drowning the seed because excessive moisture prevents the ventilation of the seed, stopping its germination.
- Covering the Jiffy so that it is too hermetically sealed: the Jiffy has to be protected, but some people shut it away in a germination greenhouse or Tupperware container with holes, increasing the moisture excessively, which leads to the growth of fungi.
- Burying the seed too deep: The seed should be about one centimetre from the surface. Although it is true that the depth of a Jiffy is not more than 10 centimetres, pushing the seed to the bottom of the Jiffy will make it difficult for the radicle to find its way out into the light. Just insert the seed with your finger, near the surface, and cover the tiny hole made when you insert it.
- Not providing it with the right light intensity: in the first germination stage, when the radicle begins to rise up, it is better to provide too much light rather than not enough, because light does not bother cannabis. Of course, in the case of the Jiffy, we must keep in mind that the light, whether from the sun or a spotlight, is linked to the possibility of drying out. So, even if it is good that the Jiffy has plenty of light, we have to make sure that this is not drying the soil too much.
- Subjecting the Jiffy to changing temperatures: changing the temperature for example from 25 degrees (indoors) to 5 degrees (on a terrace) will make germination impossible.
- Putting several seeds in the same Jiffy: these peat pellets are not big enough for several seeds. We should use one for each seed we want to germinate.
- Keeping the seed in the Jiffy for too long. As soon as the seedling has a pair of cotyledons, it must be transferred to the substrate. The Jiffy is small and can only be used for so long before space must be given to the roots to grow in the pot or in the soil.
Mistakes when germinating cannabis seeds in damp cotton wool or paper
The method of germination in damp cotton wool or paper consists of moistening these materials and wrapping the seeds in them. In this case, it is advisable to put these wet fabrics in a germination greenhouse or Tupperware container with holes for ventilation, so that the temperature remains the same throughout the process. So where could we go wrong in this case?
- Letting the radicle grow too much: if the root becomes too long, it will probably end up getting caught up in the cotton wool or paper and will then break when detached from them before being transferred to the substrate. To avoid this, we need to do two things. First, don’t let the root get too long. As can be seen in the photos, the radicle grows very fast, so we have to put it in the soil when we see that it has grown in a certain direction (we can see that it either grows in a straight line or it adopts a more curved shape). Second, do not use pure cotton wool or kitchen paper, but rather cotton fabrics such as rags or pieces of old T-shirts.
- Exposing the seeds to changing temperatures: if we keep exposing them to different temperatures, seeds will not germinate. We must ensure that the place where we put them is warm, between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius, and that this temperature is kept stable until we transplant them to the substrate.
- Leaving the root in contact with the air for too long: left in contact with the air the root will oxidise, which will in turn kill the plant. When the root begins to grow, it is best to transfer it to the substrate immediately. Or, failing that, keep it well covered with the wet fabric.
Mistakes when germinating cannabis seeds in substrate (in a pot or in the ground)
Planting the seed directly into the pot or the ground where we plan to grow is another option for germinating the seed. Let’s have a look at what is usually done wrong in this case, leading to the cannabis seeds failing to germinate.
- Burying the seed too deep: the seed should be one centimetre below the surface and not any deeper. As a general rule for seed germination and cultivation, it is recommended to plant the seed at a depth equal to twice the size of its diameter. It is enough to cover the cannabis seeds, which are small in diameter, with just a little soil.
- Over-fertilising the substrate: the soil where the seed will germinate should be porous and light in nutrients. The substrate used for a flowering plant is not the best choice to germinate a seed, because a marijuana ‘baby’ cannot assimilate the same amount of food as an adult marijuana plant. So, let’s be sparing with the diet in the soil where we have placed the seed to be ‘born’.
- Using a soil with an unknown composition: the soil from the park near our house, or from the vegetable garden of the house in the village are not the best options for germination. It is important to know the composition of the substrate where we are going to plant the seed. And when we take soil from somewhere else, it may contain many minerals, or many nutrients, or a lot of fertiliser, and if we have not bought it in a bag where its ingredients are listed, we will not know its composition. So, it is important to use a substrate whose composition we know, especially for this first step in growing.
- Watering too much: a substrate that is too wet, especially in the case of autoflowering seeds, can be lethal for germination, and for the seedling’s first few weeks of life.
- Putting several seeds in the same pot: unless it is a very large pot, let’s give each seed its individual space so that the roots have enough room to develop. If we put several seeds in a 14-litre pot, for instance, some seeds may end up hindering the development of the others.
- Planting the seed directly in the ground where the climate is not appropriate: if the weather is too cold, too hot, too dry, or too wet it will be difficult for the seed to germinate. Since we do not control the environmental conditions in an outdoor substrate, changing weather conditions can easily hinder the germination of the cannabis seed.
Mistakes when germinating cannabis seeds in water
This method consists of putting the seed in a container with warm water and waiting for it to germinate in the days following immersion.
- Leaving the seed in the water for too long: as soon as it has germinated, and we see that the radicle has emerged, the seed must be transferred to the substrate. Water can be used to germinate it, but never to grow it. So, as soon as we have achieved the goal of placing it in the liquid, we have to take it out of there and provide it with the substrate it needs to survive.
- Overdoing the dosage of hydrogen peroxide in the water: if you want to include hydrogen peroxide to prevent fungi or bacteria during germination, you have to pay attention to the concentration. Overdoing the amount can prevent germination.
Common mistakes of any germination method
- Breaking the radicle while trying to separate the shell from the bulb. Being very invasive in the germination process can be lethal to the seed. Once it has germinated, the seedling will generally eject the seed shell itself, so we should leave the seed to do its job. We recommend intervening only if it is really necessary, and we see that the plant is growing upwards and that the shell is still attached to some of its parts.
- Handling the seeds, radicles or seedlings with dirty hands. We don’t know what type of dirt we might be carrying on our hands without realising it, so we should always wash our hands before carrying out any of the germination processes. This hygiene also applies to each of the tools that are in contact with the seed during the germination period.
- Using dirty water. It is important to use clean tap water at all times.
If you have made other mistakes not described in this post, please share these in the comments section. The growing experiences of some are usually useful to others.
And please, don’t hesitate to ask us any questions you have about cannabis seed germination.
Jásminka Hi, I’m Jásminka, from Dinafem Seeds, and I spend the whole day surrounded by Dinafem Girls. I’m an eager journalist, who lives with the phone glued to my hand, always trying to keep up with the frantic pace of the cannabis world. When something grabs my attention: I ask, listen, write and tell you all I find out on this blog.
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How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds
This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.
There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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Cannabis sativa sp. is commonly known as marijuana and has been grown throughout the world for thousands of years. Cannabis seeds germinate in 3 to 7 days, though some varieties may take 10 to 15 days. While germination is a natural process, factors such as light, humidity/moisture, and temperature must be controlled for cannabis seeds to sprout.