Cannabis Seed Quality: What To Know Before You Grow
Are your seeds light or dark in colour? Are they tough or do they turn to dust when you press them between your fingers? These are just some of the ways to tell if a seed is healthy and worth growing. Keep reading to learn more.
Quality seeds are the key to healthy plants and good harvests. While proper feeding/watering and good light quality obviously also affect the health and yield potential of your plants, starting a grow with top-shelf genetics is equally, if not more important. But how exactly do you tell quality cannabis seeds apart from the rest? In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to spot top-quality cannabis seeds, avoid duds, and start your grow off right.
Appearance And Feel – Checking The Color, Size, and Shape Of Your Seeds
Unlike other agricultural crops (like vegetables, fruit, or grain), cannabis hasn’t undergone the vigorous breeding techniques that ensure a stable crop. This means that you’ll sometimes sow a pack of seeds technically labeled as the same “strain,” but may end up with very different looking plants. It also means that the individual seeds you buy from a seed bank can vary in appearance.
The fact that cannabis seeds can vary in appearance has led some growers to think that the size, shape, or color of a seed dictates its quality.
We do not recommend taking the size or shape of a seed into consideration as a sign of its quality. Some strains simply produce smaller seeds than others, and sometimes the same plant can produce seeds of different sizes and shapes. Never discard a seed just because it is smaller or of a different shape than another one.
The color and feel of a seed, on the other hand, can tell you a little more about its maturity and, potential to germinate or grow into a healthy seedling.
Mature cannabis seeds usually have a hard outer shell that can vary in color from very dark (or almost black) to very light grey and may have tiger-like stripes. You should be able to firmly press these seeds between your fingers without damaging them.
Immature cannabis seeds, on the other hand, tend to be green and have a soft outer shell that breaks when any kind of pressure is applied to it.
Keep in mind that the simple process of packaging and storing cannabis seeds can also affect their appearance. Abrupt changes in humidity, temperature, or light exposure can make some seeds appear darker or lighter than others, but ultimately have no effect on their quality.
Remember, just like animals and other living things, cannabis seeds are biologically different from one another (even if they are technically the same strain) and therefore will exhibit different physical characteristics. Don’t let these natural differences fool you into thinking that a larger, rounder, and darker seed (for example) is of better quality than a lighter, smaller, and more oval-shaped one.
Can You Tell The Sex Of Cannabis Seeds From Their Appearance?
We hear this question all the time from clients and beginner growers, and the answer is a resounding no. There is simply no way to tell the sex of a cannabis seed just by looking at it.
A quick web search will bring up all kinds of myths about how to tell female cannabis seeds from males. One of the most popular ones comes from a chart showing 5 different seeds that claims that the female seeds have “a perfectly round volcano-like depression at the bottom (from where the seed was attached to the plant).”
This is absolutely not true. As we explained earlier, cannabis seeds naturally look different, and no single physical trait of a seed can tell you whether that seed contains the genetics for a male or female plant. The only way to tell a female cannabis plant from a male is by looking at its flowers when it begins to sex. Don’t be fooled into throwing out perfectly healthy seeds just because a popular internet chart told you so.
Growing Seeds From A Bag (Bagseed)
Some smokers might be pleased to see some cannabis seeds in their bag, and might think themselves lucky. However, finding seeds in a bag is bad for various reasons. For one, this means the grower has messed up and allowed their female plants to be pollinated by an invading male. When flowers are pollinated, they stop producing THC-containing resin and divert their energy toward producing seeds. Secondly, the seeds will have added to the overall weight of the bag, which means less weed for your buck.
With this said, you may get lucky if the strain they were growing really is prime. In this case, it’s worth carrying out the following test to see if it’s worth germinating.
Germinating All Your Seeds Regardless
The one true method to test the genetic potential of a seed is to simply put it in the soil. It won’t take too long to see the results. This option is best for the hobby home grower who has time and space to spare for a risky project. Growers cultivating cannabis for commercial use likely don’t have the excess time to invest.
Source Your Seeds Well
A solid way to obtain great seeds is to find a reputable seed bank. These companies pride themselves of their breeding skills and make sure that their customers receive exactly what has been advertised. They have reputations to cater to, so delivering anything less would only harm their image.
The alternative to this is to risk buying seeds from a hobbyist. This isn’t to say that hobby growers cannot produce fantastic genetics, but if you don’t know them or their skills, there’s no way to know whether your seeds will grow.
Conducting The Float Test
If you are still unsure about the quality of your seeds after analysing their appearance and toughness, it’s time to put your lab coat and goggles on. Well, not quite. This test is extremely easy and only has two possible outcomes. Fill up a drinking glass or glass jar with water (preferably spring or distilled) and place your seeds on the surface.
This simple and cost-effective method is a great way to tell the good genetics from the bad; they will sink or swim, literally. Seeds that remain buoyant on the surface are more than likely of poor quality and are to be discarded. Seeds that sink to the bottom like a botanical cannonball are probably healthy and should be germinated.
However, slight patience is required when conducting the float test, as results are not immediately apparent. You’ll have to wait for approximately 1–2 hours before confirming the results. Some good-quality seeds will need adequate time to absorb enough water for them to sink. Use this time to go water the garden and get some much needed pruning done. Upon your return, any seeds that remain on the surface are most likely not viable and won’t be worth further time and effort.
It’s important to only conduct this test if you are planning to germinate the seeds immediately afterwards. The viable seeds that sunk to the bottom of the glass will have taken in water, crossing the membrane of the seed and signalling that it’s time to come to life—activating germination.
Cannabis Seed Quality – The Bottom Line
The quality of your seeds has a direct impact on the quality of your harvest. With that in mind, you should make sure to use the tips above to test the quality of any seeds you buy. All that being said, though, be sure to remember that each cannabis plant is different and, therefore, is going to produce slightly different seeds.
Wondering what sets great cannabis seeds apart from the rest? Click here to learn all there is to know about checking the quality of your cannabis seeds.
How to Tell if Cannabis Seeds are Good or Bad
Ultimately, you can use the senses of sight, feel, taste and smell to determine whether cannabis seeds are good or bad. You want to make sure you don’t have seeds that have been hastily processed, or damaged for some other reason.
To find out if you have duds (seeds with a low germination rate that will never be ready to plant) or winners, whether you have seeds that will actually sprout or remain permanently dormant, apply these senses to your investigation.
Use a Magnifying Glass to Give the Sight Test
- The best seeds are big and fat with a rounded shape
- The rounder and fatter, the better likelihood that they will sprout.
- The biggest and the chunkiest seeds are the best. They are well fleshed out. The surface should be glossy and hard, with a slight sheen.
- They are dark in colour (usually brown, black or grey). If they are light, white, or pale green, they were harvested way too early and they are probably immature, not good, and unlikely to sprout.
- If they are pale and dusty they are probably old. The older they are, the slower they will germinate.
- The darker the colour, the more likely they are to grow and produce more weed. The dark shell means they came from better quality weed.
- There is a caveat, however. If they are too dark—deep purplish, that means they’ve been dyed and that’s not good.
- Also, beware if you see a white dusty powder on the bud—that is fungus—powdered mildew.
One key as to whether you own healthy cannabis seeds is to look at whether they have slightly lighter stripes. Good seeds are dark with lighter stripes or brown or black spots all the way around. Often, the healthy ones have stripes that resemble lightning, or have a tiger stripe appearance, and a distinctive colour pattern. Take your magnifying glass and look at the stem. If it is furry, that means there is mould from too much moisture—probably because it was bagged too early.
That being said, however, you cannot always judge a seed by its color alone. It can look fantastic, but you need to know what is inside. If you crack a seed open and it is oily and has a musty taste, it is going bad. If it is black inside, that means it’s fermenting and won’t germinate. If you crush it in your hands and you smell salt, it’s unflushed. If the bud is flushed, it means the roots are absorbing salt and nutrients.
Once you have separated the good seeds from the bad via the sight test, touch and feel your seeds as you continue your investigation .
The Touch Test
Lightly squeeze a seed without crushing it. If it crushes easily, it probably will not grow well. As you feel it, there should be no small cracks or holes. If they have small cracks or holes, they probably will not sprout. They should not be crinkled or cracked. If they’re not cracked, you know they are intact. If it holds up under the feel test, it will survive the germinating process.
The Float Test
Good quality seeds will sink – so apply the float test. (Note that you should only do this when ready to germinate). Put them in a cup of warm, distilled water for two hours. If they sink, they’re good. If they float, they are premature, and they probably won’t grow and so are unusable. Healthy seeds are heavy enough to sink.
If you think you have good quality cannabis seeds that have fully matured (that would be seeds with a growth rate of 85%), and are pretty sure you have a great batch of high-quality seeds that are not immature or damaged by the environment, but you’re still saying to yourself, “How do I know for sure I’m going to get a good yield?”, try germinating them.
The last resort test is to just plant it and see if it grows. The ideal temperature is 75 degrees. Good seeds should push up in three to six days. If you don’t want to plant them, you might want to use the paper towel method. Put them in a damp paper towel between two plates, keep the humidity high, and wait two days.
Why your Cannabis Seeds Haven’t Germinated?
If you have been unlucky and some or all of your cannabis seeds haven’t germinated, there is usually an easily identifiable reason. Germination isn’t just about your seed cracking and a taproot appearing, it’s about the transition of a seed into a very small but viable cannabis plant. So let’s start at the beginning.
How long did you soak your seeds in the water?
Did they sink to the bottom of the glass before transferring them to the moist paper towel? Seeds that are still floating are unlikely to have absorbed sufficient water to successfully germinate. If you leave your seeds in water for too long the taproot will not form and the germination process will grind to a halt. Once you have transferred your seeds do the damp paper towel over the next few days.
Did you ever let any parts or all of the paper towels dry out?
At the earliest stages of germination, the smallest of errors can have major consequences. Similarly, the paper towel mustn’t be steeped in water. The taproot grows naturally as it searches for water. If it’s too easy to find it just won’t grow if your water has loads of additives such as copper and chlorine this can poison your plants while handling the seeds with dirty hands can also poison them.
Make sure you either wash your hands with a non-toxic soap wear latex gloves or use tweezers. The next thing to check is the temperature of the seeds. The optimum temperature to keep them good for germination is between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 to 21 degrees Celsius. If the seeds are too cold they just won’t germinate even. If everything else is perfect.
The owners and members of the Cannabis Clubs claim: “The roots of the plants don’t like light and the same applies to the taproot and subsequent roots that will develop when your seeds germinate. Almost total darkness is ideal for germinating seeds even though.”
It is hopeless for growing seedlings it is interesting to note that it is certain wavelengths of light that affect germination and it is the blue length that tends to corrupt germination, while red wavelength promotes germination. You will also have to take into account when you bought your seeds. While cannabis seeds can remain viable for a large number of years if stored in perfect conditions. They can be ruined in a couple of weeks if not stored correctly.
Finally and unfortunately it is a fact of Mother Nature that not all seeds will germinate. Some will be duds and this is out of our control.
How to Tell if Cannabis Seeds are Good or Bad Ultimately, you can use the senses of sight, feel, taste and smell to determine whether cannabis seeds are good or bad. You want to make sure