If you are trying to become a cannabis grower, it is imperative that you become an expert in every aspect, especially when it comes to marijuana seeds. Otherwise, you could purchase low quality cannabis seeds and end up with a disappointing harvest. We also recommend familiarizing yourself with US law, especially any cultivation laws that apply to your state. In this guide, we provide you with a crash course on cannabis seeds that should help prevent you from making purchasing and planting mistakes.
Cannabis Seeds – What You Need to Know
As a dioecious plant, marijuana’s male and female reproductive organs are found on separate plants. To grow females, you need to place them far away from males or else the male plant will pollinate the female and hinder its ability to produce high potency cannabis. Seedless female flowers, are grown without males and are also known as sensimilla (this means ‘without seed’ in Spanish) – the powerful weed you find in your local dispensary comes from such a flower.
The female plant’s flower has to be pollinated by a male plant for it to reproduce. When this happens, the female flower will produce seeds. There are also hermaphrodites; plants that contain male and female reproductive organs. These unique plants are capable of producing pollen and self-pollinating their flowers.
Irrespective of whether a male plant pollinates a female or one plant self-pollinates, seeds get created. Once they reach maturity, they are dropped from the plant and can be used to produce new marijuana plants; or else they are harvested for hemp oil or food.
For the record, the only sure-fire way to determine the difference between a male and female plant is to allow them to grow for a while. In general, you won’t spot the gender of a plant for around six weeks, by which point it has reached the pre-flowering stage. If a small bud is visible between the new branch and the main stock, it is probably a female plant. Eventually, buds become adult flowers. Another tip is to look for white pistil hairs which grow where the bud ultimately forms.
You can spot male cannabis plants by the pollen sac they create. This is a bulb that resembles a tulip in terms of shape and which doesn’t have any pistil hairs growing. When you spot a male plant in your garden, remove it immediately. Otherwise, it will pollinate female plants which produce seeds rather than developing a flower.
What Are Feminized Marijuana Seeds?
‘Feminized’ cannabis seeds are produced by causing the hermaphrodite condition in a female plant. You can do this via Rodelization, by spraying gibberellic acid or spraying the marijuana plant with a colloidal silver solution. What happens is that you use ‘male’ pollen from a hermaphrodite plant to fertilize a female flower. As a result, you end up with plants that are either hermaphrodites or females, but never males.
It is also possible for feminized marijuana strains grown in the correct conditions to gain resistance against becoming hermaphrodites. In other words, the seeds are guaranteed to grow into female plants, which saves commercial growers in particular a great deal of time and money.
Feminized cannabis seeds produce marijuana plants that are almost genetically identical to the self-pollinated female parent plant. Also known as ‘cloning by seed,’ it is a reliable way to avoid producing male plants. On the downside, finding a stable mother plant for the purposes of seed production is expensive and time-consuming.
A high percentage of feminized seeds become hermaphrodites which results in marijuana flowers with seeds in them and lower overall yield. Feminized seeds can never be used if you intend on breeding. On the plus side, this type of seed is ideal for beginners who don’t want to worry about quickly finding and eliminating male plants before they ruin a harvest.
What Are Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds?
As experienced growers know, there comes a time when you have to change the light cycle of a marijuana plant to help it go from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage. The length of time a plant is exposed to light is known as a ‘photoperiod’, and is normally anywhere between 16 and 20 hours a day during the vegetative stage. Next, you have to expose the plant to 12 hours of continuous darkness each day for a couple of weeks to help it reach the flowering stage.
Autoflowering cannabis seeds are very different. They are based on the Cannabis Ruderalis species which flowers once the marijuana plant reaches a certain age, regardless of its light exposure. It is possible to cross a potent marijuana strain with a lower-THC Ruderalis variety to produce an autoflowering strain.
This type of seed is ideal if you are growing marijuana plants in a climate where summers are typically cold and short and the rainy season appears relatively early in the fall. When you use autoflowering seeds, you can begin growing in early spring because it will flower during summer. Although these plants don’t need a specific light cycle, they do require consistent light to produce the highest yields. Please note that the nature of autoflowering strains means you can’t keep them in the vegetative stage.
What is a Cannabis Clone?
A cannabis clone is a cutting taken from a marijuana plant and placed in a growing medium (such as soil or Rockwool) to ensure it grows roots. After the cutting has rooted, you can grow it into a mature plant. Best of all, it is genetically identical to the plant you cut it from.
Cannabis seeds have genetic information from its two parent plants which can become expressed in a variety of combinations. For instance, you could have a plant that picks up most of its traits from one parent or else it could have several characteristics from both.
As you can probably tell, attempting to create genetically identical marijuana plants from seeds is extremely tricky, and it takes a considerable amount of time and patience. Typically, experienced producers elect to plant several seeds and pick the best plant. Next, they take cuttings from this ‘master’ plant and use them to grow marijuana flowers. Alternatively, they use a proven clone purchased from another grower and use it as their master plant.
Where to Buy Cannabis Seeds
There are online seed banks located around the world, such as in Canada, Spain, Holland, and the United Kingdom. In such nations, it is relatively easy to buy cannabis seeds because the laws are fairly lenient. When it comes to the United States, however, things get very complicated.
At the time of writing, there are 30 American states plus Washington D.C. that have legalized weed either recreationally or medicinally. However, marijuana remains illegal on a federal level. While states have no obligation to enforce federal weed laws, they are powerless to prevent federal law enforcement from imposing their laws.
If you live in the U.S. and try to buy marijuana seeds online from an overseas country, the package could be confiscated by United States Customs and Border Protection. It is unlikely that you will face legal difficulties. If this happens to you, most reputable seed banks will send you another package to replace those that were seized.
However, please note that there could be major legal repercussions if the seeds are sent from within the United States, even if weed is legal in both states. Yes, a Colorado resident could get in trouble for purchasing cannabis seeds from a company in California. Even so, seed banks know the risks and normally take precautions to ensure your seeds are delivered safely.
What Factors Result in High Quality Cannabis Seeds?
There is no single factor that results in a high-quality cannabis seed, but all of the following play a major role:
- Maturity: It should go without saying that all cannabis seeds must be allowed to mature fully before harvesting.
- Storage: Ideally, cannabis seeds will be stored in a cool, dark place. You can either freeze them immediately or use them within 12 months. Otherwise, you are running the risk of exposing the seeds to pathogens that will cause spoilage.
- Genetics: This is the most important factor because, without good genetics, the best you can hope for is an average yield. Unfortunately, some breeders crossa high-quality female plant with any male plant they find and sell the resulting seeds. Others stabilize a plant’s most desirable traits and produce multiple phenotypes. The best seeds are Inbred Lines (IBLs) which produce plants with little difference. Unfortunately, it is hard to find such seeds.
Cannabis Seed Germination
A marijuana seed needs air, warmth, and moisture to germinate successfully. Female marijuana plants drop their seeds in the fall as the plant is about to die. These seeds begin to sprout when warmer and wetter weather comes in spring and these seeds become plants. In the modern era, there are numerous ways to germinate your cannabis seeds.
A common method is to place seeds in a light potting mix covered by a thin layer of soil. Keep the soil between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and ensure there is enough moisture. After several days, the seed should become a seedling and begin its exciting journey.
The paper towel method is a very simple, and relatively effective, way to germinate cannabis seeds. Place your seeds in a moist paper towel, wrap them up, and put the paper towel on a plate. Cover the seeds with another plate. Alternatively, place the paper towel and seeds in a sealed plastic bag. In either case, store in a dark and warm area and check the seeds daily to see if they sprout. The process can take 3-7 days. Make sure the paper towel has enough moisture throughout the process.
What About High-CBD Seeds?
Also known as CBD, cannabidiol is one of the most abundant compounds in marijuana and is famed for the fact it doesn’t help you achieve a ‘high.’ As it is non-intoxicating, it can be used legally in almost every American state, and you shouldn’t fail a drug test if you use it (as long as there is no THC). In recent years, hundreds of studies have been published which suggest that CBD could have potential as a medicine.
As humans have routinely bred marijuana with high levels of THC, it is rare to find cannabis plants with significant levels of CBD. This is primarily because THC is synthesized through the marijuana plant using different genetic pathways than those used for the production of CBD.
However, marijuana used in hemp production routinely contains high levels of CBD and low amounts of THC. As research has shown the potential therapeutic properties of CBD, an increasing number of breeders have begun creating high-CBD marijuana plants such as Harlequin, ACDC, and Charlotte’s Web.
Although you can purchase seeds for these marijuana strains online, there is no guarantee that the plant which emerges from the seed will produce a high level of CBD because it takes a long time to develop a consistent seed line. Until the day comes when breeders can create seed strains with a consistently high level of CBD, growers must use seeds developed from a tested clone. Alternatively, you can grow a multitude of seeds and have their cannabinoid content tested in a lab once they reach maturity.
Are Cannabis Seeds Expensive to Produce?
In a word, ‘yes’! It is normal to pay up to $12 per seed, which means a pack of ten will set you back well over $100. In contrast, you can buy dozens of tomato seeds for a few dollars. Commercial crop seed breeding can be done quickly but not necessarily cheaply. The sheer scale of such operations, coupled with their enormous resources, means they can produce huge amounts of seeds, but it still requires a lot of manpower, expertise and expensive equipment.
If you are a cannabis breeder working in the shadows because of prohibition, it takes a long time to produce a high-quality seed line. Then there is the small matter of legal repercussions should you be caught breeding and cultivating marijuana. For instance, in the state of Alabama, ‘manufacturing’ weed in the ‘First Degree’ is classified as a felony and carries a prison sentence of between 10 years and life!
Suddenly, it is easy to see why cannabis seeds are so expensive! Unfortunately, the cannabis seed breeding industry is unregulated, which means you don’t always get what you pay for. You could easily pay $15 a seed and end up with low-quality produce. Good luck trying to track down the seller in this scenario!