Check out our beginner grower’s guide to learn how to germinate seeds with the paper towel method. Every cannabis plant starts off as a tiny seed with the potential to grow huge yields and bountiful buds. If you want to start your garden on the right foot, the germination phase is critical to its future growth.
What Is Germination?
Germination refers to the process in which the plant begins to grow from a seed. As the first stage of the growth cycle, germinating a seed requires a grower to create the perfect environment to get those seeds to break open and pop with a fresh and vigorous growth.
So, what is needed to get these seeds popping?
A seed requires plenty of moisture to absorb, increase in size, and gradually break out of the shell. You know you’ve done the germination process right when a seedling emerges from the hard seed shell. This growth will be the basis of the roots and the part of the seedling that absorbs nutrients from the growing medium.
Starting off with a high-quality seed is critical. Avoid seeds that feel fresh and soft and look green. Mature seeds have a hard outer shell. However, they can get too old and mishandled and won't sprout as effectively. Before you get to the germination phase, it's important to store your seeds in a dark, dry, and cool space.
What Is the Paper Towel Method?
For seed germination, the paper towel method is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get your cannabis seeds to pop. Essentially, you're germinating seeds between two damp paper towels and a couple of plates, which are used to create a contained and dark environment for a few days. During this time, the seeds will begin to sprout, if done correctly.
How to Use the Paper Towel Method
Are you ready to germinate your seeds? Here's exactly what you'll need:
- Cheap paper towels; avoid buying fancy brand paper towels since the seed roots can grow into its plush ply
- 2 plates to lock in the moisture
- High-quality cannabis seeds from a reputable seed bank that ships to your location
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to germinate your seeds using this method:
- Soak your paper towel(s) with water or spray water on them.
- Allow the excess water to run off.
- Place your damp paper towel on top of one plate. Feel free to use 3-4 layers so that they can fit inside the plate. Any bit of paper towel that is outside of the plate can cause the entire paper towel to dry out quickly.
- Add a few seeds on top of the paper towel. If you’re germinating different seed strains or types, make sure to label them on the paper towels with a clear marker. If possible, add the water first to avoid moving the seeds from their spots.
- Cover the seeds with a single damp paper towel or fold the one you already have in half to blanket the seeds. Using less layers on top will allow you to see the growth process underneath without having to lift the towel when it's damp.
- Cover the entire set up with the second plate.
- During the process, keep your seed warm by placing them near natural light or using a seedling heat mat. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight or placing the mat mat directly under the plate since this can heat up your seeds too much. If possible, use a separator between the heating mat and the seed plate such as a kitchen towel, a book, or other divider that can warm up without damage. Side note: seeds germinate better under temperatures between 70 and 85º F.
- During the process, check on your seeds daily. If you notice that your paper towel is getting dry, reapply water.
- Seeds can pop within a few days, but sprouting may vary based on the strain and the seed quality.
- When your seeds have sprouted, slowly and gently remove the top paper towel sheet. You'll notice a short root or 2 round and yellow seedling leaves sprouting from the shell. If you only see the root, give your seedlings a bit more time to grow.
Maximize Your Root Growth
When your seedlings have sprouted long enough roots, you can gently use your hands or tweezers to remove the seeds from the paper towels and place them in your preferred growing medium. Some users place them inside Rapid Rooters to stimulate germination. Here's a guide on how to do so:
- Cut or split the Rapid Rooter in half to make it easier to place the germinated seeds inside without damaging them.
- Place the exposed leaves or the seed head close to the top of the Rapid Rooter so it can easily sprout from the top. If you place the seed too far down it will have a long way to go to grow and may not reach the top. Place the seed root down.
- Once you find a spot within the Rapid Rooter plug, gently close the Rapid Rooter around the seedling.
- Place the Rapid Rooter in a Rapid Rooter tray.
- Water the Rapid Rooter completely without overflowing. The Rapid Rooter tray will retain the excess water to keep your medium perfectly moist.
- Place the tray on top of the seedling heating mat.
- The leaves should appear within a day or two.
- Once the leaves appear, place your set-up near a window with natural sunlight or use your vegetative grow lights. Place the lights at least twice as far from the recommended distance to avoid damaging the seedlings.
- After a day or two, your seedlings will show more foliage growth and are ready to be transplanted to plant containers when they show their first set of serrated leaves.
- Plant your Rapid Rooter inside your growing medium, preferably soil and label each seed.
- Lower the grow light to its recommended distance.
Troubleshooting Common Problems
Using the paper towel method is easy and affordable for beginner growers. However, there are some disadvantages to using this method. In some cases, the seed shell will get stuck on the seed leaf. Using tweezers can help remove the shell from the stuck-on leaves. This should be a last-ditch method if after a few days the seed shell is still stuck on the leaves. Here's how to remove the seed:
- Gently place your nearly closed tweezers within the open seed crack.
- Slowly open the seed and pry the hard outer shell apart.
- If needed, add a small bit of water to the stuck-on part and wait a few minutes for the material to soften.
- Use tweezers to gently remove the seed or membrane from the leaves.
Master Grower Certification
Now that you know how to germinate your seeds using a paper towel method, you're ready to move forward with your plant’s growth stages. If you want to know how the pros do it, enroll in Cannabis Training University's online cannabis college. Learn all the tricks of the trade to get your plant thriving during its vegetative and flowering periods. Our curriculum caters to growers of all skill levels.