Posted on

Undeveloped cannabis seed

Cannabis seeds

Cannabis seeds are ready to plant and grow once they successfully germinate or once the root has broken through the protective outer shell of the seed. Cannabis seeds are available in regular, feminized, and auto-flowering forms. Home growers of cannabis often choose feminized seeds to ensure that the adult plant will be a flowering female.

Cannabis seeds are brown and about the size of a peppercorn. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Image lightbox

More about marijuana seeds

As with all angiosperms, or flowering plants, cannabis produces seeds that contain all of the genetic information needed for growth and reproduction. When a seed is planted, the translation of this genetic material dictates each unique physical characteristic the mature plant will have. If these are desirable traits, like potency, smell, vigor, etc., a breeder can select for these through a long process of genetic stabilization through generations, which eventually leads to the creation of a cultivar, or strain.

Anatomy of a cannabis seed

Cannabis seeds are about the size of a peppercorn, ovular in form, and pointed on each end with a ridge that transverses longitudinally on only one side from tip to tip. It is this ridge that opens up during germination. The opposite side is rounded. The body of the seed is brown, but underdeveloped and unfertilized seeds can have an off-white color and are typically smaller in size.

Photo by: Illustration by Weedmaps

Image lightbox

The body of a marijuana seed is spotted or striped, most commonly with light brown specks, but some varieties of cannabis can have red or yellow markings. Plant embryos are contained within seeds and house all cells that will eventually differentiate into leaves, roots, and stems. Embryos, found within the reproductive organs, are protected by an outer envelope called the pericarp. Crucial components of the plant embryo are the cotyledons, the first leaves to appear from the seed, and the radicle, which develops into the primary root. Once the seed germinates and begins its growth into a mature plant, special structures called root caps protect the growing tips of the plant.

Seedless cannabis

Today’s commercially cultivated cannabis does not contain seeds. The cultivation practices that have made this widespread are rooted in fundamental biological concepts. Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning it has separate male and female organisms, just like humans. If a female plant matures in the presence of a male plant, pollen from the male will fertilize the female, and its bracts will contain seeds at the end of the flowering cycle. Seedless cannabis is commonplace even when it originates from mass-produced outdoor cultivation, but not too long ago, this was not the case.

Around the middle of the 20th century, growers discovered that culling male plants as soon as they display their sexed traits would result in a crop containing exclusively unfertilized females, yielding cannabis flowers higher in THC that don’t require the removal of seeds before smoking. This seedless cannabis was from then on dubbed sinsemilla, which translates to “without seed” in Spanish. It is also commonly spelled sensimilla.

How cannabis seeds are produced

Commercial growers who produce cannabis flower desire seedless plants but there are also cultivators interested in selling seed to the growing home-cultivation market. Cannabis seed production begins with the pollen grain of a male plant. From this grain, a pollen tube grows, producing male generative cells that disperse in the form of pollen. The migration of pollen into a female plant ovule triggers pistils to fall off and seed production to begin. The bracts, which contain the ovule, will then fill with seeds. Since seeded plants are a natural outcome of pollen fertilizing eggs, producing cannabis seeds is a matter of letting nature take its course.

What’s the difference between feminized, regular, and autoflower seeds?

There are a few differences to note between these cannabis seed types.

  • Feminized seeds: The key difference between feminized cannabis seeds and regular cannabis seeds is that feminized seeds have been engineered to produce exclusively female plants. This matters for cultivation since smokable flowers are produced only by female plants. A male plant can potentially ruin a harvest if it pollinates nearby female plants, causing them to produce flowers full of seeds.
  • Autoflowering seeds: Autoflowering seeds have been carefully bred to begin and complete the flowering process based on the plant’s maturity rather than how much light the plant receives each day. Autoflowering seeds tend to be simpler to grow and don’t require as much light, making them perfect for places where the growing season is short or for indoor grows.

Image lightbox

Is it illegal to buy marijuana seeds?

Marijuana seeds are a cannabis product, so if you live in a place where cannabis is illegal, then seeds are also illegal. However, some people who live in places where weed is not yet legal purchase marijuana seeds from marijuana seed banks as a “souvenir.” Either way, if you want to buy marijuana seeds and cannabis is illegal where you live, then you face some degree of risk. On the other hand, if you live in a state where cannabis is legal, especially one where home cultivation is allowed, then you should be able to purchase seeds legally. Remember, even in states where cannabis is legal, it’s still illegal nationally in the US. To cut your risk as much as possible, purchase cannabis seeds from in-state or local providers so they don’t have to cross state lines or be transported by mail.

Where to buy marijuana seeds

Seeds are sold in brick-and-mortar locations legally in many countries across Europe and are often traded online. As cannabis legalization expands in North America, more retail locations are carrying seeds as well. Feminized seeds are the most popular, but providers likely have access to many strains of mixed male and female seeds. Carefully sifting through cannabis flower before using the grinder will usually turn up a few seeds, too. Professionally sourced seeds assure quality genetics and viability, but saved seeds can be a cheap source of cannabis genetics for the hobbyist grower.

Do dispensaries sell seeds?

If you live in a state or country where cannabis is legal, and where individuals are allowed to grow their own plants at home, then you should be able to buy seeds at most legal dispensaries. This might not be the case if you’re in a location that does not allow home growing. The best thing to do is simply check your local laws and ask your local budtender.

How much do marijuana seeds cost?

A pack of marijuana seeds—typically containing around ten or so seeds—will run you anywhere from around $40 on the low end and as much as $400 or $500 on the upper end. The price of marijuana seeds depends on a number of variables including:

  • Quality of genetics
  • The reputation of the breeder who produced the seeds
  • How rare or potent the strain is
  • Whether they’re regular, feminized, or autoflowering (feminized and autoflowering marijuana seeds tend to cost more)

How many seeds should I buy?

If you’re trying to grow just a handful of plants for your own private consumption, then you can get away with purchasing one or two packs at a time. Since most commercially sold marijuana seeds come in packages of 10 or so seeds, 10 to 20 seeds should be enough to ensure a good harvest even if a few seeds fail. This is a baseline for a small, private crop andany larger operations should scale up accordingly.

How to store cannabis seeds

Seed providers sometimes vacuum-seal and freeze seeds for long-term storage, but commercially-available seeds in Dutch headshops are sold in small, plastic vials at room temperature and low humidity (6-12%).

Humidity and light is the main enemy of seed storage. Beyond that, seeds can remain viable for up to two years when stored in even the most haphazard conditions. Marijuana seeds swept up off the floor or found in the bottom of a drawer have been known to grow into vigorous young plants.

Germinating cannabis seeds

Germination is the process of beginning the vegetative growth of the new cannabis plant. Sometimes referred to colloquially as “popping,” this process starts when the seed is exposed to water and light. The seed abandons its state of dormancy, or quiescence, and resumes essential metabolic processes that feed on energy stores to delicately rupture open the shell and grow its first root. This root will elongate until it has taken hold of the medium, after which it will pull two small embryonic leaves (cotyledons) from the seed shell. Cotyledons are in the seed before germination and are not considered “true” leaves. The cotyledons will grow until they are about one centimeter long, and once the stem below this is around five centimeters tall, another set up true leaves will grow out of the top and the stem between the true leaves and cotyledons will continue to elongate.

Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Image lightbox

Generally speaking, cannabis is a hardy plant that will grow and even thrive in a diversity of environments. However, to assure germination, several steps can be taken. One method calls for a moist paper towel inserted into a plastic bag. Once the first root appears, the seedling must be carefully transferred to some soil before the root takes hold to the paper towel.

Cannabis seeds can also be germinated in a peat pellet. Plant the seed only just below the surface. Once the seedling has taken hold in the pellet, directly transfer it to a pot; the roots will grow right through the soft fabric that encases the peat, at which point the pellet can be directly placed into soil. Whichever method is used, keep the temperature between 70 -90 degrees Fahrenheit (21-32 degrees Celsius), ideally at 78 degrees Fahrenheit (about 26 degrees Celsius), keeping seedlings covered to maintain humidity. Seedlings and young cuttings require photosynthetically active radiation that is more heavily weighted in the blue portion spectrum; a common fluorescent desk lamp will suffice until they are about 5 inches, or about 13 centimeters, tall.

Do Feminized Cannabis Seeds Make Hermies?

What Are Feminized Cannabis Seeds? These seeds all grow up to be female plants. That means every plant produces buds. With “regular” or unfeminized seeds, about half the plants will turn out to be male, which don’t produce buds. They can also pollinate your female plants (causing seedy buds). Therefore most growers will remove male plants from the grow room as soon as they’re identified. Learn more about male vs female plants. Feminized seeds let you plan your grow more effectively because you don’t have to throw half the plants away once they start flowering.

Every plant grown from feminized seeds will produce the buds we know and love. This plant was grown from feminized Swiss Cheese seeds.

What Are Hermies? “Hermie” is short for “hermaphrodite.” Hermie cannabis plants usually look like normal female plants for the most part, but they also grow some male parts that produce pollen. This causes seedy buds just like pollen from male plants. Hermies are to be avoided! Read the full tutorial on hermies.

It’s no good if your “female” plants start growing male flowers or parts of male flowers. That can cause seedy buds just like a male plant!

This bud got completely seeded due to a hermie in the grow space. Notice the lumpy round bits. Those are seeds forming.

What’s the matter with a few seeds?

Cannabis growers are trying to grow sinsemilla (seedless buds). A few seeds won’t hurt anything. But if you have very seedy buds, it significantly lowers your yields because plants are putting all their energy into making seeds. The buds also tend to be less potent if they are full of seeds. Seeds are not the end of the world, but it’s good to avoid if possible.

“Sinsemilla” means “no seeds.” Sinsemilla is the highest quality and most potent of all buds

Since most growers are trying to grow sinsemilla, having only 100% female plants in the flowering grow room is crucial to prevent pollination.

Feminized cannabis seeds can be a blessing for small-scale growers. While male plants produce pollen sacs, feminized seeds ensure all your plants will end up being bud-bearing females (instead of growing half male and half female plants like with regular seeds).

If you don’t have room for extra plants, feminized seeds can make planning your grow a lot easier!

Good feminized seeds should produce only 100% female plants, with no hermies or male plants. So starting with feminized cannabis seeds lets you make the most efficient use of your grow space. You don’t have to worry about identifying male plants and throwing them away before they pollinate your female plants. With good feminized seeds, you know that if you’re growing 10 plants, all 10 of them will make buds, and that makes it easier to plan out your grow ahead of time.

With all these bonuses, why would any small-scale grower use any other type of seeds?

Pros of Feminized Cannabis Seeds

All plants produce buds

You don’t have to throw away half your plants after nurturing them for weeks

You don’t have to worry about your buds getting pollinated, causing seedy buds, reduced bud quality and lower yields

But is there a dark side to feminized cannabis seeds?

One of the biggest worries growers have about feminized seeds is that they will produce hermies instead of 100% female plants as advertised.

This hermie is growing both male and female flowers. Can this be caused by feminized seeds?

Unfortunately, hermies can be a lot easier to miss than a male plant since it may just be a small part of the plant that’s affected. A male plant makes itself known at the beginning of the flowering stage, but a hermie plant may grow only buds except for just one or two tiny pollen sacs. A few yellow hermie bananas hidden in the buds can also produce pollen. Any type of male flower part that grows in your garden can add seeds to your buds, and hermies are some of the worst offenders.

This grower didn’t notice that the buds had been seeded until harvest. As he was trimming, he noticed seeds popping out. Since there were no male plants, chances are this was caused by an unnoticed hermie somewhere in the grow space.

Is it True that Feminized Seeds Sometimes Cause Hermies? Yes!

Many growers believe that feminized seeds can cause hermies, and there is some truth to that. In order to create a feminized seed, one of the parent female plants had to be forced in some way to produce pollen.

That pollen is used to pollinate another female plant, and the offspring of those two plants will all be female since both of the parents were female. That’s how you get feminized cannabis seeds. But that also means every time you have a feminized seed, that seed had a plant that produced male flowers in its recent genetic history.

There are different ways to feminize seeds, but only some methods produce seeds that turn hermie on you.

It’s important to understand that hermies can happen a couple of different ways. And the different types of hermies affect what genes are being passed on to the seeds.

This swollen calyx has a seed developing inside

What Causes Hermies?

Hermies can be caused by many things, including…

bad genetics – the plant comes from a line of plants that naturally create hermies for no reason, even in good growing conditions

high stress – high temperatures, light leaks, inconsistent light schedules, as well as other types of major stress can cause a healthy plant to hermie, though some plants/strains are more susceptible than others

letting buds over-mature – this is also known as “rodelization;” basically when the plant’s buds have gone past maturity without being pollinated (if the grower waits way too long to harvest), a female plant may make male pollen within its buds as a last ditch effort to pollinate itself and make seeds for the next generation

chemical stimulation – by exposing a female plant to certain substances like colloidal silver or gibberellic acid during the early parts of the flowering stage, you can force any female plant to create pollen. This is how seedbanks get female pollen to produce feminized seeds.

Seeds created from “female” pollen will turn out being female (or at least as female as the parents).

The pollen from a hermie plant makes feminized seeds

The pollen sacs on this masculinized female plant have opened and pollen has spilled onto the leaf below

Another type of hermie: a yellow “banana” can appear in your buds and make pollen. This male flower part would normally be inside a pollen sac. When it’s in the open like this, it becomes a little pollen generator.

Feminized seeds are susceptible to becoming hermies themselves when exposed to the same conditions as their female “father” who produced the pollen. But since any plant can be chemically induced to produce pollen, it doesn’t mean that the ability to hermie in a natural environment is passed on to the seeds.

So only some feminized seeds come from parents with bad genetics, and that’s what’s the grower cares about most.

The bagseed gamble… When you find seeds in your buds, that usually means that the buds were pollinated by accident. Seeds that were accidentally created are suspect. It could be that a stray male plant caused them, which means there were no hermies and you will get about half male and half female plants. But accidental seeds could also be the result of herming by an indiscriminate grower, and that means you have feminized seeds, sort of. Some of them may produce pollen on you just like their parents. Growing with bagseed is a big gamble… you never know what you’re going to get.

Are your cannabis bagseeds viable? Viable, good seeds usually appear either dark and striped or solid gray/beige.

If a seed is pure white it usually means it’s underdeveloped and won’t sprout. But it can sometimes be hard to tell. In the end, if a seed sprouts and grows it’s a viable seed! I’ve had very pale, flimsy seeds sprout into gorgeous fast-growing plants, so if you’re not sure the best thing to do is try to germinate it!

Seed Banks & Breeders

Commercial breeders and seed banks use chemical stimulation to create feminized seeds. What that means is they put specific compounds on developing female plants to force them to produce pollen. You can actually do this yourself at home.

This technique works on nearly any female plant, including plants that would never hermie naturally. So it can be used to take two plants with great genetics to produce female seeds. But the same process will also work incredibly well on plants that do hermie easily all on their own. That means it’s up to the breeder to test and make sure that they have a solid plant with unbeatable genetics before using the feminization technique.

The pollen that results from chemical stimulation is used to pollinate another female plant and make feminized seeds. If the parent plants would never hermie without chemical stimulation, then you have created feminized seeds that won’t ever make pollen in your grow room.

But if one of the parent plants was chosen because it does hermie easily, you’ll end up with seeds that likely will herm. The breeder might not have done any testing on the parents or the resulting offspring to even know.

Without testing, a breeder can’t tell whether they’ve created quality feminized seeds

Choosing the Right Cannabis Breeder

Unfortunately, some cannabis seed breeders are more trustworthy than others. The great ones have created stabilized strains that have been bred over several generations to produce a consistent product without any problems with plant sex.

Less scrupulous breeders might breed two random female plants together and sell the resulting seeds as a new strain without any testing. In this second case, you don’t know what to expect, and neither does the breeder.

If the breeder hasn’t tested their strains extensively in many situations, they won’t know whether their seeds tend to hermie or not. If they have carelessly bred plants that have a tendency to herm, then it’s really likely that at least some of the resulting seeds will have the same problem.

Breeder choice is important!

I have to admit I may be biased towards feminized seeds. I’ve grown almost exclusively with feminized seeds over the last decade. It has made my life so much easier! I only purchase seeds from breeders that I trust and all the resulting seeds have been bud-bearing females. I haven’t had any real problems with hermies.

On the flip side, I’ve heard of growers buying feminized seeds from untrustworthy breeders and having a big portion of their seeds turn male or become hermies even in perfect growing conditions. So there is truth to the fact that you can run into hermie problems with feminized seeds.

Yet there are good and bad breeders out there, and with good breeders, you have a very low chance of running into cannabis sex problems.

So if you do choose to purchase feminized seeds (or any seeds really), please make sure you get them from a trusted breeder!

Conclusion: Feminized seeds from a trustworthy breeder have a low chance of producing hermies, but the odds are much worse with feminized seeds from an untrustworthy source

The truth is it takes a hermie of some sort to create feminized seeds. That means that you always run the risk of running into hermies when growing feminized seeds… yet that is true for non-feminized cannabis seeds, too! Lots of regular seeds produce hermies.

What’s most important, whether you get feminized seeds or not, is to get your seeds from a breeder who has a reputation for producing quality genetics. That is the best thing you can do for any strain to ensure a smooth grow. With a great breeder, you have a very low risk of running into any sex or gender problems.

I personally prefer feminized seeds, and that’s the only type of seed I grow. It makes it easier for me in my limited grow space. I haven’t run into any significant problems with hermies, so I’m satisfied with growing only bud-bearing plants.

Yet a lot of growers grow with regular seeds because they’re easier to breed and produce at home. Many growers have created a system for weeding out male plants that is more convenient for them than using feminized seeds.

In the end, when it comes to feminized cannabis seeds you need to decide whether the small chance for hermies is worth the convenience of all-female plants. It’s up to you to figure out what’s best for your needs!