How to Tell if a Cannabis Seed is Good Got a cannabis seed, but you’re not sure if it’s any good? No worries. By the end of this article you’ll know everything you need to get started. The Are These Cannabis Seeds Good? Growing with bad marijuana seeds is particularly harsh on growers of all levels. This is mostly because it’s tough to pinpoint when the seed itself is the actual Whether you are a cannabis fan who has just begun growing a couple of plants recreationally, or you are looking to test your green thumb for the first time, there is one question that’s going to come up at some point. Do seeds go bad? Let's find out!
How to Tell if a Cannabis Seed is Good
Got a cannabis seed, but you’re not sure if it’s any good? No worries. By the end of this article you’ll know everything you need to get started.
The legality of growing cannabis varies depending on where you live in the world. Know your laws.
What to Look for in a Healthy Cannabis Seed:
You can tell a lot about a seed’s health just by looking at it. Here are a few different things you should look for when deciding if a cannabis seed is good or not.
- Darkened Color – Good cannabis seeds will be brown, black, and/or gray. White or green seeds are immature and unlikely to sprout. Your seed should also have stripes or spots all the way around.
- Waxy Coating – A healthy seed will have a thin waxy coating around it. This coating should appear to have a slight sheen to it.
- Hard Shell – You should be able to lightly squeeze a seed without it crushing. If a seed crushes easily between your fingers then the seed is likely dead or weak and will not grow well.
- No Cracks – Inspect the entire seed to make sure there aren’t any small crack or holes. This will most likely cause the seed not to sprout.
Ways To Test Cannabis Seeds
Now that I’ve gone over a basic guide for what to look for I’ll give you a couple of ways that you can test your seeds.
Test Method #1: Floating Seeds in Water
This is a great test that works for many different seeds – not just cannabis. Take your seeds and drop them in a cup full of warm (not too hot) water then wait a couple of hours. If they sink then they’re probably good to go. If they won’t sink then they are probably dead and won’t grow.
Note: Only do this if you’re ready to germinate your plants. Otherwise, it could harm your seed. I cover germination in a later section.
Test Method #2: Just Go Ahead and Try to Germinate the Seed
I know this seems obvious, but it really is the best information I really could give. If you really want to know if a cannabis seed is able to germinate then go ahead and try germinating it – what do you really have to lose? Not quite sure how to germinate a seed? No worries. Here’s a quick guide:
How to Germinate a Cannabis Seed
Germinating a seed simply means getting the plant to sprout from the seed. It’s the first step in your cannabis seed’s journey to a full grown plant. There are several ways to go about this.
One way is to simply plant it in your soil and see if a plant pops up. It’s old school, but no one can deny its simplicity. Plant the seed about 1/4″ deep and wait.
Another way is to put the seeds on a damp paper towel. Make sure the paper towel is damp, but not soaking wet. If it dries out you can add a few drops of water to the paper towel. Leave the paper towel in a dark place. The amount of time is going to vary among strains. Some may take only 2 days while others could take longer. Continue to check them once a day.
How to Tell if a Cannabis Seed is Male or Female
Unfortunately, there is no way to know if a cannabis seed is going to be male or female simply by looking at it or doing a simple test. This is a bummer since most people don’t want male cannabis plants in their garden.
If you want feminized seeds then you’ll have to buy them from a reputable seed bank. Make sure they say feminized – if they don’t say it then they probably aren’t.
If all you’ve got is a bag seed then the only way to find out if it’s going to be male or female is to grow it.
Can My Cannabis Seed Go Bad / Expire?
The short answer is yes, but if you store your seeds properly they can stay viable for years and years. Moisture, UV degradation, and extreme temperatures could all affect the quality of your seeds.
If you plan to store your seeds for a long period of time make sure to keep them in an airtight container in a dark area. Ideally, seeds should be stored in a climate controlled area (like inside your house instead of in a shed or garage. One study showed laboratory-sealed cannabis seeds were still viable after 19 years.
It’s nice to know what to look for, but in the end the best test is just to put it in soil. If you’re using bag seeds then you never really know what you’re getting anyways. If you’ve bought your seeds from a legitimate seed bank then you shouldn’t have to worry about it.
Are These Cannabis Seeds Good?
Growing with bad marijuana seeds is particularly harsh on growers of all levels.
This is mostly because it’s tough to pinpoint when the seed itself is the actual problem. Most growers will blame themselves for a problem that shows up in their grow long before they assume it’s the seeds.
The term ‘bad seeds’ usually refers to any type of seed that has a significantly higher likelihood of causing problems in a grow. I’ll cover the most common reasons for bad seeds in this tutorial!
These cannabis seeds were germinated between two wet pieces of paper towel!
These are pot seeds you might get from a friend, or maybe you have them stashed somewhere and forgot how you got them. In either case, if the shell of the seed looks beat-up, it may not germinate as well or quickly as seeds that were stored in good conditions.
Seeds are a little nugget of genetic material than can hopefully grow into a plant. And like all other genetic material, it doesn’t last forever! Although seeds can be viable for quite years and years after they’re first produced, the chances of them successfully germinating goes down over time (and old seeds also tend to take a lot longer to germinate than fresh ones). The resulting seedlings are also more likely to be slow growing. But sometimes they sprout like they were born yesterday!
Check out the picture below. We sprouted all the plants at the same time. The tub on the right has seeds that were planted within a week of receiving them in the mail. The tub on the left has a very popular strain with award-winning genetics… but the seeds were more than 6 years old from when we first bought them. Even though they were all put into the tank at the same time and the new seeds grew like crazy, the seeds on the left got outpaced by algae – only one sprouted and though its roots keep growing and growing the actual never got any bigger than two round leaves even after a month!
Pale or Flimsy Seeds
When I first started growing I was told that good cannabis seeds needed to be very hard with dark tiger striping. If you could crush it between your fingers, it was a bad seed, or so I was told. This has not been my experience at all!
Did you know that the “stripes” on cannabis seeds are actually part of a protective coating? The “pale” seeds in this photo are actually just regular seeds with the coating rubbed off!
Over the years, some of my very best plants came from flimsy, light brown seeds that very likely would have been easy to crush between my fingers.
So I’m a big believer in the fact that if you put the seed in the ground and a fast-growing healthy seedling comes out of it, it was a viable seed! Don’t toss a seed you are really interested in just because it’s a little pale; give it a chance (I’m talking more about tan seeds, it’s very unlikely a yellow seed will sprout)!
Note: Although the hardiness of the seed was likely important in the wild, cannabis growers have been breeding plants for generations to make good buds, not seeds! We growers strive to provide an ideal germination environment that lets almost any seed germinate successfully. As a result, we haven’t been breeding for seed hardness. Just like a teacup poodle hasn’t been bred to be strong, cannabis seeds haven’t been bred to be strong. They have other qualities we love
Bag seeds you randomly find in your buds aren’t supposed to be there, so that means that the genetics are a toss-up. Even if the seeds started with good parents, there’s no telling how high or low the quality will be. Unfortunately, the only way to find out is to grow it… Some growers win the genetic lottery, but many others lose out.
If you talk to breeders, you’ll learn that when you breed two “star” strains together you don’t always get what you’d expect. It seems like every one of the seedlings (or at least most of them) should be capture the best qualities of both their parents.
However, that’s not how genetics works most of the time. Without intensive breeding and backcrossing, when you mix two random plants you often end up with only a fraction of the seedlings capturing the best of both parents.
Bag seeds are a wildcard! You never know what you’ll end up with!
So depending on how the seed was originally made, bagseed often has a lot of variety. Even if the buds you got were an incredible quality, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the seeds will produce buds like that. If you’ve ever gotten involved with breeding or growing other types of specialized plants like roses, hops or even apples, you’ll know that seeds rarely breed “true” to the parents, and cannabis isn’t any different.
That being said, sometimes bagseed is all you have, and lots of growers get lucky!
Hermaphrodite or Male Plants
If a cannabis seed was produced with a male doing the pollinating, it means that about half of the resulting seeds will end up being male (which you don’t want, because only female flowers turn into bud). In that case, you want to determine the gender of your young plants as soon as you can so you can toss all the male ones before they start making pollen sacs.
If growing with seeds that were produced without a male plant around, the seeds sometimes end up being hermaphrodites, which means they grow both male pollen sacs and female flowers (again, something you don’t want).
One of the best ways to ensure all your plants end up being female is to start with feminized cannabis seeds from a trustworthy breeder.
Sometimes It’s Random!
Even if you’re starting with the best, most fresh seed stock, occasionally you’ll get an individual seed or plant that just doesn’t grow as well or quickly as the others, or maybe you’ll get a super awesome seedlings that just starts kicking butts and taking names from its first moment.
Natural variation is totally normal! It’s always a good idea to sprout at least a few more seeds than you need in case you happen to run into a runt, or some other expected problem! If all your plants are healthy and growing fast except one, you can blame the seed!
Do Cannabis Seeds Go Bad?
M any pot fans are starting to look into growing their own supply. After all, how hard can it be? Nature does it all the time, and it doesn’t even have any grow light options other than the sun. While you may not be producing showroom quality nugs, there’s a pride that comes with tending to your own garden and snipping buds straight off the branch. Plus, you can’t beat the price.
Plenty of online stores sell seeds so it’s pretty easy to pick your favorite strains to start. However, if it’s been a while since your seeds arrived and they’re not yet planted, you can forgive yourself for wondering if maybe you’ve waited too long. After all, how long do marijuana seeds last? Whether you are a cannabis fan who has just begun growing a couple of plants recreationally, or you are looking to test your green thumb for the first time, there is one question that’s going to come up at some point.
Do Marijuana Seeds Go Bad?
First off, marijuana seeds are the same as many other plant’s seeds. A waxy outer shell called the seed coat protects the embryonic shoot, stem, and root contained within, which are nourished by a nutrient-rich oil surrounding them. As long as the shell remains intact and the plant inside doesn’t dry out or get damaged, your seed can still grow into a cannabis plant.
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However, this shell will not last forever. Once it dries out and hardens the seed coat can crack and expose the embryonic plant to damage. Or the seed coat hardens to the point that it no longer lets in moisture. In both cases, the seed is no longer viable.
Of course, there is some debate in the cannabis community over how long do marijuana seeds last. Some growers claim that when stored in the ideal conditions, marijuana seeds can last anywhere from six months to a year after packing and still spout once placed in the soil. Other producers believe that marijuana seeds can last up to a decade if properly refrigerated in the right containers.
Most seed producers agree that on average three to six years is a maximum for viability, and every day that the seed is stored drops the chances of it germinating just a little bit.
So how long do marijuana seeds last? In general, six months is the maximum if you’re looking for a nearly 100% germination rate. After three years, you’re looking at a germination rate of around 50%.
What constitutes “ideal conditions” for cannabis seed storage also depends on the genetics of that particular plant. Some cannabis strains produce a much hardier, longer-lasting marijuana seed that can last for years and still stretch their leaves once planted. Others produce seeds that need to quickly return to the soil.
How Marijuana Seeds Are Stored
In terms of long term storage for your marijuana seeds, there are four main factors to consider:
When it comes to how long marijuana seeds last, temperature is the main factor. In nature, heat tells the seed that winter’s over and it’s time to start sprouting. If your marijuana seed’s not in the soil, this means that the plant matter inside the marijuana seed will begin to germinate and then rot.
41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) is the absolute warmest you want your storage spot to be, with the sweet spot being somewhere around 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are refrigerating your marijuana seeds, they’ll last the longest in a separate unit or a spot near the back. Every time you open your fridge you are changing the temperature which can harm the seeds over time.
Humidity is also your enemy when it comes to how long your marijuana seeds will last. When a seed gets wet, it cracks open to allow the sprout and root out. This will let in rot if the seed isn’t planted. A humidity level of about 5% is the maximum you want to allow.
Much like heat and humidity, light tells that seed to wake up because it’s time to spring forth.
In order to keep your seeds from going bad, it’s best to keep them stored in a dark container in order to avoid light. photo credit
By keeping your seeds in a dark or opaque container, they’ll keep dozing long term. Light can also damage the surface of the marijuana seed, which in turn will damage what’s stored underneath, causing your marijuana seed to go bad.
Besides being dark, for your marijuana seeds to last long term, you want to expose them to as little oxygen and carbon dioxide as possible. These gasses are what growing plants breathe, as well as the pests that consume them. If you’re refrigerating or freezing your marijuana seeds, make sure your container is as airtight as possible. If you can vacuum seal them, even better.
Alternatively, if you’re planning on planting in the next few months, regular mailing envelopes will do in a pinch. They’ll keep the marijuana seeds out of the light and dry, so all you have to do is store them in a cool place. Plus, envelopes make it easy to label your strains so that you can keep them separate.
How To Tell If Your Marijuana Seeds Are Still Healthy?
What should you do if you find some old seeds and have no idea how long they were stored? Maybe past you put them in a freezer bag in the hopes of keeping your favorite strain alive, or found a couple at the bottom of a baggie that the trimmer missed.
How do you know if your marijuana seed has gone bad, or if it’s healthy and viable to grow into a plant? There are four easy ways to check if your marijuana seed is still good.
If your seeds are dark brown, black, or gray, that’s a very good sign. The shell is intact and uncompromised, which means the genetic material inside has been kept safe.
Seeds should have a dark color. If seeds are still green they are probably not ready yet. photo credit
Viable seeds should also have stripes or spots all the way around. If the seeds are white or green, they’re most likely still immature.
Check if the seed still has a waxy coating. A healthy seed should have a slight sheen to it, as though it’s been oiled. This means the seed still can retain moisture.
If the seed is still healthy, you should be able to lightly squeeze it without it crunching between your fingers. If the shell has no give and splits or splinters under light pressure, then your marijuana seed has gone bad and has no chance in the soil.
Cracks or Holes
If there are any cracks or holes anywhere on the shell, your marijuana seed’s likely gone bad and will most likely not sprout. Bacteria and other harmful lifeforms can find their way into the seed, or it will dry out.
The True Test of a Cannabis Seed
Of course, the best way to test whether your seeds will sprout is to plant them and see. If some green shoots climb their way out of the soil after a couple of days or weeks, you’ve got your answer.
Storing marijuana seeds is a great way to make sure you always have your favorite strains on hand, as well as to keep yourself stocked up on plants for the long haul. Luckily, marijuana seeds can last for years as long as you make sure your seeds are cool, dry, airtight, and out of sight. There’s no better time than now to learn a new skill, so let’s see how green your thumb can get.
How Do You Tell If a Seed is Good or Bad?
If the seed is dark with stripes or spots all the way around, has a waxy shell that doesn’t crack when you give it a light squeeze, and doesn’t have any visible cracks or holes, it’s probably still good. If there are holes in the shell, it’s dry, or especially pale, your marijuana seed’s probably gone bad.
Do Autoflower Seeds Go Bad?
All marijuana seeds can go bad, including autoflower seeds. However, by keeping your seeds at a stable 38 degrees Fahrenheit and at around 5% humidity, as well as airtight and out of the light, your seeds may last up to 5 years or more.
How do you like to store your seeds? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as Medium.com, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.