Bad cannabis seeds can ruin an entire grow. Here's how to spot them early and save yourself a whole lot of time and effort. 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 Spot Bad Cannabis Seeds [Comprehensive Guide]
You may not realize it, but the quality of your cannabis crop is, in part, determined before you have even begun. Seed quality is an enormous part of growing, so it’s vital to source marijuana seeds from a reputable company.
Sometimes, you can end up with ‘bad’ cannabis seeds that will cause problems later down the line. In some cases, these seeds just won’t germinate. Although this won’t ruin your entire crop, it is a waste of time and money, which can be frustrating.
Today, we will help you work out whether your cannabis seeds are good or bad. Hopefully, this guide will help you to determine which seeds are worthy of your time and which ones are duds.
What Makes a Cannabis Seed ‘Bad’?
A ‘bad seed’ is any cannabis seed that will cause problems. In some instances, this means a dud seed that never sprouts, wasting your valuable time and a few resources. While dud seeds aren’t damaging, they are irritating.
Another type of bad seeds is male cannabis plants. There’s a 50/50 chance with regular seeds as to whether any given seed is male or female. The problem is that male plants will pollinate the females once they reach maturity, destroying the valuable THC content of female plants.
Having male cannabis plants in your garden is basically a recipe for disaster, so you want to avoid it at all costs. By the way, here’s how to figure out if your plants are male or female.
One way around this is to purchase feminized marijuana seeds. In theory, all seeds in a feminized bunch will be female – unless you buy from a disreputable grower. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell whether a plant is male or female simply based on the seeds.
This guide will only cover how to tell the difference between a potent seed and a dud seed.
The complete guide…
How to Test Cannabis Seeds
There are several easy methods for testing cannabis seeds. Most of them can be performed before germination, saving you some time and resources. Let’s find out how to check your seeds.
Method #1: The Sight Test
Cannabis seeds are surprisingly beautiful. They have a mottled brown appearance with patches of light and dark, and sometimes gorgeous tiger stripes. The seeds are also quite shiny if you view them close enough.
Sometimes, you can tell if a seed is good or bad just by looking at it. Here’s how to spot a healthy seed:
- Coloration: A dark coloration with black or gray patches is a sign of a healthy seed. Conversely, white or green seeds are unlikely to germinate because they are not mature. Pale seeds are also more likely to be old and ineffective.
- Waxy coating: Healthy seeds have a waxy, shiny coating. If it doesn’t, then the seed is likely a dud
- Cracks: Cannabis seeds should not be cracked. If your seed has cracks in it, it’s probably best to discard it.
- Shape: The rounder and fatter the seed, the more likely it is to sprout into a healthy plant. Some growers are concerned about large seeds with thick shells but don’t worry. The shell will break down with water.
- Mildew: Grab a magnifying glass and view the seeds close up. A white, dusty powder is a sign of powdered mildew, which means the seeds have a fungus and should not be planted.
In some instances, you can crack the seed open and see inside if you can’t tell anything from the outer shell. An oily inside with a musty smell means that the seed has gone bad. Similarly, black inside the seed means that it’s fermenting. Again, it won’t germinate in this instance.
Method #2: The Touch Test
The feel of cannabis seeds is another good indicator. Hold the seed between your thumb and forefinger and give it a light squeeze. Don’t apply too much pressure – just enough to test its integrity.
If the seed cracks under slight pressure, then it’s unusable. It’s likely to be past its sell-by date.
Strong seeds, however, have a better chance of germinating and growing into a healthy plant.
Method #3: The Water Test
Are you still unsure about your cannabis seeds? You can always do a floating test to see if they’re healthy. By the way, this method works for numerous plant seeds and not just cannabis.
Disclaimer: Don’t perform this test unless you’re ready to germinate the plants right away. The water could damage the seed and ruin a perfectly healthy plant if you dry it out afterward.
For this test, you will need a cup, glass, or bowl of warm water. It should be quite warm, but not hot. It also works best with spring water or distilled water.
Add your seeds to the water, and then wait for 1-2 hours. Those that float on the surface are bad seeds that are unlikely to grow, whereas the seeds that sink are probably healthy.
This method is a great way to check your seeds because it’s low effort. You can also test multiple seeds at once, and it’s really cheap and easy to do.
After you’ve done this test, you need to germinate the healthy seeds. At this point, they will have absorbed water, which can damage the seed if you don’t germinate it at this point. Incidentally, germination is the final test for your seeds.
Method #4: The Germination Test
If all else fails, it’s time to germinate. You might have no idea whether your seeds are healthy but attempting to grow them is an easy final test that will separate good seeds from duds.
There are multiple ways to germinate, including planting the seed directly in soil and seeing if it sprouts. This is a pretty ‘old-school’ method, but sometimes, it works.
More commonly, growers use the paper towel method. Dampen a paper towel, ensuring it isn’t soaking wet. Place this on a kitchen plate and put the seeds on top, then put another plate upside-down on top. A moist, dark, warm environment allows the seeds to sprout. Check on the seeds once a day; after germinating, you should see a white taproot emerge.
At this point, you can transplant the seed into its pot. Use a pair of tweezers and handle each seed carefully, being careful not to touch the taproot. The taproot is fragile and may break if you’re not delicate; furthermore, touching it with your hands may contaminate it.
After germination, you’re good to go. Remember to check back as the plants mature to make sure you haven’t got any male cannabis plants.
Waste not, want not!…
How to Buy Good Cannabis Seeds Every Time
It’s recommended to buy feminized cannabis seeds to eliminate the possibility of males ruining your crop. Even so, some subpar retailers will advertise feminized seeds, only to sell regular cannabis seeds.
It’s vital to buy from a reputable seller that you trust. If this is your first time, read reviews on the seed banks to find out what other customers thought. If lots of buyers were disappointed by low-quality seeds, avoid that company!
Unfortunately, you might still get some bad seeds sometimes. Plants are living beings and can be a bit unpredictable – even the seller might not be aware that some of their seeds are duds. With any luck, the majority of seeds you buy will be healthy and good to go.
The sign of a bad seller is that their seeds are consistently old, dead, and covered in powdery mildew. That said, don’t be too harsh on a seed bank if a couple of their seeds don’t work from time to time when they’re generally reliable.
Final Thoughts on Good and Bad Cannabis Seeds
Telling good and bad cannabis seeds apart is not an exact science. Sadly, you don’t know what’s inside the seed beyond its appearance, so you won’t know what the plant is truly like until you start growing it.
Cultivating marijuana is a bit of a learning curve, so don’t worry if you mess up your crop from time to time. It will only get easier with time.
Hopefully, you can now tell apart some seeds, at least, giving you more opportunities to create a successful grow.
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.