Introducing our Seed To Smoke Series — My Supply Co.’s series of articles about the entire life cycle of cannabis. We’re going on a journey from all the potential encapsulated in a cannabis seed to the final product that ends up in dispensaries, in your joint, and moving through your veins.

The Seed To Smoke series covers:

  • Part 1: Seeds & Germination
  • Part 2: Vegetation & Growth
  • Part 3: Flowering & Night-time
  • Part 4: Harvest & Beyond

The life cycle of cannabis is wonderfully complex and intricate. It’s one of just a handful of dioecious plants in the world (dioecious; adjective; of a plant or invertebrate animal having the male and female reproductive organs in separate individuals). And to think that the entire life cycle of a cannabis plant happens in 4 – 6 months!

Part 1 is about seeds and germination. This is everything that happens between getting a packet of seeds and it breaking out of the ground and developing its first characteristic cannabis leaf. 

What is germination?

Three seedlings emerging from the shell and from the soil.

Imagine you’re holding a packet of seeds. You’re not really holding a plant, but you’re holding all of the potential for a plant. It is essentially a packet of genetic material for cannabis. You can liken it to a sperm or an egg if you will. It’s concentrated genetic code.

In the wild, a seed would typically use wind or animals as dispersion techniques until it landed in a place that provided the perfect ideal conditions for germination. If the seed was lucky enough to lodge in soil and receive light, water, and heat, the growth process could be initiated.

Environmental factors such as light, water, heat, soil, the depth of lodgement in soil, etc. are extremely important in ensuring a seed germinates. Different seeds require different environmental conditions (for example, tobacco seeds need light to germinate), to successfully germinate. 

How does cannabis germinate?

A close up of many cannabis seeds

Cannabis requires water and moderate heat to germinate. In the wild, a cannabis seed would need to lodge in soil and receive water from the soil in order to germinate. This typically happens early in the spring when the sun has increased the temperature of the soil to around 18-25℃.

In terms of home grown or commercial cannabis, germination can happen in a number of ways, including:

  • Planting directly in soil
  • Germination in a medium (such as germination plugs)
  • In a wet towel

The essence of cannabis germination is that it doesn’t require light. It can be buried in soil, and in fact, it must be dark where the seed is germinating. Those growing cannabis at home often put seeds between a few layers of wet paper towel and allow them to germinate this way. 

Therefore, the only two things required to successfully germinate a cannabis seed are moisture (water) and moderate heat. 

Breaking through the shell.

When the seed comes into contact with moisture and heat, the growth process begins. Moisture catalyzes enzymatic processes that stimulate the emergence of the taproot. This is the primary (the fattest and juiciest) root of the cannabis plant. 

If planting the seed was kind of like doing the deed, then this part is analogous with the moment the sperm successfully fertilizes the egg. 

As the taproot emerges and takes hold in the soil, the dicotyledon emerges from the soil towards the sun. The dicotyledon is the first stem that emerges with two small leaves. The first two leaves to emerge with the stem do not resemble cannabis leaves. Many flowering plants are dicotyledons, and the initial seedlings look very similar.  

Life as a seedling.

Seedlings growing in a seedling tray

The moment the wee-little cannabis plant peeks its head out of the soil, it’s a seedling. For cannabis to survive this next phase of its life, it’s going to need light — and a lot of it. 

Most botanists agree that cannabis remains a seedling until it develops its first handful of characteristic cannabis leaves. Until that moment, it is extremely delicate and requires optimum conditions for survival.

Cannabis seedlings typically won’t survive temperatures below 18℃ while they are seedlings. This is why in the commercial setting, they’re often allowed to live their seedling stage under lights, even if they’ll eventually be transported to a field or warehouse.

Not a lot of photosynthesis happens during the initial seedling stage. Most of the plant’s energy is committed to growing the stem and  developing a root system. That’s why it takes a couple of weeks to see a full set of cannabis fan leaves on a seedling. And needless to say, there’s definitely no sign of cannabinoids yet while it’s just a seedling.

The arrival of those cannabis fan leaves marks the beginning of photosynthesis, and the beginning of the vegetative state. Stay tuned for the next part in our Seed To Smoke Series – Part 2: Vegetation & Growth.

Have you ever germinated a cannabis seed? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

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