Germinating Old Weed Seeds


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Don’t give up on old seeds you have lying around the house. It’s possible to revive them! Cody J. Garrett-Tait has some tips on helping forgotten seeds sprout. Germinating old cannabis seeds – whatever the reason might be, be it that you’ve forgotten about a few seeds you had lying around or you simply didn’t have time to plant the seeds when they were in their prime – is something many of us have had to do.

Got Old Seeds? Help Them Sprout With These Tips And Tricks

There’s something exciting about finding some long-forgotten, rare seeds. Once you have them, the challenge is to revive those genetics, especially considering they’ve been sitting in someone’s tobacco tin, basement, or garage for decades. While they look like they could germinate, you don’t have many, and you want to make sure they sprout.

Is It Possible?

Yes! Even seeds that are thousands of years old can germinate. But proper pre-treatment is essential, and the older the seed, the less energy it has left in storage.

Seeds from annual plants aren’t often designed to last many years, part of what makes the germination process so tricky. With each trip around the sun, energy declines. Eventually, the embryo doesn’t have any juice left to break the seed coat and push through the soil to the surface.

To an extent, we can minimize this through proper storage in cool and dry environments. But even still, the passage of time inevitably wins.

Clean Beans

Aggressive tactics are often needed to give the seed a fighting chance. First, the seeds will need to be cleaned, minimizing any potential mold spores and pathogens that may be on the seed surface. Soaking the seeds in a 1 or 2% hydrogen peroxide solution for a few minutes cleans effectively while also providing slight chemical scarification to the seed coat, which has likely hardened over time.

Chemical Scarification?

For germination to occur, the embryo needs to be able to exchange oxygen with the outside world. The issue? Seed coats tend to harden over time, which prevents them from properly absorbing water and oxygen. While H202 can provide a chemical roughing, it’s often necessary to get a bit more surgical.

Mechanically scarifying seeds can be as simple as lightly sanding the micropyle (edge) with a piece of sandpaper (being careful not to go too far), or knicking a notch out of the seed coat with a utility knife. Cracking the seed coat carefully between a pair of forceps is another method. Many old-timers used to crack the seeds between their teeth!

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Scrubbing In

Sometimes, you have to perform surgery to get a seed to germinate. Do this by entirely removing the seed coat and directly germinating the embryo by placing it on top of a quality propagating media kept evenly moist in a controlled environment. Steady hands and magnification are a must for this; small seeds mean delicate work! Often, this step alone is enough for seeds and should improve success rates.


To further ensure the best chance of germination, we can attempt to replenish some of the energy and hormones that have been lost over time. Soaking seeds in a diluted solution of blackstrap molasses or even sugar water will bolster carbohydrate levels. When added to the mix, kelp, fulvic acid, B vitamins, alfalfa meal, coconut water, and malted grain (especially barley) provide a considerable array of biocatalysts, including natural enzymes to wake the tired embryos and get them moving. Coconut water is notably used in plant tissue culture as food stock, which proves very useful for these purposes. Germination is an enzyme-driven process, which can be naturally supplemented by the above ingredients.

Once the seeds are ready, place them directly into a quality, organic soil for germination, rather than on a paper towel. The latter makes the seeds more prone to pathogens. Good soil should be brimming with healthy microbes. Direct planting also avoids injury to the initial taproot’s very fine feeder hairs during transplanting, further enhancing survival rates.

Don’t give up on older seeds; try to germinate them to see if they are as good as you remember.

How to Germinate Old Cannabis Seeds

Germinating old cannabis seeds – whatever the reason might be, be it that you’ve forgotten about a few seeds you had lying around or you simply didn’t have time to plant the seeds when they were in their prime – is something many of us have had to do. Whatever the reason might be, it can be reassuring to know that old cannabis seeds aren’t necessarily write offs. Old seeds can germinate! However, you’ll need to follow the right steps to have the best results with them; old cannabis seeds won’t be quite as easy to germinate as their younger counterparts, after all. Keep in mind that if you are serious about growing,it is always advisable to buy fresh seeds from a reputed seed bank.

Is it Possible to Germinate Old Cannabis Seeds?

First things first, is germinating old cannabis seeds really possible? Well, yes! Old cannabis seeds that haven’t been germinated before can absolutely germinate. However, their ability to germinate will deteriorate with age, so you may need to take some extra precautions for the best results. It’s worth noting that germinating old cannabis seeds will invariably be a tricky task and you won’t get the same results as you would have done from young cannabis seeds.

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Right Storing Methods are Absolutely Essential!

It’s absolutely possible to germinate old cannabis seeds – but it is important to note that you need them stored properly. Indeed, if you’ve randomly found a stray few seeds behind the couch cushions, they are not going to germinate well; they’ve not been stored properly and will have died. However, if your cannabis seeds have been stored properly, they should still be able to germinate; with the right conditions, cannabis seeds can last ten years or even longer and retain their germination potential to a degree.

When storing your cannabis seeds for long term storage, they need to be given somewhere dark, cool, and with an appropriate humidity. For long term storage, you should either refrigerate them or, even better, freeze them in a vacuum sealed casing. Protection from insects and pathogens is also of the utmost importance, of course.

Are My Seeds Still Viable?

To start with, you’ll want to know whether your old seeds are viable – if they’re not going to germinate, what’s the point putting time into them? The easiest way to check this is to put them in a glass of water. If the seeds sink, they’re probably viable still; if they float, they may not be. For floating seeds, you can leave them in the water for up to 72 hours and monitor for any signs of germination as a final check.

Getting Germination Started for Old Seeds

Whether your seeds have been refrigerated or frozen to prolong their life, they’ll need some hydration to trigger germination. A humidity of 40% will trigger germination, but over 60% will usually result in the seeds drowning and dying, so this balance is important. This is also why your old cannabis seeds need to be stored at an appropriate humidity, as if the humidity is too high the seeds will begin to germinate before you want them to!

Prepare the Seed Properly

For old cannabis seeds, germination can be more difficult. This is owing to the seeds’ tougher outer shells, as the shells harden over time; with old seeds in particular, this can be especially problematic. A hard seed shell can make it hard for the seedling to emerge from its shell and can also hinder moisture and warmth from getting into the seed. So, they will need a little helping hand to get started.

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In order to do this, there are two options you can try. Putting the seeds in a glass of water with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide for 24 hours can slowly dissolve a little of the seed casing, which may help.

Alternatively, you’ll want to scar the seed if your seeds are particularly old and really struggling. This involves getting a small amount of sandpaper and gently scratching away at the shell of the seed to remove some of its hard casing. This will make it easier for the seed to germinate. For especially old seeds or seeds that are struggling to germinate, cutting a very small hole in the shell of the seed may also be a good way to get the germination process started!

Germination Methods

Once your seed is ready, you’ll need to choose the right germination method. The most recommended method for new growers is to use wet paper towels, as follows.

Take two wet paper towels, and place one over a plate or similar surface. Gently place the seeds on top of the towel, well-spaced, and cover with the other towel. Et voila – the seeds are ready to germinate! Just make sure you choose a paper towel that’s free from nasty added chemicals.

Another germination option is to plant the seeds directly in the soil. Though this makes germination a little trickier for the seed, it’s much easier for new growers as you won’t have to worry about transplanting the seed. Make sure you make a big enough well in the moist soil before planting for best results.

You could also try using rockwool. Rockwool cubes are a great option for both hydroponic and conventional growing systems and can have their pH altered to the desired level and are easy to manage. As such, they’ve become a popular option for many people wanting to germinate young and old cannabis seeds alike!

Old cannabis seeds can be notoriously stubborn to get to germinate, however, they are often still viable if stored correctly. So, don’t write off your old cannabis seeds – they may just need a little more TLC to get going!

Disclaimer: This article is intended for information and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to reflect the specific views of the publication.

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