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Mastering Cannabis Seed Germination Using Paper Towels Leave a comment

When growing marijuana at home, one can have lots of questions, and feel a little bit lost in the process. Learning How to germinate seeds using paper towels is extremely easy and this technique can help most or even all of your seeds to sprout. Whether they are feminized or regular seeds, this is one of the most reliable germination methods.

Cannabis seeds are natural products, and it’s unrealistic to expect a 100% germination rate every time. Nature is unpredictable, and several factors can impact germination, such as genetics (some strains are easier to germinate than others), the age of the seeds, and storage conditions. However, I’ve consistently achieved 100% germination since adopting this method.

Paper Towel Method:

  • Procedure: Place seeds between wet paper towels, seal in the moisture with two plates, and set on a seedling heat mat for a few days.


  • High Germination Rate: Nearly every seed will germinate if you follow the instructions.
  • Speed: Typically, you’ll see roots within 1-3 days.
  • Monitoring: Easily check on seeds without disturbing them.
  • Space-Efficient: Requires less space compared to planting seeds in pots, which is useful when germinating many seeds at once.
  • Engaging: Witnessing the germination process can be exciting and creates a stronger connection with the seedlings.


  • Complexity: More steps involved compared to planting seeds directly in soil.
  • Necessary Supplies: Requires paper towels, seedling plugs, and a seedling heat mat.
  • Shell Removal: Seedlings may develop “bucket heads” (seed shells getting stuck on the leaves) because they don’t push themselves out of the soil. You might need to use tweezers to remove the shell gently, or just leave it be. This issue can occur with any method, and the instructions at the end of the article explain how to remove stubborn shells safely. Despite this, I find the increased germination rate worth the effort.

Seeds generally germinate within 1-3 days using this method.

Marijuana Seed Germination Process

Germinating cannabis seeds is straightforward but requires proper technique to ensure success. Germination is the process where a seed transforms into a plant, starting when the embryo swells and breaks through the seed coat. Proper germination is crucial as cannabis seeds are living materials that will die if not handled correctly. Choosing the right germination method is essential.

Tips for Germinating Marijuana Seeds

  1. Buy Extra Seeds: Purchase 30% more seeds than you plan to grow to account for those that may not germinate.
  2. Research Strain Requirements: Check the seed packaging or research the specific strain to understand the necessary conditions for successful germination.

Paper Towel Method for Germination

Supplies Needed:

  • Cheap Paper Towels: Use inexpensive paper towels as roots can grow into more expensive, cloth-like ones, making them difficult to separate.
  • Two Plates: To lock in moisture during the germination process.
  • Cannabis Seeds: Obtain seeds from reputable vendors. We recommend CG Australia or SeedsPlease for quality seeds and reliable service every time! 
  • Rapid Rooters with Tray: Provides an ideal environment for newly germinated seeds.
  • Seedling Heating Mat: Maintain a warm surface at 70-85°F (20-30°C) to keep seeds warm.

Paper Towel

Rapid Rooters 

Seedling Heating Mat


The Process

Step 1: Prepare the Paper Towels

Place 3-4 layers of paper towels on a plate. Avoid using too many layers, but ensure there are enough to hold plenty of water. Fold or cut the paper towels as needed to fit entirely within the plate, as any part sticking out can cause them to dry out quickly.

Step 2: Label the Strains

If you are germinating multiple strains, label the paper towels to keep track of which seeds belong to which strain.

Step 3: Add Water and Seeds

Soak the paper towels with water, then carefully place the seeds on top. Adding water first helps prevent the seeds from shifting. Keep the plate flat to ensure the seeds stay in place.

Step 4: Cover with a Single Paper Towel

Place one sheet of paper towel over the seeds. This allows you to check for germination without disturbing them. Ensure the top sheet is thoroughly moist by adding a bit more water if needed. The single layer lets you easily monitor the seeds.

Step 5.) Put 2nd Plate on Top

Lock in all the moisture by putting another plate on top.

Step 6: Place on Seedling Heat Mat

Plug in your seedling heat mat and let it warm up. To avoid overheating the seeds, place a buffer between the mat and the plate, such as a Rapid Rooter tray, a book, or a towel. This helps maintain an even, gentle heat for optimal germination.

Why Use a Seedling Heat Mat?

Seeds germinate much faster when kept at a temperature of 70-85°F (20-30°C). A seedling heat mat provides consistent warmth during the germination process. However, any warm spot, such as the top of a refrigerator, can work just as well. The wet paper towels should feel warm to the touch, but not hot.

Step 7: Monitor Seeds Daily

Check the seeds at least once a day to ensure the paper towels remain moist. Add water as needed to prevent them from drying out. You can usually see if the seeds have germinated without lifting the top sheet. This allows you to monitor the progress without disturbing the seeds. Most seeds will sprout within 1-3 days, though some strains and older seeds may take a bit longer.

Step 8: Transfer Germinated Seeds to Rapid Rooters

After germination, carefully remove the top paper towel sheet to expose the seedlings underneath. Handle this step gently and slowly.

Interesting Seedling Fact:

Did you know that the first two round seedling leaves are already fully formed inside the seed? The germination process simply releases them. Initially, new leaves may appear yellow, but they turn green once exposed to light.

At this stage, you might notice some seedling leaves have already emerged from their shells. These seedlings often exhibit the fastest growth.

For Seeds Needing More Time:

If a seed has a short root or hasn’t yet germinated, place the paper towel back and give it another day. Seedlings benefit from having a slightly longer root before being transferred to a Rapid Rooter or planting medium.

For example, my Critical Purple Kush seed took an additional day to germinate compared to the others. I allowed it an extra day so its root could develop further before moving it into a Rapid Rooter.

Tip for Using Rapid Rooters:

Cut your Rapid Rooters in half to facilitate easier placement of germinated seeds. Even seeds with long, wiggly roots can usually fit snugly into the split of the Rapid Rooter without bending the roots.

Place the seed head close to the top of the Rapid Rooter to minimize the distance they need to grow. Some seedlings may struggle to reach the surface if placed too deep.

For seedlings that have shed their shell, position the leaves near the top of the Rapid Rooter. These seedlings often exhibit faster growth. If the seedling still has its shell, gently insert it root-down, ensuring the shell is close to the surface. Carefully close the Rapid Rooter around the seedling and place it in the Rapid Rooter tray, ensuring the plugs remain uniformly moist.

Add enough water to darken all the Rapid Rooters, avoiding excessive wetness that leaves them overly shiny. Once done, return the trays to the seedling heat mat. Young seedlings thrive in warm environments!

Final Steps:

After placing them in the Rapid Rooter tray, ensure the Rapid Rooters are uniformly moist throughout. The tray’s bottom shell retains extra water to prevent the plugs from drying out.

Add enough water so that all Rapid Rooters appear dark, but not overly shiny from excess moisture. Once done, return the trays to the seedling heat mat. Young seedlings thrive in warm environments!

Within a day or two, you should see the leaves emerging above the Rapid Rooters.

Just 12 hours later, several seedlings have already surfaced. At this stage, they are ready to be placed under gentle light. A sunny window is suitable, or use your regular vegetative grow light at double the usual distance. Minimize handling as seedlings are delicate at this stage.

Within a day or two under light, whether natural or artificial, your seedlings will be thriving!

To conclude, successfully germinating cannabis seeds is a rewarding process that begins with choosing the right method and ensuring optimal conditions. From using the paper towel technique to transferring germinated seeds into Rapid Rooters, each step plays a crucial role in nurturing healthy seedlings. Monitoring their progress, providing warmth, and gently introducing light are key to fostering robust growth. By following these steps and paying attention to the needs of your seedlings, you can cultivate a promising start to your cannabis growing journey.

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