How to tell if your cannabis seeds are bad

Published May 23, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / VladK213

When you’re just learning how to grow, there are so many things that can get in the way of you achieving success, and one of them that is most common is a bad batch of cannabis seeds. Once you’ve got a grow room well established, your lights set up and ready, soil PH kits handy, and fertilizers on tap, all that’s left to do is to get some pot seeds germinated, but if you’ve never done it before, it can be hard to tell if the troubles that you might experience are attributed to the seeds that you’ve used or the methods that you’re trying to get them going.

We all have that one friend who claims to have grown a spectacular plant with some scary looking or ancient pot seeds, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will have that same kind of success. In fact, the quality of your seeds when you plant them can impact the entire lifespan of a plant and the end product that you get to harvest from it, so it’s best to be selective as you go through this process. Unfortunately, there is no way to know for certain if your weed seeds have expired, but these are a few of the most important features to look for when doing an assessment of potential.

1. Color and designs

All cannabis seeds, no matter the strain, can vary significantly in color, shade, and design patterns. Some are duller than others, and a few have such incredible prints on the casing that they resemble a professional piece of artwork, with lines and shapes of all different types everywhere. However, if your pot seeds are a bright white color or a deep hue of black or gray, then that is a pretty good indication that they might not be very good, to begin with, as these characteristics tend to appear from age, or water damage, both of which can render cannabis seeds completely useless in no time.

2. Damage

At first glance, it might be hard to see if your weed seeds have been damaged in any way, as the variety of darker colors can help to mask what could be major problems, on a tiny shell. However, if you get a magnifying glass, or pull out a seed and hold it up in the sunlight, you can usually see if there are any cracks, dents, or scratches on the outer casing, and the presence of any of these things could indicate a problem. Another way to check is by using your sense of touch by running your fingertips over the sides and edges, to feel for any breaks in your cannabis seeds

3. Age


Do you have any idea how old the weed seeds you’re using might be? As much as these gifts from nature can hold up quite well for a while in storage, certain influences can dramatically shorten their potential lifespan. Too much heat or moisture can be devastating and lead to mold or baking of the seed, leaving it completely useless in no time, and abrasive handling can leave behind hairline fractures that expose the middle of the seed to air, which also hastens the aging process. Even if everything is done right, it’s best to start out with pot seeds that are less than two years old for the highest rates of success, or they could be bad by the time you got to use them.

4. Issues with germination

Have you been trying every method that you can find online to germinate with little to nothing to show for it? Though this doesn’t necessarily save you much time, it can be a good indication that your cannabis seeds are damaged, or just too old to thrive. So if you try to plant some weed seeds and get no sprouts, or find that you have a few that come up, only to self-exterminate before they reach any reasonable size, then you might want to just toss what you have left, because chances are pretty good that they have in some way gone bad, which means that they aren’t any good for growing plants.

5. Size

This happens the most often when friends circulate cannabis seeds among themselves, as professional producers would never release a batch of product with such an obvious flaw, but you might be surprised how much the size of your pot seeds can tell you about whether or not they will sprout. Even if your weed seeds have no visible damage or discoloring, they could be smaller, and this is caused by anxiety-ridden cultivators who rush to pull off a crop that’s been pollinated, resulting in tiny, not quite formed cannabis seeds. Since these little guys haven't had the chance to finish growing, they are unlikely to ever sprout, which is why size can be a good indication of bad quality pot seeds.

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