After obtaining the cannabis seeds, what is the next step? For them to grow into healthy plants, you need to germinate it first. It entails providing the seeds with adequate amounts of water and oxygen, forcing them to crack open and sprout a root system. One of the easiest and most effective ways of doing this is by using moist paper towels. In this article, we detail the steps of this particular germination method.

An Easy And Surefire Way To Germinate Marijuana Seeds

Germination is the very start of a cannabis plant’s life cycle. It describes how the seeds grow into a plant after a period of dormancy – or when the pre-existing life inside it finally awakens after being triggered by certain conditions. Marijuana seeds require the right amounts of water, heat, and oxygen to germinate.

Germinate Seeds
Marijuana seeds in germination process

After absorbing enough moisture, the ovules will enlarge and get ruptured. From the crack on the seed coat, a tiny root called the radicle – the principal taproot or the primary root from which the rootlets will crop up – will emerge. It burrows into the medium, helping the seedling soak up more water. As the root system develops, the seedling gets pushed up, and the shoots start to grow above ground and towards the light source.

Since germination only needs three elements, there are several techniques of germinating marijuana seeds. Some, for example, already require a growing medium. Arguably the most common and most straightforward method is to use paper towels drenched in water.

Why Germinate Via The Paper Towel Method

Many seasoned marijuana cultivators swear by this method – and rightly so. It is, first and foremost, simple and cheap to execute. It does not require any fancy materials. All you need are some paper towels or cotton pads, and you are already good to go.

This approach is also among the most effective. Even when wet, paper towels are non-porous, which means that the seeds and the budding roots will simply lay on top of the material and will not get stuck in any micro gaps. This quality, though, only applies to cheap, single-ply variants, as the more expensive paper towels – such as Viva towels – already have a cloth-like texture, causing the roots to grow into the paper. It risks damaging the fragile taproot when you remove the sprouted seeds from the sheets. At any rate, just stick to cheap paper towels, and you will not encounter this issue.

Another reason why paper towels serve as a fantastic medium for housing ovules is that it aids in moisture control. You can simply dampen the material if it is starting to dry out or move it to a warmer area if it is getting soggy. It is also easy to monitor the setup, allowing you to transplant precisely when you need to. Last but not least, paper towels are also free from pathogens and other harmful elements.

How To Germinate Marijuana Seeds Using Paper Towels

This approach makes germinating marijuana seeds a breeze. Essentially, it entails placing the ovules on moistened paper towels to let it sprout. Some variations of this method, though, go the extra mile. The procedure listed below is no exception.

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Before even getting to the paper towel method, it requires a preliminary step – which is to soak the seeds overnight. Doing so does not only soften the exterior shell and makes it easier for the taproot to emerge. It also helps you identify which seeds are viable for germination in the first place. Afterward, it is just a matter of preparing the paper towel set up, placing the seeds on it, and letting them sit for a period until they sprout. Overall, the process can take anywhere between two to eight days to finish – sometimes more.

Step 1: Gather The Supplies

Before anything else, get the materials and the workspace ready. Here is what you will need:

  • Marijuana seeds
  • 8 oz of dechlorinated water
  • Root stimulants or hormones (optional)
  • Paper towels
  • Dinner plates
  • Metal tweezers
  • Water spray bottle


  • High-quality marijuana seeds – one obtained from a reputable seed bank – are a must. It increases the success rate of the germination, ensuring that your money, time, and effort will not go to waste. As a rule of thumb, the ovules should be dark-colored, with patterns and a glossy sheen on the coating. Also, the seeds should appear symmetrical, sport a teardrop-like shape, look pump, and be firm to touch.
  • Ensure that the dechlorinated water is pH-balanced. Check if its pH sits between 6.0-6.8. Otherwise, adjust as needed using pH up or down solutions.
  • Root stimulants or hormones, while not required, are highly recommended. This naturally occurring or synthetic hormone comes in powder, liquid, or gel form. Mixing some of it to the water will encourage healthy and strong root development.

Step 2: Soak The Seeds In Water

Prepare the glass of dechlorinated water. Add some of the preferred rooting stimulants to it. You can never go wrong with the ones from Humboldt NutrientsOlivia’s Solutions, and Technaflora. After adding, stir the solution thoroughly.

Toss the marijuana seeds into the mix. Let it sit overnight for up to 12 hours. If the seeds are more than a year old, allow it to soak for up to 24 hours to weaken the tough husk, making it easier for moisture and air to penetrate it. Make sure not to exceed the 24-hour mark, however, as soaking for too long may cause the seeds to drown due to oxygen deprivation.

After the allotted time, inspect the ovules. Discard the ones floating on the surface, as buoyancy is indicative of being of poor-quality. That said, only the kernels that have sunk to the bottom are viable for growing. Do not throw away the water just yet. Set aside the glass.

Step 3: Moisten And Ready The Paper Towel

Grab four pieces of paper towel, then place it on top of the dinner plate. Fold each corner of the sheets, bringing them towards the center so that the towels fit right inside the plate. After folding, carefully turn over the sheets so that the folded parts are underneath and not on view.

Take the glass of water with the marijuana seeds. Slowly pour half of the solution to the sheets, ensuring that it is evenly and amply soaked. Afterward, slightly tip the dish toward the sink to remove the excess liquid. You want the sheets to be damp – not sopping wet. Being waterlogged may not only result in oxygen deprivation but also invite the formation of fungi.

Once fully drained, the paper towel bed is now ready.

Step 4: Move The Seeds To The Paper Towel

Use the metal tweezers to extract the healthy pits from the bottom of the glass. Then, place it on top of the paper towels. Distribute the seeds uniformly across the sheets. Keeping them at least an inch apart would suffice.

Afterward, gently lay two sheets of paper towel over the setup. Be extra careful when doing so. You do not want to disturb the seeds underneath.

Again, fold the four corners of the sheets towards the center, making sure that no part of the towels lies outside the dish. Pour the remaining solution to wet the two newly-added paper towels.

Step 5: Keep The Setup In A Suitable Location

After preparing the setup, it is time to transfer it to an ideal spot. Find a warm place away from direct sunlight exposure. The optimal temperature is around 70°F (21°C) to 77°F (25°C). Meanwhile, the relative humidity should be about 70%. A recommended location is a bathroom cabinet.

If you live in colder regions, you might have to use a heating pad to keep the seeds sufficiently warm.

Step 6: Monitor The Setup

Now, all that is left to do is to keep an eye on the marijuana seeds and wait for the radicle taproot to emerge. It typically takes one to four days for germination to occur. Older and less healthy seeds, however, may need a week or more to sprout.

Every 12-14 hours, check if the paper towel bed is still damp. If not, use the handheld spray bottle to spritz some distilled water on it. Depending on the temperature and humidity of the chosen location, you might have to mist more often. At any rate, never let the seeds – and consequently, the towels – dry out. Also, if possible, keep track and maintain the temperature and humidity to ideal levels.

Lastly, do not disturb the germinating seeds and the budding plants when checking them. Since it is extremely sensitive, the slightest mishandling may trigger physical shock or cause the roots to break off. These, in turn, may slow down the germination or even endanger the young crop’s health.

Step 7: Get Ready To Sow The Seeds

Remove the seeds from the paper towels as soon as the taproot grows at least 1/8 inch (or 0.1 to 0.2 inch). If you wait longer, the tiny roots may have clung to the material already, causing them to snap off when you try to remove the ovules from the sheets. This may result in physical stress, stunting the growth of the plant.

Make sure to sow the seeds 1.5-2 cm into the chosen medium, which ensures that it will not dry out while having enough oxygen access. Finally, orient the seed so that the radicle or the white tendril is facing downwards. This way, the plant can direct its energy on growth instead of repositioning itself accordingly.

Try Paper Towel Method For A Successful Germination

Germination activates the growth cycle of marijuana. Without it, the kernels will not grow into the coveted plant with its dense colas and multi-fingered leaves. Needless to say, knowing how to induce a seed to sprout is a skill that every marijuana grower should learn and master.

Germination process
Marijuana seeds in paper towel

Using paper towels is one of the most preferred ways to germinate marijuana seeds – and unsurprisingly so. It is easy to do, cheap and effective. Done correctly, and it can provide the seeds with a favorable environment it needs to germinate successfully. After that, it is just a matter of planting the seeds properly in the preferred substrate.