How to Plant (and Transplant) Cannabis Seeds for Maximum Success

Updated on July 8, 2022

Close up photograph of a cannabis seedling with two cotyledons and two true leaves

In this lesson, you will learn:



Grows anywhere...


Most plants just require a seed, dirt, and water to start growing. And the same is true of cannabis. This weed plant, for example, grew in sand and was given no nutrients or love.


This goes to show how resilient cannabis plants are. They literally grow anywhere. However, no one wants a tiny weed plant like that. In order to get large and healthy plants, dropping a seed in the ground won’t suffice. 

GIF of a very small cannabis plant that grew in sand by the beach

Cannabis plant grown in sand

The BudTrainer Planting Method involves planting your seeds in a small volume of media to allow your root ball to start off strong, at which point you will go through a series of transplants (i.e. repotting into larger containers), thus allowing your plant to maximize its root zone every time. Once your root zone is developed, the shoot zone (AKA everything above the ground) grows to its maximum potential. It’s like the old saying goes: ‘happy roots, happy shoots'.


Did you know that...


Nearly 100% of legal commercial cannabis growers transplant their weed plants instead of growing directly in the final container? Academic research also shows that most crops yield more results when transplanted instead of directly sewn into the ground.


If nearly 100% of legal commercial growers do it and research has proven it works, why shouldn’t you?

No more waiting. Let’s get right into it!


"The BudTrainer"

Planting Method

Tools needed:

  • Jiffy pellet or Rockwool plug
  • Hydrogen peroxide 3%
  • Tweezers or rubber gloves
  • Dechlorinated tap water
  • Transparent cup or dome
  • Heating mat (optional)

Difficulty Level:

Beginner



Seedling dome with 3 Rockwool plug and 3 Jiffy pellets inside

Starter dome with Rockwool plugs and Jiffies

10" by 20.75" black heating mat with green writing for starting seedlings

Heating mat for seedlings


Planting Cannabis Seeds For Success

Step 1 - Pre-soaking seeds

When: right away


Soak your seeds in a solution with hydrogen peroxide 3% (1 part) and tap water (5 parts) for 24 hours prior to planting. This will help soften the outer coat of your seed while allowing more oxygen into it, which not only speeds up the germination process but also cleans out any unwanted pathogens. You can find hydrogen peroxide 3% at any pharmacy or Walmart. Keep them in a dark spot.

Hydrogen peroxide container beside cannabis seedlings in hydrogen peroxide plus water solution

Seeds in hydrogen peroxide/water bath for 24h

PRO TIP: make sure to never touch your seeds with bare hands, as the oils from your fingers can stay on the seed and attract bacteria and fungi. For this reason, use disinfected tweezers or clean rubber gloves.

Step 2 - Pre-soaking starter plugs

When: after hydrogen peroxide soak is finished


Put your Jiffy pellet (if you are growing in soil) or Rockwool plug (if you are growing in soilless media like coco coir or Rockwool) in your dechlorinated tap water for 30 minutes. In order to dechlorinate your water, leave it exposed to air for 24h to 48h.


OPTIONAL: seedlings, like flowering plants, need a lot of phosphorus in the beginning. For this reason, it is recommended that you start your seedlings with a solution of BLOOM nutrients (not VEG) and tap water at an EC of 1.0 (meaning a very low dose of nutrients). This will ensure a strong start for your seedling, and once you transplant (next step) you can use your VEG mix.

Rockwool plug soaking in nutrient solution inside a transparent pitcher

Rockwool plugs in a bloom nutrient solution for 30 min

GIF of Jiffy pellets expanding on a 30 minute timelapse

Jiffy pellets expanding in tap water over 30 min

IMPORTANT: if you are using Jiffy pellets, set your pH at 6.5, and if you are using Rockwool plugs, set your pH at 5.5.


"Can I use a paper towel to germinate my seeds?"


"While you certainly can, there are some key disadvantages to it"  


Paper Towel Method Disadvantages

If you haven’t yet, it won’t be long until you find growers starting their cannabis seeds in paper towels. We are not sure why it became popular, but all we know is that there is no body of research supporting this method. In fact, commercial cannabis growers don’t use this method for two reasons: 

Contamination: the more you move your seedling around, the more likely it is to get contaminated - especially after germination. Once the tap root is out (the first root that shoots out of the seed), the seedling is extremely vulnerable. Even the pathogens that are present in the air could be enough to contaminate it.

Breakage: the tap root that comes out of your seeds (called the “radicle”) is extremely fragile, and even a slight bend could be enough to break it. Once the young tap root is broken, the seed doesn’t have enough energy to produce another one and you end up losing your whole seed.
Germinated cannabis seedlings inside a wet paper towel inside a blue plate

Cannabis seeds germinated using the paper towel method

The way we look at the paper towel method is as an unnecessary extra step. It doesn’t add any value, and instead only adds risk. Instead, we recommend starting seeds in a Rockwool plug (for soilless) or Jiffy pellet (for soil). 


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Step 3 - Planting seeds

When: after Jiffy pellets or Rockwool plugs are soaked


Now that we have pre-soaked Jiffy pellets (or Rockwool plugs) and disinfected the seeds, it is time to plant them. Before starting, however, remove your Jiffy pellets or Rockwool plugs from the water, and lightly squeeze out the excess liquid. About 50% of the water should come out.

Rockwool plugs and Jiffy pellets inside a seedling starter dome with the cover off and tweezers plus cannabis seeds in solution beside it

Pre-soaked Jiffy pellets and Rockwool plugs

Make a very small ¼” deep hole on your Jiffy pellets or Rockwool plugs (hint: don’t use the holes that come in the Rockwool plugs as they are too big, but rather poke another hole on the opposite side).

Pick up your seeds with your tweezers or rubber gloves, and drop them in the hole with the pointy tips facing down (that’s where the tap root comes out of). Do not sow them deeper than ¼”, as this will take longer for them to germinate.
Hands wearing white rubber gloves poking a hole on a Rockwool cube with the tweezer tip

Poking ¼” deep holes in the Rockwool plug

Siagram of a cannabis seed showing which side needs to be pointing up

Cannabis seed's ideal position for planting

Once the seeds are in, cover the holes with a little bit of peat or Rockwool fibres - just enough to hide the seeds. 
Cannabis seed in a Jiffy pellet, ready for germination
Vegetative cannabis plants ready to be defoliated
Jiffy pellet with a cannabis seed inside

Planting a seed in a Jiffy pellet

Cannabis seed in a Rockwool cube, ready for germination
Cannabis seed in a Rockwool cube with tweezers over top covering the whole with some Rockwool
Rockwool cube with a cannabis seed inside

Planting a seed in a Rockwool cube

Lastly, wet the top of your seeds with one tsp of water or nutrient solution, and cover the starter plugs with plastic cups or place them in a dome in order to increase the humidity. For a higher success rate and faster germination, place your starter plugs on a heating mat. This will help speed up the biological activity in the root zone, which in turn speeds up the growth of your seedlings. You can now leave them alone and they will sprout in 48h-72h. Be patient - we have seen it take 17 days for a seed to sprout.
GIF of timelapse of cannabis seeds germinating inside a seedling started dome with a silver background

Seeds sprouting inside a dome, on top of a heating mat


" But I have autoflowers! How should I plant them?"


"Autoflowering marijuana plants are too delicate and must be directly sowed"  


Planting autoflowering seeds for success

Planting autoflowers is not the same as planting regular photoperiods. The reason for this is that autoflowers have a very short lifecycle, and any external shock (such as transplanting) can reduce your yields significantly. 


This means that, instead of planting into Jiffy pellets or Rockwool plugs, you should sow your autoflower seeds directly in their final pots (we recommend using rich soil and a light dose of nutrients in every feeding). You will also not be able to use a dome, which is why it is recommended to use transparent plastic cups instead (make a couple of holes on top of the cup to create airflow). 


In order to accomplish this, follow Steps 1 and 3, and skip Step 2.

Cannabis seedling planted directly in soil, covered by a transparent plastic cup

Autoflowering seedling planted directly in the final pot

You can then keep the cups on the seedlings until they outgrow them, at which point you should remove the cups and maintain your autoflowering weed plants at a temperature of 77F (25C) and a relative humidity of 70% to 80% for two weeks. 

PRO TIP: we recommend planting autoflowers 2 inches away from the edge of your pots so that you can low-stress train them across the middle of the pots later, allowing for more light exposure and airflow. The photo below shows the same autoflower as the previous photo with the transparent cup, but 4 weeks later when it was time to start training it.

Cannabis autoflower low stress trained across the center of the pot with the BudPots fabric training pots and the BudHuggers garden ties.

Autoflower that was planted on the edge of the pot


In a nutshell

The goal of following Steps 1 through 3 is to maximize the chances that your expensive cannabis seeds will germinate. While most seeds will germinate if planted directly, adding these extra few steps only helps you increase your chances of success. 

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Here are some amazing products to help you get started!

" Now that we know how to plant, when and how do we transplant?"


" Easy peasy! The BudTrainer Transplanting Method has everything covered."  


"The BudTrainer"

Transplanting Method

Tools needed:

  • Red solo cups
  • Intermittent and/or final pots
  • Your media of choice (use rich soil if you are a beginner)
  • Nutrient solution with VEG mix
  • Mycorrhizal fungi

Difficulty Level:

Beginner



Why should I transplant my cannabis plants?

The reason why we don’t plant our cannabis seeds directly into their final containers is because they end up developing weaker root structures than if we transplant them into gradually larger containers as they grow. Here is why.

When your seeds start in Jiffy pellets or Rockwool plugs, the tap root (the main root that comes out of the seedling) reaches their edge within a couple of days. Since the tap root can’t grow in air, it automatically starts producing more roots inside of the starter plugs, until those new roots also reach the edges. 

Next, once you transplant this starter plug full of new roots into the next container, these roots will shoot out in all directions, “filling up” the container much faster. Once they reach the walls of the new container, they will again start producing more roots from the inside as they did with the starter plug. And the process repeats itself.

Conversely, if you were to plant your seed in the final container right away, the tap root would grow all the way to the bottom and then continue growing only around there, because that is where the water always ends up in.
Diagram showing the different in root structure between direct sowing versus transplanting

Root structures of direct sowing vs transplanting


Transplanting Seedlings For Success

Step 1 - Transplanting in red solo cups

When: once the first set of true leaves is out and you can see some root tips around your Jiffy pellets or Rockwool plugs, it’s time to transplant your seedlings into a red solo cup so that it can continue growing its roots. This seedling, for example, is 1 week old and was just transplanted into a red solo cup. If you have other seedlings that need to catch up, you can wait until the 2nd set of true leaves comes out, at which point you MUST transplant into a red solo cup.

Cannabis seedling diagram showing the difference between true leaves and cotyledons

Cannabis seedling that was just transplanted 5 minutes ago

In order to accomplish this:

  1. Cut 4 small holes with your scissors or trimmers at the bottom of your solo cup. This will allow the runoff water to come out at the bottom.
  2. Fill 80% of your solo cup with soil or soilless media (we recommend using rich soil if you are a beginner), and tap it down on the table or use your fingers to slightly compress the media.
  3. Cut the net around your Jiffy pellet or the plastic on the Rockwool plug.
  4. (OPTIONAL) Sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi on your starter plug and media. This fungi grows on your roots and feeds nutrients to your plants in exchange for sugars, creating a mutually beneficial relationship and increasing your yields. If you have a mycorrhizal inoculant, sprinkle it on the root ball like you would sprinkle salt and pepper on a meal.
  5. Place the plug inside the cup, on top of the media. Add/remove media until the top of the plug aligns with the top of the cup. 
  6. Cover the sides of the plug with media, and press down gently with your fingers. Repeat until you fill up the remainder of the cup.
  7. Water it with 100ml to 150ml of water (this is enough for the 1st week).

Transplanting cannabis seedlings into red solo cups

How much to water in the red solo cup

After the first week, only re-water your solo cup once the top of the soil dries out completely, and the cups feel light. The more you can wait to re-water, the more your roots will “look for water” and grow into the empty spaces. If you water too often, not only will you cause root rot, but you also will train your roots to only grow in the center. Under optimal conditions, after 2 to 3 weeks in the red solo cups, your plants should be “drinking” 100ml to 150 ml of water per day.

Step 2 - Transplanting into larger pots

When: 2 to 3 weeks later, your roots will likely be growing all over the red solo cup, which means it is time to transplant into a bigger container. In order to check for this, pick up your red solo cup and massage the sides and the bottom of it gently, so as to loosen up the root ball. Place your other hand on top of the cup with the main stalk between your middle and ring finger, and flip it upside down (preferably inside a sink) so that the root ball can fall off on your hand. Hold the entire root ball by the stem, and if it can hold itself while watered, then it is ready for transplanting.
Cannabis seedling root ball being held out of the red solo cup by two hands wearing white rubber gloves

Cannabis root-ball from a red solo cup ready for transplanting

Ideally, you want to transplant into a container that is 10x to 20x bigger than the previous one. For example, a Rockwool plug or Jiffy pellet have about 1 oz of volume, and a red solo cup has 18 oz. This means we initially transplanted into a volume that was 18x bigger than the starter plug. From this red solo cup, the next recommended size will be 1.4Ga to 2.8Ga. Since we personally like to finish our plants in the 3Ga BudPots, we will go directly into our final pot. However, if you want to finish in larger pots, here is how and when you should do your 2nd transplant and your later transplants.

Table showing the pot sizes and times to transplant cannabis plants

When choosing your pots, make sure to pick fabric pots as your final pots and plastic pots or single-use fabric pots for your intermittent transplants. Fabric pots are great for creating stronger root balls, but at the same time they are hard to transplant from.

In order to transplant successfully:

  1. Fill the bottom of your new pot with media (we recommend using rich soil if you are a beginner) until you have enough to place the solo cup (or previous pot) inside and align its top with the top of the new pot.
  2. Place the solo cup (or previous pot) inside the new pot, exactly where you want it to be forever.
  3. Fill the new pot with media around the cup (or previous pot) as if you were burying it.
  4. Once the new pot is full, tap it down on the table or gently compress the media. Remove the red solo cup (or previous pot).
  5. Pull the seedling + root ball out of the red solo cup (or previous pot).
  6. (OPTIONAL) Add mycorrhizal fungi to your root ball on every transplant.
  7. Place the root ball in the new hole and gently press it down.
  8. Water the pot with 2L of water (½ Ga) if you are transplanting from a solo cup; 4L (1 Ga) if you are transplanting from a 1Ga pot; or 20L (5Ga) if you are transplanting from a 10Ga pot.

Transplanting from a Red Solo Cup into a 3Ga fabric pot

After you transplant and water your plant, it should have enough sustenance for 4 to 7 days until it is time to water it again. 


If you are going to transplant one more time in the future, let your plants grow for 2 to 3 weeks in the new pots before checking the roots again. Make sure the roots are growing around the edges of the pot before transplanting again so that they hold your media in place.


And you are done!


Transplanting your cannabis plants can sound like extra work, but it is the best activity you can do in order to grow bigger roots. Don't forget:


Happy roots, happy shoots!


Want to continue learning? Here are a few more lessons for you!

How To Plant (and Transplant) Cannabis Seeds for Maximum Success
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