How to Properly Store and Preserve Cannabis Seeds [Explained]
If you don’t begin with great seeds, you can forget about producing a harvest of high-quality marijuana. A lot of growers seem to forget one simple fact: Your seeds are alive! Although cannabis seeds are fairly durable, improper storage can ruin them. If you’re paying $10-$20 a seed, losing a full batch is an expensive mistake.
Before your marijuana seeds germinate, they are in a similar state to animals when they hibernate. Like all living organisms, your seeds can die if you don’t take care of them correctly. The good news is that cannabis seeds can last for five years after harvest with proper storage.
In this guide, we outline how to store and preserve your cannabis seeds. We focus on the following:
- Insects & Pests
- Germinating old seeds
Keeping Light Away from Your Marijuana Seeds
You must keep your seeds in a location that is cool, dark, and dry. It is best if you keep the seeds in their original packaging. When they are exposed to temperature changes or light, cannabis seeds begin using their store of nutrients. This is a disaster because they ultimately won’t have the nutrients to germinate.
When they are exposed to temperature changes or light, cannabis seeds begin using their store of nutrients.
Make sure your seeds remain away from light, as it can directly trigger germination.
What’s the Right Storage Temperature?
The best temperature to store your cannabis seeds at is between 43- and 47-degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the temperature, the less likely your seed is to germinate unexpectedly. Experienced growers tend to have special refrigerators to store their seeds. Ideally, your fridge is a no-frost model. If you can place the seeds in the fruit and vegetable section, that is even better.
Another option is to freeze the cannabis seeds. If you go down this route, please ensure that you vacuum pack them first. Then put them in a dark container. Also, it would help if you germinated these seeds immediately once they come out of the freezer. Don’t allow them to thaw first.
What About Humidity?
Here is a quick overview of what will likely happen to cannabis seeds at different humidity levels:
Your cannabis seeds need a certain level of moisture for germination. If the humidity level gets too high, your seeds will rot in storage. An extremely low level of humidity of around 8-10% is suitable only for long-term storage. If it drops below 8%, you offer any insects present in the seeds the chance to become active and start reproducing.
The Right Storage Options for Your Cannabis Seeds
You now understand that you must store the seeds away from direct light. We have also outlined the need for relatively low humidity and a refrigerator-level temperature. Different options are available depending on how long you intend to store the seeds.
If you only require short-term storage, a dark drawer or cupboard is sufficient. The most important thing, regardless of the duration of storage, is to avoid temperature and humidity fluctuations. Rapid variations in temperature, in particular, can destroy your seeds. If you live in a location with warm daytime temperatures and cold nights, avoid outside storage.
For short-term storage, place the seeds in a container with desiccant. Seal it, and place it in a cool, dark place.
Once you enter medium-term storage (a few months), it is time to use an airtight container. Examples include a mason jar or Ziploc bag. Place this sealed container in the fridge. Remember that opening your fridge can cause significant temperature fluctuations. As a result, it is ideal if you have a second fridge that is seldom used.
Also, you should note that modern fridges have low humidity levels. If the humidity is too low, your seeds will begin using up nutrients.
If you want to store your seeds for at least six months, use a vacuum-sealed container. You can achieve this effect by removing all the air from a Ziploc bag. There are also special vacuum-sealed containers available online. Put the sealed bag in a dark container and put it in the fridge.
You also have the option of placing the seeds in the freezer. Remember, though; you need to germinate them immediately upon removal.
A Note on Insects & Pests
Imagine paying $100+ for seeds, going to the trouble of storing them, only to find that insects ruin them. Unfortunately, all you need is one insect in a container to destroy all of your seeds. The first consideration is to avoid exposure to ultra-low humidity. However, for long-term storage, this is precisely what you are supposed to do!
One option is to spread diatomaceous earth (D.E) where you store them. This is a type of sand that has a fossilized algae base. Crucially, for our purposes, it serves as an excellent natural insecticide. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t use D.E if you plan to store your seeds in a fridge with other food.
Imagine paying $100+ for seeds, going to the trouble of storing them, only to find that insects ruin them.
It would help if you also stored your seeds as high above the ground as possible. This reduces the possibility of a pest like a rodent coming in and feasting on the seeds.
Insects and pests also thrive in dirty storage areas. As a result, you must ensure the storage area remains clean. Otherwise, you won’t just attract pests to your seeds; microbes will form and damage the seeds. Do you want to consume marijuana from contaminated seeds?
You can ‘test’ your seeds once you have removed them from storage. Place them in water. If they sink, they should be fine. However, if they float, it is more likely that they are bad seeds. You can still try to germinate, but there is a greater risk of producing poor-quality cannabis, or else the seeds fail to sprout. You can keep floaters in water for approximately 72 hours to see if they sprout a tail.
If you have old seeds not stored in ideal conditions, there are still a few ways to germinate them.
- Remove the hard ridge with a sharp knife.
- Soak the seeds in carbonated water with germination booster, fulvic acid, or hydrogen peroxide. Use room temperature water, and perform this pre-soak for at least 12 hours in a dark area.
- Scratch the tough outer shell with sandpaper. Believe it or not, this process could help warmth and moisture get inside. This process is called ‘scarring’ and should happen before you soak the seeds.
- Make a small cut into the shell as a last-ditch attempt to get it to sprout.
Final Thoughts on Storing and Preserving Cannabis Seeds
If you purchase marijuana seeds and intend to use them almost immediately, you should have no issues. Even so, it is probably best to keep them away from direct light. In the short-term, a dark cupboard is sufficient as long as the temperature and humidity are reasonable.
Once the goal is to store cannabis seeds for months rather than days or weeks, everything changes. You need an airtight container, which you should store in a fridge. Include a vacuum-sealed container if you plan to store the seeds for several months or longer.
When storing cannabis seeds, you must ensure they are not exposed to germination conditions. This means keeping them away from direct light. Also, store in 20-30% humidity (8-10% for long-term storage) and a cool temperature. Keep the environment clean to avoid pests, and consider the tips above for germinating old seeds.
How to prevent the death of cannabis seeds and seedlings
Every grower, almost without exception, will have occasionally suffered the death of a plant during cultivation, just when it seemed that everything was going along nicely. In this article, we’ll focus on the main reasons why seeds may not germinate properly, or why seedlings may end up dead in the first weeks of life.
Seeds dying before germination
Cannabis seeds can die even before we start to grow them, in which case, when the grower comes to germinate them, they won’t open up and sprout at all.
The seeds of the cannabis plant, like many other types of seeds, must always be kept in the correct conditions, especially if you want to save the leftover seeds for later use and ensure that they germinate well in the future.
The same goes for unopened whole packs of seeds that have been purchased to store for later use. Sometimes, certain varieties are in high demand and there is limited stock, so the more astute growers will make sure they grab a few packs to keep in the vault until they find the time to germinate the cannabis seeds.
Cannabis seeds must be stored in the correct conditions
What to do with leftover seeds or unopened seed packs
Cannabis seeds need very low relative humidity and relatively low temperature for their proper storage, so the best plan is to keep them in a “no frost” refrigerator, in which both the humidity and temperature are maintained at very low levels for better conservation of food.
If we want to keep a seed package that’s still sealed, simply put the whole unopened pack into the fridge. The best place for its conservation is usually the small shelf where the eggs or butter are kept, although really any part of the fridge is ideal for storage.
If we want to save the leftover seeds from a pack for later use, we recommend storing them in the original Eppendorf tube or container used by the bank. In the original packaging, these Eppendorf tubes hold the seeds and usually also contain a few small silica gel balls, included to maintain very low humidity (10 to 20%) and help to ensure that the seed does not lose any germination viability.
If, however, we leave the seeds for a long period of time in any corner of the house it is possible that over time their viability to germinate will decrease, and when we plant them they may take a long time to germinate or indeed not germinate at all. it is also important to protect them from sunlight.
So if you wish to save the seeds in the best conditions, always keep them in the refrigerator, well protected from air, light and moisture.
How do we store leftover seeds to grow at a later date?
Death during the germination of cannabis seeds
Death during the germination of cannabis seeds is one of the most frequent failures suffered by every grower over the course of his or her cultivation career. There are several possible reasons that can lead to the seeds dying before they even open and begin to grow, which we’ll examine here.
Not all seeds have the same resistance to the errors that may occur during the germination process. Just as not all siblings are not all equal, neither are all seeds. By this, we mean that in the case of one seed germinating and the rest of them not doing so, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those that didn’t germinate were not strong or resistant, but simply that they were less so than the one that did germinate. If this occurs, we must ask ourselves why they did not germinate and look for any possible failings in the process.
Death by drowning the seed during germination
We start from the basic premise that the seeds require moisture, oxygen and a suitable temperature for germination; If one of the three aspects is not taken into account, it is quite likely that the seeds won’t end up germinating.
Putting the cannabis seeds in a glass of water and waiting 24 to 48 hours for their germination can be a fatal error for them. Re-hydrating the seeds in water is a good idea as long as they are not out of contact with the air for long, as they will be deprived of oxygen and most of the time they will end up dying; so if we use this method, we only leave them to re-to hydrate in water for a few minutes, although, preferably we will avoid any previous soaking or re-hydration (which in any case is not necessary).
We must maintain suitable levels of humidity for germination
The reason for this is that tap water contains chlorine, which sterilises the water to make it suitable for domestic use. However, this chlorine disappears by evaporation after a few hours, so if the water then gets contaminated, the seed can be attacked by any number of pathogens and eventually die. This example also illustrates why we must always touch the seeds with clean hands; If the seeds are handled with dirty fingers, it can lead a fungal or bacterial infection to contaminate them and severely compromise their development.
The same can happen in other germination media such as jiffy plugs, where the most common mistake is usually not draining away the excess water after re-hydrating the compressed peat. To this error, we can add that of burying the seed at more than twice its own depth, in which case it may not emerge despite having germinated perfectly well, but instead, simply end up rotting due to excess water and lack of oxygen. This error is also frequent in growers who germinate directly in the soil because when they first irrigate, the seed can be washed down into the soil resulting in them being buried too deeply, which makes it difficult for the seedling to reach the surface. It is always better to wet the substrate first, before sowing any seeds.
If you want to sow the seed directly into the soil and do it properly, when growing outdoors you must also act to prevent seed predators. Ants, birds, and many other animals or insects are another common cause of seed failure during germination. In the case of ants, they eat the small, delicate root, leaving the plant unable to develop and condemning it to imminent death.
Placing the seeds between moist serviettes/paper towels is one of the best germination methods for beginner growers. Since you can easily see if the seed has taken root or not. But we must also bear in mind that the germination medium, the kitchen paper, is made of cellulose, meaning it is an organic material that will decompose and rot, just like any product of this type.
Planting the germinated seed is also a crucial moment
It is, therefore, obligatory to change the napkins every day and a half, more or less, to avoid the seeds being contaminated by the pathogens that can appear as the napkins begin to rot. For this reason, we recommend placing the napkins in a deep plate and covering it with another one, leaving a small gap between the two so that air can enter, oxygenate the microclimate that is created during the germination of the seeds and avoiding them rotting.
Seeds dying due to lack of moisture
Just as excess water is one of the most common causes of germination problems, the lack of moisture is equally detrimental to the process.
If outdoor temperatures are around 20 to 24ºC, then we shouldn’t need do much more than start the seeds to germinate and wait for them to open, following the precautions already discussed. But in case of having warmer or cooler temperatures, we must act to raise or lower the environmental temperature for optimal germination, and find the best location for germination to be successful.
If it is winter, the plates holding the seeds are often placed on top of a low heat source to raise the temperature. We must, however, be careful: if this heat source emits hot air, the paper towels will dry out and the seeds will run out of moisture, affecting germination. If you realise this in time, you can re-hydrate the seeds and they will usually recover from and continue to germinate, although it is also possible that there will be consequences that may affect the subsequent development of the plant during its cultivation.
Not long after sowing the seed, we will see our little plant emerge from the soil
If we haven’t noticed soon enough that the seeds have been left without moisture, we can assume that they will have dried up completely, with their consequent death, and this is even more likely if the seeds had already opened up to show the root. This can also happen very easily if we germinate during summer when temperatures are high and humidity is usually very low compared to other times of the year.
Death of the plants during the growth period
The start of the growth period is a very important stage in a plant’s life, so several aspects must be taken into account so that it does not die of any of a number of causes.
One of the most frequent problems is root rot due to excess irrigation and lack of oxygen in the substrate. Up till now, this has been one of the most common causes of plant death during the growth period, especially with beginner gardeners who lack previous cultivation experience. In addition, the likelihood of this happening increases considerably in crops with auto-flowering varieties; we’ll explain what to do here.
When the plant emerges from the substrate, leaving behind its germination stage, it is crucial to take care with any excess water and the lack of humidity in its aerial parts such as leaves, stems and branches.
The proper conditions guarantee good germinación
When the plant is young and only has a very small root, its needs are few, it feeds and drinks very little. If we saturate the substrate with too much water, apart from halting the growth of the root (leading to little or no growth in the aerial parts), it creates the ideal conditions for the small roots to slowly rot. If the plant loses a part or all of its tiny root system in its first stage of life, it is almost guaranteed that it will die within a few days.
If we use a small 0.5L to 1L plant pot for the first part of vegetative growth, before transplanting them to a bigger pot, we will be covering our backs in case of any excess of irrigation, since the substrate will dry out again much faster than in larger pots. For this reason, this issue is very common for novice growers who are cultivating auto-flowering cannabis plants, where the use of 20L pots is recommended from the start.
It is often said that you must irrigate with an appropriate amount of water and nutrients for the size of the plant. As this is often complicated to carry out, as a rough guide we can irrigate the plants with an amount not more than 10 or 20% of the plant pot’s capacity. So, if they are 1L pots we will water from 100 to 200ml as long as it is not an auto-flowering plant.
If the plan is to grow automatic varieties, then during the first two weeks we water with 100 to 350ml per irrigation, every 1 or 2 days. Remember that the substrate must maintain a minimum of humidity to allow the plant to feed and continue to develop normally. If it is raining and the plants are outdoors, it’s a good idea to move or cover them, to prevent the substrate from getting soaked, which could easily lead to root zone problems.
The first stages of growth survived with success!
We hope that this information will be useful and help to stop your seeds and seedlings dying. Don’t hesitate to leave any comments or questions, we’ll be pleased to help.
The articles published by Alchimiaweb, S.L. are reserved for adult clients only. We would like to remind our customers that cannabis seeds are not listed in the European Community catalogue. They are products intended for genetic conservation and collecting, in no case for cultivation. In some countries it is strictly forbidden to germinate cannabis seeds, other than those authorised by the European Union. We recommend our customers not to infringe the law in any way, we are not responsible for their use.
Preserving Cannabis Genetics: How to Collect and Store Seeds and Pollen
Sometimes a grower has to move on from a certain strain. Maybe you’ve been growing the same strain for a long time and it no longer makes as much money as it used to, or maybe you just want to mix it up and start growing something else and don’t have the space for it.
It can be bittersweet saying goodbye to old genetics, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. You can take clones or keep a mother plant, but those aren’t ideal because they require a lot of care and maintenance, especially if they aren’t producing flower.
Fortunately, preserving genetics for long-term storage is easy and will save time, money, and space in the long run. Through seed and pollen collection, you can hang onto those genetics that you can’t fully get rid of and safely store them for future use.
The Benefits of Long-Term Storage
Cannabis genetics are often sourced from external companies and organizations such as nurseries and seed banks. For the individual grower, saving seeds and pollen removes this reliance on external companies. This is especially true with pollen, as very few (if any) companies offer pollen to the public.
Saving space is a big reason to consider long-term storage of seeds and pollen. Mother plants lay dormant in a vegetative state and take up lots of space. Maintaining this extra space is time-consuming and takes extra resources like water, soil, nutrients, light, and other costly elements, all for something that doesn’t produce flower. Even keeping clones of an old strain around will take up space and resources.
A grower or breeder can also freeze the progress of a breeding project for months or years without losing any of the long, hard work. Endeavors such as phenotype hunting and maintaining desired mothers for breeding and cloning can all be saved for later through genetic preservation. This process is like backing up work on a hard drive.
How to Collect Seeds
Cannabis is for the most part dioecious, meaning that the male and female reproductive organs exist on two separate plants (although hermaphroditic plants do occur). It is also a wind-pollinated plant, so pollen must be transferred from a male stamen to a female pistil via the air in order for pollination to occur and seeds to form.
A female cannabis plant that has received pollen from a male will produce many seeds over the course of its maturation cycle. Upon senescence, when the female plant is fully mature and ready for harvest, its seeds will be ready for stratification and collection.
To collect seeds, it’s important to wait until they are fully mature and ready for harvest. Cannabis with seeds takes longer to mature than cannabis that only produces flower.
To tell if a seed is mature, take a look at its shape and color. Premature seeds will be small and light in color, taking on a beige hue. Fully mature cannabis seeds are more full in shape and size and have a much darker brown hue, sometimes accented by black tiger stripes.
Deseeding cannabis can be done by hand or machine. This process typically takes place after the plant has been dried for one to two weeks after harvest. This way, seeds will have reached their maximum maturity and plant material will be brittle enough to break apart with minimal effort.
When collecting seed by hand, use a fine screen to help catch trichomes that will break off during the process. This material is valuable and it would be a shame to waste.
To release the seeds, simply break up the dried buds over a screen and they will fall out. You can release the seeds en masse by rubbing the flower between your fingers and lightly breaking it apart.
Separate or sift seeds over the screen to remove any unwanted plant matter from the seeds themselves. Brush off the seeds—they should be completely free of any remaining plant material such as leaves, stem, or trichomes, as these elements put seeds at a higher risk for contamination and spoilage during long-term storage.
Male cannabis plants will produce pollen several weeks into their flowering cycle. Once their pollen sacs have opened up and released, the plant will begin to senesce and eventually die. It is important to collect pollen right as the sacs are beginning to open up, as this is the time pollen is most viable.
The best way to harvest pollen for storage is to remove an entire male flower cluster and place it in a sealed storage container for several days. After the cluster has dried, place it over a micron screen with parchment or wax paper underneath, and give it a light shake. This will allow the pollen to separate from any remaining plant matter and fall through the screen and onto the wax paper.
Moisture is a death sentence for pollen viability. Because of this, many breeders opt to mix flour into their pollen at a ratio of 4:1 (flour to pollen) when storing it long-term. This additional step will help keep pollen dry for a longer period of time.
Seed and Pollen Storage
Long-term storage requirements for seeds and pollen are similar. Both require cool, dark, dry, and oxygen-deprived environments for optimal preservation.
When storing seeds, place them in an air-sealed container that doesn’t have any light leaks. Film canisters, medicine bottles (non-translucent), and any sealable storage jar will work fine. The idea is to reduce the amount of oxygen present in the storage space as much as possible. You can also add uncooked rice to the storage container, which acts as an absorbent, to reduce moisture content.
For a cool environment, store seeds in either the refrigerator or freezer. Seeds need a consistent temperature without fluctuation to remain dormant long-term.
As mentioned above, the best way to reduce moisture in pollen is to mix it with flour. For long-term storage, it can be kept in a sealed vial or freezer bag. You can keep it in the refrigerator or freezer, though for optimal long-term storage, the colder the better.
The Shelf Life of Seeds and Pollen
You can expect cannabis seeds that have been sealed and properly stored to last for several years, and in many cases, longer. Seeds may be dormant, but they are still alive. Over enough time, they will lose their viability.
It’s important to continually practice germination testing to be sure your stored seeds haven’t lost all viability. To test this, periodically plant a seed and document its ability to germinate.
Fresh seeds should have a germination rate close to a 100%, whereas older seeds will see a significant drop off over time in their ability to germinate.
Out in the open, pollen may be viable for one or two weeks under normal conditions. However, when frozen and sealed, it can last up to a year and even longer. Pollen is more unstable than seed and even under the most optimal conditions, it isn’t expected to have as long of a shelf life.
For both seeds and pollen that have been frozen long-term, it’s important to avoid defrosting until they are ready to be used. Fluctuations in temperature and moisture content will quickly destroy their viability, so maintain a steady temperature for as long as possible. Warming and freezing multiple times isn’t good.
When it comes time to use frozen seeds, remove them from their container and let them sit out on a dry surface for several hours. Letting the seeds reach room temperature will help ensure a successful germination.
Pollen should also be placed at room temperature before using. Since pollen can be much messier to handle, it’s best to carefully transfer a sample from its long-term storage container to a fresh container before using it to pollinate a plant. This way, you don’t have to use all of the pollen and saved pollen can go back in the freezer with minimal exposure to warm air.