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The Chemistry of Cannabis: Picking the Right Seeds


There’s a lot more to growing pot properly than throwing some seeds in damp dirt. Picking the right strains to plant comes first. Six American states are ringing in 2022 by relaxing cannabis restrictions. The beginning of the year is also a terrific time to plan and plant your outdoor crop. Depending on location and climate, growing season generally runs March to November.

Buying the right seeds

Because they’re legally a “cannabis product” just like buds are, laws vary from state to state. Assuming you’re in a place where growing your own is legal, seeds can be bought and sold within your state but aren’t allowed across state lines.

While there are suppliers outside the U.S., you’ll get busted if they catch you with them. Your best bet in states with adult-use legalization or a medical marijuana program is to get them from your favorite dispensary.

Once you find out what strains your local suppliers have available, it’s time to do some research. Online you can usually find all sorts of helpful growing information to detail “the whole growing process of a specific strain from a particular breeder.”

It’s a good idea to glance over these notes for all strains of seeds you’re considering. They also provide pictures of what to expect from the finished product.

Dispensary staff can often give helpful information about the seeds they carry but not always.

Staff are generally more focused on directing patrons to particular strains of flower or various other finished products like concentrates or edibles. It’s better to look online for details on genetics and growing notes.

Stable genetics

When strain breeders talk about “unstable genetics,” what they really mean is they have no idea where it came from. It’s important to the final results for you to start from a known origin.

The breeder should be able to list “where the seeds came from and how they were crossed and/or backcrossed to get the seed that you hold in your hand.” Someone without the proper breeding experience “might cross a male and a female one time” and call it a new hybrid strain.” That’s a totally sloppy way to do it.

Professional breeders of stock seeds “usually put their strains through several rounds of backcrossing to stabilize the genetics and ensure consistent plants that reflect those genetics.”


Leafy advises that one single plant “can produce a lot of buds come harvest time, so make sure you grow a strain you like.” It’s a good idea to start with something you’re already familiar with.

Beginners are encouraged to start with strains which are more resistant to mold and pests. Another thing to check into is how long the plants will grow before they mature. Seeds of different strains you plant the same day won’t be harvested at the same time.

Another thing that makes a difference is indoor versus outdoor growing. Those in climates that are wet and cold early in the season will want to look for quicker growing strains. Indica is generally a faster growing plant than Sativa.

Feminized and autoflower

Seed packets are available in different types. A regular packet will produce a mix of males and females. They can be helpful to growers who don’t want highly inbred strains. Casual growers often prefer “feminized” seeds almost guaranteed to produce females.

That makes a difference because only the females produce bud. Males make rope and when they pollinate the females, potency goes down considerably. Even with feminized strains you need to check the sex when flowering starts. Transgender plants need to be culled out.

Autoflower plants have some particular challenges so aren’t recommended for beginner growers. These strains “change from the vegetative to flowering state with age, not the changing of their light cycle.”

It’s harder to determine when they are at the right stage to harvest too. These strains tend to be less potent. They also have advantages like a short grow-to-harvest time. The buds can be ready for picking as soon as “2 ½ to 3 months from when you put the seeds in the ground.”

You can expect to pick up a pack of 10-12 seeds for around $40 for the basic strain varieties. “Some high-end genetics can run between $200 to $500 a pack.” It’s also good to keep in mind that “Feminized and autoflower seeds will cost more because more breeding work was put in to creating them and they take less time for the grower to get buds.”

Planting one single seed isn’t a good idea. A “percentage of them won’t germinate, even if you get them from a reputable breeder. Always count on a few not germinating or dying off, or roughly 1/4 of the total you put in the ground.”

What do you think?

Written by Mark Megahan

Mark Megahan is a resident of Morristown, Arizona and aficionado of the finer things in life.

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