Buying marijuana seeds can be quite a challenge. Unfortunately, there are sellers of dubious reputation selling low-quality seeds. Buying such products will, unfortunately, lead to a poor harvest or failed crop.
One misnomer is that “foreign seed sellers” aren’t trustworthy or legit. While HerbCEO always recommends trying to shop local first whenever possible, we must also recommend looking beyond your backyard when it comes to acquiring quality and/or rare seeds.
Many world-renowned seed banks are overseas in the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, and other countries where cannabis laws are less restricted. This means they’ve been breading, cross-breading and perfecting their art for decades now, compared to newly legalized locales like the U.S where breeding is a much younger game.
The best part of online and international access to seed banks is that you have the entire worlds lineage at your finger tips, as the sheer variety in seed sellers means you can grow an almost unfathomable variety of gorgeous dank.
Understanding the Importance of Seed Quality
The use of high-quality seeds is one of the main requirements for growing healthy cannabis plants. It is true that the final yield depends on many factors including sufficient watering, availability of nutrients, and good light quality.
However, it all starts with superior genetics. In order to make sure that you receive the exact genetics you are looking for, it is important for you to find high-quality cannabis seeds.
According to information from GN Seed Hub, an authentic cannabis seed bank, there are several factors to be examined and evaluated while purchasing seeds. There are certain signs that clearly indicate whether the seed is worth all the effort and hard work or not.
How to Evaluate Seed Quality
Buying seeds of any type can be challenging. So much potential, yet so much potential for failure and to the untrained eye, it can be hard to determine what is a quality seed and what is a waste of money.
Shopping online severely limits your ability to measure the quality yourself, which can be a big hang up for some growers/shoppers. If you trust the “herd” then you can just go straight to a dominant vendor like Seedsman or Royal Queen.
Most reputable online seed banks have quality guarantees where they ensure a viable seed and have refund policies if seeds fail or arrive damaged. We list some of the most reputable online sellers later on in this article.
If you are able to physically inspect your seeds before purchase, here are a few ways you can judge their quality and try to determine their growing viability:
Judging Seeds By Appearance
Often times using our eyes, perhaps with the assistance of a magnification lens, is one of the cheapest, time-tested ways of quickly assessing a seeds quality.
Seed Size and Dimensions
Seed sizes differ by genetic structure. Indica strain varieties are typically broader in scale than most marijuana types. However, it’s hard to judge the content of the seed by a just scale. You need to compare with seeds of the same plant.
Much like evaluating the quality of wine or whisky, it can be difficult to be confident in your assessment without a control to measure against. Judging a single seed by itself requires years of experience and a strong photographic memory.
For non-master growers it’s useful to have multiple seeds of the same strain so that you can compare and contrast and identify bad, rotten, or misshaped seeds. Using seeds from other strains can further help highlight some of the unique characteristics of the seed you are evaluating.
Seed Color and Hues
Based on the type of marijuana, coloring may differ too. Usually, developed and impressive-producing seeds have darker colored skin. In fact, they are also symbolized on the top surface by shades of brown and dark grey. Young seeds often look green and pale. Even if they are put into proper storages, they will not germinate.
If a seed is black, or has abnormal colors this can be an indication of rot or fungus and thus may mean the seeds integrity has been compromised.
Always make sure to store seeds in cool dry places. Over exposure to moisture or light can weaken a seed or invite degradation.
Again, when comparing colors it’s useful to do with a sampling, not just one seed in isolation. It’s the collective color that will help guide you in identifying good from bad.
Lightning is also important. Lighting can greatly impact how the human eye interprets the color of an object. The same seed may look different in natural outdoor lightning vs florescent indoor lightning so always make sure you evaluate in similar lighting conditions to remove variables that might distort your perspective.
Judging Seeds by Feel/Touch
The feel of the Seed
When holding the seed, it should be solid and hard. Use two of your fingers to check its strength. Press it tightly and apply a little pressure. Whatever kind of pressure you place on it, it will remain unbroken.
The specific hardness and give can vary depending on the genetics and knowing an optimal hardness/softness requires years of practice. Still, if a seed easily pushes in, collapses, cracks or has any other unusual characteristics you can confidently assess that seed as being compromised.
Shape and Definition of the Seed
The structure of the seed is quite distinct and capsule-shaped. You could quickly notice the outline of it just by a quick glance. Young seeds are very small and are not as detailed as mature ones. More often than not, aged seeds have holes and fractures in the coat.
Not all aged seeds are bad. Nature is not a laboratory and just like plants animals and humans, they come in slight variations of size and shapes.
Some seeds with small coat fractures are still viable, they’re just reaching their “best use by” dates and should be cultivated immediately.
It’s best to compare seeds of similar ages to not let the differences in shape that come with time distort your perspective on quality.
Judging by Performing Tests
In addition to using your human senses to measure the quality of seed you can also use the following tests to better understand the quality of your product.
Fill up a glass jar or drinking glass with water and place the seeds on the surface. Seeds that remain floating on the water surface are likely to be of poor quality because they have air pockets somewhere.
On the other hand, healthier seeds will sink to the bottom because they’ve remained intact and now allowed air and potentially water/mold/insects to penetrate their outer coating, preserving their biological integrity and grow potential.
One of the best ways to evaluate the genetic potential of cannabis seeds is to simply put them in the soil. You will see the result within a very short time.
Don’t be discouraged if you have a few non-bloomers. Seeds are products of nature and nature is not perfect. Even the most reputable seed sellers will have a few duds slip by, that is just the way it is when dealing with a naturally derived product and its ultimately natures imperfections that make it as beautiful as it is.
Checking in on your freshly planted seedlings regularly will very quickly let you identify the non-bloomers/failed seeds. You can take a picture and send to the supplier and many will offer refunds, credit, or supplemental seeds to make up for any failed seedlings.
How to Source Seeds: Buying Online vs. Bag Seed?
Seeds found in finished cannabis buds can develop for a number of reasons. For example, a male plant may have accidentally pollinated a flowering female during the growing process. But more commonly, they’re a sign of stress and can be attributed to high temperatures during the final stages of flowering or a big spike in temperature or a light leak.
Seeds can also form in plants with genetic disorders or instability, like hermaphrodites—plants that develop both male and female reproductive parts. Generally, stress and genetic disorders are viewed as bad, so temper expectations with any plant you start from bag seed.
Buying marijuana online is very straightforward, like regular online shopping. You just need to visit the store’s website, explore their products, and add to cart and then checkout by providing your address for delivery.
There are also many reputable seed sellers around the world. A quick internet search, with some point and click cross-referencing, will provide you links to some of the most popular seed distributors on the planet.
Seeds vs. Clones
By now some of you are wondering, should I just buy clones only to avoid having to measure the viability of a seed in that may or may not sprout?
Should I start growing your cannabis plant with seeds or clones? Well, there is no 100% right or wrong answer as each method has pros and cons which we highlight for you below:
Pros & Cons of Starting with Seeds
- If you buy your seeds from an established seed bank like GN Seed Hub you have a great idea of how your plant will be like in terms of looks, yield, quality, and flowering time.
- Cannabis seeds can be discreetly delivered to almost anywhere in the world – you don’t need to know a cannabis grower in person or collect bag seed in order to start growing with seeds
- You can purchase feminized seeds from a seed bank which means you will get 100% females and don’t have to worry about male marijuana plants.
- Seeds give you the best chance of a ‘clean slate’ which means you plants won’t come with any sort of disease or pests
- Not all seeds will germinate
- Old seeds or improperly stored seeds may be slow-growing
- If using non-feminized seeds, about half of the plants will end up being male, which do not produce buds
- Seeds can take a little more time than clones to get started growing and be ready for harvest, since clones are usually already “mature” and established when you start growing
- Costs can add up if purchasing seeds for every grow, and famous strains can cost quite a bit of money per seed
- Creating your own seeds will save you monetary cost, but there is still a cost in time (and effort) to cross together two plants to make seeds
Pros & Cons of Starting with Clones
- Guaranteed gender – if the mother plant was female, the clone will be female too
- Clones usually have a head start compared to starting with seed since clones are usually already mature and established when you start growing with them.
- Since clones are genetically identical to their mother plant, you know almost exactly what you’re getting.
- Rooted clones can be coaxed to flower almost immediately if time or space is an issue
- Clones can be harder to find compared to seeds
- If the original grower had any problems with the mother plant (like pests or viruses) then it’s possible that the clones can inherit the same problems
- If you start with a clone that hasn’t been well established, it’s possible it might unexpectedly die on you, or remain in shock for a long time.
- Newly created clones are more sensitive/picky about lights and nutrients compared to young plants from seed
Questions you should ask before purchasing cannabis seeds online:
- Do you recognize the name of the company name?
Branding goes a long way and a recognized, established brand is something to consider when purchasing seeds online.
2. What are customers saying in their reviews?
Researching these questions will increase your chances of being happy with your seed purchase.
3. Do you know anybody who has used them as their supplier?
Word of mouth recommendations is very powerful in the cannabis community. Someone else’s firsthand experience can be helpful if you aren’t sure about which brand of seeds to purchase.
4. What’s their return or refund policy?
A good seed shop should at least have generally positive reviews and a well-defined refund or exchange policy.
Best Online Seed Suppliers of 2023
Below are some of the best online seed sellers that A) have a large selection B) have fair prices and C) are generally well respected within the growing community.
As with all online shopping, we highly recommend you shop around if you are looking for a specific strain to confirm you’re getting the best price as many retailers have overlapping inventory so you might be able to save a few bucks by doing some comparison shopping!
*These sellers are not listed in any particular order
Canuk Seeds offer over 50 different strains so whatever you’re in the mood to grow, they’ve got you covered. Auto flower, feminized, regular? Canuk seeds have a wide variety of each.
This is a loud and proud Canadian brand and everyone knows Canada is a thriving cultivation mecca so sourcing direct from one of the most competitive markets is always a sure bet.
Seedsman Seeds is one of the biggest and most recognized brands when it comes to online seed vendors. With fame comes the occasional bad review but in terms of sheer selection variety and shipping times to multiple countries it’s hard to beat Seedsman Seeds.
So, if you’re looking for a particularly rare strain that you might not be able to find via other smaller suppliers then Seedsman is definitely worth checking out. Heck, we wrote an entire review of their business here because of how popular they are within the growing community.
A best-selling brand, Barney’s Seeds offers stable genetics and superior results. Bred for taste, aroma, and THC content, Barney’s Seeds are a great, safe option when purchasing cannabis seeds.
We like Barney’s because they are essentially an OG within the growing community, supporting medical growers long before the recreational legalization wave took off. Support and respect the OGs!
Shortstuff seeds specialize in auto-flowering strains but offer regular photoperiod seeds as well. Their auto flower strains can go from seed to bud in as few as 65 days depending on the seed strain.
Short Stuff always seems to have the most prime selection, in terms of strains WE want to cultivate. No fluff, just the good stuff and a smaller business worthy of your consideration.
Growers Choice Seeds
Growers Choice offers fully feminized seeds, auto flowers, as well as High CBD strains.
With discrete worldwide shipping, you can purchase anywhere. Growers Choice also offers a “germination guarantee.”
Growers Choice is like the General Motors of seeds, offering an insane variety at VERY competitive prices, and thus earning a reputation of the “go to” supplier for growers around the world.
I LOVE Growing Marijuana
I <3 Growing Marijuana is one of the most proactive seed suppliers in terms of welcoming growers into the community that is cultivation. This seed vendor is equally invested in not just selling seeds but educating new growers at the same time.
The I Heart Growing Marijuana website has a great database of growing resources including starting guides, grow journals and strain reviews. They also have a thriving forum where you can learn for free from experienced growers.
True North Seed Bank
True North Seed Bank offers a huge number of strains from a variety of breeders including Canuk Seeds, Barney’s Farm, Dutch Passion, and more! It’s also worth mentioning that True North offers free seeds with each order.
MSNL (Marijuana Seeds Netherlands)
MSNL continues the Netherland’s tradition of quality cannabis with a huge variety of strains offering feminized, auto flower, and regular seeds. Known as “the original seed bank since 1999,” MSNL offers worldwide shipping, discrete packaging, and offers a discount if you’re paying with BitCoin.
Crop King Seeds
Crop King Seeds is another great place to order seeds. In addition to feminized seeds, auto flowers, and regular, CKS also offers high CBD strain seeds. They offer fast delivery, discrete shipping, a germination guarantee, and multiple payment options.
Herb CEO Summary
Growing your own cannabis can be one of the most satisfying activities you can undertake as a participatory human being of planet earth. The process involves growing life from seed to harvest, full-circle, give and take, and can be incredibly humbling.
If you care more about the plant, it’s life cycle, nuances of different strains, and love growing things, then starting your own cultivation operation is a must.
If you just like getting high stick to the dispensary. There are no losers here 🙂
This is a great list. I’ve used several of these, Seedsman, True North, Growers Choice and Crop King. In Dealing with these guys, I’ve always had SLOW service, it takes forever to hear back from them in many cases, and waiting over a month for delivery is nerve-wracking to say the least.
I’ve learned so much reading in places like this and all these sites, and YouTube especially. Over the years, I’ve been honing my skills and following Old school growers like Subcool, and Kevin Jodrey. About two years ago I started NoGreedSeeds.com. With a little help from my friends, I am giving back to my community – we have added over 40 strains to the catalog, all under $10 each, all the time, with even lower prices for members. NGS has feedback and customer service surveys to get the whole picture.
My background is technical customer service, with 30+ years of working for fortune 500 companies. I’ve been a member of the BBB, and pride myself on being an easy-going, straightforward kinda guy and having a “pristine wake” – meaning I believe in Karma; what comes around goes around, sometimes 3x. I also consider the golden rule and its corollary.