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How to Prune Marijuana Plants

Mar 29, 2020
Cannabis World

How to Properly Prune Marijuana Plants

When it comes to pruning, many new marijuana growers tend to get overwhelmed. The topic of pruning is a controversial one. Some growers believe it is an integral step in controlling size and yield, while others think marijuana should be left to grow wild and free. No matter which side of the fence you are on, it is likely you will need to prune at some point. Knowing how to prune your marijuana plants correctly is an integral step for becoming a professional cannabis farmer.

What Is Pruning?

Pruning is the act of controlling plant growth by selectively removing some of the stems and leaf portions. It is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to improve yield and is effective when carried out correctly. Best of all, pruning rarely damages plant health, so you do not have to worry if you snip a few stems here and there.

Why Do Farmers Prune Marijuana Plants?

As stated before, some farmers never prune their plants, allowing them to grow just as they would in the wild. If you are growing indoors or inside a greenhouse, you are likely going to need to know how to control plant growth with proper trimming.

One of the most common reasons for pruning revolves around attempting to create a higher yield. It takes a lot of expense, time, and effort to grow cannabis, so you certainly want to get as much bud as possible.

Pruning is also carried out because it helps to keep cannabis plants at a more manageable height. If you are limited on space, pruning can help to prevent the plants from growing out of control.

When farmers prune, they are looking for dead or dying leaves and stems that cross other stems. Removing dead and dying leaves allows the marijuana plant to deliver food and energy to flower sites, while pruning the stems that cross other stems creates space for adequate air flow.

Gain Knowledge Before Pruning

The way you prune can have a significant impact on the way the plant grows and how many buds it produces. You cannot merely start snipping off stems and hope for the best.

To prune effectively, you must know at least the basics. It is wise to learn as much as possible about the different approaches to pruning to avoid irreparable damage.

Understanding the Basics of Pruning Marijuana Plants

Just like with tomato plants, pruning helps to increase the width of growth and produces more fruit. Removing small pieces of the plant, in a precise way, will help to improve the health and growth rate of your marijuana crop.

Prune mature plants so that they will continue growing new nodes and stems, meaning a larger yield. There are only two steps involved in pruning, making it one of the most straightforward farming techniques you can use.

Step One involves finding new shoots.

Step Two involves removing them with pruning shears.

You should remove about three-fourths of the new side shoots each week up until the flowering stage. Do not prune the older, larger fan leaves. Large fan leaves produce a lot of sugar, and this sugar is used for metabolism.

Yes, that is all you need to do to prune. Although it seems overly simple, when you prune is just as important as how you prune.

So, When Should You Start Pruning?

Knowing when to start pruning is vital for success. If you are growing Sativa plants, begin pruning them around the second week of the vegetative stage. Indica plants grow a bit slower, so pruning can begin around the third week of the vegetative stage.

Once you start pruning, you can continue up until the second week of the flowering stage. After this period, the cannabis plants will stop growing and will put their entire effort into flower development. If you prune marijuana after the second week, the plants may spend all their energy on recovery rather than flower development.

How to Properly Prune

Knowing the proper steps involved in pruning marijuana is essential. Yes, the process is straightforward, but there is also a technique involved. Before discussing the right way, you must know what not to do when pruning.

Do Not Prune This Way

  1. Never tear leaves or stems with your hands. Doing so will require too much pressure and could lead to considerable damage. You could even pull so hard on the plant that it completely uproots.
  2. Do not remove too much of the plant. Removing too much could lead to slowed post-prune recovery.
  3. Never prune the main stem, or you could stunt the plant’s development.

Proper Pruning Practices

  1. Always use either pruning shears, sharp scissors, or a knife to prune.
  2. Directly after pruning, make sure to water your cannabis plants.
  3. Make sure to feed your plants after pruning to give them the nutrients they need for their recovery efforts.
  4. Always remove any dead or dying leaves as soon as possible, so the plants do not waste energy.

Can You Use the Removed Leaves?

When you remove all those tender shoots of marijuana, you are likely going to want to try to smoke them, but do not. Unfortunately, leaves that are produced before the three-month mark are going to have very little, if any, THC. Smoking these baby leaves will not even give you a slight buzz.

If you want to do something with the leaves, you can make cannabis butter with them. Sautee the leaves in a little butter and add garlic. When this mixture cools, blend it with softened butter and enjoy the herby deliciousness on bread, pasta, or alone.

Pruning is not an early harvest. You are removing these leaves to make room for many more. Although it may seem counterproductive to remove the leaves, you will end up with a much bigger harvest by first wasting a few tender leaves.

THC production is a defense mechanism, and your plants need it to fend off insect pests that cause destruction. As you prune, you are helping the cannabis plants make more cannabinoids like THC and CBD.

Couple Training with Pruning for the Best Results

If you genuinely want pruning to be effective, it should be coupled with training. Although pruning alone can help to improve your yield, if you take a concerted effort in training, even better results will be achieved.

Multiple pruning techniques can be carried out. You must learn as much as possible about each one, so you can make the best choice. Consider the following options.

  1. Defoliation is the most basic of the types of pruning and is also one of the riskiest. This process involves only removing some of the larger fan leaves. Defoliation should be carried out near the beginning of the flowering stage because it will lead to bigger, fatter buds. It is wise to leave this method to the pros because of potential risks.

The Benefits of Defoliation

  • Faster growth
  • Mold prevention
  • Easier to train
  1. Topping is a pruning process that involves removing the top portion of the plant to make room for lateral growth. Topping helps to impede vertical growth and can be used to control the height of your plants and increase their bushiness. Increased width leads to many more buds. You should only top when the plant is healthy and in an active stage of growth during the vegetative stage. Never top at the beginning of the vegetative stage because the plants are too young and could die.

The Benefits of Topping

  • Larger buds
  • Wider growth
  • More leaves
  1. Fimming, as legend has it, was invented by accident when a marijuana grower accidentally pruned the main stem. This pruning method is focused on increasing yield, and it can be highly effective, but it is risky. It is best to fim during the vegetative stage. Remember that it will take about a week to recover, so do not wait too long or do it too early.

Benefits of Fimming

  • More leaf production
  • Bushier plants
  • More effective light absorption
  1. Lollipopping is another method of pruning cannabis plants, and it is not overly complicated. When you lollipop cannabis, you remove most of the leaves and stems from the bottom of the plant, leaving it to look like a lollipop. For the best results, you should lollipop your plants right before they go into flowering. Lollipopping allows the plants to deliver energy and nutrients to the upper canopy where the colas grow!

Benefits of Lollipopping

  • Improved plant circulation
  • Bigger colas
  • Increased circulation

Whichever pruning method you choose, make sure to carry it out at the right time for the best results. It takes a little practice, but you will eventually find your chosen method. When performed at the right time and in the correct way, any of the above pruning methods can help to control growth and produce more buds.

What to Look for When Pruning

There are a few things you should look for when pruning cannabis plants. Consider removing the following, and you will start to see significantly improved growth in a short amount of time.

  1. Leaves that are starting to die because of a lack of light
  2. Buds that are too low down to receive light
  3. Lower branches that are not being exposed to light

Removing the areas where light is not hitting will allow your plants to focus on the upper limbs and increased cola growth. Once you have grown in experience, you will know just where to start pruning without even thinking about it.

Just How Much Yield Increase Can You Expect?

For growers, it is all about the yield. When you carry out pruning correctly, the cannabis plants will be able to make sugar effectively, and this will give them more energy to produce a lot more nodes and eventual stems.

So, how much yield increase can you expect from pruning? You can gain up to 25% or more yield, depending on the plant and your pruning method. The more experience you gain in pruning, you’ll build skill, and ideally, higher marijuana yields. It takes time and practice, but you will eventually find yourself becoming a pro.

Helpful Tips for Getting Started

  1. Start early in the vegetative stage by pruning away the lowest branches. These will not produce much during the flowering stage anyway.
  2. Use the sharpest shears you can find and create clean cuts, so the plants do not go into shock.
  3. Always keep dead leaves pruned because leaving them in place wastes the energy that could be used for flower development.
  4. After pruning, keep the weed plants in the vegetative stage for a week or two more before forcing them into flowering. This will give them time to recover.
  5. Never prune your plants during the flowering stage, or you could cause considerable damage. You will also impede the growth of buds.


Pruning methods, when used correctly, can help growers to maximize their yield for more smokable buds. You do not have to be afraid of pruning because it will rarely cause catastrophic damage.

Pruning should never be carried out in the flowering stage. The vegetative stage is the optimum time to start pruning, and you can carry out this practice up until the flowering stage is about to begin.

When in doubt, simply remove the dead and dying leaves. Once you gain more experienced, you can begin implementing training methods and using different types of pruning to achieve higher yields. After a little practice, pruning will become like second nature.

Knowing the strain’s genetics can prepare you for the expected girth and height of your plants, valuable information when planning a pruning schedule. Online cannabis seed banks typically have strain profiles that outline the genetics and expected growth patterns of each strain. Check out i49 for a catalogue of cannabis seeds and their associated growth patterns.

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