Increasing Yields and Improving Plant Health: Top Tips for Pruning Cannabis
Apr 9, 2021 Optimizing Yields
Pruning cannabis plants is an age-old practice that most people associate with orchard trees and perennial plants. The thing is, pruning is just as effective at directing and altering the growth habits of annual plants like marijuana.
Some growers argue that it’s not worth the risk, but if you want to maximize your yields and make sure your plants stay healthy until it’s time to pull down your crop, learning how to prune cannabis is a must.
Before breaking out those pruning shears, novice growers need to learn the ropes. There are right ways and wrong ways to go about pruning cannabis, and taking the wrong approach can delay flowering, reduce yields, or even kill the plant.
If you’ve never grown weed in your life, start by buying high-quality seeds from an oregon seed bank and get the basics down first. If, on the other hand, you’re already well-versed in caring for cannabis, you can read on to learn what you need to know about pruning marijuana plants before the growing season starts.
The Benefits of Pruning Cannabis
Given that there’s so much debate in the cannabis community about the risks vs. benefits of pruning, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss why you should be pruning your plants, at all.
You’ve already learned that judicious pruning can stimulate growth, improve plant health, and increase yields. This begs the question, how can pruning cannabis help you accomplish these lofty goals?
Remove Damaged Plant Tissues
If you’ve ever removed yellowed, diseased, or damaged leaves from your cannabis plants, congratulations. You’ve already tried pruning in its most basic form.
Pruning plants to remove damaged growth routes nutrients to healthy tissues and reduces the chances that disease or insect infestations will spread, so keep at it.
Stimulate New Growth
Some techniques, such as topping cannabis, increase yields by stimulating new growth. When marijuana plants follow a natural growth pattern, they put much of their energy into growing a tall stalk with one large cola at the top.
If you cut the lateral stalk at the right time, your plant will grow two stalks instead of one. The result? A bushier plant that will produce multiple large colas instead of one giant bud with a bunch of large, unusable ones further down the plant.
Improve Plant Health
If you do it right, pruning your cannabis plants can improve their health. In this context, pruning can be considered a form of high-stress training (HST). Stressing your plant while it is in the vegetative stage can induce it to distribute growth hormones more equally throughout the plant.
Plus, pruning can improve airflow and light distribution, helping you avoid problems with pests and diseases. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and over-stress your plant by pruning cannabis during veg too much.
When to Prune Cannabis
Before even discussing basic pruning techniques, let’s get one thing straight. You can, and should, remove damaged leaves or stems at any point in a plant’s life cycle, but you should only perform HST pruning techniques during the vegetative stage.
The timing for each technique is a little different, but as a general rule, you should stop pruning plants when they approach the flowering stage to make sure those newly developing buds get the plant’s full attention.
When pruning during flowering, you should focus on the leaves and avoid trimming buds during flowering as much as possible. You must take precautions when trimming during flowering so you don’t end up hurting the plant.
It may be a good idea to start trimming lower branches during flowering so that your plant can focus more of its energy into bud production.
Don’t start pruning cannabis as soon as the plant produces its first set of leaves. Wait until it’s around a foot tall and has multiple leaf nodes to try topping, fimming, and the other techniques described below.
Basic and Advanced Pruning Techniques
In its most basic form, the process of trimming pot plants involves nothing more than removing damaged tissues and excluding them from the garden or grow room.
Even this minimal amount of pruning can improve plant health, but it won’t make a huge difference when it comes to yields.
If you want to increase your yields, you’ll want to try one of these more advanced pruning techniques.
1. Topping and Fimming
Topping cannabis involves cutting the central stalk while the plant is in its early vegetative stage. Instead of directing most of its energy to one lateral stalk, the plant will develop two new branches and a shorter, bushier growth pattern. You can top your plants multiple times to encourage optimal growth.
If you’re growing tall, lanky sativas, especially indoors, that’s exactly what you should do. Just make sure you give your plant adequate time to heal between pruning sessions.
The great thing about topping is that it helps you accomplish multiple goals. The first is obvious: instead of producing one huge cola at the top of the plant, you’ll get a good-sized bud off of each new lateral. The thing is, that’s not the only way that topping helps you increase yields.
Plants with wider growth patterns also develop more leaves and absorb more light, increasing photosynthesis and giving the plant access to more of the resources it needs to grow and thrive. Plus, the slightly smaller colas will be less prone to bud rot.
Fimming is very similar to topping. The difference is, instead of removing the lateral stalk between leaf nodes, you’ll be focusing on the newest growth.
You’ll want to select the latest shoot, then cut two-thirds of it off, leaving the leaf stems. Instead of forming leaves, these stems will go on to become shoots capable of producing additional colas. Just make sure not to take off more than two-thirds of the new growth, or you’ll only end up with two new shoots.
3. Pruning for Increased Air Flow
Removing some of the larger branches and leaves from your plant creates more space and improves airflow. Most growers focus on the lower and middle branches, especially on bushier strains. Branches and leaves growing in the middle of the plant are less resilient and less likely to produce buds. They impede airflow, use up resources, and provide little in return.
When you cut off large branches, do it at a 45-degree angle and make the cut as close to the stalk as you can. Don’t go overboard with removing large branches. Although the highest-quality buds usually grow at the top of the plant, you’ll want to leave enough leaves in place that the plant can still photosynthesize efficiently.
If this is your first time pruning cannabis, stick to removing only the branches that will get shaded out or reduce airflow to developing buds.
Lollipopping is a pretty intense form of HST, and it’s only really helpful in indoor grow rooms or extremely humid outdoor gardens. Lollipopping involves removing all the lower growth from the plants and leaving only the leaves and branches near the top that receive enough light. As you may have guessed, the resulting plant structure very much resembles a large green lollipop.
Some growers lollipop their plants all at once a few weeks before transitioning their plants to the flowering stage. Others remove leaves and stems continuously throughout the vegetative stage.
Keep in mind that this technique will direct all the plant’s energy to the top, so you’ll only get better yields if they get all their light from above. Indoor growers who don’t want to try this admittedly more risky HST technique can also investigate sub-canopy lighting as a means of improving yields.
5. Pruning Buds
You can remove poorly placed bud sites at any time during the vegetative or flowering stages. If your plants have already started to flower and you’ve noticed that some of the buds are far too light and larfy to produce a good crop, you may want to remove them now.
Aside from maintenance pruning for lollipopped plants, removing improperly placed buds and damaged leaves should be the only pruning you do while your plant is in bud.
If you read “pruning buds” and immediately thought of trimming weed, don’t worry. There are plenty of resources for how to trim fresh and dried buds post-harvest that can help you get your trimming techniques down pat.
Marijuana Pruning Aftercare
Even if you get everything just right, pruning your cannabis plants will still inflict stress on them, so they’ll need time to recover. You can help to facilitate recovery by providing plenty of water, light, and nourishment during this difficult time.
Within a week, your pruning cuts should be healing up, and you should see new growth beginning to emerge.
The Dangers of Over-Pruning
If this is the first time you’ve tried pruning cannabis at home, don’t go overboard. Start by experimenting with just one or two plants to get the techniques down without risking your entire crop, and never remove all the leaves from any one branch or stalk.
You may also want to avoid more advanced cannabis pruning techniques like lollipopping until you’ve got the basics of topping or fimming and pruning for optimal light and airflow down.
Every Great Crop Starts Out With High-Quality Seeds
All the pruning and advanced training techniques in the world won’t improve your crop quality or yields if you don’t start out with high-quality seeds. Check out some i49 seed bank reviews to see why so many growers trust us to provide them with all the seeds they need to grow beautiful, healthy plants and buds.
You can browse our strain selection and place an order online, study up on other growing techniques, or reach out with questions any time. We’ll be happy to help.