Pruning and Cultivating Weed Plants
Marijuana growers are always looking for new ways to improve the health of their plants and increase their crop yields. Learning how to prune and cultivate weed plants correctly is a must for serious growers, but it isn’t without its risks. It’s important for growers to learn the basics and get comfortable with them before trying advanced pruning and training techniques. Read on to find out about everything growers of all ability levels need to know about cultivating, pruning, and training marijuana plants to increase yields without risking their plants’ health.
What Is Pruning?
Most serious gardeners, farmers, and growers prune their plants. The process involves selectively clipping off pieces of the plant that won’t produce healthy, high-quality buds. Removing yellowing or dead leaves and branches found too low to the ground to get adequate light helps to redirect plants’ energy and resources and allow light and airflow to reach deeper into the plant to keep it healthy.
Not all growers prune their plants, and that’s fine. It takes a certain amount of skill and knowledge to prune plants correctly, so novice growers may want to stick to less risky cultivation techniques. For those confident in their skill, though, pruning can be incredibly beneficial.
The Benefits of Pruning Weed Plants
Now that they have a general idea of what pruning is and how it works, let’s take a look at the unique benefits of pruning weed plants. Keep in mind that growers can only take advantage of these benefits if they take the time to learn how to prune plants carefully and correctly.
Remove Dying Leaves
All marijuana plants will lose some leaves over the course of the vegetative and flowering phases. If left to their own devices, the plants will eventually drop these damaged leaves themselves, but in the meantime, they’ll continue sending water and nutrients to the leaves to try to save them.
Yellowed or browning leaves don’t produce enough chlorophyll to photosynthesize efficiently. They’re basically dead weight for your indoor or outdoor plant. Pruning them off early can reduce the amount of energy and resources that plants expend trying to save dying leaves, allowing them to use it for more productive purposes such as new vegetative growth or increasing bud size.
Let in the Light
The branches found near the ground serve a valuable purpose early in the plant’s life cycle, but once marijuana plants begin to grow and thrive, they get shaded out. Without access to sufficient light, your Auto Cream Candy and Black Rhino plants can’t perform photosynthesis efficiently. Trimming them off will encourage healthier growth farther up on the plant where the leaves will have better access to optimal light.
Reduce Pest Problems
Pruning diseased or pest-infested leaves and branches can save affected plants from further damage. This aspect of pruning should be considered a necessity, as unchecked pest and disease problems can wreak havoc on the entire crop of plants.
Improve Air Flow
Marijuana plants uptake carbon monoxide and release oxygen and excess water vapor through their stomata, found on the leaves. Pruning the plants to increase airflow to all areas, facilitating gas and vapor exchange to increase plant vigor.
Risks of Pruning Marijuana Plants
Pruning also comes with certain risks, especially for the uninitiated. It’s best to learn all about pruning first before giving it a shot, focusing on common problems to learn from others’ mistakes.
Over-pruning your Blue God or Orange Bud marijuana plants or choosing the wrong leaves and branches to trim off can hinder plant growth and reduce yields. It’s best for novice growers to start off slow, only pruning dying or diseased branches and those found too close together or too close to the ground.
Susceptibility to Disease
Cutting off branches leaves plants with what are essentially open wounds, leaving them more susceptible to disease transmission. Make sure all equipment used for pruning is thoroughly sterilized between uses to avoid increasing the risk of disease transmission. It’s also important to ensure that pest problems are under control before pruning the plants, as many harmful insects flock to plants that have been weakened due to acute damage.
Pruning at the Wrong Time
Only prune your medical marijuana plants during the vegetative phase. Pruning during the flowering phase can cause the plants to begin producing new vegetative growth, taking resources away from developing buds, and reducing the size and quality of growers’ yields.
How to Prune Marijuana Plants
Before getting started, find a pair of sharp, high-quality pruning shears. Some growers keep multiple pairs of shears on hand, including heavy-duty shears for cutting larger branches and clippers or scissors for cutting off small branches and leaves. Sterilize the equipment in advance and make sure it is sharp enough to make clean cuts.
Start with Large Branches
Start by pruning large branches at the bottom of the plant and those growing up into the middle of the plant beneath its canopy. They won’t receive enough sunlight to produce fully developed buds. If any large branches are dying or diseased, they also need to be removed.
Cut Off Dying or Damaged Leaves
After cutting off larger branches that are receiving too much shade, growers should take the time to examine their plants and remove any dying or damaged leaves and small branches. Growers should also use this time with their plants as an opportunity to check for pests, disease, soil issues, and nutrient deficiencies. If serious pest problems are present, growers can either remove the individual insects or entire leaves, disposing of them as far away from the garden as possible.
After pruning the plant, make sure to give it plenty of water. Watering immediately after pruning can reduce shock to the plant and stimulate new growth. For maximum results, include a small amount of plant food when watering. It may take a few days for plants to recover, but successful pruning should lead to a new burst of growth in the coming week. Pay attention during this time to see how your Auto Lemon Haze plant responds.
When to Prune
Knowing when to prune a plant is just as important as knowing how to prune it correctly. Both THC and CBD strain Growers can start pruning their plants during the second or third week of the vegetative phase. By this time, the plants should have multiple internodes.
Skilled growers often trim their plants once a week throughout the vegetative phase. They never remove more than a quarter of the new shoots and they always leave some of the older leaves and twigs because fully grown leaf surfaces produce a lot of the sugars required to facilitate growth.
Stick to a weekly pruning schedule throughout the vegetative phase. Once growers transition their plants over to the flowering stage, it’s time to stop trimming off vegetative growth. Don’t prune anything other than inactive bud sites after the first two weeks of flowering.
Advanced Pruning Techniques
Simple pruning techniques can improve plant health and increase yields, but serious growers may want to look into more advanced pruning techniques that make even more efficient use of light, nutrients, and space. Advanced techniques include topping, fimming, lollipopping, and supercropping. These techniques can cause significant damage to the plants, so they should only be used in pest-free environments and should only be practiced on healthy plants.
Topping is a technique designed to maximize plants’ access to light. If performed correctly, it can create bushier plants with more branches, more leaves, and bigger buds. It can slow plant growth, leading to smaller colas, but the collective yields taken from topped plants are typically much larger than those taken from unaltered plants.
To top marijuana plants, cut off the main shoot growing from the top of the plant when it is less than ten inches tall. This will stimulate the growth of more shoots and branches and affect the plant’s overall shape, creating a downward-facing cone. The plant will produce more colas and its leaves, shoots, and buds will all have better access to light, producing better yields at the end of the season.
Topping can be especially helpful for indoor growers with limited vertical space. Instead of continuing to grow upward, the plants will start branching out and becoming wider. Growers can top their plants multiple times, but they should only cut the latest shoots and should leave at least a few days between pruning sessions so the plants can recover.
Fimming is similar to topping, but it involves only the partial removal of the plant’s latest shoot. Like topped plants, fimmed plants grow wider and can absorb more light than unaltered plants. Most growers find that fimming is more useful outdoors.
To fim a plant, find the latest shoot and cut it two-thirds of the way down, removing the leaves but leaving the stems in place. The middle of the cut shoot will form two new petioles, axils, and, eventually, main buds. If performed correctly, fimming can increase cola production by a factor of four.
It’s best to fim smaller plants. Fimming a huge, heavy plant can lead it to split under its own weight. Growers who are determined to fim their older, larger plants can strengthen the plant with tape beneath the cut to prevent splitting, but they should never use this technique more than a week into the flowering phase.
Lollipopping is an advanced defoliation technique designed to produce bigger colas. It involves removing the most shaded parts of the plant, forcing it to focus on developing large colas with dense buds by eliminating competing growth. Lollipopping also increases airflow to the bottom parts of the plant significantly, helping to reduce humidity buildup and lowering the risk of mold and fungal infections.
The best time to lollipop plants is around two weeks before they enter the flowering phase. This gives the plants time to recover from the defoliation before they begin producing buds. Most growers agree that lollipopping should only be performed during the vegetative phase, but some still perform light maintenance during the early flowering phase. This can include pruning branches that haven’t reached the canopy and removing tiny popcorn buds.
Growers can lollipop their plants either from the top down or the bottom up. To remove the leaves using the top-down strategy, just grasp the stem between a thumb and a forefinger and use a sharp, clean blade to remove the leaves from the stem.
Bottom-up lollipopping places less stress on the plant, but it requires some maintenance as the plant grows. Remove one stem or leaf at a time and keep the bottom third of the plant’s stems free of any growth throughout the vegetative phase.
Additional Advanced Cultivation Techniques
Not all advanced cultivation techniques require pruning the plant. High-stress training (HST) techniques like super cropping and monster cropping can be just as beneficial as advanced pruning techniques, but they come with similar levels of risk. They involve intentionally injuring the plants to cause them to rebuild stronger, thicker stems and can be combined with the advanced pruning techniques described above for maximum effectiveness.
How to Super Crop Plants
Start by selecting a long branch. Gently squeeze the branch to crush the inside of the stem, then bend it in the desired direction and secure it. Be careful not to break the branches. Supercropped branches may wilt some directly afterward but they will heal with time.
How to Monster Crop Plants
Monster cropping is an HST technique designed specifically for clones. All growers need to do is take clones off a flowering marijuana plant, then root them. This will cause the clones to reenter the vegetative stage, putting off the harvest but eventually creating super-bushy plants that will produce prolifically.
The Bottom Line
Novice growers may want to stick to simple pruning techniques like removing dying leaves and branches that don’t get enough sun. This helps to keep the plants healthy. More advanced pruning and cultivation techniques are riskier, but they can dramatically increase yields. When in doubt, start by trying out a new technique on just a few plants and get the technique down before applying it to the full crop.