Whether you’re growing cannabis outdoors or indoors, in a small garden or a large grow room, the process of plant training is one that every cultivator should know. There are two types of training techniques:
According to the experts, implementing LST and HST techniques may boost crop yields by up to 40%. Plant training is one of the easiest ways to improve your ROI, and best of all, you won’t have to spend thousands on different lighting or extra automation equipment.
Have you ever cultivated Northern Lights or Panama strain cannabis and allowed the plants to grow wild? If so, you may have noticed that these plants typically take on a shape resembling that of a Christmas tree. While this shape is ideal for plants that receive sunlight each day, it’s not well-suited to plants grown indoors. In this guide, you’ll learn the benefits of cannabis plant training, as well as the most common training techniques.
When a grower uses high- or low-stress training methods, they aim to change the plants’ chemical balance. As cannabis grows in the wild, it produces a cola or central bud that reaches as high as possible in search of light. While this may create tall plants, the cola usually produces a poor yield and lower-quality flower. The sun provides plenty of natural light, but those expensive HPS or LED bulbs are nearly useless if they’re not placed the correct distance above the plants.
In marijuana plants, a hormone known as auxin affects growth. This hormone is found at the top of a plant, which means most of that plant’s growth is directed upward via the main stalk. When you use the training techniques we’re about to discuss, upward growth is limited. Your OG Kush x Mazar and Lavander strain plants will instead grow outward, which usually means more plentiful and potent buds.
Thanks to the phenomenon of phototropism—which happens when a plant responds to light stimuli—parts that were previously shaded will begin producing growth hormones. From there, the apex of the plant will grow toward the light, while lower branches will gain more light exposure. Once a sativa or indica plant’s secondary branches have developed, they can be trained. Depending on the number of plants in the garden, you can direct energy to the tertiary branches or start the flowering process.
Most cultivators begin training their pot plants once they’ve developed three to six pairs of leaves or nodes. At such an early developmental stage, a plant’s stem is pliable enough to be bent without breaking. However, as a plant ages, its stem will thicken and grow harder, making training more difficult.
It’s possible to train secondary and tertiary branches as a cannabis plant grows, and with LST, it’s possible to train a plant throughout the flowering stage. LST is a great way to keep plants’ height under control, whereas pruning would delay maturity, slow the plants’ development, and put them under enormous stress.
It’s important to keep in mind that all HST methods involve some level of damage to the plant. By stressing the plants, there’s always a risk of permanent damage or a decreased crop yield. Generally, high-stress training techniques are more appropriate for large outdoor gardens, and they have fewer supply requirements than their low-stress counterparts.
Many growers attempt the super cropping method at the beginning of the flowering stage. Other techniques should be tried only during the vegetative phase. It may take a few days for the plants to fully recover, so performing a high-stress training technique in the middle of flowering isn’t a good idea.
Try one or more of the following HST techniques to increase the quantity and quality of your next harvest.
Topping is one of the simplest high-stress training techniques, but you’ll need long nails (or a sharp knife) to do it properly. Topping involves damaging a young plant in a way that induces it to produce more bud sites. As the name implies, the top of the plant is removed during this process. When topping is done correctly, the topmost buds will develop into new branches and new growth will emerge at the bottom of the plant. It’s best to stop the practice a week or more before the plants begin to flower, but the process can be repeated multiple times before then.
Stem mutilation or super cropping is much like low-stress training, but it presents a slightly more aggressive strategy. Rather than holding the top of a plant down, bend the main stalk until its fibers fold over. Don’t tear the skin of the stalk or snap it completely. To perform this process correctly, choose the breaking point before squeezing and rolling the stem. The stalk will gradually weaken before it breaks down and falls over. Do it right, and the remainder of the plant will gain more light exposure.
Fimming is a more advanced topping method. Here, a certain part of the top of a plant is removed. When this happens, it’s possible to produce four branches rather than two. Fimming increases the chances of a big reward, but it also increases the risk level. Pest and germ infections are a big possibility, especially when the stalk isn’t cut cleanly.
Manifolding occurs when plants are topped twice in a certain way. When it’s done properly, it’s possible to train the plants significantly within a short time. Manifolding allows for bigger, more uniform growth than with other training methods, but this practice can extend the harvest time by up to two weeks.
Defoliation involves the removal of a plant’s largest fan leaves. Ideally, this method should be attempted during the vegetative phase, but it can be done during the first few weeks of the flowering stage to induce the growth of additional bud sites. Strip the fan leaves as your Gorilla Glue x Zkittlez plants enter the flowering stage and do it again two weeks later. When it’s properly timed, defoliation can bring about a big growth spurt.
Now that you’ve learned the most common high-stress training techniques, we’ll discuss LST for cannabis plants.
Low-stress training or LST techniques tend to be more complex and time-consuming than their HST counterparts. However, these methods allow growers to boost yields without subjecting their medicinal plants to undue stress. Because these techniques are so gentle, it’s safe to perform them within the first few weeks of the flowering stage.
Aside from low-stress training, there’s the SCROG or screen of green method, which we’ll explain below. LST methods involve bending a plant’s stalk and tying down fast-growing branches. As the top of a plant is pulled into a loose ‘L’ shape, the growth hormone auxin is evenly distributed. Continue to tie down the plant’s top as it grows, and the flow of auxin will be maintained.
We suggest using special tape to tie down plant tops and branches, as duct tape and other varieties may choke the plant. The goal is to encourage the plant’s stalks to grow around the container. When this happens, more bud sites are exposed to the light. During the flowering stage, colas will grow upward from the horizontal-growing plant and they’ll be at the same level.
The Screen of Green or SCROG technique, as the name implies, requires the use of a screen. Rather than fastening down the plants’ tops and branches, simply wait for the tops to come through the screen. When this occurs, tuck the new growth back through the holes. By weaving the plants’ branches through the screen in this way, you’ll induce the growth of more colas, which will lead to a healthier and more plentiful crop of bud.
Sea of Green or SOG is quite different from SCROG, though the names sound similar. The SOG method involves the harvesting of small plants that have been intentionally stressed and matured early for accelerated bud production. More plants can be grown in the same space with SOG, and less time is required between crops.
This is one of the simplest forms of cannabis plant training, which makes it ideal for new growers and those who want to streamline the process. Start by bending a plant’s main stem at a 90-degree angle when it’s young. When this technique is done properly, a plant’s lower branches will develop into main colas. As the main stem is the only one that’s bent, no complicated techniques are required.
Though outdoor plants can be trained, indoor cultivators will find these training techniques more useful. Those who grow weed indoors prefer to train their plants to develop numerous bud sites, and this shape produces the highest possible yields when cannabis plants are under limited artificial lighting.
Though it may seem counterintuitive to intentionally stress your cannabis plants, the above training techniques will help when they’re done properly. Rather than causing permanent damage, high- and low-stress training techniques will give your plants a nudge in the right direction.