By definition, pruning a cannabis plant is simply the process of trimming off its unwanted parts. It allows your plant's bud sites to absorb more light and makes more room for them to grow. In a way, pruning is similar to grooming, where you remove the growing tip of your plant when it grows too tall and starts to get leggy.
Some leaves will wither off and fall during your cannabis plant's life cycle, but this process will take time. Therefore, by clipping the leaves early, you'll save your plant from wasting much-needed resources on dying limbs.
Pruning marijuana plants is reasonably straightforward, but it takes some dedication to use the right tools, timing, and energy.
Here are pruning tips and tricks that will help you increase yield and promote lateral branching.
Why Should You Prune Marijuana Plants?
Pruning is among the most efficient ways of manipulating and directing the growth of a marijuana plant. It removes dead and dying stubs and branches that block sunlight from reaching budding flowers.
That way, your plant will be able to focus its energy on more important things like strengthening and nourishing the remaining buds and leaves. Because of the more effective use of resources, the outcome will be quality flowers and healthier plants.
What's more, pruning promotes greater airflow, fosters a more vibrant crop, and develops more cannabinoid-rich buds. Your plant can now produce more chlorophyll and grow faster.
Pruning also encourages your cannabis plant to produce new branches. Once it starts having leaves emerging from the very top, the uppermost leaf will develop new branches.
So long as you wait until your plant is mature enough before you begin pruning, it keeps producing new leaves and nodes. This is good news since more branches result in a higher yield.
When Should You Prune Marijuana?
Pruning is mainly done during the vegetative growth stage before the cannabis plant is mature enough to flower. You can typically start thinking about trimming two weeks after planting. At that time, the plant will be approximately 3o centimeters tall with several internodes.
Because growth continues up to the third week of flowering, pruning your plants during the second week gives them time to recover. If you have an Indica plant, consider waiting for one more week since its growth rate is slightly lower than Sativa.
It would be best if you didn't prune your plants when they're approaching the flowering stage, as it might delay the flowering process or prevent it altogether. However, you can trim damaged or dead plant tissues throughout the vegetative and flowering cycles.
Yellow and brown tissues leave room for microorganisms and pests to invade your plant. So, clip such leaves whenever you spot them to ensure they don't fall and get absorbed into the growing medium.
How to Prune Cannabis Plants
First and foremost, ensure you buy the necessary equipment before you prune marijuana plants. You'd be better off purchasing at least two pairs of scissors, either Chikamasas or Fiskars. It would help if you also had different cutting tools to conduct various pruning tasks.
Remember, the pruning process requires a sharpened and clean pair of shears. So, make sure you sterilize your tools to prevent transferring pathogens directly to your plants.
Sharp shears are essential as they make clean, swift snips that heal quickly and won't cause damage to your plant. Once you sharpen and sanitize your shears, you're ready to begin.
To be highly cautious, don't prune your plant's leaves unless they already look unhealthy. That said, safely remove leaves whose lobes are partially eaten or those that have brown tips.
Here are some of the standard pruning techniques.
Topping is one of the most effective ways to maximize your cannabis plant's access to sunlight. This is important, especially if you carry out indoor planting. It involves cutting off your plant's main shoot at the top, thereby stimulating the growth of more branches and shoots.
Seedlings are a bit different so give yours time to grow and develop at least four to five internodes before topping. It's best to carry out topping during the growing phase and, at the latest, in week one of flowering.
Wait until your seeded plant takes root properly and starts producing sets of fan leaves. Otherwise, you might end up shocking your plant or slow down the growth process. This makes the entire practice a waste of time and your plant's resources.
Benefits of Topping
Topping marijuana plants help diffuse hormones throughout the plant's branches, encouraging them to grow more vigorously. Besides giving your cannabis a bushy profile, you can use this technique to fill out your grow space.
The number one benefit of topping plants is the incredible yield potential it unlocks. Besides, you can combine topping and other pruning techniques such as lollipopping to produce massive harvests of top-shelf colas.
Another benefit that comes with topping is it promotes an even canopy. Instead of growing vertically, topped plants focus on lateral growth. However, it doesn't wholly curb vertical growth; it only slows it down.
Some growers opt to continue with this technique to enhance yields further. Most of them make further cuts on top of each branch's second or third node for even bushier plants. If you're a first-timer, consider stopping after making the first cut and then wait for results.
Recovery tip: As you top your plants, keep in mind that they need a minimum of one to two week recovery period. Give your plants time to heal before you proceed with the process to encourage more colas. Fortunately, you can speed up your plant's recovery by feeding them a light dose of vitamin B and nutes immediately after topping.
Fimming pruning technique is the partial removal of a plant's latest shoot. Once done, this method creates four primary buds on your plant instead of just one. Compared to a typical plant, a fimmed plant is much broader but not as tall.
Because fimming exposes more leaves to the light, they'll absorb enough light. As such, your plants will produce more leaves, become more expansive, and produce a greater yield. This technique is beneficial outdoors.
It's the secret behind the most gigantic and healthy outdoor plants featured in displays and adverts. Unlike in typical plants, less energy will be lost as very few light rays will miss the leaves and hit the ground.
Although you can fim multiple times, remember to leave some time in between the sessions for recovery. It's wise to fim during the growing phase or within the first week of flowering. Otherwise, your plant won't get enough time to grow wider, thus entirely defeating the purpose.
Lollipopping cannabis plants is an effective pruning technique that works better through pinching with fingers than cutting plant parts using scissors. Unlike the other two methods, you'll have to wait until flowering to begin pruning.
Here, you'll remove your plant's lower growth to encourage better bud development at the top. By stripping away the competing growth, your marijuana plants redirect energy to the primary bud sites. You'll also give your plant a dank green lollipop look, hence the name lollipopping.
This technique is helpful, especially in setups that lack side lighting, meaning light can't reach the lower sections of the plants. By lollipopping your plant during the third or fourth week of the bloom cycle, you'll improve both the quantity and the quality of main kola sites.
Top-quality, fewer leaves will develop, and fatter flowers will sprout. There are two ways of lollipopping your plants; make your choice on which technique to apply based on your desired results.
a) Top Down Lollipopping
Contrary to most growers' opinion, the top down technique is quite a straightforward process. Choose a point that's approximately four nodes down from your plant's growing tip (or anywhere you'd like the canopy growth to start), then strip the main stem's growth below that point.
To safely and effectively remove the growth, hold the main stem between your thumb and forefinger then slide downwards. Although it's a simple procedure, be careful not to cause undue damage to the main stem.
b) Bottom Up Lollipopping
The bottom-up method is one of the most common ways of lollipopping cannabis plants. To do this technique, start at the bottom and slide upwards. Eliminate any short main lateral branches and their leaves.
In the end, nearly the bottom third of your plant should be free from any growth. Remember, this technique needs some maintenance pruning as the plant grows.
Some of the benefits of lollipopping include improved air circulation, larger colas, energy conservation, and the best part of it all, a higher yield.
Prune Your Cannabis Plants Today for Maximum Yield
As you can see, pruning marijuana plants doesn't have to be difficult as long as you know what you're doing. Whether you try your hand at topping or remove a few dying leaves, your plant will benefit from that extra attention.
Just ensure you don't stress out the branches and stems too much. As you enhance your skill, you'll learn how to leverage these techniques to produce bigger, healthier, and more potent harvests.