Pruning Marijuana Plants - When And How To Prune

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Pruning Marijuana Plants

Pruning Marijuana Plants

If you do it right, pruning your valuable marijuana plants can lead to a much higher yield. It’s one step more advanced than the basics of giving the plants life and keeping them happy and healthy. It is not something to be done without much thought, planning, or understanding. If you don’t fully know what you’re doing, don’t prune at all.

Some experienced growers will actually never prune their plants. Their philosophy is more about allowing nature to do its thing. They have a good point – without pruning, they are probably doing quite well as marijuana farmers and are completely avoiding the risks that come with pruning.

That being said, pruning in a controlled, moderate way can be extremely useful. When done correctly, pruning in this way can be a crucial way of getting the healthiest, best growing plants with the most THC in your final product.

In this article, we will equip you with the knowledge you need to properly (and safely) prune your marijuana plants. Keep reading and learn to prune like a pro!

Pruning basics

Pruning basics cannabis

By definition, pruning marijuana is simply the process of clipping pieces of a plant off. If the grower can remove these pieces in small and specific amounts, they will actually achieve a stronger plant. Especially when taking off parts of the plant that are already dead (such as discolored leaves), it can be compared to removing dead tissue from a human’s wound.

The death of a certain amount of leaves is a normal part of a marijuana plant’s life cycle, and their swift removal could save your plant the resources that are being wasted on dying limbs. These leaves don’t die quickly, so by clipping their stems early, you might be saving your plant weeks of extra effort. These resources are then focused on more important things, like the still-healthy leaves on the plant, or growing brand new leaves. Because of a more efficient use of resources, the end result will be a larger, healthier plant.

Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link for more pruning techniques

Pruning also encourages new branches to grow on your plants. Once your plant begins having a pair of leaves sprouting from the very top on a daily basis, the topmost leaf will grow some new branches. That’s good news because more branches mean a higher yield. One way of pruning, you may want to consider is, once these new branches start sprouting leaves, removing the original shade leaves from which they grew. They will yellow and die eventually anyway, so by removing them earlier you can allow your plant to focus its valuable resources on other things. Removing these leaves also provides more sunlight to the smaller leaves closer to the base of the plant, which gets them to grow faster and produce more chlorophyll.

You can also take away the plant’s top, as well as the ends of its branches. This will also help to stimulate branch growth. When you cut off the end of a branch, the growth there will slow down for a while, but then two new branches will come out from that spot. It can lead to bushier plants with more branches – and, therefore, more leaves. Some people prefer not to do it since it slows down growth to a certain extent.

You will need to decide which of the following pruning methods will be best for you. Each one comes with its own set of challenges and benefits, so choose carefully. You can also sometimes use more than one method together to form a combined plan of sorts. Keep reading to learn the advantages of using certain pruning techniques.


Topping cannabis plant

Topping marijuana plants involves cutting off the main shoot at the top, thus stimulating the growth of more shoots and branches. Over time, it will turn the plant’s overall shape into a downward-facing cone, which will help your plant maximize the sunlight that it receives. This is especially important if you have a grow room indoors since your light is limited (and expensive) compared to natural sunlight.

You can decide to start topping as soon as your plant seems strong enough. Check for the secondary growth that is located near the low nodes – this is a reliable sign that your plant can withstand topping. After your plant’s fifth leaf pair has popped up, you can safely cut off then main stalk. Read the article Topping marijuana plants for more information

Take note: topping should not be combined with super cropping.

Super cropping

Super cropping cannabis pruning

The basic idea behind super cropping is crushing the stem’s soft interior. When done correctly, super cropping should stimulate health, bring a higher yield, and increase potency. Just like with any injury, animal or plant, breaking the tissue down will cause it to be rebuilt more strongly. When you crush the inside of the stem (which is where nutrients and water are transported), it will be rebuilt thicker and stronger, allowing for even more efficient transport for these key elements.

The whole plant will become healthier if you pinch the center stem. If you pinch the branches on the side, you can control the shape of your plant. You can simply (and gently) bend the branch in whatever direction you want it to grow.

The best time to carry out super cropping is the second or third week of your plant’s vegetation stage. Simply pinch and twist the branch simultaneously between your thumb and pointer finger, and bend the branch (without breaking it). Let it go as soon as you’ve felt it give way; even if it droops a bit, it will heal in time. Read the article Super cropping marijuana plants for more info

Low stress training

Low stress training cannabis pruning

The letters “LST” stand for “Low Stress Training.” Topping and super cropping are methods that can be considered opposite – they are High Stress Training or HST. LST is a safer option than HST since HST actually damages the plant at first. That being said, you can combine topping and LST training nicely (although plenty of successful growers choose the LST-only route and don’t do any topping at all).

LST is a type of pruning (or, more accurately, a type of training) that involves tying down your marijuana plant, thus stimulating the growth of all the shoots newly placed above the main stalk. This is because your plant has been tricked into thinking it no longer has a main shoot, meaning it prioritizes its resources into growing its other stems faster. This will allow your plant to become denser and bushier. The key thing to remember with this method is to never rush. This is a technique that takes time and patience, and anyone who tries to do it too quickly will have poor results.

There are many other techniques out there for savvy growers, so if you are interested you should do some more research to find out what the perfect pruning technique is for you. There are also other ways of “training” your plant that could come in handy, so make sure you know all of your options before beginning. Read the article Low stress training marijuana plants for more info

Monster cropping

Monster cropping weed plants

Monster Cropping (a.k.a. flowering clones) is new method of growing that one of our members brought to my attention. Monster Cropping essentially involves taking clones from flowering marijuana plants, and then rooting those clones. They will reenter vegetative state and eventually create super-bushy plants with a large amount of nodes and branches. This method was dubbed “Monster Cropping,” because that’s exactly what you’ll end up with—huge, monster plants.

Flowering plants typically aren’t a source for clones, and most experts will tell you that it goes against most rules of cannabis cultivation. Even so, the science behind Monster Cropping is legitimate, and you will certainly enjoy the results. Read the article Monster cropping marijuana plants for more info


Overpruning cannabis plants

Plenty of new, excited growers make the mistake of overpruning their cannabis plants. This can often happen because these new growers want to take off as many THC-filled leaves as possible, even before harvest time. It’s true that you will probably get more enjoyment from it than from buying a bag of pot in the meantime, but you must proceed with caution. Remember: the best weed won’t come until it’s actually harvest time. You must not do anything that could slow down growth and reduce the productivity of the flowering stage.

There are a few things to avoid when you are pruning your plants. First of all, if there are no branches growing out of a leaf’s basal stem, never cut that leaf off. Don’t strip one branch or stalk of all its leaves. When pruning, don’t tear a leaf away with your hands; rather, cut them with scissors or a knife (make sure your tool of choice is quite sharp before use, check these pruning tools). It is also important to remember to water your plant immediately after pruning it. It will reduce the amount of shock to your plant, and will stimulate growth. This will be especially effective if you include plant food when watering. If you follow this advice, you will be able to prune in a productive, helpful way rather than harming your plant or slowing down its growth.

Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link for more pruning techniques

Unfortunately, any leaves that you prune when your plants are less than 3 months old will not be very smokable. This may feel like a waste, but remember that the point of pruning is not to have an early stock of weed, but rather to improve your overall yield in the end. The reason your plants won’t have enough THC until they are three months old is for an ingenious reason. In general, leaf-eating bugs typically start becoming active (and hungry) roughly three months into the growing season. Because THC repels insects, this is around the time when marijuana plants need to have lots of THC to keep those hungry bugs away. Therefore, they increase their levels of THC around the three-month mark.

If you are really curious and impatient, you can go ahead and try smoking some leaves earlier than mid-July, but don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t end with a successful high. You will, therefore, have to throw away most leaves that you prune, but make sure you do even that with care. Burning is the best option, since it won’t leave any evidence of your marijuana possession.

If you are planning on jumping into the growing scene without proper research, be very aware of the fact that there is no guarantee for success.  Sometimes even a fully mature marijuana plant’s buds won’t have enough THC to achieve a high. This will only occur when the plants are improperly tended, so as long as you do the proper research and tend your plants responsibly, it should not happen to you. If you want to be extremely cautious, you should only prune the leaves that already look unhealthy. If they are turning yellow or have brown tips, if their lobes are partially eaten, and if they are withered at all, you can (and should) safely remove those leaves. When the bases of leaves have branches coming out of them, you can remove those leaves. Always begin with leaves that are the highest up, as this will encourage smaller leaves down below to speed up their growth.

Responsible, strategic pruning will allow your plant to enhance its ability to produce THC and repel insects. It will increase your yield in the end, and could provide you with some weed to smoke in the meantime. All in all, when done responsibly, pruning your plants could be a very wise decision for you.

Thanks for reading. Please leave comments or questions below and don’t forget to download my free grow bible


Comment Section

45 thoughts on “Pruning Marijuana Plants

By Steve on 26 August 2013

Excellent article, just what I needed to know. Thanks.

By [email protected] on 27 March 2014

great info!!!! I might be crazy but i never top my plants.

By Marilyn Olsen on 3 June 2015

The information you offer is the most concise that I have found! But, again, it’s called “weed” for a reason. I am growing plants that come from 40-year-old seeds and they are in the flowering stage. I followed your ‘lighting” information and that certainly helps, but my plants get their light from the sun that pours onto the windowsill. I’m a newbe, so wish me luck!

By Jennifer ILGM on 3 June 2015

Marilyn, thanks for sharing. Good luck and keep us posted!

By Debbie on 15 June 2015

Your tips are awesome and I couldn’t do what Im doing with out you! thanks! Debbie

By Kelsey on 18 July 2015

I’ve been wanting to grow for a while and this has just what I need to hopefully get beautiful healthy buds… thank you!

By MJCTHC1 on 2 August 2015

I always thought you could combine topping and super-cropping, why do you recommend against it?, thanks in advance.

By Dick on 5 August 2015

I would just like to add that smoking leaves is not a good idea. You’ll get a pretty gnarly headache and except for the sugar leaves, which are covered in trichs and is where most cannabinoids and such are located, the leaves don’t contain much THC. Letting your plant fill out trimming what is necessary for light penetration to bud sites and then just using all your trim, including the leaves, to make butter or oil would probably be your best bet if you’d like to get the most from your plants. Lots of other good info though.

By jessica on 10 October 2015

Hi so I pinched the top of my plant in its early stage causing it to fork into two shoots. When it went into 12/12 my porch light was left on and caused the back half of my plant to go in to 12/12 two weeks late. I’m just wondering can I harvest one of the shoots and let the other shoot grow or will that send it into shock? What is my best option to harvest? Thanks.

By latewoodl on 15 October 2015

That would definitely shock the plant. It also sounds like you would be harvesting part of the plant prematurely. Not a good idea really. Hope this helps.

Perhaps you would enjoy our Support Forum. Join up and experience a friendly grow community with many helpful experts and contributing members. 🙂

By Denise on 28 October 2015

Hi Robert, I just want to say thank you for taking the time to share with all of us your wisdom! My daughter and I have just begun to grow and she is quite a bit more knowledgeable than I am but this is both our first time growing. Naturally we have been given advice from others, read all kinds of stuff on the internet, and have gone by what my daughter has brought in from a friend or two that grows, (that being her source of knowledge). The more I read and hear from people, the more confused I seem to be. Until now! I found you, of course on line so I started reading and what I was reading I understood! Needless to say, my quest for finding info on a topic I know absolutely nothing about has ended here with you. I find your articles and how to’s not only interesting but informative and easy to follow. We have done many things the wrong way, this being our first grow, but I am very confident that our next one is going to be much, much better, and I thank you. I look forward to your next email.
Stay cool! Sincerely, Denise

By Jennifer ILGM on 2 November 2015

Hi Denise, Thanks for sharing. Welcome to the ILGM grow community and be sure to join our grow support forum. You can learn a lot there from expert en fellow growers

By cher on 8 January 2016

Excellent knowledge for a novice grower so THANKFUL that you took the time to write and share thanks again

By Jay Campbell on 14 January 2016

I’m a new grower and have 2 growing atm. 1 plant I thought I’d made a mistake and I actually realized I topped the plant! This one I’m growing in a great soil mixture. The other I have only tipped the top after 5 branches and it is much bushier. This one I’m growing in coco fibre and perlite and using a 3 stage fertilizer. I also on both plants have removed only 2 lower branches. At night I use red and blue led lights. It will be interesting seeing the difference. As a newbie am I doing the right thing. Happy growing guy’s and girl’s.

By Brian on 19 February 2016

Noticed theres nothing saying to not prune or top while flowering.
Im 2 weeks into flower gonna prune and top tonight! Wish me luck!

By Bcbuddy on 19 February 2016

Reading your article on monster cropping by cloning flowering plants, my grow buddies and I have been doing that for many years, rooting results can be an issue, we also have been re-growing harvested plants. We leave a bit of leaf and some small lower buds and usually they will show new growth in a few days under 20 hours of light. They are truly monster plants the second time through the grow cycle. They already have a good root system and they grow very well. Is this a common practice or are we unique.

By latewood.ILGM on 19 February 2016


It is not uncommon at all to re-vegitate plants. I have done it with great success. The only difference between your method and mine is: I leave them in the flower room and reveg under 12/12. I get good results every time. 12-14 hours of light allow for much stronger rooting; FYI. Thanks for sharing

By Gene on 19 February 2016

Remember were the student’s to the most unique plant ever and its Rare to find a post on re veging ..I have to say it’s the most unique gift for indoor growers we can’t ignore. .Its great for cloning and reflowering plants again instead of starting over with seeds..This is a must for all to learn. .Especially were its frowned and not allowed. .Knowing its a female why not re veg. .She is unique and deserves more credit ..

By Brian finney on 20 February 2016

OK so all that did was confuse me because I’m allways pruning for a higher yield. I don’t cut off the original huge fan leaves the leaves I prune r the leaves on the bud stems so this way u have your main bud on etch stem & all the smaller nugz below the main bud on that stem. If I don’t do this pruning method I wouldn’t get nearly as much yield. So this article is telling me not to prune off the leaves on the bud stems & cut off the main huge fan leaves ???

By latewood.ILGM on 22 February 2016


Sorry to say; I don’t have an answer for you. Removing dead leaves is prudent; It is not a good idea to remove healthy leaves. No confusion. Fact

By Robert on 22 February 2016

Beginners at growing, we have started by cloning and they are growing very well. Keep this information coming the articles are educational and very helpful. We just tipped the new plants and already have new shoots emerging, approx., 4 or 5 new stems on each. Not sure what nugz stands for, but following you suggestions seems to be enhancing the growth. Thanks you.

By Jennifer ILGM on 23 February 2016

Hi Robert, that’s great, keep us posted we love the hear from fellow growers.

By Kris on 24 February 2016

Nugz = nuggets = bud, nothing but an acronym.

By Betty on 31 July 2016

Hi! Thank you so much for your great information, very helpful. I’m in my second year growing, going for the CBD side of things. Growing these beautiful plants with your advice is fun.

By Roy ILGM on 1 August 2016

Good to hear you’re enjoying the process Betty and we’re glad to have helped!

By Abbott on 11 August 2016

I could use a calendar to track my plants’ progress and needs. When should I be doing what and what should I expect week to week and month to month?
All your seeds did very well, but for operator error. My first grow will produce an excellent supply through the winter and I will try a few different strains next time around. Your advice is invaluable. Thank you.

By Roy ILGM on 11 August 2016

Thanks for the suggestion Abbott! We’ll def look into it. Good to hear your first grow went well!!

By latewood.ILGM on 11 August 2016


Best way to keep up with your plant would be to join our support forum and start a grow journal. This way you will always have reference to your grows. Hopew to see you there! 🙂 lw

By Steve on 9 October 2016

Great read, but one thing I would like to know is how often can I pinch the tops of the branches .

By latewood.ILGM on 11 October 2016


I suggest you join our support forum. We have many knowledgeable growers that practice this technique and can help you better there. One thing to note; You do not want to over stress your plants, so exercise patience and do not go overboard with techniques like this.

Happy growing! lw

By Jimmy A Durham on 10 November 2016

Hi Latewood,,,This is for information purposes,,not meant to be contrary..
First Let Me Say.. I live in Colombia,,Very close to the equator,,at a altitude of 4000 feet..My daylight hours are constant at 12/12..My average temperatures are 65 F to highs of 81/82..I am a new grower having one harvest under my belt..
I made all the least I don’t think I missed any..
After reading a lot and researching on the internet ,, I later tried pruning,,and because of ignorance I pruned very much and often,, I had one sativa plant that I pruned six or seven times..always leaving on all the fan leaves that I could,,It was heavy with buds also..I tried to cut only the buds..The plant responded instantly by providing new flower at the bud cut site..I harvested a lot of cannabis from that plant..
Yes ,I do live in a nearly perfect location,,and I sure that this contributed greatly to the yield..I’m now into my third grow,,,and seven plants growing..I hard pruned all of them several times,,often twice a day..clipping new flower locations at every junction….all are sativa and the plants respond by making two new shoots at the cut..Again I do not mean to be critical or argumentative…I’m just passing along “My Learin’s “

By Coffy on 28 October 2016

I thank you for such welcoming information. I’m not new to growing weed. I don’t have the luxury of special strains. Mostly regular seeds.I get a lot from your articles.

By Roy ILGM on 31 October 2016

Glad to help out Coffy! 😀

By Tamas on 28 October 2016

I find that the leaves make a good mix instead of throwing them out.

By latewood.ILGM on 28 October 2016


We appreciate your kind words. Robert set up a pretty cool place. If you like the articles here, you should join our support forum. We have a friendly community with helpful knowledgeable growers always sharing information. 😀

By Jag907 on 3 November 2016

Robert said something very true about beginners and pretty much just being there for your babies will make all the difference in how they turn out I appreciate all the knowledge thank you

By Jag907 on 3 November 2016

My very first grow I didn’t get much but the quality was outstanding

By Jag907 on 3 November 2016

Probably because I took very good care of them

By Roy ILGM on 4 November 2016

It works! You can get far with just a little basic knowledge and care.

By 5evcenko on 29 November 2016

it is not good idea to smoke leaves, but article is helpuful

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