Topping cannabis plants to increase your yield: How to & why

Topping cannabis is a pruning technique that increases your flowers’ yield and quality.

However, unlike most of the pruning you do to cannabis plants, topping isn’t as necessary. However, it is recommended. 

This blog will discuss the difference between a topped plant vs non-topped plant and the benefits of topping cannabis. We’ll also discuss how to top a weed plant and what you’ll need for topping.

Differences between a topped plant vs. non-topped plant

The main difference between a topped plant vs non-topped plant is its shape.

For context, a non-topped cannabis plant is one that’s grown naturally without training, such as topping or fimming applied to it. 

A non-topped plant looks like a Christmas tree, with a main stem and lateral branches growing out of it. Meanwhile, a topped cannabis plant looks more like an umbrella.

By topping cannabis plants during their early vegetation stage, you change how they grow.

Instead of developing a single main stem where the main cola grows from, topped cannabis will have multiple main branches producing colas.  

Is it necessary to top marijuana plants?

No. Cannabis topping isn’t something you’re required to do, unlike pruning.

And although it is related to pruning, topping a cannabis plant doesn’t have the same intended effect. 

Pruning involves removing leaves that are either dead or don’t get enough light so that the plant can focus its energy on growing more important parts – such as its buds.

Topping cannabis
Topping marijuana

Pruning’s benefits include increasing airflow among your plants and preventing overcrowding in your garden, which can cause your plants to compete for light.

Topping helps increase your marijuana plant’s yield. Check out some of our high-yielding marijuana seeds!

The process of topping plants is both beneficial and recommended for growers. The main reason to top plants is to increase your overall yield

Having a plant with multiple main branches, rather than a single main stem with one cola growing on top of it, produces more colas.

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Why is topping cannabis plants important?

Outside of doubling or even quadrupling the number of colas you harvest per plant, topping adds other vital benefits to your cannabis plants. 

For instance, cannabis plants can grow quite tall; for growers that want to grow weed discreetly or don’t have enough vertical space in their indoor grow room, topping helps solve the problem.

Topping marijuana position for better results
Where to top marijuana from

Topping divides the growth to the lateral branches of your cannabis plant, causing the plant to grow horizontally rather than vertically. This practice dramatically reduces its overall height.

Topping also ensures that the branches of your plants receive equal amounts of light and have better airflow.

Download my free marijuana Grow bible find out everything about advance techniques like topping, fimming, pruning and more!

When should you top your marijuana plants?

Top your marijuana plants around 4-6 weeks. At this point, they have entered their vegetation stage, and you’ve moved them to a bigger container.

When growers are topping cannabis, their plants can handle stress well enough to recover quickly while in their vegetation stage.

You can also accurately tell when to top a weed plant once they’ve developed two to five nodes.

Many growers prefer the latter method since it’s easier to decipher and is a more accurate way of ensuring your weed plant is safe and ready for topping.

Once you’ve made your first cut, monitor your plants and let them recover for 1-2 weeks. Give the branches time to grow out and develop 2-4 nodes before topping again. 

You can repeat the process one more time to get the maximum amount of colas.

Remember to only top one to three times on a single plant and only on a strain that can handle stress well.

How to top cannabis plant
How to top marijuana plant

How to top cannabis plants

When topping cannabis, you must have a clear goal in mind.

Once your plant has developed five nodes, you can apply your initial cut, which you can do in two different ways. 

The first involves pruning only the top part above the 5th node to increase the number of colas you have on your plant.

The second method consists in cutting from the 4th or 5th node to reduce its height.

Afterward, you can choose to top again after waiting a couple of weeks for your plants to recover. It is necessary to remember that topping applies stress to your plants. 

This means topping can have the undesired effect of your plants being unable to recover from the damage or become hermaphrodites.

Be careful and choose a cannabis strain that is hardy enough to handle the stress of plant training.

Scissor for topping marijuana
Scissor for topping marijuana

Necessary equipment for topping marijuana plants

Like how you would prepare the equipment you need for trimming your buds, you also have to spend a bit of time preparing the necessary equipment when topping your plants. 

The first thing you’ll need is a pair of scissors. They must be sharp so that your cuts are clean.

If you use a blunt pair of scissors, they could damage the plants more.

Outside of being sharp, make sure your scissors are sterilized to avoid infections. 

Lastly, you need pruning sealers to patch the cut you made.

Doing this prevents infections and any opportunistic bacteria that might enter the cut you made to your cannabis plant

Fimming vs topping marijuana
Fimming vs Topping

Topping vs. Fimming

Topping isn’t the only way to get your cannabis plants to produce multiple bud sites.

‘F*ck, I missed,’ or fimming is another method that leads to more bud sites from one cut – more than what you get from topping. 

For comparison, fimming can create 3-8 new bud sites from its first cut, while topping can only create two on its initial cut.

The two methods are often confused since both techniques cut from the top of the plant.

Fimming creates more bud sites than topping cannabis because of where the cut occurs.

Topping cuts the entire new growth above the 5th node, producing two new bud sites. 

Fimming, on the other hand, cuts only the upper half of the new growths, which is why it can produce three to eight new bud sites. 

However, while fimming can create more bud sites than topping, fimmed plants have weaker branch structures compared to topped ones.

This is why you must prepare a good trellis if you plan on fimming your cannabis plants.

When it comes to topping cannabis or doing any kind of plant training, it’s never a good idea to use poor genetics.

Plant training alone will not produce more buds. 

You must purchase high-quality seeds with good genetics if you want the best results, and there’s no better source than

FAQ’s about topping cannabis plants

How long should you wait between toppings of cannabis?

To avoid overstressing your plants, you should let them recover for 1-2 weeks before topping them again. It’s also important to remember – you can only top a single plant up to 3 times. Top any more, and it will take much longer for you to harvest.

Does topping increase yield?

Topping increases the number of bud sites on a single plant that would normally have only one. Although the size of topped buds isn’t as large as non-topped buds, you would still get a considerable amount of smokable weed with topped cannabis instead of non-topped ones.

Can you top autoflowers?

Yes, but it’s not recommended unless you have a fair bit of growing experience under your belt. Autoflowers are known for how fast they grow and their tendency to flower with age. However, plant training techniques like topping need time to recover before flowering. Therefore, these techniques are risky when applied on autoflowers and may permanently damage them.

I hope this will help you get the maximum yield from your grow! Be sure to download my free Grow Bible and check in with the experts on our grow forum if you need help growing your plants.

Happy growing!


Avatar for Robert Bergman

Mr Robert Bergman PhD


Robert Bergman is an Amsterdam-based marijuana grow expert who has years of experience from small grows to massive operations ... See profile

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