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For many growers, the topic of pruning can be controversial at best. Is it worth it to prune marijuana plants? It can increase yield, so I absolutely say yes, but there are risks involved.

The thing is, pruning has many benefits, but it’s not the only way to increase yield. There are other plant training methods that you can try. The trick is finding the right one for your comfort level and doing it correctly.  

This article will discuss the various pruning methods and teach other ways to train your marijuana plants. I’ve also included a list of best practices at the bottom. Keep reading to learn if pruning is right for you.

Increase your yield with pruning techniques

Want to know one of the easiest ways to increase your yield?

It’s pruning.

Gardeners of every type prune their plants to keep them trim and tidy. For many of them, it’s simply because the plants can grow out of hand and become too difficult to deal with any other way. Plus, it has little risk since pruning is relatively harmless to the rest of the plant.

But there are more benefits to pruning:

For some plants, such as marijuana and tomatoes, pruning can also cause higher yields.

What cannabis grower wouldn’t want tidy plants with higher yields?

Pruning helps keep plants small while also optimizing it so that the bud sites receive the best light. This is especially useful for places where the laws limit the number of plants you can have. Pruning helps a grower have fewer plants while enjoying the same yields as before.

If you do it right, your valuable marijuana plants can become even more valuable.

Pruning is one step beyond the basics of giving plants life and keeping them happy and healthy. It’s not, however, for beginners.

Here’s why:

You need to give the process some thought and planning beforehand. The process of pruning marijuana plants is delicate, and you could damage your plants. If you don’t fully know what you’re doing, don’t prune at all.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to prune.

Some experienced growers never prune their plants. They prefer to let nature do its thing. This is not that bad of an idea since pruning has its risks. However, pruning in a controlled, moderate way can be extremely useful. When done correctly, you can produce the healthiest, best-growing plants with the most THC.

The basics of pruning

By definition, pruning marijuana is merely the process of clipping pieces of a plant off. If the grower can remove these pieces in small and specific amounts, the result is a stronger plant.

In a way, pruning is similar to grooming.

A certain amount of leaves will die during a marijuana plant’s life cycle. Their swift removal could keep your plant from wasting valuable resources on dying limbs. These leaves don’t die quickly, so by clipping them early, you might be saving your plant weeks of extra effort.

Removing parts of the plant that are already dead (such as discolored leaves), is like removing dead tissue from a human’s wound. It also provides more sunlight to the smaller leaves closer to the base of the plant.

The best part?

You may be helping your plant. When you prune, a plant can focus on more important things, like the still-healthy leaves, or growing brand new leaves. Your plant can grow faster and produce more chlorophyll. Because of a more efficient use of resources, the end result will be a larger, healthier plant.

Super Skunk

Pruning is really hard if you don’t have a plant growing. Be sure to visit my seed store and grab one of these awesome deals!

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 develop some new branches. As long as you wait for the plant to be mature enough before you start pruning, it will continue producing new nodes and leaves. That’s good news because more branches mean a higher yield.

How do you prune? It’s easy:

Step 1 – Select a new shoot
Step 2 – cut it off
Step 3 – pruning successful

“Sanitize clippers and blades between cuts by dipping in rubbing alcohol.”  ~ Jorge Cervantes

WHEN you prune is as important as HOW you prune

You can start thinking about pruning in the second week of the growing phase. At that time, your plant will have several internodes, and you’ll be able to see a bit how it’s growing. If you are growing an Indica plant, wait another week – they grow a bit slower than Sativas.

Since growing continues until the third week of flowering, you can prune up to the second week of flowering. This gives your plants some time to recover. They’ll always need a couple of days to recover after a pruning session.

When should you prune?

It’s even possible that they stop growing during this period because all their energy is focused on recovery. Since you want as much energy as possible to go to the buds, do not prune after the first two weeks of the flowering period.

Do not prune after the 2nd week of the flowering period.

Until then, remove about a quarter of the new side shoots every week. Be sure to leave the older leaves and twigs, because they produce a lot of sugars. You also should ensure you keep enough fully-grown leaf surface. They produce sugar and prevent light from being lost by falling to the ground.

The proper way to prune

You do not want to prune incorrectly.

When pruning, don’t tear a leaf away with your hands; instead, cut them with scissors or a knife (make sure your tool of choice is quite sharp before use, check these pruning tools).

People who prune successfully do these two things:

  • Water your plant immediately after pruning. This reduces the amount of shock to your plant while also stimulating growth.
  • Include plant food when watering

These two tips can make your pruning more productive and less likely to harm your plant or slow down its growth.

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.

You can also try removing the original shade leaves from branches that you have already pruned. It’s safe to do this after the branches begin sprouting new leaves. The old leaves 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 produces more chlorophyll.

Be sure to download my free Grow Bible for more pro grow tips

What about the leaves that you prune?

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.

This may seem like a cruel joke, but nature actually intended this.

THC is beneficial to your plant. Responsible, strategic pruning helps your plant to enhance its ability to produce THC and repel insects. Your plants don’t have much THC until they are three months old because leaf-eating bugs typically start becoming active (and hungry) roughly three months into the growing season. THC repels insects, so it is no accident that marijuana plants develop lots of THC around this time. They need it to keep those hungry bugs away.

If you are curious and impatient, you can go ahead and try smoking some of those leaves, but don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t end with a successful high. Burning is a good option since it won’t leave any evidence of your marijuana possession, but you’re better off making butter or oil out of them.

Train your plants to produce more with pruning

Simple pruning can improve your plant’s yield, but intentional, creative forms of pruning can do even more.  As a grower, you can train your plant to grow in a certain manner using pruning. This can lead to even larger yields, more efficient use of lights, lower costs and a better harvest.

Plant training by pruning proves that pruning can be much more than looks.

Here’s how it works:

  • Prune during the earlier stages of growth
  • Remove parts of the plant that are not dead
  • Force the plant to recover; it grows back stronger

“The effects of pruning are much stronger than the more subdued consequences of bending.” ~ Jorge Cervantes

There are many types of pruning techniques that will also train a marijuana plant. The most basic form, defoliation, removes some of the leaves of a plant; typically, the largest fan leaves. When this process is completed during the beginning of the flowering stage, it allows buds to grow fatter and denser. Defoliation is only appropriate for healthy plants and should only be used indoors (where the growing cycle can be controlled). This technique is simple, but still only recommended for the most advanced growers.

Other pruning training techniques include topping, fimming, and lollipopping. Topping and fimming involve the deliberate removal of the top of the plant’s stem. This will cause the plant to almost grow into two, creating multiple colas instead of one. Whereas lollipopping, on the other hand, is a more deliberate form of defoliation, removing the lower bushier growth of a plant so that it is shaped like a lollipop.

Training your plants by pruning can lead to a larger harvest with less effort.

Because training techniques like these can cause significant damage to a plant, they should only be used on healthy plants. They are also best used indoors.

Pruning can increase your yield by 25%

Training can produce amazing results, but you don’t have to train your plants to increase your yield. There are some benefits to pruning on its own. When done correctly, it can improve sugar distribution and increase your yield.

Here’s my advice:

Prune the young leaves or side shoots. The tiny buds at the bottom of the plant are a great thing to let go as they do not yield anything worthwhile and won’t grow to the size of other buds. They will use energy, however, which a waste since you won’t use them.

Beginners should not try pruning the large fan leaves. They need those leaves.

Plants produce sugar so they can grow, and a marijuana plant needs to produce a lot of it. It creates sugar by converting water, light, and CO2. This process also creates oxygen. This sugar is sent to the buds, side shoots, and young leaves because they grow quickly and use a lot of sugar. The larger, fully-developed leaves produce their sugar.

Getting high-yielding genetics obviously helps when you want a heavy yield. Be sure to check out our highest yielding strains.

You can prune without harming your plants.

Pruning does not have to be high stress. Many growers believe that extra stress will force a plant to grow faster as a way of compensating for time lost. However, there’s really not a lot of evidence to back this up and cutting up the plant too much will leave you with considerably less than you might have wanted. You don’t want to cut off more than you need to produce the desired results.

Pruning can be harmful to your plant and lower your yield if you don’t know what you are doing, so don’t if you are new to growing.

If you are new to growing (less than three times), now is not the time to start. Take some time to learn what a fully-grown plant looks like first. Look for the buds at the bottom of the plant.

If you’ve already grown a few times, try pruning a couple of plants. Don’t prune them all – that way you can compare your pruned plants to the plants you haven’t pruned.

Most importantly, don’t expect to master this technique the first time you do it. Pruning is something you do intuitively.

3 of the best pruning techniques

If you decide to train your plants by pruning, there are a lot of different methods to choose from. If you’ve already grown a few harvests, select the method that works best for you.

Each method 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.

Yield up to 5 ounces per plant with topping

Topping is typically misunderstood by most growers. However, it is a training technique worth considering.

Here’s why:

Topping helps maximize your plant’s access to sunlight. This is especially important if you have a grow room indoors since your light is limited (and expensive) compared to natural sunlight.

Topping marijuana plants involves cutting off the main shoot at the top, which stimulates the growth of more shoots and branches. Over time, it will turn the plant’s overall shape into a downward-facing cone.

Whereas a single growing shoot might produce a larger individual cola, topping the plant gives you 4 colas that can soak up the best light intensity. When you top a marijuana plant, the entire plant has access to more light.

The benefits of topping include:

  • Bigger buds
  • Bushier plants with more branches
  • More leaves

Which basically adds up to……  a higher yield.

Some growers do not like topping because it slows down growth to a certain extent or may produce smaller colas. Although individual colas might not be as large, the cumulative yield is much greater than an un-topped plant.

Seedlings and clones respond to topping differently

Topping should be done early for the least negative impact on the plant – when it is around 10 inches tall and has a few internodes is a good idea. To be honest, however, you can 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.

For clones, the earlier, the better. In fact, as soon as clones take root properly and start to grow out, you can cut out the meristem. This will cause the plant to divide into two growing shoots. The growth will slow initially, but the plant will eventually become stronger and yield more. If you top low enough, the marijuana plant will create 4 growing shoots.

Seedlings are slightly different. It’s important to let the seedling develop and grow at least 4 to 5 internodes before topping. Topping a seedling too early will shock a plant, slow down the growth process, and waste a ton of time. A seeded plant should be given enough time to take root properly and produce a few sets of fan leaves. Waiting until you see roots coming out of the drain holes is a good rule of thumb.

Download my free Grow Bible  to learn more about seedlings and clones

Although most strains take well to topping, some don’t. Really short, slowly-growing indicas like Urkle take an even longer time when topped, but the process can still yield up to 5 ounces per plant with this method. To put it plainly, all plants improve with topping, but certain slow-growing strains may take a while to mature properly. That is why you start early.

How do you top?

Here is why topping works:

A shoot grows into 2 new petioles with leaves on them. The middle of the shoot contains a new shoot, and new shoots will be formed in the axils. A shoot, therefore, consists of 2×2 leaves, crosswise against each other. By removing this, the two shoots in the axils will grow to become the main buds.

Note: After your plant’s fifth leaf pair has popped up, you can safely cut off the main shoot

Topping is especially useful if your growing room isn’t very tall. By topping your plants, they will stop growing up and start growing out. Sativas can grow very quickly and can become very tall, so it is especially useful for them. Since they don’t get very wide, you have to place many plants close to each other, to prevent wasted light. The light that doesn’t hit the leaves and falls on the ground is considered lost energy. With topping, you can leave more room between plants and still have a beautiful green blanket.

The results are often fast:

Another advantage of topping is that the plant can absorb more light. This is because it becomes wider and develops more leaves that can absorb the light. This can significantly increase yield – especially outdoors. It also applies to indoor plants, but it’s easier to use more plants to prevent light loss, rather than topping.

Topping also spreads the risk of disease. Since the process produces more main buds that are not as big, they’re not as sensitive to bud rot and/or other nasty diseases. This is mostly an advantage for outdoor plants, where growers can’t control the climate.

Some tips on topping:

When you are topping, make sure you only cut the latest shoot, so you only inflict minimal damage to the plant. It’s important to remember that your plant is damaged, so it will use its energy to heal the wound and won’t grow much for a couple of days.

You can top multiple times if you want to, but remember to leave some time in between sessions, so the plant can recover. Topping is always done during the growing phase, and possibly in the first week of flowering at the very latest. Otherwise, the plant has no time to grow wider, making the practice a waste of your time and your plant’s energy.

Topping result after 3 weeks

Again, be careful with the big, heavy plants, because there’s a chance that the plant will split in half under its own weight. It’s best to strengthen the plant with some tape, just under the topping, to prevent splitting. This is more of a concern for outdoor plants.

Fimming makes four buds out of one

Fimming is the partial removal of the latest shoot of a plant. When done, it creates four main buds instead of one.

A fimmed plant is wider than and not as tall as a typical plant. It also has more leaves exposed to light, causing more light to be absorbed. While the process damages the plant a bit, most recover quite well, making it a useful method of increasing yield.

The benefits of fimming include:

  • More leaves
  • Wider plants
  • Better light absorption

Which again, means……  a higher yield

Plants that have more leaves that can absorb light will produce a greater yield, and the fimming process increases light exposure to leaves. The light that doesn’t hit the leaves and falls on the ground is considered lost energy. Fimming ensures more leaves receive light

This technique is especially useful outdoors and is the secret behind those gigantic outdoor plants featured in pictures. It also works for indoor plants, but it is easier to use additional plants to make sure no light is lost.

Download my free Grow Bible for more on fimming

If your grow room isn’t very tall, fimming is very useful. In the case of Sativas, they grow very quickly and can become very tall instead of wide. Fimming helps them grow wider instead of taller since the plants temporarily stop growing lengthwise and mainly grow in width. Now, you can then leave some more room between plants while maintaining a nice green blanket of leaves.

How to Fim

After it is cut, the shoot grows into 2 new petioles, each with their own leaf. The middle of the shoot contains a new shoot, and new shoots will be formed in the axils. A shoot, therefore, consists of 2×2 leaves, crosswise against each other.

By removing two-thirds of it, you’re only cutting off the leaves, while leaving the stems. These will, along with the shoots in the axils, grow to become main buds. So, you end up with four main buds. Make sure you don’t cut off too much, or you’ll only end up with two main buds.

Note: I never fim Indicas; they grow too slow, and the vegetative stage would last too long

Fimming damages the plant, and it will use its energy to heal the wound, so this can slow down the growth a bit. You may also notice that the newest pair of leaves are damaged when it starts to grow, but this is normal.

Fimming
Leaf damage after fimming

Fimming can damage some leaves, but that’s no problem

Fimming also spreads the risk of disease. Instead of a few big buds getting ruined, the process produces more main buds, and because they’re not as big, they’re not as sensitive to bud rot and/or other nasty diseases.

This is huge for outdoor plants because:

These plants have fewer defenses since you can’t control the climate and the moist fall air is perfect for bud rot. Indoor growers can simply place more plants without fimming them to spread the risks.

Some tips on fimming:

You can fim multiple times but leave some time in between fimming sessions for recovery.

Fim during the growing phase and possibly the first week of flowering at the very latest. Otherwise, the plant has no time to grow wider, completely defeating the purpose.

Fimming results after 5 days

Be careful with fimming if you have a gigantic, heavy plant because there’s a chance that the plant will split in half under its own weight. It’s best to start strengthening the plant with some tape, just under the fimming, to prevent splitting. This only applies to outdoor plants, because they get much bigger and heavier than indoor plants.

Lollipop your plants for bigger colas

Lollipopping is a pruning technique that removes the lower growth of your plants to promote better bud development on the top. By eliminating the competing growth, energy is directed to the main kola sites. This technique is especially useful in setups that have no side lighting to reach the lower regions of the plant.

The main idea behind lollipopping is simple:

  • Remove the overly shaded parts of the plant. They probably won’t do much.
  • Force the plant to focus on producing larger colas
Lollipopping

Lollipopping – No bottom leaves or small buds – Picture by howtogrowmarijuana.com

It’s called ‘lollipop’ because of the shape of the plant once you have finished with it. When the lower growth is removed, all that remains is a plant with a long bare stem and one or more large colas on top. (However, this may vary a bit, depending on if you used other techniques.)

Removing the lower bushier growth can also improve air circulation around the bottom parts of the plant where humidity often builds up, especially after watering. For bushy plants that are susceptible to mold or other fungal infections, it lowers their risk, making it useful when growing outdoors in damp climates.

Most growers agree that lollipopping should take place during the veg phase. Do it as a continuous process or all in one go but do so around a couple of weeks before you begin the 12 hours of light/12 hours of darkness. This way, your plants have time to recover from the shock you just put them through before beginning their flowering mode.

The benefits of lollipopping include:

  • Energy conservation
  • Improved circulation
  • Larger colas

And the best part ….  A higher yield.

Some people believe you should never lollipop once the plant has started flowering. However, if the main work is done during the vegetative stage, you can do some light maintenance during the flowering period. You may want to prune those branches that haven’t quite made it to the canopy or remove the tiny popcorn buds that begin to form on the bare lower branches.

When to Lollipop

How to Lollipop

There are basically two ways to lollipop your plants; choose yours based on your desired results.

Technique #1 – Top Down Lollipopping
While many growers consider this technique to be extreme, it is a quite simple process. Choose a point that’s about 4 nodes down from the growing tip of the plant, (or wherever you want the canopy growth to begin), then remove the growth from the main stem below that point.

Technique #1 – Top Down Lollipopping

To remove the growth, simply grasp the main stem between thumb and forefinger and slide downwards, taking the side shoots with you as you go. It’s a simple step but be careful not to damage the main stem. It’s best to use a clean, sharp blade or scissors.

Technique #2 – Bottom Up Lollipopping

This is a not as severe a form of lollipopping – perhaps even, a “lollipopping lite.” It is also the most common way to lollipop marijuana plants. Check out these pictures by thenug.com

To do the bottom-up method, start at the bottom and work upwards. Remove short main lateral branches and any leaves on the lateral branches. If they are too short to make the top of the canopy, they should go. In the end, the bottom third of the plant should be bare of any growth. This type of lollipopping often requires some maintenance trimming while the plant grows. You’d use this kind of technique when SCROG growing.

Over-pruning will ruin your plants

Plenty of new, excited growers make the mistake of overpruning their cannabis plants. Many times, it is because new growers want to sample as many THC-filled leaves as possible, even before harvest time.

Look:

It’s true that these first leaves are more exciting than anything you can buy, but you must proceed with caution. The best weed won’t come until it’s actually harvest time. You shouldn’t do anything that could slow down growth and reduce the productivity of the flowering stage.

Here’s two things you absolutely should not do:

  • If no branches are growing out of a leaf’s basal stem, don’t cut that leaf off
  • do not strip all the leaves off of one branch or stalk

If you do these things, you risk overpruning your plant – which could possibly lead to plant death. 

3 High-yielding, non-pruning training techniques

If improving the yield is your goal, there are other ways to train your plant. Below are some plant training techniques that do not involve pruning.

Super cropping

This training technique can produce similar results to pruning with cutting the plant. With super cropping, the grower crushes the stem’s soft interior When done correctly, super cropping should stimulate health, bring a higher yield, and increase potency.

Here’s how it works:

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.

How do you super crop?

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.

Super Cropping Tutorial by Med Grow Cannabis

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

Monster crop for huge plants

Monster Cropping (a.k.a. flowering clones) is a 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 number of nodes and branches. This method was dubbed “Monster Cropping,” because that’s exactly what you’ll end up with—huge, monster plants.

Monster cropping
Monster cropping

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

Low-stress training is the gentle way to train

The letters “LST” stand for “Low-Stress Training.” This type of training causes less damage then techniques such as topping or super cropping.  Those methods are considered to be High-Stress Training or HST.

LST is a safer option than HST since HST 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).

Low-Stress Training in pictures

How does it work?

  • Start by tying down your marijuana plant. This stimulates the growth of all the shoots newly placed above the main stalk
  • Your plant will “think” it no longer has a main shoot, and prioritize its resources into growing its other stems faster

This will allow your plant to become denser and bushier. This method works well, as long as you do not rush. This is a technique that takes time and patience, and anyone who tries to do it too quickly will have poor results.

Super cropping your cannabis plant

Low-stress training a cannabis plant. Picture by 420 magazine

A beautiful LST example:

Beautiful LST example

There are many other techniques for “training” your plant that could come in handy, so make sure you know all of your options before beginning one. For more on low-stress training, read this article.

Pruning doesn’t have to be hard when you know what you are doing. As long as the benefits outweigh the risks, why wouldn’t you try it? Whether you remove a few dying leaves or try your hand at fimming, your plants will benefit from all the extra attention. Just try not to stress them out too much.

7 Tips for Pruning Your Plants

Regardless of whether you are pruning as a good habit, or deliberately training your plants, you’ll need to follow some best practices. Here are some tips for successful marijuana pruning throughout the lifecycle of the plant.

If you’re currently not growing, start right away and grab some seeds from my store.

1. Cut out lower, non-productive branches early.

When the marijuana plant is still relatively small but in a vegetative state, you can nix a few of the lower branches along with their attached leaves. There’s nothing wrong with leaving those particular branches on the plant, but, when it comes time to flower the plants, they won’t really produce much anyway.

This little exercise also allows the plant to focus more on the taller and ultimately more productive branches. This will increase growth in the meantime and can potentially increase yield toward the end of the plant’s life cycle. This differs from defoliation, which is done in the flowering stage.

2. Be Careful.

When cutting the branches, especially when the plants are young, it’s important to take great caution, as you could introduce diseases to your plant, or cause unnecessary trauma.

Don’t use dull scissors or a serrated blade, and certainly don’t rip the small branches off with your bare hands. The last thing you want to do is shock the plant at such a young age. A nice, clean snip with some sharp scissors will do the trick.

3. Remove any dead or dying leaves.

As the marijuana plant ages, it’s obviously going to get bigger. The upper leaves will start to fill out and form a canopy above the lower parts of the plant. Unfortunately for the lower end of the plant, those leaves will likely all die as a result of not getting enough light. Snipping them off even before they start to turn yellow has almost the same effect as clipping your fingernails. Except, in this case, the upper leaves will benefit from the missing lower leaves.

Removing leaves that are not already dying is actually defoliation, and that can cause harm to the plant if not done correctly. For the least amount of risk, stick to the leaves that are already dying.

4. Keep the plants in check.

If you’re going indoors, then you are likely going to have some vertical (and occasionally horizontal limitations). Pruning can certainly remedy that situation without causing too much damage.

If you’re growing marijuana outdoors, the plant will have considerably more room to grow. While that’s beneficial to some degree (because who doesn’t like bigger plants?), it can get you caught. Bigger plants are naturally easier to see than smaller plants, and towering outdoor plants are a recipe for disaster (unless, of course, you have a highly-concealed location). Prune your plants so that they stay within your space requirements

5. Top the plants.

As mentioned above, topping can significantly increase your harvest. While it might seem counterintuitive to snip off the biggest branch (top cola), it can make a substantial difference.

The top colas have a chemical in them that restricts the growth of the lower branches, and, when you cut it off, it allows the rest of the plant to flourish. The top colas are also pretty potent, making them perfect for a test smoke.

6. Don’t force flowering right away.

After you’ve topped the plant, you don’t want to start forcing the marijuana plant into the flowering stage immediately. Give it some time to recover.

Cutting the top cola late in vegetative growth is not the same as cutting a few shoots or small branches early on in the game. The lower branches and leaves will slowly start to work their way up to fill the vacancy left by the top cola. After about 4 or 5 days, you can start forcing the plants to flower, at which point you should be rewarded with a much higher yield for all your efforts.

Once the plant is fully grown you will need to start thinking harvest time. Our free little Harvest Guide will help you determine the best moment to cut your plants. Download it here.

7. Don’t prune during flowering.

Once the marijuana plant starts to flower, it’s really a bad idea to try to prune anything else. Of course, if there are a few dead leaves or unproductive branches, you might be able to get away with it. But, any wholesale pruning during the flowering period is a bad idea.

The plants are already growing rapidly, and any extensive pruning to the plant will likely shock it. Surprisingly, this is when defoliation should occur – but only during the first part of the flowering period. You also should not prune autoflowering plants.

When done correctly, pruning can significantly increase your yield. However, you don’t always need scissors to stimulate your plant’s growth. Some growers may prefer to grow more branches with the advanced technique of monster cropping. Others may prefer some low-stress training. There’s a technique for every grower, so don’t be afraid to try.

Thanks for reading. I hope you learned something, and if you’re looking to buy seeds, be sure to check out some of these happy stories!

The founder of I Love Growing Marijuana, Robert Bergman, is a marijuana growing expert that enjoys sharing his knowledge with the world. He combines years of experience, ranging from small-scale grows to massive operations, with a passion for growing. His articles include tutorials on growing... [read more]

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  1. By Steve

    ,26 Aug 2013
    Excellent article, just what I needed to know. Thanks.
    1. By Tim

      ,24 Jun 2017
      Can I pinch out my tips and flip um to 12 x12 straight away
      1. By Mo white

        ,13 Aug 2017
        Well it's my first time got 3 plants a bit confused about useing tap water and plant food?
        1. By MG

          ,16 Jan 2019
          Since you can"t know Exactly what is in your tap water as far has iron ,salts chlorine and more I use strictly rain water and in winter melt snow.
    2. By L K

      ,02 Sep 2018
      Shame on you for being so hateful and using vulgar, vile language. You need to check yourself, stay off this site, Now. What a black Spirit you are..
  2. By Marilyn Olsen

    ,03 Jun 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" […]Read More
    1. By Jennifer ILGM

      ,03 Jun 2015
      Marilyn, thanks for sharing. Good luck and keep us posted!
    2. By Rick Macoy

      ,15 Sep 2017
      40 yrold seeds are not gonns have the punch the nee stuff has, less its collumbian gold or thai. Use good seeds. Very important. Im jußt another ol head, learnin the game. But you gotta have good seeds.
  3. By Debbie

    ,15 Jun 2015
    Your tips are awesome and I couldn't do what Im doing with out you! thanks! Debbie
  4. By Kelsey

    ,18 Jul 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!
  5. By MJCTHC1

    ,02 Aug 2015
    I always thought you could combine topping and super-cropping, why do you recommend against it?, thanks in advance.
  6. By Dick

    ,05 Aug 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, […]Read More
  7. By The Marijuana Grow Bible | Cannabis Now Magazine

    ,07 Aug 2015
    […] that can improve the outcome of their plant. Bergman covers everything from the dangers of over-watering plants to the importance of having nutrient-rich soil. There is also information about pests and other […]
  8. By Increase Your Marijuana Yield – 5 Tips

    ,25 Aug 2015
    […] since it will have a direct effect on the coverage and distribution of the light. Training and pruning allow your plants to become bigger and wider, and it is free and relatively simple to achieve. You […]
  9. By Growing Medical Marijuana Outdoors

    ,21 Sep 2015
    […] Pruning is sometimes a necessity to keep the marijuana plants at a manageable size. When the main stem is cut, the lower branches increase in size, and the plant grows several other strong branches. When these are pruned, the […]Read More
  10. By jessica

    ,10 Oct 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 […]Read More
    1. By Jman

      ,17 Jan 2017
      As long as the light leak is fixed you can continue your grow. Both plants were probably affected if they were beside each other. But if light leak is taken care of you should be ok Plants will slow or […]Read More
  11. By latewoodl

    ,15 Oct 2015
    Jessica, 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 […]Read More
  12. By How to Grow Huge Marijuana Buds | WeedMeme

    ,25 Oct 2015
    […] them to receive light in the most effective and even way possible. Training can include forms of pruning, but you don’t always need to use a blade to properly train your […]
  13. By Denise

    ,28 Oct 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 […]Read More
    1. By Jennifer ILGM

      ,02 Nov 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
  14. By cher

    ,08 Jan 2016
    Excellent knowledge for a novice grower so THANKFUL that you took the time to write and share thanks again
  15. By Jay Campbell

    ,14 Jan 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 […]Read More
    1. By Jim Osborne

      ,06 Jan 2018
      How did the one with the Coco fiber and perlite turn out? I have heard that the Coco fiber and perlite are just for aeration of the soil, and retain no water, or nutrients. I mix high quality potting soil […]Read More
  16. By 9 Common Mistakes Made By New Marijuana Growers

    ,17 Feb 2016
    […] overzealous beginners get a little bit creative with pruning. When it comes to pruning, remember that less is more. Pruning can increase growth, but if you do […]
  17. By Brian

    ,19 Feb 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! Peace
    1. By Jimpepper

      ,30 Jan 2017
      When plants are flowering they are putting energy into that,not growing,so there is no more point to top it. It will not grow bushier.
  18. By Bcbuddy

    ,19 Feb 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 […]Read More
  19. By latewood.ILGM

    ,19 Feb 2016
    Bcbuddy, 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 […]Read More
  20. By Gene

    ,19 Feb 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 […]Read More
  21. By Brian finney

    ,20 Feb 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 […]Read More
    1. By Percy thrower

      ,11 Apr 2017
      Never cut leafs of they are the soler panels for your plant it might seem like some leafs are in the way of tips.in early flowering but just leave them alone they will sort there self's out the disinformation and […]Read More
  22. By latewood.ILGM

    ,22 Feb 2016
    Brian, 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
  23. By Robert

    ,22 Feb 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 […]Read More
    1. By Jennifer ILGM

      ,23 Feb 2016
      Hi Robert, that's great, keep us posted we love the hear from fellow growers.
    2. By Kris

      ,24 Feb 2016
      Nugz = nuggets = bud, nothing but an acronym. Kris
  24. By Betty

    ,31 Jul 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.
    1. By Roy ILGM

      ,01 Aug 2016
      Good to hear you're enjoying the process Betty and we're glad to have helped!
    2. By Deb

      ,16 Mar 2018
      I acquired some baby high cbd low thc plants, new to growing and am not sure what to do for pruning them, when will they form buds and when do you harvest to make tincture, so far so good, they […]Read More
  25. By Abbott

    ,11 Aug 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. […]Read More
    1. By Roy ILGM

      ,11 Aug 2016
      Thanks for the suggestion Abbott! We'll def look into it. Good to hear your first grow went well!!
  26. By latewood.ILGM

    ,11 Aug 2016
    Abbott, 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
  27. By Steve

    ,09 Oct 2016
    Great read, but one thing I would like to know is how often can I pinch the tops of the branches .
  28. By latewood.ILGM

    ,11 Oct 2016
    Steve, 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 […]Read More
    1. By Jimmy A Durham

      ,10 Nov 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 […]Read More
  29. By Coffy

    ,28 Oct 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.
  30. By Tamas

    ,28 Oct 2016
    I find that the leaves make a good mix instead of throwing them out.
  31. By latewood.ILGM

    ,28 Oct 2016
    Coffy, 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. :D
  32. By Jag907

    ,03 Nov 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
  33. By Jag907

    ,03 Nov 2016
    My very first grow I didn't get much but the quality was outstanding
  34. By Jag907

    ,03 Nov 2016
    Probably because I took very good care of them
    1. By Roy ILGM

      ,04 Nov 2016
      It works! You can get far with just a little basic knowledge and care.
  35. By 5evcenko

    ,29 Nov 2016
    it is not good idea to smoke leaves, but article is helpuful
  36. By Weedlover46

    ,27 Jan 2017
    I take my cuttings to my friends house and he makes hash with them I don't know how he does it but it will knock u out
    1. By Roy ILGM

      ,30 Jan 2017
      He probably uses the bubble bags method. Great way to get superb hashish :D
      1. By LK

        ,04 Sep 2018
        Please tell me what the Bubble Bag method is...
        1. By Stacy ILGM

          ,04 Sep 2018
          I can advise you to take a look at this informative thread on our Grow support forum! wwww.support.ilovegrowingmarijuana.com/t/bubble-bags-step-by-step/18154
  37. By Gregg Marganella

    ,18 Jun 2017
    RE: "Sometimes even a fully mature marijuana plant’s buds won’t have enough THC to achieve a high." THAT is a load of Horsesh*t! I am well over 50 and have never heard or read that in my life. Pot is […]Read More
    1. By Tony

      ,14 Dec 2017
      Have you ever heard of CBD? Some plants have lots of CBD and very little THC. Take a look at Hemp. No THC. Try getting high on that crap.
  38. By todd

    ,04 Jul 2017
    i was given a female well past the flowering stage and planted her outside, it is my first plant ever. I have been told to prune her but she is growing nicely and seems to be doing great on her […]Read More
  39. By Randy

    ,07 Jul 2017
    I am having a weird Harvest. I grew two plants. White Widow which is 60/40 Sativa dom. and Big Bud which is 85/15 Indica dom. But, the WW grew as an Indica and was done at 56 days and the […]Read More
    1. By Roy ILGM

      ,07 Jul 2017
      Hi Randy, it sounds to me the two seeds somehow got switched.. surprise!... :D I'll tell them to drink more coffee and stay sharp.
  40. By Randy

    ,07 Jul 2017
    Ya know Roy, that thought crossed my mind but the WW looked at the end similar to picture of WW I have seen and the BB is exactly like the pictures I have seen. The BB had thin leaves and […]Read More
  41. By latewood.ILGM

    ,11 Jul 2017
    todd, No need to feel stupid. Growing your won medication takes planning, and a solid foundation for success. Do not be discouraged. Join our forum at ilvegrowingmarijuana.con. We would love to help you grow successfully from start to finish.
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,11 Jul 2017
      Sorry for the typo. ilovegrowingmarijuana.com
  42. By Colin

    ,22 Aug 2017
    Can I crop the same plant several time the buds on top are mature the ones below need more time they are 12' tall
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,20 Sep 2017
      Colin, As long as the stem is supple, and you have several weeks left to grow; I would say yes to your question.
  43. By Joe

    ,25 Aug 2017
    I am presently growing Purple Kush outdoors and am in the process of building a hydroponics set-up in a 4 X 8 grow tent with a 6oo W Metal Halide/HPS set of bulbs. I was hoping to use the scrogging […]Read More
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,20 Sep 2017
      Joe, Make your own choices. If you want to SCROG a Purple Kush, then do it. Only way to learn
  44. By Lynn Nichols

    ,16 Sep 2017
    One of 5 of my Trainwrecks buds have turned red in the center and the hairs are gone. Is this normal? She's a beauty 7' tall.
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,20 Sep 2017
      Lynn, You better join our forum and let us see some images of what you are talking about. ilovegrowingmarijuana. com We are not set up here in the blog for that type support. See you at ILGM support forum. :)
  45. By Nely420

    ,20 Nov 2017
    Hey Robert, what does this sentence say? "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." I copied it from your section on […]Read More
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,22 Nov 2017
      Nely, "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" It means; "After you prune or top, secondary limbs will cone from each […]Read More
  46. By Steve

    ,04 Apr 2018
    Robert is absolutely right in that pruning needs to be learned gradually as you get more experience. The response to it is very similar to how tomato plants behave. However, don't throw your trimmed leaves away. Just leave them in […]Read More
    1. By Steve

      ,04 Apr 2018
      I made a typo. I use sunflower Lecithin - not soya.
  47. By Cannubis

    ,04 Apr 2018
    some problems with your article: o You say not to prune with just your fingers, but sseveral of your pix show exactly that. o It's often not clear whether you're talking about indoors or outdoors, o Is it really science […]Read More
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,18 Apr 2018
      Cannubis, Thanks for sharing. These articles are generally meant for newbies and it is better to teach nrebies not to use their hands. Of course this falls on deaf ears and in fact we all tent to touch the plant. […]Read More
  48. By Eric Jensen

    ,04 Apr 2018
    I contacted you last year about my experiment - growing pot hydroponically outdoors in a river. I live on a houseboat and have plastic barrels cut in half and half filled with soil. the bottoms of the half-barrels have holes […]Read More
  49. By latewood_ILGM

    ,18 Apr 2018
    Eric , If you want to share you story, go here: support.ilovegrowingmarijuana.com Once you have established yourself as an active member, you can share your pictures. I would be worried about harmful bacteria growing directly in a lake or river. […]Read More
  50. By Bella Linda

    ,28 May 2018
    All I do is tie down my plant, it takes off when I do it. The yield is incredibly, two to three pounds. Do not remove any of the sun leaves until it is dried. Like the way it makes […]Read More
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,06 Jun 2018
      Bella Linda, Thanks for sharing and the kind words! :) Peace
  51. By RoyC

    ,03 Jun 2018
    I pruned 1 plant of leaves that were blocking bud sites probably 5-10 leaves is this enough to hermie fem plants that are in flower.
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,06 Jun 2018
      RoyC, Any stress can cause "hermie" effects. Light pruning should not hurt you. Keep in mind removing fan leaves is like taking a small piece of the heart and lungs from the plant; So, don't get carried away. Also; It […]Read More
  52. By Scott Dentz

    ,16 Aug 2018
    Terrific article, I've tried every one of these methods in the 25+ years I've been growing, think super cropping and some training is the way to go for me.
  53. By LK

    ,04 Sep 2018
    Hope you will delete Rick Karp's offensive message. Seems he has some deeper problems, needs to sober up and apologize, in my opinion. You and your dedicated staff have provided nothing but positive, valuable information to all of us, to […]Read More
    1. By Stacy ILGM

      ,04 Sep 2018
      Hi LK, Thank you so much for your kind words! And we have to agree with you, it's all about having fun growing and learning while doing it. People should feel free to share their experiences and opinions but Rick's […]Read More
  54. By Paul

    ,06 Sep 2018
    Some good advice on here...thanks
  55. By Drew

    ,10 Sep 2018
    "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." WHAT?????
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,26 Sep 2018
      Drew, Not sure what you are asking but, I do not agree with the quote, either. I would prune fan leaves from the bottom up. Hope this helps.
  56. By Alienaj

    ,13 Sep 2018
    LST on Banana Kush made it bud outdoors in August. Ready to harvest on Sept 15. My other Banana Kush is three weeks behind. Started early spring from Fem Seed. Great yield, looks like about . 24 ounces or more.
  57. By Joe katrenak

    ,18 Sep 2018
    Hello ,When growing auto flowers will the yield increase by pinching and pruning or is this for photo period only.Thank you
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,26 Sep 2018
      Joe, This is for photo's...Yes. We do not top or prune auto's. Good question :)
  58. By clafairy

    ,07 Dec 2018
    too much reading, I'm confused... it there a difference between topping the plant to (say) start the scrogging process, and the pinching off the top tip to cause two tips to grow? I was guessing not, but then latewood's response […]Read More
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,07 Dec 2018
      You do not necessarily have to top the plant to SCROG. Another thing I always tell people is to try it and see for yourself. I know many who have manipulated "Autos" IMO, it was not that successful, but to […]Read More
  59. By Jim B

    ,08 Dec 2018
    Thanks for all the information about various ways to grow. I have a Bruce Banner plant (from your seeds) into its second week of flowering outdoors here in San Diego; yes December 8! I couldn't wait till Spring to try […]Read More
    1. By latewood_ILGM

      ,10 Jan 2019
      Jim B, I suppose you could remove the flower but, it is not necessary. While rooting ,the flower will die and when rooted, new leaves will sprout replacing the flower. Make sure you are rooting the clones at least 18/6 […]Read More
  60. By Curtis

    ,16 Jan 2019
    I Buy Here Because I Get Genetics I Trust I Buy Here Because There Is Great Customer Service I Buy Here Because I Appreciate All The Work Robert Has Put Into FREE Articles For All Of Us With That Being […]Read More
  61. By curtis

    ,16 Jan 2019
    ...or this Gold Leaf clone at 40 days in veg https://www.roughneckcity.com/upimg/image/upimg_file/2273/original Prune HARD then mist the plants with RO water that contains nitrogen and all the trace elements like magnesium Sulfate (12 % sulfur and VERY important) Cal Mag ( […]Read More
  62. By Jeremy

    ,16 Jan 2019
    Very Interesting--- I've recently switched over to a SOG method... I am having a hard time figuring out how to trim for the highest yeild... My plants look like tall Dr. Seuss lollipops with a smaller cola than hoped. Next […]Read More
  63. By juan

    ,17 Jan 2019
    Great tips , first time grower need all the help I can get. thanks
  64. By fuck

    ,19 Jan 2019
    My plants don't stretch enough to lollipop. 1000W makes them bushy and strong .
  65. By Joel

    ,29 Mar 2019
    Not sure if it was a misprint or what, but the part in this article that says "once the plant starts sprouting a new set of leaves daily" cannot be correct. I have never seen one sprout a new set […]Read More
    1. By latewood ILGM

      ,03 Apr 2019
      Joel, The article says; " Once the TOP of the plant (the kola) starts sprouting new leaves every day", and this is not a misprint. Healthy plants do sprout new leaves from the top as new growth daily, it is […]Read More
  66. By Dug

    ,14 Apr 2019
    How far up the plant should you cut if plant was 3 ft tall?
  67. By Sheri

    ,08 Aug 2019
    Hi, Ι do believe this is a great websitе. I stumbledupon іt ;) I may revіsit once again ѕine i have book marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rіch and continuue to […]Read More
  68. By Tim

    ,09 Aug 2019
    I am at a point where my plants are about 9 to 10 feet high. I topped them months ago. They are loaded with flowers and buds. Should I prune the leaves that are big it's really bushy. Help
  69. By Art

    ,02 Sep 2019
    I would like to ask if it is alright to use the Bergman Grow fertilizer longer than the 4 week time on the feeding schedule if your plants haven't grown tall enough ?
  70. By Robert

    ,04 Sep 2019
    Your article was very helpful. Thanks
  71. By RANDY

    ,02 Nov 2019
    Growing some white Widow. I read that you are not supposed to top off indica dominant plants. Is this true?
    1. By Latewood_ILGM

      ,01 Dec 2019
      Randy, "top off" is a watering term, as in "I topped off my plants with just plain water" If you mean; To top the plant... You got bad info. You can top any plant genetics you would like to except […]Read More

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