While it can sometimes seem risky, pruning your marijuana plants is often the best way to make them maximize their yield. If you are a grower that’s already capable of growing plants that are happy and healthy, then your next step is going to be learning more about pruning. You definitely should not do it unless you are fully invested in taking the time to learn and fully understand pruning, so this is only for the truly dedicated.
Plenty of people don’t ever prune their plants, even if they are experienced veterans. These people often like to focus on letting the natural processes of your marijuana plants do their thing – and it makes sense, if they are able to grow their plants well without exposing their plants to any unnecessary risk.
If you feel the need to maximize your marijuana plants’ yield, however, pruning carefully can be the most effective way to do that. The buds you end up with will be numerous and absolutely dripping with THC.
In this article we will cover:
The basics about pruning
At its simplest, pruning just means that you are chopping off parts of the marijuana plant. When done tactfully it ends up strengthening the plant. It is especially simple when you only remove the dead or dying parts of the plant, such as yellow leaves. This allows your plant to focus its energy on the more useful, productive parts, such as the green and healthy leaves.
You can’t get rid of the plant’s natural process of having leaves that die, but you can lessen the negative impact on those plants. A discolored leaf takes ages to die and then fall off, taking up some of your plant’s valuable resources and energy, so removing it promptly will assist your plant greatly. It will grow bigger and stronger if you do this kind of pruning.
Download my free marijuana grow guide for more pruning tips
The other advantage of pruning is the fact that it allows your plant to produce new branches. Every new sprout on the top of your plant will grow fresh branches, and a higher yield is best achieved by maximizing the number of branches. The first leaves you can remove when starting to prune your plant are its first shade leaves. It will help your plant focus its energy elsewhere, and will let the smaller leaves at the bottom of your plant flourish and then contribute more chlorophyll.
Pruning doesn’t only involve removing leaves, however; it also can take the form of removing the top or ends of branches. Both processes help spur your plant to grow more branches – within reason, of course. It will grow bushier and more efficiently overall, but for a brief while after you’ve cut off the branch end, the growth will actually slow down.
The theory behind topping is that more shoots and branches will sprout from where you chopped off the top of the main shoot. Eventually, your plant will grow into a cone – but with the tip nearest to the ground, and the widest part at the top. Topping is favored among indoor growers since they have less access to lighting (and are likely on a budget).
Topping can begin right when your plant appears like it can handle it. If your plant has growths by the lowest nodes, then it is probably ready to be topped. Make sure, however, that you don’t mix topping with a pruning method like super cropping (see below). Read more about Topping in the article How to top marijuana plants
Super cropping doesn’t even resemble other typical pruning techniques, but it is indeed considered a method of pruning just the same. It involves squishing the inside of the stem, which (if you do it right) will make your plant healthier with a higher and more potent yield. This is because of a simple fact of nature for most species: breakages in the tissue will cause it to regrow – and the regrowth will be stronger than the original.
To super crop, you simply crush inside of the main stem by pinching it, twisting it, and bending it (without breaking the exterior). It will regrow larger and stronger, with the new version better able to transport water and nutrients everywhere in the plant. It’s best to start this method of pruning after your plant has been in its vegetation phase for at least two or three weeks.
Low stress training
Low-Stress Training, or LST, is the counter to the more intense pruning methods like topping and super cropping (which are called High-Stress Training, or HST). LST is generally a good option for those growers who have never tried pruning before since the risks are far less than with HST. If you want to achieve an even greater yield, try combining LST and topping, but this is not completely necessary.
LST is more like training than it is pruning since it’s just about moving your plant so it grows exactly how you want it to. There is no damaging of the plant involved. With LST you simply tie your marijuana plants down so the side of it is facing the sun (or light source, for indoor grow rooms), and therefore those side stems and leaves will grow faster and stronger. This is how your plant can become nice and bushy.
The main way to mess up with LST is by rushing, so take your time. If you rush it too much, you won’t get the effect that you want, thus making it a waste of energy. Other LST options abound, so do your homework before committing to this one.
Monster Cropping is a sort of combination between pruning and cloning. The process is to simply remove a clone from a plant when it is in its flowering stage of life, then replant this clone, at which point it will go back into its vegetative stage and then will get into the flowering stage relatively quickly, making it an extremely bushy plant with a huge number of branches. These plants end up looking monstrous – thus the fitting name for this technique. Read the entire article about Monster Cropping marijuana plants
The dangers of overpruning
Overpruning can easily happen to marijuana growers with little pruning (or growing) experience. They get too enthusiastic about removing leaves that have lots of THC before the optimum harvest time has arrived, and they classify it as “pruning” their plant when they really just want some weed for themselves. While the theory behind this act is sound, it is easy to get carried away with it and then end up with hardly any top-notch weed at all.
Overpruning can be prevented when a few simple rules are remembered. For instance, you shouldn’t cut off a leaf unless it has branches growing from its basal stem. A branch should never have all of its leaves cut off. When cutting off leaves, always use a very sharp tool (scissors or knives work best), and never use your hands to rip leaves off. Once you have pruned your plant, water it immediately afterward to help it continue growing well. Even better, try watering it with plant food mixed in.
When you’re pruning at first, you probably won’t get any leaves to be THC-potent enough to smoke. Although it seems wasteful, keep in mind that you are not pruning the plant to get some early pot – you are pruning so that the final yield is as good as it can get. After your plants are three months old, you will most likely be able to prune leaves that are richer in THC and therefore can be smoked. This is simply because, around the three-month mark into the season, insects start becoming active and are more likely to snack on your plants. THC keeps these insects away, so it is in your plant’s best interest to produce THC once it is three months old.
When it’s before the three months’ point, burn the leaves that you do remove from the plants so there is no remaining evidence. Always start pruning at the highest point of the plant, with the topmost leaves. This will have the maximum benefit since it allows the sunlight to hit the leaves that were beneath them.
In the end, pruning can be a fantastic way to improve your marijuana plants’ end yield – both in quality as well as quantity. It can even give you some weed to tide you over while you wait. If you do the right research, you should be very happy with the decision to prune your marijuana plants.
If you want to know more about pruning marijuana, make sure you check out my free marijuana grow guide