Pruning cannabis simply means clipping off and removing pieces of the plant. It’s not a requirement when growing cannabis, but it’s an extra step that growers can take to help strengthen the plant and even increase its yield. It’s not mandatory, and many growers don’t prune at all.
While pruning does have its advantages, it can be risky if not done properly. Pruning is a delicate practice that should be done with a little forethought and know-how. When done right, pruning can produce a healthy plant with an abundance of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Some leaves will die during the plant’s life cycle, and removing them in a timely manner can help keep them from using up resources that could otherwise be used on healthier parts. By clipping these dead parts off early enough, pruning could allow the plant to make better use of resources and save the plant from putting in more effort than needed to grow in a healthy way. Removing dead parts can also make more room for much-needed light to reach the smaller areas closer to the plant’s base.
The University of Oklahoma describes four reasons to prune:
- To train plants (e.g., to produce large flowers in higher limbs)
- To maintain plant health
- To improve the quality of flowers or fruits
- To restrict growth (e.g., to fit the space)
When and How to Prune Cannabis Plants
The timing of cannabis pruning is just as important as how it is pruned. Cannabis should be pruned when there are many internodes to work with; it may be appropriate during the vegetative phase and/or the initial weeks of flowering. The plant will need a few days to recover after being pruned, during which time it may even slow its growth to focus on recovery. Considering this need for recovery, it’s important not to prune after the first two weeks of the flowering phase.
When just starting out, focus on parts of the plant that are obviously dying or are already dead. These parts will be yellow, have brown tips, or be withered.
It may also be helpful to remove a few original shade leaves from branches that were already pruned and have new leaves sprouting. Older leaves will eventually lose their color and die at some point, so removing them is safe and may help the plant use resources more efficiently.
The following pruning tips can help avoid harm to the plant while ensuring it remains productive:
- Always use sharp, sanitized clippers/scissors to remove plant parts; never use your hands to tear leaves off.
- Water the plant after pruning to minimize the amount of shock the plant may experience while still encouraging growth.
- Add plant food/fertilizer when watering.
The Art of Pruning Cannabis
While pruning cannabis is functional, it can also be an art form. The way cannabis plants are pruned can also determine how they grow. More specifically, more creative ways of pruning can go so far as to train the plant to grow in a specific way, which can produce even bigger yields while reducing costs.
During flowering, pruning is typically limited to removing leaves that shade buds. The following are a few common ways to prune cannabis plants during the vegetative stage to ensure healthier plants and boost yields:
- Removing the main shoot at the top of the plant (topping) helps encourage two shoots to grow (which can be topped again). This will boost the plant’s access to light and is most beneficial when the plant is grown indoors. It will inevitably produce a bushier plant with bigger buds and more leaves.
- Partially removing (fimming) about 75% of a shoot of the plant will create four or more main branches rather than one and will result in a wider yet shorter plant. This technique will also ensure that more leaves are exposed to light while increasing yield.
- Rather than removing the tops of the plant, removing the lower growth (lollilopping) can also help to promote healthier bud development at the top of the plant. That’s because the stinted growth at the bottom is competing with the top of the plant. By removing the lower growth, more energy can be directed to the main growth sites. This tactic is particularly useful when there isn’t a lot of light available to reach the sides and bottom of the plant.
Image source: Jacqueline Wales from Pixabay