Topping is done during the vegetative stage to help redistribute growth hormones from the main stalk to side branches—by cutting off the main stalk, the plant will redirect its energies to side branches, forcing them to grow out, instead of up. Topping makes a weed plant bushier.
When to top marijuana plants
Grab a pair of pruning shears, usually some Chikamasas or Fiskars, for quick work on small branches and leaves. Also have another pair with more strength nearby to cut larger branches.
Why prune marijuana plants?
Although it may seem strange to cut off and throw away part of your cannabis plants, topping is essential to keep your weed plants healthy and to get quality yields.
To top a plant, you cut off the top by clipping through the main stem
Autoflowering Tip: Top an autoflowering plant after it’s started growing a few pistils (white hairs that will become buds) to keep it shorter. Topping in the flowering stage is normally considered a bad idea because it stunts autoflowering plants, but can be a good tactic if you want to stunt the plant on purpose.
Don’t wait too long to initiate flowering – This doesn’t apply to auto-flowering strains, but if you’re growing a photoperiod (regular) plant, initiate the flowering stage when the plant is half the final desired size. Plants typically double in size after receiving a 12/12 light schedule, so plant height can get out of control if you wait too long.
2.) Grow Setup
You can also choose photoperiod plants listed as “short” strains. Strains listed as “FAST” or “Express” may be candidates for a short grow space because they have a quick flowering period, but it’s good to read the description to learn more about what height to expect. Photoperiod plants typically get bigger than autoflowering plants, but they can be a great choice for a small space as long as you get a suitable strain and make sure to initiate the flowering stage when plants are 3-4 weeks old. Don’t let them get too big before you initiate 12/12 or they’ll overgrow your garden!
Aurora Indica stays short and produces tons of buds
Other types of pruning and manipulation such as Low Stress Training (LST) and Supercropping (extreme bending) can be used to create almost any size or shape plant
Recommended short auto-flowering strains
Bending and tying down stems can be used to keep a cannabis plant almost totally flat
Notice how few fan leaves this plant has? That’s because it was strategically defoliated during the first few weeks after the switch to 12/12. In response, the buds grew long, fat and dense.
Indoor cannabis growers train their plants to grow with lots of thick bud sites because that shape produces the best yields under the limited power of grow lights.
This strategic defoliation exposes all the newly forming buds to light and air right when they’re at their most crucial stage of development. Because of how cannabis (a wind-pollinated plant) buds reacts to light and air, this dramatically increase the size and density of the buds as long as you take off the right amount of leaves at the right time (overdoing this or doing it too late in the flowering stage can do more harm than good!). It’s also very important to note that defoliation should only be done to indoor-grown plants, and even then only plants that are healthy!