how to prune marijuana

Why, when, and how to prune cannabis

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  1. Why do you prune cannabis?
  2. When do you prune cannabis?
  3. How do you prune cannabis?

Pruning is one of the most effective ways to manipulate and direct the growth of a cannabis plant. If you’re looking to limit the size of your plant, promote lateral branching, delay the onset of flowering, or increase yield, pruning checks all the boxes. It may feel counterintuitive to snip parts of your plant as it grows. But by pruning unproductive growth, you can redirect the plant’s energy and resources into developing quality flowers.

While pruning is reasonably straightforward, it’s also a skill that becomes refined and easier with practice. These pruning tips and tricks should help demystify the process.

Why do you prune cannabis?

Pruning refers to the process whereby small, specific sections of the plant are cut to encourage healthy growth. At its most fundamental level, pruning removes growth that is damaged, unproductive, or blocking sunlight from reaching budding flowers.

Pruning refers to the process whereby small, specific sections of the plant are cut to encourage healthy growth. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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The elimination of this growth enables the plant to focus its energy on nourishing and strengthening the remaining leaves, shoots, and buds. Successful pruning also promotes greater airflow and light exposure, fostering a more vibrant plant, and forming denser, more cannabinoid-rich buds.

While the principle of pruning sounds simple in theory, in practice it can be challenging. Excessive pruning can be detrimental to the health and development of the plant. It’s vital to always err on the side of caution when pruning cannabis plants. Vigorous pruning can weaken the plant through stress and subsequently reduce the yield. Pruning at the wrong time of the growing cycle or mistakenly pruning vital stems and shoots can inflict damage. For this reason, some new growers avoid pruning altogether, or others pare back their pruning to its most fundamental level, the removal of dead or yellowing leaves.

When do you prune cannabis?

Pruning is almost exclusively carried out during the vegetative growth stage before the cannabis plant is mature and ready to flower. The plant should be well-established in the vegetative phase, measuring approximately 12 inches (30 centimeters) tall with several sets of leaves before pruning is performed. If you’re looking to grow bushy, squat plants, keep the pruning to a minimum.

Judicious pruning during the early phase of vegetative growth will have little effect on flowering. Pruning more mature plants that are approaching the flowering stage is not recommended. At this later phase, heavy pruning can delay the onset of flowering, or prevent flowering altogether. In some cases, however, growers may wish to delay flowering intentionally, so strategic pruning can be a useful tool.

Pruning during flowering should be extremely light and limited. One example of appropriate pruning would be the removal of fan leaves that are shading healthy bud sites. The pruning of damaged, diseased, or dead plant tissue can be carried out throughout both the vegetative and flowering cycles. Yellow (chlorotic) or brown tissue allows invasive microorganisms and pests to thrive. Remove these leaves to make sure they don’t fall and become absorbed into the growing medium.

How do you prune cannabis?

The process of pruning requires only one tool: a sharpened, clean pair of pruning shears. Expert growers may have several pairs of shears of different sizes designed to prune different levels of growth.

It’s vital to sterilize the shears before pruning to prevent pathogens from hitching a ride directly to your plant. The place where the plant has been pruned can be vulnerable to diseases or infections until it heals. Sharp shears are critical to making clean, swift snips that can heal quickly and don’t cause undue damage to the plant.

Once your pruning shears are sanitized and sharpened, you’re ready to begin.

1. Topping or primary stalk pruning

According to Robert Connell Clarke, a cannabis cultivation expert, trimming the central stalk represents one of the most common pruning techniques. The tip of the central stalk is removed when the plant has reached its desired length. This removal encourages a bushy, laterally spreading plant, rather than a tall, stringy specimen.

Beneath the point where the central stalk has been removed, axial branches will form and grow two new limbs that ultimately spread outwards. This practice, also known as topping , is transformative because it alters the plant’s growth trajectory.

2. Removing big branches and leaves

Pruning the larger branches and leaves promotes instant airflow by creating space. It also allows light to reach more of the plant. Make the cuts as clean and as close to the stem as possible, and at a 45-degree angle. Once the larger branches have been pruned, it’s easier to shift attention to the smaller details.

3. Clearing space around the middle of the plant

Branches growing in the middle of the plant are not as resilient as those at the top. Spend some time pruning to create space around the middle.

Branches growing in the middle of the plant are not as resilient as those at the top. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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4. Lollipopping

Very small limbs or branches grow around the lower parts of the plant, and tend to be atrophied. The removal of entire limbs allows the plant to channel nutrition into the upper stems, leaves, and buds. More air circulates in the lower reaches of the plant, minimizing the risk of mold when growing indoors. Most importantly, energy and growth hormones are directed upwards towards the buds most likely to thrive. This method is colloquially referred to as the lollipop technique or lollipopping. The plant takes on a lollipop appearance: bushy at the top with skinny and sparse foliage toward the bottom.

5. Pruning the leaves and bud sites

Remove any yellow, brown, or diseased-looking tissue. Also prune any leaves that have branches shooting from their base. Snip any buds heavily shaded by the canopy branches. The unfavorable location of these buds means they will not have access to adequate light and may have nutrient deficiencies.

6. Allowing time for recovery

Pruning inflicts stress on the plant, so allowing time for recovery is vital. Make sure you provide adequate water, light, and nourishment in the days after pruning to facilitate recovery from the shock. Within a week the growth of new shoots and leaves should be apparent. You can prune again once the plant has had the opportunity to recover. Always remember, however, that the excessive removal of shoots and leaves is a significant stressor and can inhibit growth and bud development.

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How to Increase Your Yield: The Ultimate Guide on How to Prune Marijuana Plants

If you love growing cannabis, you’re not alone. In fact, by 2025, it’s estimated that legal marijuana will earn the US $23 billion in annual revenue!

Just like selecting the right strain, growing conditions and nutrients, good pruning is an essential task in successful cannabis production. Here, we’ll discuss why proper pruning is important, a few different pruning methods and when to use them, some common mistakes to avoid, and how Trim Daddy can make pruning faster, safer, and more effective.

The Basics of Pruning

As you probably already know, ‘pruning’ a marijuana plant refers to trimming the unwanted parts of it off. Pruning makes more room for the healthy buds to grow and allows them to absorb more light. Using a trimmer with automatic trimming blades , like Trim Daddy, ensures that you get all of the small, unwanted leaves off of your plant so that the good stuff can flourish.

Pruning increases your crop yield in multiple ways. It eliminates the buds that aren’t going to thrive and allows the plant to focus the energy that it would have spent growing them elsewhere. It also gives your plant more space to let natural light in and reach the good leaves.

It also trains your plant to focus on the areas that you want to flourish rather than the small buds at the bottom of the plant. This ensures that they grow appropriately in the space you have provided and that they thrive in areas that can easily be reached by light.

How to Prune Marijuana Plants Properly

Now that you know the basics of pruning and how it helps boost yield, it’s time to talk about how to properly prune your cannabis plants; what should be removed during this process, and what techniques need to be employed. Read on to learn how you can increase your marijuana yield when growing both indoors and outdoors!

What Should Be Removed?

When pruning a marijuana plant, the first thing that you should do is remove entire branches that are dying due to lack of sunlight. These branches will generally be at the bottom of the plant because upper-level leaves have given them too much shade. You can prune the entirety of these branches to give yourself more room to perform more detailed work on the rest of the plant.

Don’t worry that you might be wasting cannabis when you prune these branches- they’re never going to fully develop into usable buds because of their positioning on the plant and lack of sunlight.

After you finish cutting off all the full branches that you don’t want, you can begin clipping bud sites that are low down the main stalks of your plant. These branches that are growing up under the canopy also will get shaded out, making them unable to develop usable buds. Getting rid of them will give your usable buds extra space to grow, thrive, and flourish.

These small branches and bud sites can be hard to reach, but Trim Daddy’s compact design helps trimmers to maneuver into hard to reach places on the plants.

Finally, you’ll need to take a comprehensive look at the remainder of your plant. Prune any tiny branches or dying leaves. If you don’t do this, the rest of the plant is more likely to become unhealthy.

The open space created by pruning will let extra light get to the healthy, usable buds. This will give the entire plant a growth spurt in the days following your pruning.

The plant will also thrive because you have controlled where the plant invests its energy in growing. It isn’t going to waste time and resources attempting to grow unproductive or dying areas, but will rather be able to focus on the areas that will yield usable weed.

Main Pruning Techniques

In addition to pruning the right parts of your plant, you are going to want to utilize a few different pruning techniques.

One of the main pruning techniques is called ‘topping.’ This is what it’s called when you prune the growing main stem of the cannabis plant. Eliminating this top will allow two new main colas to develop. Not only does this increase yield in and of itself, but it also promotes growth of the lower branches by increasing the light levels that they receive.

Fimming is another main pruning technique similar to topping, but instead of doubling your yield, it can increase it 4x. Here, you use your high-quality trimmer to get rid of 75% of the main stem of your cannabis plant. Once this is done, the main shoot will develop into four (or more) colas that will be 100% usable.

Before trying either of these pruning techniques, make sure that the plant has between 3-5 nodes.

Other Pruning Techniques

If you want the most yield possible, topping and fimming alone aren’t going to cut it. You’re going to need to go above and beyond with lollipopping and scrogging.

Lollipopping is simply the removal of fluffy lower bud sites from your cannabis plant with your plant trimmer. When you do this, you help your plant redirect its energy into growing large leaves rather than into nurturing tiny nubs. This is generally best done the third week after the buds develop.

‘Scrogging’ is a bit different than these other pruning techniques because it refers to the site at which the plant should be grown. High-yield pruning strategies can be enhanced with Screen of Green (ScrOG), which refers to placing a mesh screen across the grow space. You then can have the concrete goal of having the plant bud through as many mesh holes as possible, which increases your yield by encouraging you to attain a quantifiable objective.

Mistakes to Avoid

When pruning your plants, there are also some common trim mistakes that you need to avoid.

The first mistake is pruning plants at the wrong time. When you prune too early or try to clip off bad buds preemptively, you run the risk of eliminating a part of the plant that could have grown into a good product. Of course, this is something to avoid at all costs if you want to maximize your yield!

The second- and more detrimental- mistake is over-pruning. While you may think that pruning constantly is a great way to ensure that your plant gets the appropriate amount of light, you could wind up killing it if you’re not careful. The nutrients that your plant needs are stored in its buds, and clipping these buds off means that nutrients will never get to the parts of your plant that you want to nurture. Instead, pruning once a week is generally a safe bet.

Keep your own health and safety, or that of your workers, in mind as well. Using manual scissors or trimmers may give a clean, accurate cut, but the repetitive strain and wrist contortions required can lead to hand strain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Using an electric trimmer like Trim Daddy for pruning can cut down on time, labor costs, and hand strain.

Get Started

While there are a lot of important aspects to cultivating thriving cannabis plants, pruning appropriately is one of the most critical. Pruning properly ensures that your plants will get the right amount of light and nutrients to grow the product that you want.

If you’re looking to cut down on pruning and trimming time, but aren’t willing to give up the quality cut of doing it by hand, it’s time to add Trim Daddy to your cultivation toolkit.

Trim Daddy features easy to change blades too, which means you don’t have to stop working to waste time fumbling with hard-to-clean blades. And it’s ergonomic design means you and your crew don’t have to stop because your hands and wrists hurt too much to keep trimming.

Save time, trim better. Invest in a Trim Daddy today.

If you love growing cannabis, you're not alone. In fact, by 2025, it's estimated that legal marijuana will earn the US $23 billion in annual revenue! Just like selecting the right strain, growing conditions and nutrients, good pruning is an essential task in successful cannabis production. Here, we’ll discuss why prope