Topping Cannabis Guide: How to Top Your Plants
Cutting Cannabis For Better Structure: “Topping”
Topping is a cannabis plant training techniques that involves cutting off the top of a main stem. The technique is designed to give you a free way to create more colas as well as spread out the plant so you can take advantage of all your light. As a result, topping can help you achieve bigger marijuana yields!
Most plants naturally only have one main stem. The idea of “topping” is to cut off the top of a main stem to split it into two.
The two growth tips that remain will each develop into their own stem. Each stem can turn into a bud/cola in the flowering stage, so by topping the plant once or a few times, you increase the total number of buds sites under the grow light, and it also helps you keep the plant flat and wide.
It you let a marijuana plant grow naturally, it will usually grow one main stem
But if you top the plant when it’s young, you can cause it to grow multiple colas in basically the same amount of time! This often lets you grow more bud in the same amount of space with the same grow light.
…In the same amount of vertical space as a plant like this
All plant training techniques are designed to help growers get a more desirable plant shape and bigger yields without changing other aspects of their grow. For example, cannabis plants don’t naturally grow in a way that takes full advantage of indoor grow lights – a lot of light is wasted when cannabis plants are allowed to grow naturally without training.
Because of this, cannabis plant training techniques like topping are especially effective at increasing yields in indoor grow setups by creating a bushier plant with extra colas.
Notice how these plants have many colas instead of just one – this is due to using plant training techniques like topping.
Learn about FIMing, a very similar plant training technique that removes slightly “less off the top” but still results in multiple colas.
In the above example, the plant on the left was allowed to grow naturally, which resulted in the classic “Christmas tree” shape that’s not very efficient under indoor grow lights. The plant on the right was topped as a seedling. This broke the dominance of the main cola, and the plant started putting out multiple colas.
With topping, the growth tips that become new colas are already present. They just get bigger and become colas because topping breaks the symmetry of the plant and exposes these growth tips to light and air. Instead of focusing on just one cola, the plant starts focusing on many growth tips until they become colas.
Topping Involves Removing or Damaging Top Growth – This Reveals Hidden Growth Tips and Signals Plants to Start Putting Energy Into Them
By damaging the main stem, topping encourages the plant to spend energy growing many colas instead of focusing on just one.
Lower growth nodes will become new colas once they’re exposed to light and air, but they develop much faster when the main cola’s dominance is broken by topping.
Notice how these growth tips have started developing and rising up after plant is topped (the fan leaves have been removed so you can see the new colas more easily)
Here’s an example of a plant that was topped at a late age, after it had already grown 8 nodes. Although you might not get quite as good results as if you had topped it earlier, it still definitely increased the total number of colas and improved the yields!
Topping Quick Summary
- Cut off top of plant at stem in between nodes
- Creates 2 main colas at the top of the plant, and LST can be used to create more
- New colas are evenly spaced (attached to the stem in the same place)
- Can be used to reduce the height of plant in vegetative page
- Can slow down growth for a day or two
This video shows the whole cannabis topping process, in timelapse format. The lower growth tips begin to rise up, and each of these can produce even more main colas.
Here’s a video showing what a plant looks like after being topped (time-lapse of about 2 weeks)
You will end up with a wider, bushier plant that doesn’t grow just one main cola in a Christmas tree shape.
Some growers will use several phases of topping to produce cannabis plants with dozens of colas. Some techniques take this to the extreme, for example manifolding (also sometimes called “main-lining”) is a technique that uses topping several times to make a cannabis “manifold.”
Important: Don’t Top Too Early!
With both topping, you remove some of the growth on the end of a cola of a young marijuana plant, which causes the plant to stop focusing on one cola (like a Christmas tree) and instead to create many bud-laden colas (grow more bushy).
If you top the plant too early, it will have a hard time recovering. It may seem like a good idea, but you will get the best results and fastest recover if you wait until the plant has 4-5 nodes.
Wait Until Plant Has At Least 4-5+ Nodes – Topping a Too-Young Seedling Can Slow Down Growth. Waiting a Few More Days to Cut Can Result in a Much Faster Recovery.
Growers use the plant’s natural response to topping to produce short bushy plants with many colas. After the plant has been switched to the flowering stage, the widespread of colas allows the plant to efficiently use indoor grow lights to produce the biggest yields possible.
If you choose to use either of these methods, you will get the best results by doing it when the plant is young, usually when it has around 4-5 total nodes formed.
These young cannabis plants are almost ready to be topped
You get great results by breaking the tendency of the plant to grow one main cola while the plant is still short, because you can arrange your multiple colas however you want as the plant develops, instead of dealing with a Christmas tree shaped plant.
You can also top your plant later in the vegetative stage, but you will have a longer main stalk, giving you less ability to arrange the colas the way you want.
After being topped, your plant will need some time spent recovering in the vegetative stage, though generally this just causes the plant to ‘fill out’ more instead of growing taller, which is often desirable for indoor growers.
This plant was trained for
2 dozen colas in the vegetative stage
Important: Don’t Top in the Flowering Stage; It’s Too Late!
Topping should only be used in the vegetative stage! In fact, any training technique that involves cutting or damaging your plant should only be done in the vegetative stage of cannabis growth, and never during the flowering/budding stage.
In the flowering stage, only gentle training techniques such as LST or bending should ever be used to change the shape of the plant.
A plant with many colas can only be achieved by training a plant from early in the vegetative stage
Cannabis plants are much less tough in the flowering stage, and they no longer are growing vegetatively (producing new stems or colas).
If you watch a plant in the flowering stage, you’ll see that it doesn’t get taller or develop growth nodes. It only “focuses” on making buds. Topping at this point won’t do any good. Damaging your plant during the budding stage will usually cause a reduction in your final yields.
By the time your plants are in the flowering stage, much of the growth structure has already been created, and you generally need to try to manage as best you can if your plant has grown into a shape you don’t like.
What if my plant is already too tall in the flowering stage?
If your plant is already too tall in the flowering stage for your grow setup, you’ve got to take immediate action to prevent the plant from getting any taller.
My suggestion is to use bending (LST) your plant to control the height of further growth.
Once flowering is fully underway (after the initial flowering stretch), the plant will not grow much taller, so you can just try to hang on until harvest.
How Can You Tell That Your Plant is Diverting Energy to New Colas?
Almost immediately after topping, the connections to each node become enlarged at the base.
These thickened connections shows thatshow cannabis plant is spreading energy more evenly across the whole plant.
When you see your plant thicken connections like this, it means that the plant is strengthening the “internal system” of the stem, so it’s easeir to deliver nutrients and other building blocks. This results in faster growth, bigger colas, and increased yields for each of the affected stems.
The thickening that happens at the base of stems is one sign that the plant is diverting energy to the new colas (where before it was putting the majority of its energy into just the one main cola).
As time goes on, the most used stems can become so thick they’re almost like tree trunks.
How to Top Your Cannabis Plant
When topping your cannabis, you cut off a growing node of the plant, reducing the height instantly. This can be especially beneficial if you’ve let your plant get too tall. Topping also increases the number of colas, which can give you more bud at harvest,
When topping your marijuana plant, it’s best to top the plant when it is young, and has 4-5 nodes (sets of leaves) in total. Although you could do it a little earlier, you’re more likely to accidentally stunt your plant the younger it is.
“Topping” the plant means cutting off the newest node on your marijuana plant’s main cola in order to split it into two. However the word topping can also refer to cutting of the tip of any stem.
A good place to top is directly above the leaves of the next node.In other words, cut through the stem right above its next set of leaves from the top.
This will cause your plant to transfer its energy to two new main colas, as indicated by the two yellow dots in the diagram above.
14-day Timelapse Video of a Cannabis Plant’s Recover After Being Topped
These 2 new colas for a V which can easily be bent to spread wide. You can top these two new colas a few weeks later and have 4 total colas. This can even be doubled to produce 8 colas that all come from a single “manifold.” Learn more about manifolding cannabis.
Another benefit of topping is how the plant tends to grow bushier afterwards, spreading its energy much more evenly around to the whole plant.
Often lower branches rise up to become new main colas. This is especially true if you combine Topping with LST to open up the plant so the lower branches get more light.
If you’ve grown a very tall plant, it’s also possible to top your (vegetative) plant down to the node you want to reduce the height, but remember that all the time the plant spent getting tall will be lost. In order to get the most flexible colas, without losing vegetative time, try to top early in the plant’s life
If you’re still in the vegetative (non-budding) stage and plants are growing way too tall, you can top the plant immediately to remove height as needed. The time spent growing the extra growth will be lost, so this may add time to the veg stage.
If you want to top the plant multiple times, you may be interested in learning about main-lining (creating a manifold – a plant training technique).
Topping Cannabis Guide: How to Top Your Plants Cutting Cannabis For Better Structure: “Topping” Topping is a cannabis plant training techniques that involves cutting off the top of a main
How To Top Your Cannabis Plants
Topping is a technique that cannabis growers use to boost the yields of their crops. The process of topping cannabis plants is relatively simple and uncomplicated. It involves cutting off the top part of a plant during the vegetative phase to encourage it to grow more laterally. Cutting off part of your plant might seem like an odd thing to do, but in the long-run, this works to produce large yields of great quality.
Left to their own devices, cannabis plants grow mostly vertically, featuring a main stem and cola to which most of the energy is supplied. Topped plants possess several main stems and multiple large colas. Topping forces plants to redistribute growth hormones more evenly, resulting in a more even and bulky canopy of buds. This widespread layout also allows bud sites to receive equal amounts of light, as opposed to being overshadowed by the main cola and fan leaves on a more vertical plant.
Best of all the process is repeatable so 4, 8, 16 or even 32 colas can be developed. With a little practice, even a novice grower can master topping and harvest professional yields.
By the end of this easy topping guide, you will at least be confident enough to test top a few plants in the cannabis garden. It’s always best to experiment with one or two plants before totally committing an entire weed crop. And don’t panic if you happen to make a meal of topping. We’ve got you covered with grow guides for both LST and FIM techniques to rescue the situation.
Benefits Of Topping
The number one advantage of topping cannabis plants is the tremendous yield potential that the technique unlocks. In comparison with marijuana left to grow au naturel, topped cannabis plants will deliver a heavier harvest nine times out of ten.
Topping can be combined with Lollipopping and the ScrOG method to produce huge harvests of top-shelf colas. Alternatively topped plants are often trained in a 4-way LST. Again, this can also be combined with the ScrOG method for equally impressive harvests.
The secondary benefit of topping is it facilitates an even canopy. Topped plants fill out lateral grow space. Instead of racing up vertically they focus on lateral growth and new colas. Topping will not completely curb the vertical growth entirely. Especially not mostly sativa stretchy strains. Rather topping slows vertical growth down allowing side branches to catch up while two new top colas are emerging.
Disadvantages Of Topping
Topping marijuana creates an open wound. If conditions in the grow-op are less than perfect or pests/pathogens are present there could be trouble in the forest. Any kind of stress is bad for cannabis plants. Topping can be an open invitation for fungi and other microbial nasties.
Overall the benefits of topping marijuana far outweigh the potential pitfalls. Topping cannabis plants in a perfectly dialled-in grow-op shouldn’t present any problems. It is oft espoused that certain unnamed cannabis strains respond poorly to topping.
We have yet to encounter the weed that didn’t produce more buds when topped. Give topping a try whatever cannabis strain you happen to be cropping. Do the math. More shoots equals more flowers.
How To Top Cannabis Plants
It’s no surprise that cutting off the top of your weed plant causes it some stress, which is why you should top later on in the vegetative phase when your plant is more developed and adaptable to such a stimulus.
To top correctly, you’ll need a brief knowledge of cannabis anatomy. One type of site you’ll need to be familiar with is a node, the intersection between the main stem and individual branches. When topping, the general go-to method is to snip your plant just above the 5th node. Making the cut at this area will produce a nice, sturdy, and bushy plant.
Before topping your plant, you’ll need to gather either pruning scissors or a razor blade that has been sterilised with rubbing alcohol to minimise the chances of infecting your plant. You can also use your hands to top. We’ll discuss this matter next.
Next, make the cut just above the 5th node. After a few days, you’ll notice two new stalks emerge from this site. Over the following weeks, these stems will gain some serious girth and become stalks in their own right.
Some growers choose to continue the topping process to further enhance yields. If it’s your first time topping, then it’s best to stop after the first cut and wait for results. More experienced growers can make further cuts on each branch just above the second or third nodes for even bushier plants. Most growers allow 1-2 weeks recovery time before repeating the process to further enhance cola development
Scissors Vs Fingers
Once again growers are divided into two camps. There are growers that swear by a quality pruning scissors. Then there are those that prefer to pinch off tops between fingertips. Both techniques are very effective. After a process of some trial and error. Pretty quickly you will discover which you prefer.
It really is a matter of personal preference. Go with what feels comfortable for you personally. A scissors makes a cleaner cut but if you’re topping in week 1 of vegetative growth pinching is probably easier.
Cannabis plants are very bendy and pliable during vegetative growth. But the longer they remain in the vegetative phase the thicker stems and shoots become. After 6 weeks growing most strains have matured enough to necessitate the use of scissors for pruning. Pinching is most effective when applied early.
When To Top Cannabis?
There are two schools of thought concerning the appropriate time to top cannabis plants. Old school growers are generally inclined to be more patient. While Millennials prefer to top right away. Waiting a month or more before commencing pruning is far too long for some.
Topping infant cannabis plants very early sets them on track to become bushes. Expect an extended vegetative growth cycle too. Waiting until plants get to the 4th week of vegetative growth before topping is less stressful. Although, not always practical with taller rapid growing strains.
As a rule of thumb, topping is always performed during vegetative growth. Save some exceptional circumstances. Also, most growers allow 1-2 weeks recovery time before repeating the process to further enhance cola development.
Remember, topping marijuana is a stressful practice. Plants will need a 1-2 week recovery period minimum. Allow them time to heal before further pruning to encourage more colas. A good tip to speed up recovery is to feed plants a light dose of nutes, Vitamin B, and silica immediately after making the cut to top the plant.
Topping cannabis plants is a great way to increase yields of any strain. Armed with our simple step by step guide heavier marijuana harvests are sure to follow.