It doesn’t matter if you grow indoors or outdoors, or whether you have a large or small cannabis garden. The process of training your marijuana plants is a technique that every cannabis grower should know. There are two main types:
- High-Stress Training (HST): Involves the removal or breakage of parts of the marijuana plant.
- Low-Stress Training (LST): Focuses on bending but not breaking your plants, so there is no direct damage if you do it correctly.
According to some expert growers, implementing an HST or LST technique could boost your yields by an incredible 40%! It is unquestionably one of the easiest – and cheapest – ways to bump your return. Otherwise, you may need to make expensive investments to improve your automation setup or lighting.
Have you ever managed a weed plot and allowed your plants to grow at will? If so, you’ll have noticed that they tend to grow in a ‘Christmas Tree’ shape. This is great for outdoor plants as they are exposed to sunlight. The sun rises and sets each day, which means your plants receive light from the sides. However, this natural shape isn’t ideal if you grow indoors and use artificial lights.
Unless you invest in a sophisticated lighting structure where the light’s movement mimics the sun’s, the sides and bottom of your plants will not get enough light.
Why Use Plant Training?
When you use a training technique, you are aiming to alter the chemical balance in your marijuana plants. When weed grows naturally, it produces a central bud (cola), which reaches as high as it can towards the light. While it could create a very tall plant, the cola usually produces a suboptimal yield. It also reduces the quality of the cannabis.
The sun provides enough light from approximately 93 million miles away. Unfortunately, that 1,000-Watt HPS light is useless from more than a few feet away!
In cannabis, a plant hormone called auxin largely determines growth. It is concentrated at the top of your marijuana plants. As a result, the majority of the plant’s focus is on growing upwards via the central stalk.
When you use training techniques such as the methods we describe, you restrict upward growth and encourage more even growth. The result is – or should be – more buds, higher potency, and greater yield.
High Stress Training (HST) for Marijuana Plants
Please remember that all of these HST methods involve “damaging” the plant slightly. By ‘stressing’ out your plants, there is always the danger that you’ll permanently damage them. Or you may at least reduce yield quantities if you get the technique wrong.
Overall, HST techniques are better for extensive outdoor gardens and require fewer materials than their LST counterpart.
You can try the “Super Cropping” method in the early part of flowering. Otherwise, you should only attempt the following HST methods during the vegetative stage. It takes several days for your plants to recover, so performing HST during flowering is a bad idea.
Topping marijuana plants is one of the most straightforward HST techniques, but you need long fingernails to do it right! It involves damaging the plant at a very young age to cause it to grow more bud sites. As you can probably guess from the name, topping involves removing the top of the plant.
If you do it right, the top buds turn into two new branches. You also shock the plant into further growth near the bottom. Make sure you stop ‘topping’ at least a week before flowering, but you can repeat the process several times.
Super Cropping / Stem Mutilation
This tactic is akin to LST, albeit a more aggressive alternative. Rather than tying the top of the plant down, bend the branch until its fibers break and it folds over. Do NOT snap the branch or tear the stalk’s skin. To super crop correctly, choose the place where you want the breakage before rolling and squeezing the stem.
You should feel it weaken before it starts to break down and falls over. Do this correctly, and the rest of the marijuana plant gains much-needed exposure to light.
FIM (“F*ck, I Missed”)
FIM is a more sophisticated version of topping. You need to remove a specific portion of the top of the marijuana plant. When you remove the topmost region only, you can produce four branches rather than the two associated with topping. While this offers a greater reward, it is also harder and riskier. Infection becomes a real possibility due to the lack of a clean cut on the stalk.
And if you mess up? Well, this is where the technique’s name comes from. You’ll likely look down at your mutilated plants while saying, “F*ck, I Missed.”
This method involves topping the plant a couple of times in a specific way. Do it correctly, and you create a comprehensive ‘manifold’ at the plant’s base. Manifolding is a relatively simple way to achieve a significant level of training without devoting too much time. This process also enables buds to grow longer, bigger, and more uniform than with most other methods. However, topping your plants twice can add up to a fortnight to harvest time.
This process involves removing the largest fan leaves on your marijuana plants. Ideally, you will only attempt defoliation during the vegetative stage. Technically, you can do it during the first four weeks of flowering to try and encourage further bud growth. Defoliate just before the switch to flowering, and again a couple of weeks later. Get the timing right, and you may see a considerable growth spurt.
Low-Stress Training (LST) for Marijuana Plants
LST tends to take longer and involve more effort than its HST equivalent. Nonetheless, it will boost your crop’s yield without subjecting it to unnecessary stress. As a result, it is possible to perform LST methods during the early stages of flowering. However, it is best to stick to LST during the vegetative stage. Aside from LST itself, there is also the Screen of Green method, better known as SCROG (see below).
The LST method includes bending the marijuana plant when it grows. It involves tying down any branches that are getting too long.
Once you pull the top of the plant into an ‘L’ shape (loosely), the chemical auxin is likely distributed more evenly throughout your plant. Make sure you continue to tie down the top of the plant as it grows. Doing so will maintain the flow of precious auxin.
We recommend using special plant tape to complete the process. If you use duct tape or something else, you could end up choking the plant. Ultimately, you want to have the plant’s stalks growing around the pot. If this happens, a significant number of bud sites are exposed at an even height. During flowering, the colas shoot up from the now-sideways plant and are all at an even level.
SCROG (Screen of Green)
The SCROG method of training marijuana plants includes the use of a screen. Rather than tying down your plants, you wait for them to grow right through the special screen. When the branches begin to break through, tuck them back into the filter. By weaving the branches around the screen in this manner, the idea is to benefit from increased cola growth. Ultimately, you also see bigger nugs and more robust yields.
This is perhaps the most basic form of marijuana plant training. It is ideal for first-timers and those looking to keep things simple. Bend the main stem over 90 degrees when the plant is very young. When performed correctly, the lower branches become main colas. You only bend the main stem, so no fancy training techniques are necessary!
Final Thoughts on Training Your Marijuana Plants
Indoor growers find the above techniques especially useful. Those who cultivate weed indoors train their plants to grow with an array of thick bud sites. It is a shape that produces the best yields when plants are exposed to the limited power of artificial lighting.
You can control a significant amount of your plants’ final size and shape through the use of proper training methods.
Of course, a strain’s genetics dictate growth patterns such as smell, potency, and appearance. Therefore, it is wise to consider what you expect and want from cannabis. Then, you can check out the most suitable strains.
You may find that keeping your plants short and bushy works better than allowing them to become tall and thin. Shorter, bushier plants get lots of light, evenly spread. Remember, light is akin to ‘food’ for your crop. Make sure the plants get enough, and you provide your cannabis with all the energy it needs to grow.