Did you know that tomato farmers routinely prune their crops to increase their overall yield? It’s true – they get rid of the tiny shoots between the branches and trunk to eliminate needless plant matter. This also allows the crops to focus their energy on what remains.
As it happens, pruning is also ideal for marijuana plants for the same reason. By removing these useless shoots, your cannabis plant can produce larger buds, which means a higher yield and more potency!
Typically, pruning is associated with professional growers keen to boost the maximum yield per square meter in their gardens. By removing the unnecessary leaves, you ensure that your entire plant receives enough light, which results in fantastic growth. That is as long as you add the necessary nutrients, too, of course.
In this concise guide, we show you when and how to prune your cannabis plants.
When Do You Need to Start Pruning Marijuana Plants?
Some growers say that you should only begin pruning your plants once they attain a bushy shape. You can best achieve this by “training” your plants. When your marijuana plant is still relatively young, it should be narrow enough to receive ample light. Through plant training, you can manipulate its shape so that you dictate where its canopy is. This makes it easier to remove excess leaves.
You must begin pruning while your marijuana plant is still in its vegetative stage.
Your plant will be ‘shocked’ by the process and will need several days to recover. When you prune early, you give the plant the time to relax and grow bigger leaves. Make sure you don’t force your plants into the flowering stage for at least three days after pruning. This should be long enough for your plants to start growing again. It is also a good idea to ease off on the nutrients for a couple of days.
Don’t assume that you can avoid pruning when using the Screen of Green (SCROG) method. When you use this training tactic, you place a screen approximately 0.5m above the plants. Once the tops of the plants are within 0.1m of the screen, take them off and wait until new tops grow through the screen. After they have grown 0.1m through the screen, bend them gently and connect to the screen.
At this stage, you can prune the plants once the first shoots have come through the screen. After a few days, transition to the flowering stage, and during the first couple of weeks, your plants should continue to grow. You mustn’t prune more than 2-3 weeks into flowering. Otherwise, you could inadvertently trigger further vegetative growth, which will negatively impact your yield.
What to Look for When Pruning Cannabis Strains
Experienced growers know that high-quality cannabis will grow where the plant gets the most airflow and sunlight. In other words, outside of the plant. It is vital for the plant’s energy to be focused on the top. As a result, you need to get rid of:
- Branches near the bottom of the plant that receive little light
- Dying leaves (because of a lack of light exposure)
- Bud sites located near the foot of the main stalks
How to Prune Cannabis Plants
First and foremost, make sure you have the necessary equipment. We recommend purchasing a few pairs of scissors; either Fiskars or Chikamasas are ideal for the job. You also need different cutting tools to carry out various pruning tasks. You have to be intricate in some parts, but in others, you will require something stronger to remove big branches. Make sure your cutting implements are sharp and clean to prevent infection.
Now, let’s provide you with some essential pruning tips.
Focus on the Lower Branches
Your marijuana plant needs to expend vast amounts of energy to maintain all of its leaves and branches. However, a significant number of these branches will provide little assistance to the growing process. They will do nothing more than use up essential nutrients.
You will find such branches at the bottom of the plant. As they receive next to no light, they will produce underdeveloped buds at best.
Wait until your plants reach a height of 0.6m and begin removing these unnecessary branches at the bottom. You should remove the large branches first. Don’t be concerned; remember, you are helping your yield, not hurting it!
Next, move on to the branches in the middle of the plant. Once again, it is unlikely that they will receive enough sunlight to become healthy and useful. Your next port of call is the bud sites that are shielded from the sun. Check the lower halves of the plant and canopy branches.
As the pruning process expands, intricate cutting becomes essential. This is why the blades and edges of your scissors should be razor-sharp and undamaged.
Never tear out branches with your hands! Remember, you are effectively amputating a plant’s limbs, so be careful. The threat of excess plant shock means you should work at intervals rather than do everything at once.
What About Leaves?
There are different schools of thought with regards to pruning leaves. According to some growers, defoliation leads to better yields.
However, please remember that the biggest leaves are akin to solar panels. They absorb sunlight for photosynthesis and store it for later use. If you remove too many leaves, you are damaging the plant in two ways.
Although you should remove dying leaves, you must leave large and healthy fan leaves alone. The sugar produced by the leaves gets sent to the buds, young leaves, and side shoots.
Removing the Tip
The top cola (highest tip of the plant) contains a chemical element that can hinder the growth of other branches. When you cut it, you distribute the energy to other branches. It is especially important to cut the tip when growing outdoors when you’re concerned about the plant growing too tall. If you have limited space indoors or wish to grow via Screen of Green, removing the top cola is also advisable. When you cut off the tip, give your plant a few days to recover.
Don’t Prune During Flowering!
We already mentioned this, but it’s a point worth repeating. When a plant is hurt, it generates a hormonal response, including a growth inhibitor called jasmonic acid. When this acid is released, your plant begins to focus on defense rather than growth. It is even possible that this defense mechanism will halt growth or eliminate the production of flowers (buds) completely.
In the excitement of pruning your plant, it is easy to overdo it and end up hurting your yields. In some cases, it is merely a case of removing some THC-rich leaves early to enjoy your crop before harvest. Although understandable, you are undoing your hard work because the most potent and flavorful marijuana is not available until harvest.
When pruning for the first time, take note of whether branches are coming from the basal stem of a leaf. If there is, do not cut that leaf off. Also, don’t strip a stalk or a branch of all its leaves. Make sure you water your plant immediately after pruning to stimulate growth and reduce shock.
A lot of growers’ despair at the thought of removing leaves early. This is because leaves pruned when a plant is less than 12 weeks old contain minimal THC. It seems like a waste, but in the bigger picture, you are doing it to maximize yield.
In the end, there is no guarantee of success when growing or pruning your cannabis plants. There will be times when you carefully tend to a plant for months, and it still provides a disappointing yield. However, it is extremely rare for this to happen.
When you prune your plants properly, and at the correct time, you should be rewarded with a healthy, bumper yield.
If you are new to pruning and want to be extra cautious, only prune leaves that look unhealthy. Sick leaves are yellow ones, have brown tips, are withered, or parts of their lobes are eaten. As long as the bases of the leaves have branches coming out, you can safely remove them.