Topping, pruning and defoliation on your cannabis plants

One of the things that most helps your cannabis to grow well, healthy and free from pests is pruning and defoliation! Here, we’ll show you why they are so important and how you can do them and still take advantage of them to propagate your plants!

Your cannabis needs nutrient-rich soil, healthy “food”, love and also some essential pruning and defoliation techniques too! As much as these processes seem “easy” or even unnecessary to you, it is essential that you do them correctly so that the plant grows healthy to reach a beautiful final result at harvest time. In addition to being fundamental to controlled development, these actions prevent pests, mold and improve air circulation between the branches and leaves of the herb.

There are a few different techniques for doing this, and they can also be ideal for thinking in conjunction with cloning your favorite strains. After all, as we are talking about somewhat stressful processes, it is better to “kill two rabbits” at once, right?

Here, we’ll tell you a little more about pruning, defoliation and topping – three interesting steps for any grower. Shall we learn more about them?

Technician doing the pruning process on mother plants (which are used to remove clones) in a medicinal extracts laboratory in Uruguay.

Pruning and defoliation

Pruning and defoliation are essential to improve the quality and yield of your cannabis plants. In addition, this practice will bring you closer to the plants, allowing you to better understand their growth and check their health. We are going to tell you something funny – but one of our favorite moments of cultivation is this, even if it takes some work.

Cutting extra branches and discarding leaves will allow the plant to redirect its energy and resources to quality areas, which will receive more light, aeration, and will be more important for healthy cultivation. Another essential practice is to remove the yellow or dead leaves from the plant – they do not bring any benefit, and can still be a perfect focus for the pests on duty.

Pruning will also create a more open space in the middle of the plant, allowing air to circulate more freely – which prevents the appearance of the terrible mold or mildew! In addition, this process helps to ensure that light will penetrate easily, reaching from the highest to the lowest branches.

What to look for when pruning and defoliating

If we are talking about a plant that you want to put to flower, we need to keep in mind that the buds will be formed on the branches that will receive more light, like the ones at the top. Therefore, when performing a pruning and defoliation, you can remove:

  • Low branches that receive little light. They will not bloom, and will only make your plant waste unnecessary energy;

  • Yellowed or dry leaves, dead from lack of light;

  • Branches that may bloom, but that are not receiving enough light (and can be a clone);

  • Any branch that has unhealthy characteristics, such as outbreaks of pests or mold.

The leaves and branches that can be discarded can be a good food for your compost bin!

Topping technique, to promote lateral plant growth and increase yield

When to prune?

In the early stages of growth, a plant is narrow enough that most of the foliage receives enough light; but, from the moment they start to become more dense, it may already be the time to think about pruning. As a plant grows, it begins to take shape and define itself. This will give you an idea of where the quality buds will grow, so that you can start removing the less needed portions.

You can prune your plant up to about 3-4 weeks in the flowering stage, in which the plant pays less attention to its leaves and branches and turns to bud production. If you do the pruning at that time, it can return to recovery, which will decrease the size and quality of your harvest.

It is also interesting to follow the biodynamic calendar: the ideal is to carry out pruning on flower days (as well as the other steps, such as germination, transplantation and cloning). Check it out here:

How to prune your cannabis plants

  • Take a pair of pruning scissors to work quickly on small branches and leaves. Have an additional pair with more strength nearby to cut larger branches.

  • Keep your scissors sharp and make clean cuts – this will keep the plant healthy and prevent infection and damage.

  • Remove the large branches first. This will allow you to clean as much space as possible before starting more detailed work. You can start, for example, with branches on the bottom of the plant. They don’t get enough sunlight and will never become fully developed buds.

  • Cut the branches that are growing in the middle of the plant. These branches will be shaded and also hardly fully blooms.

  • Remove any smaller, dying-looking leaves or branches.

  • In the days following pruning, your plants must undergo a growth explosion.

Shaping cannabis plants: topping + strings

And girls, what is topping again?

Topping is a very common technique in the cultivation of various types of vegetables! It consists of cutting the top of a plant to stop its growth towards the top, promoting a more lateral growth.

Although it may seem strange to cut and throw away part of your cannabis plant, rest assured that topping is an essential step in keeping your plants healthy and obtaining quality yields (and, if you remember correctly, your cut, if well done, can become a beautiful clone)!

This procedure should be done during the vegetative cycle of your herb, to help redistribute growth hormones from the main stem to new branches and stems further down the plant.

The topping and shape of a cannabis plant

If allowed to grow on its own, a cannabis plant will grow vertically, concentrating its energy on a main stem. The result is practically a Christmas tree: a large dominant branch and several other little ones on the back. These smaller stems will give smaller, less-than-good buds, and your harvest will, as we say, flop.

  • Cutting the main stem, the plant directs its energies towards the smaller side branches, which will grow. And that’s what topping is!

Over time, these side branches can also be cut with this method, which will create more side stems and cause the plant to grow even more. Doing so will also create more space for buds in a decentralized way, in order to increase the yield of your cannabis.

Mother plants that have already been cleaned, below the screen there is no light and therefore it does not make sense to keep the branches small

To do the topping, you need to:

  • Separate and disinfect your tools. We recommend, as well as for pruning, a very sharp garden shears. The sharper the better – you need to make a clean cut. The tool must be sterilized with alcohol to help prevent infections in the plant.

  • Decide where to make your cut. You can topping or fimming, depending on where to cut. With the topping, you will remove the newest “bud”, at the tip of the main stem or on a branch; meanwhile, with the fimming, you will cut the top half of this bud. Topping will create two new stems from where you cut, while fimming can create 3 to 8 new stems!

  • Monitor the results. With both techniques, you will see the plant direct more energy to the lower branches of the plants and begin to reach the newly trained dominant stem. It will take a few weeks for the plant to recover completely; at that point, the branches can be pruned again, if you want.

Take advantage of these moments to observe both your plant and the soil where it is. The techniques of pruning, defoliation and topping are also part of the integrated protection against pests – which seeks, in a very clean way, to prevent the contamination of plants by pests in a way that does not harm its quality or that of the soil where it is. But, in addition to all this, it is the time to relax, connect with your cannabis and understand better this beautiful process that is its growth.

So, did you like to know more about it? Do you have any interesting tips to give us? Feel free to leave your message here in the comments – which we LOVE to read!

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