There are several important factors to consider and implement when growing cannabis to reach maximum yield – there is the proper blend of nutrients, best soil pH, climate, and even the right amount of light. And then, of course, there is the proper and correct pruning. Pruning cannabis is considered an intimate practice between the gardener and the plant as it is one of the most effective ways to direct the growth of the plant. While the process of pruning is pretty simple and straightforward, it is also a skill that requires dedication, energy, and practice. In this article, we will discuss the importance of pruning cannabis and the different tips and techniques involved to enjoy a bountiful crop of premium buds.
Why Prune Your Cannabis Plants?
Pruning is used in both indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivations and the techniques used depend entirely on the gardener’s needs. As mentioned, pruning is an excellent way to manipulate the growth of your cannabis plants. At its most fundamental level, the process consists of removing branches and leaves of the plant during its vegetative growth to achieve several benefits – first, to improve access to light and ventilation, and, second, to ensure that the plant focuses all its energy in producing compact and dense nugs.
If there are too many leaves and branches during the growth phase, this may result in stunted growth as certain layers will have insufficient access to light and air circulation. Another upside to increased airflow underneath the canopy is the removal of places for insects to hide. By simply using a sterile pair of scissors or scalpel, you can remove at least 50 percent of the plant’s foliage, leaving the bottom part of the plant completely bare. By doing this, you are “training” your plant to devote its energy to nurturing and strengthening its remaining leaves and buds on top. At the same time, you are dictating its shape and where its canopy should be. While the principle sounds very simple, pruning cannabis at the wrong time and using the wrong technique can be detrimental to the health and development of the plant. It is for this reason that pruning is almost always left to seasoned gardeners and many new growers stick to pruning only the unhealthy and dead leaves.
When to Prune Your Cannabis Plants?
Pruning cannabis should always be exclusively carried out during the plant’s vegetative growth stage. When it is well into its vegetative phase, the plant should measure approximately 12 inches tall with several sets of leaves. It is during this stage that most of the plant’s biological intensity is directing it to reach a certain size. Some novice growers make the mistake of pruning the plants only when they have attained a bushy shape. However, the plants will most likely be “shocked” or stressed by the process at this point and will take days to recover. This will result in a delayed onset of the flowering stage or, worse, it can even prevent the plant from reaching the flowering stage altogether and cause hermaphrodite traits to develop. By carefully pruning them early on and at the right time, the plants are given ample time to relax, recover, redirect their energy expenditure, and grow bigger leaves. Allow a seven to a ten-day window before the flowering stage to achieve the optimal results.
In certain cases, however, cannabis growers will opt to delay the flowering phase of their plants and will use pruning as a strategic tool. This often happens when they want a flowering male to fertilize a late female so they prune the male plants earlier to prevent it from flowering before the female.
How to Prune Your Cannabis Plants?
The process of pruning cannabis requires only one tool: a sterilized pair of sharpened pruning shears. By keeping your clippers clean and sharp, they will be able to make clean cuts, allow that part of the plant to heal quickly, and avoid any chances of introducing disease and contamination to your plants. To properly and correctly prune your cannabis, here are some essential tips and techniques:
Topping. The topic of topping is a controversial one among cannabis growers, but many experienced and seasoned gardeners swear on the effectiveness of topping in the promotion of bushy plants. The process of topping involves cutting off the central stalk when the plant has reached its desired height. This stimulates the growth of more shoots and branches as, over time, it will alter the plant’s growth trajectory into a lateral spread rather than a single growing stringy shoot. The main benefit of topping is to provide the entire plant access to more light even in places with the most relatively limited light source and therefore encouraging bigger buds, more branches, and more leaves.
Removing branches and leaves. Pruning enough branches and leaves instantly promote better airflow by clearing out as much space as possible. It also allows light to reach more layers of the plant. Seasoned growers recommend starting with branches on the base of the plant as these receive the least amount of sunlight and will most likely never become fully-developed buds. This will send a message to your plant to direct all its available nutrients and attention to the outermost buds that will most likely become the healthiest and tastiest harvests. Your next port of call should be bud sites in the middle of the plant that are heavily shielded from the sun and also will not develop into full buds.
Leave most of the plant’s largest fan leaves as they are the plant’s solar panels and fuel factory. Remember that leaves absorb and use sunlight for photosynthesis so if you remove too many of them and especially the biggest ones in the excitement, you are doing more damage to the plant than you are helping it. If you cut the biggest leaves off, the rest of the plant will focus on producing more chlorophyll to sustain itself rather than focusing on creating THC.
Make sure to create clean 45-degree cuts that are as close to the stem as possible. Never tear out branches and leaves using your bare hands. And lastly, remember that the process of pruning is stressful for your plants so avoid excessive cuttings and work at intervals rather than doing everything at once.
Allowing time for post-prune recovery. As mentioned over and over again in this article, the process of pruning inflicts stress on your plant so providing them with a recovery period is vital. Make sure to feed them with adequate water and nourishment after pruning to facilitate recovery from the shock and stimulate growth. Within a week, and once the plant has had the opportunity to relax and recover, you can continue with pruning. Additionally, give your plants at least five days to recover after completing your pruning process before forcing the flowering phase. While this may take time and patience, it will ensure you of higher yields.
Any dedicated grower understands the importance of pruning cannabis. It is considered an intimate activity and a great opportunity for the gardeners to be mindfully present in their gardens, check on their plant’s overall health and look for nutritional deficiencies and pests. Most importantly, pruning provides them with the ability to ensure maximum quality and yield from their cannabis plants.