For those who enjoy going the extra mile with their weed – in other words, growing it themselves – the topped plant vs. non topped subject is an important part to know. Topping is the process of cutting away the upper section of the plant from the main stem, before it’s ready to harvest. It stops the plant from growing vertically, and encourages horizontal growth instead.
Topping is different to pruning, as pruning is when you cut off dead twigs or branches to prevent diseases. At the end of the day, both topping and pruning help you max out on your yield. Both steps are crucial to producing strong, healthy plants.
Particularly if you’re growing in a confined space, topping helps your light source reach the bottom of the plant. This ensures an even growth, rather than one cola directed at the top.
Understanding the differences between a topped plant vs. non topped plant and why topping is important in the first place is a huge part of caring for your plants. And it’s that very love and care that will decide between a healthy or unhealthy yield. Particularly for first-time growers, the idea of topping and pruning can seem intimidating. But with the right guidance and tips, you’ll soon be able to top and prune as easily as ever.
So without further ado, find out everything you need to know about topping and pruning your marijuana plants.
Topped Plant vs. Non Topped
Topping is a technique known as “high-stress training” – HST. It’s a method used to essentially train your plants to grow in a certain shape. “High stress” might sound intense, but it’s actually completely normal in guiding your plant to grow in a way that maximizes its size and shape.
A topped cannabis plant stands a better chance at growing and flourishing than a non-topped one. Why? Topping lets you maximize your yield, as it helps you control the size and shape of your plant. Without topping, those cannabis plants will pretty much end up looking like pine trees.
Now, if you’re an outdoor grower with tons of room, this might not pose a problem. But for those with limited space, and especially growing indoors, this isn’t too practical.
Not only does a non-topped plant take up more space, but it also doesn’t allow for proper light to penetrate to the entire plant. Once you prune the top cola, the plant is able to grow more colas in an outward motion, rather than upwards. Like an upside-down pine tree, a topped plant becomes more pronounced on the top, with several colas. And more colas means a greater yield.
What does a topped plant look like?
Marijuana plants grow with a central part, or “cola”, that emerges on top of the stem. That’s where you’ll find the bud. When the cola is pruned, it encourages the rest of the plant to grow without such a bushy lower half.
You’ll be able to tell a topped plant vs. non topped by looking at its lower half. A non-topped plant will have a heavy bottom, while a trained topped plant will be mostly top-heavy with plenty of colas focused at the peak area.
Why Should I Top My Cannabis Plants?
We know the concept of topping can seem a little bizarre at first. How can cutting away at the plant result in a bushier, healthier plant? Funnily enough, it’s exactly what happens. A topped plant is a more prosperous plant. You’re basically eliminating any of the unnecessary fan leaves, and instead promoting the growth of colas.
Here are some of the benefits of topping:
- You’re able to maximize the space you’re growing in since the plants are shorter thanks to topping.
- Your light source is able to reach the entire plant – particularly advantageous for indoor growing spaces.
- The amount of buds is increased, leading to stronger, larger yields.
These benefits play a big role in the success of your harvests. Space and light are often two of the trickiest factors for beginners, as they’re usually trying to figure out the best way to maximize their yields. By topping the plants, you’re giving them a better chance at making it all the way through the growth process.
Best Time to Top Your Cannabis Plant
Believe it or not, timing does matter when it comes to topping. This technique should be used at the vegetative stage of growth. This is the third part of a five-part growing stage, typically around 2-8 weeks after germination. (This differs depending on the marijuana species, so use those numbers as a rough guide.)
As an HST, topping during the seedling stage will place too much stress on the plant. It will then have a lot of difficulty recovering, and in most cases will never recover and grow properly. It also won’t work in the flowering stage, which comes after vegetation. If you tried to top during flowering, it will prevent the plant’s ability to grow healthy buds.
As a general rule of thumb, start topping after your plant has developed five to seven nodes. With this many nodes, the plant is able to withstand the stress of topping.
How Top a Marijuana Plant
Before you go ahead and top those plants, remember that this should only be done in the vegetative stage. This is when the plants are strongest and able to withstand any stress. Cut just above the 5th node on the main branch.
- Get access to a pair of scissors or gardening shears. Make sure the tool is well disinfected, and also make sure it’s nice and sharp.
- Locate the 5th node on the primary stem and make a clean cut just above it – about 5-10 mm above.
- That’s about it! Now it’s time to watch carefully as two stems should now grow rather than just one, resulting in double the colas.
Before topping again, make sure you wait at least two weeks to let the plant recover. If you don’t wait, you run the risk of the plant becoming damaged and unable to grow.
What is Pruning?
Pruning is the act of removing fan leaves from the marijuana plant that are dead, or that don’t receive enough light. This lets the plant concentrate its natural energy on developing and growing buds in more prosperous areas.
Removing these poor-quality leaves helps prevent diseases from forming and spreading to the healthy parts of the plant. You’re essentially helping the plant redirect its energy. Those dying or dead leaves are doing nothing but taking away resources from the healthy ones.
Pruning also has something to do with airflow and light. When you remove those unnecessary leaves, more space is created throughout the centre of the plant. This helps light and air to access deeper areas within the plant. As a result, healthier buds are able to grow.
Pruning is also the perfect time to take a closer look at the overall health of your plant. Check for pests, soil quality, and whether it’s receiving enough nutrients.
Here’s a quick summary of why you should prune your cannabis plants:
- Light is able to better penetrate the plant.
- Air is able to better flow through the plant.
- Great opportunity to look at the overall health of the plant.
- Helps fight off diseases.
- Helps control the shape of the plant to maximize space.
What is Fimming?
You may or may not have heard of fimming, which is another HST method. It’s ever-so-slightly different to topping, though. The goal here is still the same as topping – increasing the amount of colas. But the main difference between topping and fimming is that fimming produces even more colas than topping. Another difference lies in the actual cutting method, where 75% of the tip is removed during fimming. Unlike topping, where the entire tip is cut off.
We recommend fimming for growers with extremely limited space, where they may be growing just one or two plants. Perhaps surprisingly, fimming was discovered by accident. The word FIM actually stands for, “F*ck, I missed”, implying that fimming is somewhat of a “lazy” version of topping. Now it’s a lot more common and accepted as a valid way to boost the number of colas.
How to Prune Your Marijuana Plant
Pruning should also only be done during the vegetative phase. This helps keep the plant strong so that it can continue growing to produce juicy, healthy buds.
- You’ll need some pruning shears or scissors. Make sure they’re extra sharp and able to make clean cuts.
- Go for the larger branches at the bottom first to help make space for more detailed pruning.
- Remove any branches that don’t receive enough light. This is a preventative measure to avoid any possible future dead leaves.
- Now you can go for the smaller branches and leaves. Cut off any dead bits with those sharpened shears, aiming for a clean cut.
Now that you know all you need about the topped plant vs. non topped subject, you can now top, prune and FIM with confidence. Probably the most important thing to remember is to stick to the vegetative phase of the plant growth. This ensures you’re cutting when the plant is at its strongest, so that it can do its thing and grow more colas. The health of your plant comes first, so use the time when you’re pruning to look out for any abnormalities. And if you’re not a grower, then get your hands on only the best-quality ready-made weed products on the market.