Topping Weed Plants: Easily Increase Cannabis Yields

Topping weed plants is a well-known method used by experienced growers to increase the number of buds on one plant. It is a simple and above all cost-effective way of stimulating a higher yield with minimum investment. But what exactly is topping and how do you top a cannabis plant?

Topping Weed Plants

Topping is an old and proven technique, applied to a number of different plants. Take a boxwood for example. To ensure a full and thick boxwood hedge, this plant has to be trimmed down once or twice a year. For every branch that’s cut off, at least two new ones appear. Filling up the bush until it becomes impossible to see through it, be it for privacy or decorative reasons.

world's biggest joint cannabis boxwood trimming
It may look like the World’s biggest joint. Though this boxwood needs trimming 1-2 times a year to ensure a thick bush.

Obviously cannabis plants are topped with a different motive; though the technique stays unchanged. Pruning the main branch of a weed plant gives the underlaying side shoots  the opportunity to take over.

So one branch turns into two, giving you not one but two main cola’s. And instead of focussing all energy on one tall main cola, the energy is divided to the sides of the cannabis plant. Ensuring more ‘lateral’ growth, so a wider and bushier specimen. Moreover, this can be done with all branches on the cannabis plant, not only the main one.

Why Top Cannabis Plants?

Pruning a weed plant’s main branch doubles the amount of growing tops on it. Naturally, this also increases the topped plant’s yield in comparison to a cannabis plant that is not topped. And although the two new buds are smaller than the original bud could have been without topping the cannabis plant, their total weight should be higher.

cannabis plant topped weed
where used to be only one

Because topping cannabis reshapes the plant in a way that greatly benefits the light distribution. Cutting away one tall branch for several new ones at the same height, ensures lowers (buds on lower branches) get more light too. Considering light equals weight when it comes to cannabis cultivation, this is definitely one of the main advantages of topping weed plants. As you might have guessed, increasing yields is the most important reason for cannabis growers to top their plants.

Another big reason to top your cannabis, is height-management. Logically, the two new branches do not grow as fast as the one would. Topping a weed plant divides the growth of one branch over multiple ones. Making the plant grow less in height, but push more energy into growing wider. Height-management and wider development is the second biggest reason to top your cannabis plant.

When To Top A Weed Plant?

Like you might’ve thought, you can’t randomly start chopping away at your cannabis plant to top it. It is advised to wait until it has enough side branches (or nodes) to form new buds from. This also allows for the plant to grow mature enough to quickly recover from the stress it encounters. As topping always remains a stressful happening for cannabis plants.

nodes node internodes internode Amsterdam Genetics
The ‘nodes’ are the parts of the plant where branches emerge. The parts in between are known as ‘internodes’.

If even mature plants can turn hermaphrodites after the stress from topping. Imagine the harm it would do to a seedling with just 3 – 4 side shoots. Besides the possible stress, the (still baby) plant would need too long to recover from the operation for it to be profitable at all.

For the best results, wait until the plant is big enough to have developed a substantial root system. The bigger the roots, the less time a cannabis plant needs to recover from topping (or any other stress causing factors). So whatever you do, make sure your plant has at least developed three healthy nodes; but preferably more.

How To Top Cannabis?

To determine how far to prune a cannabis plant, it is important to know why you’re topping it. If you’re topping your weed to simply get two buds on the site where you used to have one. It’s best to leave as much from the top-growth on the plant as possible. Wait until the plant has around four nodes and cut the plant off high at the stem – to only take off the top part of the growing point. This ensures a quick recovery while doubling the growing points.

Some growers like to cut back their plant more than one nodes, to create a firm base and bring down the height of the plant. This can be handy when you have only a limited space to grow in, indoors, but still want a firm stem and healthy root system before you switch to the flowering stage. This is sometimes used with main-lining, a variation to the low-stress-training (LST) scrogging.

It is important to remember that the more you cut away, the longer the plant needs to recover. When applying this technique, make sure the plant is mature enough to handle the stress. There are also certain chemicals to help the plant recover faster and eliminate the chances on developing hermaphrodite cannabis plants. Ask for them in your local gardening store or grow shop.

Also interesting: ‘How To Spot: Male, Female and Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants

Disclaimer: Local laws and legislation on cannabis cultivation and germination of seeds vary between countries and states. Amsterdam Genetics products and information are exclusively intended for use in areas where such use is fully legal. Check your local rules; do not act in conflict with the law!

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