Start My Diary Login Sign Up

Best Pruning Techniques for Cannabis Plants

Added 23 August 2023

You only grow cannabis when you love the herb passionately or need it to help with any ailments. When you’re passionate about something, you end up studying as much as you can about it. And in doing so — going through countless scrolls of Reels and blog posts — you’re bound to come across the various benefits of pruning. 

You’re probably familiar with pruning if you have some experience growing cannabis, but did you know that there are many types of pruning? After all, it’s a practice that’s implemented not only in cannabis gardens but all kinds of gardens and farms. 

So, what are these pruning methods and how can they help your cannabis plant — learn all about cannabis pruning methods in this article below. 

What is Pruning?

What is Pruning?

Many cannabis growers use the pruning process to improve their plant’s growth and health. Pruning is essentially cutting off specific parts of the plant, like extra leaves or lower branches, encouraging the cannabis plant to allocate its nutrients and energy better. For instance, a pruned plant will not waste its resources on lower bud sites that will grow smaller buds but direct the same to upper branches, leading to even bigger buds at the top. 

Another goal of pruning is to improve air circulation and light penetration within the foliage. Many cannabis strains are dense and the upper branches and fan leaves may hinder the light and airflow within, which can lead to weak growth in the lower branches or even problems like mold and fungi. With the help of pruning, air circulation and light penetration can be improved to prevent such problems and encourage more consistent growth across the bud sites. 

Pruning serves other functions as well where you include it as a means of training cannabis plants. You can use various pruning methods to manipulate your plant’s growth or shape, which can come in handy if you want a typically tall strain to grow wider so it can fit in your grow room. 

To sum it up, you can use pruning to mold your plant to fit your cultivation goals, whether you want bigger buds, more buds in general, or grow specific strains in a constricted space. Depending on your goal, you can pick from one of the many pruning methods that suit your needs the most. 

Why Should You Prune Your Cannabis Plant?

Why Should You Prune Your Cannabis Plant?

Here are a few reasons why pruning can be beneficial to your cannabis plant in detail:

1. Increased Light Penetration

It can be quite challenging for light to penetrate the lower parts of the plant, especially when there’s dense foliage. The result is that while the top parts of the plant get lots of light, the lower branches will be ignored and produce too many popcorn buds. Popcorn buds aren’t all that bad, but if you want thick, premium buds, you need to ensure that the light is uniform and available to almost all parts of the plant. 

One way to increase light penetration is to prune the leaves and branches. Once you remove fan leaves preventing the light from reaching the lower parts of the plant, the light will be able to penetrate deeper into the canopy, resulting in more even growth and development of more bud sites. 

2. Improved Air Circulation

When cannabis plants have dense foliage, they create a humid environment, with limited air circulation. Unfortunately, this type of environment is perfect for mold, mildew, and pests to thrive. To reduce this problem, you can prune the plants to open up the canopy and promote airflow throughout the plant. Adequate air circulation helps prevent humidity buildup and reduces the risk of diseases or infestations.

3. Bigger and Better Buds

Pruning plays a key role in redirecting the plant’s energy toward producing larger, denser, and higher-quality buds. By removing branches and even buds that are less productive, you help the plant distribute nutrients to other parts of the plant that are more likely to produce bigger buds. The result? You may not have too many buds, but the ones you have will be thick, potent, and big. 

4. Managing Plant Height

Certain cannabis strains have the tendency to grow quite tall. While this is cool if you have a lot of vertical space, it’s a big problem for those with limited space. In such cases, you can prune the plant when it’s young to control the height. You should also combine it with training techniques such as LST to ensure that the plant doesn’t grow too tall. Remember, your plants stretch quite a bit during the flowering phase, so you should prune and train them well during the vegetative stage. 

5. Emphasizing Main Bud Development

Topping and FIMming are two of the best training techniques you can use along with pruning to stimulate the growth of main colas. Essentially, both techniques are the same, which involves cutting off the tips of the plant to encourage more colas. They divide the plant's energy and growth hormones among the buds, resulting in multiple large colas rather than just one. Ultimately this approach significantly boosts yield and enhances bud quality as well. 

Pruning also works amazingly well with other training techniques like Low Stress Training (LST) where you bend and tie down the branches of the plant to create an even canopy. By combining pruning with training, you can increase light exposure and yields as well. 

6. Promoting Plant Resilience

Pruning excessively can result in undue stress to the plant. Therefore, you will have to strategically prune it. For example, don’t prune the leaves all at once. Instead, space it out over a few days. This way, you’ll encourage the plant to become more resilient over time. Once you prune the leaves and branches, the plant will redirect its energy and nutrients and focus more on healing and growth. 

7. Aesthetic Appeal

Pruning not only enhances light and nutrient distribution, but it also contributes to a plant that looks good. Many growers don’t bother much about how their plant looks, but some growers are passionate about how their plant appears as it puts on more buds. A well-pruned plant with several colas looks amazing with its thick buds in contrast to a plant with a single cola. 

8. Increase Airflow

Proper ventilation is very important for a healthy cannabis plant. If you prune the plant properly, it ensures that the plant has a robust structure that’s airy and open and also reduces the likelihood of air pockets that could invite mold and other pests. Since pruning increases airflow, you’re creating a healthy environment for the plants to thrive. 

That said, you should remember that pruning can vary depending on factors such as the strain, growing conditions, overall plant health, and any training techniques you employ. While pruning has the potential to boost yields, it is crucial to strike a balance. Removing branches and leaves excessively can stress the plant and reduce yields. Therefore, it’s best to start slow at first and then take it up a notch if your plant reacts favorably. 

Best Pruning Methods for Cannabis Plants

Pruning is not a new process; gardening and farmers across the world have used various forms of pruning to manipulate their plant’s growth and shape, and each pruning method has a unique benefit. But let’s not get into hundreds of pruning methods; instead, let’s focus on the most effective pruning methods that work for cannabis plants. 

Here are the best tried-and-tested pruning methods you can use on your cannabis plants. 

1. Apical Pruning or Topping

Apical Pruning or Topping

Cannabis has apical dominance, i.e., there is an apical bud at the top of the plant, where the leaves grow directly out of the main branch. This apical bud site is dominant in the plant and possesses the highest amount of auxins — phytohormones that serve various purposes, including hindering the growth of other secondary bud sites. 

In apical pruning or topping, you have to essentially cut off this dominant bud site. When you do this, the plant loses its apical dominance and two stems grow out of the pruned site, pushing the plant to distribute its energy to secondary bud sites. This makes the secondary bud sites grow bigger buds that are more resinous — a better yield. 

Here are the benefits of using pruning and topping your cannabis plants:

  • Your cannabis plant will develop more bud sites 
  • The bud sites across the plant will be consistent in size and quality 
  • The plant will grow wider and bushier 
  • You can keep the plant short, making it more discreet and manageable 

You can use apical pruning for both indoor and outdoor cannabis plants, but you can’t use it on all cannabis strains. Topping is high-stress, so you must ensure your plant is strong and can withstand the stress of losing its apical dominance. Typically, hybrid cannabis plants with sativa dominance are better suited for this method since they have faster growth and better stress resilience. 

Topping is a high-stress method, but it’s fairly straightforward to do. To start off, you need to prune the top of the plant from the third node to the bottom. Only top your plant during the early growth stage, i.e., by late June or December in the northern and southern hemispheres, respectively. 

Remember, the longer the plant has to grow post-pruning, the better results you’ll see. So, prune it at the right time and allow your plant to recover well, and never prune your plant during the flowering stage — it’s asking for trouble that will affect your plant’s yields. 

2. Defoliation 


Defoliation is one of the most common pruning methods for cannabis plants, where you remove unwanted fan leaves that overshadow the bud sites or if they are too crowded. The point of defoliation is to improve light and air penetration within the plant’s foliage, so all the bud sites can get the optimal environment for healthy bud growth. 

Another advantage of this method is that it also keeps mold at bay!

It is recommended that you use defoliation with other training/pruning methods like ScrOG, topping, or LST for the best results. You can use this method during the plant’s vegetative and pre-flowering stages, whenever you feel the need to remove any unwanted fan leaves. 

For this, ensure your cannabis plant is healthy, select the branches and leaves you want to cut, and use pruning scissors to snip them off. You can also remove any old or yellowing leaves from the plant as they may consume nutrients. Post-defoliation, let the plant recover for a few days. 

3. Lollipopping


Image Credit - Selkot

Topping focuses on the lower tiers of the plant, but there’s another pruning method that’s quite the opposite: lollipopping. This method focuses on the upper portion of the cannabis plant by removing the lower branches that are deemed unproductive. 

In this method, you have to prune the lower branches, so that the plant’s upper branches can get all the nutrients to develop bigger, bushier buds. Like topping, lollipopping can significantly improve your cannabis plant’s yield. The lower branches would’ve grown smaller buds anyway. 

Another benefit of lollipopping for indoor cannabis plants is that it prevents fungi or mold, which can occur due to poor air circulation in the lower tiers of the plant. However, this is a meticulous process and must not be practiced by new growers. Each cannabis strain reacts differently, so you need to know exactly what you are doing when lollipopping your cannabis plants. 

But how do you do it? During the late vegetative stage, you need to identify branches that are low yielding or unproductive — typically, these are the branches that are closest to the ground and small, with fewer bud nodes. Then, use a pruning blade to cut off these branches, and let the plant recover. 

4. FIMming


Fimming is growing a lot in popularity as a pruning method for cannabis plants and growers report excellent results thanks to this method. The best part of this method is that it’s easy and can be done by a grower of any experience level. 

The term fimming stands for “f*** I missed”, hinting at how sloppy the method looks at first. Here, you have to cut off the top of the plant, slightly higher than you would with topping. This leads to the growth of not two but four shoots, which leads to more bud sites at the top of the plant. 

Here are the benefits of FIMming cannabis plants:

  • The method promises to increase the yield of your cannabis plant 
  • It reduces the chances of mold or fungal infections as it encourages the growth of many smaller buds instead of fewer bigger buds 
  • You get to produce more yield per square meter in your cannabis garden 

As mentioned earlier, if you want to FIM your cannabis plant, you need to cut off 75% of the tip of the plant once your plant has grown up to 5 nodes. And you should only FIM your plant during the vegetative phase and allow it some time to recover; it’s a high-stress method so make sure your cannabis strain can handle the stress. 

5. Right, I Burned It 

Video Credit - Sdarioz

Right, I burned it (yep, that’s the name!) is also known as RIB, which is a technique that came into existence accidentally when a grower burnt the tip of a bud. Essentially, this isn't a pruning technique, but the goal is to direct the plant's energy and focus on the burnt bud tip, which leads to increased calyx production as a part of the healing process. 

When the tip of a cannabis bud is burnt, likely due to strong lights, the plant starts the healing procedure by increasing cell division in the area. This leads to more calyxes that develop buds, and the result is a much larger bud. 

However, this technique is complex, and the complexity begins right with choosing the right variety of cannabis. Many growers claim that sativa strains sometimes turn hermies and indica strains don’t get time to recover under the RIB method, so it’s generally recommended to use this method on balanced hybrid cannabis plants for the best results. 

You can use this technique once your cannabis plants are four weeks into bloom, but ensure they still have some time left in this stage before the buds reach maturity. Then, you have to burn the buds’ upper tip — only a smidge, not a lot. You can use a cigarette lighter to do this and remember to be VERY gentle. 

Allow your plant to recover and you’ll notice the buds growing bigger in size. Also, this process may extend the bloom period of your cannabis plant, so keep that in mind when using this method. 

Also, only use this method if you are confident in your skills; it’s only for experienced growers. Even then, you should do a test run on one of your plants before using it across your garden. In the event of the worst-case scenario, you will only lose one plant’s yield, not the entire garden’s yield. 

6. Low-Stress Training


Low-stress training or LST is not a typical pruning method as you don’t necessarily cut any parts of the plant; it’s a training method, but it works well as a pruning method, too. Here, you have to bend the apical branch of your plant and secure it, encouraging horizontal growth of the plant. 

Thanks to this, your plant gets to enjoy various benefits, such as the following:

  • Since it’s low-stress, even a complete novice grower can use this method 
  • Plus, your plant does not get too stressed out or spend a long time recovering from the stress 
  • Bending the branches improves the plant’s exposure to light and air 
  • Thanks to the horizontal growth, your plant develops bigger buds across the bud sites, not just on the apical node 

This is an easy method that you can use on almost all varieties of cannabis. Simply bend the main branch of the plant sideways and use gardening ties to secure it to a stake or something else. You can take this a step further by bending and securing other branches, too. 

If you’re up for a challenge, you can combine this method with topping as well. So, top your plant as mentioned above and once the two primary branches emerge, bend them on opposite sides and secure the branches to stakes or the container. This will significantly improve your cannabis plant’s yield, but it’s more difficult, so it’s best done by an experienced hand. 

7. Super Cropping 

Super cropping

Super cropping is another pruning method that does not require cutting off any parts of the plant; instead, you have to bend the stems of the plant in a specific manner to increase the plant’s bud development. It’s akin to LST and topping, but without cutting. 

The benefit of super cropping is that it distributes auxins to secondary bud sites, encouraging better bud development across the plant. Plus, since the apical bud site is bent, it gets strengthened, resulting in bigger buds on the primary node. 

Moreover, this technique allows you to control the height of your cannabis plant. You can also apply super cropping to other branches. 

However, don’t confuse super cropping with LST; in LST, you have to gently bend the main branch but in super cropping, you have to crop the branch by giving it a sharp bend without breaking it. This is what makes this method difficult to master and often risky as a mistake can end up ruining your plant’s yields.

To crop your plant, select the branch you want to bend, hold the cropping spot with your fingers, and press and bend it in the direction you want. Ensure the branch does not snap, but if it does, you can use gardening tape to wrap the breakage. Over time, the bent spot will thicken and the buds on the corresponding branch will grow bigger in size. 

Use the Right Pruning Tools 

As seen above, most pruning methods require the use of a sharp tool, like a blade or a scissor, but that doesn't mean you use the same scissor you use to cut your stationery. Instead, you need to use the right tools for the best and safest results. 

So, to begin with, you need to use the right cutting tool, like a pruning scissor, bonsai scissor, or sharp blades. This tool must be easy to use and sharp so it can make a clean cut on the plant, which is easy to recover from and does not cause unnecessary stress to the plant. 

The next thing you need to use is a pair of gloves. This is important so you don’t hurt yourself or your plant. Your fingers carry natural oils, dirt, and microbes that may be harmful to your plant, especially the delicate parts like buds or cuts. So, it’s advisable to use gardening or medical gloves, as applicable. 

You also need sanitizing alcohol in your garden at all times. This is to sanitize all the tools you use — before and after each use. This will keep the tools sanitized and your plants protected from harmful bacteria, fungi spores, and viruses. 

Some pruning methods will also require the use of stakes and something to secure the branches. For the stakes, your best bet is gardening stakes. And for securing the branches, you should use soft gardening tape or ties. Avoid using harsh ties or tape that can do more harm than good. 

Tips for Pruning Cannabis Plants

While pruning can be carried out in a bunch of ways, there are some things that you must always keep in mind for optimal results. Here are some tips on pruning cannabis plants:

  • Pruning often involves cutting off parts of your plant, but you shouldn’t cut off any parts randomly, especially leaves that are crucial for photosynthesis. Instead, you need to be meticulous, do adequate research, and carefully select leaves and branches you want to prune off from your cannabis plant. Otherwise, you may end up causing more harm than good. 
  • Never prune your cannabis plant when it’s flowering. Pruning is often stressful and your plant will take around a week to recover from the trauma. If it’s in the flowering stage, your plant may direct its energy from the new buds to the injured spot, resulting in a much lower, poorer yield. Removing a few dead leaves here and there is okay but don’t cut off any branches and leaves after the flowering phase has started. 
  • Unless you’re topping your plant, never prune the top branches to increase light penetration at the bottom. The top branches are more productive than the lower branches, which is why lollipopping cuts off the lower branches so the upper ones can grow to their full potential. 
  • If you’re cutting off the lower branches, prune them early in the vegetative stage when the plant is relatively small. This will optimize your plant’s nutrient circulation and it won’t waste its energy in growing branches that will be cut off later. 
  • Always use sanitized tools to cut off any part of the plant as any contaminated tool can lead to all kinds of infections and problems, which can not only affect your plant’s health but also its yield. 
  • After pruning your cannabis plant, always keep an eye on it to make sure it recovers well and does not show any signs of stress or diseases. Similarly, do not prune any plant that is showing any signs of diseases, stress, or nutrient deficiencies. Pruning will only make matters worse. 

Keep these tips in mind, do adequate research, and use the right methods, and your cannabis plant will reward you with much better growth and yield. 

Summary: Best Pruning Techniques for Cannabis Plants

No matter which pruning method you use, it is crucial that you use the right methods and select the right method with a specific purpose in mind. Knowing why you are pruning your plant is as important as knowing how to do it. Do it enough times and you will become a pro at pruning your cannabis plant. 

There are many pruning methods that offer unique benefits, but they take your plant to one goal — a better yield. So, if you want to improve your cannabis plant’s yield, select the right method based on your preferences, strain, and skill levels. 

Skill is important here. Most pruning methods are often high-stress and require an experienced hand to minimize any chances of human error. Additionally, you must always use sterilized tools and sharp scissors to prune your cannabis plants to protect them from harmful pathogens. 

Pruning is a rewarding practice that, when done right, can improve your yield unlike ever before. But for even better results, pair them with training methods and your cannabis plant will be unstoppable. 



would love to see data on any technique that proves it improves quality or yield. otherwise just saying it doesn't make it true. a lot of this stuff can potentially cause a longer vege phase, which if you arent considering time in your productivity assessment of yield... then probably not measuring it right.


I love training my little ones but I don't even think about burning my tips with a cigar lighter... NEVER!


@TTazazel, no even :joy: I wouldn't like to do it honestly! Maybe someone will have good results but I will never do it :joy:


@CURATI_DA_SOLO, You could achieve the same thing by lowering Your lights when the buds form, so they get LED-burnt, but I dunno though.


@CURATI_DA_SOLO, true, it's rather extreme!