How to LST Cannabis — A Simple Guide 

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Added 01 June 2022

If you search for training techniques to grow more cannabis buds online, you'll be bombarded with various methods. Most of them are suitable for advanced growers with vigorous, resilient plants. But if you are a new grower or want to train your plant without stressing them out, you need to choose low-stress training.

Low-stress training is exactly what it sounds like — it is easy to do and less stressful for your plant (and yourself), so you don't have to worry much about your plant's health or recovery. 

In this article, you will learn how to LST your cannabis plant with easy methods. 

What is Low-Stress Training?


The image you see above is of a cannabis plant growing naturally. Typically, it has one main cola and the light is not distributed evenly since the main cola overwhelms the other branches. LST aims to solve this problem. 

Low-stress training (or LST) is a method where you gently bend the stems of your cannabis plant to create an even canopy. And you do this by tying the branches down. By doing so, you break your plant's apical dominance (the thing that gives it the Christmas tree shape) and expose all the bud sites to equal amounts of light.

You can use LST and significantly improve your yields without changing your setup or investing in expensive equipment and devices. Plus, it allows your plant to grow without experiencing too much stress, which can hamper its growth.

How does LST work?


When you manipulate the plant using LST, its apical dominance is disrupted. Essentially, bending the main cola down disrupts auxins in the plant, which triggers the plant to grow all its colas evenly. 

Additionally, manipulating your plant's shape allows more light and air to reach all the nodes — LST places all the bud sites in the light's sweet spot. Thus, your plant can utilize all the light efficiently. 

Thanks to LST, the plant grows big, bushy buds from all the branches, not just the main cola. And as the plant starts developing buds, it will grow multiple colas since all the bud sites would be located in the light's sweet spot.

Why should you choose LST?

why choose LST

Unlike other methods that improve yield, LST stands out because it offers many benefits to you and your plant, such as the following:

  • LST Creates an Even Canopy

Low-stress training involves bending the branches until all the bud sites are on the same height, creating an even canopy. With a uniform canopy, all the bud sites are exposed to ideal amounts of light. The result is more buds in the same environment.

  • LST is Easy on Your Plant

It is called low-stress training for a reason — it does not harm or stress your plant too much, unlike other training methods like manifolding. With low-stress methods, your plant does not take too much time to recover and is usually safe from stunted growth or other health problems if you do it right. It's perfect for new growers.

  • Your Plant Fits Your Setup

If you have a setup, but your plant is growing too tall for it, you can use LST to manipulate its shape. By doing this, you can make your plant fit your setup instead of changing your entire setup. And it does not compromise your yield, either.

How to LST your cannabis plant?

how to LST

There are two ways you can use low-stress training for your cannabis plant. One is the simple anchoring of the branches using ties or stakes, and the other involves creating a screen of green (the ScrOG method). 

Note: You can also vertically LST your cannabis plants with tomato cages or a trellis, but this article will not discuss that as it's geared towards LSTing indoors. If you're growing outdoors and want to learn how to trellis your plants, check out this detailed guide on how to do so. 

Now, let's take a look at two methods for LST indoors. 

Anchoring the branches method

LST with soft thread

This is the standard method of LST for cannabis plants. The grower has used a soft thread to anchor the branches to the container. Here, you bend the branches and anchor them to the container or stakes, depending on your preferences. This technique is best suited for smaller setups or new growers. 

Things required for this method:

  • Plant ties or biodegradable strings 

You will be using these to tie down the branches. Avoid strings or sharp objects to anchor the plant as they can damage the stems as the plant grows. Also, open wounds are not good for your plant's health.

Your best options are biodegradable strings made from jute, hemp, or cotton, as they don't contain any plastics and are soft enough for your plant.

  • Sharp scissors

You will need sharp scissors, disinfected, to cut the apical node (optional) or cut extra ties or wires to avoid a mess in your canopy.

  • Anchoring points for the ties 

You can use various things here. You can either anchor the branches to the container itself or use a tomato ring or bamboo sticks to anchor them. Choose what works for you and suits your setup.

Step-by-step guide:

1. Begin by topping your plant (optional)


In the image above, the grower is choosing the very tip of the plant. The first step is to top your plant if you want to. You have to do this to break the plant's apical dominance and cut the tip. 

after topping

As you can see in the image above, Dtopping is forcing the plant to branch out and grow the lower branches into colas. While topping is optional, it is advisable because it makes LST easier and gives you a more symmetrical canopy.

To top your plant, wait until your plant has 3 to 4 nodes and cut off the tip. Then, let your plant grow naturally until it grows many new nodes on the two main colas.

You can, of course, skip this step if your plant has a shorter vegetative stage or you don't want to stress out your plant. Also, skip this step if you're growing autoflowering plants for the first time. Although you can top autoflowers, it's important to top them correctly. More on this below. 

2. Bend the branches and anchor them

bend branches

When your plant is young, its soft branches are easy to bend and manipulate. So, begin this process asap. Once the branches get old, they become hard and snap off.

Bend down the branches and anchor them to the container, tomato ring, or bamboo sticks using soft string. Your goal should be to create an even canopy by ensuring all the branches are at the same distance from the light source. 

When anchoring the branches, keep the anchor points within the container itself, so you can lift the plant as one unit without dismantling the anchoring points. 

And if you have skipped step one, you have to bend the main branch too.

You can either bend the branches in any way you like or create the shape of a star. Or, make a circle. Just stick to whatever works for you and your plant. 

As the plant grows, you will have to bend branches to maintain an even canopy continually.

3. Switch to the flowering stage

switch to flowering

Continue manipulating the plant regularly to ensure an even canopy throughout the plant's vegetative stage. Once your plant reaches the right height and width, you can switch your light cycle for the bloom stage. 

Once the plant switches to bloom, it will experience a flowering stretch, where it can double in height. So, you will have to bend the new branches to maintain an even canopy.

But we only recommend LST in the first few weeks of the flowering stage when required. After the first month, avoid LST unless a branch is blocking the light of another bud site. You can also do it if a branch grows too close to the light source.

ScrOG Method

single plant SCROG

The grower here has used a single plant to SCROG but you can try it with multiple plants. 

The screen of green (or ScrOG) method is another form of low-stress training that's slightly more complicated but still very rewarding. In this method, you have to use grid netting instead of anchor points to manipulate your plant's shape. 

Here, the grid net holds the flowering points of the plant, and the net itself is held in place with the help of wood stakes or PVC pipes. 

The ScrOG method also allows you to create an even canopy with equal light distribution to the bud sites, encouraging terrific bud development for better yield.

Things you need for ScrOG:

1. Plant ties or biodegradable strings

2. PVC or 2x4 lumber

You can choose either. PVC is light and easier to work with, but some PVC pipes leach toxic fumes under high heat, so look for heat rating on the pipes. Lumber is also suitable because it is sturdy and cheap.

3. Fish-eye hooks

You will need these hooks drilled into the PVC or lumber, acting as an anchor point for the netting.

4. Rope ratchets

These will allow you to lift the ScrOG system as your plant grows, saving you a lot of labor later.

Step-by-step guide for ScrOG:

1. Prepare the ScrOG frame

Begin measuring and cutting the materials to create an outer frame for the netting, which will hold the entire structure. Once you have created a frame with PVC or lumber, you can then drill fish-eye hooks at 2.5 inches on the inside of the frame.

Now, connect the hooks to their corresponding and parallel hooks using the string until you have a perfect grid of strings running between the frame.

2. Build a support system

Now, use the rope ratchets to anchor the frame's corner and lift it up. This is required to easily lift the frame using the ratchets to meet your plant's height when the plant grows. 

3. Manipulate the plant

Once you have placed the ScrOG net over your plant, wait until the plant has at least five nodes. 

Then, start bending the branches halfway and direct them towards the grid. One grid square must only contain one branch, so bend them accordingly. And as the plant grows, raise the ScrOG frame too.

During the vegetative stage, you will have to be watchful and continually bend the branches into their corresponding grids. If you do this right, each square in the net will contain a branch by the end of the vegetative phase. 

You can also top your plant by cutting the apical node. 

4. Prepare your plant for bloom

Before switching to a 12/12 light cycle, you need to prepare your plant for the flowering stage. For this, ensure that the branches are equally spaced with an even canopy, the net's height is in line with the plant's height, and the plant is not experiencing any stress or health problems.

Once the plant is ready, switch to a 12/12 light cycle and wait for the buds to bloom in each square of the net. Remember, your plant may exhibit explosive growth, so keep the ScrOG net's height in line with the plant. 

Can you LST outdoor cannabis plants?

Outdoor LST

People usually assume that LST is meant only for indoor grows; however, LST works even on outdoor plants. Agriculturists and horticulturists also used the LST technique in vineyards to train the crops and maximize the yields. As you can see in the image above, the grower has performed LST on his cannabis plant growing outdoors. 

In fact, LST began as an outdoor training technique and then became popular among indoor growers. For those residing in cold climates like the UK or Northern Europe, LST is a fantastic method to increase yields even if there is a lack of bright sunlight. 

LST can also help you grow outdoor plants discreetly. Most outdoor plants grow massively, inviting a lot of attention. In addition, the tops of the plant usually tower over fences, making it evident that you're growing marijuana. Therefore, if you want to keep your grow stealthy, you can use LST. 

When to LST cannabis?

You should start LSTing the plants as soon as they grow a bit strong. The sooner, the better. The plants will grow stronger just as they enter their vegetative stage. However, this could vary depending on the strain and its genetics. Most plants are ready to undergo LST somewhere around the second week of the vegetative stage. 

Make sure you have a few things checked out before starting LST. For example, the plant should display at least 3-4 nodes to be able to handle the manipulation. 

Beware that performing LST before the formation of a few nodes will stunt the growth. However, you also don't want to wait too long as you won't be able to bend and manipulate the branches. That is why timing is vital for the LST technique. 

Can you LST cannabis plants in their flowering stage?

The idea of LST is to manipulate the plants to grow in a certain way. Since the plant's branches are pliable and easily manipulated during the vegetative stage, it is the best time to perform LST. Then, you can alter the plant's direction and make it grow according to your requirements. 

However, the plants can be pretty strong during the flowering stage. This is because they are already comfortable, and the stems are stiff, making it a little challenging to bend and twist them according to your convenience. Therefore, it's tough to perform LST during the flowering stage. 

But this does not mean that it's impossible to perform LST at all, even during the flowering stage. Although you cannot manipulate the branches entirely like you can during the vegetative stage, you can bend a few stems here and there to ensure they get more light. 

For example, if you're trying to redistribute some of the plant's energy to branches showing tiny buds, you can bend them so that they get more light and the buds fatten. However, you can do this only during the first few weeks of flowering. As the plant progresses far into the flowering stage, performing LST is not good. 

Growers that perform LST on the plant from the beginning of its vegetative stage well into the flowering stage don't need to worry about harming the plant. If the plant is used to LST, it will perform well and produce good yields. 

Can you LST autoflowering cannabis plants?

autoflower LST

As you can see, the grower has performed LST On his autoflowering plant. 

The simple answer to this question is, yes, you can train autoflowering plants using LST. But it is a bit complicated. Since autoflowers don't grow like photoperiod plants and stick to a particular schedule, it can be a little challenging to perform LST if you don't have experience. 

Autoflowering plants spend only about 4 to 6 weeks in their vegetative stage, in which they grow as fast as they can. Therefore, if you don't perform LST in a proper way or stunt the plant, it may severely reduce the yields. 

As a result, some growers do not train their autoflowering plants and let them grow in their natural shape. In addition, since untrained autoflowering plants, especially the modern autos, also produce excellent yields, it's not mandatory to perform LST on them. 

However, some other growers may beg to differ. The very idea of LST is to stress the plant just a little at a time and manipulate it to grow in the shape you want. It's why it is called low-stress training in the first place. 

Therefore if you only bend just a few branches and cause significantly less stress, there are very few chances of stunting the plant. In addition, you can't damage the plant by just bending a few stems.  

However, if you want to really manipulate the plant in the direction you want, you will have to couple LST with topping. Topping, as mentioned earlier, is a method where you cut off the tip of the plant so that the main cola or stem divides into two sub colas. 

Like LST, you top the plant when it is strong enough to withstand the stress and has developed a few nodes. Topping makes it easier for the plant to spread out. It also ensures that the lower branches get more light. Basically, topping along with LST gives an even canopy where all plant parts get equal distribution of light. 

However, you will have to be careful when topping autoflowering plants because topping causes more stress than LST. If you don't do it right, you may stunt the plant in its very early stages. 

It's easy to top autoflowering plants. First, make sure the plant has at least 3-4 nodes and is in its vegetative stage. Next, get a pair of clean, sharp scissors. Grab the very tip of the plant and gently cut off the very tip. Remember to be gentle throughout the process. 

When shouldn't you LST autoflowering plants?

All autoflowering plants are not the same, so you shouldn’t perform LST on your autoflowering plants if your strain is meant to be a small plant. Many growers prefer small autoflowering plants, making it easier for stealth purposes. Such plants are not suitable for LST. 

In addition, do not LST autoflowering plants if they are stunted or sick already. As you know, autoflowering plants spend only 4 to 6 weeks in their vegetative stage and tend to grow really fast. So if you notice that the plant is growing slowly, don't LST or top it. 

In addition, you must not LST autoflowering plants if they are already in their flowering stage. At this point, the plant will focus entirely on creating buds, so just let the plant do its thing rather than train it. Of course, you can bend a few stems that are not getting enough light but do not stress the plant too much, or you will stunt its progress. 

In conclusion, if you're unsure whether to top or LST or stay away from the whole process, it's best just to let the plant grow on its own. Modern autoflowering plants will produce great yields even if you don't LST them, so it's just a personal choice. 

Summary: How to LST Cannabis - A Quick Guide

LST is a terrific way to improve your plant's yield. The basic idea behind low-stress training is simply creating an even canopy by disrupting the plant's apical dominance without causing any stress to the plant.

When you LST your plant, just remember a few tips:

  • Be gentle with the branches and only bend them when they are young
  • If you snap or damage a branch accidentally, tape up the wound immediately 
  • Start training your plant as early as possible for the best results
  • Ensure that the ties are secure and do not damage or scrape the plant, which may create abrasive wounds
  • Try not to top or LST the plants if you're unsure
  • Don't LST plants if they are stunted or sick or too far into their flowering stage



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