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What Are Popcorn Buds And How To Avoid Them

Created by
JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 23 November 2020

What Are Popcorn Buds And How To Avoid Them

Popcorn buds on a cannabis plant are annoying but they aren't completely useless. Most growers prefer to remove them so their plants focus on developing large flowers. Removing parts of your plants may seem counter productive, however it will make all the difference to the final product. This article teaches you how to avoid popcorn buds so you can concentrate on those delicious colas.

What Are Popcorn Buds?

Popcorn Buds Do Not Have Proper Access To Light

Popcorn buds are essentially small, light, spacious flowers that do not have a chance to fully develop. Normally, they are found low down on a plant under the canopy where light does not penetrate. This tends to be because these low bud sites are blocked by fan leaves or other branches. By harvest day, the lower areas of a cannabis plant can be full of popcorn buds that are of a much lesser quality and size than the main buds.

Cannabis plants prioritise the top buds because they have easy access to the light above them. The plant focuses its energy on its highest flower through a hormone called auxin, which is what gives it an apical structure. The plant's multiple colas reach up towards the sky, ultimately shading the lower areas of the plant also trying to grow. Removing popcorn buds can help to direct more of the plant's energy to the larger flowers, resulting in larger yields overall. 

The Causes Of Popcorn Buds

Popcorn Buds Grow Loose And Spacious

Popcorn buds appear mostly due to being in the shade. Other than a lack of light, popcorn buds can also develop because of high temperatures. When loose flowers like this grow, plants are potentially overheating and perspiring at a faster rate. Air flows more easily around the plant when buds are not as dense, allowing it to stay cooler.

Stress can also affect the development of popcorn buds so if you want to avoid them, keep the conditions as stable as possible. Improper ventilation and not enough fresh air encourages their growth so it is important to regularly monitor the environment so that the temperature and humidity sit in the optimal range.

Main causes of popcorn buds:

  • Under-exposure to light
  • Overheating
  • Low/high humidity
  • Stress

How To Avoid Popcorn Buds

Popcorn Buds Form Lower Down On Branches

There is plenty we can do to avoid popcorn buds from growing but the first step is to make sure we remove them at the right moment. Otherwise, the popcorn buds can just grow back.

If popcorn buds are removed too early in vegetation they may have grown back by the time the plants are into full flower. Inducing too much stress during flowering comes with risks of hermaphroditism or a decrease in yields. 

1st Popcorn Bud Removal2nd Popcorn Bud Removal
Last 2 weeks of vegetationFirst 2-3 weeks of flowering

Avoiding popcorn buds differs depending on whether you are growing indoors or outdoors. With the control we have over the setup of our indoor grow, it becomes much easier to predict the conditions and minimise the chances of popcorn buds developing. Outdoor growers have less control over the environment and need to protect their cannabis plants from overheating and other stresses if they are to avoid fluffy flowers.

Try to prevent temperatures that exceed 28-30°C or the chances of popcorn buds developing will increase. Higher heat encourages the main flowers to grow spaciously and spacing between nodes may be longer. 

Plants are trained so that yields consist only of top buds and no popcorn buds.

Due to being in the shade, popcorn buds can grow even when temperature and humidity are on point. This is why many growers choose to apply training; so they can concentrate the plant's growth on the areas that need it most. 

Trained Cannabis Grows Few Popcorn Buds

LST (Low Stress Training)

Low stress training (LST) can help to reduce the number of popcorn buds. Bending and tying branches down during the vegetative stage allows lower growth to catch up in height, ideally resulting in an even canopy. The goal is usually to guide the plant in such a way that more light reaches sites that previously were shaded by fan leaves or other tops. With the right guidance in vegetation, the what were to be popcorn buds now have the ability to develop into full blown top buds.

HST (High Stress Training)

Lollipopping Cannabis

High stress training (HST) involves more rigorous manipulation of plants. There are a few ways to apply HST but generally it requires us to directly damage the plant in a controlled way, with the intention to strengthen the plant, increase the number of bud sites, and improve yields. Main-lining, defoliation and lollipopping, for example, are all great methods of preventing popcorn buds.

Pruning

Pruning is recommended as a standard practice for most grow operations. We do this mainly to keep our plants tidy by frequently trimming off leaves that are dying or decaying, as it reduces the risk of pests or mold. Pruning can also be used when there is simply too much foliage growing. Leaves get blocked by other leaves which are covering bud sites. We can methodically remove some leaves and the lower popcorn buds so the plants work more efficiently developing the bigger top flowers. 

Removing Popcorn Buds Helps Direct Energy To The Tops

What To Do With Popcorn Buds

Popcorn buds are definitely not to be thrown away as they could hold plenty of resin that can be used in a variety of post processes. They won't be as high quality as your main buds but make sure you keep them to squeeze a little extra juice out of your hard work. They can even be dried and smoked, if that's what you would prefer.

Hash

Making hash can be done using any trimmed parts of your plant that contain resin. That means any sugar leaves and popcorn buds you might have cut off during the process. Once dry, we can use different techniques to remove the trichomes from our spare plant material.

Cannabis Flower Used To Make Hash or Charas

A few methods of making hash you may be interested in checking out:

  • Dry Sift/Kief - This method uses a fine screen to sift buds and trim over a container in which the trichomes are collected. The material can then be pressed using different methods (such as heat) to make hash or rosin.
  • Ice-o-lator/Bubble Hash - A popular technique amongst growers these days for its efficiency at extracting trichomes. Bubble hash is made by thoroughly mixing the buds in an ice cold bath and filtering the water through special bags with different levels, each with a distinct micron size.
  • Hand Rolled/Finger Hash - This ancient technique originates from India and is commonly referred to as 'charas'. Fresh buds are rolled using the hands and fingers to remove the sticky trichomes which is then collected in balls or sticks.
  • Rosin - Rosin is made using an extraction process that involves heat and pressure to squeeze the oils directly out of cannabis. It is easy to make and does not use solvents in the process. Ideal if you have enough popcorn buds to play with.
  • Hash Oil - This method uses solvents such as alcohol to strip the trichomes from your plant material. The solvent is then evaporated to leave a sticky wax which can be used for cooking, smoking, vaping or dabbing. Make sure the solvents are completely removed before consuming.

Defoliation technique on Northern Lights by Fuero from GrowDiaries.

Edibles

You can also use your popcorn buds to make plenty of different edible products. Popcorn buds and trim can be collected throughout the grow and once you have harvested, use all your sugar leaf trim and fluffy buds to make extracts for the kitchen. Edibles can include cannabutter, cannabis coconut oil, cannabis sugar and tinctures. If you're interested in how to make cannabis edibles, why not check out our article which contains some recipes to get you started:

Conclusion

Fortunately, popcorn buds aren't the be all and end all of your cannabis cultivation endeavours. They can even be left alone if you prefer not cutting up your plant while it's growing, however we recommend trying to avoid them so you can focus on the fatter, denser flowers.

If you found this article useful, why not share your thoughts about popcorn buds in the comments section down below?

External References

Modified Nodal Cuttings and Shoot Tips Protocol for Rapid Regeneration of Cannabis sativa L.. Journal of Natural Fibers. - Wróbel, Tomasz & Dreger, Mariola & Wielgus, Karolina & Slomski, Ryszard. (2020).

Early topping: an alternative to standard topping increases yield in cannabis production. Plant Science Today. - Gaudreau, Sylvain & Missihoun, Tagnon & Germain, Hugo. (2020).

Closing the Yield Gap for Cannabis: A Meta-Analysis of Factors Determining Cannabis Yield. Frontiers in Plant Science. - Backer, Rachel & Schwinghamer, Timothy & Rosenbaum, Phillip & McCarty, Vincent & Eichhorn Biilodeau, Samuel & Lyu, Dongmei & Ahmed, Bulbul & Robinson, W. & Lefsrud, Mark & Wilkins, Olivia & Smith, Donald. (2019). 

Effecting of pruning on tomato yield. - Msogoya, Theodosy & KITAGAWA, Katsuhiro. (2016). 

This article was updated November 2020.






Comments

amazingautoflowers
amazingautoflowers

Howdy,

Would this be the way you would handle Autos? I'm not able to grow Regulars under the current situation. So I grow all Autos. And of course, trying to maximize my harvest.

Thank you very much and Happy Thanksgiving!