If a cannabis plant is left to grow naturally without human intervention, it will focus its energy on the growth of one main cola with a series of small bud sites below. This natural growth pattern is not ideal for optimal bud yield.
When a cannabis plant grows this way, the lower budding sites are typically not given sufficient light exposure and tend to grow much smaller nugs relative to the main cola. Unless you plan on growing a cannabis plant with a Christmas tree shape, your crop will need some training.
Depending on your grow setup, you might need to utilize special techniques to help your cannabis plant produce better yields.
Ideally, a cannabis plant will have all of the main growth tips in an even line to ensure they are all exposed to the same light intensity. In short, the more even exposure to light intensity, the more consistent the yield of your cannabis crop. Depending on your grow setup, though, you might need to utilize special techniques to help your cannabis plant produce better yields.
There are several training techniques that growers can deploy to get an optimal yield out of their plants with limited space and lighting conditions. You can train a plant's height, width, number of cola growth tips, and the evenness of the canopy to help increase nutrient uptake, deter bacterial growth, and improve overall yield.
Most growers face a variety of reasons to train their plants. Encouraging a dense, even canopy, facilitating large, compact cola production, ensuring proper airflow to reduce bacterial development, and reducing flowering time for an early harvest are all common reasons for training.
If you have limited height in your home or backyard, you may want to top cannabis plants to limit vertical growth during vegetation. If you have low plant limits in your state and want to get the most out of each plant, you may want to train your plants to encourage lateral growth. You may only have one plant left, and need to train it to be a mother plant so you can maintain the genetics. Whatever the reason, training your cannabis plants can yield hefty, healthy results.
When to train your cannabis plants
When does a grower need to begin training their plant? Is it during the rooting, vegetative, or flowering phase? The answer depends on what the end goal is. If it's to keep mother plants healthy and in a position where they can produce vital clones, the plants will need constant training. If you want to ensure the plants stay short throughout the flowering phase, train during the vegetative phase. If you're trying to redirect a cannabis plant's energy from many growth sites to a few, the first couple weeks of flowering are the time to train.
Unless you plan on growing plants like a Christmas tree, your crop will need some extent of training. Decide what your goals are — whether it's shortening the vegetative period, getting larger colas, getting an even canopy, or other considerations — and apply the techniques that will ensure you achieve those goals. You'll likely find out you need to perform more than one training technique for optimal results.
All training techniques involve manipulating the shape and development of the plant, most often by bending the stem in a fashion that suits available grow conditions or by diverting the plant's energy to growth tips that weren't a priority.
Controlling the lighting cycle
If you are growing indoors, you're going to need to control each phase by controlling the amount of light available to your plant. If you are limited to only one outdoor season with restricted plant counts and want to make sure of a bountiful harvest, you may want to train your cannabis plants indoors and place them outside during the summer solstice.
Unless your cannabis plants are autoflowering, they will stay in the vegetative stage, not producing colas, as long as you keep more than 16 hours of light on them. Doing so will allow you to start rooting a clone indoors and train it to be whatever height you'd like prior to placing it outdoors and letting the natural sun cycle take over.
For example, if you start growing a plant indoors during April or May in the Northern Hemisphere, your plant could be as tall as 10 feet, or 3 meters, by the time you place it outdoors to start flowering. By the time you harvest the plant, it could be well over 15 feet, or 4.6 meters, and produce many more flowers than a plant introduced to the sun at 3 feet, or 0.91 meters, in height.
The light deprivation (aka light dep) technique can also be used to force plants to flower in a greenhouse setting by reducing the amount of naturally available light. Using light dep techniques on varieties with short flower cycles allows cultivators to get the most out of the outdoor sunlight without overextending the vegetative cycle. You can also extend natural flowering cycles using supplemental lighting in areas with long winters to ensure your plants have enough light to flower and aren't exposed to extremely cold temperatures.
Deleafing is removing the large fan leaves or small flowering sites from a cannabis plant. It's the most basic form of training, usually performed at various points of the vegetative and flowering stages.
Removing large fan leaves during the second half of the vegetative stage rediverts plant energy to other growth sites and allows for more airflow throughout the plant, drastically reducing the likelihood of bacterial spread. During the flowering phase, some leaves may be blocking valuable light to crucial grow points. It's also possible for small budding sites at the bottom of the canopy to divert energy that should be used elsewhere in the plant. At these points, the leaves or small growth sites should be removed.
Topping cannabis is clipping the growing tip of the plant's main stem at a 45 degree angle, causing multiple colas to form instead of one. When you top cannabis plants, it slows the lateral growth of the plant and allows lower bud sites to catch up to the main stem. Cultivators can employ topping repeatedly, and top cannabis multiple times to turn one growth site into two new ones, two growth sites into four, and so on.
Similar to topping cannabis, the FIM method (or fimming) involves cutting most of a budding tip, rather than topping it completely at a 45 degree angle, with the intention of growing many colas in the place of one main cola. Developed from improperly topping of the plant (hence the name FIM, short for “F**k, I missed”), fimming could lead to an uneven canopy as it's difficult to control the extent of developing growth sites.
Sea of Green (SOG)
The Sea of Green (SOG) method is typically used to promote the shortest possible vegetative phase, which leads to the production of a single, dense cola. It involves growing several small plants instead of a few large ones, maximizing space and cultivating single colas. Clones are placed into flowering immediately or soon after they are rooted, skipping at least a good portion of the vegetative phase and ensuring only one main growth site.
Screen of Green (ScrOG)
If local laws limit the amount of cannabis you can cultivate, the Screen of Green (ScrOG) method will allow you to create the most growth sites, thereby producing the largest yield possible. The ScrOG method forces cannabis plants to grow through a suspended horizontal screen, allowing colas to form in otherwise dormant areas of the plant as it spreads laterally across the screen. In short, a ScrOG encourages horizontal plant growth during the vegetative phase by inhibiting it vertically.
Low Stress Training (LST)
Low Stress Training (LST) involves bending and tying down plant stems for maximum yield and light exposure for a chosen area on the cannabis plant. The term “low stress” refers to altering stem growth without extreme bending to prevent too much stress from breaking or cutting the main stem or side branches. LST is usually performed in conjunction with the ScrOG method and should typically begin during the plant's vegetative stage before stems are hard and unpliable.
Rather than emphasizing sustained levels of low stress, super cropping involves strategically executed forms of “high stress” to boost the plant's development of cannabinoids and terpenes. Super cropping consists of pinching areas of the stems and tying them down. If you try super cropping and end up applying to much stress, apply duct tape to the damaged area to help the plant heal.
Removing growth from the lower portion of the plant, resulting in a “lollipop” shaped plant, diverts energy to the higher, cola-producing branches. For SCROG and other indoor cannabis grows that have minimal light for the lower branches, lollipopping is especially effective in encouraging an optimal yield.