How To Prune Marijuana Plants – Seven Tips

 Posted by at 1:15 PM on October 5, 2013  Grower Tips
Oct 052013
 October 5, 2013

how to prune marijuana plants

Gardeners of all stripes have used pruning to help keep their plants trim and tidy since the beginning of cultivation. A lot of plants can simply get too out of hand to deal with in any other way, and pruning is relatively harmless to the rest of the plant. With some plants, like marijuana and tomatoes, pruning actually serves the purpose of creating much higher yields. For cannabis growers, tidy plants and higher yields are two things that are certainly desirable. Below you’ll find steps to for successful marijuana pruning throughout the life cycle of the plant.

1. Cut out lower, non-productive branches early. When the marijuana plant is still relatively small but in vegetative state, you can nix a few of the lower branches along with their attached leaves. There’s nothing wrong with leaving those particular branches on the plant, but, when it comes time to flower the plants, they won’t really produce much anyway. This little exercise also allows the plant to focus more on the taller and ultimately more productive branches. This will increase growth in the meantime and can potentially increase yield toward the end of the plant’s life cycle.

2Be Careful. When cutting the branches, especially when the plants are at a young age, it’s important to take great caution. Don’t use dull scissors or a serrated blade, and certainly don’t rip the small branches off with your bare hands. The last thing you want to do is shock the plant at such a young age. A nice, clean snip with some sharp scissors will do the trick.

3. Remove any dead or moribund leaves. As the marijuana plant ages, it’s obviously going to get bigger. The upper leaves will start to fill out and form a canopy above the lower parts of the plant. Unfortunately for the lower end of the, those leaves will likely all die as a result of not getting enough light. Snipping them off even before they start to turn yellow has almost the same effect as clipping your fingernails. Except, in this case, the upper leaves will benefit from the missing lower leaves.

4. Keep the plants in check. If you’re going indoors, then you are likely going to have some vertical (and occasionally horizontal limitations). Pruning can certainly remedy that situation without causing too much damage. If you’re growing marijuana outdoors, the plant will have considerably more room to grow. While that’s beneficial to some degree (because who doesn’t like bigger plants?), it can get you caught. Bigger plants are naturally easier to see than smaller plants, and towering outdoor plants are a recipe for disaster (unless, of course, you have a highly-concealed location).

5. Top the plants. While it might seem counterintuitive to snip off the biggest branch (top cola), it can actually help you produce a much higher yield. The top colas actually have a chemical in them that restricts the growth of the lower branches, and, when you cut the top off, it allows the rest of the plant to flourish. The top colas are also pretty potent and you can use them as a test smoke if you want.

6. Don’t force flowering right away. After you’ve topped the plant, you don’t want to immediately start forcing the marijuana plant into the flowering stage. Give it some time to recover. Cutting the top cola late in vegetative growth is not the same as cutting a few shoots or small branches early on in the game. The lower branches and leaves will slowly start to work their way up to fill the vacancy left by the top cola. After about 4 or 5 days, you can start forcing the plants to flower, at which point you should be rewarded with a much higher yield for all your efforts.

7. Don’t prune during flowering. Once the marijuana plant starts to flower, it’s really a bad idea to try to prune anything else. Of course, if there are a few dead leaves or unproductive branches, you might be able to get away with it. But, any wholesale pruning during the flowering period is a bad idea. The plants are already growing rapidly and any extensive pruning to the plant will likely shock it. Some growers ascribe to the idea that putting stress on the plant will actually force it to grow faster to compensate. There’s really not a lot of evidence to back this up and cutting up the plant too much will leave you with considerably less than you might have wanted.

Overall, pruning marijuana plants is a delicate process that should be treated with a lot of care to avoid any major setbacks. Do you have any pruning stories or advice? If so, leave them in the comments below. Want to know more about growing marijuana? Get a free guide about growing marijuana at this link here.

Order some high quality marijuana seeds at this link here.

Powered by

About Robert Bergman

Robert Bergman is a master marijuana grower. Robert Bergman is the author of 'Marijuana Plant Care' and 'The Marijuana Grow Bible'.
  • lalaw

    Did this before!

    • nanna

      can anyone help..im a new lady grower,,my plants are 5 weeks into veg,,were doing great till i potted them into bigger pots ,i watered them lots but think i released to many nutes,my soil has slow release ,,at the moment theres a couple of yellow leaves at the very bottom,,, the rest of the big leaves are all nice and green ,my concern is all the very small new growth,all the areas where the buds are gonna be are all burnt on ends crispy and bright yellow,,,does this mean there all no good now????

      • nanna

        anyone?????

  • Tom and bong

    I bend my plants. The top bud the inhibitor i bend that and let my bottom buds fight to see who is In control who gets the closest to the sun/light this also stops the plant from getting tall and spin dally creates more branches as well and its like my plant is doing weights because the stock and the branches get thicker making my buds denser and thicker and bigger. But you have kink them can’t just grab and bend you will probably snap the branch

  • Rjay

    wow, great website

  • Raymond

    Hey Johnny. Sup? I have A question. How do you force A plant to flower?

    • Alex

      Indoors you switch the light time to 12 hours on and 12 hours off that forces the plant to flower making it think that it’s winter time.

    • Guilherme

      reduce the hours of light, around 12h on /12h off for flowering, 15h+ on for vegetative state

      • Ginger

        You can force by your nuts also but takes much more practise

  • Wendi

    My hubs figured all that out for himself.

  • john

    Would my 4 week old marijuana plant die if I ripped of the leaves by accident? ?

  • David

    how can you make the center stem thicker?

    • Ginger

      Pinch till the inside breaks but dont disturb the “bark” it alliws nuts to flow better and use a t5 during veg

  • CoMaddMax

    I have specific question about when to prune. My plants are 4 weeks old from buying them as clones. I didn’t have my grow light (1000w MH) untill they were 2 weeks old. They are between 5 and 7 inches tall now in a 1 gal containers, they are about as bushy as the edge of the containers now.They just starting to grow a lot of lower branches.(withen 1/2 ” of the dirt. Do I trim out the lower branches now? If so how far up the stalk do I go and when should I top it.? I’m thinking that I should start the bloom cycle in a week?

    • Ginger

      Get rid of them but never take more than 30% of your plant or you can shock it keep a fan on it aing for the girlsso, its like weight lifte

  • Frank Knight

    I have done a lot of “side by side” experiments… a couple years ago I had a older grow guru friend tell me that when budding…. watch for the stems of the bigger leaves to start turning a reddish color and then snip them off. His reasoning was that the changing of the color of the stem indicates when the leaf is starting to take more energy from the plant than it gives the plant. I tried it with multiple strains and love the results.
    The plants I do this to have a denser trichome coverage than the ones I left the leaves on. Granted… they are about 20% smaller buds… they make up with quality in what they lack in size.

  • painkills2

  • CoMaddMax

    Thanks Ginger

  • Ryan Seaton

    Hey guys, I’m a noob more or less at the grow end anyway. I have six pretty healthy plants locked away in my cupboard from 2 pretty elaborate strains. Surprising given I never even put a fan on them (So little air I guess) They’re all under led growlights 2 per panel of led’s. A couple I have staked but not until mid flower season for the cola’s were really starting to bend the stem. I just want to keep these plants on the boil, keeping them indefinitely, I’ve taken recently to just pruning what are usually pretty small buds when the red hairs get to about 80 – 90 %. Humidity is not much of a problem where I am. Like ever. Summers are mild and dry. Winters freezing, Can I just prune a (cola?) when it get’s nearly all red hair? will it grow back next season? I’ve been really strugling to find out. Seem’s most people just rip the whole plant out. But I wont all mine to live, producing season after season. Tho I know more about pruning now, and will get proper bamboo stakes for all of them, probably put a mini fan in there too. Does anyone know what will happen if I just snip the cola off for curing? Any advice would help. Cheers.

  • james

    somebody help me.my plant is 4 weeks into flowering and the white hairs are turning orange and the fan leaves look droopy. i dont know if ipicked to many leaves off this is my first grow.

  • rocko

    I have a bubble bomb under 200 watt cfl yesterday i decided to prune 2 lower branches but i ripped one off and i pinched one with my fingers i didn’t think that it would hurt my bab,but i woke up this morning and all my leaves are pointing down is this from ripping the branches off maybe it got shock 60 days into veg.