Greetings, Earthlings. Ya know, over the years I have heard some crazy things that growers do to their plants, including using battery acid on them—WTF? Yikes! I hope I don’t need to tell you how bad that is, LoL. However, there are other things that many growers still do that are also bad ideas; and in fact, highly counterproductive to their efforts to grow the best cannabis. One of these things is the pruning/trimming practices of many growers. One of the functions of the plant leaves is very similar to batteries, in that they store potential energy (nutrients). Let’s have a look at this philosophy a bit deeper and I will also share some great guidelines for when, and how much to trim/prune your plants.
Some Basic Pruning/Trimming Road Rules
As a rule of thumb, you never really want to take more than a third of your total plant mass in any single pruning/trimming. This rule also extends to trimming roots; and in fact, you always want to trim an equal amount (mass) from the above-ground plant parts if you do trim your roots—just FYI. Check out the plant in the photo above—this kind of yellowing of the leaves down low is all good, and you should never remove any leaves like this until they are actually dead and brown, because up until then the plant is tapping all the stored resources from these leaves that are FULL of very available food & water.
Don’t attempt to “fix” things like normal yellowing by adding food thinking your plant is starving, especially in flowering, because adding any real amounts of available nitrogen here can really bone you when it comes to the potency of your final buds.
Let’s channel our inner plants here amigos… If you are a plant, and you are getting trimmed/pruned, how do you (the plant) view this event? It’s an attack, a predator, like a deer eating on you (the plant). Right off the bat there are elevated stress levels—duh—and as long as the “deer” doesn’t eat too much the plant will come back just fine and healthy; but you have lost a lot of potential when you lost all that green, a lot of stored food and water. Now, when you are growing cannabis for optimum genetic potential, when it comes to both yields and resin qualities, this becomes a much bigger deal than it would be just for a plant in the wild, simply surviving. Lemme ‘splain…
I like to keep my trimming/pruning events limited to three basic points along the plants’ maturity timeline. Doing this causes stress, so if you are always trimming off leaves and branches here and there you are constantly adding additional stress to your plants, and constantly stressed plants don’t turn out top shelf (to their genetic potential). I basically trim my plants at every transplant and since transplanting is also stressful for the plants, this kind of lumps all the added stress into brief periods. I always trim off lower axial branches at every transplant, to allow for better air circulation down low—and this is very important!
When I transplant my plants into the containers they will flower in, I take additional lower axial branches off and I often use these branches to make cuttings with for rooting. Normally when my plants go into flowering there is about 25%-30% of them (of their height) that is bare stem from the soil level up. I advise you to do the same, and the benefits are many; larger yields per plant are among them.
Three Main Points
- Don’t ever trim/prune more than a third of your plant’s total mass.
- Keep your trimming/pruning times limited; Just before transplanting I find best.
- Always trim lower branches off for better air circulation below the plant.
Specialized Vigor “Growth Hormone”
Long ago my Northern California mentors used to refer to a particular genetic expression some plants have, and they called it “growth hormone.” What this is actually is a specific type of vigor and is found more often in Sativa dominant strains/hybrids, but not exclusively. If you top your plant, and the plant responds with fast aggressive axial growth, and then you top all those main axials again in a few weeks, and the plant just does the same thing, aggressively pushing out more rapid growing axial branches—that is what they called growth-hormone.
Many plants, once topped, will slow way down in growth rate, and when topped twice will pretty much grow at a crawl. Now, this can also be due to environmental conditions, any topped plant will require more resources to flourish, so this must be accounted for as well. The old Northern Lights #5 clone we used to run had this genetic trait/expression. This made for rapid clone rooting, and rapid turnover times for finished product growing indoors hydroponically. This expression is sometimes connected to larger yielding plants, but not always. These plants expressing the “growth hormone” are highly adaptable and grow fast and are also usually highly resistant to parasitic invaders.
Afterword with Rev
Hopefully those of you that are constantly pruning/trimming your plants here and there will change your ways and see what I am talking about. I hear from a lot of growers all the time and one of the things I notice often is what I consider to be bad trimming/pruning habits. Growing killer cannabis is like so many other things where there is no “magic bullet” and it’s really all about practicing a whole bunch of good smaller habits that when combined together end up in epic harvests! Cheers man, and I hope you all enjoyed this. 😊