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How to trim marijuana

Some people dread trimming because it’s so monotonous. You’ll be sitting down staring at weed for hours, even days. That said, there are ways to make it more efficient and enjoyable. It always helps to have a friend or two helping you out, and you’ll have plenty of bud to spare.

Why is trimming marijuana important? 

Trimming involves, first, bucking buds off branches. Then sugar and fan leaves need to be removed—leaving them on would cause a harsh smoke, as foliage is thicker and doesn’t wick away moisture as well. Sugar leaves have some trichomes but much less than buds. Removing them will expose parts of the nug with more trichomes. 

Cannabis that has been trimmed also takes on a tighter, more uniform appearance and is more aesthetically pleasing. It will look like the weed from the dispensary.

Trimming is also important for curing—during the curing process, trimmed buds have a more uniform moisture content, creating a much more even and flavorful smoking experience.

Wet vs. dry cannabis trimming

Wet marijuana trimming

(FatCamera/iStock)

Wet trimming happens all in one sitting: You will cut down the plant, buck buds off branches, trim the buds, and then place them on a drying rack for a few days. 

Pros and cons of wet trimming

Pros:

  • It’s easier to access and remove sugar and fan leaves—they get shrivelled and dried up in dry trimming. 
  • With less moisture-filled foliage attached to the flowers, drying will be quicker. This can be helpful in humid climates where mold is a concern.
  • If you’re tight on space, wet trimming removes a bulk of the plant in the beginning, composting stems, stalks, and leaves.
  • Trimming wet will also give you a tighter and more aesthetically pleasing final product.
  • Many argue that because buds are stickier when being handled, trichomes remain intact, which preserves terpenes and flavors in the final product.

Cons:

Wet trimming is very sticky. Trichomes will get on your fingers, your trimming shears, your body, everything. 

Dry marijuana trimming

With dry trimming, you’ll cut down the plant and hang it to dry for several days first. When it’s dry, you’ll then buck the buds off branches and trim them. 

Pros and cons of dry trimming

Pros:

  • Keeping leaves on in the beginning increases humidity around the buds and slows down drying. This can be great in arid climates, as a quick dry can cause excess terpene loss.
  • It’s a lot less messy—trichomes harden as weed dries, reducing the amount of get-on-everything stickiness. 

Cons:

  • Those less-sticky, less-messy trichomes are also more brittle and prone to breakage. You’ll have to handle your crop with care to preserve trichomes and THC levels.
  • Hanging entire plants takes up significantly more space than if you chopped it off in the first place. Make sure you have adequate drying space before dry trimming.

How to trim cannabis buds

trimming cannabis

When your drying room and trimming area are all set up, and your weed plants are ready to come down, it’s time to get to trimming.

Whether trimming wet or dry, the steps for trimming are the same.

Step 1: Cut down the plant and cut off branches

Using a solid pair of pruning shears, cut the main stalk of the plant, close to the soil. Then, cut off branches, breaking the plant down into smaller pieces.

If dry trimming, you’ll hang the plant for drying now, either in its entirety or as smaller branches—more on drying, here. You’ll know your drying plants will be ready to start trimming once stems snap—usually 3-7 days later.

If wet trimming, skip drying and go to step 2.

Step 2: Remove fan leaves

Fan leaves are the iconic cannabis leaves with five or seven points. The plant has had these leaves since it was in the vegetative stage. Fan leaves don’t have trichomes, so get rid of them. 

If trimming wet, it may be quicker to gently pull these off with your hands, but you can snip them off with scissors too. If dry trimming, you’ll need to snip them off.

Step 3: Cut buds from the branch

Once fan leaves are off, snip off individual buds from branches—this is called “bucking.” 

Trimmers usually create a pile of buds to work on, either on a table or in a bowl or tray. 

Be sure to keep a separate pile for branches, stems, and fan leaves, and compost them.

Step 4: Trim away

Now that you have just buds, get to trimming. Make sure a bud is the desired size and break it down if it’s too big. A giant bud might look awesome, but it won’t dry properly and could be susceptible to mold.

Trim the stem at the bottom as closely as you can without causing the bud to break down. You don’t want the stem to be exposed anywhere but at the bottom. 

Remove the crow’s feet—these are the little branches that stem up from the bottom and look like little bird feet.

Then, trim off extra plant matter and manicure the bud. Angle your scissors and keep them moving. After a while you won’t even think about it.

Take away everything that isn’t fully covered in trichomes. Create a uniform surface area around the buds. This includes taking down red pistils all the way to the foliage. Pistils have very little to zero trichome content and should only be kept long for aesthetic purposes.

Put all your finished buds in a separate bowl or tray.

Marijuana trimming tools needed

To trim weed, you will need:

  • Scissors (for trimming buds)
  • Pruners (helpful for big branches)
  • Comfortable chair and area
  • A clean surface, like a table
  • Tray/bowl and a clean surface
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Rags
  • Proper clothes (ones that can get sticky)
  • Entertainment

Pro tips for trimming weed

Trimmed cannabis buds
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Make sure to collect your trim. You can dry it too and either smoke it or use it to make edibles or other cannabis products.

Remember to wipe your scissors with alcohol or swap them out with another pair when they get covered in resin. Also, make sure to avoid shaving off large sections of the nug at once—this isn’t great for the bud and it will reduce your yield.

Some trimmers save their “finger hash” or “scissor hash,” which is resin that builds up on your fingers or scissors when trimming. This is perfectly fine to smoke, it just may be a little harsh. 

Hand-trimmed vs. machine-trimmed weed

As a homegrower, you’ll most likely be trimming your weed by hand, but some do invest in machine trimmers to cut out the monotonous trimming part. 

Pros and cons of hand trimming marijuana

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • You can shape each individual bud and bring out the qualities of each strain
  • You can spot issues like mold or insects

Cons:

  • Messy (you’ll want lots of rubbing alcohol or coconut oil around)
  • Time-consuming
  • Usually have to rely on some buddies to help

Pros and cons of machine trimming marijuana

The high demand for cannabis has paved the way for new technologies and a whole range of machine trimmers. These trimmers do an incredible job of processing buds quickly, so they’re mainly used by large-scale growers producing for the low end of the market.

Highly efficient upper-level systems like the Twister T2 (~$12,000) can trim up to 19 lbs per hour, and lower-priced systems exist, such as the Trimpro Rotor ($1,750), for commercial growers. For homegrowers, there are trimmers such as the iPower ($120).

Pros:

  • Easy
  • Quick and efficient, saving time and money
  • Less messy; machine trimmers collect trim easily so you use it for other products

Cons:

  • Can overtrim buds
  • They knock off a lot of trichomes, affecting potency and flavor
  • Stems and seeds can still make their way into finished buds


Johanna Silver, Patrick Bennett, and Trevor Hennings contributed to this article.

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