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How to prune cannabis plants for maximum yields

May 19, 2017


Updated 03/28/19

Pruning is essential for improving the quality and yield of your cannabis plants. It’s an intimate practice between the gardener and the plant and allows you to closely look at your plants and check up on their health.

It might feel strange to intentionally cut off bits of your plant, but these parts won’t produce quality buds because they won’t receive a proper amount of light—they’ll get shaded out by the buds and foliage growing above.

Cutting off the branches will allow the plant to redirect its energy and resources to the quality buds that will receive plenty of light. You also want to prune off yellow or dead leaves on the plant—they have no use and will only waste the plant’s resources.


How to grow marijuana outdoors: a beginner’s guide

Pruning also creates open space in the middle of the plant, allowing air to flow through it more freely and letting light penetrate deeper, keeping the plant vibrant and healthy.

What to look for when pruning

Quality buds grow where the plant receives a lot of sunlight and airflow, particularly on the top of the plant. You’ll want to remove:

  • Low-down branches that receive little sunlight
  • Leaves that are dying off because of lack of light
  • Bud sites that are low down and don’t receive a lot of light

In the early stages of growth, a plant is narrow enough that most of the foliage will receive plenty of sunlight. Start pruning your plants once they begin to take a bushy shape, and top them to promote this bushy growth.

As a plant grows and bushes out, it’ll start to take a shape and define the canopy. This will give you a sense of where the quality buds will grow so that you can start pruning away the unnecessary portions of the plant.


How to top cannabis plants for bigger yields

From this point until about 3-4 weeks into the flowering stage, you can actively prune your plants. Once well into the flowering phase, you want to cease pruning—it can cause the plant to start producing vegetative growth again, which will diminish the size and quality of your yield.

How to prune your cannabis plants

Grab a pair of pruning shears, usually some Chikamasas or Fiskars, for quick work on small branches and leaves. Keep an additional pair with more strength nearby to cut larger branches.

Keep your clippers/scissors sharp and make clean snips—this will keep the plant healthy and prevent infection and damage.

How to prune your cannabis plant

Amy Phung/Leafly

  • Remove large branches first. This will allow you to clear out as much space as possible before you begin the more detailed work. Start with branches on the bottom of the plant. These won’t receive enough sunlight and will never become fully developed buds.
  • Cut off branches that are growing up into the middle of the plant, underneath the canopy. These branches will get shaded out and also won’t develop full buds.
  • Prune any small or dying branches or leaves.

In the days following a pruning, your plants should go through a burst of growth—the open space will allow extra light to get to the plant.


How to Train Your Cannabis Plants for Better Yields and Potency

Pruning allows you to control the plant and direct where it puts its energy. Remember, pruning is a great opportunity to be present in your garden and to observe how your plants are doing. Take this time to also observe your plants and check their overall health, looking for pests, nutrient deficiencies, and soil issues.

Trevor Hennings's Bio Image

Trevor Hennings

Trevor is a freelance writer and photographer. He has spent years in California working in the cannabis industry.

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  • Silver Surfer

    when i need R n R i come to your world

  • Trevor Hennings
  • erg922

    Here’s what I do that is very simple. Cut up all the leaves, stems, etc. Put it in a mason jar and fill with Everclear (grain alcohol) Let sit for a long time. I’ve waited more than a month before. Once it’s dark colored liquid. Strain it through a Mr. Coffee filter onto a dinner plate. Let sit for a couple of days. Scrape the residue up with a razor blade. The result is a “black hash” that can be smoked.

    • Levi Langershank

      ..IMPO that crap will give you black lung..dont waste your time..also,again IMPO,you will waste more $ on the Everclear than the result is worth…at least thats been my experience,and I was using some fair-pretty good bud…:>)….JMPO…:>)

      • robertburnsob

        I agree. First, never smoke (all smoke is harmful) but instead use topically, sublingually, edibly, or suppositorily. Second, unless the leaves are potent, grind and eat them (decarboxylate if desired) in smoothies, salads, burritos, spaghetti, etc.

        • Alex Jones

          Good luck convincing the 80% of users to not smoke lmaro

    • E.L. Bl/Du

      if you leave it for 3 months minimum will turn into tincture, It must be completely dry before processing which ever way. Higher the alcohol content, the more canabinoids get extracted by the alcohol. Also if decarboxylated prior, you can convert any thca into thc, and also release some cbds in the tincture.

  • Greg

    I use the leaves in my homemade raviolis instead of using spinach.

  • Carmen Ray Anderson

    Hi. I have a couple of plants in coco that developed bugs (either fungus gnats or root aphids, unsure), and in an effort to save them I repotted during flowering. The pistils turned brown and desiccated over night. I have subsequently treated the soil and roots with bio agents. The one plant is bouncing back and the other seems to be losing ability to produce new pistils. Is it a good or bad idea to cut off dead looking flowers? If it is the right thing to do, then what is the best way to do this? Thanks in advance.

  • Robin George

    If they are withering then trim them.

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    depends on how big the sprouts are. Good sign they are there, they take a while to kick into grow, they have to make roots first. I would trim them back just a bit, the dying part anyway. Still need for photosynthesis. Once the sprouts are out sbout 1/2 in or more, you can trim back more, till the new leaves capable of transpiration. Id leave em on till they start to die off on their own, or not needed. Warming temps, longer days, it all helps

  • Allie Hawkins

    I have a clone with lots of buds on it and I don’t know when to trim it anyone have any suggestions

  • Carey Blazey

    Try this; Get a large pot and put as much leaf as you want into some sort of cloth bag and place into the pot. (stalks as well if you like) Fill with water and place on gas burner to bring to the boil.
    Now place a pound of butter in the pot with the leaf and water.
    Bring to boiling point then turn the heat down to a simmering point and let it simmer away for 2.1/2 -3hours.
    then remove the pot from heat and remove the cloth bag and hang it above the pot and let it drain off back into the pot. I squeeze the bag to hurry things along.(put gloves on). Next strain the cook pot mix into another bowl using a kitchen strainer .
    Place in fridge overnight and by morning the mix will have a set top and water at the bottom.
    The solid set piece is removed and kept as Marijuana Butter. Then use butter in cookie mix to bake mean high as cookies.
    The color of the butter will be green so try some food coloring if the green doesn’t suit.
    I have done this many times for cancer patients who use it with baked potatoes. scoop a piece of potato out of center and put a decent scoop of MButter into it. Then it was off to bed for a great nights sleep for them. All 3 ladies said it let them have the best restful sleep since their suffering started..
    I have also done the above for a few parties but that’s another story…

    • Leslea

      We used to do the exact same method, only we would simmer for 12 hours we would also be making 5 lbs at a time. Then we would make cookies, brownies and Christmas pastries always adding double amount of butter! like you said the results are amazing!!

  • William Fowler

    If one is using the buds for extraction purposes, then why not leave the small buds on the bottom branches? How much do the top branches produce versus the loss of the bottom buds? If the top buds do not make up enough weight, to offset the loss of the bottom buds, then why cut off. Is there a proven science that the top buds more than compensate for the loss of the smaller buds???

  • Kelly Kokkonen

    you forgot to mention you can use all those branches for clones..

  • Kelly Kokkonen

    make brownies

  • darrick

    Hey guys I noticed some white flies on my plant. Has anyone come across this issue before? I know they like to suck the sap out of leafs of plants. Is this harmful? Has anyone had success on getting rid of these? Appreciate all the support thanks ladies and gentleman

  • Leslea

    Make some butter! It is a process but puts the leaves and teeny buds to great use!

  • Warrick Allen

    Why does your website only have two countries available?