Pruning and Training to Maximize Yield

Updated: Nov 29, 2018

The never-ending debates on cannabis gardening style are epitomized by the numerous techniques used to increase yield under artificial light. Even when two people learn the exact same technique in the same place, they will inevitably develop their own interpretation of that technique when it comes to pruning and training their plants. This is the fun part of growing and a great opportunity to finally vary from the “program” a little.

The first thing you must know is that there is nothing new under the sun - very few will ever come up with anything unique or novel to increase plant yield. The techniques described in this topic are as old as dirt, function the same across many varieties of plants (not just cannabis), and in another time, some of these techniques determined the wealth of one family versus another.

This is almost as true with modern indoor cannabis gardening, given the cost of electricity used by indoor lighting. The key to our success indoors is the ability to force our plants to acquire a certain stature, look, yield, and performance. There is no room for slackers under artificial light. Cutting half of the branches off of a cannabis plant is probably the most effective pruning or training anyone can do. So before you over think this topic, try to remember that.

Pruning and Topping

When we first transplant clones or seedlings into a one or two gallon container, we allow the plant to grow as wide and tall as that container before we engage in vigorous pruning. At that point, we simply cut off half of the plant or more by removing weak bottom branches (cutting with pruners flush to the stalk), and chopping the growing main stalk about 1/4-1/2" above a branch node. Wait for it to grow back up to size and see the difference. This second growth will have a thicker stalk, tighter nodes, tougher stature, and overall improvement that is easy on the eyes. It's just obvious. This technique is a little brutal. Don't be weak. Just do one plant and leave the other if you want to compare.

After the plant has grown back to size, we are ready to transplant into its final container of 5-20 gallons, depending on desired final size. This is our first opportunity to express some real individuality or personality in our skills. We continue to remove weak bottom branches and cut the (multiple) growing tops as we did earlier.

An interesting alternative to topping is called FIM ("Fuck, I Missed") which cuts just the growing tip, leaving the bottom 20% of the node on the plant. The result, if you get it just right, is multiple growing tops from a single node, rather than the two you would normally expect with topping. This technique takes some experience to get just right, and is sometimes called floribunding.

After the plant grows a few more nodes, we will observe the growth and keep topping or FIMming as desired. If extra vegetative time is required because of a full flowering room, you may even mow this plant down a foot or more, then let it regrow just like we did when it was younger. Each time