Popular weed plant training techniques

Like all growers, you want to get the most out of your grow and produce big, healthy, tasty buds. By employing weed plant training techniques such as super cropping, topping and low stress training you could double your normal yields in just one grow. In this article we will look at:

What does training a weed plant mean?

Training weed plants means to manipulate the plants physical structure into the shape that is most suitable for their environment (be it indoors or outdoors) and their genetics, to allow better light distribution and air flow.

For indoor growing, it could also mean timeline manipulation, where the climate (light schedule, temperature, etc) are controlled to encourage the plants to be in certain growth phases longer or shorter, depending on the growers’ intention.

Most marijuana training techniques work by either adjusting the shape of the plant to improve light absorption or by forcing the plant to produce additional bud sites. Shaping a plant to produce a flatter canopy improves light distribution enabling it to absorb as much light energy as possible. And as you know, more light equals bigger yields; the result is bigger yields.

The benefits of training cannabis plants

Without any training a cannabis plant will naturally grow into a Christmas tree like shape. In the wild this shape is excellent at absorbing light from all angles as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the plant gets light coverage from both sides. However, when you grow cannabis in a tent with a fixed light source directly above the plant, this shape isn’t necessarily the best. Therefore training your cannabis plant to grow into a more efficient shape will allow it to absorb more light.

Training your cannabis plants will help to achieve….

  1. Improved yield – By training the plant to grow into a flat canopy shape more light is absorbed resulting in bigger buds.
  2. Better quality bud – If your plants are able to absorb more light they can put more energy into producing better quality, more potent bud.
  3. Cost effective – By training plant to use the space efficiently, you can achieve a higher yield/plant ration.
  4. Space efficiency – Altering a plants growth pattern allows you to bend it into whatever shape suits your grow space best.
  5. Better plant health – Training your plants can improve airflow which helps reduce the risk of pests and disease.

Does weed plant training improve the taste and smell of buds?

Absolutely. How you train your cannabis plants will influence their taste and smell. Being exposed more (or less) to light, the right temperature and air can bring out (or reduce) certain flavours.

In addition, when carrying out defoliation or pruning you start by targeting removing any damaged or yellowing leaves. This helps the plant to focus more of its energy on producing bud.

When to start training weed plants?

There isn’t an exact age or size to start training cannabis plants. Generally you should do it while they are in the vegetative state of growth. You don’t want to leave it too late but equally, you don’t go in too early either. It is safe to let the plants to grow a few good nodes before training them. The aim is to help your plant establish a good structure during the vegetative phase which prepares them well for the flowering stage.

That said, it also depends on the what type of training techniques you are going to use and what type of cannabis plant you are growing. Training methods such as LST can be performed a little earlier than HST as they cause a lot less stress on the plant.

As to how late in a plants life you can train it, ideally you should start in the early vegetative stage. You should stop any further training once a plant has reached the flowering stage. You don’t want to stress your plants at this point or accidentally snap a branch as this would most likely stress the plant and reduce yield. You can, however, still do some light defoliation to keep them healthy.

How to train cannabis plants for bigger yields?

Let’s be clear, to truly maximize the productivity of your plants and get those big juicy buds it requires a lot more work than training alone. The link below explains the key steps to increase yields, from planning your grow, right the way to harvest, so make sure you check it out. In this article, we will focus more on explaining the different cannabis training techniques available; we will also provide links to more detailed articles dedicated to each technique.

There are three main different areas of cannabis plant training, they are….

  1. LST (Low Stress Training) This involves manipulating the shape of the plant using the tie and bend techniques, ScrOG or mainlining.
  2. HST (High Stress Training) is trimming or removing parts of the plant – This includes topping, fimming, super cropping, lollipopping, manifolding & defoliation.
  3. Manipulating the growth schedule to either speed up the grow so that a plant finishes faster or lengthening it to get bigger yields – This includes 12/12 light cycles from seed & Sea of Green

LST (Low Stress Training)

Low-Stress Training (LST) is a technique used to shape cannabis plants and improve yields. The idea behind LST is to bend and manipulate the branches of the plant to increase their exposure to light, which in turn leads to more growth and higher yields. LST is considered a low-stress technique because it does not involve cutting or removing any part of the plant, reducing the risk of shock and stress to the plant.

The basic process of LST begins when the plant is in the vegetative stage, and involves gently bending and tying down the branches to shape the plant as desired. This can be done using soft ties, such as strips of cloth or rubber bands, which will not damage the branches. The goal is to spread out the branches evenly, so that all parts of the plant are exposed to light.

As the plant continues to grow, the ties may need to be adjusted to accommodate the plant’s changing shape. During the flowering stage, it’s important to stop training the plant to avoid disrupting the growth of buds and flowers.

LST is a versatile technique that can be used to train plants into a variety of shapes, depending on the grower’s goals and the available space. For example, a grower might use LST to create a flat, bushy plant that can be grown in a small space, or to create a tall, narrow plant that will take up less vertical space.

In addition to improving yields, LST has several other benefits for cannabis growers. For example, it can help increase the potency of the buds, as well as improve the overall quality of the crop by promoting more even growth. LST is also useful for controlling the height of the plant, making it easier to manage the garden and keep it under control.

LST applied on cannabis plant to improve autoflower yield
A cannabis plant trained with LST method

Screen of Green (ScrOG)

Screen of Green (SCROG) is a growing technique used in cannabis cultivation to maximize yields and improve the quality of the crop. This method involves training the plant to grow through a mesh screen placed above the canopy, which acts as a support structure for the branches. By spreading out the plant’s growth and directing energy to the uppermost growth, SCROG helps produce bigger and more evenly developed buds.

The SCROG process begins during the vegetative stage of growth when the plant is small. A mesh screen is placed above the plant, and the branches are trained to grow through the holes in the screen. This is done by tying down the branches or using clips to hold them in place as they grow.

As the plant continues to grow, the lower branches are pruned to direct the plant’s energy to the uppermost growth. This helps ensure that all parts of the plant receive adequate light exposure, leading to more even growth and higher yields.

SCROG is particularly useful for growers who have limited space or light sources, as it allows them to maximize the use of available resources. By spreading out the growth of the plant, SCROG also helps reduce the risk of mold and mildew, which can be a common issue in dense, crowded grow environments.

In addition to improving yields, SCROG has several other benefits for cannabis growers. For example, it can help increase the potency of the buds and improve the overall quality of the crop by promoting more even growth. It is also useful for controlling the height of the plant, making it easier to manage the garden and keep it under control.

Cannabis plants grown using Scrog net
Cannabis plants trained using SCROG net

HST (High Stress Training)

High Stress Training (HST) is a growing technique in which cannabis plants are subjected to high levels of stress to promote growth and increase yields. This is done by cutting or removing parts of the plant, such as branches or leaves, which triggers the plant to produce more growth hormones. HST is typically done during the vegetative stage of growth, and involves techniques such as topping, supercropping, and defoliation. While HST can result in larger yields, it also increases the risk of plant stress and damage, making it a more advanced technique for experienced growers.

Fimming

Fimming is a type of high-stress training (HST) method used in cannabis cultivation to increase yields and improve the quality of the crop. It involves removing the tips of the main cola, or central stem, to encourage the growth of multiple branches, resulting in a bushier, more evenly-spaced plant.

The process of fimming begins during the vegetative stage of growth and involves removing a portion of the central stem, just above the node. This triggers the growth of two new shoots, which will then develop into two new branches. This process can be repeated multiple times on the same plant, creating a dense and bushy growth pattern.

Fimming is often used in combination with other training techniques such as low-stress training (LST) or screen of green (SCROG) to produce larger yields and improve the quality of the crop. By spreading out the growth of the plant, fimming can help ensure that all parts of the plant receive adequate light exposure, leading to more even growth and higher yields.

While fimming can result in increased yields, it is a more advanced technique that requires careful attention to plant stress and damage. Overfimming or removing too much of the central stem can stress the plant, reducing its overall health and vitality. As with all high-stress training techniques, it is important to carefully monitor the plant and adjust as needed to ensure its health and well-being.

Topping

Topping is a type of high-stress training (HST) method used in cannabis cultivation to increase yields and improve the quality of the crop. It involves removing the top of the central stem of the plant, or main cola, to encourage the growth of multiple branches. This results in a bushier, more evenly-spaced plant with a larger yield.

The process of topping begins during the vegetative stage of growth and involves removing the top of the central stem, just above a node. This triggers the growth of two new shoots, which will then develop into two new branches. This process can be repeated multiple times on the same plant, creating a dense and bushy growth pattern.

Topping is often used in combination with other training techniques such as low-stress training (LST) or screen of green (SCROG) to produce larger yields and improve the quality of the crop. By spreading out the growth of the plant, topping can help ensure that all parts of the plant receive adequate light exposure, leading to more even growth and higher yields.

While topping can result in increased yields, it is a more advanced technique that requires careful attention to plant stress and damage. Overtopping or removing too much of the central stem can stress the plant, reducing its overall health and vitality. As with all high-stress training techniques, it is important to carefully monitor the plant and adjust as needed to ensure its health and well-being.

where to cut when topping cannabis plants
Topping

Super cropping

Supercropping involves gradually pinching and bending the branches which softens and slightly damages the inner fibres of the plant, leaving them pliable enough to bend in the way you want while not damaging the outer skin of the plant.

By softening the branches and making them more pliable you can then also manipulate their growth pattern and force the plant to grow in a wider shape by tying or clipping them down much like with LST. Once the plant branches have recovered, you will notice that they form hard knots which strengthen the plant which will help it to support the extra weight from the big colas that will develop further up the plant.

While it may seem unusual damaging the plant on purpose, it is highly stimulating to the plant; especially during the vegetative stage of growth it can trigger a defence mechanism in the cannabis plant that produces excess cannabinoids and trichomes which are the parts of the plant that contain THC and CBD. By inflicting light damage to the plant this also encourages the plant to take on more nutrients and water to fuel its recovery which in turn is thought to increase growth as well.

Super cropping is an advanced training technique that when done correctly will massively increase yields, however if done incorrectly you can also damage the plant, so it is important to be careful and patient with it. Super cropping is typically used on older plants that have thicker branches that have developed too much to bend them with the LST method. 

Result of super cropping cannabis plants
Result of super cropping a cannabis plant

Lollipopping

Lollipopping is a cultivation technique used in cannabis growing to improve yields and quality by removing lower growth and focusing energy on the main cola or central stem of the plant. This involves removing any side shoots or small branches that are not receiving adequate light exposure, leaving only the main stem and top buds to grow. The technique is typically performed during the vegetative stage and results in a more efficient use of light and energy, resulting in larger, higher quality buds. It can be used in combination with other training techniques, such as high-stress training (HST) or low-stress training (LST), to further improve yields and growth. It is important to perform lollipopping correctly to avoid stressing the plant and to ensure a healthy, vigorous growth.

A marijuana plant that has been lollipopped
A young cannabis plant that has been lollipopped

Manifolding

Manifolding is a cultivation technique used in cannabis growing to increase yields by promoting the growth of multiple branches. This is done by carefully bending and tying down the main stem of the plant to encourage the growth of additional branches, which will then develop into additional colas. The goal of manifolding is to create a bushy, evenly-spaced plant with multiple main stems and colas, rather than a single central stem.

The process of manifolding typically begins during the vegetative stage of growth and involves gently bending the main stem and tying it down to the side, using a soft material such as cloth or plastic ties. This will trigger the growth of additional branches, which will then be trained in the same manner. Manifolding is typically done in combination with other training techniques, such as low-stress training (LST) or screen of green (SCROG), to further improve yields and growth.

Manifolding is a more advanced cultivation technique that requires careful attention to plant stress and damage. Overmanifolding or applying too much pressure to the main stem can stress the plant, reducing its overall health and vitality. As with all high-stress training techniques, it is important to carefully monitor the plant and adjust as needed to ensure its health and well-being.

Defoliation

Defoliation is a growing technique in which the larger fan leaves are trimmed off the plant. This method is usually carried out just before the plant changes to the flowering stage of growth or in the very early stages of flowering. The aim of defoliation is to encourage the plant to focus more of its growing energy on increasing the size of its buds instead of on its leaves.

Defoliation is also beneficial to a plants health because it exposes the newly formed buds to light and air at the perfect moment right when their growth rate begins to really explode. It is important when using the defoliation method not to overdo it, if you remove too many leaves then you will limit the plants photosynthesis production, and this can stunt growth.

Ideally you should remove the big fan leaves that are around the buds to help expose them and the lower fan leaves on the plant that will not be getting much light anyway so it should not have any negative impact. Providing you perform cannabis defoliation at the correct time and take off the right amount of leaves your plant will benefit from bigger yields.

Manipulating the grow phases with light schedule

This is not necessarily a plant training technique whereby you change the form of the plant in any way, but it is a method used to increase yields or cause the plant to grow faster.

12 – 12 From Seed

This involves growing the plant from seed to harvest on a 12/12 light cycle. The aim is to encourage the plant to flower as fast as possible which speeds up the overall growing time by cutting out the vegetative stage or merging the vegging and flowering stage into one.

This method is useful if you need to get quick harvests, but it will certainly cause stunted growth because it cuts out the vegetative stage of growth.

Sea of Green

The Sea of Green growing technique does not actually involve training your plants, it is more of a method of growing. With this method you grow lots of small plants instead of growing just a few big plants. The idea is to veg the plants for 4-5 weeks and then switch them to flowering.

The plants will be relatively small but you will have lots of them making full use of the ground space. You can combine the sea of green method with topping the plants which encourages them to grow more colas. By reducing the vegging stage of growth this massively cuts down the length of time that it takes to get to harvest.

Cannabis flowering using sea of green method
Cannabis plants grown with Sea of Green method

What are the key differences between training weed plants indoors and outdoors?

Indoors and outdoors environments are very different and you will need to adopt your training techniques accordingly. There are 3 main factors to consider when training weed plants indoors and outdoors:

Light distribution

Light is is considered the most important factor for increasing yields and therefore is inextricably linked to training cannabis plants. Outdoor growers would not need to stress about light; they only need to make sure the plants are grown in a spot that has the most amount of sunlight throughout the day.

Indoor growers on the other hand, need to find ways to optimize the light distribution, including choosing the right grow lights, positioning the lights, training and pruning the plants in certain shape and heights, etc. Their training methods focus on encouraging the plants to grow in certain ways that will help them to absorb as much light as possible and use their space more efficiently. 

Wind

Outdoor growers should consider training the plants out of their Christmas tree shape and providing them enough support to survive strong winds. Especially during flowering stage, as the plants will get top heavy and their branches are a lot more rigid. Indoors growers don’t have this problem.

Pests

Another hassle for our outdoor growers friends. There are more risks of pests infestation for plants grown outdoors than indoors. As such weed plant training for outdoor growers mean defoliating their plants a little bit more often to make sure there is no pocket of clustered leaves that unwanted guests can stay and breed.

Control over the climate

Here is another aspect where indoor growers have much more control. As indoors climate are controllable, growers can manipulate the light schedule and the temperature to trick the plants to stay in vegetative phase longer or to reach flowering stage much quicker.

Root room

Outdoor growers are more than made up for the above disadvantages by the amount of sunlight and root room for their cannabis plants. This is not something an average indoor grower can easily compete with.

What are the key differences between training indica and sativa weed plants?

Indicas are typically shorter with denser foliage, and therefore are beginner friendlier plants. Sativa on the other hand are taller and skinnier so training them means keeping their height in check, so that they don’t end up reaching the lights or being snapped off by the winds. Training Sativas weed plants would take a bit more time and more work than Indicas.

Training Indica plantsTraining Sativa plants
– Beginner friendly as they are easy to train
– Requires more defoliation and pruning
– Indicas can handle slightly cooler climates
– Growers only need to top Indica plants once
– Need training less frequently
– More difficult to train
– Requires less defoliation and pruning
– Sativas prefer much hotter, humid climates
– Growers should top them many times to keep them short
– Need training more frequently

What are the key differences between training feminized and autoflowers plants?

Transplanting

Autoflowering plants grow very fast and because it’s impossible to tell when a plant can take it, it is not a good idea to transplant autoflowers. Transplanting isn’t an issue for feminized plants.

Light adjustment

Autoflowering weed plants automatically start to bloom about 3 weeks after germination so they don’t need light adjustment. You can keep them under the same photoperiod of light throughout the entire crop. Feminized plants, on the other hand, are weather dependent. If grown indoors feminized require manual light adjustment to switch them to flowering stage; if grown outdoors in the northern hemisphere, the grow season is between March and October.

Stress

Autoflowering plants are very resistant to stress, even light stress. Feminized plants are more susceptible to stress so you need to keep their needs met and conditions consistent. Any sudden changes in lighting, temperature, humidity and nutrients can cause a stress response. Consistency and frequent monitoring would be required.

Pruning

Do not prune autoflowering plants during the vegetative phase as they their fast and short life cycle doesn’t give them enough time to recover. Feminized varieties can take pruning, so prune as much as required but of course not during flowering stage.

Fertilisation

Autoflowers are hungry ones. The good news about it is if you give them too much nutrients, they can tolerate overfertilization better than feminized plants.

Harvest

Autoflowers growers can harvest 3-4 crops a year. Feminized plants growers can only expect one crop a year, unless they grow their weed plants indoors. However, due to their longer life cycle, feminized plants are able to produce higher yields with higher terpenes, cannabinoids and flavonoids content. Having said that, new autoflowers strains are closing this gap. Over the recent years, we are seeing very impressive high yielding autoflowering strains.

What is the best weed plant training methods for autoflowers?

Out of the three types of weed training methods discussed above, only growth phase manipulation is not suitable for autoflowers.

LST is one of the best and safest weed training techniques for autoflowering plants. If you are a beginner, or you don’t want to risk your grow, or your growing conditions are less than ideal, then it makes sense to stick to LST.

Being highly resistant to stress, autoflowering plants can also take high stress training (HST). Having said that, given their short life cycle and vegetative phase, make sure you only HST on young and healthy plants and give them the best conditions to speed up the recovery process. Topping is the best – although not the easiest – HST method to train autoflowering weed plants.

If you are more advanced growers and have had some experience growing, you can consider combining these HST methods with LST, for example, topping combined with LST, or fimming combined with LST. But be vigilant and don’t overdo it.

The other key things to remember when training autoflowering plants are:

  • Growing autoflowers in their final containers to avoid transplanting, make sure you give them enough room to grow into;
  • Do not prune them during the vegetative phase;
  • Feed generously.
  • Tip

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