In the wild cannabis plants grow into a Christmas tree-like shape, this is fine when the sun rises and sets each day shining down on all sides of the plant. However when you are growing indoors the light is in a fixed spot directly above your plants, so if you want to get big yields then you should train your plants to adapt to the light source.
The complete guide to training your cannabis plants
Naturally, a cannabis plant will grow in a Christmas tree like shape, however this shape isn’t necessarily the best shape for absorbing light, especially if the light is coming directly from above as it will be with most indoor grows. Light is like the food of cannabis plants and is considered the single most important factor for increasing yields. However, this is inextricably linked to training the plants because by training your cannabis plants while they are in the vegetative state of growth you can encourage them to grow in certain ways that will help them to absorb as much light as possible and use their space more efficiently.
There are three main ways to train your cannabis plant.
- LST (Low Stress Training) This involves manipulating the shape of the plant – This includes LST, ScrOG, Super Cropping & mainlining.
- HST (High Stress Training) is trimming or removing parts of the plant – This includes Topping, FIMing, Manifolding & Defoliation.
- 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)
The aim of Low Stress Training is where you train your cannabis plant to grow in a bushier shape by spreading out the main branches from the stem and themselves by tying them down with clips or string to the edge of the pot. This encourages your plant to grow in outwards creating a wider plant with a more evenly spread canopy. This allows the plant to absorb more light because the leaves and buds that would otherwise be shaded by the taller central stem are now getting direct light.
There are several ways to perform LST, one is to tie the branches to the edge of the pots, however if you have multiple plants rather than doing this you can use the ScrOG (Screen of green). ScrOG is a form of LST whereby you make a grid out of something like string across the top of the canopy and as the plant grows you direct it through the grid again to make the plant wider with multiple large colas. Another similar form of LST is Supercropping, the way that this method is done however means that is more suited for use with older more mature plants.
This 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. Supercropping is typically used on older plants that have thicker branches that have developed too much to bend them with the LST method.
Supercropping is stressful to a cannabis plant because it 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. While it may seem unusual damaging the plant on purpose, it is highly stimulating to the plant and when done correctly in 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. 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.
Screen of Green (ScrOG)
This technique is a form of LST whereby you create a screen usually made of string or wire over the top of the plant canopy, you then gradually weave the plant stems through the screen as it grows manipulating its shape to be wider. The plant then grows with an even canopy that develops multiple large bud sites. The other benefit of using ScrOG is that the screen itself acts as a support for particularly heavy buds stopping the branches from bending.
Trimming or removing parts of the cannabis plant
Fimming and Topping
This is a technique whereby you tactfully damage the plant at a young age that causes it to develop more bud sites as the plant grows bigger and flowers. To do this you need to snip the plant when it is young and has only developed 4-5 nodes by splitting the stem. This should only be done when the plant is in its vegetative stage of growth so that the plant can put all of its energy into just producing bud once it is in the flowering stage. As the plant grows it will then develop four main stems as oppose to one and so you will get multiple large bud sites. Fimming is a great technique for growers that are trying to maximise yields with just one or two plants because it will double or sometimes quadruple the number of large bud sites.
This technique involves pruning the plant and removing the apical branch of the plant where the main central bud would normally grow. This then allows the lower profile branches to develop resulting in multiple bud sites. Again, topping should be done during the plants vegetative stage when it has formed 3- 5 nodes which would normally be at around the 25 – 35 day mark. At this point it is early enough for the plants recover and benefit from this, but old enough to withstand this level of stress without too much damage. To perform topping you would carefully snip off the top of the central stem and adjoining side branches with a sharp pair of scissors
This is a technique whereby you split the main stem of a young cannabis plant into two this destroys the apical dominance of the central stem. The result is that the plant grows into two almost separate plants coming off the one main central stem that produces more main bud sites and bigger yields. Manifolding is a great training technique for growers who want to increase yield with very little maintenance. The downside to manifolding is that it can add around a week to the length of the grow. Although the additional yield you gain more than makes up for the extra time.
Defoliation is a growing technique whereby 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 timeline
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 form of timeline manipulation involves growing the plant from seed to harvest on a 12/12 light cycle. The aim of this 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 without the need to do any training at all 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. Another method you can use while growing using the sea of green is 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.
Using no training technique
It is perfectly okay to grow cannabis without training it, especially if it is your first grow and you want to keep things simple. The plant will grow fine but will not yield anywhere near as much as one that has been trained using one of these techniques. If you grow the plant naturally without training you will notice it grows into more of a Christmas tree-like shape that is what cannabis is known to look like. Although this is fine in nature, it does not allow the plant to take full advantage of the light and space available when you are growing indoors. Hence why yields are often much bigger when you use plant training techniques.
How does plant training increase yields?
Everyone wants to get the most out of their grow and produce big yielding cannabis plants and the aim of most training techniques is to do just this. You will notice that most marijuana training techniques involve widening the structure of the plant and encouraging it to grow to have a flat canopy. By simply changing the shape of a plant you can help it to absorb more light and use its surrounding space more efficiently. This allows the plant to absorb as much light energy as possible by increasing the surface area that is covered by your grow light.