Introduction to Pruning Cannabis

There are several important factors to consider and implement when growing cannabis to reach maximum yield – there is the proper blend of nutrients, best soil pH, climate, and even the right amount of light. And then, of course, there is the proper and correct pruning. Pruning cannabis is considered an intimate practice between the gardener and the plant as it is one of the most effective ways to direct the growth of the plant. While the process of pruning is pretty simple and straightforward, it is also a skill that requires dedication, energy, and practice. In this article, we will discuss the importance of pruning cannabis and the different tips and techniques involved to enjoy a bountiful crop of premium flowers.

Why Prune Your Cannabis Plants?

Pruning is used in both indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivations and the techniques used depend entirely on the gardener’s needs. As mentioned, pruning is an excellent way to manipulate the growth of your cannabis plants. At its most fundamental level, the process consists of removing branches and leaves of the cannabis plant during its vegetative growth to achieve several benefits – first, to improve access to light and ventilation, and, second, to ensure that the plant focuses all its energy in producing compact and dense flowers.

If there are too many leaves and branches during the growth phase, this may result in stunted growth as certain layers will have insufficient access to light and air circulation. Another upside to increased airflow underneath the canopy is the removal of places for insects to hide. By simply using a sterile pair of scissors or scalpel, you can remove at least 50 percent of the plant’s foliage, leaving the bottom part of the plant completely bare. By doing this, you are “training” your plant to devote its energy to nurturing and strengthening its remaining leaves and flowers on top. At the same time, you are dictating its shape and where its canopy should be. While the principle sounds very simple, pruning cannabis at the wrong time and using the wrong technique can be detrimental to the health and development of the plant. It is for this reason that pruning is almost always left to seasoned gardeners and many new growers stick to pruning only the unhealthy and dead leaves.

When to Prune Your Cannabis Plants?

Pruning cannabis should always be exclusively carried out during the plant’s vegetative growth stage. When it is well into its vegetative phase, the plant should measure approximately 12 inches tall with several sets of leaves. It is during this stage that most of the plant’s biological intensity is directing it to reach a certain size. Some novice growers make the mistake of pruning the plants only when they have attained a bushy shape. However, the plants will most likely be “shocked” or stressed by the process at this point and will take days to recover. This will result in a delayed onset of the flowering stage or, worse, it can even prevent the plant from reaching the flowering stage altogether and cause hermaphrodite traits to develop. By carefully pruning them early on and at the right time, the plants are given ample time to relax, recover, redirect their energy expenditure, and grow bigger leaves. Allow a seven to a ten-day window before the flowering stage to achieve the optimal results.

In certain cases, however, cannabis growers will opt to delay the flowering phase of their plants and will use pruning as a strategic tool. This often happens when they want a flowering male to fertilize a late female so they prune the male plants earlier to prevent it from flowering before the female.

How to Prune Your Cannabis Plants?

The process of pruning cannabis requires only one tool: a sterilized pair of sharpened pruning shears. By keeping your clippers clean and sharp, they will be able to make clean cuts, allow that part of the plant to heal quickly, and avoid any chances of introducing disease and contamination to your plants. To properly and correctly prune your cannabis, here are some essential tips and techniques:

Topping. The topic of topping is a controversial one among cannabis growers, but many experienced and seasoned gardeners swear on the effectiveness of topping in the promotion of bushy plants. The process of topping involves cutting off the central stalk when the plant has reached its desired height. This stimulates the growth of more shoots and branches as, over time, it will alter the plant’s growth trajectory into a lateral spread rather than a single growing stringy shoot. The main benefit of topping is to provide the entire plant access to more light even in places with the most relatively limited light source and therefore encouraging bigger flowers, more branches, and more leaves.

Removing branches and leaves. Pruning enough branches and leaves instantly promote better airflow by clearing out as much space as possible. It also allows light to reach more layers of the plant. Seasoned growers recommend starting with branches on the base of the plant as these receive the least amount of sunlight and will most likely never become fully-developed flowers. This will send a message to your plant to direct all its available nutrients and attention to the outermost flowers that will most likely become the healthiest and tastiest harvests. Your next port of call should be flower sites in the middle of the plant that are heavily shielded from the sun and also will not develop into full flowers.

In pruning most of the plant’s largest fan leaves are left as they are as they are the plant’s solar panels and fuel factory. Remember that leaves absorb and use sunlight for photosynthesis so if you remove too many of them and especially the biggest ones in the excitement, you are doing more damage to the plant than you are helping it. If you cut the biggest leaves off, the rest of the plant will focus on producing more chlorophyll to sustain itself rather than focusing on creating cannabinoids, such as THC, CBD, and CBN.

With pruning, one needs to also allow time for post-prune recovery. The process of pruning inflicts stress on your plant, so providing them with a recovery period is vital. Make sure to feed them with adequate water and nourishment after pruning to facilitate recovery from the shock and stimulate growth. Within a week, and once the plant has had the opportunity to relax and recover, you can continue with pruning. Additionally, give your plants at least five days to recover after completing your pruning process before forcing the flowering phase. While this may take time and patience, it will ensure that plants have higher yields.

Any dedicated grower understands the importance of pruning cannabis. It is considered an intimate activity and a great opportunity for the gardeners to be mindfully present in their gardens, check on their plant’s overall health and look for nutritional deficiencies and pests. Most importantly, pruning provides them with the ability to ensure maximum quality and yield from their cannabis plants.

Different pruning Technique

As mentioned, there are different pruning methods for our cannabis cultivation: apical pruning, bass pruning , FIM pruning , RIB pruning and other techniques such as super cropping and low stress training. Depending on the type of plant and the characteristics of your space, you can choose the technique that is most appropriate. Pruning will help you to maximize the cultivation space, make better use of irrigation and light, and obtain better performance in our production. One must remember that pruning will give you good results if you have germinated feminized cannabis seeds or regular seeds. On the other hand, if you have autoflowering cannabis seeds, the results from pruning are scarce. Many of the techniques pruning are combinable with each other and as each one has different application times, you can use one or the other for each phase according to your needs. For example, if you have sprouted your cannabis seeds in spring, your plant will grow tall very quickly and will need to be pruned. On the other hand, if you have planted in autumn, when the flowers start to come out, it may not be necessary to prune since we could have smaller flowers. For pruning it is essential that your utensils are sterilized to avoid the transmission of any disease, virus or bacteria. Clean with alcohol any tool that you are going to use to prune your cannabis plant: scissors, razor, knife, cutter, etc.

Apical Pruning

The apical pruning technique is one of the best known and used by most cannabis growers. It consists of cutting the apex, the upper part of the central stem so that the result can be doubled through two main axes, which will create their respective central flower. In addition, with the apical pruning technique you can control the height of your plant, which can be very useful depending on your storage space. cultivation or if you don’t want it to stand out from your garden, etc. It is advisable to perform apical pruning in the growth phase so that the shoots take a good size. Do not rush to start pruning, wait until the plant has at least three nodes and that it has developed well. In a few days you will see that more flowers will be created in the new branches.

Bass Pruning

The bass pruning technique consists of pruning the lower parts of our cannabis plant to increase production and give strength to the upper flowers, thus avoiding having many smaller flowers and scattered. The ideal time to do this pruning is at the beginning of the flowering phase , before 20 days of flowering have passed. Depending on the size of the plant, it is advisable to cut between 5 and 8 branches to encourage and concentrate the growth of the other flowers in the upper part. In addition, in the lower parts not so much light enters and the flowers do not take on so much volume. This type of pruning will also help us avoid possible pests . Many insects, fungi, and mites grow in hot, humid, and leafy spaces. Pruning this area will lower the density of the plant, reducing humidity and promoting ventilation of the plant.

PODA FIM (Fuck I Missed)

FIM pruning is a technique that appeared by accident. An American who was doing topping, forgot to cut a piece at the top of the stem. Hence its name “Fuck I missed”. What he discovered is an amazing result. Unlike apical pruning, which bends the central stems, with this technique 4 to 8 shoots can be created, the result is unpredictable but the certainty is that it is very productive . It is about doing a cut of the 2/3 parts of the top node , instead of cutting the entire shoot. If we do not cut well and cut everything, we do not have any risk since at least we would be doing apical pruning, and the central stem will bend.

Pruning Rib (Right, I Burnt It)

The acronym for this technique comes from “Right, I burnt it”. And this is the basis of this technique used in the flowering phase, when you have already been in the flowering phase for 20 or 30 days, depending on the species. Ideally, it is done in the middle of this phase. This method, like the FIM, was also discovered by accident, when the plants did not stop growing and the flowers came into focus and burned. By surprise it was detected that the reaction of the plant in full hormonal phase is to repopulate the area with more force . So, here the key is in burning the pistils of the flowers. It is worth noting that it is often most recommended with indica cannabis plants.


Super Cropping

Super cropping, whose name means “super harvest”, is not considered a pruning technique in itself because it is not about cutting any part of the cannabis plant. It consists of promoting horizontal growth, bending some branches to prevent its excessive vertical growth and to increase its performance. Care must be taken when bending to avoid breaking the branch. It entails bending the plant delicately until it creaks. In a few days a callus will have formed in that part and the branches will be strengthened creating larger flowers and improving production. It can be done during the growth phase and at the beginning of the flowering phase.

Super Cropping in Cannabis plant. Photograph by m

Low Stress Testing (LST)

Low stress training translates as low stress braiding. It is designed to maintain horizontal growth gaining performance while you gain discretion in front of your neighbors. All in a softer way without being too aggressive with the plant or pruning. The hormones of the strain, instead of going to a central and high point, will be distributed among the different branches of the cannabis plant to create quality flowers . It’s about guiding the central stem to where you want to grow, parallel to the surface to promote horizontality. Wait until the plant has 4 or 5 knots to make sure it is well developed for it. You can use a rope or a moldable wire but that does not damage the stem, above all.

Reminders When Pruning Cannabis

Here are some of the tips and before and after cannabis pruning. Remember to keep this in mind whenever you decide to cut those pieces off.

Make sure to create clean 45-degree cuts that are as close to the stem as possible. Never tear out branches and leaves using your bare hands. And lastly, remember that the process of pruning is stressful for your plants so avoid excessive cuttings and work at intervals rather than doing everything at once.

Never use dull scissors, corroded razors, or even bare hands when pruning. You will only harm your plants and cause additional damage in the process. If you are unsure about areas where to cut, refer above.

Even if it’s not your schedule to prune when you see dead, yellow, and rotting leaves, cut them, as they aren’t valuable parts of the plant anymore. Whatever stage your cannabis is going through, a yellow leaf must be taken care of right away.

Every once in a while, check your plants after they are pruned and observe the damage. You wouldn’t want them to check a few weeks later and witness that every one of them has withered. If possible, try monitoring them twice a day to make sure that everything is perfectly fine.


If you want to have a successful yield, you may want to learn the basics of cannabis pruning. Cannabis pruning is the best way to groom your cannabis plants and expect high-quality flowers and yields in the process. Plus, it helps your plants retain their overall appearance and make them healthier as new shoots and leaves sprouts anew.

Lastly, cannabis growing, in general, takes up the bulk of your time, cannabis pruning is just one of those that will help you elevate your product. Besides, investing in your plants is a sure-fire thing as they will reward you with a smile on your face over the process. Happy pruning!