Most new growers give little thought to pruning their plants. They are happy to see large healthy plants, and are afraid to do anything to damage them. While it’s possible to produce healthy crops without ever doing any pruning, it’s not the ideal way to achieve optimal growth. Learning to prune your plants will lead to more canopy coverage, thicker and lusher plants, better bud yields and healthier plants overall. Pruning isn’t a simple process though. Take some time to read through our guidelines to understand when and how to prune your plants for the biggest impact.
It’s smart to get the lower leaves off of the plant, so it can focus on new growth.
Pruning your plants is the best way to increase your overall yield. Pruning accomplishes a few different things at once. It helps ensure that the most valuable sections of the plant (the top and middle portions) are getting the air, sunlight and nutrients that they need. It also helps reduce wasted energy put into sections of your plants that aren’t going to benefit you. Pruning is also a tool to shape your plant to be more successful in its specific growing environment, which is really important when growing indoors using an overhead light source.
When you understand how to prune your plants properly you will improve their health, increase their overall yield and end up with more impressive plants than you otherwise would. Pruning is a bit of a science though, so take the time to understand the technique.
When to Prune
The general rule of thumb with pruning is that you should begin pruning when your plant takes on a bushy appearance. That often happens when it’s about two feet in height as long as you’re training your plant properly.
Most of your pruning should happen during the vegetative state, and you never want to prune past two weeks into the flowering stage or you risk interrupting the delicate hormones during the final stages of your plant’s lifespan.
How to Prune
Pruning is a delicate science and will only result in improved plant health and bud yields if done properly. Make sure you’re using the right equipment, and that you’re only removing sections of your plant that are hindering healthy growth. Get those things right and pruning will always be beneficial to your plants.
Get the Right Equipment
Purchase a small pair of pruning shears and take care to keep them clean and disinfected in between uses. You want shears that will make clean cuts on your branches and that will be able to handle larger branches effectively.
Sanitize Your Shears
Before making cuts on your plant, dip your pruning shears into rubbing alcohol. Doing this sanitizes the shears and helps prevent spreading diseases to your plant.
Topping Your Plant
As an indoor grower you’re likely trying to maximize your yield while minimizing the overall light you need to grow. In this environment topping your plant is a proven and effective method to help maximize your yields. Topping should be one of the first pruning steps you take and it should occur during the vegetative state of your plant’s growth cycle. About a month into your plant’s life, make a straight cut across the tip of the main stem using your sterile pruning shears. Now cease all pruning activity for between one and two weeks as your plant recovers from the injury.
Topping your plant will force the single main step to split into two, and will leave you with more tops to your plant. You can top each of the two new stems again to split them for even more canopy coverage as well, but only do this once your plant has recovered fully.
While topping is advised when growing indoors, it’s important to understand the drawbacks of this growth method as well. Each time you top your plant you add additional time to the vegetative stage before you can switch to flowering. This means keeping your plants in the 18/6 growth stage for weeks longer. You will also make your plant top heavy over time, especially if you split it into four or more colas. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean you’ll need to stake your plant at each of the top points in order to protect the stalks.
Remove Lower Leaves
Carefully remove all the lower leaves and branches that aren’t receiving proper sunlight any longer. Take each leaf or branch off using your razor-sharp pruning shears. You’ll make precision cuts that will heal quickly and minimize damage to the plant.
Clear out the Middle
After doing away with the lower limbs on your plant it’s time to move up to the middle. Try and remove any short limbs, branches and leaves at the center of your plant if there are branches and leaves outside them. These interior sections won’t get much light and will grow poorly.
Do Away with Dying Leaves
While cutting away any of the lower leaves is a good start, you also need to take the time to clear away any dying leaves. The leaves discolor and die slowly and waste energy in the process. Removing them the moment you notice they are dying will keep your plant healthier and save energy for more important growth. Remember, clean grow rooms promote better harvests.
Allow Time for Recovery
After pruning a significant portion of your plant (no more than 1/3 at a time) give it time to heal fully before you prune again. Also make sure that you water your plant and feed it a nutrient solution immediately after pruning. Adding in this additional step helps avoid too much shock to your plant and minimizes the recovery period needed before you’ll see nice growth once again.
With proper technique, the right tools and good timing you can avoid a long spindly plant and instead end up with a wide and bushy plant that offers the best possible bud yields. Careful pruning and turning will increase your yields, and it will help you make the most of your light source and your available nutrients.