Trimming Lower Branches During Flowering

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If you’ve started to grow your own cannabis, you’ll need to learn how to take care of your plants. Doing so doesn’t just keep them alive, but rather it goes a long way towards ensuring that you get the kind of yield that you want from your crop.

One of the best ways to get the most from your current crop is to learn how to prune your plants properly.

Why do you prune cannabis?

Growers prune cannabis for the same reasons that gardners prune any other type of plant. Not only does pruning help you to remove dead or damaged sections of the plant, but it also helps you to ensure that your plant will get the proper amount of water and light.

In its simplest form, pruning is a process that helps ensure that your plant can maximize its energy output in a way that leads to a healthier and more productive plant.

When Do You Need to Start Pruning Marijuana Plants?

You’ll start the pruning process while your plant is in its vegetative state. This is the point before your plant starts to flower and bloom – simply put, it’s when the plant looks the most like a lump of simple vegetation.

Scissors cutting leaves of cannabis with gloved hands

You’re going to want to wait until the plant is about twelve inches tall to ensure that you prune it correctly, as this should be early enough that you don’t have a big impact on when your plant starts flowering but not so late that you could negatively impact the plant.

What to Look for When Pruning Cannabis Strains?

You’re definitely going to want to look at your plants with an objective eye. Are there leaves that might stop sunlight from getting to potential budding sites? Is are there brown leaves or parts of the plant that don’t look like they’re growing correctly?

Think of the early pruning stages a bit like triage and your scissors like your scalpel – your goal is to ensure that the the moves you make end up causing the least damage and leaving the healthiest patients in better shape.

How to Prune Cannabis Plants

Since you know that you want to prune your cannabis plants, you need to make sure that you’re doing so as efficiently as possible. Below are the steps you need to take to make sure that you prune your plants correctly and that you get the most out of your efforts.

1. Topping or primary stalk pruning

Topping is the process by which you end a plant’s vertical growth in order to encourage it grow horizontally. This is actually fairly simple – you’ll wait until the plant gets to your desired height, then snip the top of the stalk.

Trimming cannabis bud,harvesting marijuana,cannabis leaf pruning on white background

From this point forward, your plant should start to grow outwards rather than upwards, giving you a cannabis plant that’s going to be more likely to produce in a way that will fulfill all your needs.

2. Removing big branches and leaves

Next up is trimming the big branches. This is a move that you’re making to ensure the health of your plant, as the big branches and leaves can minimize airflow and block sunlight.

Simply cut the big branches as close to the stalk as possible, with a goal of cutting at a forty-five degree angle. When you’re done, you’ll have a plant that absorbs more sunlight and that is able to grow more efficiently.

3. Clearing space around the middle of the plant

Taking care of the branches around the middle of your plant is going to have the same kind of impact as trimming the big branches, but it might take a little more finesse. The good news is that these branches and leaves tend to be easier to cut; the bad news is that you’re going to have to be a little more careful as you go through this part of the pruning process.

4. Lollipopping

Lollipopping is a fun term for a tedious but important process. At this point, you’re going to want to look towards the bottom part of the plant’s stalk and start concentrating on the smaller limbs and leaves that might be there.

Fresh cannabis plant and scissors on a wooden table, trimming medical marijuana

This procedure is called lollipopping because you want to leave your plant looking a little bit like a lollipop, with all of the growth closer to the middle and the top rather than the bottom. Lollipopping is great for ensuring that your plant starts to direct its energies towards its higher leaves and future buds.

5. Pruning the leaves and bud sites

Now it’s time to start doing some basic health care. Start snipping any of your leaves that look like they’re yellow or brown, as these leaves are dying and need to be removed so that your plant doesn’t put any excess energy into them.

You’ll also want to look around for buds that don’t look like they have received adequate sunlight; since these buds aren’t going to produce properly, you can go ahead and get rid of them so your plant doesn’t waste any more nutrients by attempting to keep them growing.

6. Allowing time for recovery

Pruning is a traumatic event for a plant. As silly as that might sound, you really do need to give your plant some time to recover if you want it to produce properly. This means waiting for about a week for the plant to start to grow new branches and leaves.

Once you’ve hit that seven day mark, you can start to think about pruning again. Make sure that your plant gets plenty of air, sunlight, and water between pruning sessions so that you can minimize any potential damage that could be done to the plant.


As you might imagine, there are a fair number of people who have very strong opinions on pruning. From them you can glean some excellent tips on how to prune your plants more efficiently and to get more out of your effort.

Focus on the Lower Branches

One of the most important things that you can do is to focus on the lower branches of your plants. This is related to lollipopping, of course, but it’s also something that you need to do to make sure that you’re maximizing the impact from every pruning session.

Pruning leaves of marijuana with scissors outdoors on a background

If you can only prune on area of your plant, prune the bottom – this not only ensures that you’re going to be able to direct more nutrients towards the buds, but that you’re creating better airflow (and reducing mold) for the rest of the plant.

Precision Pruning

Precision matters when it comes to a process as important as pruning. Take some time to stop and think about what the impact of every branch you remove from the plant is going to do for the plant.

Don’t spend all day pruning your plants; instead, make the cuts that are going to have the most impact. It might take you time to get a good eye for this, but it’s a skill that worth the time investment.

What About Leaves?

It’s vital that you pay attention to leaves when you’re pruning. Yes, leaves do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to sunlight and nutrient absorption, but leaves are also incredible energy-guzzlers and can take more of your plant’s nutrition than you might like.

Cannabis bush in the dark lit by the rays of the sun, tinted

Always be on the lookout for laves that look like they’re starting to die; removing them from your plant is going to have an excellent long-term impact and won’t take you much time. Though you can’t go too wild with leaf removal, don’t be afraid to get rid of leaves that might be causing your plant more harm than good.

Avoid Over-pruning

One of the biggest mistakes that a new grower can make is trying to over-prune his or her plant. If you’ve read through the instructions above, you might get it into your head that you’ve got to leave little more than a stalk behind when you are done pruning.

Instead, try to be careful with what you remove from your plant – if you can’t find a good reason for it to go, let it stay. This is just one of those things that you’re going to learn over time, so don’t be surprised if you end up harming a plant along the way.

In Conclusion

Pruning is a skill at which you’re going to get a lot of practice, so you might as well get started early. Prune away as best you can, focusing on trying to create a plant that’s both healthier and that has the potential for a higher yield.

Though some of your earlier pruning attempts might not turn out too well, you’ll eventually get to a point at which pruning becomes second nature and at which your plants start to thrive because of your actions.