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Cannabis plant training is a horticultural trick, not to build muscles but to boost the yield. Some techniques are designed for novice growers, while some are for seasoned gardeners with years of collective experience. Regardless of the complexity and the arduous task of executing one method, nothing is more rewarding than reaping the fruit of your labor! Sounds enticing, right? At the end of this article, you will be able to answer the whats, whys, and hows of the world of training weed plants.
What Does it Mean to Train a Cannabis Plant?
Training weed plants may sound like a fitness coach holding a stopwatch and instructing 5 reps of push-ups. But the thing is…it does not differ that much! Instead of a strenuous routine, plants are trained with either mild or aggressive physical stressors to alter their physique, improving their efficiency in harvesting sunlight for photosynthesis. Consequently, it can store more food to produce considerably bigger and plumper colas than untrained weeds.
Should I Train My Plants?
Thinking about training your plants? Go ahead! According to studies, trained cannabis plants have a slightly better plant architecture, permitting them to produce bigger, higher, and quality yields. For a more detailed description, the table below shows the difference between untrained and trained plants!
Untrained vs. Trained Cannabis Plants
| Feature | Untrained Plants | Trained Plants |
| --- | --- | --- |
| Plant Growth | Vertical, conical | Horizontal, flat plant canopy |
| Yield | Inferior yields | Could reach up to 40% higher (in terms of weight) |
| Nug | Smaller, lightweight | Plumper, compact |
| Canopy | Thin, inefficient light distribution | Thick, bushy, and well-spaced |
| CBD content | Slightly lower | Could reach 1-2% higher CBD |
| Overall health | Susceptible to diseases | Slightly immune |
What Are Plant Training Techniques?
Before delving into how to train cannabis plants, let’s look first at what training techniques are there! Below is the list of methods you can try:
Doing Less with No-Technique
New to training cannabis plants? Well, this cannabis plant training method called no-technique is for beginners who seek simple hacks to improve the harvest. You simply arch the main stem and fix it at a steep angle close to 90 degrees, exposing the lower branches to stress and sunshine.
Benefits: Uncomplicated and one-time training process recommended for newbies.
Purpose: To subject the unexposed branches to sunlight, stimulating new growing sites.
Best time: Early vegetative phase when the stems are still pliable, roughly 1-2 weeks old.
Super Cropping: Super Duper Technique!
Plants may scream “aaargh!” in silence as the super cropping requires squishing the stem to facilitate bending. It is considered high-stress training because it is much more painful than mere curving. If you worry about killing your plants, don’t be. New tissues will reinforce the injured stalk, and young shoots should emerge.
Benefits: Boosts the yield not just in number but in THC and CBD content.
Purpose: To manipulate plant growth after cropping, taking advantage of the plant’s malleable and seemingly weak stalks.
Best time: Late vegetative stage, approximately 3-7 days before bud production and/or first two weeks of blooming.
Screen of Green (SCROG)
Various training weed plant techniques require similar materials. But, scrog is an exception and apparently uses a screen or a network of nylon, where cannabis stems can be woven or tied through as it grows. The process emulates the usual training plant method in which the stalks are exposed to sunlight, stimulating bud emergence.
Benefits: More economical in large-scale production.
Purpose: To induce slight stress cost-efficiently in multiple plants.
Best time: When the top branch is long enough (about 20 cm) to be in contact with the screen.
Beheading the Top with Topping
Trained weed plants using topping involves snipping the apical shoot, hence the name. After cutting the top, the plant is forced to produce side shoots capable of bearing more colas.
Benefits: Encourages side branches, better light distribution and airflow, and more buds.
Purpose: To break the apical dominance, producing at least 2 side shoots.
Best time: Vegetative phase, at least 30 days old, 1-3 times with at least 2-week intervals.
I Missed it!: FIMing
Growers are creative enough that one training technique was named FIMing: an acronym for “F*ck, I missed it!” Training cannabis using this method is somewhat similar to topping, but instead of incising the entire top, only a portion is cut at the tip of each stem or branch.
Benefits: Less stressful than topping for the plant to recover and can bring forth multiple harvestable buds.
Purpose: To get the buds more light and induce more growth.
Best time: Early vegetative phase, when the plant has at least 4-6 nodes.
Removing Excess Leaves: Defoliation
Defoliation is the act of snipping approximately 25% of the leaves to make the plant busier in developing buds rather than focusing on vegetative growth. If the plant is healthy and has extra fan leaves overlapping others, it is only when the technique is performed.
Benefits: Helps the bud develop bigger and chunkier during the reproductive or nug development phase.
Purpose: To redirect the plant’s food to nourish the bud sites for better stem illumination.
Best time: Vegetative phase and/or the flowering phase.
Mainlining: 3-in-1 Technique
What happens if you combine LST (no-technique), topping, and scrog? Well, you have just performed mainlining or manifolding. After topping, the branching y-shaped shoots are bent and fixed horizontally (manifolding), allowing 8 new buds to grow. Add a scrog net to distribute the branching in all directions. The method calls for intricate skills because of the complexity.
Benefits: Produces a more significant number of colas.
Purpose: To increase the branch number to at least 8 up to 112 (if you are more risk-taker).
Best time: Vegetative phase, at least 30 days old.
Staying Traditional with Pruning
Generally, pruning is a technique of eliminating parts unhealthy for plants. Also known as lollipopping, it involves the removal of unproductive lower branches and leaves. However, remember not to hastily cut more than 60% of the total canopy, or else your cannabis may decline.
Benefits: Compatible with other methods.
Purpose: To make the buds plumper and chunkier.
Best time: Before the flowering stage, approximately 15 days.
How to Prepare Plants for Training
Before training plants, you will need to prepare plants and materials. The following points will help you perform the techniques smoothly:
Know which Training Method
Each training method has its own starting point! For example, topping can be done early growth stage, while pruning or defoliation should be performed later or near flowering. Select what suits you the best, depending on the complexity and the resources that you have.
Plant the Right Pot
Use the right pot size and material if you choose the no-technique or super cropping. Bigger pots made of plastics are recommended for easy anchoring the stems, as you just need to punch holes where the stalks can be fixed.
Water Your Cannabis
Watering is undeniably essential for plants to keep their metabolic function running. One possible advantage of hydrating your plant before training is that it will make the stem more flexible and less prone to breakage.
Select Suitable Plants
Choose plants of the right age. Do not perform a training technique incompatible with the flowering or vegetative stage. It could lead to a lengthy recovery period, considerable yield decline, or worse, death in young saplings.
Supplies for Weed Training
You will need some supplies that might be already in your toolbox, including duct tape, scissors, a drill, bamboo support poles, and the most important: rubber-coated plant wire or soft plant ties to not damage the stem. You may need some nylon rope, for instance, to employ the scrog method in training your plants.
How to Train Cannabis
After preparing the plant and the training materials, you are all set to start the training procedure! In the following, we combine some techniques you can try in one growing cycle:
- Prune the first pair of shoots that comes out on the first node. The node is where new growth appears, and the first true leaves (with 5 fingers) are also attached. It is mainly done to let the upper nodes grow, which tend to be stronger and bigger rather than the first one.
- First topping. Cut the part above it as soon as the 5th node appears, leaving only the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th nodes. These nodes give rise to future branches that will hold the buds.
- Bending the branches. Bend the branches when they reach approximately 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) and fix them with soft plant ties to the pot or with a bamboo stick. You can also snip the leaves at the base of these branches.
- Second topping. Allow the secondary branches from the 1st topping to have at least 3rd node. It usually takes between 1-2 weeks. Make the second cut above the 3rd node. It should produce at least 6 tertiary branches ready for flipping, but we highly suggest pruning any stalk that grows downwards.
- Flipping to flower. Flipping is when you begin to lower the light exposure to induce the flowering of plants. Do this at least 1 week from the last topping to give the plant ample time to recover from stress.
- Mid-flower defoliation. Some leaves that overlap each other might not be efficient enough in photosynthesizing. To redirect its energy to the buds rather than on the leaves, you must pluck the foliage that isn’t catching light, approximately no more than a quarter of the total leaf number after the 3rd week of blooming.
- Final defoliation. Snip out all the fan leaves roughly 7 days before the harvest. It will help the lower buds to develop bigger and increase the cannabinoid content.
Best Time for Training Weed Plants
The best time for training weed plants highly depends on the method you employ. For example, no-technique, topping, and fimming are best done early when the plants have flexible stems. Mainlining, defoliation, and pruning may have variable timing for the training procedure.
Other techniques can be executed in vegetative and flowering stages and sometimes can be performed 2-3 times.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Training Cannabis Plants
Almost all growing methods have pros and cons, and training cannabis is no exception. Here are some of them:
- Superior yields
- Reduced height, ease of hiding
- Increased cannabinoid contents
- Lessen the disease incidence
- Higher fertilizer intake
- May occupy more space with horizontal-growing branches
- Stunting and extended recovery time if performed incorrectly
- Open wounds prone to diseases
Mistakes to Avoid while Training a Plant
Mistakes do happen, and it is completely fine. But, to help you avoid it, we’ve listed mistakes you need to know:
- Improper soil medium — Training will only be successful with proper nutrition. Provide correct soil pH (5.2-6.8) and basic macroelements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Early or late training — Timing is crucial for performing training techniques. Too late or too early could result in a prolonged recovery period, leading to considerable losses rather than gains.
- Improper screen installment — Place the screen approximately 20 cm from the soil level. Install it too low, and you have just created the perfect microenvironment for the fungal disease to thrive.
- Breaking the branches — Handle the stems with extreme care. A gentle massage and watering before training can help soften the leaves. Train your plants when the stems are young and pliable.
- Hard ties — Use more gentle knots rather than rigid metal or plastic ties to avoid wounding the stem tissue, and tie it loosely to prevent constricting it as it grows.
- Improper bending — If trained plants are not bent low enough, stress may be insignificant, and side shoots will not grow. Be sure to bow them down almost parallel to the ground.
- No trellis — Of course, with multiple buds bearing on top of each branch, the limbs would bow down due to the weight. Remember to support them with a trellis or fix them to any structure.
- Over-defoliation — Remove the oversized fan leaves, not the sugar leaves that form the bud structure. You don’t want to prolong the recovery time of your plant if it is almost left bald! As a rule of thumb, do not defoliate more than a quarter.