Pretty much every gardener, everywhere, has had to prune their plants at some point, no matter what they grow. It’s the simplest and easiest way to keep your plants’ size and shape under control. However, pruning does more than just make your plants nicer to look at. If you prune wisely, you can improve your final harvest.
That’s right, cutting your plant can help improve your final crop. That’s not as backward as it seems. Pruning helps you get rid of problems before they spread to the rest of the plant. Good pruning can help more light get to the parts of the plant you want. You can even trigger more and stronger growth by pruning strategically.
Why Prune Your Plants?
There are plenty of reasons you should prune your cannabis plants. Pruning is the process of removing unnecessary leaves and vegetation from your plants. They can be unnecessary in many ways. Sick branches, malformed or damaged stems, and bud sites that will never receive enough light are all extra and not useful. Pruning allows you to get rid of these parts of the plant so that the rest can grow healthy and strong.
Pruning also can stimulate more growth, if done right. For people facing a legal limit on the number of cannabis plants you’re allowed to have, this is helpful. Pruning helps you get the most out of a limited number of plants. This helps you keep your crop within the bounds of the law while still harvesting some killer bud.
Finally, pruning is a gateway to many high-stress training techniques. Once you’re confident that you can prune your plants, you can start considering topping, lollipopping, or even manifolding your plants. The process of carefully cutting your plants for their own good is the same. You’re just cutting different parts of the plant to get different responses. Pruning is a good entry point for growers looking to get more hands-on with their plants.
Equipment for Pruning Cannabis Plants
The most important equipment for running your plants is a sharp pair of snips. Clean cuts heal more quickly than messy ones. If your cuts are ragged, or if there’s a lot of bruising around the cut site, your plant will take longer to seal it over. That can lead to infection or rot, which can end your dreams of a heavy harvest. Keep your snips sharp, and only use them for pruning. Get another pair for things like cutting ties or tarps.
You should also get a good pair of gardening gloves. Cannabis is notoriously sticky. Whether you’re cutting the plant or just handling it a lot, gloves help keep you cleaner. They also keep the oils of your skin from damaging delicate trichomes, if you’re touching the plant during flowering.
Duct tape is always good to have on hand. When pruning your plants, it’s possible to break the branches in places you don’t want, especially if you’re new. Duct tape is the easiest way to repair broken or bent stems. Line up the break and wrap four or five inches of tape around it. Keep an eye on the branch to make sure it’s healing, and in two to four weeks you should be able to remove the tape. You can also use graft tape, if you want. It’s less multi-use, but it’s specifically designed to be used on plants.
If you’re pruning sick plants, keep some isopropyl alcohol on hand. Problems like disease or fungus can easily be spread from one plant to the next through your snips. Between plants, wipe down the blades with 70% isopropyl alcohol. It will both keep your shears from getting sticky and sterilize the blades of any spores or bacteria.
How to Prune Cannabis
The process of pruning isn’t hard. The most important parts of pruning are timing and deciding what and where to prune. Different reasons for pruning necessitate different places to cut and different timing.
You need your plant to be able to bounce back from pruning. That means that you should wait to prune any leaves until you’re at least into the second or third week of the vegetative phase. You should also avoid pruning after the second week of the flowering phase. Once you’re past the second week of 12/12 lighting hours, your plant should be putting all its energy into growing buds. Pruning distracts it from growing the buds you want to harvest. At that point, just leave the plant be – you’ve gotten it this far, it can handle the rest.
You should always cut just above a node. Don’t leave a lot of stem when you cut, because it will simply die off anywhere. About half an inch is fine for large branches, and a quarter inch is all you should leave for smaller stems. If you’re just trimming a leaf fan, you can cut as close to the branch as you can get.
Pruning should be done with your sharp pruning shears. Do not prune cannabis with your fingers, or by pulling leaves off. That results in messy breaks and bruising, which makes it harder for the plant to heal. A clean cut is preferable, always.
The first things to prune are leaves that clearly already dying. Limp leaves, fans that are turning yellow or brown, or leaves that are drying out are all good candidates for pruning. If the rest of the plant is doing well, then you should feel comfortable that these leaves are no longer necessary to the plant.
You can also prune small leaves on the interior or at the bottom of the plant. These are not going to benefit the plant enough to justify the nutrients they consume. This includes trimming small branches at the bottom of the plant that won’t receive much light.
Other pruning potentials include the small bud sites lower on the plant. These buds won’t get the light they need to grow well unless you are using some form of plant training. You can carefully snip off the bud sites during the first or second week of the flowering cycle, once you see them.
After pruning, always water your plants well, with fertilized water. This helps minimize shock and fuels growth. Watering will keep your plants from slowing their growth in order to recover from the cuts. The fertilizer will help make up for resources the plant uses to repair the cuts.
When to Prune Cannabis Plants
There is almost always some opportunity to prune your plants during a grow. From trimming dead leaves to shaping your plants’ growth, pruning is a helpful tool for any gardener. As long as your plants are healthy and growing well, pruning should not hurt them.
Do not prune autoflowers, outside of trimming diseased or damaged growth. Autoflowers have such a short growth period that pruning too drastically will hurt your harvest. Instead, you can use low-stress training to get more out of your autoflowering strains.
Pruning can help keep your plants healthy and on track for a great grow. By keeping an eye on your plants and removing growth that isn’t helping, you can maximize your harvest. Just keep your tools and cuts clean, and you’ll have a great grow.