Growing marijuana indoors or outdoors, on a small or on a large-scale: the type of your cannabis cultivation operation really doesn’t matter as far as maximizing your yields through properly training your plants is concerned.
Indeed, the skill of training marijuana plants is the Holy Grail of boosting both the quality, as well as the quantity of the rewards you can get upon harvesting your precious green ladies.
Plus, there are many different techniques one can choose to apply successfully, regardless if it comes to newbies or those who already feel more confident in their skills as cannabis growers.
However, before training your marijuana plants, you need to get familiar with the basic rules you want to follow, the expected results of your efforts, as well as whether or not it is a good idea to apply certain training techniques to certain plants (and when to do so)! That’s why we have compiled an awesome and neat cheat sheet to help you learn how to train your green cannabis plants for best results.
How Do Low-Stress and High-Stress Cannabis Training Methods Work?
The application of both Low-Stress Training (LST) and High-Stress Training (HST) methods has one major goal: alternating the chemical balance in cannabis plants.
In a nutshell, the way marijuana plants grow is navigated by a hormone called auxin.
It is in the stem tip where auxin is produced. But most importantly, this plant hormone is in charge of promoting cell elongation. By moving to the darker sides of cannabis plants, auxin causes the localized cells to grow significantly larger than the cells located at the lighter side of cannabis plants. Because of the way auxin moves, it causes phototropism (phototropism being a type of plant movement that results in the stem tip of cannabis plants curving toward the light).
Auxin has yet another crucial role, as it maintains apical dominance, or in other words, inhibits the growth of lateral buds. Yes, cannabis plants have lateral (also known as axillary) buds. Axillary buds are located at the very point where leaves are attached to the stems, the point is known as a node.
Auxin maintains the dormancy of lateral buds. Without manipulating this plant hormone, lateral buds will remain dormant. Thus, your green ladies will focus most of their energy into nurturing a single main cola.
The main cola is the growth tip (main stem) all the way up on top of the canopy. It is the main cola that turns into bud sites during flowering. Interestingly, the very term “cola” has a Spanish origin. Translated from Spanish, it literally means “tall.” It is none other but Mexican cannabis growers who were the first to use this term.
And while bragging about the fat, juicy main colas you have harvested is truly a sweet and rewarding part of growing cannabis, if you don’t force your plants to focus their growth onto lateral bud sites, you will end up with (roughly) 40% decreased yields compared to what you can actually achieve by manipulating the plant hormone auxin.
By applying training techniques (for instance, removing the very apex of the top shoot), this will result in breaking the dormancy of lateral buds as auxin will be no longer produced. Subsequently, your cannabis plants will become bushier in shape, giving rise to multiple new bud sites.
Furthermore, combining training techniques in order to achieve a bushier and flatter canopy will further result in maximizing the efficacy of light penetration and distribution which is intricately related to optimizing Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR).
Low-Stress Cannabis Training Techniques
Commonly abbreviated as LST, low-stress training techniques do not involve removing any parts of your cannabis plants by either cutting or intentionally causing any direct damage in order to boost yields.
The Screen of Green (SCROG) LST Method
The Screen of Green method requires the use of a screen in order to achieve a canopy. Canopy refers to the uppermost branches forming a continuous, even layer of foliage which helps the light to be absorbed fully and successfully.
The SCROG method is an extremely beginner-friendly training technique, and it works especially well when combined with other training techniques such as fimming, topping, lollipopping, etc.
By using a screen (ideally, a screen that comes with 5 cm gaps), you simply need to allow your cannabis plants to make their way through. As branches are starting to “peek” in between the gaps of the screen, you need to continuously tuck the branches back behind the screen. This process will not cause high stress to your plants as you will be merely weaving the branches around the screen so that finally when the flowering stage kicks in, your cannabis garden will be capable of producing more colas. Plus, your plants will be well-supported, too.
While the SCROG method can be fairly simplistic, there are many numerous ways to apply a bit more complex SCROG styles that can work wonders. In fact, calling these methods complex is not entirely true, as all you need is some practice to become a better cannabis grower.
One awesome SCROG method is vertical SCROG. The vertical SCROG looks like a wall of branches and buds. As these expand vertically, they catch all the energy produced by CFLs and LEDs at optimum rates while saving a lot of growing space. However, this method does not work well with HID or HPS lights as they produce way too much heat that can become troublesome and even impossible to handle when applying the vertical SCROG method.
For the more advanced cannabis growers, ring SCROGging will be worth the efforts as it is capable of producing truly impressive results upon harvesting. SCROGging by growing your cannabis plants in hexagon-shaped cages is yet another magnificent way to boost yields while optimizing your grow space area.
The SCROG training technique can be applied by both traditional cannabis growing in soil, as well as hydroponic marijuana growing.
Bending and Tying Down Branches (aka LST)
Now, this technique often seems quite puzzling to the newbies just because it is commonly referred to as Low-Stress Training. Despite the fact it falls into the category of low-stress training techniques, the process typically referred to as LST is actually a method that involves bending and tying the branches of your cannabis plants in order to expose new bud sites and make the most out of your grow lights by letting the light penetrate fully and efficiently to all buds, and not merely the main cola located at the very top.
The goal of the LST method is to make auxin get evenly distributed throughout cannabis plants by pulling the main stem downwards. This is a continuous process because you need to keep tying down the top as the plants grow as to keep navigating the distribution of auxin.
Typically, the top should be pulled down into becoming L-shaped but this L-shape should be only loose, and not, by any chance, too tight, as this can be harmful to the proper development and well-being of your green ladies.
When applying the LST method, you need to be careful not to choke your plants when tying them down with the use of inappropriate, hard materials like wire. Instead, it is best to opt for green plant tape.
The aim is to end up exposing numerous but sites at a rather equal height level by snaking the stalks around the container.
By doing so, as soon as flowering starts taking place, your cannabis plants will sprout colas from the sideways. These colas will then make way to a flat, even level of vigorous, healthy colas, capable of absorbing light properly and yielding more upon harvesting.
High-Stress Cannabis Training Techniques
Commonly abbreviated as HST, high-stress training techniques, just like the name suggests, are related to causing your cannabis plant intentional yet well-controlled stress by directly removing and/or breaking certain parts.
Topping marijuana plants it a fairly simplistic and super popular technique that can be applied successfully by both experienced, as well as beginner cannabis growers.
You can use a sharp sterilized tool such as scissors but you can also use your own fingernails in order to top cannabis plants (just make sure to wash your hands carefully as to avoid contaminating your green ladies with harmful bacteria).
The goal is to remove the very top of the plant at the stem between nodes in the early stages of vegetation (as soon as 4-6 nodes have formed). Doing so results in turning the top buds into two new branches. Do mind, though, that if you top your cannabis plants too early, this can result in stunting their growth, so don’t underestimate the importance of proper timing.
Also, by topping your green ladies, a shock is sent to the rest of the plant afterward, promoting the growth of the lower branches. Because of this, the topping is a great way to reduce the height of marijuana plants and keep them bushier.
The process of topping your plants can be repeated multiple times during vegetation, resulting in a healthy cannabis plant with a well-rounded shape and with numerous colas. However, your plants will need at least 10-14 days to recover from the stress induced by topping, so if you are in a hurry to trigger flowering and get down to harvesting as soon as possible, then this is not the best option for you.
Some refer to Fimming as a rather more complicated method than topping, although, fimming (also known as pinching) is a version of topping.
Commonly abbreviated as FIM, this witty cannabis training method’s name comes from “f*ck I missed,” which is related to the way fimming resembles topping your cannabis plants and “accidentally” missing to cut off the top part of the plant entirely. Well, this is the very idea behind Fimming: you only want to remove about 20%-25% of the top portion of the plant, instead of the entire portion as with topping.
For your cannabis plants, the stress induced by fimming resembles the stress they would experience if attacked by a predator who wanted to munch on their tasty leaves.
Most noteworthy, Fimming is much less stressful than topping, so the recovery period is significantly shorter than the recovery period associated with topping. In fact, if you FIM a super vigorous cannabis plant and/or a cannabis variety that is well-known to tolerate mechanical damage, your marijuana beauties may not even notice they have been fimmed.
Fimming creates 2-4 main colas while topping creates 2 main colas. However, fimming does not reduce the height of cannabis plants but you can always choose to additionally apply LST for a flatter canopy. Unlike the evenly spaced colas that topping gives rise to, FIMming does not create the same effect.
Similarly to topping, Fimming can be applied multiple times during the process of vegetation. You can FIM your cannabis plants as soon as 3-5 nodes have already developed.
Do mind, though, that Fimming is not the best option for growers using CFL lights as the PAR of CFLs won’t do the decent job of providing you with the final results you are aiming for when applying the FIM method.
Not the least, you need to take into consideration that fimming poses a higher risk of infection as you are not making a clean cut on the plant’s stalk.
Lollipopping is a defoliation training technique that lives up true to its nickname, as by removing a part of the lower foliage, the shape of your cannabis plants will pretty much resemble that of a lollipop.
Some cannabis enthusiasts call the less developed branches located at the lower parts of the plants “suckers” due to the way the lower foliage, not being capable of making proper use of light, literally sucks away the energy that could be otherwise focused on the bigger buds in the upper zones.
Lollipopping should be applied a week or so before your cannabis plants enter flowering.
The goal is to remove all the unnecessary stems that will never really get any direct light. If these parts stay in darkness, they will only keep stealing or sucking away the main colas’ energy. Now, don’t get this wrong; the lower parts of marijuana plants can produce buds, too, but these buds will be rather an airy and small type of buds so it might be a better idea to get rid of these. As a rule of thumb, it is best if there are no up-and-coming stems sneaking away resources from the fat colas located closer to the light.
However, if you are still a beginner cannabis grower, do be extra careful with lollipopping. Just don’t overdo it as not to remove branches and leaves that actually play a super important part in the process of photosynthesis.
Experienced growers who are better familiar with the anatomy and growth patterns of cannabis plants should remove all or at least most of the underdeveloped stems for best results.
Main-lining is one of the most amazing cannabis training techniques that can provide you with top-quality yields in terms of both quantity and quality. However, this particular technique requires an in-depth understanding of what you are trying to achieve by applying it.
On the bright side, the hard work is done during the earliest stages of growth, which means that once properly applied, main-lining allows you to simply lay back and enjoy the ride.
Main-lining will allow you to create a flat, even canopy, and lay your hands on dense, juicy buds; or simply put, no more popcorn-style buds. Furthermore, this method makes it possible to control the stretch of your marijuana plants very efficiently, and it can be equally well-suited to indoor or outdoor grow operations.
In a nutshell, mainlining/manifolding refers to the act of training your green ladies into forming a “manifold” (or a “hub”) out of a single node, thus, creating a center that makes up for the equal energy distribution all the way from the roots to every single cola.
Keep in mind that some cannabis varieties are better suited than others when it comes to the main-lining method. Some of the best responding strains include the ones that tend to grow in the shape of a Christmas tree, such as Kush varieties, Afghani varieties, and generally, most Indicas.
As a comparison, most Sativa dominant strains do not grow in this particular shape, plus, they tend to have many secondary branches naturally. While that means Sativa-dominant varieties are less better suited than Indicas, it doesn’t mean that you can’t introduce Sativas to main-lining, too. It is just that introducing Indicas to main-lining will make up for superb results.
Before applying the main-lining technique, you need to wait for at least 5-6 nodes in total to appear. Next, you need to cut off the entire stem, as well as all the visible growth to the third node. Afterward, growth below the third node should also be removed and the two new mains have to be secured at right angles from the ground.
To double up the number of mains, you want to allow your cannabis plant to start growing vigorously after taking the time to recover and proceed by symmetrically topping all main colas. Extra growth tips below the mains should be removed next. You can keep repeating the process of topping all main colas symmetrically, as well as further removing any extra growth tips below until you reach the desired number of nodes.
At the point when you get the desired number of nodes, you can take advantage of attaching your cannabis plant to a tomato ring in order to control the colas better. As soon as the manifold is formed thoroughly, you can sit back and congratulate yourself for a job well done, proceeding with taking care of your mainlined cannabis plants just as you would with those that have not been trained
Stem Mutation/ Super Cropping
Many experts categorize the stem mutation training method (aka Super Cropping) as a more aggressive version of LST (tying and bending branches). Unlike merely bending and tying the branches, the goal of stem mutation is to keep bending the branch until the fibers break. This is a tricky thing to accomplish, as you need to be attentive and delicate enough not to tear the skin of the stalk and/or snap the branch. Instead, you want to make it fold over by kinking it.
What super cropping can help you achieve is giving the parts of the cannabis plant that have not been subjected to being bent over to get better exposure to light. Plus, the plant will also gain more time in order to catch up to the top stalk.
In order to apply the stem mutilation/ super cropping method, you first need to choose a suitably located branch to break as soon as you can tell the sex of your marijuana plants. Doing so will allow the new flower structures located on the branch’ underside to bend up to the light from the very start.
Next, you need to start rolling and squeezing the stem until it begins to weaken (don’t worry, it is easy to feel when the branch has weakened enough, just trust your senses). As you feel the stem weakening, it will inevitably break down, folding over.
Do mind that some cannabis varieties are much more suitable and far better responding when introduced to the super cropping technique than others, so always read the descriptions provided by the breeder/retailer in order to understand the needs and demands of each strain properly.
Training Marijuana Plants 101 Final Notes
Anyone can become a guru of marijuana training techniques. But the truth is, nobody gets born with some automated, built-in skills on that matter.
What makes the big difference in the way some cannabis growers are able to advance so much with cannabis training methods while others lack behind is not a single component but a combination of patience, observation, as well as the ability to learn from trial and error.
If you do take the time to check on your cannabis plants frequently and monitor how they respond to the training methods you apply, all you need is a few grow to gain a decent understanding over the most basic principles of cannabis plants’ reactions to training techniques induced stress. There are numerous ways to experiment by combining different training methods in order to boost yields, and yes, your mission only becomes sweeter as time goes by, just like the rewards you get upon harvesting. While there is no ultimate training marijuana 101 guide because there are no two growers exactly alike, there is definitely a lot you can learn from overcoming your fear and getting down to establishing a closer relationship with your cannabis plants.