How to Top Marijuana Plants | The Best Time to Do It & Why It’s Effective

If you are new to marijuana plants, you’ll eventually know that topping marijuana plants is an integral part of cannabis cultivation.

Topping cannabis plants is a technique most growers do in their backyard to train their cannabis plants to grow horizontally.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into why topping weed plants is an essential part of the process.

Below, we will teach you the basics of topping to encourage lateral growth dominance and other valuable information to help you achieve the maximum yield you have long been searching for.

What Is Topping Cannabis Plants?

Top Marijuana Plants

Topping is a plant training technique of cutting top parts of the plant to encourage your cannabis plants to focus more on growing lateral branches and horizontal growth rather than vertical growth.

This method is also applicable to indoor plants and several different plants.

This technique is designed to encourage your weed plants to focus more on those new lateral branches to produce more colas in basically the same amount of time.

In addition, topping cannabis plants tend to use all the light advantages they can get as they are more evenly spread out.

Is Topping Cannabis Beneficial?

Topping lets you achieve bigger yields than growing cannabis plants naturally. Instead of having one main stem, you are now enjoying multiple stems that produce multiple colas in the same amount of time!

A marijuana plant allowed to grow naturally takes the form of a classic Christmas tree shape because they are genetically designed to be tall skinny plants with one main stem.

When cutting the top growth, two new dominant growth tips will grow.

As a result, the cannabis plant will consider these two more branches or two growth tips as “central” stems, which will produce more buds in the same amount of time, and space and grow light.

Why Use the Topping Method?

Topping cannabis plants is the preferred choice when growing cannabis because growers can save space and maximize the grow light exposure if plants are grown indoors.

When the top of the plant is pruned, it breaks apical dominance, letting the plant produce more colas in the process.

More colas = more profit for growers.

Instead of focusing on one main cola, the cannabis plant will focus on those small growth sites that eventually become colas.

Why Is Topping Cannabis Plants Essential?

If you don’t train your plants, they will typically be tall, grow skinny, and look like a Christmas tree.

When cannabis grows into a Christmas tree shape-looking, it is not advisable for bud yield.

Topping cannabis plants is essential because you want to maximize efficiency when cultivating.

If you cut at the terminal bud, lower nodes will have access to sunlight or grow light, and an additional cola will emerge instead of just one cola.

What Are the Risks Involved in the Topping Method?

If you’re worried that topping cannabis plants might cause too much stress because it breaks apical dominance, don’t worry, as you will wait until they have recovered before they can be topped.

Topping them is essential to increase yields and maximize profit if you’re after the buds.

How Do You Top a Cannabis Plant?

Here are the factors to look at when topping a cannabis plant!

How Do You Top a Cannabis Plant

1. The Vegetative Stage

Most professional growers top a cannabis plant during the vegetative stage.

When the cannabis plant has already reached the 6th or 7th node, this is the perfect time to prune or top your cannabis plant.

2. The 6th/7th Node

Once your plant has reached a 6th or 7th node, the best area to prune or cut is the 4th or 5th node, which means the 6th and 7th nodes will be topped from the main stem.

However, growers must top only the 7th node, as cutting several nodes might be too stressful for the cannabis plant because you are pruning a substantial amount of upper growth.

If you have already chosen the node where you will do your cutting, the topping method is relatively plain and simple to do:

  1. Take a pair of scissors or pruning tips and ensure they are sterilized.
  2. After, slowly cut 5mm into the growth tips from the 6th node.

NOTE: Most growers recommend topping off high on the stem rather than just above the node.

3. Topping Off High on the Stem

This period allows the plant to recover from this process and reduces the risk of overstressing the plant. This is vital as they are more prone to infection during this stage.

In addition, if you’re topping way too low, you will cut a significant portion of the cannabis plant, and most of them might not recover from this stressful event and may die.

It is one of the reasons why most growers recommend topping into the 6th and 7th nodes to limit risks and stress.

But if you want a bushier marijuana plant, then topping above the second or third node is optimal to encourage lateral growth rather than vertical growth.

What Are the Other Different Plant Training Techniques?

Aside from topping, there are also different training techniques in cannabis cultivation to produce more cannabis seeds and buds and provide optimal growth:


Scrogging, commonly known as the screen of green, uses a screen or a net that acts as a trellis.

This technique forces cannabis plants to grow into an installed suspended screen on top of them.

As a result, it allows colas to form in other dormant areas that aren’t usually exposed to sunlight because they have grown horizontally.

So, this technique encourages your cannabis plants to grow horizontally. When they grow horizontally, more flower nodes are exposed to sunlight, producing more colas.

This technique is best for people who live in areas with strict implementations regarding how much cannabis you can grow.

Super Cropping

Super cropping is a technique known for inducing high-stress levels in cannabis plants. It involves pinching the inner cell walls of the plant and popping it with your fingers.

You will be able to hear a popping sound once you’ve successfully mastered this technique. This technique allows the plant to send energy to these areas for healing, resulting in increased bud production.

Not many growers prefer this kind of method as it can cause too much stress and may lead to death if done inappropriately.

Low-Stress Training

Instead of cutting, breaking, or bending your cannabis which is too stressful for them, low-stress training (LST) involves tying and low-bending different areas of the plant to provide even light exposure.

This type of training is often in combination with the Scrogging technique and often starts during the plant’s vegetative phase.


Lollipopping is a training technique that involves cutting the lower bud sites so that the plant focuses more on developing bigger and fatter nugs.

This technique is usually done during the third week of flowering.

Removing 1/3 of the entire plant allows it to focus its energy on the upper parts of its flowering sites. As a result, it increases in weight and size.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have further questions about how to top cannabis, you might find them further below:

Does Topping Increase Yield?

Topping the main stem of cannabis plants during their vegetative phase has plenty of benefits. One is an increased yield. If you top the growth tips of a cannabis plant, more buds are produced as there are more stems.

In addition, a cannabis plant with a topped growth tip is encouraged to grow laterally, increasing the surface area for air and light exposure to penetrate deeper into the lower branches.

As a result, they grow more abundantly and maximize their resources. Plants grown in favorable conditions are more likely to increase their yield once harvest season comes.

Lastly, topping can even out the entire plant, which results in even light penetration; this will prevent shading issues and other conditions.

Can You Top Side Branches?

Yes. However, some potential risks and benefits come with it. If you’re topping branches too often, overcrowding will soon ensue as the plant becomes bushier. This scenario can happen if you have limited space in your grow room or area.

But if you have all the space in the world, topping these branches can produce more bud sites. Topping lower branches is an integral part of canopy training.

If you want a canopy-like process, top branches on the side more often, but always remember topping can stress or shock the plant. So, be sure to prune them during their vegetative stage.

Can I Cut All the Fan Leaves Off?

Yes. The best time to cut all the fan leaves off is during their flowering phase. Fan leaves block sunlight; removing them is essential if you want more light to pass through the branches and leaves below.

Deleafing is the name of the process when cutting fan leaves.

It is one of the most basic forms of low-stress training. You can start cutting the top growth tip during the second stage of a cannabis plant’s vegetative stage.

You can top different parts of the plant when they get in a bushy shape during or before their flowering stage.

If you don’t know where to start cutting, here are some areas where you can look for leaves to cut:

  • Dead or dying leaves should be cut.
  • Lower bud sites on the plant’s bottom end can be pruned. This technique is important so the plant can focus more on bud sites with plenty of sunlight.
  • Fan leaves towering over the top of the plant should be pruned or cut. Topping allows sunlight to reach other parts of the plants.
  • Fan leaves that are growing inwards rather than outwards should also be pruned. This process should be done whenever you find one to increase light penetration throughout the side branches and the canopy.
  • Leaves at the very bottom of the plant can also be topped/pruned. They receive less than optimal sunlight. So, it would be wise to cut them off for the plant to focus more on the growth sites above.

What Happens if You Top Too Early?

If you top cannabis plants too early, it may stunt their growth. It is one of the reasons why topping should be done during the vegetative cycle, as they have already established their root system and vigorous growth.

Topping growth sites too early might be too stressful for the plant. If you’re in doubt, leave the plant to naturally grow in a few weeks. A cannabis plant is more resistant to stress during its vegetative phase.

How Long Does It Take to Get New Growth After Topping?

If topped correctly, a healthy cannabis plant should recover from topping in as fast as one to two weeks.

Most cannabis growers will recommend not removing the leaves from that particular node where you made your cut to promote the new growth of branches from that node.

It is also advised NOT to top your cannabis plants during the flowering stage as it becomes too stressful for them to recover, inhibiting growth, and fewer cannabis seeds can be harvested.

Does Topping Slow Growth?

Yes, and no. If you’re topping way too early, it may stunt or slow their growth, as cutting their parts off is a traumatic experience for them.

When they are topped, they focus more on healing rather than growing.

But it won’t slow growth if you’re topping at the right time. If you prune the apical growth tip correctly, it can encourage further growth as more branches need plant energy.

As a result, the weed plant focuses most of its energy on developing these young sites.

As we’ve mentioned, never top cannabis plants too early or during their flowering phase; this is too stressful for the plant.

How Long After Topping Should I Wait to Flower?

Give them plenty of time to recover before they can flower. A safe time would be around 3 to 4 weeks after topping, as the plant may already have recovered and is ready to proceed to the next phase, the flowering stage.

Can You Use and Combine Different Plant Training Techniques?

Of course! Anytime you grow your own marijuana in your backyard, you can experiment with various techniques to maximize the potential of your plants and achieve the best possible yield.


Topping is a high-stress training technique that involves cutting down the growth tip to break apical dominance.

It is one of the more effective and popular methods that is proven safe to increase your yields.

REMEMBER: Growing cannabis is still prohibited in different parts of the world. But if you live in the United States, various states allow it. You need to follow local laws concerning cultivating cannabis.

Cultivating cannabis is quite easy, especially for people who want to start their cannabis journey.

Topping a cannabis plant is as important as watering outdoor plants as they share the same benefits once harvest season starts!