Best Methods and Tools for Trimming Marijuana Flower

The cannabis plant is one that benefits a lot from trimming and pruning. It is inevitable for you to do this if you want to smoke the best buds possible from your plant. However, cutting off leaves and branches from your plants and its flowers can be tricky especially for beginners who are typically at a loss on how much or which ones to cut off. 

Just to clarify, trimming your marijuana flowers is different from pruning your plant. Pruning involves cutting leaves and stalks from your cannabis so it can use its resources better and in turn, produce better buds. Meanwhile, trimming involves the removal of excess leaves from your buds to make them more smokeable. 

Why should you trim your marijuana flowers?

My 420 Tours, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here are several reasons why it is a must to trim your cannabis buds:

  • Smoother smoke – Leaves only contain a bit of cannabinoids in them, most of the time the amount is not worth the harsh throat feel that they give to smoke due to the residual sugars in them.
  • Better for curing – You probably want to cure your buds after harvest and leaves will only take up unnecessary space in your curing jars and containers. Buds that are cured with leaves still on tend to have a hay-like smell and do not smell as good as trimmer ones.
  • Better appearance – If you want your weed to look like the fat, tight nuggets that come from a dispensary, trim them.
  • Higher concentration – The concentration of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids… all the good stuff is in the buds. You should trim away everything else that is not part of the bud.

This is not to say that you should throw away the leaves that you trimmed. They might not be good for smoking and are way better used for extraction of concentrates. 

When and how should you trim your cannabis flowers?

Timing is very important when it comes to both pruning and trimming and the proper time of when to trim has cannabis enthusiasts divided into two camps:  

Wet trimming

Wet trimming is when you trim all the leaves before drying the buds. As with everything, it has its advantages and disadvantages:

Pros: 

  • After trimming, your buds can go straight to drying and curing.
  • Buds will dry quicker (can be a disadvantage in drier climates since chlorophyll won’t have enough time to degrade).
  • Less space needed for drying.
  • Easier to remove the smaller sugar leaves resulting in a closer trim.
  • May result in less trichome loss.

Cons:

  • Typically a stickier process, you will have to clean your shears multiple times during the whole session.

Dry trimming

On the other hand, dry trimming is when you trim the leaves off a bud that has already been dried.

Pros: 

  • In drier climates (somewhere below 45%RH), a slower drying rate gives chlorophyll time to break down.
  • The trimming process is less stickier and easier on the shears, lesser time spent on cleaning your equipment.
  • Slower drying time also preserves terpenes, though some say the difference is imperceptible.

Cons:

  • Slower drying can increase the chances of your buds catching mold. Sometimes the outside will dry first, leaving the inside a bit moist.
  • Smaller sugar leaves would have already stuck to the bud, making them harder to trim.
  • Drying will make the trichomes on the buds more brittle and therefore more susceptible to damage. 
  • Drying untrimmed plants can take up a lot of space. 

In general, commercial growers opt for wet trimming since it is faster. Meanwhile, those who grow on a smaller scale sometimes choose dry trimming since it involves less cleaning. But there’s really no hard and fast rule when it comes to trimming. There are growers that trim fan leaves even before they harvest the buds, there are also those who don’t even bother trimming sugar leaves, especially when they’re also covered in trichomes. Ultimately, the method you use will depend on your preferences and you’ll only discover these through experimentation.

Equipment used for trimming 

Cannabis Tours, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Trimming is such an important step to getting good weed that growers actually spend expensive machines made just for trimming marijuana buds. Despite costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, the trim quality of these machines is still a far cry from those done by hand. However, such machines are indispensable in large-scale productions where trimming by hand is an impossible task. By mass-producing uniformly-shaped buds, trimming machines remove a far greater amount of trichomes and bud material which are then saved for making extracts. 

Marijuana trimming machines

Trimming machines come in all shapes and sizes but generally they will be classified as a wet trimmer or dry trimmer. These can be made either for indoor or outdoor use, or both. Larger machines are mostly motorized while those meant for small-scale or personal use production are typically powered manually. Here are some examples:

Hand trimming tools

Equipment for hand trimming is fairly simple; you just need shears that can cut through stalks and scissors good for snipping leaves closely. Since these are hand-powered, they just need to be sharp, durable, ergonomic and if possible, with blades that resin won’t stick to. However, there are also electric handheld trimming tools for those who need to trim an amount that is too big for manual hand trimming but too small for commercial machines. Here are some examples of trimming equipment that a home grower would likely need:

Some recommend getting spring-loaded shears to avoid hand fatigue but others say that regular trimming scissors, as long as they are well-designed, work better. It would be best to get both so you can try out for yourself since these are fairly inexpensive.

Other trimming equipment

Aside from your trimming tools, here are a couple of other things that you’ll need:

  • Marijuana trimming tray – you’ll need a container where you can cut your buds and not make a mess. A smooth plastic tray is great for collecting material that you snip off for later use. Bins like these often come with a sieve screen that allows you to catch all the kief or trichomes that fall off during trimming so nothing goes to waste.

  • Marijuana trimming gloves – You’ll need some disposable gloves especially when wet trimming since you’ll get resin all over your hands and scissors. Disposable, powder-free, food-safe nitrile gloves work best in these situations.

While these products are completely optional, they do make trimming work a lot easier. Less effort cleaning up, less waste. If you plan on growing more plants then it would be good to invest in these equipment.

How to trim your buds by hand

Hand trimming is a labor of love. It can be tedious, but if you want top shelf nugs, there’s no other alternative. Below are some videos that show how to do a wet trim and dry trim:

Trimming your bud is like cutting your nails; it is entirely up to you how much you want to trim but here are a couple of considerations you may want to keep in mind when snipping:

  • You can still use the material that you snip off your buds for extraction, cooking, etc.
  • You probably shouldn’t spend too much time and effort trimming mid-grade buds.
  • Better to leave a small part of the leaf than to snip parts of the bud.  

So what you want is to do is remove all the bigger fan leaves right after harvest as they contain negligible amounts of THC and CBD, just around 0.3% and 0.7% respectively. As previously mentioned, you can choose to remove the sugar leaves right after harvest (wet trim) or after drying (dry trim).

You can still use the fan leaves and sugar leaves that you’ve trimmed off. Fan leaves contain a negligible amount of THC and CBD, but still contain a good amount of dietary cannabinoids so you can use it for raw juicing or cooking. Meanwhile, sugar leaves will still contain a good amount of trichomes and are good for making extracts, oils, cannabutter, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need to trim marijuana?

Removing the fan and sugar leaves from your buds will make them more smokeable since

How long does it take to trim marijuana?

On average, you may have to spend less than wet trimming a bud. Using an electric handheld trimmer, the same time for one whole branch.

What is the fastest way to trim marijuana?

The fastest way to trim marijuana is to use a machine trimmer. Handheld machines like the EZTrim Wand Trimmer can trim a whole branch of flowers in around a minute.

Which is better, wet trimming or dry trimming?

Both has its advantages and disadvantages and in the end, the difference is barely perceptible. Also, you don’t have to strictly follow one method, you can partly trim some of the larger leaves right after harvest, then manicure the rest after drying as needed. All you need to keep in mind is that removing leaves will make the bud dry quicker and smaller leaves will curl up closer into the bud after drying.

Should I get a marijuana trimming machine?

If you’re growing an amount good for personal consumption, it’s probably best to just use shears. If have to trim a pound or more of weed, you may want to get a manual or electric handheld trimmer.

Is hand trimming or machine trimming better for marijuana?

This depends on how much you need to trim. For commercial purposes, hand-trimming is often not an option except for really high-quality strains. For home growers, hand trimming is the best option since commercial machines are often too expensive and the amount of weed to be trimmed can easily be done manually. However, trimming machines usually shave of more material from the bud and cause more trichome damage.

Conclusion

Trimming may be tedious but it isn’t hard to do. Experience really is the best teacher and ultimately you’ll figure out what works best for your growing style. If you’re growing for profit and tending to six or more plants, you may want to get a small hand-powered or motorized trimmer and do the wet trim method. If you’re just growing for yourself and time and effort is not an issue, it’s probably best to keep costs down and just go with some shears and trim your buds after they’ve dried.   

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