How Marijuana Plant Training Can Give You Bigger Yields

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After growing and harvesting your first batch, you’ve probably gained the confidence to try new techniques to improve the quality and quantity of your yield. One of the best ways to do that is to learn how to train your marijuana plants. This technique which involves physically manipulating your plants as they grow can be tricky but extremely rewarding if done right.

There are a number of ways to do this and each method has its own pros and cons. Before we get into each one, let’s look at the principle behind training and how it can increase your yields.

Why do you need to train your cannabis plants?

Advanced growers, particularly those who grow indoors, make it a point to train their plants for the following reasons:

  • To maximize light footprint – if you’re growing indoors, it’s likely that you won’t have much space between your plant and its light source. As your plant grows, it will gravitate towards its light source in a growth response called phototropism. Because of this, only a part of your plant will receive light and leaves that get too close could get damaged and have a burned or bleached appearance. Training arranges the plant’s branches so that all the leaves can equally receive light. 
  • To maximize space and plant limit – In most US states, marijuana law limits home growing to around 4 plants on the average. Because of this, indoor growers often choose to grow bigger, photoperiod plants to maximize their yield per plant and the only way to effectively do this is to train the plant’s canopy to grow wider and not taller. 
  • To encourage more bud sites – Plants like cannabis exhibit apical dominance where there’s a tendency for a single dominant bud to form at the apex. Certain kinds of training flatten the canopy of your plant, encouraging it to form buds on locations that will otherwise be dormant.

When done correctly, training will result in better plant health and greater yield. However, beginners typically have to go through a handful of tries before they get the hang of it and this often involves a few casualties like broken branches and at worst, dead plants.

How to train a cannabis plant

There are a number of ways to train a cannabis plant and the method that you choose will depend on your growing setup. There are also a couple of techniques you need to master, some more difficult than others. Keep in mind that training will stress your plant to some degree but this risk comes with a reward and most strains that benefit from training will also be resilient enough to recover from this stress. 

Training is typically reserved for photoperiod Sativa plants that grow slim and tall, although you can also do it to Indicas that need to grow in a smaller space. Most autoflowers won’t need training but some growers still choose to do Low Stress Training (LST) on them to encourage the growth of denser colas. 

The basic idea behind training is to manipulate the shape of the plant for the following reasons:

  • So that it will take up less vertical space.
  • To maximize and increase the canopy space that receives light.
  • To remove useless parts of the plant that will unnecessarily take up energy and resources.

LST and HST

Training can generally be classified into two: Low Stress Training (LST) and High Stress Training (HST). One is not necessarily better than the other but the kind of training you choose should depend on your level of experience, your grow setup, and the kind of cultivar you are growing. Experienced growers even use a combination of both techniques.

LST is arguably less risky and easier for beginners. The idea here is to train your plant to grow a horizontally-oriented canopy to maximize light distribution. The simplest form of LST involves bending the main stem of your plant and tying it down so that it can grow sideways and only the smaller branches can grow upward. This is typically done early in the vegetative phase and you merely readjust the bends as your plant grows. 

One variation of the LST that involves a bit of pruning or topping is called the Screen of Green (ScrOG) where a grid is used to train all the branches of one or more plants to grow sideways. You basically tuck each branch into each opening as they grow so that you’ll end up with a flat and evenly distributed canopy. This is highly recommended for beginners since it is easy to achieve success with this technique with little effort.

HST on the other hand, requires experience since you’ll need to inflict damage on your plant either by snapping its branches or pruning aggressively. But when done correctly, this method gives you immediate results and significant yield increase for little effort. 

Some of the most basic HST techniques are topping, fimming, and supercropping. Topping and fimming are just different ways of pruning to create more colas. With topping, you snip off the top of the main stem just below the newest growth. If done correctly, the snipped stalk should grow into two, giving you two more colas. Fimming on the other hand involves cutting slightly above the main stem, leaving some parts of the top. This usually results in the growth of 4 or more shoots and causes slightly less stress than topping. Both can be done multiple times but it takes experience to recognize when and how many times to do it. 

Meanwhile, supercropping is somewhat like LST but instead of just bending the main stem, you break it internally to get it parallel to the ground. Done correctly, your plant will respond by releasing repair hormones and the site of the break should form a strong knuckle. Aside from having a horizontal canopy, plants that have been supercropped are often stronger structurally and produce bigger colas.

Frequently Asked Questions on Cannabis Plant Training

Will plant training increase my yields?

Training is a sure way of increasing your plant’s yields since it will remove useless parts that won’t contribute to your plant’s growth and maximize the light your canopy receives. You can also use high stress training to create more sites for bud growth.

What is Low Stress Training?

Low Stress Training or LST is a method of manipulating the plant’s branches while causing little to no damage and so that its canopy can maximize the light it receives. LST typically involves bending and tying down branches with minimal pruning.

What is High Stress Training?

High Stress Training is a method of manipulating the plant’s branches by breaking or pruning to divert growth hormones, induce the production of repair hormones, and create more sites where buds can grow. Some of the most popular methods of HST is topping, fimming, and supercropping.

Conclusion

Training is one of the best ways to maximize your yield if you are running an indoor setup and are limited to growing a handful of plants. A good way to get familiar with it without too much risk would be to try and do a ScrOG and learn how to do basic pruning. Once you’ve achieved some success and gained some confidence, you can set aside one plant to practice HST on. It is a good idea to learn HST as well since it is likely that you’ll come across other advanced techniques like mainlining/manifolding, lollipopping, shwazzing that involves a combination of training techniques. 

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