Growing cannabis can be an artful process. There are so many ways to grow the plant and so many different pruning techniques that can bring huge benefits when properly executed. I look at the cannabis plant like a bonsai tree in terms of allowing me to create the exact shape for function to produce the most flower. Pruning and training techniques are key when it comes achieving maximum output.

Topping is simple and can be done relatively quick when executed properly. I like to start topping plants as soon as there are 5 nodes on the plant, this is usually a few days to a week after a clone has been transplanted/up potted into its new home for vegetative growth. By topping/removing the apical meristem or top node on the plant, you take away the apical dominance of the Christmas tree look and allow the plant to produce 2 branches where originally there was only 1. Once these 2 branches grow out to 4 to 5 nodes on each stem I will top/remove the apical meristem again to allow for more branching. I do this constantly in the vegetative stage when the plant allows at every 4th or 5th node. Seven days before I switch to flowering I will stop topping to allow for the new branches to reach 5 to 7 inches to ensure maximum yield.

My goal in topping is to produce as many tops or flower sites/grow points as possible. I want a busy plant with as many tops to fill in the empty space under its’ light source. During the first few weeks in flowering we see huge spikes/stretch in growth which requires more training to keep the plant canopy under the lighting footprint. From trellising, staking, and even using tomato cages you can begin to harness the plant canopy for your desired space. In order to increase more flowering sites, I like super crop or bend the tops of the plants to a 90 degree angle. This trick not only opens up the canopy to fill in empty spaces in your canopy it also allows for light penetration deeper into the canopy to assist with more production. You will also observe that when super cropping to a 90 degree angle the side nodes will turn upwards toward the light creating more opportunity for more flower production.

Topping, pruning, super cropping, whatever tricks you use and whatever you call them can bring added yields when applied correctly. Experiment and see how different strains respond. Not all strains are created equal so learn how each strain responds and zero in on what works and use it to your advantage. My pruning techniques allowed me to see anywhere from 20% to 30% increase in production. Don’t be afraid to see stress your plants and reap the rewards.


Ellis Smith is co-founder and Chief Development Officer of American Cannabis Company (ACC). He has more than 20 years of horticulture experience in the specialty cut flower market, operating indoor gardens which helped him understand complex growing systems. As a cannabis grower, he developed an all natural soil medium known as SoHum Living Soil which is used by hundreds of commercial cannabis operations. As CDO of ACC, Mr. Smith is also responsible for the design and construction of more than 1 million square feet of cannabis grow space in the U.S. and Canada.