How To Top Cannabis Plants in 3 Easy Steps

How To Top Cannabis Plants in 3 Easy Steps

Have you ever tried topping your cannabis plants?

The term itself sounds a little odd, to be sure. But we promise, it's a real cultivation technique. In fact, plenty of professional growers and cannabis cultivation enthusiasts consider it incredibly beneficial (especially in terms of yield).

It's similar to pruning only with a few key differences. This guide will explain what topping means and why you should consider doing it.

What Does "Topping Cannabis" Mean?

Topping is a cultivation technique that promotes shorter, bushier plants.

This is done by removing the main stem's growing tip. Doing this redirects the plant's growth hormones and causes dormant side shoots below the cut to accelerate the production of new stems from the nodes where the leaves and stems meet.

Essentially, one stem is replaced by two!

This old pruning practice works similarly on cannabis and other plants like boxwood hedges. Regularly topping boxwood branches creates dense growth as each cut prompts vigorous new shoots.

With cannabis specifically, the goal is increasing yield by generating multiple flower/bud sites versus just the single top cola.  

When the main cannabis stalk is cut above a node during vegetative stage, the new shoots growing from below the cut can access the nutrients and light energy that previously just went to thetip.

This topping stresses the plant beneficially. It makes it bushier with more nodes while staying safely within legal height limits. Each new branch also gets topped, thus exponentially increasing future bud zones.

So one snip prompts exponential increase in yield down the road when grown properly.

In a nutshell, strategically cutting back specific stems prompts rapid new growth that turns one tip into two, two into four, and so on for higher cannabis yields.

Why Topping Cannabis is Important

Topping cannabis offers two important benefits: (1) higher yields, and (2) shorter plants.

Cutting off the main top shoot promotes the exponential growth of multiple side branches underneath. More branches mean more flower buds and far bigger harvests compared to untopped plants. 

Those side shoots also grow bushier, not taller. 

When growing cannabis indoors, tent height restricts how tall the plants can get before needing to flower. Topping creates wide, bushy plants that stay safely under vertical limits. This safely averts potential issues caused by height.

As mentioned earlier, the new side shoots receive all the nutrients and energy previously given to only the main tip. This redistribution of resources fuels strong lateral growth that's great for indoor spaces.

In essence, topping cannabis enables substantially higher yields via more budding sites by redirecting vertical expansion into amplified horizontal branching. And it keeps plants manageably compact, avoiding vertical size problems.

Given the benefits, it's easy to see why topping is a nearly universal technique used by indoor cannabis growers seeking to maximize quality and quantities.

Topping vs. Fimming

Topping cannabis involves cutting the main stem above a node to split it into two new shoots.

Fimming derives from the root word FIM, which stands for "F***, I Missed!"

The term fimming or FIM came from growers who tried topping their plants but ended up cutting the wrong spot.

Fimming means clipping 80% of the top growth across instead of 100%. This damages the tip, causing random new growth below instead of just two defined branches from topping. It also stresses the plants more, causing them longer to regain momentum.

However, fimming produces more branches compared to topping. It creates a lot more branches that are less uniform than those created by topping. This is still good as it multiplies yields down the road.

It just requires extra recovery time.

Topping vs. Pruning

Just like topping and fimming, topping and pruning are different - but essential! - techniques for optimizing cannabis.

Pruning is the act of removing unnecessary leaves and branches to concentrate the plant's energy on the most promising bud sites. Like topping, pruning also enhances light and airflow access. It's used to redistribute growth hormones to boost branch development as well. 

You use topping to maximize yield quantity. You use pruning to improve yield quality.

When to Top Cannabis Plants

When it comes to topping cannabis, timing is everything.

  • Don't cut seedlings with fewer than 3-4 node sets. Immature plants lack enough branches to bounce back strongly. Wait until the root system grows robust and side shoots emerge. A mature plant will recover faster after topping. 
  • Only start topping when the plant is at least 30 days old.
  • Only top during the vegetative stage, not flowering. Topping while budding can overly stress plants, reducing yields or causing hermaphroditism.
  • Expect 7-10 days before new growth after cutting. Allow 2 full weeks recovery time per topping. Carefully guide new branches in this bursting growth spurt.  

Remember; patience is crucial. Let plants mature before cutting so they can withstand topping stress. If you rush topping, you risk crippling the seeds. Strategic cuts on robust vegetative plants unlock the technique's tremendous yield-enhancing potential.

How to Top Cannabis Plants

Step 1: Identify Where to Make the Topping Cut

In order for topping to be effective, you need to make sure you cut the right spot. Otherwise, growth and nutrient redirection won't be efficient.

Cut directly above the 5th node from the plant's top for the initial cut. This will ensure it has adequate strength and lower branching to handle stress and grow bushier. 

On new branches post-topping, cut again above the 2nd or 3rd node for secondary toppings. Professionals use this for larger, higher-yielding plants.

Always top precisely above leaf nodes to prompt two new main colas per cut. 

Step 2: Sterilize Equipment to Avoid Infection

Always sterilize your tools before topping cannabis. This will prevent the creation and spread of infections.

An open cut on a cannabis plant is like an open wound; it's vulnerable to bacteria. Any pathogens on unclean pruners easily transfer to the new plant opening. This can hinder growth, health, and yields.

Taking the time to disinfect your equipment safeguards your cannabis plants' success and vigor after topping stress. A simple isopropyl solution should be enough to keep your instruments clinically clean. 

Step 3: Make a Clean Cut Just Above Target Growth Node

Once your tools are sterilized and you know where to start topping, you can make the initial cut. It needs to be done swiftly and cleanly. 

Position your scissors slightly above the target node (remember; fifth node from the plant's top) and ensure you're cutting directly above the leaves of the next node down.

Then make a decisive cut.

Doing so avoids damaging the plant more than necessary. It will also help the plant recover faster while reducing the risk of stress or infection. Be sure not to tear or crush the stem, either.

After cutting, leave the plant to heal and redirect its energy to new growth points. 

Post-Topping Aftercare Tips

Topping can shock a plant, so aftercare is important. Here are some tips to ensure healthy, exponential growth after the initial topping:

  • Make sure they have plenty of light and water
  • Let the plant's root system strengthen first before topping a second or third time.
  • Carefully cut only the top growth tip above the 4th node and minimize excess removal. This will ensure two peaks without further stressing the plant.
  • Know your goal before determining how much to remove from cannabis tops. Removing more tissue means more stress and slower rebound. 

Best Cannabis Strains for Topping

While topping works for many cannabis strains, some varieties respond better than others. Here are some cannabis strains that are perfect for topping:

  1. White Widow

  2. Northern Lights

  3. Granddaddy Purple

  4. Bubblegum

  5. Skywalker OG


Topping is a cultivation technique that involves cutting the main stem of a cannabis plant in such a way that it splits growth into two branches.

This creates a bushier plant with more bud sites and higher yields. It's a good cultivation option for shorter, more manageable plants being grown indoors.

Topping is often confused with fimming and pruning. Topping is a deliberate cut that allows for clean, uniform growth. Fimming is an accidental partial cut that causes more random, exponential branching. Pruning is the deliberate removal of unnecessary leaves and branches. 

Of the three, topping leads to higher yield quantity. Pruning leads to higher yield quality.

If you ever want to try topping for yourself, it's best to start with high-quality seeds. This will ensure that the plants are robust and hardy, able to handle the stress of being topped on a regular basis. We at WeedSeedExpress have plenty of strains that can handle some beneficial cutting. They also come with a 100% Germination Guarantee! Feel free to browse our best-sellers for your first batch.