Nico’s Nuggets: Pros and Cons of Trimming Cannabis Plants

Hello Mr. Escondido, I have a quick question for you today. How do I trim by plant?  She is about 10" high with approximately five leaf clusters.  How and when do I need to trim it? Thanks for the advice! — John C. via

Greetings, John and thanks for writing in!

Many beginner growers feel that trimming their cannabis plants is a requirement and a central component to cultivating cannabis. The truth is, it is not required, but rather it is a useful technique that can be applied at various (later) stages of a plant’s development – and for varying reasons. Trimming or pruning a cannabis plants is no different – or any more necessary – than pruning a tomato plant or rose bush.

However, there are pruning techniques that can aid a plant in its development and help a grower achieve healthier gardens with bigger yields. The important concepts to understand are that pruning cannabis plants is done only for these primary reasons:

  • To direct plant growth in specific directions and to control size;
  • To create better light and air penetration in thick garden canopies; and,
  • To invigorate growth in specific areas to increase plant yield.

For very young plants such as yours, pruning is generally not needed. Where confusion sets in for newer growers is when they hear talk about advanced pruning techniques such as “topping” or “pinching off” a young plant in order to help induce more top colas. These types of pruning techniques are usually reserved for advanced growers, but if you feel you have a green thumb and are attentive to your garden’s needs on a daily basis, you can certainly try these techniques at home at any time.

In general, a small plant like yours (10”, five leaf sets) is pretty young to begin any sort of pruning program. I usually recommend that a growers wait for a plant to get out of the seedling/ clone/ rooting phase and wait until it has been transplanted into a larger (or final) container before beginning any type of pruning program as trimming off leaves or topping plants can shock young plants.

Plants that have been transplanted and in a solid vegetative state for two or more weeks can be topped, pinched-off or FIMed to create more top colas (see hyperlinks above for more info). But actual pruning or trimming of leaves won’t be necessary until the plant becomes fuller and bushier towards the end of veg and into flower.

Once flowering begins it wise to use smart trimming techniques to both aerate the inner plant section (near the main stem), which helps prevent mold and mildew from forming, and to also direct more of the plant’s energy to the top shoots where bud formation is taking place. For plants that grower 3-feet or taller, it is often recommended to trim off the entire bottom third of the plant so that the top two-thirds can produce larger fruits. The best lamps (and even the Sun itself) has problems penetrating deep into plants and the buds that form near the plant’s bottom are usually popcorn-sized buds that are not great to smoke. Rather, it is best to trim these parts off and allow that energy to be utilized by the top shoots producing large, cola-type flowers.

Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!

Got questions? Email 'em over to Nico at and be sure to put “Nico’s Nuggets” in the subject line!

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top image: Trimming leaves off the bottom third of plants is a popular technique to increase yield.

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