How & When to Prune Marijuana Plants

Prunning Marijuana

This article was originally published on I Love Growing Marijuana on October 12, 2012.

If you do it right, pruning your valuable marijuana plants can lead to a much higher yield.

Pruning marijuana plants is one step more advanced than the basics of giving plants life, keeping them happy and healthy. It is not something to be done without much thought, planning, or understanding. If you don’t fully know what you’re doing, don’t prune at all.

Some experienced growers will actually never prune their plants. Their philosophy is more about allowing nature to do its thing. They have a good point – without pruning, they are probably doing quite well as marijuana farmers and are completely avoiding the risks that come with pruning.

That being said, pruning in a controlled, moderate way can be extremely useful. When done correctly, pruning in this way can be a crucial way of getting the healthiest, best growing plants with the most THC in your final product.

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In this article, I will equip you with the knowledge you need to properly and safely prune your marijuana plants. Keep reading and learn to prune like a pro!


By definition, pruning marijuana is simply the process of clipping pieces of a plant off. If the grower can remove these pieces in small and specific amounts, they will actually achieve a stronger plant.

Especially when taking off parts of the plant that are already dead (such as discolored leaves), it can be compared to removing dead tissue from a human’s wound.

Prunning Dead Leaves
You can prune bottom leaves if they turn yellow. Credit: I Love Growing Marijuana

The death of a certain amount of leaves is a normal part of a marijuana plant’s life cycle, and their swift removal could save your plant the resources that are being wasted on dying limbs. These leaves don’t die quickly, so by clipping their stems early, you might be saving your plant weeks of extra effort.

These resources are then focused on more important things, like the still-healthy leaves on the plant, or growing brand new leaves. Because of a more efficient use of resources, the end result will be a larger, healthier plant.

Pruning also encourages new branches to grow on your plants. Once your plant begins having a pair of leaves sprouting from the very top on a daily basis, the topmost leaf will grow some new branches. That’s good news because more branches mean a higher yield.

How do you prune?

One way of pruning, you may want to consider is, once these new branches start sprouting leaves, removing the original shade leaves from which they grew. They will yellow and die eventually anyway, so by removing them earlier you can allow your plant to focus its valuable resources on other things.

Removing these leaves also provides more sunlight to the smaller leaves closer to the base of the plant, which gets them to grow faster and produce more chlorophyll.

Pruning Before & After
Left: Before pruning. Right: After pruning. You can remove all bottom shoots that get no light.

You can also take away the plant’s top, as well as the ends of its branches. This will also help to stimulate branch growth. When you cut off the end of a branch, the growth there will slow down for a while, but then two new branches will come out from that spot.

It can lead to bushier plants with more branches – and, therefore, more leaves. Some people prefer not to do it since it slows down growth to a certain extent.

When should you prune?

You can start thinking about pruning in the second week of the growing phase. At that time, your plant will have several internodes, and you’ll be able to see a bit how it’s growing. If you are growing an Indica plant, wait another week – they grow a bit slower than Sativas.

Since growing continues until the third week of flowering, you can prune up to the second week of flowering. This gives your plants some time to recover. They’ll always need a couple of days to recover after a pruning session.

It’s even possible that they stop growing during this period because all their energy is focused on recovery. Since you want as much energy as possible to go to the buds, do not prune after the first two weeks of the flowering period.

Until then, remove about a quarter of the new side shoots every week. Be sure to leave the older leaves and twigs, because they produce a lot of sugars. You also should ensure you keep enough fully grown leaf surface. They produce sugar and prevent light from being lost by falling to the ground.

You will need to decide which of the following pruning methods will be best for you. Each one comes with its own set of challenges and benefits, so choose carefully. You can also sometimes use more than one method together to form a combined plan of sorts. Keep reading to learn the advantages of using certain pruning techniques.

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