Topping your plants can drastically improve the overall yield of your cannabis plants, and is, therefore, a very important cultivation technique.
Topping generally refers to the process of cutting the central stalk (and any subsequent stalk cutting), which results in a wider and bushier growth of your weed plant.
A wider cannabis plant allows the light to reach a greater number of buds on the plant, and this in turn increases the quality and mass of all the buds on your plant.
In this article, we will be talking about the major benefits of topping and why it is so crucial, while also covering the ideal time to top your cannabis plants and of course how it’s done.
The Importance of Topping
Even though it may seem counterintuitive to make any incisions and cuts on your plant, topping is a tried and tested method of increasing your yield.
It’s also important to point out that plants that are topped in a professional manner remain completely healthy and vibrant.
A regular cannabis plant in nature always focuses the entirety of its resources on the main stalk, and this results in completely vertical growth.
This is why untopped female cannabis plants always have a central cola at the top of the stalk, where the majority of bud production happens.
Such plants will also have smaller colas below the central one (that are also on the main stalk), but these smaller colas aren’t positioned to receive sufficient light, and will therefore remain undeveloped and relatively small.
Compared to topped plants, regular weed plants (with only one central stalk) produce significantly fewer buds.
Topping and Light
As we already mentioned, topped weed plants have an overtly wide, bush-like appearance, and this allows sunlight (or any other indoor light source) to easily reach any part of the plant where bud production is happening.
Unlike topped plants, regular plants have a “design flaw”, since during the flowering stage the main cola on top of the plant overshadows the other lower buds, causing them to receive insufficient light and develop into buds of inferior quality and size.
But, when a cannabis plant is properly topped, this will result in a plant that has numerous branches that receive the same amount of light.
Once the plant starts flowering, all of its buds will receive adequate light, and a properly-lighted cannabis plant will produce an abundant yield of potent healthy buds.
In order to make full advantage of the topping technique, a plant is usually topped two or three times during its lifespan.
When Should a Cannabis Plant be Topped
It’s ideal to start topping while your plant is in the vegetative stage, by carefully cutting the main central stalk.
Topping the plant while it’s in the vegetative stage allows the process of growth hormone distribution to be more efficient, and this will help the side branches to grow stronger and more rapidly.
As we already mentioned, the topping technique makes the plant wider and generally bushier.
As for the precise timing, it’s generally considered ideal to perform the first top only when your plant has developed at least 3-5 nodes.
It’s important to wait because the plant will have less difficulty overcoming the shock of topping when it has matured to this height. Once your plant has reached this level of development, the initial top is usually done above the third or fifth node on the central stalk.
You should avoid waiting for the plant to develop more than seven nodes, as this will only waste the plant’s precious energy and resources that are much needed for the development of the side branches.
The Best Way to Top Your Plants
As we said earlier, it’s essential to wait for your plants to develop to a certain degree (six or seven nodes), before you start topping them.
The first top (on the main central stem) should be performed above the fifth node. This height is considered ideal as it will give the right amount of side branches for your plant to fully bush out.
As for the subsequent secondary toppings, a general rule of thumb is to wait for the side branches to develop at least three or four nodes, and the cut is typically done above the third node.
After you’ve topped the plant for the first time, the rules are much more liberal after this primary topping.
This means that you don’t have to follow the rules so strictly, but it’s important to know that a cannabis plant is usually topped only 2 or 3 times. Generally, a weed plant will end up being bushier if it’s topped 3 times.
It’s very important to sterilize the gear you’ll be doing the topping with.
Either a sharp pair of pruning scissors (or a simple razor blade) will do the trick, and it’s essential to disinfect the cutting equipment to avoid any infections of your plant.
Infections are extremely uncommon with cannabis topping, but it’s still better to play it safe.
You also need to keep a close eye on your plants after the topping, as the initial shock can sometimes produce slight issues. Make sure they get sufficient light, water, and nutrients.
If you decide to top more than once, make sure to give the plant at least several weeks between toppings, so it can fully recuperate.