How to top cannabis plants

When and How to Top Cannabis Plants

Mastering the art of topping cannabis plants is very important if you want to maximize your yield. When you top cannabis plants correctly you can significantly boost your yield and make it easier to manage your plants.

But what does “topping cannabis” mean, and how can you master it? Let’s delve into the greenery and unearth the answers!

How to top cannabis plants
After topping the node below starts growing two new branches

What Does “Topping Cannabis” Mean?

Topping a cannabis plant involves cutting off the top of the plant’s main stem, right below the top leaves, which results in the plant growing two new branches from where the cut was made. This method is used to control the plant’s shape and size, encourage more bushy growth, and ultimately increase its yield.

In cannabis cultivation, a “node” is the part of the stem where leaves or branches grow out from a main branch or stem. By topping the plant just above a node, the plant will typically grow two branches from the node below the cut. These branches wil later give birth to two new colas (flowering sites), thus increasing the plant’s potential yield.

When to Top Cannabis Plants

Timing is everything when it comes to when to top weed plants. If you top too early, the plant may become stressed and its growth could be stunted. If you top too late, the plant might have already expended energy on growing a tall main stem that could have been better used on lateral growth.

In general, it’s best to top your plants when they’ve developed between 3-5 nodes, or layers of branches. It’s also important to consider the plant’s overall health before topping. Ensure it’s growing vigorously and free from any disease or nutrient deficiencies.

I also recommend that you top your plants at least a week, preferably 10 days to 2 weeks before flipping your lights to flower. You can top several times if you start early on in veg.

When is it too late to top your plant?

It is too late to top your plant if the plant already has entered the flowering stage and you’ve flipped the light to 12/12 and started bloom nutrients (learn when to start bloom nutrients). The plant will have already focused its energy on bud production and any additional stress could reduce yield or even harm the plant.

How to Top Cannabis Plants

So, how do you go about topping cannabis plants? First, you’ll need a clean, sharp pair of pruning shears. Sterilize your cutting tool to prevent introducing disease into the plant.

Find the topmost node of your cannabis plant and cut the stem about one quarter inch above it. 

Sometimes, you may want to cut further down than the first node depending on strain, age of the plant  and light height.

Make sure to leave some stem above the node to avoid damaging it because the node is where the magic will happen.

After making the cut, you’ve successfully topped your cannabis plant!

Node of cannabis plants
The node of a cannabis plant

Things to Consider Before Topping Cannabis

Before you start snipping away, keep in mind that topping isn’t suitable for all situations. Some factors to consider include:

  • The strain of cannabis — Some strains respond better to topping than others.
  • The overall health of the plant — Only healthy plants should be topped.
  • The growth stage of the plant — It’s best to top during the vegetative stage.

Always remember to look out for signs of nutrient deficiencies, as they can affect the success of topping. Checking out resources like this guide on cannabis nutrient deficiencies can be super helpful in identifying potential issues.

Potential Benefits of Topping Cannabis

Topping is a popular technique because of the many benefits it can offer and how easy it is to do. It can increase your plant’s yield by encouraging the growth of multiple colas. Instead of energy being directed to one main cola, it’s distributed to several, increasing the overall bud production. This, along with good quality cannabis nutrients and a microbial inoculant, results in explosive growth and high yields.

Furthermore, topping helps create a bushier plant, which is more manageable in indoor environments. A bushier plant also allows for more efficient light distribution, further boosting yield. Tall plants will force the top of the plant too close to the light source.

Read our article about how to make buds bigger during flowering here.

Potential Drawbacks of Topping Cannabis

Despite its benefits, topping isn’t a one-size-fits-all technique. It can stress your plant, potentially stunting its growth if not done correctly. Over-topping can also lead to decreased yields and a longer recovery time. To counter these potential drawbacks, providing your plants with a solid base nutrients can help ensure they bounce back quickly.

Topping vs. Fimming

These two techniques are similar but yield somewhat different results. While topping creates two new growth points, Fimming (an acronym for ‘F***, I missed’), results in 4 new growth points. However, these growth points are often less robust than the ones resulting from topping. How many times you can top or FIM a plant will largely depend on its health and overall size.

Another method is Super Cropping. This is a technique that is meant to encourage lateral growth while slowing the vertical climb. You pinch the stem and give it a little bend usually below where top cluster of nodes maybe 6-8 inches down depending on size and strain. There is a fine art to this and not something I recommend to beginners or in outdoor areas with heavy winds.


While we’re on the subject of plant training, let’s discuss pruning. It involves removing unwanted plant parts, such as yellow leaves or small buds that won’t receive enough light. Pruning can increase airflow, reduce the chance of disease, and direct more energy to the top colas.

Bottom cleaning is crucial. Anything that isn’t getting light needs to get pruned off. “Shaving the Armpits” (getting all the little leaves off of the plant and out of the cracks) will reduce the number of tiny colas you end up with and let the plant send energy up to the main flowers.

It’s also important to never prune more than a third of the plant matter at one time to avoid stress!

Aftercare for Topped Weed Plants

After you’ve topped your cannabis plant, it’s important to provide proper aftercare. Continue monitoring for signs of stress and ensure your plant has ample nutrients to continue growing. It is also a good idea to add Amplify, microbial inoculant, to help your plants bounce back and ensure robust growth following the topping process. 

Spraying with a good biological “tea” or Amplify helps with plant recovery after pruning and overall immune health.

In the world of cannabis cultivation, topping is more than a mere cut; it’s an art and science that can boost your yield and allow you to get the most out of your green thumb. So why not give it a go and see the fruits of your labor for yourself? As we say in the biz, “The proof is in the pot!”

Cannabis Grow Series

This article is part of the cannabis grow series where we want to teach you how to grow cannabis step-by-step in a simple and effective way. Explore the full series here!

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