If you’ve browsed our blog before, you may have noticed that I mention lollipopping cannabis quite a bit. Some of you reached out to get a deeper breakdown of what it is, how to do it, and what it does.
In this guide, I’ll give you my view of the lollipopping pruning technique and I’ll share how it may help you achieve bigger, more potent buds. Read on to discover its benefits, and how to implement it effectively in your grow room!
What is Lollipopping in a nutshell?
Lollipopping is a form of high-stress training (HST) that involves removing lower branches and foliage to redirect energy and nutrients to the primary colas. It has become increasingly popular among cannabis growers because it redirects the plant’s energy towards the upper part of the plant where the flower are, resulting in larger and more potent buds.
Like with all HST techniques, it’s important to be careful and methodical or it could stress the plant too much. Before doing it, you need to educate yourself on the specific genetics that you are growing because some unstable genetics may react poorly to lollipopping.
HST is a process that employs intentional wounding of marijuana plants to induce a specific growth and development pattern that promotes higher-quality buds in the upper canopy.
Why is it called lollipopping?
A cannabis plant that been lollipopped will have bare stems with no foliage near the base, making it look like a lollipop stick.
Why Lollipop a plant?
As I touched on above, the main reason to lollipop is to ensure that your plants don’t waste energy on producing many smaller bud sites and leaves. But lollipopping is also a great way to ensure that light is evenly distributed to your main bud sites. When a plant has excessive foliage, the leaves create shadow spots at the lower parts of the plant. Excessive foliage also blocks air circulation.
- Concentrating energy on larger bud sites for bigger buds
- Eliminating unproductive lower leaves and bud sites
- Optimizing circulation
- Saving energy
- Improving light penetration
- Mitigating the risk of mold
How To Lollipop Cannabis Plants
The ideal time to lollipop cannabis plants is during the vegetative stage or just before flipping to flower. A general rule of thumb is to start lollipopping around the third week of veg and finish it by the end of the first week of the flowering stage. Avoid pruning too much once the plants are in flowering to avoid stressing the flowering process.
Step 1: Clean Your Tools
- Use isopropyl alcohol to sanitize your pruning scissors/shears to avoid transmitting diseases between plants.
Step 2: Examine the Plant Structure
- Observe your plants and identify the main cola (the topmost bud) and the secondary branches.
- Decide how much of the plant you want to defoliate, typically removing growth from the bottom one-third to one-half of the plant.
Step 3: Start Pruning
- Begin removing the lower branches and leaves, starting from the base of the plant. These are usually smaller and receive less light. It’s scary, I know, but trust me when I say that it will make for a better harvest.
- Make clean cuts close to the stem without hurting the nodes.
- Focus on leaves and branches that are unlikely to receive adequate light.
Step 4: Trim Secondary Growth
- After removing the lower branches, trim away small, secondary growths and leaves from the middle section of the plant.
- Leave the robust branches and foliage that are receiving direct light.
Step 5: Monitor Plant Health
- Observe your plants daily after pruning for any signs of stress or disease.
- Maintain consistent watering and feeding schedule, adjusting as needed due to the reduced foliage mass.
Step 6: Allow Recovery
- Give your plants some time to recover and adjust to the pruning.
- Monitor new growth to ensure the plant is focusing its energy on the topmost buds.
Step 7: Maintain Throughout Growth
- Continue to monitor the plant’s growth and remove any new growth that appears in the lower sections of the plant.
My suggestions for your first times
It’s crucial not to remove too much foliage in one go, especially if you haven’t done so before. I recommend being conservative the first couple of times because removing more than 20-30% of the plant mass can overly stress the plant. It’s all about finding the right balance and ensuring that the plant still has enough leaves to continue photosynthesizing effectively.
When you have more experience, and know your genetics well, you can get far more aggressive with pruning. I even recommend aggressively trimming the fan leaves or Schwazzing.
Maintaining high humidity levels after pruning is also essential. It can help reduce stress on the plant and gives the plant a good environment for recovery and further growth.
Keep an extra eye out to make sure that the remaining foliage receives adequate light and airflow. This step is crucial to avoid any mold and mildew problems that can arise. Regularly check the plants and adjust the environment as necessary to maintain optimal conditions.
Lollipopping vs. Schwazzing
Lollipopping and Schwazzing are both pruning techniques used in cannabis cultivation, they differ a bit in their approach so it’s good to know how to use both. In a nutshell, lollipopping concentrates on eliminating lower growth, while Schwazzing focuses on eliminating fan leaves.
Experienced growers often combine the two techniques and utilize SCROG (Screen of Green) and main-lining for even better results. More on that below…
Combining Lollipopping with SCROG and Main-lining
Lollipopping can be combined with SCROG (Screen of Green) and main-lining techniques to boost yield to the max.
You have likely seen a SCROG before if you’ve been growing for a while. It is a cultivation technique that involves:
- Placing a net or screen over the plants
- Manipulating the branches to grow horizontally
- Creating an even canopy with great light distribution and penetration
Main-lining, on the other hand, is a training technique that involves a combination of topping and low-stress training to create symmetrical plants with a Y-shaped, manifold-like main stem (see the images below).
When lollipopping is combined with SCROG and main-lining, it effectively directs the plant’s energy towards the most promising bud sites, resulting in larger yields and better bud quality.
Timing Your Lollipopping Efforts
Timing is crucial when it comes to lollipopping cannabis plants, as it can greatly impact the overall health, growth, and yield. The timing differs a bit for photoperiod and autoflowering plants so you need to know your genetics to understand the ideal timing.
Do your initial lollipopping in the late vegetative stage, a few days before flipping to flower. This timing allows the plant enough time to recover before entering the flowering phase.
I also recommend that you do a light clean-up in the early weeks of flowering, preferably within the first two weeks after switching the light cycle. Remove any new growth that won’t receive adequate light and off-shoots that are taking energy from more important bud-sites.
Don’t trim too much during the flowering stage because excessive stress can damage the plant and put it into recovery mode instead of growth mode.
Lollipopping autoflowering cannabis can be a bit trickier than photoperiod plants because autoflowering genetics have a shorter life cycle and can be more sensitive to stress. Autoflowers automatically switch from the vegetative phase to the flowering phase based on age, rather than light cycle, leaving less room for recovery if they experience stress from pruning.
My recommendation is to lollipop autoflowers early in veg so the plant gets more time to recover before entering into flower. Be a bit more conservative and only remove parts that don’t get enough light.
I generally prefer to use low-stress training on autoflowers and I recommend swithing to photoperiod plants as soon as you feel comfortable.
Tips and Tricks for Successful Lollipopping
For beginners in lollipopping, there are a few handy tips and tricks to keep in mind to guarantee successful results. First and foremost, start slow and monitor the plant’s health. Over-pruning or miss-timing can hurt growth and reduce yields, so it’s vital to find the right balance between pruning and maintaining plant health.
Experiment with different levels of pruning on different plants of the same strain to find the ideal balance for your genetics.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is lollipopping?
Lollipopping is a popular pruning technique used in cannabis cultivation to increase size, quality and yield of buds by removing lower branches and leaves to allow more light and air to reach them.
What is the difference between lollipopping and schwazzing?
Lollipopping involves pruning away lower foliage to improve light exposure and airflow, while schwazzing involves removing fan leaves to reduce the plant’s overall size.
What is the ideal time to lollipop cannabis plants?
For optimal results, lollipop your photoperiod cannabis plants during the third week of flowering and your autoflowering plants during the vegetative phase.
Can lollipopping be combined with other training techniques like SCROG and main-lining?
Yes, lollipopping can be successfully combined with other training techniques, such as SCROG and main-lining, to maximize yields and enhance the quality of buds.
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!