Is Topping Cannabis Plants Worth It in 2023? The Best Tips for Topping Cannabis

As a cannabis grower, you might have heard about plant training techniques such as topping cannabis and wondered whether they are worth the effort. The debate on topped vs. non-topped cannabis plants is a hot topic in the growing community.

This comprehensive guide aims to break down all you need to know about topping cannabis plants, providing insights to help you make informed decisions and get the most out of your crop.

What Is Topping Cannabis?

Topping cannabis refers to a plant training technique where the grower removes the top part of a cannabis plant, specifically the growth tip or the apical meristem.

This growing tip is responsible for the plant’s vertical growth, leading to the traditional “Christmas tree” shape of a cannabis plant.

Topping is done to divert the plant’s resources from vertical growth to the lateral branches, leading to a bushier and more horizontal growth pattern.

Topping cannabis plants can stimulate the development of additional buds and subsequent flowers, potentially increasing the yield of your cannabis crop.

Why Should You Top Cannabis Plants?

Is topping cannabis worth it? If you have been asking yourself: what can topping do for cannabis plants? Let’s explore the options.

Greater Yield

Topping cannabis plants can increase the yield of your plants by promoting the growth of additional buds.

Each new branch that develops after topping has the potential to produce a cola, a cluster of buds. More colas mean more buds, which ultimately translates to a higher yield.

Efficient Use of Space

Topped cannabis plants tend to be bushier and shorter, which can be beneficial if you’re working with limited grow space.

As the plant grows outwards rather than upwards after topping, it can efficiently utilize the horizontal space, making it an ideal technique for indoor growers.

Enhanced Light Penetration

In a topped cannabis plant, light can reach more parts of the plant, including the lower branches and buds.

This is because topping cannabis eliminates the tall central stem that ordinarily blocks light from reaching the lower parts of the plant.

Improved light penetration can contribute to better growth and higher yields.

Stronger Plants

Topping cannabis can result in stronger plants with more robust branches.

As the plant redirects its energy to lateral growth after topping, the branches that develop tend to be stronger and capable of supporting heavier colas.

Mitigating Risks of Cannabis Topping

While topping presents several advantages, it’s not entirely risk-free.

The act of topping cannabis plants creates an open wound, potentially exposing the plant to pathogens.

Additionally, the plant’s lower branches, which become denser after topping a cannabis plant, can trap humidity, creating the perfect conditions for mold or mildew.

However, it’s not all bad news, here are ways to mitigate risks of topping cannabis plants:


Life Stage: Only top plants that are in the vegetative stage. Topping during the flowering stage can be highly stressful for the plant and can lead to diminished yields.

Plant Health: Make sure your plant is healthy before topping. Stress or disease can make it much harder for the plant to recover from topping.


Sanitize Tools: Always use sterilized cutting tools to minimize the risk of infection.

Cutting Method: Make a clean, angled cut around 5 nodes down from the top. Avoid crushing or tearing the stem.

Post-Care: Apply a light layer of organic antiseptic to the cut area to minimize risk of infection.


Light Stress: Make sure the plant receives adequate light, but not too much right after topping, to avoid light stress.

Nutrient Balance: A well-fed plant will recover faster. However, don’t over-fertilize as this can cause nutrient imbalances.

Monitor and Adjust

Monitor Recovery: Keep an eye on the plant for a few days to ensure that it is recovering well and that no infection has set in.

Watering: Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can stress the plant further.

Additional Stress: Try to avoid combining topping with other high-stress techniques like super-cropping or low-stress training until the plant has fully recovered.

Varietal Considerations

Different strains of cannabis have varying tolerances to topping. Indicas, with their bushier growth and shorter flowering times, are often better candidates for topping than sativas.

It’s also important to be aware of the legal regulations regarding cannabis cultivation in your jurisdiction. Some places have plant count limits, and topping can make a plant look like multiple plants, potentially leading to legal complications.

Expert Consultation

Finally, if you’re new to topping or concerned about potential risks, consulting an expert or experienced grower can be invaluable.

They can offer strain-specific advice and help you troubleshoot any problems that arise.

When Should You Start Topping Cannabis?

Timing is critical when it comes to topping your cannabis plants.

Typically, topping should be done during the vegetative stage of the plant’s growth cycle. At this stage, the plant is actively growing and can recover more quickly from the stress of topping.

The plant should have developed 3 to 5 nodes before it’s topped. This is usually around 30 days into the vegetative growth phase. Topping at this stage ensures that the plant has a strong enough root system to handle the associated stress.

After the initial topping, you should allow your plant to recover for about two weeks before considering topping again. Repeated topping can further increase the number of colas and enhance the yield, but the plant needs adequate recovery time to handle the stress.

How to Top Cannabis Plants

The process of topping cannabis plants is straightforward and doesn’t require any specialized tools or equipment. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to top your cannabis plants:

Gather Your Tools: You’ll need a pair of sterile scissors or garden shears to top your plants. Make sure to sterilize your tool to prevent contamination.

Locate Plants with 3 to 5 Nodes: Plants that have developed 3 to 5 nodes are strong enough to handle topping.

Cut the Main Stem Between the Nodes: Make a cut about 5mm above the nodes on the main stem. This will result in the development of two new branches and two main colas.

Repeat as Needed: After allowing your plant to recover for about two weeks, you can repeat the topping process if you wish to develop more colas and enhance your yield.

What Happens If You Don’t Top Your Plants?

Untopped or non-topped cannabis plants tend to grow vertically, developing a single dominant cola. The tall central stem can block light from reaching the lower parts of the plant, leading to uneven growth.

Non-topped cannabis plants typically yield fewer buds compared to topped cannabis plants.

While non-topped plants can still produce a reasonable yield, topping cannabis plants can enhance the yield by encouraging the growth of additional colas. If maximizing your yield is your primary goal, you might want to consider topping your cannabis plants.

How long do I wait between Topping Cannabis?

The time you should wait between topping cannabis plants can vary based on several factors, including the plant’s strain, health, and growing conditions.

In general, a safe bet is to wait until you see strong new growth from the previous topping site, and the plant looks healthy and robust. For many growers, this will mean waiting at least 1-2 weeks, but this can vary. Always consider the plant’s health and your specific growing conditions when deciding when to top again.

Here are some general guidelines:

Assess Plant Health:

Recovery Time: Before topping again, make sure the plant has fully recovered from the previous topping. You should see new growth at the sites where the plant was topped, and the plant should appear healthy and vigorous. This can take anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on various factors like light, nutrients, and the plant’s overall health.

Overall Health: A plant that is stressed, diseased, or not growing well should not be topped again until it has recovered.

Environmental Factors:

Light and Nutrients: Make sure the plant has adequate light and nutrients, as these conditions will help it recover faster from the stress of topping.

Temperature and Humidity: Plants might recover more slowly if they are not kept in optimal conditions.

Strain Considerations:

Indica vs. Sativa: Indica strains generally recover faster and are more amenable to multiple toppings, whereas Sativa strains might require a longer recovery period.

Number of Tops:

Keep Count: The more times a plant is topped, the more it may be stressed. Excessive topping can lead to diminishing returns and may even reduce yield if the plant becomes too stressed.

Expert Consultation:

Advice from Experienced Growers: If you’re uncertain, it may be helpful to consult with a more experienced grower or expert who is familiar with your particular strain and growing conditions.


Pay Attention: Keep an eye on how your plant responds to each topping. This will give you valuable information about how long to wait before topping again.

Topping Cannabis vs. Low-Stress Training (LST)

Topping cannabis is just one of many plant training techniques that can encourage lateral growth and enhance yield.

Another popular method is Low-Stress Training (LST), which involves bending and tying the plant’s branches to promote horizontal growth without removing any part of the plant.

While both topping and LST can increase yield by promoting lateral growth, the choice between the two often comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of your cannabis plants.

The Debate Continues: Topped vs. Non-Topped Cannabis Plants

The debate on topped vs non-topped cannabis plants is far from settled. While many growers swear by the benefits of topping cannabis, others prefer to let their plants grow naturally.

Ultimately, the decision to top cannabis plants should be based on your specific goals, the available grow space, and the strain of cannabis you’re growing. Some strains may respond better to topping than others.

Regardless of the method you choose, remember that successful cannabis cultivation requires more than just topping or not topping your plants. Proper nutrition, light exposure, and pest management, among other factors, also play a crucial role in determining the health and yield of your cannabis plants.

If you’re new to cannabis cultivation, topping might seem like a daunting task. However, with the right tools and technique, it can be a simple and cost-effective way to boost your yield and get the most out of your cannabis plants.

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