A cannabis lollipop?
But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Lollipopping cannabis is a technique growers use to increase yields.
But it is not without controversy.
While some marijuana growers swear by it, others consider it a waste of time at best, and a detriment to yields at worst.
So which is it? Does lollipopping increase yield, or does it hurt?
It turns out, it can do both. Let’s find out why and, more importantly, if you should be lollipopping your marijuana plants.
What Is Lollipopping Cannabis?
Lollipopping cannabis plants refers to the removal of growth on the lower portion of the plants, in order to free up more resources on the upper portion. With bare stems on the bottom and thick growth on top, the plants end up resembling a lollipop.
Because the lower parts don’t get as much light, buds in that area will never grow to their full potential anyway.
Pruning them keeps the plant from using resources on them. This means it can use those resources to make buds on the main kola sites even larger.
It also allows air to flow through the lower reaches of the plants more easily. This improved air circulation ensures humidity does not build up, preventing rust fungus or other types of mold like powdery mildew from forming.
The lollipopping technique is especially effective in grow rooms that only have lighting above the plants, and none coming from the sides or below. It is also great in climates with high humidity levels.
But it’s not all positive. Lolipopping is actually a somewhat controversial technique. We will cover some of the potential problems below, in the section on disadvantages. First, let’s take a closer look at all of the advantages of lollipopping.
Benefits Of Lollipopping
As mentioned, the primary benefit of lollipopping is that it ensures all of a plant’s energy is directed toward the main kola sites, where it can make the biggest impact.
Instead of wasting energy to grow leaves and buds in shaded areas, where they can never really thrive anyway, all of that energy gained from the lighting and the nutrients is used to boost buds in the upper parts of the plant, where they enjoy the ideal conditions to grow to monstrous sizes.
We also mentioned a secondary benefit: improved air circulation. Whenever you water your plants, humidity increases, especially in the lower areas of the plants. If the foliage is thick, the humidity gets trapped there and leads to fungal growth.
Without the thick lower foliage, air circulates more easily, drying out the moisture and preventing the growth of mold. This is especially important in humid climates.
Drawbacks Of Lollipopping
There is a reason marijuana plants grow leaves on their lower reaches. These leaves are large and provide a lot of surface area for photosynthesis. When you remove them, your plant loses a source of energy.
Furthermore, the buds you remove from the lower part might not ever grow overly large, but they are still viable buds. Sure, these so-called-popcorn buds are smaller and not nearly as dense, but they still give you the same effect.
And it is not certain that the increase in size of the main kola sites is larger than the loss of yield from removing the popcorn buds. So does this mean that lollipopping does not actually result in an increase in yield?
Does Lollipopping Increase Yield?
In some cases it does and in some it does not. It really depends on what kind of grow you have. In general, lollipopping is effective when there is no side lighting and with SCROG (screen of green) or SOG (sea of green) grows.
Basically, lollipopping can have a positive effect on yields whenever you have a thick canopy that prevents light from reaching the lower areas, and those areas are also not getting light from the sides. It can also help you grow denser buds. Plus, there is the benefit of mold prevention in humid climates.
In order to take full advantage, you want to pair it with a light that specializes in delivering a more even light spread, instead of one with a very focused beam that penetrates deeply below the cannabis. Any of the quantum board style lights work well.
Do You Recommend Lollipopping Cannabis Plants?
As I’m sure you’re able to guess from the previous section: it depends. We never recommend it for outdoor grows, because light hits the plants from all angles throughout the day.
You’re better off pruning away some of the larger fan leaves to allow more light to hit the lower bud sites. The same is true for any indoor grow with side lighting.
But for most other situations, we definitely recommend lollipopping. And always in conjunction with pruning, and ideally, stress training (i.e. training the main branches to spread out horizontally, in order to increase the canopy area). This means that lollipopping is especially effective for SCROG and SOG grows.
Sea of green (SOG) grows cram a lot of smaller plants into the grow space to create a flat and thick canopy. Because little light penetrates this canopy, it is beneficial to get rid of any growth on the lower portions of the plants.
Screen of green (SCROG) grows are very similar to SOG. SCROG uses multiple toppings, stress training and a netting to ensure a flat and even canopy. Removing all growth below the screen is essential to maximize bud growth above the screen.
The key with any type of stress training is starting the low-stress training at the right time. Beginning too soon or too late will adversely affect your plants.
When To Lollipop
You’ll see a ton of different advice on when to lollipop your cannabis plants. Part of that is due to people mistaking lollipopping and pruning. The two go hand in hand.
You want to begin removing leaves and branches during vegging, a few weeks before switching your lights to a flowering schedule. This allows the plants time to recover from the shock, before they enter the flowering stage.
Then you follow up by removing new bud growth whenever it appears during flowering. But you do not want to be trimming lower branches during flowering.
How To Lollipop Marijuana Plants
You will also see a lot of different advice concerning how high up the plant to prune. And again: it depends.
The most common advice is to either remove everything below the 4th bud site on each branch (some even say below the 3rd), or to remove all growth from the bottom third (some even say the bottom half).
These are all good rules of thumb that you can use as a guide, especially when lollipopping for the first time. But you’ll want to take note of where the light reaches and adjust the amount you trim off based on that.
Go ahead and lollipop higher up, if those areas are still extremely shaded. On the other hand, if lower areas get a good amount of light, don’t go so high up with the trimming.
As for what to remove, you want to get rid of all smaller branches that do not reach up to the canopy at all. Then remove all foliage from the branches that remain. Make sure you use quality weed trimming shears.
As mentioned, do the initial lollipopping during vegging. Later, once the plant has entered flowering, you simply do some light follow-up pruning, to ensure the bottom portion stays bare. The most important thing during this stage is to remove any bud growth, to avoid those turning into popcorn buds.
Lollipopping Marijuana: Final Thoughts
As you can see, lollipopping can boost yields, under the right conditions. If you have a grow where the bottom portion of your plants does not receive much lights, removing the growth from that part of your plants can increase your overall yields.
This also prevents these leaves turning yellow during flowering and falling off. That’s not a problem, but trimming the leaves off before that happens saves resources..
But if you are growing outside, or your indoor grow is receiving light from the side, lollipopping will probably not increase your yields any and is actually more likely to decrease them.
If you think it might benefit you, but you’re still on the fence, why not just give it a try? Lollipop your weed plants during your next grow and see what difference it makes. At the very least, you’ll have some cooler looking bonsai-like plants!