Trimming the lower branches of your cannabis plants is a good idea.
This practice is also called lollipopping and many growers swear it leads to bigger and better buds.
But you want to lollipop during vegging, not flowering.
Does that mean you should not do any trimming during flowering?
Keep reading to find out, and to learn everything else you need to know about the practice of trimming the lower branches, during flowering or vegging.
- 1 Trim Lower Branches During Flowering?
- 2 Trimming Lower Branches During Flowering: Final Thoughts
Trim Lower Branches During Flowering?
It depends on who you ask. I could find no scientific study that documents whether trimming the lower branches during flowering makes a difference in the harvest.
However, there is solid logic to support the practice and many growers swear it makes a much stronger harvest.
Either way, you should not be trimming the branches off entirely at this time. You should do that during the vegging stage.
During flowering, you only want to clean up new buds or branches that may try to form on the lower part of the plant. In other words, you only want to do some light maintenance trimming, but nothing major.
Why Trimming Lowering Branches Matters
Growing cannabis is a lot like any other form of gardening or cultivation. There are limited resources in the growing environment. Resources like water and light.
The basic idea of trimming the lower branches is to free up resources for the plant to use on more important parts than the lower branches, specifically the buds.
Getting rid of the lower branches serves a handful of key purposes:
- Increases airflow around the plant, which reduces the risk of mold or mildew
- Opens up more space in the growing environment
- Gets the plant to redirect resources to the remaining parts, most notably the buds
- Can help to strengthen the main stalk
Giving The Plant More Airflow
As you are aware by now, airflow is extremely important. Proper airflow jiggles your plants’ branches, which helps to make the stems stronger and facilitate more ‘good juice’ to the leaves and buds.
It also greatly reduces the risk of powdery mildew growing on your plants. The effects of more airflow are cumulative.
If you have 10 containers on the ground, each with a plant inside, and you remove a bunch of brush from the lower part of 1 plant, the plant behind it will also get more airflow. If you follow the logic here, you can see how one plant affects the others.
Giving Plants More Space
Much like airflow, the effects of more space are also cumulative. As you remove extra foliage from one plant, more space opens for the neighboring plant, giving it more room to sprout more branches and thus more buds.
This quickly adds up especially if you are growing in a smaller grow tent or grow room to begin with.
The more space your plants have for budding, the more buds will grow. Trimming the bottom of the plants opens the necessary space for the magic to happen.
The lower part of the plant normally produces fewer and more anemic buds due to the lack of light anyway, so there in no good reason to leave those lower stems.
Resource Management By Trimming Lower Branches
This is not a new concept, and it is not unique to cannabis growing either. Each plant only has so much water and light. In the early stages of life, your main concern is water and light and making sure the plant has enough resources to prepare it for the flowering phase.
It is basic logic, really. If you have finite resources for a single plant, the more branches and leaves that exist on the plant, the more resources are taken away from all the other branches and leaves.
This is a bit nuanced, though, and is not as simple as it sounds. You cannot cut off all the leaves or your plant will die, the leaves are like solar panels that take in light and convert that light into growth energy.
The idea is to cut off only the lower branches which tend to have small and oftentimes yellow or atrophic leaves to begin with. Those leaves are doing no good for the plant anyway, so removing them will only benefit the rest of the plant.
Strengthening The Main Stalk Or Trunk
As you remove ‘dead weight’ from the plant, the trunk will have more strength to hold up the rest of the plant.
The most important part of the plant is the top where the most valuable buds will grow in the flowering stage. The more strength the main stalk has, the larger the cola on the tip and the other buds near the top can grow.
The plant knows how much it can handle and will not produce a massive cola if it has a weak stalk.
Timing Is Important
In general, it is best to do most of your trimming during vegging. But if you do decide to trim during flowering, the timing is vital.
During the vegetative growth stage, the accepted wisdom is that you can prune pretty much at will, as long as you do not go overboard. Make sure to not cut off more than 1/3 of the total leaves during this stage.
Trimming the lower branches during this phase is called lollipopping. The practice shapes the plants, so they have more vegetation on the top and more empty space down low. They end up looking like a lollipop.
During the flowering stage, the timing is vital. This is a fragile stage where the plant is under stress and producing buds, which is the plant’s primary objective.
During flowering time, it is still possible to trim off lower branches, but you must be conservative and not cut off too much.
Trimming any plant does cause some amount of stress, and overdoing it can send a plant into shock, sending all its resources to heal the areas you have cut off.
When Is It Safe to Prune During Flowering?
The flowering stage is a long stage, up to 11 weeks long. Do not do any pruning on your plants during the end of the flowering stage.
Most growers do the pruning during the early flowering stage. They don’t just cut off the lower branches, but also other troublesome parts of the plant.
The plant is in a very vulnerable stage when it is producing most of its yield. Making any big changes to the environment or the plant itself can cause stress that will affect the harvest.
Ideally, by the time your plant is halfway through the flowering stage, you will no longer be pruning and will simply be watching the magic happen and maintaining the environment.
Why Trim During Early Flowering?
The idea here is that during this phase the plant is starting to send out all its resources to the budding areas.
The buds are the most important part of the plant so naturally you want to make sure the buds are getting the nutrients the plant is pushing out to its extremities. Removing scrub branches down low at this time, will redirect resources to making better buds.
Trimming Lower Branches During Flowering: Final Thoughts
Trimming the lower branches of your cannabis plant allows the plant to direct resources it would have used to grow those branches to more important parts. Specifically, the buds.
However, you should not be trimming these branches off during the flowering stage of growth. Do it sooner, during vegging.
Once the plant begins flowering, do not do any more major trimming. All you should be doing during the bloom stage is light follow-up trimming.