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Topping Marijuana Plants: The Complete Guide. Closeup of marijuana plants.

Topping Cannabis Plants: The Complete Guide


Here is the ultimate guide to topping cannabis the right way.

Is there a secret to having abundant cannabis yields? Absolutely! And the good news is that we’ll let you in on it. Topping cannabis plants might just be what you need to realize your bountiful harvest.

If you don’t know what we are talking about or perhaps you have never topped your crop successfully, you have come to the right place. We have outlined the steps you need to take to handle this like a pro and if you’re lucky, have a harvest that will have you singing all the way to the bank.

Join us, won’t you?

What Does Topping Cannabis Mean?

What exactly does topping mean? If the word conjures a fresh green salad with a whip of mayonnaise, you couldn’t be further off the mark.

Topping is just a rather creative way of describing pruning- probably coined in the throes of a well cultivated high. To be very specific, it is the cutting off of the top part of the marijuana plant to stop it from growing upwards and encourage the lower branches to grow wide.

Why is this important?

Increased lateral growth means the cannabis plant has more opportunity to develop more flowers which in turn will lead to just what we hope for in a great harvest…juicier extractable, smokable, bankable buds which will definitely rev up your cultivating engine.

But why are we making all this fuss? Just how necessary is this topping thing? All plants grow on their own as long as they have sunshine and water, right?


Topping cannabis might very well be the most important step in ensuring you maximize all the potential of your cannabis plant. And we will show you exactly how to do this.

Why Is Topping Cannabis Necessary?

Let’s examine the different factors that make pruning absolutely vital:

1.   Plant Shape

If nature has its way, your valuable cannabis plant will concentrate all its efforts and resources in the growth and development of one tall, sturdy stalk.

What does that mean?

You will likely end up with one dominant cola and several immature (or larfy) colas on the lower part of the plant which will not do you any good.

While the tall plant could give you a refreshing buzz the first time you grow cannabis, what you are really aiming for is a bushy laden plant with lots of mature and definitely potent buds, which you will most likely get from a shorter, bushier plant.

How does topping help you achieve that?

Cutting off its main stalk will force the cannabis plant to re-direct its energy and resources in giving the smaller branches growing to the side the extra kick they need and your plant will no longer grow upwards but laterally.

When your plant has more healthy side branches, it will also have more bud sites and therefore more flowers.

If your plant is particularly promising, you could also top the resultant branches as they grow strong and robust to encourage even more branching and a fuller, rounder bush which is bound to be full of budding goodness.

Buds are what we’re looking for after all, yes?

2.   Light Distribution

How and why?           

As we all know, light is a very essential element in the growth of most plants, and especially in the flourishing of the cannabis plant. The growth of the plant largely depends on its rate of gathering and transforming light into chemical energy, the process we know as photosynthesis.

This is how topping will help your plant access more light.

That your plant receives light is very important, but how that light is distributed is also of vital importance.

Topping your cannabis plant allows for equal access to light over the course of the day. The wide branches ensure that all parts of the plant get sunned, as opposed to having a vertical plant which could result in the lower branches being shaded out and you guessed it…having lower yields as a result.

Topping cannabis also allows light to hit the plant in a more “equal” manner because the plant itself is more or less wider than it is tall. The bushy shape allows bud sites to receive roughly the same amount of light over the course of the day.

To avoid your little baby buds getting shaded, top that plant.

When To Top Cannabis Plants

Knowing when to top your crop is as important as knowing that it should be topped, so here it goes.

The best time to top your cannabis plant is when it is in the vegetative state of its plant life cycle.

When is this, you might ask?

You will know your plant is in its vegetation phase when you observe that its stem has gotten thicker and it is growing taller and developing new nodes. These nodes are what will eventually grow into more leaves and even new branches.

How many nodes should your plant have before you top it?

We recommend that you ideally wait for it to have at least four to six nodes before you consider it ripe for topping.

What this does for the plant is it ensures it has enough root and stem development to ensure it can withstand the shock of having its top chopped off, quite literally.

Are there any rules to topping?

Yes. When topping, ensure that you don’t cut below the fourth node or above the sixth node to ensure that you don’t encounter either uneven dominance or vertical-growth prioritization.

To ensure your topped plant gets everything it needs, ensure you provide the following:

  • Fresh warm water
  • Flowing, dry air
  • An abundance of organic, nitrogen-rich nutrients for example liquid fish and seaweed
  • Adequate soil space

Incorporating these extra factors helps your marijuana plant recover from the shock of topping and encourages it to mature even faster.

After you top your vegetating cannabis plant, it will halt its upward growth and start spreading laterally, which is the result you are looking for.

Another advantage of topping is that it allows your plant to thrive even in circumstances of less light. A topped plant will do well with reduced sunlight and if grown indoors, fluorescent light can eventually be reduced to 12 hours down from 18 hours.

Whatever light it gets, your plant will now concentrate its energy on growing flowers rather than growing tall.

How To Start Topping Cannabis

1.   Assemble Your Tools

Sounds simple enough, right?

Maybe that’s because it is simple. All you need for topping is a sharp object really.

If you consider yourself to be the consummate ganja farmer, you probably already own a pair of pruning scissors. If you don’t, they can be purchased at your local garden shop or hardware store and if used correctly, they will serve you for years on end.

What happens if you have no access to pruning scissors? Here is where the simple part checks in. You could use a sharp object such as a Xacto knife or a razor blade.

If you don’t have those, even a pair of scissors can get the job done.

Whatever you end up with, ensure that your tool is as sharp as it possibly can get. This is because if you attempt to top the cannabis plant with a blunt edge, you will just end up breaking rather than cutting its stem. A broken stem takes much longer to heal because it has a larger wound.

Another very important point…disinfect your tool before you use it to top your plant to eliminate the chance of it getting any infections.

How do you do this?

  • Swipe with a cotton ball infused with alcohol
  • Dunk the blade in boiling water
  • Run the blade through an open flame

Before you use the blade, ensure it has cooled down.

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2.   Start Cutting

Now that you have your tool ready, you can start cutting.

Is there a system to this, you ask?

Absolutely! Don’t hack the stem Willy Nilly. Follow the below steps:

First, find your cannabis plant’s main stem and travel up from the dirt looking out for the nodes. If your plant is short, four nodes are sufficient. However as mentioned earlier, it might be prudent to go up to five of six nodes if your plant allows.

Once you have located the node at which you want to perform your topping, travel up a further two inches and snip it there.

Allow for a bit of growth, probably a few weeks and repeat the process on the two dominant stems which emerge. Just trace the new stem’s smaller branches until you get to a node and cut two inches above this node as well, which will progressively double the buds produced by the plant.


That’s it! The A to Z of Topping cannabis plants the right way.

Now, instead of your plant growing one main stem with smaller, impotent stems below it, you will have a robust, bushy plant that focuses its energy on growing a bountiful of potent buds. With these simple steps, you have effectively doubled your cannabis yield!

Luis Cordova
Luis Cordova

Luis Cordova is a distinguished author, and renowned expert in cannabis cultivation, who possesses a Master's degree in Plant Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science. As a valued contributor to highly esteemed publications such as Cannabis Training University and Maximum Yield Magazine, Luis has emerged as a trusted source of guidance and knowledge in the cannabis industry. Having written thousands of informative articles, Luis is widely recognized for his comprehensive expertise on cultivating cannabis, both indoors and outdoors.

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