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Topping Cannabis Plants: A Comprehensive Guide

Topping is a high-stakes game in the world of cannabis cultivation. While it can drastically improve yields and the overall health of your plant, incorrect methods can hinder growth and decrease productivity. This article serves as a guide to the art of topping, helping you determine the right timing, location, and frequency.

Understanding Topping

Topping is a high-stress training (HST) technique, which involves cutting off the main stem’s top of a cannabis plant. This action promotes the growth of two main colas (or buds) instead of one, encouraging a bushier plant structure. A well-topped plant is more conducive to even light distribution, which is especially beneficial in setups with overhead lights.

When is the Right Time to Top?

1. Plant Age and Node Development: Cannabis plants should be topped after they’ve developed a few sets of leaves, typically between the 4th and 6th node. Topping too early can stunt the plant, while topping too late can lead to wasted growth.

2. Health of the Plant: Only healthy plants should be topped. If a plant is recovering from disease, pest stress, or nutrient imbalances, topping can add further stress.

Where to Make the Cut?

1. Above the Node: When topping, ensure you cut above the node – not directly on it. By giving a bit of space, you avoid damaging the node, which will develop into the two main colas.

2. Clean Tools: Always use sanitized scissors or pruning shears to reduce the risk of infection.

How Many Times Should You Top?

This largely depends on the desired shape of your plant and the grow space available:

1. Single Topping: This will divide the main stem into two, producing a “Y” shape. It’s ideal for beginners or those wanting to try the method without overcommitting.

2. Multiple Toppings: For more advanced growers or those with more space, topping multiple times can result in a bushier, “hedged” plant. This method is often used in a Screen of Green (SCROG) setup. If you choose to top multiple times, ensure the plant has recovered from the initial topping before the next one.

Topping vs. FIMing (F**k I Missed)

While topping involves cutting the stem’s top, FIMing is a method where you cut only a portion of the newest leaf growth. This can result in four new colas instead of the typical two from topping. FIMing is less stressful for the plant but requires more precision.

Post-Topping Care

After topping, your plant will need a few days to recover. Ensure it has:

1. Optimal Conditions: Maintain a consistent environment in terms of temperature and humidity. 2. Adequate Nutrients: Ensure the plant receives a balanced feed, but avoid over-fertilizing. 3. Monitor for Stress: Look out for signs of stress, such as yellowing leaves or drooping.


Topping is an art and science combined. It requires careful consideration of your plant’s health, growth stage, and your cultivation goals. When done correctly, it can greatly enhance the yield and health of your cannabis plant. As with all high-stress techniques, patience, research, and close monitoring are crucial to success.

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