To prune or not to prune? A guide to trimming the fat

If you have any experience gardening, indoors or out, you’ll know that once in awhile you need to remove leaves or stems in order to help your plant thrive. This process is called pruning, and it’s an essential part of cultivating cannabis. 

It may seem obvious – a snip here, a snap there and your plants are happy as clams, but if you want to increase yield, resin production, even height, you don’t want to go nuts with your sheers. 

What is pruning?

Pruning is a centuries old tradition that’s practiced for practical and aesthetic reasons (think the therapeutic art of trimming a bonsai). It’s necessary to remove larger leaves or branches that are blocking light from reaching lower leaves and budding sites, to influence the shape of your plant to grow up instead of out, and to remove yellowing, dead or diseased leaves/branches that will affect the overall health of the plant. 

It might seem counterintuitive to limit the number of budding sites but this actually encourages your plant to funnel more energy into the remaining buds, which ramps up resin production for fatter yields in a smaller package. 

The time you spend pruning your plant also gives you the opportunity to become better acquainted with the sum of its parts, as well as its health. Catching the first signs of common pests or diseases means you can nip them in the bud, so to speak, before they get out of hand and have negative effects on your yield. 

The Perfect Plant

In an ideal world, your marijuana plant would live its best life without your intervention, but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes these little marvels need help to reach their full potential. In general, your cannabis plants will do best if they receive a lot of bright sunlight and airflow, this means: 

  • Remove low branches that don’t receive much light
  • Clear dead or dying leaves 
  • Trim away lower budding sites that don’t (and won’t, regardless) receive a lot of light

You’ll find that as your plant starts to take its natural shape it will be easy to see what needs to be removed, so try not to stress too much about it. You can also top them to manage stretch and height, a concern if you don’t have a lot of space to work with. 

We recommend the following: 

  • Indoor growers should start pruning their plants about 10 to 15 days before they are ready to trigger the flowering phase. 
  • Outdoor growers can begin pruning several weeks before they expect the flowering phase to begin, as growth is ultimately more rapid when plants are left to thrive in their natural environment. 
  • Stop pruning about two weeks into the flowering phase or else you might force your plant back into the vegetative stage – this will have a negative impact on your eventual yield, and will lengthen the time it takes to get you to harvest. 

Pot Pruning Tips

First and foremost, get your hands on a couple good pairs of pruning shears that you can keep separate from your other plants and products, and that can easily be sharpened. The sharper the blade the less you risk damaging or introducing infection (although, scarring is a stress technique that some experienced gardeners have used to their advantage).

  • Start by removing the larger lower branches to clear space for yourself to get in and do the nitty gritty. Because they won’t receive enough sunlight, they won’t produce fully developed buds anyway. Do this early on, while your plant is still in the vegetative stage and relatively small. This can increase growth and eventual yield by allowing your plant to focus on growing up instead of out.
  • Cut away any branches growing up the middle of the plant that don’t receive light because of the canopy. 
  • Trim away the dead or dying branches and leaves – there’s little you can do to bring them back and it’s not worth the energy that could be used more effectively somewhere else. 
  • Top your plant by snipping off the apex cola, which can contain a chemical that restricts growth in lower branches. This will allow your plant to flourish, and is a nice way to sample your weed before you reach harvest. Once you’ve done this, wait a few days before you trigger flowering to give the remaining branches a chance to fill in the voids your careful pruning has left behind. 

Can we express something important here? Do. Not. Rip. Please, whatever you do, don’t use your hands to rip off branches when you could use a sharp blade. Shocking your plants at such a young age could have a detrimental effect on their health. 

Should you trim fan leaves?


Yes! Again, it feels like you’re going against the grain by cutting off those leaves which will be covered in sticky resin, especially since growing leaves produce sugar from which the plant can derive energy. Removing young leaves can deprive your plant of essential energy, and may cause stunting. Once leaves reach maturity, however, they stop producing that precious sugar, and can safely be removed (if they don’t yellow and fall off on their own, that is). 

Any leaves that are covering your budding sites, even during the mid-to-late flowering phase, should either be moved to another position or removed – there’s more value in providing light to your buds than in maintaining leaves that are not giving back to the community, as it were. 

Try not to trim your Autos

Here’s something you may not know – autoflowering marijuana strains such as … and … enter the flowering stage on their own rather quickly and it’s easy for a beginner gardener (and even some intermediate) to miss the window of opportunity where you can safely prune and stress train without causing unnecessary damage. 

If you’re working with an autoflowering strain, avoid heavy pruning and shaping unless the plant really needs it (i.e. higher budding sites are being shadowed by larger fan leaves, etc.) or else it might end in disaster. 

Keeping your marijuana plants well manicured is essential to ensuring a healthy, potent, and worthwhile harvest. Equally important? Starting your cannabis garden with top quality seeds, the kind you can get when you shop online with Pacific Seed Bank.