Top 6 Cannabis Plant Training Techniques

A greenhouse with cannabis plants

One of the best things an indoor cannabis grower can do for their garden is to apply some sort of training technique. These techniques allow growers to have more control over the size of their garden and harvest than ever before. Whether you are a novice grower or a seasoned professional, you can benefit from one of these training techniques.

Growers all over the world use training techniques as a way to manipulate and enhance the growth of their cannabis plants. This helps to achieve stronger, bushier plants that have a larger overall yield. Even if it may sound daunting, training techniques just take a little bit of practice to master and even novice growers can benefit from these techniques.

Training your plants is one of the easiest – and definitely the most natural – ways to enhance your final harvest. Whether you are training plants to fit into a smaller place or simply training them to yield a fat load of buds, there’s an appropriate training technique for your garden. And, of course, this removes the need for chemicals to achieve the same results. So get your gardening gloves on so you can try one of these training techniques.

1. Topping & “FIM”

Topping” is the act of cutting a growing shoot off the stem. By doing so, the plant is encouraged to direct extra energy to the next two shoots. Topping is performed on the main central stem at first, causing the two secondary stems to grow larger in compensation.

A cannabis plant with a growing shoot that’s cut off

Once those two stems have grown strong and healthy, they may be topped again to produce four main stems—and maybe again to produce eight main stems! As shown in the photo, a tiny section of stem should be left behind when topping. If you cut the entire stem, you risk damaging the emerging shoots below it.

A cannabis plant with instructions where to cut it to apply Fim or Topping technique

“FIM”, otherwise known as “Fuck I missed”, was allegedly discovered by a gardener seeking to top his plants as normal, but missing slightly—leaving a slightly larger section of stem behind. If performed correctly, the two secondary shoots should grow as normal, with the addition of 2-4 extra shoots that grow directly from the stem remnant left behind.

Topping and FIM both allow the height of the plant to be controlled, and create bushier growth by encouraging more vigorous growth of lower stems to replace the missing central stem. It is advisable to top or FIM a maximum of three times when growing indoors, as the plant needs some time to recover from the stress.

2. Supercropping (or high-stress training)

Supercropping (also known as high-stress training or HST) is a similar technique to those outlined above. The idea is to divert energy from the main central stem to the secondary stems, with the aim of increasing the number of main colas.

However, instead of removing part of the central stem, the technique involves pinching the stem between the fingertips and bending until the inner part of the stem breaks—but if performed correctly, the outer stem and “bark” remains intact. The stem will then be unable to support itself and will flop loosely downwards.

A cannabis plant growing with supercropping technique

While this still subjects the plant to considerable stress, it is not as severe as that caused by topping or FIM. Plants should recover quickly, and there is no loss of stem tissue and potential flower sites—but the plant is still “tricked” into thinking it has lost its main stem (as the nutrient transport tissues have been damaged), so it will pour its energy and growth hormones into maximizing lower branch growth.

As well as this, the main stem itself will recover and even grow stronger, as the site of the original break will form a swollen section around the damaged tissue in order to protect and repair the main stem. Ultimately, this collar of extra tissue will allow nutrients to be transported at a faster rate.

Typically, this section will never regain its fully vertical position, but will remain horizontal. This will expose the length of the stem to the light, and encourage any small secondary branches between the break and the tip to grow vigorously upwards.

3. Low stress training (LST)

Low stress training (LST) are training techniques that are not invasive and do not lead to the stress levels seen with topping and supercropping. The main principle of low stress training is to maximize light exposure to as much of the plant as possible, and it is achieved by using wires, strings, yo-yos (in this case a kind of retractable elastic string on a roller), or some other device that will fix stems in position without causing them damage.

Low stress training of a cannabis plant

The LST technique typically involves forcing the main stem to grow in a horizontal direction rather than vertical. The main stem is pulled downwards and fixed into position, and trained to continue growing close to the ground. As a result, the lower branches are suddenly exposed to dramatically increased light, and they are encouraged to grow vigorously towards the light.

With time, there should be several strong stems growing up towards the light. The original main stem will also attempt to resume vertical growth; this can be prevented entirely, or it can be permitted once it is deemed that the lower branches have developed sufficiently.

Some growers use LST in combination with topping or FIM—at first the plant is topped to produce more “main” stems from the lower branches, and once this stage is complete the main branches are pulled outwards and downwards and fixed into position. This increases the “spread” of the plant considerably, but allows even more of the lower branches to access the light, and grow strong in response to the increase in light intensity.

4. Removing lower branches (and “lollipopping”)

While the above techniques are typically performed during the vegetative period, the final type of training that we will discuss in this article is often performed in the mid-to-late stages of the flowering period.

The technique involves removing the majority of the leaves and stems from the bottom 1/3 of the plant—as the distance from the light source increases, the light intensity available decreases proportionally. Thus, below a certain point the plant is putting energy into growing flowers and leaves that will remain negligible in size due to the lack of light intensity.

Removing the lower branches and leaves at a point approximately mid-way through the flowering period will encourage the plant to channel its energy into the upper flower sites, thereby increasing their size and weight.

If the lower branches are removed too early, the plant may just put out more stems and leaves; if they are removed too late, more energy will be wasted on negligible flower sites, and when this energy is finally diverted to the upper buds there will be insufficient time for it to noticeably affect yield.

This technique can be taken to extremes and used to produce plants with just one central cola and no lateral branching at all—some growers find this desirable at it leads to the formation of huge, chunky central colas. This extreme form of the technique is known as “lollipopping”, and it is usually performed at just two weeks into flower—so a little earlier than the standard technique for lower branch removal.

However, most growers will use a variety of other training techniques before removing the lower branches. If performed correctly, this will produce an even canopy of multiple tops which will produce plenty of evenly-sized buds, and a lower third devoid of small, useless branches and leaves.

5. Sea of Green (SOG)

Sea of Green is a technique that decreases the amount of time a cannabis plant spends vegetating and flowering. This leads to faster yields, although Sea of Green also encourages bigger yields, too. Sea of Green can therefore help to maximize the yield on a small amount of growing space.

A greenhouse with cannabis plants grown using SOG technique

To start with, plants are forced into flowering earlier than they generally would be. This creates shorter plants that have more access to the light source. What results is something like a canopy of buds, where the canopy is entirely exposed to the light source.

Increased light on the surface area of buds encourages bigger buds to grow. And of course, because the vegetation time is decreased dramatically, a grower can harvest much sooner than usual with Sea of Green.

6. Screen of Green (SCROG)

Screen of Green uses the same principle as the SOG method, only with the addition of some kind of netted screen. The netted screen can be made of chicken wire, rope or simply some nylon netting. The netting helps to keep the height of the cannabis plants contained and allows the grower to increase the number of buds that are produced.

Cannabis plants grown under lights using SCOG technique

Screen of Green is almost like a combination of SOG and the LST, where the screen can be used to manipulate certain branches and expose other branches to light. The main objective is to have as many main colas as possible, thereby increasing yield.

After putting the screen on, branches can be tied to the screen. This creates the opportunity for more budding sites, especially since they have increased exposure to light. As the plants grow, the branches will spread out, causing more colas to appear and finally, huge buds for you to harvest.

Learning how to train your plants is as important as learning to train a new puppy. At the end of the day, an indoor grow setting is one in which you have the ultimate control as a grower. To take advantage of this control, applying a training technique is an advisable choice. Using one of these training techniques, you can optimise growing space, maximise yield and harvest faster.

  • Disclaimer:
    Laws and regulations regarding cannabis cultivation differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.


7 thoughts on “Top 6 Cannabis Plant Training Techniques”

  1. I am a notice, grew 4 plants my first time and used topping. Following good advice from this and other blogs….got pretty good crop…….6 mason jars. Learning more this time, 5 babies this time. Will try other tec-nis. Love the article!

    1. Mark - Sensi Seeds

      Good afternoon Lala,

      Thanks for your comment, of course these techniques can be useful for outdoor plants 🙂
      You might also enjoy our new Jamaican Pearl Grow Report!

      Thanks again, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog,


  2. Grate teqniqs!! I have been using. Master cropping for 40 years now. It also works grate. With the 4inc rule in the root. System. … big stuff. And grate ” size” lots of ZZZ…

    1. Paul Wallace

      What is master cropping? I’m new to this. Just grew my first 5 plants. Very small yields but a successful bud production. Still learning.

  3. Another point is you can re grow your plants instead of killing them after Harvest
    in the sense that you leave some flower base points which become re growth new tops
    some times you can get 10 tops coming out of where one flower was i pulled 26 oz off a cali orange plant like that Which is Called a Kings Bread Plant !

    Thanks and Great Posts

    1. does this actually work? if so please explain it more. since weed is legal in many places. But a person can only grow a few plants. If the yield is good, you can grow over a years supply and heck grow 2 or 3 varieties.

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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