Topped Plant vs. Non-topped

Welcome to the intricate world of cannabis cultivation, where decisions shape the destiny of your garden. Let’s explore the art of topping and the nuances of cultivating both topped vs non-topped cannabis.

What is Topping?

Topping is a strategic pruning technique where the upper portion of the main stem is removed, encouraging lateral growth.

This process redirects the plant’s energy, promoting bushier growth and enhancing overall yield. Topping is a common practice among cultivators seeking to maximize their cannabis harvests.

Marijuana Bonsai tree

Pros and Cons of Topping Plants

Let’s uncover the benefits and drawbacks of this cultivation technique, shaping your approach to cannabis growth.

Pros of Topped Cannabis Plants

  • Increased Bud Sites: Topping stimulates the development of multiple bud sites, leading to a more abundant harvest.
  • Improved Light Distribution: Topped plants achieve better light penetration, ensuring that lower branches receive adequate light for optimal growth.
  • Enhanced Canopy Control: Topping allows cultivators to manage the height and shape of the plant, creating a more uniform and manageable canopy.
  • Better Air Circulation: Pruning the main stem fosters improved air circulation, reducing the risk of mold and mildew.
  • Increased Cola Size: Topped plants often produce more significant colas, elevating the quality of the harvest.

Cons of Topped Cannabis Plants

  • Extended Vegetative Phase: Topping extends the vegetative phase, delaying the flowering process and increasing the overall cultivation time.
  • Skill-Dependent Technique: Topping requires precision and expertise; incorrect execution may harm the plant and reduce yields.
  • Stress Response: Some plants may experience stress after topping, affecting overall health and growth.
  • Resource Redistribution: While topping redirects energy for lateral growth, it may reduce the plant’s ability to invest in vertical development.
  • Potentially Lower THC Concentration: Topped plants might have a slightly lower THC concentration per bud than untopped ones.

What are Non-Topped Plants?

Non-topped plants, or untopped or natural growth plants, undergo minimal or no pruning to the main stem. This approach allows the plant to grow naturally without interference in its apical dominance, maintaining a single main cola.

Pros of Non-Topped Plants

  • Faster Flowering: Non-topped plants typically transition to the flowering phase more quickly, reducing the overall cultivation time.
  • Simplicity: Non-topped cultivation is less complex and requires fewer interventions, making it suitable for beginners.
  • Natural Apical Dominance: The plant maintains its natural apical dominance without topping, potentially resulting in a robust main cola.
  • Reduced Stress: Non-topped plants may experience less stress than their topped counterparts.
  • Minimal Skill Requirement: Cultivating non-topped plants is more forgiving for novice growers, requiring less expertise in pruning techniques.

Cons of Non-Topped Plants

  • Limited Bud Sites: Non-topped plants may produce fewer bud sites, potentially yielding less.
  • Uneven Canopy: Without topping, the plant may develop an uneven canopy, with some branches overshadowing others.
  • Light Penetration Challenges: Lower branches may receive less light, affecting their growth and bud development.
  • Potential for Tall Plants: Non-topped plants can grow tall, posing space and light distribution challenges.
  • Risk of Inadequate Air Circulation: The natural growth pattern may lead to denser foliage, increasing the risk of poor air circulation and potential issues like mold.

Indica vs Sativa image

Differences Between Topped and Non-Topped Cannabis Plants

Let’s explore the contrasts between topped and non-topped plants, revealing diverse approaches and considerations for an enriched cultivation journey.

Structural Variances

Topped cannabis plants exhibit a bushier and more compact structure due to the increased development of lateral branches.

Canopy Management

One notable difference lies in canopy management. Topped plants offer a more even canopy, promoting uniform light distribution.

Yield Disparities

The most significant contrast lies in the potential yield. Topping encourages the growth of multiple colas, increasing the overall yield of the plant.

Resource Allocation

Topped plants redistribute energy and nutrients to lateral branches, fostering their development. Non-topped plants allocate more resources to the main cola and vertical growth, concentrating energy in a singular direction.

Does Topping Improve Yields?

The million-dollar question in cannabis cultivation: Does topping truly bring about cannabis yield improvement? The answer lies in the nuanced dynamics between plant physiology and grower expertise.

8 Tools Needed for Topping Cannabis

These instruments make the process more seamless and ensure precision in execution. Let’s delve into the must-have tools for successful cannabis topping.

  1. Sharp Pruning Shears: Precision is critical when topping cannabis. Invest in high-quality pruning shears with a sharp blade to make clean cuts.
  2. Sterilizing Solution: Maintain a sterile environment to prevent infections. A sterilizing solution or rubbing alcohol can disinfect your pruning tools.
  3. Gloves: Protect your hands from potential irritants and contaminants. Opt for durable yet flexible gloves, allowing for comfortable maneuvering during the topping process.
  4. Magnifying Glass or Loupe: A magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe is invaluable for growers aiming for precision. This tool helps in closely inspecting the plant’s growth.
  5. Tape or Plant Clips: Supporting the developing branches is essential after topping. Use gentle tape or plant clips to secure the branches.
  6. Pruning Tray or Tarp: Keep your workspace tidy by using a pruning tray or tarp to catch trimmings and avoid creating a mess.
  7. Marker or Pen: Before starting the topping process, mark the specific nodes or growth points you intend to cut.
  8. Disinfectant Wipes: Maintain cleanliness throughout the process by having disinfectant wipes on hand.

Plant Topping Techniques: Step-by-Step Guide on How to Top Cannabis

Dive into the art of cannabis cultivation with these steps on how to top cannabis.

Step 1: Assess Plant Health

Before topping, ensure the plant is healthy and robust. Avoid topping sick or stressed plants, as this may exacerbate their condition.

Step 2: Identify Nodes for Topping

Examine the plant for the desired nodes where topping will occur. These nodes will give rise to lateral branches after removing the apical bud.

Step 3: Sterilize Pruning Shears

Before making any cuts, sterilize your pruning shears using a disinfectant or rubbing alcohol. This minimizes the risk of introducing infections to the plant.

Step 4: Pre-Mark Nodes

Using a marker or pen, pre-mark the selected nodes to avoid confusion during cutting. This step ensures precision and accuracy.

Step 5: Make the Clean Cut

With sharp pruning shears, make a clean and swift cut just above the selected node. Aim for an angle to facilitate water runoff and prevent standing moisture.

Step 6: Remove Excess Growth

Trim any excess growth below the cut to redirect the plant’s energy to the lateral branches. Maintain a tidy appearance and promote overall plant health.

Step 7: Support Developing Branches

Use gentle tape or plant clips to support the developing lateral branches. This helps prevent stress on the plant and ensures proper growth.

Step 8: Monitor Plant Recovery

Keep a close eye on the plant’s recovery. Adequate care and attention during the post-topping phase are essential for a successful outcome.

Step 9: Adjust Lighting and Nutrients

Adapt your cultivation environment to support the newly topped plant. Adjust lighting and nutrient levels to accommodate the changes in growth patterns.

Step 10: Repeat as Necessary

Depending on your cultivation goals, repeat the topping process as needed. Some growers opt for multiple toppings to achieve specific plant shapes or maximize yield.

nutrient burn picture

Increasing Yield in Plants: Holistic Approaches to Boosting Yield

Cultivators are continually exploring holistic approaches to optimize their harvests. Let’s delve into some practical strategies that go beyond mere topping techniques.

Nutrient Management

One of the critical elements in achieving a bountiful cannabis harvest is ensuring proper nutrient management. A well-balanced mix of essential nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, promotes healthy plant growth.

Lighting Optimization

Lighting is a cornerstone in the life of a cannabis plant. Optimizing lighting conditions can significantly impact yield beyond the essential light requirement for photosynthesis.

Environmental Control

Creating an optimal environment for cannabis growth is an art in itself. From controlling temperature and humidity to managing airflow and ventilation, cultivators meticulously curate the perfect conditions for their plants.

Training Techniques

While topping is a form of training, other techniques like LST (Low-Stress Training) and ScrOG (Screen of Green) have gained popularity among cultivators seeking increased yield.

Success Stories: Tales of Increased Yield and Bountiful Harvests

Nothing inspires a cannabis cultivator more than hearing success stories from fellow growers who have mastered the art of maximizing yield.

These tales of triumph often involve innovative techniques, dedication, and a deep understanding of the plant’s needs.

Mastering the Craft: A Grower’s Journey to Record Yields

Meet John, a seasoned cannabis cultivator who achieved record yields in his indoor garden through meticulous nutrient management and innovative training techniques.

John’s success lies in topping his plants and understanding the synergy of environmental factors, lighting, and nutrient balance.

From Challenges to Triumph: A Non-Topped Cannabis Saga

In contrast, Sarah, an outdoor cultivator, faced challenges maintaining a consistent topping routine due to unpredictable weather conditions.

However, she discovered that she could still achieve impressive yields without relying solely on topping by focusing on other aspects like soil health and natural pest control.

Challenges Faced: Lessons from Non-Topped Cannabis Cultivators

While success stories abound, it’s essential to acknowledge the challenges that cultivators who opt for non-topped plants face.

Height Management

Non-topped cannabis plants tend to exhibit vertical growth, posing challenges in height management, especially in indoor setups with limited vertical space.

Cultivators have had to develop creative solutions, such as strategic pruning and canopy management, to control the height without topping.

Resource Allocation

Non-topped plants may allocate more energy to vertical growth rather than lateral branching.

Cultivators face the task of finding the right balance in resource allocation to ensure that the plant channels sufficient energy into bud development.


While topping offers controlled growth and increased bud production, non-topped plants showcase resilience and unique challenges.

As cultivators navigate this ever-evolving terrain, the choice between topped and non-topped plants becomes a personalized decision, with each path leading to a unique and rewarding cannabis cultivation experience.


Can non-topped plants achieve high yields indoors?

With strategic height management and resource allocation, non-topped plants can thrive indoors, showcasing resilience and unique advantages.

How does lighting optimization impact cannabis yield?

Lighting is crucial. Advanced systems like full-spectrum LEDs provide ideal spectrums, stimulating growth and enhancing bud production for increased yield.

Can success stories guide cultivators in maximizing yield?

Success stories, like John’s record yields through innovative techniques, offer valuable insights into achieving optimal cannabis harvests.

Do non-topped plants allocate energy differently than topped ones?

Non-topped plants may direct more energy to vertical growth. Cultivators find balance by fine-tuning nutrient schedules for optimal resource allocation.

Is there a one-size-fits-all approach, or should cannabis cultivation be personalized?

Cannabis cultivation is a personalized journey. While topping and holistic approaches are beneficial, the choice depends on growth space, strain, and individual preferences.

Alex Ramsey

Alex Ramsey

Cannabis Industry Copywriting Specialist

He combines a deep understanding of cannabis with a passion for crafting engaging content. With a focus on demystifying cannabis through education, Alex contributes to the industry’s growth with content that sells, educates, and engages the community.

Learn more about 420 Ergonomics, our team.

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