In nature, plants tend to stretch in order to outgrow other plants and get more light to survive but indoors especially growing autoflowering plants stretching can be a bad thing. Most growers that are using day-neutral cannabis tend to have some kind of limitations like grow space or not enough light as well as ventilation. And if a plant stretches too much then these limitations become very obvious and you won’t be able to get as much dope as you expected.
What is stretching?
Cannabis stretching basically is the vertical growth of the plant and if it gets out of control the plant can stretch so much that it won’t be able to hold itself and will fall to the ground from its own weight.
Some growers think that all stretching is bad for their autoflower plants but it is not entirely true. Any weed plant needs a bit of stretching in order to get more internodal distance in which to grow those dense buds and get them closer to the light in order to fully mature. Stretching also helps to control mold in the buds. Bud-sides are farther apart and the flowers are not so massive and dense which are the perfect conditions for mold and bud rot to occur. If autoflower plants wouldn’t stretch at all then it would become a dwarf plant and be one joint only plant that no grower wants, so a little stretching is a good thing.
Negative aspects of stretching
Although a little stretch will be good for your cannabis plant, too much stretch will cause more harm than good. Autoflower cannabis growers usually grow in small places and stretched plants can get too tall and become a big problem so you always need to control how tall the plants get and not let them stretch too far and get burned by the heat of the lamp. Too stretched plants are also very weak because the stems of these stretched plants are very weak and can bend easily and even snap in two. Stretching will also lower your overall yield by 30% to 50% and the stretched buds won’t be so dense and mature.
How to avoid stretching?
Stretching in cannabis plants usually is a sign of too little light because the plants is stretching closer to the light source to get more lumens and be able to perform photosynthesis and grow.
The first step to avoiding stretching is to buy a strain that is compact and will grow dense buds and won’t stretch. These strains usually are some Ruderalis x Indica crosses and if you want your plants to stay small you should avoid Sativa crosses and unstable strains that can show their regular parent traits and not the necessary ruderalis short size traits. Some good choices like all the “Short Stuff” Strains, Fast bud #2, and other amazing autoflower strains you can find at our autoflower seed reviews category!
Second and the most important step to avoid stretching is to get proper light and get the plant close to the light so that it gets all the necessary amount and spectrum to grow to its full potential. Usually, growers use Metal Halide(MH) bulbs for the first part of the plants life and when the plants start showing sex then they switch to the High-Pressure Sodium(HPS) bulbs. If you are using Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, T5 fluorescent tubes or Light-emitting diodes(LED) then you need to get them as close to the plant as possible to avoid plant stretching and provide your autoflowers with all the light they need.
Another way to avoid stretching is to crank up the fans. If your cannabis plants will get a good breeze it will need to toughen itself in order to stay alive and not to snap or bend. The extra strength these plants gain will be compensated from the stretching and your plant will not stretch so much staying more compact and dense.
Densely packed plants can also encourage them to stretch in order to get better light and outgrow other competitors, so you shouldn’t pack autoflower plants too tight and you should allow them to get as much light as you can provide.
Another cause of too much stretching in your plants can be the temperature difference between the night and daylight cycles. If you have 4 hours of dark period and it gets really cold at that time then you should probably get a heater or just leave the lights on 24/7 because temperature stress can be a big factor for cannabis plant stretching.
How to fix stretched plants?
If your plants have already stretched too much and you don’t know what to do then these tips will help you.
First of all, you need to check your light and probably put it closer to the plant or even change the bulb to a more powerful one as your current light may supply less light than your plants need.
The second thing you can do is crank up your fans and install an oscillating fan if you haven’t got one yet but you should be cautious and start slow, switching it on for a half-hour every other hour or something like that. If you introduce a big wind to stretched plant it can easily fall over and die, so be easy on them.
Another way you can fix stretched plants is to LST (Low-Stress Training) them and help their horizontal growth by just bending them and letting other branches to get more light.
The last thing you can do if the plant has stretched too much and starts bending over is installing some kind of a support system. The best way is to put a stick or something like that in the ground and use a brace or a simple hemp thread to tie the plant to this stick. If you tie your plant to a support stick then you have to be gentle and not tie it too tight because the plant’s stem will grow wider and the thread can damage it. Also, be careful when putting the stick in the ground as it can damage the roots so be careful and if possible get that stick as thin as possible.