Over the years insightful growers and hobbyists have created methods that increase yield size to get the most out of their plants. This includes things such as low-stress training (LST) and topping.
Growers then figured out how to cultivate cannabis that doesn’t require different photoperiods, these are called autoflowers. They have a shorter growth cycle and produce delicious buds in a fraction of the time it takes normal cannabis strains.
But can you top an autoflower cannabis plant? With such a short growing cycle every moment counts to get the most out of your plant.
While yes, you can top an autoflower plant. There is a huge “maybe” that is also involved. This is a decision to be made by the grower because it takes time to recover from topping and it’s not always worth it.
Let’s look at what topping is and what it does for your cannabis plants’ yields.
Topping And How It Affects Your Cannabis Plant
Cannabis plants like to grow with a large main cola that has smaller ones around it. Some growers call this a Christmas tree effect. For those who want larger yields, this could pose a potential problem as the main cola will be receiving all of the light while the smaller branches suffer without.
Topping your cannabis plant requires that you snip off that main cola at the fifth or sixth node during vegetation phase. That will encourage those side branches to grow up further towards the light. This technique has proven fruitful over the years.
You can use this technique in conjunction with other LST methods to optimize your cannabis plant’s growth. Since this can be an invasive blow to your plant, they do need time to recover afterward. This is why growers do it early enough in the growing cycle so that your plant can reach its full potential still.
This is where the problem with topping autoflowers comes into play. Autoflower cannabis has a shorter grow cycle than regular cannabis strains. They are also not triggered into the flowering stage by a photoperiod. This allows them to flower within 5 weeks of the growth cycle. This makes topping a tricky subject as your plant will need to recover afterward.
In a perfect environment, it could take up to a week for your cannabis plant to bounce back from a topping, which is a precious time in an autoflowers lifetime.
If your grow room isn’t dialed in then you have to account for any other issues that may arise. All of these aspects could hinder the final yield of your autoflower cannabis plant. The grower must be able to make this decision while maintaining the health of the plant for a successful topping.
How To Top Your Autoflower Cannabis Plant
Topping an autoflower isn’t a difficult process, but you don’t want to get carried away. Instead of one cola, you want to try and get two going. Since autoflowers don’t grow as massive as their photoperiod counterparts you don’t want to top it like it is one.
When the third or fourth node (intersection where branches come out) appears you can top the main cola. It’s important to make a single clean-cut as you don’t want to damage the stem.
Damaging the stem will prolong the healing period and potentially decrease your final yield. Most growers use a really sharp pair of clippers or a medical scalpel that can cut cleanly.
When this is done your cannabis plant will have more access to the light that you’re giving it. You’ll see that in the later stages of the flower when growth has exploded on your colas.
Another technique that you can use which is similar to topping is called FIMming (stands for F*** I missed). It was discovered by a grower that accidentally cut the top leaf growth instead of the stem itself. Since you are only damaging the leaves, it is less stress for your autoflower plant.
Your cannabis plant will still divert energy to another cola and you’ll see some interesting results within a week. Don’t panic if it looks a bit weird (as in the leaves will grow all weird on the top), your plant will sort itself out.
You don’t want to top your autoflower cannabis more than once in a grow cycle because it might not recover properly. Sativa dominant autoflower plants don’t mind being topped as they generally grow taller than their indica counterparts.
Indicas like to stay short and bushy so you don’t want to top them more than once, specifically. A good test would be to top one of your plants and use the FIM technique on another and see what works best for your specific phenotype.
It’s All About What Your Plant Can Safely Handle
Topping an autoflower plant is a decision that should be plant-specific. If you have weaker genetics then topping might not be the best way to go. It is advised to only top healthy autoflower cannabis and if you aren’t confident in its ability, stick with one large cola as the plant wants to naturally grow that way.
A larger yield is not worth it if the quality of the plant suffers.
Cannabis is extremely resilient in that it can bounce back from almost anything you throw at it. You could even bend or break a stalk and as long as it can get water and nutrients up through it, it’ll heal stronger than ever.
The same goes for topping and while an experienced grower would benefit from this technique, even beginners can be successful at topping without much effort.