Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer to this issue, as we’ve seen it go both ways. Whether or not you should top your autoflowers comes down to the genetics of your plants and your experience as a grower.
Some growers say you should never top an auto-flowering plant, while others claim they can top their autos without a problem. How can there be such a big difference in results between different growers? Well, here’s the thing about topping autos….
Topping auto-flowering cannabis strains is often not recommended because they’re on a tight schedule and may not recover in time, but it can be done if your plant is growing fast enough during the first few weeks of growth. Auto-flowering marijuana strains have a short timeline, which is why it’s usually recommended not to top them.
Auto-flowering cannabis plants are on a tight schedule! Most auto-flowering strains start flowering at 3-4 weeks, and have pretty much stop growing vegetatively by the time they’re 6-7 weeks old. It’s difficult or impossible to change the strain’s individual time schedule. It still takes a few more weeks until buds are ready for harvest, but in that time an auto-flowering plant generally won’t be growing new leaves and stems.
So if you top your auto-flowering cannabis plant when it’s young and it gets shocked for 2 weeks, that means your plant only has 4 weeks in total to grow if you think about it. A small cannabis plant is going to yield a lot less, and a 4-week plant is a lot smaller than a 6-week plant. You want a big plant instead of a small plant if possible. You need long colas to get the best yields from cannabis plants.
For a first-time grower of autos, it can be easy to stress the plant and stunt its growth for all kinds of regular reasons. Topping just throws another factor into the equation!
A stunted autoflower won’t produce much bud because it never gets big! If an auto-flowering cannabis plant grows slowly when they’re young, they stay tiny their whole life. And on top of all that, you don’t need to top your plants to get multiple tops. Topping isn’t necessary to get multiple colas with autos!
All that being said, sometimes topping an auto does go well. If you have a really healthy, fast-growing plant, topping it may not stunt it at all. In some situations, topping may produce a better structure and increase yields!
So it’s not a matter of whether you should or shouldn’t top autos, as much as a matter of evaluating your situation and deciding if the reward is worth the risk for you.
When it’s Not Recommended to Top Auto-Flowering Plants
If, for example, you’re growing indica-dominant autoflowering plants like some Kush varieties, you probably shouldn’t bother with topping. These plants tend to have only a few internodes and minimal side branching, allowing them to develop big, thick pineapple-like colas.
- it’s your first grow
- plant has deficiencies
- plant is drooping
- plant is growing slowly
- plant is more than 3-4 weeks old or has started flowering
- plant has not grown at least 4 nodes (sets of serrated leaves) by the end of week 2
When It’s Okay to Top Auto-Flowering Plants
Some sativa varieties on the other hand, like an autoflowering Amnesia Haze, might respond really well to topping. These plants can easily reach over 150cm and usually respond well to topping, especially during the early stages of vigorous vegetation, allowing for multiple colas and even light dispersion across the top of the plant.
- plant is green and healthy
- plant is growing quickly (you’re seeing brand new leaves every single day)
- plant has grown at least 4-5 nodes (pairs of “real” leaves) by the end of week 2 – this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it just sort of demonstrates that your plant is
- growing fast enough to handle being topped without stunting.
- to actually top the auto, I pinch off the 4th or 5th node (though honestly any node will do if you’re following the above principles) – it’s important to remove as little plant as possible so as not to stunt its growth!
- Only cut off the tip when topping an auto!
There are times when topping an auto-flowering marijuana plant makes sense, and times when it doesn’t. For a lot of growers, topping their auto may reduce their yields by stunting their plant overall. But for more experienced or successful growers, topping is a suitable training tactic!
Use the guidelines in this article to decide what’s right for you, and when in doubt use LST/bending instead because it can accomplish nearly the same thing without as much a chance of stunting your plant!
I hope this information helps guide you to make the right decision for your own auto-flowering marijuana garden!