Trichomes are what make buds potent, so most growers are interested in making sure their cannabis plants produce as many trichomes as possible.
Here are the main strategies growers use to increase the number of trichomes so buds look like they’re covered in “glitter.”
The Right Kind of Light
Light needs to be very bright in the flowering stage. Cannabis plants grown under weak light tend to grow fewer trichomes and produce far less bud. The most trichome-encrusted bud is usually produced under very strong and bright grow lights like HPS grow lights. Very strong grow lights like HPS bulbs make cannabis produce more trichomes than if the buds were under weaker lights in the flowering stage
- UV-B/Sun/Metal Halide exposure
Some growers (including some famous ones like Ed Rosenthal) believe that exposing cannabis buds to UV-B light for the last 2-3 weeks before harvest can increase trichome production and overall potency. Although not yet proven, this may be partly because trichomes are theorized to help protect the plant from UV-B rays.
UV-B is the name for a “color” of light in the lower blue/violet spectrum that humans can’t see. It is produced by the sun and causes damage to plants and humans.
In fact, nearly all organisms on earth have defenses to protect themselves from UV-B rays. Humans get sun-burned if exposed to too much UV-B and can even get cancer in extreme cases, so our skin protects us by becoming darker in response to sunlight. Instead of a tan, plants produce trichomes which can help protect against UV-B rays (though trichomes also have many other uses such as producing cannabinoids and terpenes/essential oils/smells).
Metal halide grow lights produce UV-B light just like the sun! Although MH lights are generally only used in the vegetative stage like for these plants below, it may be helpful to expose buds to UV-B light for the last 2 weeks before harvest to increase trichome production.
The most common source of UV-B light for growers (besides the sun of course) are Metal Halide grow lights. UVB light is also produced by incandescent bulbs but they aren’t really bright enough to be used for this purpose.
Just remember that glass blocks UV-B rays, so if you’re using a metal halide bulb in an enclosed hood, it’s important to remove the glass (and find another way to cool the light) so UV-B rays actually reach your plant’s buds. Another option for UV-B light is reptile lamps, though not a lot of growers have those hanging around the house, and they’re not as powerful as a Metal Halide lamp
- Possibly LED grow lights
Although most LED grow lights don’t produce any UV-B light, some growers believe the unique light spectrum of many LEDs actually stress plants in a way that causes it to produce more trichomes as a defense response. In the wild, trichomes can protect the buds from many dangers, including bugs. That may be why the plant produces more trichomes in response to certain types of stress.
Environment: Alter Temperature & Humidity Near Harvest (Advanced)
The main thing to remember when it comes to altering your grow environment for the last 2-3 weeks before harvest is this:
- Humidity below 30% – Drop the humidity of the grow space below 30% RH for last 2-3 weeks before harvest to increase trichome productionTemperature between 70-80°F – Make sure your temperature stays under 80°F (26°C) to ensure potency is not being baked right off your buds.
There are a couple of ways to lower the humidity while maintaining the right temperature:
- Dehumidifier – brings humidity down while giving off heat and increasing temperature; the more powerful the betterAir Conditioner – brings humidity down while cooling the air
In extreme cases I’ve heard of growers using both an AC and a dehumidifier at the same time to maintain that perfect temperature while dropping the humidity very low.
Stress Plants in a “Good” Way
Since cannabis plants can produce trichomes as a response to certain types of stress, some growers try to stress cannabis in a “good” way to trigger that natural reaction.
The only proven way to stress plants in a good way is to lower the humidity and control the environment/lighting as stated above, but there are other unproven techniques that may or may not work. Since they are so popular, I think it’s important to mention them at least.
Some techniques like supercropping (bending stems without breaking the skin) may increase trichome production when done correctly
Stressing your plants can have negative consequences, like bud discoloration, re-vegging or hermies so it’s important to watch your plants closely. However, it’s usually safe as long as you save any major stress for the last week or two before harvest (so you’re not accidentally damaging your plant when it still has a long time to go). It’s also a good idea to ever avoid stressing plants that are already unhealthy or damaged.
Some strategies to stress plants to increase trichome production:
- Supercropping – Bending/snapping plants in a way that stresses them without “breaking the skin” (if done right this can increase yields, too)
- Other Physical Stress – some growers are cutting leaves and putting nails though stems the last day or two before harvest. Be careful because if you don’t have a lot of green healthy leaves, this may discolor your buds.
- Water plants with ice water just before harvest – some growers are giving plants icy water just before harvest to try to shock their roots.
It’s not proven that these methods increase trichome production (though supercropping can certainly increase yields) but they are common strategies without much downside if they don’t work. If anyone has done a side-by-side comparison for any of these techniques,let us know!
Some supplements claim to actually increase either the number of trichomes on your buds, or the potency of your buds. Although there are lots of “snake oil” products out there in the supplement world, some supplements have proven themselves time and again.
Rhizoflora Terpinator is one of the most popular supplements to help increase trichome production and is used by both hobbyist and commercial growers to increase both the number of trichomes and terpene (smell) production. There are probably other great supplements that do this, too, but this particular one has been tried and tested by many real cannabis growers.
Choose a Strain That Naturally Grows Lots of Trichomes
If your strain doesn’t have the genetics to produce a lot of trichomes, there’s not a whole lot you can do to change that. Although the tips in this article will help you maximize the genes your plant already has, it can’t make up for mediocre/poor genetics.
- With that being said, there are some strains that don’t show much glitter even though they are very potent (for example some Sativas and Hazes, Sour Diesel) so if you think glitter is important you have to pick the right strain.
At this point you’ve been armed with all the information you need to grow your own encrusted, trichome covered buds.