What Is Plant Training?
“Plant training” means physically manipulating the plant so it grows more bud sites, resulting in increased yields indoors.
Why not let plants grow naturally? Cannabis naturally grows in a “Christmas Tree” shape that is optimized for sunlight, not grow lights. Unlike the sun, cannabis grow lights do not rise and set every day, providing light from the sides. Furthermore, indoor grow lights have almost no penetration when compared against the sun; the light from a 600W LED Grow Light is usable for a few feet while light from the sun is usable to plants after traveling 93 million miles!
Even outdoors, lower buds tend to grow smaller than the top ones (cannabis is a wind-pollinated plant and favors buds that are higher up). But the lack of growth in lower buds becomes more pronounced indoors. With grow lights, the vast majority of the light produced is aimed straight down over the top of the plant, and in most setups the sides don’t get much light at all. Because of these reasons, the Christmas Tree shape can be really inefficient indoors, causing your plant to have just one big, top bud and many smaller ones that don’t weigh nearly as much.
The main idea of plant training is to create several top colas to take the best advantage of indoor grow lights so less light is lost and yields are higher overall.
Three Main Types Of Marijuana Plant Training
Bending and securing parts of the plant while causing little-to-no physical damage to the plant
Damaging or removing parts of the plant in a strategic way to get it to grow in a more desirable shape
Manipulating timelines to get faster or bigger yields
Usually, growers will use more than one of these types of training because they can complement each other, but it’s also possible to use just one and not any others. For example, when growing auto-flowering strains you can’t manipulate timelines and it’s generally advised not to damage the plant since they have such a short life and that could result in stunting. So for auto-flowering plants, the main option is just bending and securing.
Bending & Securing Parts of the Plant
Bending and securing parts of your plant is usually referred to as “Low Stress Training” (LST).
General Low Stress Training (LST) – LST is the process of bending stems and securing them in place. The general idea is to bend tall stems down and away from the middle of the plant as it grows so the plant takes on a more flat and wide shape. This should be started when the plant is still a seedling since its young stems will be flexible, while the stems of older plants become rigid and woody. Some growers use the term “LST” as an umbrella term to cover all types of plant training, while others use it to refer only to bending.
Damaging or Removing Parts of the Plant
These training techniques all involve pruning the plant in some way to improve growth and increase yields indoors.
Topping & FIMing are ways of damaging the plant at a very young age to lead to plants growing more bud sites.
In this next picture, notice how the plant sort of “splits” at one point near the base of the plant. That split is where the plant was topped or FIMed and the apical dominance was broken. As a result, the plant turned many stems into main colas instead of only growing big buds on one main stem.
These aren’t necessarily “training” techniques per se, but they are techniques that growers use to increase yields for free, and the main principle is the same – more buds directly under the grow light!
12-12 From Seed is the technique of trying to make seedlings start flowering (making buds) as soon as possible by giving them a “12-12” light schedule from seed. The idea is to get a harvest as quick as possible.
Sea of Green is a related technique to 12-12 From Seed. The idea with Sea of Green is to grow many small plants instead of a few big plants. This allows a grower to make a sea of buds without having to do any plant training and can result in big yields that take less time. The main idea is to let seedlings grow for only 4-5 weeks before immediately switching them to the flowering stage. Since each plant doesn’t have to get very big, the time needed before flowering is reduced by several weeks. Many growers will also “top” their seedlings by removing the tips of seedlings when they have about 4-6 pairs of leaves.
As a grower, you can control a lot of the final size and shape of your plant by using proper cannabis training and growing techniques while the plant is young, such as topping, FIMing, LST, main-lining, supercropping, defoliation, SoG, ScrOG and more, as described in this page. This page explains everything else you can do to get your cannabis to grow the way you want, whether it’s small or big, so you get the best yields possible.
However, no matter how well you train your plants during the vegetative stage, some growth patterns (and many of aspects of your buds like appearance, smell and potency) are going to be determined by your plant’s genes, especially in the flowering stage. If you don’t have access to cannabis seeds or clones where you live, you can control the genetics by growing a strain from a trustworthy breeder and ordering seeds online.