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What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “under the tier of your cannabis plants”? When I first heard it, I honestly wondered if people read to their plants before turning off the lights. Call me wild, but growers do crazy things to get maximum results. They play music to increase yield. They talk to their plants. Who says you can’t read your ladies a bedtime story? I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Also known as “lollipopping”, the term “understory” refers to the pruning of the lower stems of the cannabis plant. There is only so much energy in a plant during a growth cycle. It can only flower at a certain point, and then it is up to human intervention to increase the production of the cannabis plants. The main purpose of the understory is to improve yield where the light is strongest. It’s not necessary, but skipping this step will result in tiny popcorn buds at the base of the plant, which is a waste of energy. Let’s make sure we avoid that.
Keep reading to learn how to understory cannabis plants!
Understory or Lollipopping Cannabis
The term “lollipopping” probably gives the best visualization versus calling it understory or even pruning. Imagine a lollipop. The stick is very thin and then suddenly there is a huge portion of candy. This same type of look is the goal with the understory. The final look when cut should look like a lollipop. This gives your plants a much better chance of increasing yield and larger senior colas.
A grower will start at the bottom and begin removing any excess branches or plant growth that will not have a chance to mature as they are shaded by the top growth. The best measure of success is halfway. Although you only prune the bottom 1/3 of your plant, you can remove a stem that does not exceed 50% of the height of the plant upwards. It won’t get enough light and will end up producing popcorn chips.
Why Should I Understage My Cannabis?
When it comes to growing the best cannabis, or the best plants in general, there are only so many hours in the day. There are only so many hours of sunlight and a limited amount of food for a plant to turn into sticky flowers. So the question is, why wouldn’t you as a grower do everything possible to achieve the maximum yield a plant can produce?
Maximizing the end yield is the main reason to understory your cannabis. This method can increase your yield by 20-30% or more in some cases. The other reason is to prevent mold and Bugs downstairs. A thick canopy on the bottom side is a wonderful place to start trouble.
When Should I Understand My Cannabis?
The best time to make lollipop or understory cannabis is a few days before moving into flowering while they are in the veg stage. This would be equivalent to going from 18 hours of light to 6 hours of darkness in the vegetation cycle to the 12-12 cycle with equal hours of light and darkness.
Plants will go into shock when pruned, especially if over-pruned. Give them about 3 days to recover, then you can safely switch your lights to flower mode.
How to Understory a Cannabis Plant
Before explaining this simple process, you will need a few things:
- Rubber gloves, preferably latex
- A pair of sanitized cannabis shears
- A small bath of isopropyl alcohol if you are pruning several plants
Steps to understory or suck a cannabis plant:
Step 1 – Examine the bottom of the plant. Determine which stems would be the best place to start pruning.
2nd step – Carefully, taking your time, start cutting off the excess tiny branches. The little ones will be the easiest to start with. They come from the main stem all the way down.
Step 3 – Remove any popcorn buds or anything that looks underdeveloped, sits near the bottom and doesn’t stand a chance. Why let these little buds grow when that same energy could be focused upwards? The goal is to create the biggest buds at the top of the canopy. Removing the excess on the underside of the plant will help focus nutrients and growth where they need to be.
Step 4 – Slowly run your fingers over each rod. Find the next small branch that looks skinny. Prune it just at the base of the plant without leaving any node. Repeat this step for each of the weak or thin stems extending from the base. There will be several more as you head towards the middle canopy
Step 5 – Be careful when you get to the middle of the canopy. This is when the producer needs to be discerning. Look at the rod itself. Does it cross the halfway mark on the sole? Does it grow in a THICK area of the upper canopy and is it neglected of the light it needs?
Each of these middle rods can be a tough decision, but always consider the upper part. All that energy will be saved for the best of the best. After removing the branches, carefully remove leaves and underdeveloped material from this area, including on the branches you have decided to keep. Remember to stay in the safe zone and only prune the bottom third of the plant.
Step 6 – Get rid of your green waste – the branches, leaves and popcorn buds. Tell your plants they’ve done a good job, then give them a few days off. Some growers are impatient at this stage and turn the veg lights back to the flowering stage. Please resist, this can cause a shock to your plants which can actually harm yield, which almost negates or lowers the pruning point in the first place.
How Much Should I Undergrow My Cannabis?
The best recommendation is to prune about 1/3 of the plant from the bottom. Stems, especially thin ones, that don’t exceed 50% of plant height per flower won’t do much. Those lower stems will lead to popcorn when you might be pushing for massive highs. If you climb too high when making a lollipop, it could shock the plant too much and hurt the yield.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Lollipopping Increase Yield?
Yes, if done correctly. Do not prune higher than 1/3 of the height.
How do you grow Understory autoflowers?
The process is the same as for a feminized cannabis plant. Autoflowers have a mind of their own, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be trained.
Should You Understory Outdoor Plants?
Yes you can but it is not necessary. Sunlight will grow a plant much taller than anything your LED can provide. Lollipopping cannabis plants outdoors is doable, but it’s a ton of extra height.