Growing marijuana is a rewarding experience, we can all agree on that, but it does seem easier in theory than in practice. Along the way, you may discover that even though you thought you did everything right, in the end, your plants didn’t grow as big as they could (and the yield was not as successful as it could’ve been).
The most important thing for cannabis growers is to cultivate strong and healthy plants that grow big and give big yields. This is why a lot of experienced growers use certain methods to bring out the best of their plants’ genetic material, so a little tinkering can go a long way when done right. Besides getting some basic things right, like nutrients and lighting, there’s more you can do – which is what we cover in this article.
How to Get Bigger Cannabis Plants and Bigger Buds
The flowers on the female plants are the most prized fruits of your labor. Of course, in order to produce buds of high quality, your plants need to grow strong and thrive. Most growers aim towards maximizing the yields of their marijuana plants by using techniques that boost not only vegetative growth but also cannabinoid production.
The strain you’re growing also plays a big part in how big your plants grow and the buds they produce. Some strains naturally produce bigger yields than others, like it’s the case with some Indicas. Indicas are also naturally richer in trichomes. However, there are also plenty of Sativas and hybrids that are very fruitful on their own.
Whichever cannabis strain you choose to grow, you can maximize your plant’s growing and flowering potential by using a few techniques.
So, let’s see what you can do, starting with the basics.
Amp Up the Nutrients During Different Stages of the Plants’ Growth
Nutrients are, of course, essential to the plants’ growth, but the caveat here is that during different stages of growth the plants will need certain nutrients more than others.
There are macronutrients and micronutrients and all of them are important for healthy growth and big buds. The pH level is also important since it provides the correct acidity of the environment so that the plants’ roots can uptake the nutrient.
The most important thing about nutrients is to start small to avoid nutrient burn and shocking the plant. You can always add more nutrients if needed later on, so don’t overdo it in the beginning.
Macronutrients are the well-known NPK trio, short for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They are the most vital elements not just for marijuana, but all plants on earth. All basic fertilizers contain this trio albeit in varying concentrations.
Proper nourishment of the plants with NPK will provide you with excellent results because nitrogen helps with photosynthesis, phosphorus plays a role in germination and terpene development, and potassium helps with the formation of bud sites and clusters.
That being said, during the vegetative stage, cannabis needs an even ratio of all three, 20-20-20. The vegetative stage is when your plants grow strong and prepare for flowering, so they need all the nutrients they can get (and none of the NPK should fall short).
During the flowering stage, however, phosphorus and potassium become more important than nitrogen because they help with healthy bud development. Therefore, the NPK ratio would have to be 20-10-20.
The micronutrients also play an important role in proper plant growth and they help to maintain its vigor. They are also included in most basic fertilizers but in much smaller concentrations. They are calcium, magnesium, sulfur, manganese, boron, zinc, and copper, and all of them have specific roles in plant growth and bud development.
pH levels are more important than a lot of novice growers think as they inadvertently influence how the plants’ roots will uptake the nutrients. pH level imbalances can contribute to both nutrient burn and nutrient deficiency because the plant won’t be able to properly soak up the fertilizer, so you should try to keep these imbalances to a minimum.
That being said, the pH levels of soil and hydroponics are different. Soil should have a pH of about 6, but for hydro it should be at 5.5. Soil is more forgiving about the fluctuations in pH levels because it’s a self-sustaining growing medium, whereas hydro is a bit more restrictive.
Make Sure They Get Enough Light and Adjust the Grow Lights
Light is really one of the most basic elements for vegetative growth. It’s essential for photosynthesis which generates fuel for the plants’ growth.
Cannabis is a photoperiod plant which means its life cycles depend on the changes of light in the environment. One exception would be the auto-flowering varieties whose life cycles depend on age rather than the light cycles in nature.
During the vegetative stage, you will need to increase the amount of light your plants are getting on a daily basis. More light is always better, as long as you don’t put your grow lights too close to the plants. During the flowering stage, on the other hand, your plants will need less light, or in other words, they’ll need more hours of darkness than before.
When you grow outdoors, nature takes care of everything for you, you just need to find a good sunny spot so that the plants can soak up enough sun. Indoor growers, on the other hand, need to orchestrate the amount of light and the light intensity themselves.
There are many types of grow lights you can use for your grow room or in your high-quality grow tent – you can find our detailed guide on grow lights here. However, the most important thing to know about is the spectrum.
In nature, the sun emits different light wavelengths as the seasons change, triggering a change in the cannabis plant as well.
- The blue wavelength helps with water absorption and growth in the vegetative stage;
- The yellow wavelength boosts light absorption, stretching, and producing buds;
- The red wavelength indices the production of resin and bud development.
LED lights are the most universal setup because they emit a broad light spectrum. However, if you want to boost your plant, you can use other supplementary lights to aid the vegetative growth of bud development. For example, HPS lights emit the red wavelength which is why they’re used in the flowering stage.
Maintain the Right Temperature and Humidity Levels
Maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels is one of the essential elements of helping your plants thrive and grow big buds. For outside growers, this depends on nature, but for inside growers, it must be monitored and adjusted as necessary.
That means that the temperature in your grow room when your plants are still young should be between 68ºF and 77ºF when the grow lights are turned on. As they grow and mature, they lose more moisture so you can increase the temperature up to no more than 82ºF. On the other hand, when the grow lights are off, 59ºF to 72ºF is the best temperature.
The humidity levels should be higher during the vegetative stage (about 70%) and lower during the flowering phase. You should start with 65% relative humidity during flowering and gradually lower it by 5% as the weeks go on. In the final couple of weeks before harvest time, the humidity should be at 40%.
Prune the Plants for Big Buds
Pruning is a very successful and commonly used technique for getting big and potent buds. Basically, pruning means removing dead leaves and branches, and underdeveloped plant shoots so that the plant can focus all its energy on producing more buds on other sites. The goal is to encourage healthy growth by removing all of the parts that are unproductive, blocking light, or damaged.
This usually includes yellow leaves found on the lower branches or bud sites that don’t get much light anyway and will only produce popcorn buds. The bigger and/or bushier the plant is, the more important it is to snip away any unnecessary plant material.
Make sure to only prune during the vegetative stage and water and feed the plants afterward, and give them at least 3 days to recover before you induce the flowering stage.
Try Topping the Plants to Encourage Healthy Growth
Topping is similar to pruning and can be just as effective. In short, when you grow marijuana and let it develop naturally, it grows one large cola at the top and smaller colas to the sides of the main stem. This way, only the main cola will be big and potent, while the others will be of poorer quality in comparison (and your yield will be unsatisfying).
The goal of topping is to force the plant to redirect its energy towards all of its parts instead of just the top. Therefore, the main stem is cut off at the top during the vegetative stage forcing the sides to grow and stretch out. This makes the plant bushier which allows it to receive more light, and therefore grow and thrive.
The best time to top the plant is during the vegetative state when it has grown 6 or 7 nodes. Don’t do it any sooner because it will be too much of a shock to the plant. It needs to be strong enough so it can withstand the cropping.
Try the SCROG Method for Bigger Yields
The SCROG (Screen of Green) method is a low-stress training (LST) method for better growth and better buds. The goal is to train the plants to grow more horizontally so that light and airflow can be evenly distributed on all parts of the plant. It also prevents the buds from weighing down on the branches.
It involves placing a screen about 20 inches above your plants and cropping the top off of each plant when it’s about 4 inches from the screen. Then you wait until the plants grow back 4 inches through the screen and gently bend them and tie them to the screen.
When the first few plant shoots have grown through the screen, prune them, especially the lower branches and leaves that haven’t received enough light. Then, give them a few days to rest and induce them into the flowering phase. During the first couple of weeks of flowering, they will continue to grow.
Try Supercropping for Growth
Unlike SCROG, supercropping is a form of high-stress training (HST). It involves strategically damaging the branches so that when they recover they’re sturdier and stronger. It encourages better growth as well as better cannabinoid production.
Supercropping is done by squeezing, bending, and folding the branches to soften the inner tissue of the plant while leaving the outside layer undamaged. The trick is to do it slowly and gently until the branch feels soft between your fingers. If you’re impatient and snap it quickly, you’ll damage the plant and will need to tape it or simply throw away the damaged branch.
After you bend the branches, you can then reposition them. The branches will need support after the supercropping, but will recover in time and become stronger.
Split the Main Stem
Splitting the main stem is an unorthodox method for getting higher yields, but it works pretty well. It helps to make your buds dense and improve the THC levels. It involves splitting the main stem right at the bottom.
The way to do it is to bind the stem with a tie in two places – at the base close to the soil and a couple of inches above that. Then, using a sharp knife, make a vertical cut through the stem in between these two spots. Take off the knife and put a different item in its place (chopstick, pencil, etc) to keep the stem separated. Finally, leave the ties to keep the stem from splitting upwards.
The Takeaway – You Can Get Bigger Plants and Better Yields With a Few Tricks
Using the above-mentioned techniques to grow big and strong plants that’ll produce big and potent buds may seem like a lot of work, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become just a part of the process. If you’re a beginner, it would be enough to just provide the plants with enough light and nutrients, and maybe prune them, and afterward, you can try experimenting with some more advanced techniques like scrogging or supercropping.