While a single growing shoot will produce a larger single cola, topping a plant properly can put 4 colas in the sweet spot of light intensity. This allows more of the plant, especially the lower buds, to receive better light and produce larger buds. The overall yield of the plant is greater than an un-topped plant in most cases.
It’s important to top the plants early to get a good start on this style. As soon as my clones have rooted well and have started to grow I chop out the meristem, causing the plant to divide into 2 growing shots. This will slow the growth down initially but in the long run you will have a stronger plant that yields more. If this is performed low enough, the plant will actually develop 4 heads – just leave 4 growing shoots.
Not all strains benefit from topping, but most do. Some really short, slow Indicas like Urkle just take too long to grow out when topped like this, but this method allows us to harvest 5 ounces consistently in soil per plant. To be more clear: all plants do better if topped, but some slow-growing varieties will require additional time to mature to a proper budding plant size.
Topping early is the key with most strains, so the plant maintains a low profile with the maximum amount of bud sites in the sweet spot. Topping also allows fewer plants to fill a room. When dealing with medical limits, fewer plants that can produce the same amounts of cannabis is a very crucial aspect to master.
Seedlings are a bit different and you must allow the seedling to develop and have at least 4-5 internodes before topping. If you top a seedling too early, the shock will slow the plant down, wasting a tremendous amount of time. Allow a seeded plant to get herself rooted well and establish several sets of fan leaves. I like to wait till I see roots in the drain holes before my first topping.
Subcool is an expert grower and breeder, and author of Dank: The Quest for the Very Best Marijuana, published by Ed Rosenthal’s Quick Trading Company. He and is a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture and other marijuana magazines. Read Subcool’s Blog.