How do people get their cannabis plants to grow like bonsai trees? We’ve all seen those pictures of “seas of green,” with massive colas poking up through trellis netting in someone’s grow room. How do they pull it off? What’s the secret?
If you want to get the biggest harvest in your growing career, you can benefit from Low-Stress Training (LST) on your plants. LST is like a bonsai method specifically introduced for growing cannabis. With LST practices, you get the most out of your plants, with no wasted lower branches that have nothing but a few popcorn nugs.
Image if you could grow your trees into monsters, with 16-main colas, instead of one? Let’s unpack everything you need to know about low-stress training for your cannabis plants.
What is Low-Stress Training (LST) for Cannabis Plants?
Low-stress training (LST) is a growing method employed by cannabis farmers. Using an LST approach to growing increases yield dramatically by manipulating the shape and size of the plants.
LST methods have origins in the ancient botanical practice of “espalier.” Espalier involves the pruning or cultivation of plants to help them grow along a trellis or another 2D structure. The ancient Egyptians are the first known LST practitioners, using it to train fig trees to grow along a wall.
For cannabis growers, LST has a use primarily in indoor growing operations. However, it’s also suitable for use in outdoor grows as well. With LST, you’re training the plant to grow to your will. During the plant’s growing cycle, practitioners use LST to manipulate the branches to achieve several purposes.
- It allows more light to penetrate the canopy.
- It controls the height and level of the canopy.
- It maintains the shape of the plant and its size.
LST is useful to indoor and outdoor growers that want the biggest yields out of their plants.
Comparing LST vs. HST (High-Stress Training)
Cannabis growers can use Low-stress or High-stress growing techniques to help them improve the yield they receive during harvest time. What’s the difference between the two, and which is the best model to follow for a bumper harvest?
Low-Stress Training Techniques (LST)
LST methods don’t involve any damage to the cannabis plant. It consists of training the plant when it’s young, without breaking or cutting the branches. You’ll need to constantly keep the training going during the process to achieve the desired result.
With LST, growers master the art of lowering certain parts of the canopy, resulting in a uniform setting with multiple tips that allow as much light as possible to enter between the buds. Here are some of the most popular LST methods for shaping your plants.
The Tie-Down Method
With this method, you use green string to tie down the tips of your plant’s branches. You’ll use stakes and lines to prevent the top of the pant from getting too far ahead of the other branches.
You’ll tie-down the branches using stakes that you’ll attach to the sides of the pot or drive them into the ground to secure the branch. As the plant grows, you’ll adjust your tie-downs to keep the canopy at a consistent height.
A Screen of Green (SCROG Nets)
With this method, you’ll install a trellis or “scrog net” across the entire canopy. You’ll use the holes in the framework to separate your plant’s branches, keeping them apart so the light can get between the colas.
You’ll manipulate the plant as it grows before it starts to flower. Weave the branches between the net to stretch out the plant and allow for the optimal light penetration and separation of branches.
Some setups may require the addition of a second scrog level as the plant grows, allowing you to separate the plants and branches during the flowering phase.
High-Stress Training Techniques for Cannabis
With high-stress methods, you’re physically damaging the plant to get it to grow to your will. Cannabis plants are incredibly resilient, and they’ll bounce back from the damage incurred by these techniques almost overnight.
However, there will be some stunting of growth, but you can avoid training your plant every week using these HST techniques.
Topping involves the removal of the main cola while the plant is still in the early growing stage. You’ll wait for the plant to develop around five sets of leaves and then pinch-off or cut away the top of the plant at the node.
The topped node forces the plant to grow out to the side, producing more branches that end up as colas. Growers can complete this technique on all the other branches and make it branch out into a huge bush.
It’s important to note that topping only occurs in the vegetative stage of growth. Topping flowering colas is a no-no and results in damage to your crop. After topping, it takes your plant between two to three days to recover from the stress.
When topping the plant, make sure you seal the cut to prevent infection or infestation by bugs. Fimming is another HST technique, leaving more of the new growth on the plant, with the hope of producing four new branches instead of two.
2. Super Cropping
Cannabis growers are going to find this HST shocking. With super cropping, you’re physically bruising the branches to get them to span out to the sides. You’ll take a branch and pinch it under the main nodes. The branch will droop down to the floor as if it’s dead. The idea is to bruise the branch without damaging the skin of the plant.
It seems crazy to do this, but it works. The plant will heal almost overnight, and when you return t the room the following day, you’ll see it’s already turned back towards the light source. Super cropping creates an inverse “V” in the branch, with a hard “knuckle” forming where you bent it.
Super cropping allows the branches to spread out, and it’s often combined with scrogging to create a sea-of-green effect.
3. LST vs. Mainlining
Now that you know the mechanics of LST and HST techniques let’s talk about mainlining. Mainlining is the concept of building your cannabis plant from a single node. With mainlining, you get each cola growing at an even height, with no “popcorn nugs” limiting your harvest potential.
When you mainline your plant, you create a growing environment where each of the buds is an equal number of “steps” from the main stem. All of the buds in a mainlined plant receive the same amount of light and nutrients, resulting in an even canopy height that’s easy to manage.
You get the best yield using this method, and it’s especially useful for growers with smaller tents or rooms where they need to optimize yield as much as possible due to low plant counts.
What are the Benefits of Mainlining Your Cannabis Plants?
Mainlining involves you constructing a “hub” from a single node on the plant. As a result, you create a single point providing equal energy distribution for the plant during the vegetation cycle.
As a result, you get a bigger yield with the same setup. All the plant’s initial training occurs while it’s young, and there’s no need to train the plant like you have to with LST techniques.
Your colas will all grow to the same height, and they all get a similar size and density since they have the same resources in terms of light. You avoid the dreaded “popcorn” buds at the bottom of the tree, allowing for each node’s optimal use on the plant.
Mainlining also reduces stretching in the plant when it switches from vegetative growth to flowering. Outdoor plants can turn into monsters using this method, producing sizeable harvests compared to LST and HST techniques.
Is Low-Stress Training the Best Choice for My Plants?
LST has its place in growing. Some growers can’t bring themselves to cut their trees for the topp9ing or lollipoping methods. Some growers also have a problem with breaking or bending branches with the super cropping technique.
If you’re growing outdoors, LST provides a great opportunity to train your plant into a monster. However, it’s not the best choice for indoor growing. If you’re growing indoors, HST techniques like super cropping and scrogging are the best option.
However, for the best results, we recommend going with the mainlining technique indoors. Mainlining produces superior results to LST and HST methods. It’s the best choice for indoor growers, allowing them to maximize harvest potential on every branch.
Low-Stress Training for Cannabis FAQ
What material do I use for LST?
The goal for LST techniques is to train your plant without placing any stress on it. Stressing your plant causes slowdowns in growth, reducing the size and potential yield of the plant.
However, with LST techniques, you train the plant without damaging it. As a result, you increase yield while allowing the plant to milk every day out of the growing season.
Therefore, when you’re tieing down your plant, make sure you use a thin string or cable that doesn’t damage the branches. Use green gardening string, and make sure you tie the yarn loosely around the plant, leaving a gap to allow for growth.
How do I attach wires to my cannabis plant with LST?
If you’re using LST techniques on your indoor plants, you’ll need to create holes in the sides of your pots to allow you to insert the strings and pull down the branch. If you’re growing outdoors, you’ll need to attach the line to a stake and drive it into the ground.
As mentioned, make sure you leave a gap in the loop around the branch. Tightening the string prevents nutrients from getting to the tips of the branch, choking the life out of your plant. Using LST in combination with scrogging ensures you keep your training on track if you’re growing indoors.
When do I start LST with my cannabis plants?
While the name LST implies that it’s a low-stress training technique for your cannabis plants, it still induces some minor levels of stress.
Anytime you’re preventing the plant from growing in its natural direction, you’re introducing stress. For this reason, you need to ensure you get all the training done in a vegetative state. Training while the plant is flowering reduces your yield.
Typically, most plants stop growing in size and height when they enter the flowering phase. Therefore, you should have all LST wrapped up on your plant halfway through the vegetative process.
What happens if I snap a branch during LST?
Many growers that super crop their plants for the first time freak out when the branch droops lifelessly towards the floor. Relax! This situation is a normal occurrence. The bruising of the branch takes its toll, but the plant bounces back very quickly. In a day or two, you’ll hardly notice any difference in the plant’s health.
If you’re using LST methods on your plants, they also run the risk of breaking at the base where they connect to the stem. Wrap the split-up with duct tape, and the plant will eventually heal itself. Most cannabis plants can recover from a splitting issue provided it receives support.
What equipment do I need for low-stress training my cannabis plants?
Attempting LST techniques on your plant is easy and inexpensive. To start your LST campaign, we recommend you pick up the following from your hardware store before you start.
-Twisty ties, green gardening string, or some plastic clips.
-Sharp pruning scissors.
-Duct tape – Get some tape with a silver color to prevent excess heat absorption during the sunlight hours of the day.
-Stakes for driving into the ground.
-A cordless electric drill if you have to drill holes in your pots.
How do I conduct LST on my cannabis plants?
Wrap some string around the branch you want to pull down. Make sure the loop is loose to avoid cutting off nutrients to the branch and colas. Gently pull the string down to the side of the pot, and position the branch in your preferred direction without introducing enough pressure to snap the branch. Tie-off the branch to the pot or stake it into the ground. Revisit your plant once a week and adjust the branch using your tie-down, as necessary.