Topping is the most common way to break the apical dominance of the plant and encourage horizontal growth. It helps the plant distribute the growth hormones to the sides, encouraging the growth to branch out, and improves exposure to light.
Though topping is an essential training method that nearly all growers use, it is high-stress training because it involves cutting the main shoot from the plant.
It is stressful, and after topping, the plant will need some time to heal from the cut before proceeding with growth.
Besides, topping begins when the plant is still pretty young— most growers veg when the plant has five nodes, so they cut at the 3rd node.
When you cut the top growth, two new shoots will arise from the node, and these will grow into branches. They grow pretty fast because the plant diverts the resources they could have used to grow the main shoot to develop these new shoots.
Topping can be done repeatedly and selectively to grow the plant into a thick bush that makes good use of the grow lights above them. This encourages the development of more bud sites which translates to a bigger yield.
Since topping is done repeatedly, giving the plant enough time to heal between the topping sessions is vital. You don’t want the plant’s growth to be maimed by the very process that should boost its health and yielding capacity.
While topping involves cutting with a sharp razor, you can also pinch off the new shoots between your thumb and forefinger. Most growers argue that pinching reduces the stress during the process.
How Long Does It Take A Plant To Recover From Topping?
Topping being a high-stress training technique, your plant will need two weeks to fully recover from the topping stress. During the two weeks, the plant shouldn’t be subjected to additional stress. Provide water and nutrients in the right proportions and maintain a suitable light exposure. You can only LST the plant because LST doesn’t stress the plant.
You shouldn’t top again until the plant has fully recovered. Wait until the new shoots have grown enough for another topping. The nodes must be sturdy enough to support the new growth, and that takes time.
Topping shapes your plant favorably for light exposure. The intensity of the light drops farther down from the source. And when you don’t top, most lower branches will be in the low-intensity zone.
Topping levels the canopy because the growth hormones are distributed around, fostering the growth of many new buds as opposed to one singular shoot.
Though beneficial, the success of topping depends on timing. If you do it too soon, the plant will be too young to withstand the stress.
Conversely, late topping can be impractical because the plant’s stalk grows harder, making it difficult to top the plant without crushing or grinding the stalk.
Stop topping a couple of weeks before flowering to allow your new branches to develop and grow strong.
How Long Does It Take To Get New Growth After Topping?
When the conditions of growth are perfect, you will see new growth faster. After two days, you will spot the little nubs from the nodes. Within two weeks, the new growth shall be lengthy and healthy. Still, genetics influence the growth of the new shoots considerably.
Subsequent topping shows faster growth because the plant’s roots have grown more robust.
The growth conditions will also affect how fast the plant grows after topping. The quality and intensity of the light also play an important role in hastening the new growth.
Air circulation within the grow room also helps inhibit pathogens, strengthens the new shoot for healthy growth. And the plant still needs adequate nutrients and water to thrive.
Because we have different grow setups, grow different strains, and have different skill levels, the rate of new growth will be unique to every grower.
When you top a plant, you’re forcing the plant to break the main cola into multiple branches, and some strains just take a little longer than others to make this transition.
How Long After Topping Can I Flower?
After topping, you should give the plant enough time to heal from the topping stress. Give the plant between 10-14 days to fully recover before you initiate flowering. You want them to enter the stretch phase as healthy as possible.
If you initiate flowering when the plants are wounded, it might inhibit their growth during the stretch phase, and that might reduce your yields.
Also, the plant should be healthy enough to handle the change in light schedule.
Can I Top Right Before Flowering?
Topping right before flowering isn’t recommended because the plant should enter flowering with minimal stress. However, you can top right before flowering because flowering doesn’t begin immediately you switch the bloom switch, the plant can heal during the stretch phase.
Though you can top right before flowering and get away with it, it can limit the stretch as the plant channels its energy to healing from the topping trauma, and that can reduce your yield considerably.
Sometimes you’re forced to top when you shouldn’t because the plant has grown too big, and you risk light burn anyway.
If you’ve vegged for too long, removing the big branches might be the only way to keep your plant within a safe distance from the grow lights.
What’s The Latest You Can Top A Plant?
You should top your plant at least two weeks before flowering. If you top the plant later than that, its growth will slow down as it focuses on healing rather than growing the branches during the stretch.
You might thus end up with a smaller plant than you would if the plant could have been topped earlier and had time to heal before initiating flowering.
Does Topping Stunt Growth?
Topping breaks the apical dominance of the plant. Instead of growing one main cola, topping forces the plant to distribute the growth hormones all around, and that might slow the vertical growth.
The plant will only show noticeable stunt growth when the growing conditions aren’t optimum. If there’s sufficient water, nutrients, airflow, and light of the right intensity, you will see those little nubs in two days, and growth will perk up from there.
In conclusion, when the conditions are kept to the optimum and you’re good with the blade, then the plant won’t take long to recover from topping stress. However, you can give the plant two weeks to fully recover before you think of topping it again.