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Grow Short & Bushy Cannabis (Marijuana Growth Control & Training Methods)

How to Grow Short and Bushy Marijuana Plants - Growth Control

Choose the Right Cannabis Strain
Provide Your Cannabis With Enough Light
Get a Properly Sized Container
Force Your Cannabis to Flower Early
Defoliation: Remove Leaves to Control Growth
Main-Lining: Train Plants In Early Vegetative Stage to Form Manifold
Low Stress Training (LST): Change Cannabis Grow Pattern With Bending and Supercropping
Topping and FIMing: Cannabis Control Techniques that Involve Cutting



Don't Grow This Marijuana Plant! Grow Short Plants With Dozens of Buds!

This Marijuana Plant was allowed to grow WAY too tall and uncontrolled

This Marijuana plant was growing using several of the growth methods in theis article under CFLs and LEDs. Notice how she has DOZENS of bud signs in a flat plane that's easily covered by the grow lights

There are a couple of different techniques that you can use to get cannabis to grow more bushy as opposed to growing tall.

I'm going to try to list them all including information about strain, proper conditions, as well as some information about training and cutting techniques such as bending, topping and FIMing the marijuana plant.

When learning how to grow your own weed indoors, one of the first things to realize is that you don't just have to just accept the way the weed grows naturally.
As a gardener, it is your duty to ensure that your weed grows the way you want. The following techniques will give you the power to grow a short, bushy weed plant that fits in whatever space you desire.


Choose the Right Cannabis Strain

Choosing the right cannabis strain is the essential first step of growing short and bushy cannabis strainsThe cannabis strain you start with has a huge effect on how your plants will grow.

A cannabis plant's style of growing is mostly determined by its genetics so you will want to try to choose a short, bushy marijuana strain when you're first starting out.

While you can get different strains to display different characteristics, I would say 50% or more of the characteristics of cannabis are determined genetically by the strain you're growing.

However, I believe you can grow bushy, manageable plants with just about any strain... it'll just be way easier if you start with a strains that is already proven to grow exactly the way you want.

Some short, bushy marijuana strains (which produce killer buds) that I personally have grown myself include:

  • Northern Lights (also low odor)
  • Sharks Breath
  • White Rhino

Learn where you can safely buy seeds online

Whenever you're buying cannabis seeds online, you can often read about the different grow styles of different strains. This allows you to particularly choose strains that tend to grow short and bushy.

There are three main types of cannabis, indica, sativa and auto-flowering.

  • Indica plants tend to grow short and bushy.
  • Sativa plants tend to grow tall and lanky.
  • Auto-flowering plant usually start flowering within a month and will go through their whole cycle in 2-3 months, which means they only get to be about 1-2 feet tall.

Strains such as indicas and hybrid strains which are more close to being indica than sativa tend to grow short and bushy, so that's what I lok for.

Auto-flowering Strains

Learn the difference between "regular" (photoperiod) and auto-flowering strains

Autoflowering cannabis strains do not depend on light periods to tell them when to start flowering, which can be convenient for a new grower who wants one less thing to worry about.

Plus, auto-flowering plants naturally stay very small, which is what many growers are looking for. does not recommend growing auto-flowering strains of marijuanaThe ancestor of today's auto-flowering strains were a type of wild hemp that grew in very cold climates, and it had next to no THC or useful cannabinoids. Because this wild ancestor had no natural potency, all the auto-flowering seeds you get today have been hybridized with another strain (usually an indica) to give them potency.

Due to this recent hybridization, auto-flowering strains can sometimes be less potent than non-auto-flowerings strains, especially when you buy seeds from an unreputable breeder!

I personally avoid buying auto-flowering strains (or any strain, really) unless it's offered by a proven breeder that I trust.

The auto-flowering strains are popular because they can make your grow easier if you cannot light-proof your grow area, and because you don't have to worry about light schedule, auto-flowering plants can help simplify things for new growers.

Some things to keep in mind with auto-flowering marijuana strains:

  • You have relatively little control over the final size/shape of the plant compared to photoperiod strains
  • Auto-flowering strains cannot be cloned (the clones will die off around the same time as the mother plant, no matter what you do), which means you will need to keep buying new seeds, or you will have to breed 2 plants together to make more seeds
  • Auto-flowering strain plants tend to be on the smaller side, which means you'll get a few ounces at most from each plant
  • Make sure you always buy auto-flowering seeds from a reputable breeder!


Give Your Cannabis Enough Light

With marijuana plants, generally more light = more budsIf your marijuana plant has no problems or illnesses, then the biggest factor that affects your yields is the light intensity provided.


More Light = Bigger Yields

After choosing your strain and starting your grow, one of the first things you want to do is ensure that the plant is getting enough light.

During the vegetative stage, cannabis plants which don't get enough light will tend to 'stretch' up toward the light with a lot of space between nodes or "branches." This is not usually a good thing, because tall lanky plants are hard to give proper light coverage in flowering.

During the flowering stage, light intensity is what drives the production of buds. For the best results, you want all your buds directly exposed to strong light. This seems to cause them to swell up much more than when the buds are hidden from the light.

The rest of this article is going to cover all the different ways to get your plants to grow in a way that makes it easy to expose all the buds evenly to intense light.

If you believe your plant may need more light on the sides, you can cheaply supplement the amount of light to the plant buy purchasing some cheap 'Soft White' (2700k) or 'Cool White' (6500k) colored CFLs (compact florescent light bulbs) from your local hardware store and using them to fill in any shadowed areas on your plant.

Learn more about different grow lights that work for growing weed

Get the Right Sized Container or Pot for Your Cannabis

Keep marijuana plants small by growing them in a smaller container
Keep marijuana plants small by growing them in a smaller container

When your cannabis roots don't have room to expand, it will tend to keep your cannabis smaller.

I have grown cannabis from start to finish in a Solo Cup, and the plant stayed very small, under a foot.


Smaller pots keep plants smaller.

Some people worry about their cannabis getting root-bound, but that will likely only happen if you try to keep the plant alive for too long.

For example, if you're going to keep a plant in the vegetative stage for years, then you'll definitely need a bigger pot.

But if you're growing a marijuana plant plan to harvest it within a few months, then it's unlikely your plant will be affected by being root bound.

Even if you get a one gallon pot or smaller, when you get your cannabis to start flowering within a few months after the beginning of the vegetative stage, it will never have the time to get really root-bound.

Smaller pots tend to keep plants smaller, but also need to be watered more oftenFor example, I have grown several plants from seed to harvest in a solo cup container.

The plants are fine even when spending their whole life in this small container, the biggest problem is just that the solo cups tend to tip over.

Because of easy tipping, I recommend weighting the bottom of solo cups if you use them, or upgrading to one-gallon containers.

The downside... When your cannabis is kept in a smaller container, you will notice that you have to water your plant much more often than if you kept your plant in a big pot.

As long as you're vigilent and water your girls often enough, then keeping your plants in a small pot is another simple, easy way to control the total size of your plant.

Keeping plants in tiny containers is especially important when growing in a very space-limited grow space, such as growing in a computer case for stealth reasons.

However, there are even more powerful growth control techniques explained below that allow you to grow big high-producing plants, but keep them nearly as short as if you restricted their growth with a small container.

Therefore I encourage you to read about all the other growth control techniques before making a decision about what do to with your plants.

Force Your Cannabis to Flower Early

Read full tutorial on how to force marijuana to flower from seed with 12-12 lighting schedule here

Another technique you can use is to turn your lights to the 12/12 cycle early on to get your plant to start flowering right away.

This marijuana plant was grown in a humble solo cup and flowered directly from seed (she was exposed to 12-12 light right in the beginnint)I have personally changed several cannabis plants over to the flowering stage when the plants are only 2-3 weeds old, which is as early as I'd recomment.

But like this extreme girl to the left (less than a foot tall and grown under CFLs in a computer case), I've experimented starting the plants on 12/12 directly from seed to keep plants REALLY small.

Whenever forcing your cannabis to flower early, the plants will stay small and end up spending almost all their energy on producing flowers/buds on what few stems they have, instead of growing tall.

Some people say that cannabis that is forced to flower too early will not make any buds, but that hasn't been my experience at all. Even plants flowered from seed immediately start making buds when you change over to the 12-12 light schedule.

The one problem I've had with forcing cannabis to flower early is that since the plant is much smaller, which equals smaller yields.

The other disadvantage to overly small is their inability to recover well from problems: you have fewer leaves as a 'buffer' so the plant can't bounce back when something goes wrong such as a pest attack.

That's why I recommend letting your young marijuana plants get a minimum 2-3 weeks in the vegetative stage before changing them over to flowering. You can control their height with other grow methods.

Growing extremely tiny marijuana plants is fun, but honestly you'll get the biggest yields by instead investing a little more time in the vegetative stage to train your plant to grow into the exact shape you want.

Learn more about forcing your plant to flower from seed using the 12-12 light schedule here

Control Your Cannabis Growth with Defoliation (Removing Leaves)

Read full marijuana defoliation tutorial here

WARNING: Only defoliate marijuana plants that are vibrant and healthy. Never defoliate an unhealthy or sickly plant!

Defoliation has two purposes, one for the vegetative stage, and one for the flowering stage.

Vegetative Stage: When you remove leaves from your cannabis plant, you are taking away energy it put into vegetative growth.

This will cause your cannabis to slow down growing, especially if you remove a lot of leaves.

In the vegetative stage it is used to control the growth and structure of your plant. Bascially leaves removed from any "branch" during the vegetative stage causes that branch to grow more slowly.

When combined with other marijuana growth control techniques in the vegetative stage, you can grow plants that don't have the signature 'Christmas Tree' shape that's so annoying to cover properly with indoor grow lights. Instead you get more of a flat "bed" of growth that's evenly covered by your grow lights. 

Removing leaves can be a bad thing if you want your plant to be growing upward as fast as possible because it will definitely slow down the growth of the plant for a little while.

However, most small-scale growers would rather have a well-managed short plant than a tall, unruly plant even if it ends up needing a bit of extra time during the vegetative stage to recover from the defoliation.

Pulling leaves also seems to cause the plant to grow much wide and bushy in general.

Flowering Stage: Many growers (myself included) feel that buds seem to grow much fatter if they are directly exposed to light. We believe that defoliation during the flowering stage actually dramatically increases your yield.

For example, if I have a bud that is covered by leaves, it doesn't seem to grow, even if it has leaves that are getting light.

And marijuana plants aren't the only plants that are affected by the phenomenon of increased yields from defoliation. It's well-document that other plants, including cowpeas, experience significant yield increases when their leaves are defoliated during the flowering stage (up to 50% of the leaves!)... (source)

Nebula Haze's Theories About Defoliation:

This marijuana girl was topped, supercropped, and heavily defoliated during the vegetative stage to achieve this grow patternIn my mind (totally a guess here that is not based on science) it seems like buds that are covered by leaves would not be accessible to bees and other pollinating creatues.

As a marijuana plant (or any kind of plant), it makes sense that all effort would want to be focused on growing buds which can be pollinated, which means focusing on buds exposed to light and air.

Therefore, by exposing all the buds to light and air through defoliation, you're signalling that all buds are positioned for possible pollination, so the plant focuses on growing all the buds.

I also theorize that in the wild, the cannabis plant is equipped to lose many of its leaves, whether they're eaten by bug or animals or somehow are lost some other way.

<-- End of Nebula's Theories -->

In my experience, when buds are exposed to direct light and open air, it will start bulking up right away, within just a few days.

This phenomenon seems to explain the 'popcorn' buds that tend to pop up at the bottom of the cannabis plantwhere there is no light getting to the buds, even though the leaves around them may be getting plenty of light.

Therefore, during the flowering stage I like to strategically remove leaves that I feel are covering up any buds, or are covering up a lot of other leaves.

I also always use defoliation in either stage when I notice my plant is 'stretching' or growing taller than I'd like, or if a particular "branch" is growing too fast.

Whenever the plant seems to be growing too tall, I will go through and remove several of the fan leaves to both try to get more total light to the bud sites, and to get the plant to stop growing upwards so fast.

Right after changing the lights to 12-12, the cannabis seems to have a stretch period, and defoliating will reduce the height gained.

After a defoliation session, I notice that the cannabis plant will stop any upward growth for several days to even a few weeks, depending on how many leaves I took. Buds continue to fatten at an accelerated rate, even though the plant isn't growing taller.

Defoliated plants are easier to manage, stay healthier (fewer pests and less mold) and the buds keep getting bigger.

There is definitely some controversy about this cannabis control technique.

Some growers do not want to lose a week of growth, or may want to grow tall plants.

However, I strongly recommend experimenting with defoliation yourself to see the results if you are trying to grow short, bushy, controlled cannabis plants.

I recommend starting small on healthy, fast-growing plants, by picking just a few leaves that are covering bud sites, and see what you think!

Read full marijuana defoliation tutorial here



Low Stress Training (LST): Control Cannabis Grow Patterns with Bending (and/or Super cropping)

Read complete guide to Low Stress Training cannabis plants

The LST technique is considered a "low stress" way to control your marijuana plants. Unlike the more aggressive methods listed below, low stress training such as bending, tying down, and supercropping do not involve cutting your plant.

Instead, the ideas is to actually 'bend' and otherwise gently manipulate the plant to control growth so it grows how you want.

For most growers, the goal is for flat, horizontal rows of buds, instead of the natural "Christmas Tree" shape.

The main way to control this is to bend over any colas or "branches" that are taller than the rest and keeping them in place tying them to something or using weights.

I highly recommend getting a spool of twisty tie (soft, bendable wire) to tie your plants down with. This can be tied to weights, to the pots your plants are in, your hydroponics bucket, or most anything. It's wire, so it can be easily hooked around branches without having to tie anything and get your hands in the plant.

Some also gently bend flexible branches until they snap slightly or crush the bent part between their fingers to cause slight damage to the bent point. This technique is known as super cropping.

Manipulating your plant with bending or super cropping causes the entire plant to naturally grow more bushy, while you're also controlling the parts of the plant that aren't growing the way you want.

Basically you're training the plant to grow into the shape you desire, like a marijuana bonsai tree. You train the plant slowly and take care not to hurt you plant. You don't want to snap any of the branches, and never try to bend stiff branches or they'll just break off.

By using this method alone, you can grow a plant that conforms to any shape that you want.

If I am growing two strains of marijuana, and one tends to be taller than the other, I'll bend over the taller one as much as 90 degrees so that it is the same height as the shorter plant.

This Northern Lights marijuana girl was supercropped and tied down, click for a closeupI also bend the tallest branches down, crush the 'joint' between my fingers, and tie the branch down to the pot she's growing with (or to fishing weights on the floor, or anything else you can use as an anchor). This is known as "supercropping".

Read full super cropping guide here

Most growers want to avoid the Xmas Tree shape because it's hard to get light coverage and instead encourage a plant to grow with more of a flat plane of buds.

This allows a more even distribution of light and the the whole stem of the bend plant will get equal access to the light. Eventually all the buds on a bent branch will start growing upward toward the light. After initially bending your plant, growth will be slowed for few days as the plant recovers.

In addition, one of the natural reactions to being extremely bent over is the marijuana plant will stop trying to grow upward as much.

As a result, all the lower branches will start getting more bushy.

Bending, supercropping, and other low-stress training are great ways to maximize your marijuana yields whne you have a small amount of vertical room.

Read full LST guide here:

Read complete supercropping tutorial here:





The act of training a cannabis plant to form a "hub" or "manifold" off a single node, creating a center for equal energy distribution from the roots to each cola.

Read complete cannabis main-lining tutorial

An example of main-lining: Notice how nugbuckets has created a "hub" or "manifold" for even energy distributionExample of a flowering marijuana plant grown with main-lining

See that main-lined marijuana plant at harvest.... Nothing but huge, dense buds!

That same main-lined marijuana plant grown out - NugbucketsTrimmed, main-lined marijuana plant at harvest - Nugbuckets

Hub: A place or thing that forms the effective center of an activity, region, or network.

Manifold: A pipe or chamber branching into several openings, "the pipeline manifold"

The difference between main-lining and traditional marijuana growing methods explained in picture format - Nugbuckets main-lining tutorial

The result of main-lining marijuana is an even canopy and bigger yields with little extra effort.

No more larfy popcorn buds stealing energy away from the main colas!

Here's a few more marijuana main-lining pictures so you can see what I mean about the effortlessly even canopy. Main-lining is effective for increasing yields both indoors and outdoors.

Outdoors - Greater stealth & control

Main-lined marijuana plant outdoors - Nugbuckets

Indoors - Easy flat canopies & bigger yields with the same grow lights

Main-lining produces an effortlessly flat canopy when growing indoors - making good use of your grow lights

Read the complete marijuana main-lining tutorial by Nugbuckets


Topping and FIMing: Cannabis Control Techniques Which Involve Cutting Your Plant

As far as methods that involve actually cutting the plant, you have two main options. One is to 'top' the plant and one is to 'FIM' the plant.

With both techniques, you remove some of the growth on the end of the main cola of your young marijuana plant, which causes the plant to stop focusing on one cola (like a Christmas tree) and instead to create many bud-laden colas (grow more bushy).

This will give you an idea of how the plant growth patterns change as a result of topping or FIMing at a young age.

See the natural "Christmas tree" growth pattern vs a plant that has been FIMed or topped

In the above example, the plant on the left was allowed to grow naturally, which resulted in the classic "Christmas tree" shape that's not very efficient under indoor grow lights. Except for removing growth off the bottom (lollipopping), no trimming was used on the left plant. The plant on the right was topped or FIMed as a seedling, when the plant had only 3-5 nodes in total. This broke the dominance of the main cola, and the plant started putting out multiple colas.

Growers can use the plant's natural response to FIMing/topping to produce short bushy plants. Since plants don't need the time it takes to grow tall, they are ready to start budding after a few short weeks in the vegetative stage. After the plant has been switched to the flowering stage, the wide spread of colas allows the plant to efficiently use indoor grow lights to produce the biggest yields possible.

If you choose to use either of these methods, you want to do it when the plant is young, usually when it has around 3-5 total nodes formed.

This plant is almost too tall / mature to top or FIM. This is your last chance, do it now! :)

You want to break the tendency of the plant to grow one main cola while the plant is still short, so you can arrange your multiple colas however you want as the plant develops, instead of dealing with a Christmas tree shaped plant.

I personally recommend FIMing over topping... but each grower has their own preference.

FIMing is less traumatic to the plant (barely slows down growth) and stimulates the plant to grow 4 main nodes in one cut (instead of just 2 like with topping). FIMing seems to cause the plant to grow bushier than topping.

However, with topping, you cut off more of the plant, reducing the height instantly, which is especially beneficial if you've let your plant get too tall.

After being topped or FIMed, your plant will need some time spent recovering in the vegetative stage, though generally this just causes the plant to 'fill out' more instead of growing taller, which is often desirable for indoor growers.

You do not want to use any cutting method on your plant if it is in the flowering stage, especially never do it deep into flowering. Topping and FIMing are prevantative techniques used while the plant is young, they are not a cure for bad preparation.

Trying these methods during the flowering stage will stress the marijuana plant when it should be focusing on making buds, and misses the whole idea of topping or FIMing (to control how the plant grows so that you get even light coverage).

By the time your plants are in the flowering stage, much of the growth structure has already been created.

What if my plant is already too tall?

If your plant is already too tall, you've got to take immediate action to prevent her from getting any taller.

My suggestion is to use a combination of bending your plant, supercropping, and defoliation to control the height of further growth.

If you're still in the vegetative (non-budding) stage, top the plant immediately to remove as much height as you can, then initiate the flowering stage as soon as possible by changing the lights to 12-12. This is a last resort technique that will stress your plant, but will prevent her from stretching too much taller as she enters the flowering stage.

Once flowering is fully underway, the plant will not grow much taller, so you can just try to hang on until harvest.

Topping Marijuana: How to top your marijuana plant diagram

Topping Your Marijuana Plant

It's best to top a plant when it is very young, and only has 3-5 nodes (sets of leaves) in total.

"Topping" the plant means cutting off the newest node on your marijuana plant's main cola, directly above the leaves of the second node.

After topping or FIMing, the connections to each node become enlarged at the base, this is because the plant is spreading energy more evenly across the whole plant
As pictured here, the marijuana nodes become enlarged (at the base) after the plant is topped

In other words, cut through the stem right above it's second set of leaves from the top.

This will cause your plant to transfer its energy to two new main colas, as indicated by the two yellow dots in the diagram above.

These 2 new colas for a V which can easily be bent to spread wide. You can top these two new colas a few weeks later and have 4 total colas.

The other huge benefit to topping is how the plant tends to grow bushier afterwards, spreading its energy much more evenly around to the whole plant.

Often lower branches rise up to become very much like colas.

The remaining nodes will all show signs of being strengthened, as pictured to the right.

As a result of topping your plants early, you never end up with a plant that grows in the shape of a "Christmas Tree," a growth structure that most indoor growers hate  because it's so tough to get good light coverage on a plant like that with indoor grow lights.

I personally recommend FIMing over topping, it is less traumatic to the plant (barely slows down growth), causes 4 main nodes in one cut, and seems to cause the plant to grow bushier than topping.

FIMing (Pinching) Your Marijuana Plant

After FIMing, there should still remain a "mowed" top, as pictured above
As pictured here, after FIMing your marijuana plant show have a "mowed' top

FIM stands for "F*ck I Missed" referring to the fact that it's like topping your plant, only you're taking off about 20% less, leaving a "mowed top" as pictured at right.

This is also often refered to as "pinching" the top of the plant.

To FIM the plant, you simply pinch off the newest growth, or cut just the tips of the newest growth off, making sure to leave a bit behind.

This is much less traumatic to the plant and will cause your plant to grow 4 main nodes. FIMing causes the plant to grow very bushy, and the other nodes will becomes strengthened just like when topping.

I personally recommend FIMing over topping, it is less traumatic to the plant (barely slows down growth), causes 4 main nodes in one cut, and seems to cause the plant to grow bushier than topping.

After FIMing, the pinched top will look a bit weird growing in
After your marijuana plant has been FIMed, expect the new leaves that were pinched to look a bit weird when they grow in

The only time I ever top the plant is when I want to really slow down the growth of the plant (when it's getting out of control tall, or you're trying to slow her down compared to other plants). Even then, I feel that defoliation is the most effective way to slow down height gain.

Be warned, when FIMing your plant, the leaves you pinch off will look a bit weird when they grow in.



Jump to...

Should I get a regular or autoflowering strain if I want short plants?

Make your own feminized seeds at home

How to ScrOG Your Plants

Supercropping: the simple secret

Controversial defoliation technique increases yields

Picture gallery of common marijuana growing problems






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