How to

22 April 2021

A Guide to Lollipopping

A Guide to Lollipopping

Lollipopping is a low-impact and relatively simple pruning technique that can significantly increase yields. The name is derived from the defoliation (or removal) of bushy growth and fan leaves near the end of a cannabis plant’s vegetative stage, which concentrates its limited resources towards producing larger flowers in its canopy. 

This gives plants a “lollipop” appearance, with bare stalks and lower branches culminating in dense and delicious colas made juicier by redirecting the plant’s energy.

Growers without substantial side grow lights in their tents or grow spaces may find lollipopping cannabis attractive as a way of maximising light penetration to their plants. Yield is increased as the number of bud sites receiving light is reduced, concentrating light exposure to more productive parts of the plant. The opportunity for small popcorn buds that usually develop below the canopy and end up as B-grade stash (or lower) is removed.

Benefits of Lollipopping

Cannabis plants respond exceptionally favourably to any increased light exposure to their bud sites. This stimulates the plant’s photochemical production (chemical processes based around the absorption of light), resulting in stronger concentrations of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, the desirable “loud” terpene profiles, and large, resinous buds that growers desire.

The grower also increases airflow below the canopy when they lollipop their plants. This reduces the risk of any fungal pathogens such as mould. Removing lower, larger leaves wanting for light also reduces overall humidity and disease vectors and redirects energy towards flowering.

Cultivators can develop a better eye for their plants’ health by using the lollipopping technique. This can lead to several positive results, such as identification of pests and viruses as well as identifying desired traits in a crop. It will also inform the grower about their plant’s characteristics during the veg stage, which is useful for assessing whether or not to grow the same strain in the future.

Lollipopping Methods

Pruning cannabis plants is a time-consuming and rewarding process. Growers should be delicate and decisive so as not to stress or damage their plants needlessly. Lollipopping can be accomplished either by hand (wearing nitrile gloves is suggested) or using sharp scissors (it is recommended that growers disinfect scissors between plants or change gloves if pruning by hand to mitigate the spread of viruses).

Before lollipopping, the grower should assess their crop for any plants that are more disease-prone than the rest or have had periods of slow growth. Lollipopping, as with other pruning methods, will remove nutrient-rich leaves needed by the plant to continue growing and, as such, will place the plants under stress. Any plants that have made slow recoveries from stressors are not ideal for lollipopping or perhaps should be pruned sparingly.

A helpful tip to help growers decide when to lollipop their plants is to observe the plants as they reach the final stages of their veg phase. Are there any portions beneath the canopy that are entirely in shadow? If so, any leaves and young bud sites shaded in their plants’ lower parts are good candidates to be pruned.

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Top-Down

Growers lollipopping their plants from the top-down will begin the process at the top of the plant’s growing tip (or apex) and count to four or five nodes down the main stalk below it. These nodes will grow into the top colas when plants enter the flowering stage, and as such, any bud production sites or leaves below them should be removed.

This approach can be completed by holding the main stem between the forefinger and thumb and sliding down the stalk, removing side shoots at each node along the way. Sharp scissors are recommended to achieve a sharp, clean cut without damaging the main stalk and vectoring in viruses or stressing out the plant. After side branches are removed, the grower should restart the procedure from the same point four or five nodes below the growing tip and conduct a second sweep to catch any remaining offshoots or bud sites growing close to the main stalk.

This method works best with growers who are familiar with their plants’ final bud formation and structure. Inexperienced growers run the risk of removing bud sites too high on the stalk, resulting in truncated colas and reduced yields. The second method of lollipopping detailed below is much more beginner-friendly.

Bottom-Up

For growers who find the top-down method a tad intimidating or don’t trust themselves and fear they may cause harm to their meticulously cultivated plant, the bottom-up approach of lollipopping is an attractive alternative. This is less severe than the top-down method and leaves the grower with more margin for error.

The grower starts pruning from the bottom of the plant and goes up the stalk. They will remove any main lateral branches that cannot reach the level four or five nodes below the apex of the growing tip. Additionally, they will remove any leaves below those nodes on branches that do reach the required level, leaving leaves and bud sites above it to develop into top colas.

The desired outcome is to remove any lower growth from the bottom third of the plant. This approach may require some more maintenance pruning as the plant continues its development, particularly if any bud sites develop on the stalk or branches after the initial lollipopping is completed. If the grower is already pruning and dead-leafing isolated leaves and branches, this approach is easily integrated into the regimen.

Another important tip is to leave any branches or leaves alone if there is even the slightest hint of doubt about whether to prune them. Remember, they can always be removed at a later date but never put back in place after pruning. As this method is best completed right before the plants begin to flower, the grower should let newly lollipopped plants recover for three to five days before flipping them into the flowering stage, and any plants that have been noted to have slow recovery periods should receive a healthy dose of nutrients and supplements during this time.

Marijuana plants grown using lollipopping technique
Lollipopping is a low-impact and relatively simple pruning technique that can significantly increase yields

Lollipopping plus SCrOG and other growing techniques

Lollipopping can be easily integrated into plant training techniques. The Screen of Green method, for example, includes a lollipopping component that removes any foliage and bud sites below the canopy. Similarly, growers who are using LST to train their plants may want to consider lollipopping any foliage that remains in shade to redirect energy towards bud sites with better light exposure.

Practitioners of the Sea of Green method may also find value in lollipopping, particularly when their canopies start to close and light penetration below top colas is reduced. Lollipopping is a versatile, straightforward, and effective method of low-stress training promoting plant growth that leads to increased yields and can be used in conjunction with several training techniques.

As always, if the grower is unsure about whether or not this method is for them, a safer option would be to lollipop one or two marijuana plants instead of their entire crop to see how the plants react before carrying onwards.

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Post author
Martin
Martin is a production horticulturist with experience in commercial cannabis cultivation and sustainable farming from his time with Emerald Cup Award-winning farmers Esensia Gardens in northern California's Emerald Triangle.
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