The Ultimate Guide to Topped vs. Non Topped Plants

When it comes to gardening, one of the most important decisions you'll have to make is whether to top your plants or leave them non-topped.

While some gardeners believe that topping leads to fuller, healthier plants, others believe it’s an unnecessary practice that can harm the plant. So, what’s the truth? Generally speaking, plant topping consists of removing a plant's main bud (growing tip) by cutting it back.

This encourages the plant's energy to be transferred into lateral (side) buds, causing the plant to become bushier and produce more flowers or fruits. Cannabis growers often practice topping their plants to increase their yield, a common practice among them.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the topped plant vs non topped pros and cons of top plants and when and how to do it if you decide it’s right for your garden. In the end, you'll be able to make a better decision for your plants based on what you've learned about the topic.

What is Topping in Plant Growing?

The technique of topping is a way of training a plant that involves cutting off the top of the plant's main stem to encourage branching and the appearance of multiple tops throughout the plant.

The aim is to create a bushier and more symmetrical plant with a more significant yield. This method is most commonly used in the cultivation of cannabis, but it can also be applied to other plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries.

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Pros of Topping

Increased Yield: By promoting branching and the growth of multiple tops, topping can significantly increase the yield of your plants. Topping plants can undoubtedly lead to a higher yield, particularly for plants cultivated for their fruit, flowers, or any other fruit or vegetable products.

Better Light Distribution: If you apply a topping to your plants, you can distribute Light more evenly throughout the plant, reducing the chance of the lower branches becoming shaded and dying off.

It is generally believed that when a plant is topped, the new shoots that will grow from the cut point will be exposed to more Light, leading to the plant becoming more active and healthier.

Better Air Circulation: Topping can be beneficial for plants as it generates a bushier and more open structure, which improves air circulation, thereby reducing the chances of disease and pest infestations.

Better Control Over Shape: When you top your plants, you will be able to maintain greater control over their shape and size of them, which is particularly useful in cases where you have limited space in your garden or greenhouse.

However, topping plants also have some drawbacks, including:

Cons of Topping

Stress on the Plant: Topping can be a stressful experience for your plant, and it may take some time to recover and start growing again.

Risk of Infection: By cutting off the plant's main stem, you may expose it to infection, which can be detrimental to its health and growth. There is a greater risk of insects and diseases getting onto the top of a topped plant, as there is a point at which they can enter the plant through the cut. 

Reduced Growth: Topping a plant can reduce its overall growth and size, as the energy that would have gone into growing taller is redirected into producing new shoots. It is important to note that topping will cause your plant to grow shorter, which may not be ideal if your variety is taller.

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What is Non-Topped Plant Cultivation?

Non-topped plants mean it's when you choose not to top your plants. Instead, you let them grow naturally without interfering with their growth or development. Many people prefer this method of gardening if they want more of a hands-off approach to their gardening or if they want plants that do not respond well to topping.

Pros of Non-Topped Plant Cultivation

No Stress on the Plant: Without topping your plant, you minimize the amount of stress it experiences, allowing it to grow naturally and flourish, minimizing the amount of stress it is exposed to.

Reduced Risk of Infection: When you do not expose the plant's main stem when cutting it, you reduce the chance of infection, keeping it healthy and strong. 

Natural Growth: The more you allow your plant to grow naturally, the better you will be able to make it grow according to its genetics, creating a unique and beautiful specimen.

Cons of Non-Topped Plant Cultivation

Reduced Yield: When you don't top your plant, there may be a reduction in the number of branches and fruits your plant fruits compared to if it was topped. 

Insufficient Light: If your plant is not topped, the top branch will receive more Light than the lower branches, which will cause the plant to grow unevenly and look lopsided due to the uneven distribution of Light.

Poor Air Circulation: If you do not top the plants, you may create a dense and crowded structure in your garden, resulting in poor air circulation and a greater risk of disease and pest infestations.

Basically, whether to top or not to top your plants is a personal decision that will depend on your individual preferences and the specific needs of your plants. Topping can increase the yield of your plants and improve Light and air circulation, but it can also be stressful and increase the risk of infection.

What is Topping Cannabis?

Cannabis topping is a method used by experienced cannabis growers to increase the yield of the plants they are growing. As part of the topping process, it is necessary to cut off the top two nodes (or sets of leaves) of the cannabis plant.

In this way, more than one new main cola (the main buds on the plant) can develop as opposed to only one old cola (the main buds on the plant). By doing this, the plant’s energy goes into growing the two main colas rather than just one, resulting in an increase in yield.

How to Top Cannabis?

Cannabis topping is one of the most unique and efficient ways in which you can maximize the yields of your cannabis plants and get as much as you can out of them. Here, we’ll go over everything you need to know about topping cannabis and the best tips for getting the most out of your plants.

Step 1: Prepare Your Tools

Several materials will need to be gathered to start topping your cannabis plants before you begin. The most important tool for this process is a pair of sharp, sterile scissors or garden shears.

For your plants to be healthy and thrive, it is important that you sterilize your tools before using them to avoid introducing any harmful contaminants into the soil.

Step 2: Find Suitable Plants

Plants that are in the vegetative growth stage with 3 to 5 nodes should only be topped when they are in the vegetative growth stage. Plants that are not mature enough to be topped can be damaged, so make sure they are ready before you begin.

Step 3: Cut the Main Stem

The next step is to cut the main stem between the plant nodes once you have located one that meets your needs. The cut should be made about 5mm above the nodes to avoid damaging the plant's canopy. There is a possibility that once you have cut the stem, the plant will grow two branches instead of one, resulting in the growth of two main colas.

Step 4: Repeat as Needed

Usually, it is recommended to wait approximately two weeks after the plant is topped before making another cut to allow it to recover. You can repeat the topping process if you want to extend the canopy further. This will increase the number of colas and the overall size of the canopy, leading to a higher yield.

When and Why Should You Top Cannabis?

When it comes to topping cannabis plants, it is best to do so during the vegetative stage of the plant. This is because the plant can better heal and recover from the topping before it starts flowering. Topping during the flowering stage can slow the plant's growth and reduce yields.

How Many Nodes Before Topping

To ensure optimal results, you should permit your plants to mature at least six or seven nodes before initiating a top-up procedure. These particular nodes are crucial for the initial protective layer; only when they reach this stage can they withstand any potential impact from topping. Be patient.

Does topping increase yield? A simple answer is yes; topping increase yield. By following these basic steps, you will be well on your way to achieving a bountiful harvest.

However, it is important to be patient and give your plants enough time to recover after each topping, as this will ensure that they are healthy and strong enough to handle the next round of cuts.

Final Thoughts

topped plant vs non topped plants can both be used in a garden. Topped plants can provide greater yield and more uniform growth, but the extra care needed to ensure that the topping is done correctly can be challenging.

Non-topped plants can provide a natural, more chaotic look and require less maintenance, but the yield will likely be lower. Topping is a great option if you’re looking to get the most out of your plants. Just make sure to do your research, understand the process, and take the necessary precautions to ensure the health of your plants.

With the right knowledge and technique, topping cannabis can be a great way to get the most out of your plants. It is ultimately up to the gardener to decide which type of plant is the best option for their garden.


1. Should I Top My Plant or Not?

It depends on the type of plant and its needs. Some plants need to be topped to promote new growth, while others do not and could be damaged if topped. To ensure your plant's health, research your plant's specific needs and consult a knowledgeable gardener if unsure.

2. Does Topping a Plant Increase Yield?

There is no doubt that topping a plant can increase its yield. Topping is pruning a plant's top buds or limbs, which encourages the plant to put more energy into the remaining branches, resulting in a larger, more productive crop. Furthermore, it prevents the plant from becoming too tall and out of control and minimizes disease risk.

3. Does Topping Reduce Plant Height?

It is not true that topping reduces the height of the plant. Topping is a method of pruning that involves cutting off the main stem or branches of a plant to encourage side growth and limit vertical growth. Although bushier, more compact plants may result if this technique is used, it does not reduce the plant's overall height.

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