Cannabis Growing Tips: Vegetative Stage

The seeds have been sown! At this point in the season your outdoor cannabis plant is taking off into vegetative growth. Perhaps you're growing indoors and have found yourself past the seeding or cloning stage and into the vegetative stage of the your plants life.

The vegetative stage of cannabis is when the plant establishes structural integrity of stems and roots, and develops it's foliage through photosynthesis--setting itself up for the flowering stage. A well known contrast between the vegetative stage and flowering stage is the amount of light made available to the plants. Anywhere from 13 to 24 hours of light in a day cycle, will keep plants developing increased nodes and foliage. When flowering, the light spectrum and schedule changes to 12 hours of light, 12 hours of dark.

Training and topping are techniques that are applied mostly during the vegetative stage to prepare for flowering. As time progresses you'll want to consider certain things like trimming, training, watering schedules, and feeding nutrients to your plants to keep them thriving. Setting an environment best for your plants is ideal, so we compiled a couple grow tips and points to consider:

Watering & Nutrients

Having your plants on a feed and watering schedule can be very beneficial to their health. If you have a hydroponic set up, such automation for that schedule can come in handy. If you're growing outdoors, watering will be a bit more hands on. You want to make sure that your plants are getting enough, but not too much water. Make sure you soak the pot, and have run off if growing in a planter with soil. Don't over water! Wait for the soil to dry up before watering again--over watering can lead to issues like root rot.

During the vegetative stage, cannabis plants will need an increased amount of nitrogen to help develop foliage. You can simply add some coffee grinds to the soil, or make/buy a nutrient 'tea' or mix. Below is a basic understanding of which elements cannabis needs, put together by Leafly:

"Your cannabis plant needs a main group of elements that are collectively referred to as macronutrients. Here’s a breakdown of the mineral and non-mineral elements you need to feed your plant.

*Mineral nutrients obtained from the soil:

  • Nitrogen (N)

  • Phosphorus (P)

  • Potassium (K)

  • Calcium

  • Magnesium

  • Sulfur

*Non-mineral elements derived from air and water:

  • Carbon

  • Hydrogen

  • Oxygen

The three numbers shown on the front of fertilizer bags, nutrient solution bottles, or other additives indicate how much of the three main elements (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) is available in the product. For example, a product that says “10-4-4” will contain 10% available nitrogen, 4% phosphorus, and 4% potassium by weight. These are always listed in the order of N-P-K.

All other mineral nutrients are grouped into the category of micronutrients, as they are used in much lower quantities. This group consists of the following elements:

  • Zinc

  • Iron

  • Manganese

  • Molybdenum

  • Chlorine

  • Cobalt

  • Silicon

  • Boron

  • Copper

While cannabis plants require very low concentrations of these elements to thrive, they are still vital to the overall health and growth of the plant," directs Leafly. It's always good to consider where a product is sourced if you're buying your own nutrients. Also, outdoor and indoor nutrients can differ, as most indoor nutrient blends are made in concentration, to be mixed with water. There are even different ratios of 'N-P-K' for both the vegetative and flowering stage. For a more in depth look at nutrients, visit the full article by Leafly here.

Training & Trimming

In either a large indoor grow, or a simple personal outdoor grow in your yard--training and trimming your cannabis plants can improve their strength and help direct their growth. Think of it as helping your plant decide where it puts it's energy. Trimming near the bottom of a plant will send hormones upwards, making the cannabis plant taller. If trimmed near the top, the hormones will be sent downward, making the plant a bit more bushy. Focus on trimming lower branches that receive little sunlight or leaves that are dying off because of lack of light. A good rule of thumb to remember is never trim more than 1/4 of the plant mass off. Always give the plant a good recovery period and always use clean tools.

If you're looking to train your plant with low or high stress techniques, Leafly has this awesome breakdown:

"Techniques are divided into two categories: LST (low stress training) and HST (high stress training). LST does not involve directly damaging your plant, while HST involves breaking or removing parts of the plant.

The goal of these training techniques is to alter the chemical balances in the plants. If left to grow naturally, cannabis will choose to produce one main cola (the topmost bud) that will reach as high as it can, but this is not optimal for yield and quality. In an indoor garden, you can only bring the light as close as the top cola allows. Buds found lower down on the plant receive less light. Training your plants properly, however, will allow for more even canopies.

LST (Low Stress Training)

This method shares its name with the style of training, which can be confusing when first learning training techniques. The LST method involves bending the plant as it grows, tying branches down that are becoming too long. When the top of the plant is pulled downward in a loose ‘L’ shape, auxin is distributed more evenly in the plant. As the plant grows, continue to tie down the top, resulting in more of the hormone auxin being distributed.

To tie down the plant, you can use green plant tape which can stretch to prevent the plant from being choked off. The end goal is to have the stalks of the plant snake around the pot, exposing a large number of bud sites at a level height. Once the plant enters its flowering stage, the colas will then sprout upwards from the sideways plant and produce an even level of healthy colas.

SCROG (Screen of Green)

Similar to LST, the screen of green (SCROG) method involves using a screen to create a canopy. Instead of tying the plant down, you wait for the plant to grow through the screen. Once the branches begin to make their way through, you simply tuck the branches back down into the screen, essentially weaving the branches around it. When it comes time to flower, you will have a well-supported garden that will produce more even colas.

High Stress Training (HST) Methods These HST methods are much more useful for large outdoor gardens than LST methods, and they generally require less time and materials. Although HST should primarily be done in the vegetative state, “super cropping” can be done early on in flowering, but stressing your plants during flowering is not recommended.


Topping is a simple HST method and requires no tools besides your fingernails. The goal is to remove the top of the plant, which will result in the top buds turning into two new branches. Additionally, it sends a shock to the rest of the plant that promotes growth in the lower branches. This process can easily be repeated multiple times as the plant grows in its vegetative state. It will produce a well-rounded, healthy plant with numerous colas.

FIM (“Fuck I Missed”)

A more complicated version topping, FIM involves removing a very specific amount of the top portion of the plant. By scoping out only the topmost region of the new growth, the goal is to produce four off-shooting branches instead of two. Because of the complexity, this method takes significantly more time. It also puts your plant at greater risk of infection because you’re no longer making a clean cut on the stalk of the plant.

Super Cropping/Stem Mutilation

Stem mutilation is a more aggressive version of LST. Instead of tying down the top of the plant, you’re bending the branch until the fibers break and it folds over. The goal is to not snap the branch or even tear the skin of the stalk. You simply want it to kink and bend over.

To best do this, find the location you wish to break the branch and begin to roll and squeeze the stem. You will able to feel it weaken and break down, and it will eventually be able to fall over. This method will give the rest of the plant more exposure to light and time to catch up to this top stalk.

All you need is love, water and sunlight for your plant to grow. But have fun and learn new techniques to add to your growing skills. The possibilities can be endless, so also make sure you're digesting as much, and more knowledge than you need. It pays off in the long run, and we've found it makes our relationship with cannabis stronger than ever.

Information references courtesy of Leafly.