How to Trim Your Marijuana Plants to Get Perfect Nugs


Also known as manicuring your weed, trimming cannabis buds is a dreaded but necessary step of the growing process. When you do it correctly, you receive a much higher yield. However, it is a skill you only acquire through practice. It is a mistake to think that you can pick up a pair of shears and cut random leaves. If you have no idea what to do, it is best to leave your plants alone.

Indeed, many experienced growers avoid the trimming process entirely. This is an admirable attitude because it involves allowing nature to take its course. However, trimming your cannabis plants during the growth cycle is a good idea. It potentially ensures you end up harvesting the healthiest plants with a potent level of THC.

If you’re ready to take the next step beyond merely growing marijuana, read on. This concise guide tells you the basics of trimming cannabis in your garden for perfect, potent buds.

Why Trimming Marijuana Buds Is Useful for Plants

The process of trimming your cannabis plants involves clipping pieces of them away. When you remove specific parts in the right quantities at the right time, you benefit from a stronger plant. It is especially important to identify and remove dead leaves. Think of it as the equivalent of removing dead tissue from a wound.

If you allow dead and dying leaves to remain, the plant wastes precious resources on a lost cause. When you clip the stems of leaves killed early, you could save your marijuana plant weeks of effort. As a result, it can focus on healthy leaves. Better yet, it may turn its attention towards growing new leaves (and ultimately new buds).

There is also an aesthetic reason for trimming cannabis.

Manicured weed ‘looks’ better, and is in line with what you’ll see when purchasing buds online or at a dispensary. It is also a fact that fan leaves contain a lower level of trichomes. Getting rid of these leaves allows parts of the nugs with more trichomes to gain greater exposure to light.

Have you ever suffered through a particularly harsh smoke that caused you to cough profusely? If so, the weed probably came from a plant that had large leaves sticking out from the buds. During curing, trimmed buds have a more even moisture content, resulting in a smoother and more enjoyable smoke. Weed with thicker leaves fails to wick moisture away evenly. This is part of the reason for the harsh final product.

When Should You Begin Trimming Cannabis Buds?

Don’t leave the trimming process too late! Some growers begin pruning within a few weeks of the growing process. However, if you do it too early, you may interfere with your plant’s growth. It could slow down or even stop growing for days afterward. It is best to wait until the final week before harvest. At this point, remove the largest fan leaves and get rid of dying foliage. However, if you spot dead leaves a few weeks beforehand, feel free to trim them.

How to Trim Cannabis Buds [Trimming Techniques]

trimming cannabis

There are a few different methods for trimming your cannabis plant, but we’ll try to keep things simple. What follows are the two best (and easiest) ways to cut marijuana buds for a super healthy yield.

Hand vs. Machine Trimming Cannabis

Machine trimming cannabis ticks a lot of ‘convenience’ boxes and is a reasonable tactic for commercial growers. When you use these devices, the flower tends to look virtually identical from strain to strain. As a result, you end up with an aesthetically pleasing bud. However, machine trimming is not the best option for flavor or potency.

Unfortunately, the machines used today shave off too much bud material. This includes trichomes, the crystalline structures that cover the buds, and are responsible for the scent and aroma of weed.

It is a fact that every marijuana plant produces buds that are different in structure, shape, and size. Trimming machines are unaware of these differences and are unable to spot the buds crystallized in resin. Worst of all, you can’t adjust the tool to handle different shapes.

As a result, you are guaranteed to lose trichomes and potency. The cost of hiring or purchasing machines is also high. Include the well-known maintenance issues, and you have a trimming method best avoided.

Is DIY Trimming a Viable Option?

If you are a small-scale grower, you can trim the buds yourself. Commercial growers must hire skilled employees to cut the buds by hand. To be clear, you can’t walk in off the street and automatically trim cannabis like an expert. There is a level of focus, training, and experience required to ensure the marijuana is properly handled and processed.

For instance, there is a skill in learning how to hold the bud to ensure that the shape isn’t compromised, nor is the crystallized resin shaken off.

Remember, different strains have THC-filled resin in different parts of the plant. There are also varying densities of trichomes in certain places. On the plus side, the growth of legalization within American states means there are more skilled trimmers available than ever. If you’re an established operation, you can create your standards without the aid of machinery. In summation, hand trimming is vastly superior to its machine equivalent.

Wet vs. Dry Trimming Marijuana Buds

There are two periods where you can manicure your weed. The most obvious time is on harvest day (wet trimming) when the plant is still on the vine. The second period occurs 4-10 days after harvest. At this stage, the plants have wicked a significant proportion of their moisture.

Please note that untrimmed cannabis takes a little longer to dry properly. Also, you must leave the unmanicured marijuana in an environment where you control the humidity, temperature, and light. Otherwise, the bud will dry unevenly, which will comprise the quality.

Wet trimming is the preferred method for most growers. Removing dead leaves with your hands and scissors is much easier when the plant matter is still wet. Ideally, you will only handle the stems and rotate the buds to find the optimal cutting angles. Although you end up with a lighter end product, it is of premium quality.

The main disadvantage associated with wet trimming is that it is time-consuming and costly for commercial growers. You need to hire professional trimmers. They must work quickly to correctly trim every single harvested plant while it is still wet. Ultimately, wet trimming helps the bud dry much faster. A lack of extra foliage means the moisture is the buds don’t contain moisture for as long.

Dry Trimming

It is mainly large-scale growers who opt for dry trimming. The process involves hanging the plant upside for several days until the weed dries. It takes longer, and trapped moisture can result in moldy buds. It is typically an option if there isn’t enough time to trim wet cannabis. This is often the case when a company needs to transport the plants for storage almost immediately.

Ultimately, both methods have their pros and cons. Wet trimming is probably best for small home growers. Those with multiple harvests a year should consider dry trimming. In an ideal world, you will trim a reasonable amount of plant matter while it is still wet. You can finish the manicure after it has dried for a few days.

Tips for Dry Trimming Marijuana Buds

If you’ve just grown your first marijuana plant(s), you may look at the mature specimens in bewilderment. The buds probably look nothing like the stuff you’ve seen and smoked before.

Adult weed plants are bushy, unruly things that require a decent amount of care, maintenance, and trimming.

It is the only way to get them to look like a genuine “finished product.” Here are three simple steps to follow for successfully dry trimming marijuana buds.

Tip #1 – Remove the Fan Leaves

The definition of dry trimming means that the buds are almost dry before manicuring. However, you must still do a little work immediately after harvesting when the plant is fresh and wet. Remove the large fan leaves from the branches. This is about the only time when it is okay to use machinery in the trimming process. When performed carefully, the process should not damage the plant. With the leaves removed, the branches and buds should dry much faster.

Tip #2 – Cut Buds from the Branches

After drying the marijuana in suitable conditions for a few days, it is likely ready for proper dry trimming. Take the branches and remove the buds using a pair of shears or scissors. Make sure you snip the buds into your preferred size without trimming them. Experts in the field refer to this practice as ‘bucking down.’

It’s a good idea to get a container and fill it with the amount of bud you intend to trim. Also, this is a cool preparation step. It gets you mentally ready for what promises to be a hard few days of work ahead.

Tip #3 – Fill Your Tray

The final step is to keep your container of prepared buds beside you. Load up a smaller tray with a few of them. Make sure you expose the stem at the bottom. Trim it there as close as possible without causing the breaking down of the bud. Get rid of the tiny branches that come up from the bottom of the nugget. These branches are affectionately known as ‘crow’s feet’ because they resemble bird’s feet in appearance.

Finally, remove the additional plant matter and fully manicure your bud. Experts recommend ensuring the scissors are continually moving, but it is essential to focus on accuracy rather than speed. We recommend using several pairs of shears or scissors. You’ll need to swap when one pair inevitably gets coated in sticky resin. Patience is key! Never trim large sections of the nug because you will reduce your yield.

In general, you are almost finished when the bud is rotated 360 degrees at least once. If you’re a commercial grower, it is best to have a form of standardized trimming. This process ensures you don’t have to waste time by double-checking everyone’s work.

One final tip: Don’t get high on your own supply (while trimming). That should be your reward when you’re finished. As much fun as it is to be baked, it is likely to slow you down because you become obsessed with the perfect trim.

Tools for Trimming

Unfortunately, being underprepared when you set off to trim marijuana buds has a detrimental effect. It will lower your plant’s potency and yield potential. It also probably gives you a straight-up headache. Working without the proper tools is a real pain in the ass! Having the right tools on hand will ensure you trim your buds effectively and relatively quickly.

1 – Scissors or Shears

Don’t even consider proceeding until you have several pairs of sharp, sterilized scissors or shears specially designed for trimming. The best scissors will have an ‘ergonomic’ grip, which means they conform to your grip. If you try and cut bud for several hours using low-quality shears, your hand will cramp up severely.

Eventually, sticky, yet marvelous, resin coats your scissors, which means you must swap for a new pair. Ideally, you will have two small pairs of scissors for intricate trimming and two pairs of large shears for branch cutting.

A lot of people tend to steer clear of standard scissors in favor of spring-loaded, but this is a mistake. High-quality standard scissors take a day or so to get used to. They also let you cut faster and more precisely than you would with their spring-loaded counterparts.

Related article

2 – A Comfortable Place to Sit

If you don’t figure this out early, it won’t take you long to prioritize! It will take several hours to properly manicure buds. Make sure you choose a comfortable seat in a cool room with a lot of light. Places with excess hair, dust or dirt could contaminate your produce. Some serious growers invest in a zero-gravity chair because of the support they offer. These chairs also make it easier to find the perfect resting position as you work.

3 – A Clean Tray and Surface

Trimming trays are a must-have when trimming marijuana buds. As well as offering a great place to store the bud you’re about to cut, you can conveniently place one on your lap. Invest in a marijuana trimming tray with a screen, as it helps collect kief. It is easy to find a decent standard tray. Make sure it is made from an easy to clean material such as stainless steel.

4 – Cleaning Supplies

Although you should have at least a second pair of scissors with you when the first one gets sticky with resin, you can’t just dump it! We recommend using rubbing alcohol and a clean cloth to get rid of the adhesive.

5 – Comfortable Clothing

A silk apron is a perfect accompaniment to any trimming expedition. It protects your clothes, and the resin won’t stick to it. A durable pair of gloves is also essential to prevent sticky hands. Some trimmers hate wearing gloves. If you fall into this category, have a bottle of coconut or olive oil handy. Rub it on your hands at the desired intervals to avoid resin build up on your hands.

6 – Items to Keep You Entertained

Now that we’ve established that getting stoned on the job is a no-no, you have to find alternative ways to pass the time. You can’t watch television, so listen to music, treat yourself to an audiobook, or tune into a podcast. As crucial as trimming is, it is also extremely monotonous.

If you are part of a group, keep the noise down to an acceptable level. Otherwise, you’ll lose the precious art of conversation. Once you have enough trimming experience, it becomes easy to do a great job with distractions. You can even chat with Mike about his recent weekend in Vegas.

Hopefully, you found this guide on how to trim marijuana buds useful and informative. Let us know in the comments below how your next trimming adventure works out!