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The Advantage of Small Plants



[dropcap class=”kp-dropcap”]A[/dropcap] large, healthy, flowering cannabis plant is an inspiring sight. It’s the successful culmination of an entire season’s effort. The quest for big plants is an artifact of eased prohibition rules, which allowed cultivation for personal consumption, usually based on plant numbers four, six or 10. Some of these numbers have remained the same with legalization. If you can grow only a limited number of plants, grow as big as you can. However, commercial growers, even microbusinesses, can sometimes grow an unlimited number of plants. This opens up a lot of possibilities.

Growing a large plant takes time, labor, energy and space. The first stages of growth are spent nurturing branch and leaf infrastructure. These parts of the plant are not harvested, as only the flowers grown on the branches during flowering are used.

When figuring the cost of the active ingredient, whether tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or another cannabinoid, all the costs must be taken into account. This includes the cost of getting the plants ready for flowering.

There is a way to speed up production and cut the use of your time, energy and labor: Remove growing plant infrastructure from the equation so the plants spend more time flowering.

Usually, vegetating plants grow until the canopy space is filled. These plants will keep growing vegetatively as long as they are provided with enough light, about 18-24 hours daily. Assuming you have enough space and light, fill the canopy with plants placed close together, on 6-8 inch centers. Once they are in place, grow them vegetatively until they have five to eight sets of leaves. Using a timer, change the light cycle to 12 hours on, 12 hours off. Make sure not to interrupt the dark period with any light other than green because it will interrupt the plants’ photoperiod regimen, which will result in softer, smaller buds.

The plants will start flowering within seven to 10 days. Some varieties with sativa backgrounds will continue to grow for a while even as they flower, doubling in height by ripening time. Other varieties, mostly with indica backgrounds, slow vertical growth almost immediately, growing about 20 percent taller.

The plantlets of most varieties will not grow any side branches once they are in flowering regimen. Instead they will put their energy into producing flowers along the stem that ripen into a single bud, or just a few larger buds.

This technique can be used indoors or out. Indoors and under lights, it’s easy to adjust the light regimen. Outdoors and in greenhouses use a blackout curtain for light deprivation during the summer. During the fall, winter and early spring there is a long enough dark period to promote flowering.

With small plants you save time transplanting, pruning, staking and other laborious chores. You also cut greenhouse shelf time and save on manicuring, because there are fewer buds, which are larger and easier to manicure.


1. Indica-dominant hybrid clones were set in 4” rockwool cubes and placed under a HID light using a 12/12 light/dark regimen. Each produced a single big bud.

2. In Ketama, Morocco, male plants are removed from the field to feed the goats. In mid-July the male plants’ flowers were opening and the females were two weeks into flowering. The seeds had been broadcast and there were 10-15 plants per square foot. By harvest time the males will be desiccated, leaving half that number of plants to be harvested.

3. Clones planted in a field in Jamaica. Even during the summer most imported varieties and their hybrids start flowering early because of the long nights. (On June 22, the longest day of the year, dawn to dusk, is 14 hours.) Ten hours of darkness daily is long enough to push many varieties into flowering. The plants are growing buds all along the central stem, rather than branching. These plants grew to three feet as they produced flowers.

4. Plants were placed two per five-gallon container and were forced to flower when they were about a foot tall. Each plant grew a single bud that stretched 10-12 inches.

5. Clones with about eight sets of leaves, 10-12 inches tall were spaced about a foot apart in 18” wide rows. The rows were covered late each afternoon so the plants received only 12 hours of light daily. They are near ripe in the middle of July.

6. Small clones of Ed Rosenthal Super Bud were placed in various size containers and allowed to flower under natural light in a greenhouse beginning in mid-February. They received only a few hours of direct sunlight. Nevertheless, eight weeks later they are only a few days from harvest.

7. Close-up of an Ed Rosenthal Superbud.

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