How to trim weed plants

Learning how to trim weed plants correctly is essential to produce the highest quality buds. This article will walk you through the tools and techniques for trimming weed.

If there’s one part of growing cannabis that really sucks, it’s trimming your newly harvested plants. I wanted to say that first and foremost, especially if you’ve never done it before, because you will soon learn that everyone feels the same way about trimming. It sucks.

The best tools for trimming marijuana

Pruning shears

If you’re looking for the best tools to trim a cannabis plant, you have several options. The standard among growers we know seems to  the Fiskars pruning shears. The style of pruning clippers has a spring to open them after each squeeze, which definitely saves a little hand strain when you consider you’ll be doing thousands and thousands of cuts.

Floral scissors which have big openings for your fingers can also be used to trim weed plans. But they don’t have a spring so over time your fingers may become fatigued. Trimming is already unpleasant enough without sore fingers, so getting the Fiskars-style pruners with springs is definitely a good choice if you’re a beginner turning to trim marijuana.

Fiskars and the equivalent usually come in around the $10-$15 price range, which is very reasonable. Avoid getting too cheap a pair, you don’t want to have to keep replacing them.

Getting a Fiskars shears two-pack brings the cost per unit down even more — and allows you to use a helper to cut trim times in half!

Disposable gloves

You’ll also need to invest in some gloves to keep your hands from being a sticky mess.  It’s pretty cheap for a 100 count box of nitrile gloves, definitely worth not having your hands covered in layers of sticky resin. Make sure to get powderless gloves.

Alternative approach to consider: If you don’t use gloves and you pluck the sugar leaves, you can get sticky fingers quickly. Roll your fingers together to form little balls of finger hash.  You’ll be a sticky mess but you’ll have something to smoke right away while you fining your trimming session.

Trimming Trays

Trimming trays let you harvest trichomes that fall off of your buds and sugar leaves during the weed trimming process. Trichomes fall through a screen to get collected below.

There’s a few options for trimming trays, including Heavy Harvest, TrimBin, and HarvestMore. They run in the $50-$60 range, and pay for themselves if you are able to get even 2 grams of kief when you’re done. Typically if you trim dried weed you’ll collect a lot more than if you trim wet plants.

You can also use your trim tray to dry sift sugar leaves. Just crumble a small amount of fully dried sugar leaves, and then scrap it back and forth a while with a credit card.  When you’re done, lift the top tray and use the credit card to collect the pollen that has fallen below.

For big outdoor plants, a larger screen simplifies the task. A set of four 25″ x 36″‘ dry sift screens ($269) come in stackable frames, so you can easily separate your dry sift into top- and mid-level quality grades. It pays for itself the first time you trim.

Best ways to trim weed

There are three methods used to trim cannabis:

  • Removing all leaves
  • Removing just fan leaves while keeping sugar leaves
  • Keeping all leaves on the plant (not recommended)

The one you choose is a personal preference that depends on the final look and quality you want. The better you know how to trim a marijuana plant the better the final buds will look.

Option 1. Trim all cannabis leaves

For the look most commonly associated with “connoisseur quality” buds, the entire plant must be trimmed to remove all fan leaves and sugar leaves. This will leave just the exposed bud. For the best quality buds plan to take some time to manicure. Be gentle yet precise.

If you’re doing a wet trim, it is recommended that you trim all the leaves while keeping the buds attached to the sticks for hanging. Having the stick attached slows drying which will prevent your buds from drying too quickly. Slower drying times help improve appearance, smell, and taste among other things.

Option 2. Remove fan leaves but keep sugar leaves on the plant

Some growers choose to leave the sugar leaves on after they trim marijuana plants. Sugar leaves are the smaller leaves located around the buds. They glisten white due to the tiny trichomes on the surface of the leaves. Growers who don’t remove the sugar leaves will still trim off the large fan leaves.

Buds with sugar leaves on them don’t have the same bag appeal, and you won’t see this approach at a dispensary. But for a homegrown (particularly one looking to drastically reduce trimming time) it’s an option to consider.

The buds will look very impressive once the sugar leaves do get removed since they stay protected when you jar them. When you finally go to smoke the buds, first remove the sugar leaves.

While you could smoke buds with sugar leaves, the THC content isn’t as great as with the bud itself. So removing at the time you’re breaking up your buds to smoke is a better option. Don’t throw those leaves away though. Use a trim tray screen for a dry extraction and you’ll have a little pile of kief you can use to top your bowl or joint.

Advantages of not trimming sugar leaves

There are a few advantages to leaving sugar leaves on the plant – the biggest being that It certainly saves some time! Another advantage of leaving the sugar leaves on is that when drying the plant the moisture in these leaves will slowly make it’s way into the buds. This slows drying which helps improve overall but quality of the final product.

That sugar leaves also serve as a protective layer around your buds, so when you go to cut into one to smoke it you will see a more well preserved trichome layer on the bud then if you don’t have sugar leaves.

The trichomes on the buds without protective leaves get affected by the friction which can knock some of them off. So if you want to really crystally-looking buds when you go to smoke them, you could leave the sugar leaves for protection. The appearance of untrimmed buds looks a bit lower-quality overall though to most weed smokers.

Disadvantages of not trimming sugar leaves

It is a pain in the butt each time to smoke a bud if you have to cut out all of the sugar leaves.

You don’t want to smoke them, as their THC percentage is much lower than the flower itself. Some people say to smoke them, since they appear to be covered in crystals. But that’s nonsense. We’ve tried a fat joint of just really frosty sugar leaves one time when the bud ran out and it didn’t do a thing. Total waste of time.

Another huge disadvantage to leaving the sugar leaves on your buds to dry is that he will not be as able to produce concentrates or hash with the excess trim directly from fresh frozen trimmings.  I couldn’t imagine completing a trim and not having some form of kief extraction.  So if you do keep sugar leaves on when you trim cannabis plants make sure to do a dry extraction to salvage what you can.

3. Leave all leaves on the plant when drying and curing

Some growers choose to not trim their bud at all when they dry and cure it. They just hang it upside down. Or even worse, in a pile on the ground. This is commonly done on low quality brown dirt weed from Mexico. Yuck.

The buds look like garbage and are pressed tightly together for their unlawful importing. Because of all the leave material there is a much lower overall THC when smoked than they would have been if they were properly trimmed, dried, and cured.

Never be lazy and do this. Learn how to trim weed plants correctly and it will pay great dividends.

If you look at pictures from High Times in the 1970’s back when whole plants were dried untrimmed and entered into the Cannabis Cup, and the resulting plants were potent but didn’t look nearly as impressive compared to more modern fully-manicured buds. Similar to excessive manes of 1970’s pubic hair, generally today’s cannabis user prefers a more closely-trimmed look.

Should sugar leaves be trimmed before or after drying weed?

This is a subject of some debate. Some growers choose to dry trim, where you dry the weed first and then trim the sugar leaves afterwards. This allows for a slower drying process, which helps improve but quality as the moisture in the leaves slows the overall dry.

The alternative is the wet trim, where all fan leaves are trimmed before you hang your plants to dry. But should you trim sugar leaves before or after drying marijuana? Here are some things to consider.

From the perspective of lengthening the drying process, leaving fan leaves on is good.

But on the other hand it is a lot easier to trim marijuana leaves when the plant is wet and pliable. Sugar leaves curl in when dried, and the plant is somewhat more difficult to handle without causing dried trichome heads to fall off.

If you do trim sugar leaves after drying, getting a trimming tray with a fine mesh screen will pay for itself the first use with all the kief you’ll collect. Go for a 73 micron trimming tray to get a nice pale yellow pile of hash. This hash can be smoked right away and doesn’t require a cure since there isn’t any plant material in it. The 150 micron trays are ok, bu if you’re looking for finer quality you don’t want anything above 12o, with 90 or 73 being optimal.

If you trim right after you cut your marijuana plants down, you will really be able to get your snips way in there to cut sugar leaves at the base of buds (also called crow’s feet). This will result in but that is much nicer to look at them if you just cut the ends of the sugar leaves off around roughly where the edges the bud would be. Go slow and hold your snips at an angle, and be careful not to inadvertently clip the bud off at the base.

How to trim marijuana plants in two steps

Step 1: remove all fan leaves

Cut a branch off of the plant to get started. Try to leave a little hook with the stalk of the plant to you can easily hang it.

The first step learning how to trim marijuana plants is to cut off the big fan leaves. Fan leaves are the large, long-stemmed leaves that stick out of the plants a bit. They’re usually green and not very frosty. It’s best to just remove all of these up front each time you grab a new branch to trim.

Keep the fan leaves out of the sugar leave pile which will be used for making hash. You do not need to put fan leaves in the pile for hash because they contain very little trichomes. It is these trichomes that are collected during the hash making process.  Fan leaves just add mostly plant material I can just be thrown in the trash. Although if you live in a region where you are not supposed to be growing, it does not make much sense to put them in the trash.

Step 2: remove sugar leaves and popcorn buds

Starting at the bottom of the plant, trim around each little bug to remove all visible sugar leaves. Be careful not to overcut or damage the plant. Inadvertent snips will usually result in a few casual F bombs getting tossed around. It happens.

Take your time and try to avoid as much contact as possible. Clean your snips frequency, don’t let them gum up

How to clean your trimming shears: and how to make scissor hash

A straight edge razor is a great way to collect the gummy residue on your trimming shears. Scrape it off from the blades of the shears, and then roll it around in your fingers into little balls. This scissor hash is perfect for topping a bowl.

Scissor hash doesn’t need to be cured. It’s a treat only growers and trimmers usually experience. It can be a bit harsh on the throat if you overdo it, so don’t put a marble inside a pipe and start ripping away unless you want to coat your lungs in an oily layer.

You’ll find that after a while your shears tend to gum up due to resin, and the razor scraping won’t be enough. This can slow down trimming and be frustrating. Use a cleaning solvent such as Harvest More Scissor Cleaner or Pro 420 Scissor Cleaning Solution to return them to cleaner form.

What are popcorn buds?

As you were trimming you will need to decide whether or not you want to keep the popcorn buds. Popcorn buds are the thin, wispy, under developed buds that form underneath the main canopy of the plant.

The undergrowth of marijuana plants does not get enough exposure to light in order to grow into good buds, so popcorn buds are very airy. There’s barely any mass or weight to them once you trim them down. Oftentimes growers will just chop them up into find pieces to make their trim piles more substantial.

Popcorn buds are kind of a pain in the butt to trim since they’re so much work, with so little a payoff when you’re done. But at the same time for small growers having a couple dozen popcorn buds is better than nothing when you go through the last of your weed stash.

Very wispy buds are definitely useless, if you trim a few of those for yourself you will quickly see how limited the reward return is on your investment of time and effort. By the time they dry there’s nothing left. Just chop them up into your sugar trim pile and process them later.

Want to avoid having popcorn buds at all?

There are several things you can do to limit be on the wispy buds on your plants which are a pain to trim.

One is to use it very powerful light source, the more light intensity of the bigger and fuller the final buds will grow. 1000 watt high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs will have much more light intensity further down to the plant, so plants grown with that bulb will be much denser have much less popcorn but then the same plant to grow with a 400 watt HPS light.

Plant training is also important. Cut off all of the scraggly undergrowth during the first week or two of flowering to leave just a uniform layer of tops of the plant exposed to the light. This is a good way to ensure that the plan spend time developing in the best but as opposed to wasting energy at the bottom of the plant as well.

Topping your plant and then using training techniques to level out the canopy is a great way to ensure the light distribution which limits popcorn buckets. You can also supplement CO2, a more advanced technique used by people running a sealed grow room.

Better to spend less time trimming dense, fat nuggets then to waste effort on hundreds wispy buds.

Trimming machines – are they worth it?

Trimming machines can make the job of trimming your weed plants a lot less manual, but they are very, very expensive.

If you can afford the cost of a trimming machine, then by all means go for it. But if you were just growing a couple of plants in a basement grow tent, it would be ridiculous to justify the expense of a $5000 trimming machine to shave off a couple of hours for your four plants.

That being said, by the time you’re done trimming the last of them will undoubtedly wish there was a better way. There is, you just have to pay for it. A lot.

What to do with your trim when you’re done? Make Cannabutter!

Don’t waste all your sugar leaves once you’re done trimming.  Make edibles.

This easy recipe will show you how to make cannabutter with trimmings. Avoid adding to your compost pile and keep your mind elevated at the same time — make weed butter with trim and popcorn buds.


Knowing how to trim weed plants properly is important to bring out the high-quality look of your buds.

It is easiest to trim cannabis immediately after you chop them, when the plant and trichome heads are much more flexible and pliable. If you trim after drying, you will notice that you will be damaging the look of the plan and knocking off precious trichomes.

To dry trim weed, start by removing the large fan leaves and discard. Then begin trimming the sugar leaves, working your way up from the bottom of the plan addressing it one bud at a time

Use a pair of sharp, clean pruning shears. The kind with the spring will reduce a hand fatigue.  Use a razor blade to scrape the shears if they get gummed up, then roll this around in your fingers to make a little ball of scissor hash. Smoke it right away to make trimming more fun. Save all your sugar leaf trim and make dry ice hash.

Above all, don’t forget that trimming sucks. But at the end of the day it is well worth it to take your time to hand-craft some fine-looking buds. You spent all that time and effort to grow them, you might as well learn how to trim your marijuana plants correctly.

How to trim weed plants
Article Name
How to trim weed plants
Trimming weed plants properly Is esential to bring out the high-quality look of your buds. We'll show you how to trim dispensary-quality buds.
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Happy Pot Farmer
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