Prune bird of paradise

How to prune cannabis plants for maximum yields

Trevor HenningsMay 19, 2017 Share Print

Updated 03/28/19

Pruning is essential for improving the quality and yield of your cannabis plants. It’s an intimate practice between the gardener and the plant and allows you to closely look at your plants and check up on their health.

It might feel strange to intentionally cut off bits of your plant, but these parts won’t produce quality buds because they won’t receive a proper amount of light—they’ll get shaded out by the buds and foliage growing above.

Cutting off the branches will allow the plant to redirect its energy and resources to the quality buds that will receive plenty of light. You also want to prune off yellow or dead leaves on the plant—they have no use and will only waste the plant’s resources.

Pruning also creates open space in the middle of the plant, allowing air to flow through it more freely and letting light penetrate deeper, keeping the plant vibrant and healthy.

What to look for when pruning

Quality buds grow where the plant receives a lot of sunlight and airflow, particularly on the top of the plant. You’ll want to remove:

  • Low-down branches that receive little sunlight
  • Leaves that are dying off because of lack of light
  • Bud sites that are low down and don’t receive a lot of light

In the early stages of growth, a plant is narrow enough that most of the foliage will receive plenty of sunlight. Start pruning your plants once they begin to take a bushy shape, and top them to promote this bushy growth.

As a plant grows and bushes out, it’ll start to take a shape and define the canopy. This will give you a sense of where the quality buds will grow so that you can start pruning away the unnecessary portions of the plant.

From this point until about 3-4 weeks into the flowering stage, you can actively prune your plants. Once well into the flowering phase, you want to cease pruning—it can cause the plant to start producing vegetative growth again, which will diminish the size and quality of your yield.

How to prune your cannabis plants

Grab a pair of pruning shears, usually some Chikamasas or Fiskars, for quick work on small branches and leaves. Keep an additional pair with more strength nearby to cut larger branches.

Keep your clippers/scissors sharp and make clean snips—this will keep the plant healthy and prevent infection and damage.

Amy Phung/Leafly

  • Remove large branches first. This will allow you to clear out as much space as possible before you begin the more detailed work. Start with branches on the bottom of the plant. These won’t receive enough sunlight and will never become fully developed buds.
  • Cut off branches that are growing up into the middle of the plant, underneath the canopy. These branches will get shaded out and also won’t develop full buds.
  • Prune any small or dying branches or leaves.

In the days following a pruning, your plants should go through a burst of growth—the open space will allow extra light to get to the plant.

Pruning allows you to control the plant and direct where it puts its energy. Remember, pruning is a great opportunity to be present in your garden and to observe how your plants are doing. Take this time to also observe your plants and check their overall health, looking for pests, nutrient deficiencies, and soil issues.

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Trevor Hennings

Trevor is a freelance writer and photographer. He has spent years in California working in the cannabis industry.

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How To Trim Buds At Harvest

Today, we’re talking about trimming buds.

This is a crucial step during the harvesting process to give you the best end product possible, so it deserves its own discussion.

In today’s harvest guide, we’ll cover:

  • What trimming is and why you need to do it.
  • Wet vs. dry trimming and which is right for you.
  • The must-have bud-trimming tools and tips for success.
  • How to trim buds — a step-by-step guide.

The best place to start is at the beginning, so let’s kick it off by discussing what bud trimming is.

What Is Bud Trimming?

Bud trimming is just as the name suggests — pruning your buds. Perhaps a better way to think of it is that you’re manicuring around your buds.

In short, you’re trying to remove all the excess plant material that is not your buds.

Many growers dread the idea of trimming, because it can admittedly be a lot of work and a tedious task. Beginner growers may wonder why trimming buds is even necessary at all.

However, expert growers who produce quality product know that it’s an essential undertaking.

Three Reasons Why A Quality Bud-Trimming Job Is So Important

The simple fact of the matter is, you must trim your buds. Here are the three most important reasons why…

1. Appearance: Because high-value plants are often displayed in glossy magazines, in jars at dispensaries, and at other places for sale, well-manicured buds have become necessary to give your product the appearance of being potent and desirable. So yes, trimming makes your buds more visually appealing and, like it or not, it’s now the new standard.

2. Smoother product: When your final product is ingested, excess leaves on the buds can make for a harsher experience when smoked. But when you trim off the excess, you create a much smoother product to consume, which your customers will thank you for.

3. Trichome concentration: The fact is, the highest concentration of trichomes are found on the buds and much less so in the small leaves surrounding them. Trichomes are like tiny factories that produce the hundreds of known cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that make for potent, unique, effective, high-value plants. Gram for gram, there are more trichomes in the buds than the leaves, so trim the leaves for maximum potency.

Remember To Save And Collect Your Trimmings!

Having said that, you don’t want to waste the trimmings from your plants. Indeed, these offcuts can be valuable.

In fact, many strains have trichome-encrusted so-called sugar leaves that are attached to the buds. And some are so short, you can’t even see the stems, just the tips.

Even these trichome-heavy, tiny leaves will give your buds a harsher experience, so it’s best to remove them — but definitely don’t waste them!

Why? Because if you collect all the plant matter you cut off your buds, you can later use them to create other products such as hash, teas, butter, tinctures and edibles. And depending on how big a harvest you’re trimming, you can stretch your dollars and really do some amazing things with all the excess you prune.

Wet Vs. Dry Trimming — Which Should You Do?

Some growers, especially those who are just getting started, wonder about the differences between dry and wet trimming, and which is best for them.

It’s pretty simple.

Wet trimming means that you trim your buds directly after harvesting them and before they dry, whereas dry trimming refers to drying your buds first and then trimming them.

There are a lot of different ways to look at which is better, but to simplify things, here’s what we recommend:

In this article on harvesting, we explain how to do a wet trim. For the first-time grower who is primarily working solo, this is a great option.

Likewise, if you’re trimming a big harvest and you’re using a trimming machine, you might be using one that requires you to trim wet. In that case, your choice is made for you.

If for whatever reason you need to get the product out the door as quickly as possible (i.e., you need to trim plants in your current location and move all your buds somewhere else for the longer time it takes to dry), you’ll be doing it wet, too.

You may not have a choice in the wet vs. dry debate. However, if you do, we recommend dry trimming.

Three Reasons Why We Recommend Dry Trimming For Most Growers

1. New dry trimming machines: If you insist on using a machine for trimming, there are now dry-trimming gadgets on the market to aid in this task. So you no longer have to trim wet, just because you’re using a machine.

2. Consistent weights: Many growers aim for well-manicured, hand-trimmed buds for maximum visual appeal. And once you’re getting bigger harvests, you’ll need to hire workers. The best way to keep track of how much to pay your workers is by how much they’ve trimmed in weight. For this reason, you’ll need to dry trim to better keep track of how much weight is lost through trimming compared to the weight lost from plant matter simply drying out.

3. Easier on buds: If you trim while your plants are wet before placing your buds somewhere to dry, this process can cause plants to become misshapen. Plants are softer when wet, and as a consequence laying them on their side will likely cause them to flatten on the side facing down. Likewise, some strains can take on different colors while drying. Wet trimming often dries buds faster because there’s less foliage to dry. You’ll want a somewhat slower drying period, so if you operate in a low humidity environment, you’ll definitely want to dry trim. Finally, if you’re curing before you trim, then the excess leaves can somewhat protect your nuggets while drying and curing.

The Best Bud-Trimming Tools

1. Big pruning shears: These are necessary for cutting through the tough stalks and branches of the plant.

2. Sharp trimming scissors: Smaller, sharper snips, like Fiskars Softgrip Micro-Tip Pruning Snip, are ideal for trimming buds and the smaller leaves around buds.

3. Gloves: While not a must-have item, a pair of gloves will make things cleaner and more sanitary while you’re handling your buds — otherwise your hands will be covered in sticky resin.

4. Rubbing alcohol: Used to clean resin from your hands, tools and work area.

5. Containers: You’ll need containers like cooking trays or bowls, but we highly recommend the Trim Bin by Harvest More. You’ll need several — one for the branches you cut off, one for final trimmed buds, and one for all the other trimmings you remove.

How To Wet Trim: A Step-By-Step Guide

It’s harvest time, and you’re ready to trim your plants. Here’s our easy-to-follow guide on how to do a wet trim…

1. Cut the branches with buds into manageable sizes. You’ll use your large shears to cut through the thicker branches. It’s pretty simple — to easily handle them, just make sure the branches attached to the buds aren’t too short or too long. Place them gently in a container and bring to your workstation where you’ll finish trimming.

TIP: Because your buds are still wet, they are softer and so laying them down can flatten them. To protect the buds, some growers will hang them from a line, similar to hanging wet clothes.

2. Remove fan leaves. First, you’ll want to remove any large fan leaves, a.k.a water leaves. These are the larger leaves that are bright green and with no “sugar.”

3. Close manicure the small leaves. Next, you’ll want to go ahead and trim the so-called sugar leaves, which are the small leaves that stick out of buds. How you trim these and how much is up to you. Some people like to leave them on if they’re covered in trichomes instead of trimming them. The more you remove, the less harsh your product. We recommend removing all of them, but trim your buds closely over your separate container that’s going to collect all these trichome-covered sugar leaves, so you can use them later for other products.

NOTE: You’ll need to decide how much of the stems you want to remove during this step, which is based on how you’re planning on drying your buds. If you cut the buds entirely off the stems, you’ll have to use something like a drying rack to place the buds on to dry. If you leave a little stem, you can instead hang them from a line to dry.

4. Time to dry. At this point, your buds should be trimmed and looking the way you want them to. You’ve either removed all the stems and placed buds on a drying rack, or you’ll have enough stems left attached with which to hang buds to dry.

Here is the ideal environmental conditions and timeline for drying:

  • Day 1 — 3:65 degrees at 55% humidity
  • Day 4 — 6:70 degrees at 50% humidity
  • Day 7 — 10’ish:73–75 degrees at 45% humidity, until stem breaks evenly and audibly.

5. Time to cure. You’ll want to use airtight jars, similar to glass Mason jars, for curing your buds. After they have dried (i.e., they pass the snap test), put your buds in the jars and follow your curing process.

How To Dry Trim: A Step-By-Step Guide

Again, we start at harvest time…

1. Cut the branches with buds into manageable sizes. Similarly to wet trimming, you’ll start by using your large shears to cut through the thicker branches. It’s pretty simple — just make sure the branches attached to the buds aren’t too short or too long for you to easily handle them. Place them gently in a container and bring to your workstation where you’ll finish trimming.

2. Remove fan leaves. Again, the first step is to remove any large fan leaves (a.k.a. water leaves). These are the larger leaves that are green, and with no “sugar.”

3. Hang to dry. Following are the ideal environmental conditions and timeline for drying:

  • Day 1 — 3:65 degrees at 55% humidity
  • Day 4 — 6:70 degrees at 50% humidity
  • Day 7 — 10’ish:73–75 degrees at 45% humidity, until stem breaks evenly and audibly.

Now you’ll have a short break between the first steps in the trimming process and finishing your buds, so keep that in mind for planning purposes. You’ll continue to let your buds dry until they pass the snap test. When that stem snap is audible and crisp, they’re dry and ready to be trimmed.

4. Close manicure small leaves after drying. Time to trim the so-called sugar leaves, which are the small leaves that stick out of buds. Again, we recommend removing all of them to make a less-harsh product. Plus, it makes buds look better. But don’t forget to trim your buds closely over your separate container, which will collect all the trimmings to be used later. This is basically the last step of the trimming process, so continue trimming until your buds are the desired shape. They should look how you want your final product to look when displayed on the shelf.

5. Time to cure. This is the final step, where you seal the buds inside your airtight jars.

Try These Tips and Techniques the Next Time You Trim

We’ve covered a lot of information today, and we hope it helped.

The steps to trimming are not much different between a wet trim vs. a dry trim. The main difference is of course the timing of when you dry your buds.

For some growers, the tedious task of bud trimming is not something they look forward to.

But hopefully, armed with this information, you won’t dread it quite as much and will learn to enjoy it, because you know you’re one step closer to bringing your buds to market.

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Hey Nico!
I was wondering if it is OK to trim leaves during flowering? It has been 10 weeks in flower under 12/12 photo-period and fan leaves keep blocking the light. Thanks! – Bianca A.

Hello Bianca. Thanks for reading and writing in!
For starters, 10 weeks in flower is pretty long, unless you are growing a crazy sativa of some sort. Most hybrid strains go 8-9 weeks, some require 10, so be sure to check you trichome colors; if they are beginning to turn amber it may be time to harvest. Using a basic 40x loupe, it is easy to see the color of these resin glands. At the beginning of flower they will be translucent, almost clear. Then they evolve first into a milky white color, before beginning to amber.

As it relates, towards the end of the flower cycle – even as early as week 5 or 6 – many of the bigger, older fan leaves will begin to change color. First they begin to pale and then move from light green into yellow. This is part of the natural progression of the plant’s life cycle and will especially occur as your nutrient regiment tappers off away from heavier nitrogen doses.
Once flushing begins in the last two weeks, many of the leaves will lose their color. It is absolutely OK to trim these leaves off your plant once they begin to pale and yellow – especially the bigger leaves which are older. These leaves are not producing enough energy for the plant to justify hanging around. In fact, they are likely using more energy than they are producing in photosynthesis.

The only caveat here is to make sure you do not remove too many leaves each day. A daily pruning program is always recommended, especially in the last half of the flowering stage. However, only a handful of leaves should be taken each day so as not to stress or shock the plant too much. At this point in its life cycle, the plant will not try to replace those leaves, but rather redirect that energy towards flower and resin production, which is what we want.

Fan leaves near the top that are blocking light should also be removed. Even if they are healthy, large fan leave near the tops of plants often shade too much of the lower branches to make it worth keeping them. Generally though, growth near the top of the plant will be the younger, more productive growth. Striking the right balance is essential, but common sense will dictate where the problem areas are once you are in front of the plant and under your light source.

Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!

Got questions? Email ‘em over to Nico at [email protected] and be sure to put “Nico’s Nuggets” in the subject line!

Bird Of Paradise Pruning Tips: How To Trim A Bird Of Paradise Plant

Pruning is one of the most important maintenance tasks for the landscape, but every plant has a different time and method. Need to know how to prune a bird of paradise? Bird of paradise can be cleaned up and trimmed at any point, but serious pruning should wait until early spring.

The goals of bird of paradise pruning are to remove old plant matter, thin the leaves, and take out damaged stems.

Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is one of those plants that you don’t forget. It’s not just their sheer size and impressive foliage but the plant’s namesake blooms. Near life-sized crane’s heads in bright, exotic plumage are the focal point of this extraordinary tropical plant. The flowers will last 2 to 3 weeks before dropping petals and dying. This is the first opportunity for pruning birds of paradise, but not the last.

How to Trim a Bird of Paradise

To my mind, trimming is different than pruning, and thinning is another thing altogether. Trimming is when you remove just a bit of the plant where it is damaged, dead, or diseased. You can trim a bird of paradise at any point since you are only removing a small amount of plant matter, so damage potential is minimal.

Any time you cut into a plant you should have sharp implements, safety garb, and sanitized equipment to prevent introducing and spreading disease. Removing just damaged material to where it connects to the main body of the plant is how to trim a bird of paradise cleanly. This leaves no dead stems to mar the beauty of the plant. Retain any leaves with more than 50% live tissue.

How to Prune a Bird of Paradise

Bird of paradise pruning is a more serious affair. This is done for the same reasons as trimming, but the goals are more intensive and combined. You may wish to reduce the size of an older plant or remove leaves and stems that bar a pathway or window. This involves harder pruning and should be attacked in early spring.

Use loppers, hand pruners or a pruning saw, but never hedge trimmers which will make rough cuts and leave ragged, damaged edges. Take all leaves and stems back to just above the ground. Remove dead flowers to the base of the plant and clean up any old vegetation that has dropped in or around the plant.

Pruning Birds of Paradise to Thin Overgrown Plants

Thinning is another way of cleaning up a bird of paradise. It allows air and light into the center of older plants, increasing flowering and reducing fungal disease. It is a crucial part of rejuvenating a neglected plant.

Apply the trimming and pruning techniques and assess the effect. If the center of the plant is still too crowded, use long handled pruners and remove selected stems and leaves. Remove new growth at the base of the plant. You can divide it with a shovel and saw for replanting elsewhere. Never remove more than one third of plant material per season and follow up with good cultural care.

Pruning Other Types of Birds of Paradise

There are also desert-thriving bird of paradise plants found in another genus – red bird of paradise (Caesaepinia pulcherrima), yellow bird of paradise (C. gilliesii), and the Mexican bird of paradise (C. mexicana).

  • Red – Late winter to early spring (after threat of frost has ceased) is the best time to prune this type. Cut it back 6-12 inches (15-30 cm.) above the ground. It may need another trimming in midsummer, depending on its growth.
  • Yellow – This should be done in late winter/early spring as well, but sparingly. Cut away any old blooms. If necessary, the branches can be cut back to half their length.
  • Mexican – Again, like the others, pruning takes place in late winter or early spring. This one is similar to the yellow in that it is done sparingly. Cut away dry flower blooms and stalks at the bottom of the plant.

Q. Can we completely cut off our smaller, overgrown birds of paradise? Will they come back?

We have cut the big ones down and they came back.

A. Bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae, is a popular evergreen perennial in Southern California, prized for its distinctive orange and blue flowers. These plants thrives in a wide range of climates and soils, from coastal locations to desert gardens, as long as temperatures remain above freezing. They will survive the occasional frost, but when they sustain damage, they are slow to bounce back. They flower best when they are given regular water and fertilizer, and when they are somewhat root-bound.

Because they grow so well, they can eventually overrun their planting space and need to be tidied up or reduced in size. Bird of paradise has thick, almost carrot-like roots that can sustain the plant if you choose to cut it back severely. They will come back, and you will have new fresh leaves, but it will take awhile.

When faced with overgrown “birds,” most gardeners choose to dig the plants up, cut or chop the old plant into sections, and replant one of the divisions. This method retains some of the foliage so you are not faced with a bare planting area. With either method, it may take some time for the plants to resume their flowering.

Q. My peach tree has finished blooming and I’ve never seen it with this much fruit before. I know that I will need to thin the fruit. Can you provide some guidelines?

A. This year’s cold winter seems to have helped many deciduous fruit trees to set record crops. Unless the surplus fruit is removed, the tree’s branches may break from the weight and the individual fruits will be small.

To prevent these problems, thin the fruits to one every six to 10 inches, depending upon the girth of the branch. Early-maturing varieties should be thinned more than later varieties to allow fruit to reach the largest possible size before maturity.

Remove the excess fruit after all possible chance of frost has passed, but for best results, complete the thinning by the time the fruit has reached 1 inch in diameter. Later thinning can be done, but it’s less effective on increasing fruit size because the tree has expended too much energy on fruit that is being discarded.

Q. I planted some lettuce in my garden. Instead of getting larger, they seem to be getting smaller. Something is eating them, but I don’t see any snails or other insects.

A. I’ve had the same problem in the past, especially at this time of year. In desperation, I set up a camera with motion detector and discovered that birds were snacking on the tender leaves. After providing some bird-proof covering, the problem stopped.

Ottillia “Toots” Bier has been a UC Cooperative Extension master gardener since 1980. Send comments and questions to [email protected]

Contact the writer: [email protected]

There are 5 species in the plant genus Strelitzia, native to South Africa. They are called Bird of Paradise because of their resemblance to an exotic tropical bird. South Africans call it the Crane Flower because it resembles the head of a crane. Bird of Paradise grows in a trunk-less clump of stiff, green leaves that limit the potential of training through pruning.

Limits of Pruning

Because it grows in a clump, not with a trunk and branches, there is only so much you can do by way of pruning to manage the size of a Bird of Paradise. Your best option is to carefully select the most appropriate species for your space. The common Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) grows up to 6.6 feet (2 m) high and up to 3 feet (90 cm) wide. The largest species, Strelitzia nicolai, grows up to 20 feet (6 m) tall. The White Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia alba, is a tree-like plant that can reach up to 33 feet (10 m) tall and is not suitable for a small garden. The slow-growing Strelitzia juncea grows up to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and has leaves that disappear over time, giving the plant appearance of a waterside reed or rush.

Photo via

Pruning Suckers and Rhizomes

Underground rhizomes, a form of stem, grow from the base of Bird of Paradise, forming clumps of shoots. If you allow the rhizomes to grow unchecked, the clump can quickly overwhelm a small space. Decide how far you will allow the plant to spread, then slice into the soil with a sharp shovel blade to cut the rhizomes.

Pruning Stalks and Dead Flowers

Two or three Bird of Paradise flowers grow on top of tall stalks, among the long leaves. Prune spent flowers and flower stalks in the early spring. However, if you remove the stalks you will also remove the flower buds, destroying what makes the plant striking.

Pruning for Height

If you want to limit the height of a Bird of Paradise, you can selectively prune its taller leaves and stalks when it is dormant in the winter.



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Gardening FAQ

Strelitzia (Bird of Paradize)

Deadheading bird of paradise flowers simply refers to removing bird of paradise blooms that are dead. These dead blooms are often referred to as spent blooms and are dead and wilted, blooms that are generally brown in color. Removing old blloms encourages new and bigger blooms, not to mention the fact that this process keeps the plant visually appealing.
The process of deadheading is done in a particular way. Start with the basics and make sure you have a solid pair of gardening gloves and a sharp pair of pruning shears ready to go. The stalks can be as wide as 6 inches, so you’ll need a good grip. You will want to cut the spent bloom, which lacks the typical orange and blue colors, at the flower’s base. You also want to cut the stalk to which the bloom was attached so long as there is not another flower already developing on that very same stalk. Get as close as possible to the base when cutting the stalk. Don’t forget to make sure to remove stems, leaves and other dead foliage.
According to the University of Hawaii, failure to properly deadhead bird of paradise flowers can result in a shrub that is completely covered in dead organic matter. Fungal infections and disease are also common when the bloom and its leaves and its stalk are not cut back.
Hope this helps.

Strelitzia reginae is a beautiful plant that can be successfully grown inside. The biggest drawbacks are their size—they grow 5 to 6 feet—and the fact that the plants need three to five years before they flower.

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