APT Grow Guide : Topping

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Atlas Plant Trainer: Grow Guide Series Phase 5

Topping to Increase Yield

Topping your plants is a critical step for bigger plants and bigger yields. Topping means to remove growth at the top of the plant in order to split the plant into two even shoots. While it may take some time to master the art of topping, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s the best way to learn, and in fact may trial and error may still benefit the plant – but more on that later.

To get technical for a moment; Topping is the removal or pinching off of the very top, or apical, growth of the plant. This removes the growth inhibiting hormone auxin, and allows the next lower two branches to become the dominant tops, and start to grow more rapidly than they had before, quickly becoming the noticeable “top” of the plant.

Topping is typically done a few times throughout the vegetative stage, but can be done as many times as you would like. Just ensure that you have at least 3 nodes on a seedling, and allow your plant to grow a few inches between toppings.

While topping produces more symmetrical growth and ultimately bigger yields, it does add extra time to the growth cycle as the plant recovers from the cut.  The goal when topping is to encourage as even a canopy and symmetrical a plant structure as possible.



A clean, sharp of garden snips

🌿 Your plants, of course

Step One: Top The Clone


Basically, you want to snip away the freshest growth at the top of your plant. Cut it clean, down to the next set of leaves or node/branch that has formed, but make sure you leave two main growing tips for the plant to continue to grow from. If this is your second or third time topping your plant you will have exponentially more growth tips to top. This is also the time to even out your canopy, so If you have a longer more dominant branch, feel free to cut it down by another node or two so that the entire top of your plant is level.

While topping, ensure that you leave the fan leaves there to help the plant absorb as much light and recover as quickly as possible.

PRO TIP: if you were to make a mistake and cut off too much or too little of your plant it will probably be ok, as long as you’ve left a few leaves for it to grow back from.


Now on to FIM’ing. For those that don’t know, FIM’ing (stands for F*** I Missed). FIM’ing is when you don’t quite take the whole part of the top growth off and “miss” resulting in a partial elimination of the auxin, causing a boom of growth throughout all of the shoots below the cut.FIM’ing is then used in order to bush the plant out and fill out the plant from the inside out. Growing the smaller shoots from the inside of the plant, if continuously trained, will fill out your canopy as well. So, missing might actually be beneficial for your plants and ultimately your yields!

You can see here that the spot you cut is slightly different, but produces vastly different results.

Which one of these is best for you and your plant? I would suggest a combination of both, at different stages of plant growth. I have always preferred to top my plants 2 or 3 times as early in the growth as possible to build out the plant structure early and get a wider base of the plant in order to train it. Then, about 2 weeks before I’m ready to change my light cycle and start the flowering period I will FIM them in order to increase the size of the off shoots from all the branches I’ve created.


Final Thoughts

Whether your are topping a young clone or an older plant right before it heads into flower, the process is all the same and your goals should be the same as well.

Topping is super simple as soon as you get over first timer nerves. Don’t worry, they are totally natural! Don’t forget that topping and FIM’ing are all about increasing plant growth and leveling out the canopy for when your plant gets into flower. This will ultimately increase your yields when harvest time comes.

If you decide topping your plant isn’t for you, make sure you follow our guide on training your plants coming up next. Training will ensure an even canopy and bigger yields without cutting any of the plant away!

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