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How to trim marijuana

trimming marijuana

Some people enjoy trimming because it’s a good opportunity to connect with the plant, especially if you’ve been growing it for months. But some dread trimming because it’s so monotonous.

Whichever type you are, know that trimming even only a couple of plants will take hours, even days. Be sure to have some good albums or podcasts queued up, and it always helps to have a friend or two helping out. You’ll have plenty of bud to spare.

Why is trimming marijuana important? 

Trimming removes buds from plants, cutting off branches, stems, and sugar and fan leaves. All of these are harsh to smoke and don’t contain many trichomes, although they do have a little.

When wet trimming, removing all that unnecessary plant matter also reduces the moisture content of buds, allowing for a more even dry.

Cannabis also takes on a tighter, more uniform appearance and has more bag appeal when trimmed.

Wet vs. dry cannabis trimming

There are two ways to go about trimming weed, each with pros and cons.

Wet marijuana trimming

Wet trimming happens all in one sitting: You’ll cut down the plant, cut buds off branches—called “bucking”—trim the buds, and then place them on a drying rack, where they’ll sit for a few days. 

Pros

  • Removing sugar and fan leaves is easier—they get shriveled and dried up in dry trimming
  • With less moisture-filled foliage attached to the flowers, drying will happen more quickly; this can be helpful in humid climates where mold is a concern
  • If you’re tight on space, wet trimming removes a bulk of the plant in the beginning, so you don’t have to hang whole plants up to dry
  • Trimming wet will also give you a tighter and more aesthetically pleasing final product
  • Many argue that because buds are stickier when being handled, trichomes remain intact, which preserves terpenes and flavors in the final product

Cons

Wet trimming is very sticky. Trichomes will get on your fingers, your trimming shears, your body, everything. Gloves are recommended; rubbing alcohol or coconut oil is essential.

Dry marijuana trimming

With dry trimming, you’ll cut down the plant and hang the whole thing to dry for several days first. When it’s dry, you’ll buck buds off branches and trim them. 

Pros

  • Keeping leaves on in the beginning makes the drying process slower; this can be great in arid climates, as a quick dry can cause excess terpene loss
  • It’s a lot less messy—trichomes harden as weed dries, reducing the amount of get-on-everything stickiness

Cons

  • Those less-sticky, less-messy trichomes are also more brittle and prone to breaking; you’ll have to handle your crop with care to preserve trichomes and THC levels
  • Hanging entire plants takes up significantly more space than if you discard excess plant material first; make sure you have adequate drying space before dry trimming

Marijuana trimming tools needed

To trim weed, you will need:

  • Scissors (for trimming buds)
  • Pruners (helpful for big branches)
  • Comfortable chair and area
  • A clean surface, like a table
  • Tray/bowl and a clean surface
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Rags
  • Proper clothes (ones that can get sticky)
  • Entertainment

How to trim cannabis buds

trimming cannabis

After you’ve set up your drying room and trimming area, and your weed plants are ready to come down, it’s time to get trimming.

Whether trimming wet or dry, the process of trimming buds is the same.

Step 1: Cut down the plant and cut off branches

Using a solid pair of pruning shears, cut off branches, breaking the plant down into smaller pieces until you get to the main stalk of the plant, which can get cut off close to the soil.

If dry trimming, you’ll hang the plant for drying now, either in its entirety or its smaller branches. Check out more on drying here.

Drying plants will be ready for trimming when stems snap and don’t bend—usually 3-7 days later.

If wet trimming, don’t worry about drying yet and go to step 2.

Step 2: Remove fan leaves

Fan leaves are the iconic cannabis leaves with five or seven points. The plant has had these leaves since it was in the vegetative stage. Fan leaves have little to no trichomes, so get rid of them. 

If trimming wet, it may be quicker to gently pull these off with your hands, but they can be snipped off with scissors too. If dry trimming, you’ll need to snip them.

Step 3: Buck buds from the branch

Once fan leaves are off, cut off individual buds from branches, also called “bucking.” 

Trimmers usually create a pile of buds to work on, either on a table or in a bowl or tray. 

Be sure to keep a separate pile for branches, stems, and fan leaves, and compost them.

Step 4: Trim buds

Now that you’re down to just buds, get to trimming. If buds are too big, break them down into smaller buds. A giant bud might look awesome, but it won’t dry as evenly, making it susceptible to mold.

To trim:

  • Trim the stem at the bottom of the bud as closely as you can without causing the bud to break down. You don’t want the stem to be exposed anywhere but at the bottom. 
  • Remove the crow’s feet—these are the leaves at the bottom that look like little bird feet.
  • Trim off extra plant matter and manicure the bud. Angle your scissors and keep them moving. After a while you won’t even think about it.

The goal is to take away everything that isn’t fully covered in trichomes. Create a uniform surface area around the buds. This includes taking down red pistils all the way to the foliage. Pistils have very little to zero trichomes.

Put all your finished buds in a separate bowl or tray.

If wet trimming, you’ll need to put your finished buds on a drying rack for a few days. If dry trimming, you’ll want to jar up your buds for curing.

Learn more about drying and curing here.

Pro tips for trimming weed

Trimmed cannabis buds
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Make sure to collect your trim. You can dry it too and either smoke it or use it to make edibles or other cannabis products.

Remember to wipe your scissors with alcohol or swap them out with another pair when they get covered in resin. Also, make sure to avoid shaving off large sections of the nug at once—this isn’t great for the bud and it will reduce your yield.

Some trimmers save their “finger hash” or “scissor hash,” which is resin that builds up on your fingers or scissors when trimming. This is perfectly fine to smoke, it just may be a little harsh. 

Hand-trimmed vs. machine-trimmed weed

As a homegrower, you’ll most likely be trimming your weed by hand, but some do invest in machine trimmers to cut out the monotonous trimming part. Commercial growers often use machine trimmers because they process such a large quantity of buds.

Pros and cons of hand trimming marijuana

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Individual buds can be shaped to bring out the qualities of each strain
  • Issues like mold or insects can be spotted

Cons:

  • It’s messy—you’ll want lots of rubbing alcohol or coconut oil around
  • Time-consuming
  • Usually have to rely on some buddies to help

Pros and cons of machine trimming marijuana

The high demand for cannabis has paved the way for new technologies and a whole range of machine trimmers. These trimmers do an incredible job of processing buds quickly, so they’re mainly used by large-scale growers producing for the low end of the market.

Highly efficient upper-level systems like the Twister T2 (~$12,000) can trim up to 19 lbs per hour, and lower-priced systems exist, such as the Trimpro Rotor ($1,750), for commercial growers. For homegrowers, there are trimmers such as the iPower ($120).

Pros:

  • Easy
  • Quick and efficient, saving time and money
  • Less messy; machine trimmers collect trim easily so you use it for other products

Cons:

  • Can overtrim buds
  • They knock off a lot of trichomes, affecting potency and flavor
  • Stems and seeds can still make their way into finished buds


Johanna Silver, Patrick Bennett, and Trevor Hennings contributed to this article.

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