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How to Grow Bigger Cannabis Buds Outdoors and Indoors

May 15, 2017
If you are a cannabis grower, you know the underlying goal is to grow the biggest and healthiest buds possible in your garden. You also know the feeling of disappointment when a strain you’re growing never fully develops the dense sticky buds you hope it would. While some strains are low-yielding, you should always be able to produce a high-quality bud if you’re taking the right steps.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to improve the size of your buds. Pruning, training, feeding, and lighting are the most common ways to dictate how your plant will develop.


Man with Scissors Trimming Marijuana Plant

Cannabis buds will form at most of the plant’s nodes. A node is where a leaf or branch grows off the stalk. The larger the plant grows, the more nodes will appear, which means your plant will have more locations where buds can grow.


Cannabis anatomy: The parts of the plant

Intuitively, you might think that more nodes means more and larger buds, but this is far from the truth. Nodes with buds that are lower down on the plant away from the canopy will try to develop in flowering but will never become fully developed because they do not receive adequate light.

If you want to improve the yield of your plant, the best method is to prune away any plant life that isn’t receiving quality light. Trim away the buds and foliage that are under the canopy to “lollipop” your plant. This strategy will send all the energy into the canopy where the buds are receiving the most light, thus giving you bigger, denser nugs.


Another simple way to increase your yields is by training your cannabis plants. If left alone, plants generally grow one main large stalk with other small stalks growing up around it. A cannabis plant will grow in the shape of a menorah, where the center candle highest up represents the main large stalk. While this one large stalk will grow a beautiful large cola, the height of this one cola will dictate where the lights can be placed if growing indoors. This results in the lower branches receiving significantly less sunlight than would be possible with an even canopy.


How to Train Your Cannabis Plants for Better Yields and Potency

By super cropping (high-stress training) or using LST (low-stress training) methods such as tying down the top branches, you can motivate the rest of the surrounding branches to develop, thus creating a more level canopy. What happens when you train your plants is the growth hormones that are focused on the main stalk are redistributed to the surrounding branches, promoting growth for the entire plant. This results in an even canopy of branches that will all grow large colas while being equal distance from the light source.


Correctly feeding your plant is absolutely necessary when trying to grow large buds. Nitrogen is associated with vegetative growth, while phosphorus is the nutrient that is most closely associated with flowering plants. Feeding a plant nitrogen while it is vegging creates a healthy, vibrant plant at a young age that will grow rapidly, which leads to increased yields.


What are the best nutrients for growing cannabis?

Once your plant switches to flowering, decrease your nitrogen levels and increase phosphorus levels to help the buds fully develop and become dense. If growing in soil, when switching from vegetative growth to flowering, top dress the soil with bat guano or worm castings as a great way to increase phosphorous levels while you liquid feed your plant other nutrients.

Another tip for growing bigger buds involves regularly feeding compost tea to your soils. Compost teat helps develop healthy mycorrhizal relationships between the soil and mycelium. The more mycelium in the soil, the more nutrients the plant is going to take up, which will result in bigger buds.


Marijuana Plant Under Grow Light

If you want to grow big buds, you need to have big lights. When you identify the highest-quality cannabis in stores or dispensaries, you’re looking at cannabis where growers provided optimal indoor and outdoor lighting. You can’t cut corners when it comes to properly lighting your grow area. A basic guideline for lights is generally every 100 watts can cover one square foot. For example, a 600-watt light can cover a 6’x6′ area.

GroBox near guitar

The GroBox can help grow cannabis plants in a small space. (Courtesy of GroBox)

Make sure your lights are at the right height so your plants are not suffering from heat stress. The plants should not feel hot, nor should your hand if you hold it at the top of the canopy. If you want to be precise, you can use a digital thermometer to figure out the precise temperature. By providing the right amount of light and keeping the lights the right distance away from your plants, you’ll keep your grow happy, resulting in the desired bigger buds.


Four Steps to Picking the Right Grow Lights

If growing outdoors, make sure your pots or trenches are spaced far enough apart so that the sides of the plants can receive full sun. Growing on a south-facing slope will guarantee your plants are receiving as much sun as possible.

Growing bigger buds is a lifelong ambition for most gardeners. However, bigger buds won’t happen overnight. Gardening is a skill that takes time to refine since you can’t speed up a plant’s growth process. One of the best things you can do is to write down what you’re doing to your grows every day; that way, if you have a successful harvest, you can revisit what you might have done differently in your garden and replicate it with future grows.

Do you have any experience growing big buds? Leave a comment below with your own advice!

Trevor Hennings's Bio Image

Trevor Hennings

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

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  • Evan Heiser

    no, i don’t have any recommendations but it would be nice to be able to grow large cannabis plants. unfortunately i live on the east coast.

    • Patrick Borush

      you know like more than half the upper east coast has now gone recreational right? they just passed rec in i think vermont and connecticut i believe is about to also… google it shit is happening finally! Also the entire country of Canada will be legal by next year and Mexico has declared cannabis consumption a human right! Basically the US and its failed all around drug policy are crashing down around it! Coming from the east and west coast now and working its way to the middle hold out ass backwards “Bible belt”…

      • Craig Gangl

        I for one am getting sick and tired of the way our government is trying to take everything we as a people have a right to do in this country! It’s the people that have spoken the loudest and still the Feds won’t back down and leave us alone as our rights have been stomped on , we want pot legal it is but only to a degree that the government says ! If alcohol is legal and it does more harm that any drug can do than why isn’t pot a freedom that people can enjoy as a freedom? Because the big pharmaceutical companies says so , its money and power that those companies have and when they say jump are we supposedly say how hi ???? No I say back off and give us our rights as we the people have VOTED this in !!!! If it wasn’t for us the people you in a money and power only club wouldn’t have what you people have !!!! Now listen we the people can get rid of you that think your untouchable ! We the people can change the laws in this country as it should be not as they think they can do and keep ! People wake up times are changing and it’s time those people in Washington woke up !

  • Hseus

    6′ x 6′ is 36 sqft which would need 3600 watts according to the calculation in the article. A 600 watt light would be good for a 2′ x 3′ space not 6′ x 6′.

    • robertbucey

      Actually 100 Watts per square foot is way too high. 60 is sufficient for sativas and 40 to 60 is good for indicas. 600 watts is ideal for a 3′ x 3′ area. Which is 9 square feet. And will supply 66.6 watts per square foot. Enough for even 100% sativas and excellent for indicas and other hybrids. And if you want more buds Don’t molest your plants just turn them a little every day so the lighting is more evenly distributed.

      And go easy on the fertilizer. Too much fertilizer will kill more plants than anything else.

      And don’t listen to the crap you read online. Go to Barnes and Noble and download some real books.

    • elLYI

      It would be nice if the author would correct the mistake so we could tell which way the error went, though I think 100W/ft**2 is about right.

  • Perserverando

    Not much on outdoor, but I Volkswagen mine, so the bottom gets sunlight.

    • Raul Tsi

      what pray tell is ‘volkswagen’ when used as a verb in relation to growing?

      • Perserverando

        When they reach about 3 feet, tie some hemp twine to the top and arch them over, gets all the lower branches, adjustment is easy.

  • jerry garcia

    I have been growing now for about 5yrs + and I usually grow with 600w cool metal halide in vegative state no more than 10 plants in a 4×6′ space,then switch to 1000w hps for my bloom period, no more than 5 plants per light in about 16sq. ft. space, it yields fantastic results! I struggled for years with other methods but finally I’m harvesting good amounts of high quality bud, patience and persistence is the key, and DONT over-water, flush well towards the end and youll be happy, good-luck, all peace n love……..

  • Lisa Ferreira

    Hi just want to know if someone can help me. I see for every 100w light it can cover 1 sq foot up until 600w that covers 6 x 6 sq foot… ok now my question. I have a 150w light that i want to use for one plant.. does it matter what type of bulb it is or does this have to be a special type of bulb?

    • Donald Adiska

      The type of bulb will matter. full spectrum is advised at the minimum, or a specialty bulb for growing. CFL’s tend to be bad.

  • moo m,oo

    Hi all, I live in NM with a short cold at night growing season, but the girls adapt to the climate and do OK. I got some 2′ tall skinny Afghanistan plants and planted 2 of them sideways since they were too stout to bend. Those two plants both have more bigger colas than the straight up ones so I guess that was a good way to do them. all look happy anyway!

  • $parkle Puss

    I’d like to write a guide for microgrowers who live in illegal states or those with a very limited space/budget. Every grow guide seems geared toward people who can afford–both financially & otherwise–to use the brightest lights, strongest nutes & all sorts of other crazy gadgets.

    Here’s what my first grow consists of:

    – One 18-oz Solo cup
    – Black Gold Organic soil
    – 2 CFL bulbs (42 watts each)
    – Clamp-on reflector socket for lights + 2-way socket splitter & extender
    – 7 Feminized Sour Diesel Auto seeds
    – One 20-watt LED gooseneck desk grow light for side lighting

    GRAND TOTAL: $68

    I’ve made all my own soil amendments & nutes, which has surprisingly worked great for being a first-time grower–things like banana tea, Epsom salt solution & diluted urine. Nothing complicated. My plant is in Week 7 & is covered in buds with lots of pistils & trichomes. It’s not a ton but I’m not a heavy smoker either so it will last me a while. And I’ve still got 6 seeds left over to plant later.

    In my humble opinion, many growers insist on investing way too much money on unnecessary items that just end up burning their plants or running their light bill up to high heaven. Cannabis is a weed: It will flourish with the right amount of light, water & air circulation. Unless you’re growing on a commercial scale, you can probably skip a lot of the fancy extras. Growing is as much an art as a science. There’s so much bad info out there…people saying you HAVE to spend $300+ on this lighting board or that contraption. But you don’t. You can grow perfectly healthy buds on a shoestring budget with things you already have lying around the house. And saying that seems to piss some people off, but it’s true.

    • Soul Critic

      I save my egg shells and banana peels and then put them in the oven at 250 degrees for several hours and then run them through a Braun coffee grinder (separately).

      The best “base” for a potting mix is roughly equal parts composted manure, peat moss or coco coir and builder’s sand or perlite. Then add in any additional nutrients after you grow a plant or two and determine any deficiencies.

  • arsbuds arsbuds

    I truly recommend that each and every human being should try royal gorilla. I accidentally grew 3 pounds of it and don’t regret it. I got to go