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How to Manifold (& Prune) Cannabis Plants: the Best Online Step-by-Step Guide (w/ pics & videos)

How to Manifold (& Prune) Cannabis Plants: the Best Online Step-by-Step Guide (w/ pics & videos)

DISCLAIMER: Here at BudTrainer we have trained countless plants and broken more branches than we can count. We've also researched everything there is to be researched on the topic, and even got a college degree in commercial cannabis production to learn a bit more. To help you, we have gathered all of our knowledge and put it together in a way that is clear for you to understand, and easy for you to apply. 


Experience level: Intermediate

When to start: In final pot, after 5th node appears

Space needed: 2' by 2' per plant, or 3' by 3' if you want to push it

Manifolding Clones: recommended (but nodes might not be symmetrical)

Manifolding Auto-flowers: not recommended (not enough time to recover)


What you need:

  • Soft¬†garden ties
  • Pruning shears or thin tip scissors
  • Hole punch or a pointy knife (or use a¬†training pot)
  • Anchor stakes¬†for tying your seedling down¬†(optional)
    • Please note:¬†our old BudStakes shown throughout this guide have been discontinued but you can use any wire or stake instead.
  • LST clips¬†for training your plant at later stages (optional)¬†
  • Grafting tape or duct tape¬†(in case of accidents)


Advantages of Manifolding cannabis plants: 

  • Higher concentration of¬†cannabinoids on top colas
  • Arguably increases yields, however, it may not
  • Larger colas¬†and less¬†popcorn¬†bud
  • More airflow¬†through the canopy and¬†fewer pests
  • Creates¬†lower profile¬†and more¬†bushy¬†plants
  • The easiest High-Stress Training (HST) technique


Disadvantages of Manifolding cannabis plants: 

  • Takes¬†long-ish on vegetative¬†stage (min 6 weeks)

  • Training can be time consuming

  • May or may not decrease overall biomass and¬†yield

  • Can be¬†prone to bud rot¬†and other molds (outdoors)

  • Stressful¬†for the plant


So what defines a Manifold, really? 

A Manifold, by its definition, comes from the words many and fold, just like twofold or threefold, and it means a multiple of something. A Manifold is also defined as a cluster of exhaust pipes that come from a combustion engine that connect to one main exhaust pipe.


Car manifold from a combustion engine

What a combustion engine's manifold looks like


In the cannabis world, however, a Manifold is a training technique that was devised by a famous grower by the name Nebula Haze, and since then the Manifold has gone through multiple iterations. Today, there are many different forms of a Manifold, and they all serve the same purpose: to split the plant from one cola intomultiple.

A classic Manifold (the original one from Nebula Haze) involves a plant that has been topped twice in sequence - the first time splitting it into 2 main branches, and the second time splitting it into 8 main branches. Another way to split a Manifold is from 1 main branch into 4, and then from 4 into 8 or 16. This is different than a mainline, for example, where you go from 1 main branch to 2, from 2 branches to 4, and then from 4 branches to 8. 


Classic manifold by nebula haze done on a cannabis plant

Classic manifold by Nebula Haze (Image from GrowWeedEasy)


A simple Manifold, on the other hand, simply involves topping the plant twice: the 1st time splitting it into 4 main branches, letting it grow until the 5th node on those new branches, and then topping it a second time, at which point you will have 20 or so colas growing out of the 4 main branches - just like the plant in the picture below. We will be focussing on a simple Manifold in this article because it is easier to do and doesn't stress the plant as much.


Harvested and dried cannabis plant trained with the manifold training technique

The stalk from a cannabis manifold after harvest
Cannabis plant trained on a simple manifold




BudTrainer tip #1: do not use thin strings or wires to tie your plants since they will cut through the epidermis (the outer skin), which will limit the ability of your plants to transport sugars and thus to grow. Instead, use rubber-covered ties that are soft and won’t hurt your plants, like the extra thin and soft

Thin wire garden ties that are bad for your plants  BudHuggers garden ties for cannabis plants 

Thin wire garden ties VS rubber-covered garden ties


BudTrainer tip #2: if you break any branches while doing this, don’t worry - we’ve broken countless branches in the past, and we assure you that your plants will recover in no time. Just keep some grafting tape or duct tape with you in case you have to glue a branch back together. It works 90% of the time and is as simple as the diagram below (you don't even need the pencil - just tape will do).

Diagram of how to fix a broken branch

Image by Gardening Know How 


BudTrainer tip #3: when choosing which branches you want to train, make sure that you pick the stems that are still soft and bendy. If they appear hard and woody they are likely to crack, and sometimes you will not be able to recover from that damage.


Woody versus soft cannabis stalk
Soft tissue versus woody tissue: always choose soft tissue to train




Cannabis plant trained on a manifold shape with 4 branches tied down with BudHuggers garden ties, BudStakes anchor stakes and BudPots cannabis training pots.
Cannabis Manifold at week 5 of the vegetative cycle


Step 1 - Preparing pots

When: Right away

NOTE: fabric pots are better for your plants (and the environment!) since they allow the sides of the media to breathe, which in turn prevents root circling. With fabric pots, the roots of your plant are always growing from the inside out, which makes them much stronger and ultimately allows your plant to yield more bud.

Before you even plant your seed or transplant your seedling, punch holes around the edges of your final pot. We like to punch 8 holes per pot in a pizza-like fashion so that they are well-distributed. Use your hole punch or knife for this. Alternatively, use a training pot that already comes with holes.


Fabric pot with holes on the rim BudPot fabric training pot with 8 holes around a steel-reinforced rim

Regular pot with punched holes vs training pot with reinforced holes


Step 2 - Topping #1

When: After your seedling has started showing the 5th node (each node is a pair of opposite leaves + growth sites). In the picture below, the 5th node is just starting to come out.


Cannabis plant with 5 numbered nodes

Cannabis plant with 5 nodes, ready to be topped


NOTE: Many growers wait far too long to top their cannabis plants, at which point they are cutting out a really thick piece of stem and wasting all of that energy that the plant put into it. We personally prefer to top as soon as the 5th node pops its head out, like in the girl scout cookies above.

This one is quick: just top your seedling above the 3rd node (read this article to understand the science and the method behind topping), and remove the 1st set of leaves and growth sites (the little shoots that grow out from the base of the leaf). Alternatively, you can choose to leave only the leaves on the 1st and 2nd nodes - what is important is to remove the growth sites (see video below).


Step 3 - Training #1

When: 7 to 14 days after topping

At this point, those 4 little shoots should be long enough (4" or so) such that you can start tying them down in a cross shape using your anchor stakes or training pots, and also your garden ties. Make sure that your shoots are nearly horizontal, and don’t worry if your leaves are facing down. They will turn back up within 24h.

As you can see below, I topped this plant at the third node 10 days ago, and now it has 4 main branches that I am tying down in a cross shape.   

Tying branches of a cannabis plant down with BudHuggers garden ties, BudStakes anchor stakes, and BudPots training pots, into a manifold shape.
Tying down the 4 main branches of a cannabis manifold


Step 4 - Topping #2 + Defol/Pruning #1

When: 10 to 14 days after Step 3. At this point, the 4 main branches will fill up with smaller growth sites and leaves, like in this picture.


Cannabis plant trained in a manifold shape during vegetative stage.

Cannabis manifold after 14 days of being trained for the 1st time


Topping (for the second time): now that the 4 main branches filled up with leaves and new growth sites, it is time to top each of each of them one more time, forcing all of the smaller growth sites to grow into thick and juicy colas. In order to accomplish this, top each of the 4 branches at the last bud site, and leave 4 to 6 nodes per branch. You should have a total of 10 or so growth sitesfor each of the branches. 


Where to top a cannabis manifold for the second time

Where to top a cannabis manifold for the second time


    Pruning: after you topped, select all of the growth sites that are weak (in each pair there is usually one strong and one weak shoot), and remove them. This will allow the larger bud sites to take up the energy and grow even stronger. After this "selection" process, you should be left with 5 to 8 strong growth sites on each branch.


    Cannabis branch with a small and a large growth site
    Node with one small growth site and one large growth site


    Defoliation: lastly, remove any old leaves that are not collecting light, and anchor the side shoots/branches to the ground or to the holes in your pot. This will cause your plant to stay flat and your airflow to increase.


    BudTrainer Tip#4: We personally don’t like to defoliate like crazy, but we understand that some people do. When in doubt, just remember that you can always cut another leaf or branch, but you can never put them back. However, if you are having pest issues, then it is important to remove all affected leaves in order to help reduce the spread. 


    Step 5 - Flowering & Training #2

    When: 1 to 2 weeks after the last topping/defoliation. Your plant is ready to flower now. 

    If you are growing outdoors, you can continue topping your branches every 2 weeks in order to multiply them into even more colas - just make sure to stop topping at least 2 weeks before flower, which usually happens in late July.


    Cannabis plant trained with the manifold technique, ready to be flowered

    Cannabis manifold 7 days after topping for the 2nd time: ready to flower!


      If you have LST clips and your branches are growing outside of your pot, this is the time to start using them - so go to town on bending those branches while you can! You can also continue using your training pot, anchor stakes, and garden ties in order to widen the canopy even further. 


      Inserting a BudClip LST clip on a cannabis branch

      Inserting BudClips LST clips on a cannabis manifold


      Step 6 - Defol/Pruning #2

      When: After week 3 (or day 20) of flower

      This is your last opportunity to defoliate before the plant starts putting on weight. So go ahead and remove all lower leaves that are not catching light, all leaves that are blocking airflow in the middle of the plant, and also all yellowing/dying leaves. Leave only enough leaves to cover the canopy area (i.e. don’t leave holes in the middle of your plant).


      Defoliating and pruning a cannabis plant trained on a manifold shape

      Cannabis manifold being defoliated and pruned on week 3 of flower


      At this stage, your plant will stop growing in height and will start growing in thickness, which means it’s your last chance to train any branches. If you have LST clips, you can still use them one last time. They will help widen your canopy so that your colas can get even bigger!


      Step 7 - Defol/Pruning #3

      When: 1 to 2 weeks before harvest. 

      This is the final stretch, which is when your plant is filling up those trichomes with cannabinoids and still putting on girth. At this stage, we recommend you do one last aggressive defoliation and remove all leaves that are small, yellowing, not getting enough light, blocking airflow, and blocking light from the top of other colas. This will also help tremendously during harvest time, when you won’t have nearly as much to trim.

      GIF: cannabis plant trained with a manifold technique on week 8 of flower.
      Cannabis manifold after the last defoliation


      That’s it, folks! This concludes your manifolding journey and it’s time to reap the fruits (some fine-ass awesome buds) of your labor.

      As always, happy growing!

      P.S. after harvesting, we prefer to hang dry, and then dry trim. We recommend drying for 5 to 10 days at 60% relative humidity (makes for a slow drying process), and then we cure everything in glass jars for another 21 days (burping it daily).

      Want to take your cannabis training to the next level? Check out BudTrainer's unique selection of cannabis training equipment. 




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