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Low-Stress Training – A How to Guide

Training your plants means helping them grow in the best possible way.  

Here, we will go over the reasons why we low-stress train (LST), a little of the science behind it, some of the various equipment used, and the various techniques.

This article aims to make you comfortable enough to train your plant once you finish reading. Without further ado, let’s get your “training” started.

See what I did there?

low-stress training

A Brief History of LST

Low-stress training (LST from here forward) has been around for centuries. It’s not just doable for cannabis plants. People have always been curious to try and improve their yields, making room for more buds, fruit or even flowers (especially flowers).

As people started to master planting a crop, they started to watch the plants. They realized some plants could bend and manipulate to create more off-shoots or a bushier plant. Even going to the extent of increasing yields.

They also learned that by bending the plant without breaking any part of it, the plants would grow just as well but became more vigorous in the process.

Some Science Behind LST

The first thing you’ll notice with many plants is they like to grow with what’s known as apical dominance.

Think of a Christmas tree.

When you bring it into your home, you’ll notice that the top seems like one branch has grown straight towards the sky. That’s the apical branch or stalk. It looks pretty, and for some plants, it’s perfectly fine to let grow like that and not sacrifice a grow. Now, for other plants like cannabis, peppers, and even some fruit plants, you will want to break that apical dominance to allow for more “sites” (the parts of the plant that will produce flowers and/or the fruits/vegetables) to be produced.

This can be done without having to cut or damage any part of the plant. It’s also quite easy to do if you have the confidence and you don’t jerk or bend the plants too hard.

Now, once you start the process of breaking the apices, the plant will naturally release and redistribute more hormones called auxins. These hormones are what’s responsible for making apices.

This will allow the vertical branches to receive those auxins and turn them into apices themselves. The more you keep the plant on a flat horizontal plane or bent where the lower branches can gain a good amount of light, the lower branches will always grow faster, longer, thicker and produce more than if left to their own devices.

When it comes to growing any kind of plant that we consume in one way or another, this can be extremely beneficial.

How it Impacts Cannabis

When the cannabis plant grows without intervention, the apices will grow tall and thick. It will closely resemble the shape of a Christmas tree. Those very top flowers will hold the highest number of medicinal properties than the lower branches due to the higher branches blocking out light.

It’s not fun growing a gorgeous plant just to have its properties in intensity and benefit. The best way to fix that issue, let all the branches get an even amount of light. Then, you’ll notice more consistency in your growth than in a previous way.

Equipment for Low-Stress Training

The first way of LST’ing is just to simply bend the branch. Now, you’re not going to go in there and just bend the of the branches like a barbarian. Not that you can’t technically do that, but you will end up with a different result that won’t be discussed here for now. What you will want to do with this is gently bend the branch until it is where you want the branch to be. Doing this alone is the most time-consuming because you will need to go back and continuously re-bend the branches until they stop resetting themselves. There are most definitely other things you can use to help keep those branches down once you have them bent.

Twine

Some people will tie one end to the plant while using either the pot’s edge sitting in weed barrier staples or clips on the edge of the pot. This helps when you are initially bending the branches where you want them to keep them in that spot. This, unfortunately, limits you on how many strings you can place. If you are growing a smaller plant like an auto, this technique is more than suitable to get the plant to fully open, making all the other branches apical.

 You can also use other ties on the branches to open the plants up.

Bonsai Wire

With this, you can either truly bonsai the plant (some do this, making some beautiful art that has a happy ending to it) or just use the wires to open the plant up and keep the branches from moving back to their original position.

To do this, all you need to do is wrap the wire around the branch like a corkscrew, making sure you don’t wrap up any of the leaves. So, wrap around them. This can do a few things. When you wrap the wire around the branch, it is easier to manipulate it, almost like the branch itself is a wire.

Then, when the branch has thickened up and will no longer move back, you can take the bonsai wire off and reuse it on a different branch. This is also how you can bonsai the plant as well.

Trellis Net

When using a trellis net, depending on the size and shape of the plant (meaning is the plant an indoor grow or outdoor), how you use it will depend.

Almost all indoor growers will put the net in a horizontal position and fasten it either to the tent itself or a structure that will hold the net in place. Some people will use PVC pipe and build a frame to which the trellis net can be fastened. While others will use clips that can clip on your tent poles, and you can hook the net onto them simultaneously. These are known as CFM clips.

Once you have the net set up in a horizontal position, all you’re going to do is keep the branches under the net (the net will physically keep the branches horizontal) or weave them through the net itself.

If you are doing an outside grow, where the plant can literally grow to the height of a house, you can use the nets both vertically and horizontally. This makes what looks like a trellis net box that your plant sits in. You then just move the branches through each hole of the trellis net to keep it in place.

Branch Clips

Another option becoming increasingly popular is branch “clips.”

These look like bent plastic that has a notch on both sides. These notches are what hold the branches in place. All you need to do with these is gently bend the branches until you get a softly curved 90° angle. You’re then going to take one of the clips and insert the branch into the clip, following the clip’s curvature.

low-stress training

You want to ensure that the branch is inside the two notches. Otherwise, the clip won’t work properly, and the branch will just straighten out. The other thing you will have to remember with these are, don’t leave them on too long. The plant will grow around it, and you won’t get it back until harvest day. 2-3 days is more than enough, most times, to have the branch trained. Then you can reuse the clip for a different spot.

Tomato Cage

Yes, a tomato cage!

With this, you will treat your plant like a tomato plant. You will use the cage to hold the branches down as it grows. This will help keep the canopy open while not using a lot of equipment. Using this by itself does have its limitations.

For instance, you won’t have the ability to position each branch. You will have to wait for the plant to grow to a certain size, then tuck the branches. Most people who are seen using this technique usually combine it with another LST technique, like using a trellis net to wrap around the tomato cage.

low-stress training

All of these will break the apical dominance and increase your crop yield.

Low-Stress Training – Conclusion

Low-stress training is probably one of the more important things to learn when it comes to growing cannabis.

It helps you understand the plant and manipulate it without causing the kind of stress that will add quite a bit of time to your grow. Don’t worry about messing up when you feel comfortable trying one or more of these techniques. This kind of training is light enough that it will not stunt your plant if you make a mistake, making you wait an extra week or two for the plant to heal.

So, give one of these a try, or even combine a couple to create something that will work for your grow space.

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

Chris Staniszewski