Let’s talk about plant height in your indoor garden. If you want to play in the NBA, being a few inches taller can have its advantages. With indoor marijuana plants, this is rarely the case. Excessive plant height in a grow room causes serious problems. These are all problems you will know how to prevent, if you diligently read to the end of this article.
I am going to take it easy on you, and lead with the really obvious problems first.
- Grow rooms, by their very nature, have a ceiling. Most of us only have about eight feet to work with. Somewhere between the top of your growing medium and the bottom of your light is the maximum height of the plant. In most cases, this is not more than about four feet.
- Taller plants have a higher center of gravity. If a two foot plant in a five gallon pot puts on a few pounds of wet buds, it is just a nice plant. That same weight on six foot plant can tip the whole plant and pot right over. This is an even bigger problem if you allow your growing medium to dry out. Now think about dominoes.
- Plants that grow tall quickly often have flimsy stems. Once the buds put on some weight, this is going to mean a lot of work staking, caging and tying, or a lot of bent and broken branches
- The taller the plant, the more stem you find between the roots and the buds, presenting two problems. The plant has used a ton of energy to grow that long stalk that it could have used for grow big fat buds instead. Additionally, the plant must spend further energy pumping water and nutrients against gravity to a higher elevation than necessary.
- CO2 is heavier than air and settles in grow rooms close to the floor. This means the roots are receiving much more CO2 than the leaves and flowers, when it should be the other way around.
- Tall plants cast longer shadows and decrease the available light to their neighbors.
- When plants grow to be tall, the distance between the light and the lower branches increases. According to light intensity principles and the inverse square law, as the distance between leaves and light source increases, the lumens reaching those leaves rapidly diminish. On tall plants, the higher leaves usually shade the lower branches preventing direct light. The only light that can penetrate the thick foliage to the lower branches is far red light between about 760 and 800 nanometers. Far red light activates phytochrome far red (PFR) which signals the shaded branches to stretch to compete for more light, exacerbating the problem further.
Six Ways to Limit Plant Height and Internode Length
Here are five proven ways to limit marijuana plant height and keep the internode length nice and short. Combined, these methods give you complete control of a marijuana plant’s stature.
Plants stretch because gibberellins (plant hormones) promote longer and quicker cell growth between the nodes when plants are exposed to inadequate light. To prevent this, make sure you have adequate light for the area in which you are growing. Keep the lights as close to the the tops of the plants as possible without burning them. Maintain proper plant spacing so that all of the branches are under direct intense light. To be sure you have enough light, you might consider purchasing a light meter.
Oscillating fans in your grow room simulate a breeze moving the leaves and stems. This movement disrupts plant cell elongation, causing the cells to exchange length for thicker cell walls. The plant is making natural adjustments to stand up to the breeze so that it is not flattened by the first big wind. As an added benefit, oscillating fans help stir CO2 up off the floor, and reduce pest problems.
Negative Differential (Temperature)
The growth activity of many plants, including marijuana, is affected by temperature differences. If the temperature during the day (lights on) is lower than at night (lights out), this is called negative differential or neg. diff. You can use this to keep your plants short and stocky by increasing the temperature during the dark to a few degrees warmer than the light period. Be careful not to overdo it: a five degree difference is plenty. Some strains will respond to neg. diff. more than others, depending on the climate to which the landrace is accustomed. You need to be keeping track of temperature and humidity anyway so make sure you have a good thermometer and humidistrat.
Topping marijuana plants helps to keep them short for two reasons. First because you have removed at least some of their physical height. It is not efficient to let your plants grow tall and then cut the tops off to make them short again, but it does work. The better reason to top your plants is because auxins (plant hormones) collect in the tips of the leading shoots and drive continued growth. When you pinch these tips off, the concentration of auxins is redistributed to the tips of the other branches. By dividing these auxins among many branches you can promote shorter, bushier growth.
With some practice you can learn to take a tall plant and train it into a shorter, bushier plant. Branches and tops can be pulled down and forced to grow horizontally either with trellis netting or cages. Low stress training is not a skill you will learn overnight. You will likely break some branches before you master the skill. Not all garden setups easily accommodate heavy training. If it is the only method you use to control a height problem, you have your work cut out for you.
The ag chemical industry has developed several plant growth regulators (PGR’s) to help control the height of various ornamental crops. I am not aware of any that are approved for food production. There are several products targeted towards the hydroponic market such as Super Bud, Bushmaster and Top Load that contain some kind of undisclosed PGR’s to help control plant height and increase branching. I have personally used Bushmaster and found it frighteningly effective in very low doses. Unfortunately these products do not list their ingredients. I suspect that they may simply be watered down versions of the commercially available PGR’s like A-Rest, B-Nine, Bonzi, Cycocel, Florel, and Sumagic. If this is the case, I question if they are safe to use on your marijuana.
When growing a crop meant for consumption, it is your ethical duty to guarantee that your harvest is safe. We live in a world where Monsanto’s lab engineered GMO and chemically treated foods can be found in most every food product. I question how seriously they take their responsibility for our safety. This is not an excuse for the rest of us. Never forget that you are growing medicine that may be used by some very sick people. Always do your best to reduce or eliminate the need for potentially harmful chemicals by mastering good gardening practices and the other five methods of controlling plant height.
The sooner you accept the fact that you will never play in the NBA the better. Instead, master the skills of managing plant height. These skills are easily achievable, will limit your problems, and help maximize your indoor harvests.
7 Problems with Tall Marijuana Plants,