by Nebula Haze
A lot of indoor cannabis growers struggle with yields. It’s fantastic to grow your own weed, but you must grow enough of it! Otherwise, growing may feel like a waste of time and effort.
Luckily, cannabis yields don’t have to be a mystery. There are specific factors that cause yields to be big or small, and nearly all of them are under your control. The following article contains a comprehensive list of what you can do (both before and after buds start forming) to increase yields.
Learn how to achieve bigger yields in less time!
Table of Contents
Before Buds Start Forming
- Choose High-Yielding Genetics – Strain choice has a significant effect on yields, so it helps to choose a strain that naturally makes big buds. Learn what to look for, and get a list of recommended strains that produce fat, envy-worthy buds.
- Grow Correct Number of Plants – Match the number of plants to your space and grow light. Often you’ll get bigger yields/faster harvests with many smaller plants as opposed to a few big ones.
- Use The Right Plant Containers – Choose the right container type and size for your setup, so plants grow as fast and big as possible.
- Use Coco or Hydro – Soil-grown plants typically grow slower than plants grown in coco or hydroponics. If you want to maximize the number of harvests each year, you should aim for fast-growing plants
- Manipulate How Plants Grow – Plant training in the vegetative stage is an effective and free way to increase yields dramatically.
- Choose Good Nutrients and Supplements – Get cannabis-specific nutrients, and remember that sometimes less is more.
- Grow Plants to Most Efficient Size – Too-big plants can cause considerable problems, but plants that are too small don’t have the structure to support big buds. Maximize yields by growing plants to the right size for your space.
After Buds Start Forming
- Increase Light Intensity – Light is food to your plant, and giving more light will increase yields (to a point).
- Use Suitable Flowering Lights – For the best yields, you should be using LEDs, LEC/CMH, or HPS grow lights while buds are forming. Avoid low-quality LEDs!
- Give Proper Light Spectrum While Buds Form – Giving plants more red and far-red light in the flowering stage seems to increase yields compared to using the same grow light in a bluer spectrum. Learn which bulbs/lights work best below!
- Follow a Recommended Defoliation Schedule – Remove specific leaves at specific points of bud development to “hack” the plant’s natural processes and cause buds to grow bigger and denser than they otherwise would. Most effective on very leafy plants.
- Don’t Ignore Problems! Plants get much more picky about nutrient ratios and nutrient strength in the flowering stage. Make sure you quickly diagnose and fix any nutrient deficiencies, bug infestations, or other visible problems. An unhealthy plant doesn’t have as much energy to put into bud formation.
- Create an Optimum Bud-Building Environment – Hot or humid air with poor air circulation in the flowering stage causes buds to grow more airy and loose (among a host of other problems). Reflective walls can help you get the most from your lights, and some growers supplement their environment with CO2 to increase yields.
- Harvest Plants at the Right Time – Most importantly, don’t harvest early!
And Most Importantly…
- Always Be Growing – If you don’t pause between harvests, your bud coffers will soon be overflowing. Along the same lines, never stop learning!
There are a few ways to think about increasing cannabis yields indoors. Some growers want to maximize the yields for their grow space, and don’t care what it takes to increase yields overall. Other growers are looking at returns from more of an economic perspective, wanting to get the best yields for the electricity/cost, but maybe aren’t as concerned with how much space it takes. Lastly, there are many growers just looking to grow huge impressive buds and don’t care about maximizing anything else. This article is going to talk about all three. No matter what you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.
Without further delay, it’s time to learn how to increase your yields!
You know a bud is going to get huge if it’s already fat before the white hairs start darkening and curling in!
These are the actions you can take to prepare for a fruitful flowering stage.
1.) Choose High-Yielding Genetics
A lot of growers focus purely on their setup, nutrients, growing technique, and other aspects of their environment, yet don’t pay much attention to strain.
Your genetics actually have a tremendous effect on yields. If you grow two plants in the exact same conditions, chances are one will produce more bud than the other. Sometimes the yield differences between strains are enormous.
To confuse things further, different strains perform best under different grow lights, grow setups, and grow mediums.
Here are some resources to get you started choosing the best strain:
- Which Cannabis Breeders Can I Trust?
- How to Find a Strain That Does What You Want
- How to Grow Different Strains Together
And here are some suggested high-yielding strains that produce high-quality buds. Everyone will be asking for more, and you’ll have it!
Recommended Photoperiod (Standard) Strains
Most cannabis plants are photoperiod strains. Here are some of the highest-yielding strains we’ve grown:
- Wonder Woman by Nirvana – Enormous yields every time. Definitely a commercial producer.
- Sour Diesel by DNA Genetics – Fat buds that can handle heat and high light levels. This strain tends to get tall, but it can thrive in any setup if you use bending and supercropping to keep it short and flat. In addition to excellent yields, the bud quality is out of this world.
- Original Amnesia by Dinafem – When I grew this strain, I got fat, dense, sparkly buds that were extremely potent. Based on how it affects your memory after smoking, this strain definitely lives up to the name Amnesia!
This 4-foot tall Wonder Woman plant produced epic yields!
The Sour Diesel strain by DNA Genetics tends to get tall, but it will reward you with potent buds and huge yields
The buds on this Original Amnesia plant just kept getting bigger and bigger. I couldn’t believe it!
Recommended Auto-Flowering Strains
Autoflowering strains have come a long way. Some modern autoflowering plants produce similar yields and bud quality to photoperiod plants, yet are ready to harvest about a month sooner on average. That means you can fit more harvests in a year without sacrificing yields per harvest. More harvests = more buds for you!
- Big Bomb Auto by Bomb Seeds – Each autoflowering plant I’ve grown from Bomb Seeds has performed well in every environment I’ve put it in (soil, coco, hydro, fluorescent lights, various LEDs, HPS). Buds are always potent and sticky, and Big Bomb has the best yields of their autoflowering selection. An all-around winner!
- Ultimate Auto by Dutch Passion – Classic 80s mental and physical effects, easy to grow, huge yields every time.
- Amnesia Auto by MSNL – Another plant that always performs well no matter how you grow it. Easy to train, brilliant density, and all-around a joy to grow.
The plant in the back left is an Ultimate Auto by Dutch Passion. It produced twice as much as any other plant in the tent.
A big bud on one of the many Amnesia Auto plants I’ve grown
The number of plants can affect your total yield in two ways:
- More Plants – Growing a lot of small plants lets you fill a grow space faster, resulting in more harvests in a year if everything else is the same. If you increase the number of harvests, you’ll produce more buds in the same amount of time. This idea is the basis of the Sea of Green method.
- Fewer Plants – You can achieve the same yields with fewer plants by letting them get big enough to fill a space, but it takes longer in the vegetative stage for plants to get to the final size. Depending on how much extra time, this can push back harvest time and reduce the total number of harvests you can produce in your grow space. If you must limit the number of plants (many growers have legal plant limits), you can maximize yields with training techniques such as manifolding.
Choose the right container type and size for your setup.
- Air pots and fabric pots allow air to get to roots from the sides, resulting in significantly faster growth rates. The one downside is these pots need to be watered about twice as often because they dry out more quickly.
- Pots that are too big for your plant tends to slow growth, especially young plants that get overwatered. Learn how to water a small plant in a big pot so it grows as fast as possible.
- Too-small pots restrict plant roots and keep plants from growing as big as they could. Plants in big pots can get huge!
- If possible, it helps to start plants in a smaller container and transplant to bigger ones after they’ve started growing vigorously. Learn more about transplanting.
Plants typically grow faster in containers that let air in from the sides (such as air pots and fabric pots)
What’s the optimal size for your final plant container?
A general guide is to have around 2 gallons per 12″ of the final desired height. Big plants often need a bit more. The following chart isn’t perfect since plants often grow differently, and some plants are short and wide instead of tall, but this is a good rule of thumb. If your final (desired) plant size is…
- 12″ ~ 2-3 gallon container
- 24″ ~ 3-6 gallon container
- 36″ ~ 5-8 gallon container
- 48″ ~ 7-10 gallon container
- 60″ ~ 8-15+ gallon container
Go bigger if you plan to spend time away from your plants! Bigger root space gives you more of a buffer if plants need to be unattended for days at a time.
These plants love their 5-gallon fabric pots!
Soil-grown plants typically grow slower than plants grown in coco or hydroponics because their roots have to work to pull the nutrients from the soil (as opposed to getting easily-absorbed nutrients delivered directly in the water). If you want to maximize the number of harvests each year, you should aim for the fastest-growing plants you can. More harvests mean more buds for you!
Plants grow quick and easy in coco coir. Coco is one of my favorite ways to grow!
It’s possible to get high-speed growth in soil, but it takes extra skill and care. I love how, in coco or hydro, your plants almost always grow fast as long as you keep plants healthy.
As long as you avoid root rot, plants in hydro typically grow faster than in any other grow medium
Hydro can be a bit tricky to get started with, but coco may be the easiest cannabis grow medium to use. I highly recommend first-time growers start with coco if they’re not drawn to any particular grow medium. You almost can’t kill your plants in coco as long as you remember to water them 🙂
Plant training in the vegetative stage is an effective and free way to increase yields. But how does it work?
Without training, cannabis plants typically grow in a Christmas tree shape with one central bud
While your plants are still in the vegetative stage, train them to become wide and flat
Each growing tip at the top of the plant will turn into a big bud in the flowering stage
With more total buds, trained plants typically yield significantly more than untrained plants
Read the Complete Guide to Cannabis Plant Training and increase your yields for free!
You’ll get the best results if you choose cannabis-specific nutrients. Most importantly, make sure to give low amounts of Nitrogen and plenty of Phosphorus and Potassium once plants start making buds. Luckily, most nutrients come with a schedule, so it’s simple to provide the right nutrients at the right time. If you get a good brand and look at their schedule, you won’t have to worry about nutrient ratios at all.
When it comes to nutrients, sometimes less is more! It’s easy to go overboard, especially with certain strains. In general, it’s a good idea to start any new nutrients at half strength and only increase the concentration if plants look pale.
Get cannabis-specific nutrients and follow their schedule at half-strength for the best results
If you give the right nutrients at the right time, plants explode with growth!
It causes issues when plants are too big or too small. You can maximize yields by growing plants to the right size.
- Too-big plants cause significant problems – Plants can grow into the light, and you may not have any room to raise it further. When buds are too close to a grow light, they can get bleached and grow airy with foxtails. The lack of density in your top nugs can hurt your overall yields. If plants are too tall, it also means you likely spent unnecessary extra time in the vegetative stage or didn’t train plants to grow flat and wide. Learn how to deal with plants that grew too big.
- Too-small plants have small yields – When a plant is too small for a specific space, it won’t have the structure to support huge buds.
These plants have almost hit the ceiling and they’re still getting taller! The grower waited a little too long to initiate 12/12.
The following plant had several extra feet of height the grower could have used. If the grower gave this plant a few more weeks to get bigger in the vegetative stage, before switching to flowering, the plant would have produced significantly more bud without changing anything else.
This Aurora Indica plant had huge buds, but the total yield was just 3 ounces because the buds were only a few inches long.
How to grow photoperiod plants as big as your space can support, without letting them get too big:
- On average, cannabis plants double in size after the switch to a 12/12 light schedule
- Therefore, it’s a good rule of thumb to change to a 12/12 light schedule when vegetative plants reach half the final desired size
Learn more about the flowering stretch and how to prepare for it.
Note: Pay attention to what the breeder says about height to better estimate how much your plant will stretch. “Short” plants typically gain 1.5x their size, “Medium” plants double in size, and “Tall” plants grow to 3x their size. Don’t hesitate to contact the breeder with questions. Most breeders will happily any questions about their genetics.
You can use plant training to help control plant size, but only to a certain extent. Training and bending can’t keep plants small forever!
Autoflowering strains tend to stay small, so they may be an excellent choice if height is an issue!
After Buds Start Forming
Ok, your plants are already making buds. What can you do to increase yields at this point?
To your cannabis plants: Light = Food = Energy. That means that your plants can produce bigger buds if they get more light (up to a point, you can go overboard!).
3 Main Ways to Increase Light intensity
- Get a bigger or better grow light (more info about which one to get in a second)
- Keep your grow light as close as possible without light-stressing plants
- Train plants to grow flat like a table under the light. Plant training allows you to keep the grow light closer without burning the tallest buds.
For the best yields, density, and bud size, you should be using one of the following grow lights while buds are forming:
Giving plants more red and far-red light in the flowering stage seems to increase yields compared to using the same grow light in a bluer spectrum.
LED Grow Lights
- Choose lights that include white, red, and far-red diodes. It’s common for suitable flowering LEDs to be listed with a “3000k” light spectrum, or listed as being high in reds. The light often appears pink/yellow/reddish.
These ES300 Electric Sky LEDs are developed for high-yield flowering. Notice that the light appears pink.
This 300W Quantum Board LED was developed with a suitable flowering spectrum. The light appears to have a red/yellow tint.
LEDs that don’t have much white (“blurples”) are hit or miss. Only get a blurple LED if you’ve seen another cannabis grower have success with it.
LEC/CMH Grow Lights
- Choose an LEC/CMH bulb with a 3100k spectrum for the biggest buds (example)
Note: The 3100k bulb increases yield-per-watt, but may result in lower smell/trichome production compared to flowering under the bluer 4000k bulb.
The color of light from a 3100k LEC/CMH bulb appears orange/yellow
HPS Grow Lights
- The spectrum of HPS is already perfect for maximum yields in flowering, but make sure to choose a high-efficiency bulb (“Super HPS” bulb) as they produce more light for the same amount of watts.
The light from an HPS is a garish orange-yellow color
Many growers use targetted strategic “defoliation” to increase yields. The process of removing specific leaves at specific points of bud development actually “hacks” the plant’s natural processes and causes buds to grow bigger/denser than they otherwise would. This technique is most effective on very leafy plants. If your plant doesn’t have a whole lot of extra leaves, defoliation can slow down growth, so don’t go crazy with it!
The basic idea behind bud-building defoliation:
- Beginning of flowering stage (week 0-3): Remove all big fan leaves and leaves on long stems. This exposes your newly developing bud sites to direct light. Buds need direct light to grow fat.
- 3 weeks later: Do one more defoliation if the plant appears bushy. Exposing the main branches to direct light will help the plant “focus” on developing buds.
- After the 2nd major defoliation, only remove leaves that are covering a bud site or if the plant starts getting too bushy through the middle and bottom.
- Watch buds get huge
This plant was just switched to 12/12. Here it is before defoliation.
Immediately After Defoliation
3 Weeks Later
7 Weeks Later, I Harvested This!
Plants get much more picky about nutrient ratios and nutrient strength in the flowering stage. Make sure you quickly diagnose and fix any nutrient deficiencies, bug infestations, or other visible problems. An unhealthy plant doesn’t have as much energy to put into bud formation.
There are a few key factors that you need to remember about the environment in the flowering stage if you want to maximize yields.
- Temperature – Keep the temperature between 65°F (18°C) and 80°F (26°C) if possible. Heat is associated with loose/airy buds, lower bud smell, reduced potency, and mold/bugs (especially if it’s also humid).
- Humidity – Don’t let it get too humid after buds start developing. High humidity is associated with mold and bud rot, and can also prevent buds from growing as dense/big (high humidity makes it hard for water to move efficiently through the plant).
- Reflection – When your grow space has reflective walls, it prevents light from getting lost. There are a variety of options for increasing reflectivity, such as painting your walls with flat white paint or covering them with a sheet of mylar. Ensuring more light gets to your plants will help buds grow as big as possible.
- Air Circulation – In addition to maintaining the right temperature and humidity, it’s important to give plants a gentle breeze and plenty of fresh air. Efficient air circulation prevents a host of problems and makes plants grow faster, resulting in bigger yields overall.
- Add Extra CO2 to the Air – Some growers supplement their air with extra CO2 to increase yields. Plants need CO2 to photosynthesize light, and (in certain situations) adding extra CO2 to the air can allow your plant to make more energy from the same amount of light. There are a variety of different ways to increase CO2 levels, some of which are more effective than others!
Many growers focus on trying to find new nutrients and supplements to increase yields, yet ignore known problems with their environment. If your flowering environment isn’t ideal, focusing on the tips above will likely make a far more significant difference to yields than any product you can buy in a bottle.
Most importantly, don’t harvest early! Cannabis buds gain a significant amount of weight in the last 2 weeks before harvest. Harvesting even a few weeks early can cut your yields in half! Plus, buds won’t be as potent, sparkly, or smelly.
Cannabis plants are ready to harvest when most of the white hairs on buds have darkened and curled in
Some growers check the sparkly trichomes under a magnifier to ensure the right harvest time. Learn how!
1.) Always Be Growing!
If you don’t pause between harvests, your coffers will soon be teeming with buds of different strains. Some growers even create two grow spaces for a perpetual harvest. You’ll soon have to figure out what to do with it all.
Never stop growing, and buds will be overflowing!
Along the same line of thought, never stop learning. Surprising discoveries arise every day, which means there is always more to learn about growing and increasing yields!
If you ever have questions about growing weed, make sure to use the search bar as we’ve covered hundreds of topics on GrowWeedEasy.com. Also, sign up for our email newsletter, join our grow forum, and follow Nebula on Instagram for new grow tips regularly.
BONUS: Now that you have tons of weed, what should you do with it?
- Decarboxylation: How to Decarb Your Weed (crucial step for just about every edible recipe)
- Best Weed Butter Recipe
- Canna Caps
- How to Make Cannabis Tinctures
- How to Make Hash Oil (aka Cannabis Extract Oil or RSO)
- Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) – Alternate
Extracts (No Solvents Used in Any Recipe)
- Solventless Extraction Showdown – Bubble Hash vs. Dry-Ice Hash!
- Dry Ice Hash (Made with Dry Ice)
- How to Make Bubble Hash (Made with Ice Water)
- How To Make Your Own Homemade Rosin (dabs)