How to Master Cannabis Mainlining

By Michael Coffey
Published: April 29, 2020 | Last updated: May 25, 2021 11:22:48
Key Takeaways

For intermediate and advanced growers looking for a big harvest payoff while accepting some risk, mainlining is a solid if not radical option. But be sure you have the skillset before you try.

Mainlining is an advanced high yield pruning and training method that blends several techniques to radically alter the structure of the cannabis plant to focus growth on eight to 16 main colas or mainlines. This innovative and intensive approach to pruning and training for maximum yield increases both the quality and the grower’s control of the crop. Both indoor and outdoor cultivators with at least intermediate experience can benefit from mainlining. If you want bigger top-shelf buds, you need to start mainlining your cannabis plants.


How to Mainline a Plant in 5 Steps

Jack of all trades, master of none. Beware Jack. If you plan on mainlining your cannabis plants you must be practiced and proficient in defoliation, topping, and low-stress training (LST) or super cropping. Pulling all these techniques together with precision timing and a particular green-fingered finesse is what separates the grand master from the ordinary decent grower. To successfully mainline monstrous marijuana, you must be prepared and confident in your skillset. This is no place to discover you’re not as gifted in the grow-op as thought you were. Hands-on experience of bending shoots for bigger fruits is a prerequisite. So, let’s get started on mainlining.

Mainlining cannabis


Step 1: Creating Two Mainlines

The notion of cutting a healthy cannabis plant in vegetative growth in half and then stripping off all growth save the top two shoots and set of leaves sounds radical.

Well, it is. The first step of mainlining is really a baptism of fire. And before we go any further, let’s be clear: mainlining is all about connecting from one node to the next directly, so you also need to be clear that a node is a set of branches.

Begin by topping a foot-tall cannabis plant (six nodes high) down to the third node, then proceed to prune away all the growth beneath the third node. Finish with some LST to bend the two mainlines out in a u shape. Soft green gardening wire and simple plastic gardening stakes are tried and trusted LST tools.


Read also: Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant

Step 2: Turning 2 Mainlines into 4

Approximately three to seven days later, it’s time for another round of topping. It is critical to wait until your cannabis plant has recovered and has continued growing before proceeding with more pruning. The objective at this stage is to precisely top both of the mainlines at the same point. The cut must be equidistant or made at the same node on both shoots. This can be more difficult with clones, so take your time and count the nodes. In addition to the topping, some further secondary shoot pruning may be required. Now you have turned two mainlines into four.


Young cannabis plant

Step 3: Doubling Down from 4 Mainlines to 8

Waiting roughly the same interval as the previous step is wise as it’s important not to push your cannabis plants too hard too soon. Mainlining will add two to four weeks to the vegetative growth cycle. When you can apply another LST bend to your four main shoots or mainlines, they are ready for more topping. Doubling down again, topping all four brings you up to eight mains and gives the plant a symmetrical manifold shape.

Step 4: Defoliation, Support, and Going for 16+ Mainlines

After another three- to seven-day recovery interval with eight mainlines, you are almost there and by bending out the eight tops towards the edge of the pot with some more LST you can construct the final crown of colas structure. Some growers like to use a tomato plant ring or even a ScrOG net at this point to support the altered growth pattern, although this is not always necessary. Perform a little defoliation of the lower growth and you can call it a day. Let the eight mains take shape for another week or two until the plant is about two feet tall before moving into the flowering phase.

Read also: Topping and Low-Stress Training

Alternatively, if you really want to blow up the grow-op with buds, you could go for it by topping all eight mains again to create 16 mains and perhaps even push it to the limit with a final round of topping to create 32 mains. Further topping would probably be redundant and too difficult to manage. Supporting 16 to 32 mains is a job for a sturdy plant cage or ScrOG.

Step 5: Lollipopping

During the first couple of weeks of 12/12 bloom, perhaps some adjustments to LST and/or plant supports may be required to keep your plants’ mains growing in the right direction. Sometime during week three of flowering is the right time to pinch off the lower fluffy buds and prune off any undesirable secondary shoots.

Lollipopping is the last step of the mainlining process.

After a tidy-up trimming, that’s pretty much the end of the hands-on grower involvement. Mainlining is a front-loaded method with a humongous harvest pay off.

Read also: How to Set Up a Screen of Green (SCROG) Cannabis Grow


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Written by Michael Coffey | Cannabis Cultivator, Writer, Photographer, & YouTuber

Profile Picture of Michael Coffey

Michael Coffey, aka Top Shelf Grower is a cannabis cultivator, freelance writer, photographer, and YouTuber originally from Dublin Ireland. These days he’s on the loose creating dope content from an off-the-grid location somewhere. In 2018 he self-published his first book, Cannabis Cultivation a 21st Century Guide, available on Amazon.

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