A cannabis grower’s dream is to have plants that yield massive, vertical colas dripping with trichomes. Along with colas are often popcorn buds – smaller, less dense buds of cannabis that don’t pack as much of a punch and often sell for less.
Popcorn buds are the proverbial "red-headed stepchildren" of the cannabis plant, often thought of as B-grade cannabis. This part of the plant is found toward the stem and bottom branches.
A mature plant yielding mostly popcorn buds is an indication that something went very wrong during the growth process.
A few popcorn buds yielded through the growth cycle are normal and therefore we find a use for them.
Popcorn buds can absolutely be smoked and many do smoke them. But they are a less dense part of the plant and therefore have fewer trichomes, and as a result, less THC. This isn’t always a bad thing but for the typical bud smoker, stronger is better.
Another use for popcorn buds is to use them in resin or as a concentrate in edible products.
Manufacturing edibles is a lot like making a hotdog. You take all the stuff that is left over - clippings, popcorn buds, weak plants - and throw them into the cooker. Out comes a concentrated form of cannabis that can be used in a variety of products.
Using everything in producing concentrates is a good way to maximize all parts of the plant, to be sure. But it means that quality of many edible products can be unpredictable and inconsistent in quality.
What Causes Popcorn Buds and How to Prevent Them
The primary cause of popcorn buds is stress on the plant in the form of excessive heat. Temperatures exceeding 28 degrees Celsius cause popcorn buds to proliferate.
Growers must be vigilant in controlling the temperature of the grow and controlling the distance between the grow lights and the canopy.
When growing outdoors, a shade screen can protect plants from heat stress.
There are a couple other ways to eliminate popcorn buds from your cannabis plant.
One way is to simply remove all lower infant buds from the branches during early flowering of the plant. This leaves only the top, lush buds at the top of the plant, which will form into large nuggets.
Another preventative method to eliminate popcorn buds is the “Screen of Green,” known as ScrOG.
The ScrOG is a mesh screen positioned over the growing plants. As the plants grow, the grower weaves them through the mesh. Because the screen cuts off light from the lower part of the plant, all the plant development energy is focused on the upper buds.
There is no wasted energy to lower parts of the plant where popcorn buds would form.
Historically the ScrOG method has been used with small grows to maximize yield when fewer plants are able to be grown.
There is no doubt that large, lush colas are the goal of any grow. However, when popcorn buds inevitably do pop up there are plenty of uses for them, including rolling them into a nice, fat joint.