Popcorn Buds: What are they and how do you prevent them?

Everyone loves popcorn, right? While it is a delicious snack when you visit the cinema, the word also refers to something you want to avoid when growing weed. If you haven’t heard of the term ‘popcorn buds’ before then consider yourself lucky. It is in fact a serious problem that many growers have to deal with. Such buds turn a first-rate harvest into an inferior one before you know it. Below we discuss everything you need to know about their causes and uses, as well as how to prevent them.

What are popcorn buds?

But what exactly are popcorn buds, also known as popcorn tops, and why are they not desirable? When it comes to growing weed, we all strive for the biggest buds and best harvests. Popcorn buds are basically small, airy cannabis buds that have not fully developed into compact buds. This phenomenon has a number of direct and indirect causes, which we’ll go into later. But whatever the reason, popcorn buds are usually found low in the plant, under the lower leaves.

What do popcorn buds look like?

Popcorn buds are underdeveloped and their physical characteristics reflect this. Indeed, the buds tend to be small, leafy and airy – a huge difference from their mature counterparts. They can even have a hairy, almost fluffy appearance. And appearance is one thing, but these physical shortcomings also go hand in hand with an overall lower strength!

What causes popcorn buds?

But what causes popcorn buds? As mentioned, several factors can play a role, but insufficient light exposure and stress are the two biggest culprits. In the latter case, it can be due to a lack of water, insufficient nutrition, generally poor care or even an infestation. All of these can have a negative impact on the growth of cannabis plants and produce growth stunting and popcorn buds. Yet the first problem (insufficient light) is the main cause of popcorn buds. This problem can seriously hinder the development of buds and lowers a plant’s potential yield. Let’s take a closer look at these problems below.

Insufficient light exposure

By nature, weed gets a Christmas tree shape. In this process, the top buds closest to the light source become large specimens, while the bottom buds remain small. As the large fan leaves form, they can begin to overshadow the lower weed buds, inhibiting their ability to build mass. The result: a smaller harvest. However, you can remedy this with training and defoliation, which improves light exposure for all buds, creating larger and more homogeneous cannabis buds. Some of these methods will be discussed in more detail later.

Too much water or nutritional stress

It’s no secret that plants need careful care for good results. And by watering and feeding them regularly you’ve already come a long way. However, it is easy to overwater and overfeed plants, which in turn causes stress. This can hinder them in making use of the resources you have provided. It is even better to give a little too little food and water than too much, although both cases produce mediocre results. So try to find and maintain a healthy balance.

Stress from heat and moisture

Extreme heat or humidity can also damage your plants and cause them to develop spiky buds. This is because they are trying to protect themselves against any fungi, pests and pathogens. The end result? Less dense and less strong buds.

Pests and diseases

Like most other organisms, cannabis plants are also susceptible to pests and infestations. These problems can even cause irreversible damage. Of course, you can counteract this with the right measures. But plants that become infested or infected late in the vegetative phase or during flowering often cannot produce the desired dense buds anymore.

Lack of space and overshadowing

Not only does each plant need enough space to stretch, but each bud must also receive adequate light from above. When you place too many plants close together, it leads to unnecessary overshadowing and lack of space. This not only limits the light for the lower buds, but also increases the risk of pests.

Improper training

As we mentioned earlier, training can be hugely rewarding if you want to avoid popcorn buds and increase overall yield. However, when high stress training (HST) or low stress training (LST) is applied incorrectly, it can cause irreparable damage. So as a grower, are you unsure of the technique you are using? Then it is wise to get some more experience first. Avoid breaking a branch or causing unnecessary stress as this can only be detrimental to the production of dense, mature buds.

Do popcorn buds get you high?

Popcorn buds are certainly capable of inducing a high, although it is somewhat weaker than from fully formed buds. These small, spiky cannabis buds still contain THC, but you need a lot more of them to fill your joint or pipe than usual. This is why popcorn buds never really come close to regular buds.

Can you smoke popcorn buds?

The thing about smoking popcorn buds is that you get less ‘value for money’. Apart from that it is absolutely possible to smoke or vape them! Of course you have to make sure that they are dried and cured properly, and don’t have too high expectations. Furthermore, there are plenty of other ways to get the best out of your most humble buds:


For example, you can use popcorn buds to make delicious edibles. Make oils, butter, cookies or even popcorn from popcorn buds! The options are almost endless, so live it up. Using popcorn buds in edibles is ideal because it hides their physical imperfections and allows the concentration to create something powerful. However, when making edibles with popcorn buds, it is often wise to add a bit more than usual to achieve the desired effect.


Dabbers and lovers of tinctures can of course also make their own concentrates or hash of it. As with edibles, you do have to use a bit more plant material to get a product with a similar strength to other concentrates, but it’s well worth it. Ultimately, these forms of weed offer a great way to experience the flavors and effects of a cannabis strain. The best choices for home users are pressing rosin with a special press or straightener, producing some bubble hash or preparing an alcohol-based tincture. It’s just what you like and what your preferences are! Of course, there are no rules when it comes to using your buds. There are many creative ways to enjoy them and popcorn buds are no exception. So take your time and let the harvest work in your favor. You won’t regret it.

How do you prevent popcorn buds?

We have now covered what popcorn buds are and what you can do with them in case you get stuck with a load. But how can you avoid them in the first place? Here are some steps you can take to reduce the chance of popcorn buds by harvest time.


Low stress training is hugely popular among home growers. In fact, it is one of the better methods for beginners. Screen Of Green (ScrOG) is a special form of LST that allows you to get the most out of your plants. After some pruning and defoliating you run your plants through a wire mesh. The result is an even, horizontal canopy that extends across the entire grow space. Prune everything under the mesh to ensure that all energy is focused on the upper parts, where the buds grow. In this way you will make the best use of the light, reduce the risk of overshadowing and reduce the chance of popcorn buds.


Another suitable technique against popcorn buds is lollipopping. Since popcorn buds usually grow at the bottom of a plant, you can significantly reduce the chance of this by removing all leaves and bud parts here. As a result, the upper parts remain lush, bushy and full of potential to produce high-quality buds. Although it may seem contradictory to prune your plants in such a way, they can actually perform better as a result. This makes the cannabis plants look top-heavy (hence the term “lollipop”), but the energy sent to the upper parts guarantees excellent results. Of course, a little love and attention throughout growth goes a long way too.

Don’t throw away popcorn buds!

The big day has arrived and you are ready to harvest your plant. But unfortunately you are faced with an abundance of popcorn buds. Don’t worry though, because we have given a few tips below on how to make them fit for use!


Cutting your popcorn buds is actually done in a similar way to normal-sized buds. Take the same care – use a suitable pair of scissors – then you can’t go wrong. If you want to make concentrates or edibles from them, you don’t need to be so meticulous. However, do you want to smoke or vape the tops? Then it is wise to pay a little more attention to superfluous leaves.

Drying and curing

As soon as you have cut your buds you can let them dry on, for example, a grid. This will allow most of the moisture to evaporate. Because of their airy structure popcorn buds are often quicker to dry than dense buds. When they are dry enough you can let them cure in storage jars to refine their taste, smell and strength. After about a month, your popcorn buds will be ready for use. Curing Pots For Cannabis (160) View Finally, perhaps most importantly, do not let the appearance of popcorn buds discourage you. So don’t throw them away! As we have shown in this article, they still have plenty to offer. Of course everyone wants the biggest possible buds, but every growing project is a learning experience, whether this is your first time or your fiftieth. So enjoy every aspect, keep track of your results and try to discover how you can do better next time. Perhaps you can try some training methods or move your indoor growing to outdoors, or vice versa. In any case, take good care of your plant, give her enough love, and you will surely be rewarded!