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Monday February 7, 2022

By Trevor Ross

Trim scissors next to harvested cannabis flower. Growing

Trimming is the process of removing excess plant material, like fan and sugar leaves, from harvested cannabis. Removing these pieces improves the flavor and potency of the final product by removing bitter chlorophyll and reducing the weight of superfluous plant matter. Fan leaves have no therapeutic use, though there are arguments for and against keeping sugar leaves intact, which we will explore. 

The two primary methods of trimming are separated into wet trimming and dry trimming. Wet trimming involves clipping the buds clean while they are still fresh and full of moisture, while dry trimming leaves the buds to dry whole before clipping them down to size.

On the surface, the matter may appear little more than preference, but there are several factors growers consider before choosing their method including desired appearance, potency, and drying environment.

This article compares wet trimming vs dry trimming, how each is done, benefits and disadvantages, and illustrates what to consider when deciding how to trim your cannabis.

Wet Trimming

Wet trimming remains the most common method in part because it produces more manicured buds that look good behind glass or on Instagram. But it is also easier in some ways because the leaves are still fresh and stand at attention, making them easy to snip.

How to Wet Trim Cannabis

Wet trimming generally begins with cutting the buds from their branches. Manicuring scissors are recommended because their small blades are better designed for precise cuts, and they are pointed enough to dig between buds to clip sugar leaves as close to the base as possible. NOTE: these cuttings aren’t trash — always save your trim!

Man wet trimming cannabis flower with shears.
Wet trimming refers to removing fan and sugar leaves shortly after harvesting and before the drying/curing stages. photo credit

It’s true that sugar leaves contain THC, albeit in lower levels than the buds, but they also contain higher levels of sesquiterpenes, including caryophyllene. While terpenes are generally associated with cannabis’ smell and flavor, caryophyllene has been observed interacting with CB receptors the same way THC would. For this reason, sugar leaf trim can be found for sale at many dispensaries.

When wet trimming, always wear latex gloves. Not only will this protect the wounded buds from pathogens, mold, or fungi on your hands, but the gloves will protect your hand from the tremendous amount of resin, or kief, that will collect on your fingers. Isopropyl alcohol is recommended to clean blades and fingertips (of course, any hash you can scrape free can be smoked too).

Pros and Cons

A primary benefit to wet trimming is that removing all that excess plant material removes excess moisture, helping the buds dry out faster. This is particularly useful in wet or humid climates where mold is a persistent threat. Drying buds more quickly reduces the opportunity for mold to establish.

Critics of wet trimming argue that it damages the buds too much. Indeed, all the resin that collects on fingers and scissors is being pulled off the plant. And snipping the sugar leaves may leave the bleeding plant smelling like cut grass or hay (though this can be remedied some in the curing process).

Wet-trimmed buds are also often left to dry on racks, which can flatten one side of them if they are not regularly rotated. To avoid this, some growers leave the buds attached to branches--still trimmed--so they can be hung by the branch instead of laid on a rack. NOTE: there will still be some residual moisture in the branches which will extend the drying time, so watch for mold if you live in a wet climate.

Dry Trimming

Dry trimming is the choice to dry whole pieces of the plant before trimming, and has been gaining popularity recently among growers and users who prefer to maintain the holistic integrity of their buds.

How To Dry Trim Cannabis

As we learned above, sugar leaves contain lower concentrations of THC, but higher concentration of certain terpenes. As biologists learn more about the therapeutic role of terpenes in cannabis, and the entourage effect, many users have begun prioritizing terpene profiles over brute THC percentage. So dry trimming to retain sugar leaves has become a more attractive option, if still a less attractive product.

Dry trimming begins by cutting the plant at the base, and hanging whole branches up to dry with most, or even all, leaves still intact. Ideally, these pieces dry for about a week before they are ready to trim.

Pros and Cons

Growers in dry climates will almost always choose to dry trim because the extra leaves contain moisture that will prevent the buds from drying out too quickly (the same reason growers in wet climates probably shouldn’t dry trim).

When buds in dry air are allowed to draw the remaining moisture from leaves and branches, they dry more slowly, better preserving the cannabinoids and terpenes.

The benefit of leaving the sugar leaves on is that the terpene profile will be more fully expressed. The downside is that they will contribute to a higher plant matter ratio, potentially making for a harsher smoke.

 Person dry trimming cannabis on a wooden table with scissors.
Dry trimming refers to removing fan and sugar leaves after the drying stage is completed. photo credit

That said, some proponents of dry trimming allege that in preserving terpenes, it actually preserves flavor despite the little extra chlorophyll. A long cure (4-8 weeks) should go a long way toward refining the flavor of dry-trimmed bud.

Dry-trimmed buds are also less attractive because they sugar leaves twist and curl around the bud, leaving them shaggy and maybe a bit brown. And if you decide to clip these leaves off after they’re dried, they will be more tedious to clip than fresh leaves.


Wet and dry trimming are two paths toward the same end, but the path you choose depends on your environment, and the desired look and effect of the final product.

Wet trimming is the process of trimming wet, living buds as soon as they are harvested, and is the method most often seen on dispensary shelves. The benefit of this method is that the buds are more manicured and slightly more potent. By removing excess moisture, they also dry faster, which is beneficial is wet climates where mold may more easily establish.

Dry trimming is the practice of cutting whole branches, or even whole plants, and hanging them upside down to dry. The benefit of this option is that the buds are not damaged, and are left to dry whole, with the full cannabinoid and terpene spectrum intact. Buds harvested this way will also dry more slowly, which is great in dry climates that might otherwise leave buds brittle and bitter after only a few days.

Whichever method you prefer, trimming takes time, so be patient and try to enjoy the time with your plants. And always save your trim!

How do you trim your cannabis, and why? Tell us in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Trevor Ross Trevor Ross

Trevor Ross is a writer, medical marijuana patient and cannabis advocate. He holds an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has previously worked as a copywriter, a teacher, a bartender, and followed Seattle sports for SidelineBuzz. Originally from Washington state, you can find him now working in his garden or restoring his house in Scranton, PA, and he can be reached through LinkedIn.

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