terpene

Scents & Sensibility: 10 Tricks For Cultivating Maximum Terpene Concentration In Your Cannabis

There are so many things to love about cannabis. The variety of fragrances and flavors this one plant can offer are two such traits that are becoming increasingly popular as genetics and grow techniques improve and expand. Yep, terpenes have certainly been a hot topic all over the cannabis world as of late.

The No. 1 thing any grower can do to ensure their cannabis has a robust and powerful terpene profile is to select the proper genetics. As most cannabis growers know, genetics will determine which terpenes your cannabis contains. Aside from selecting the right clones or seeds, there are other methods cannabis growers can use to enhance their plants’ terpene content.

Here are 10 tried-and-true approaches to make sure your cannabis is living up to its terpene potential.

1. Low Stress Training Your Cannabis Crop

Perhaps the main thing to remember when attempting to boost your cannabis crop’s terpene content is that a little stress goes a long way. Steady and minor stress makes cannabis plants increase terpene production significantly. Low stress training (LST) is one surefire way to increase not only yield and quality, but also terpene production.

The basic tenets of low stress training are as follows:

  • Topping your plants.
  • Shaping your plants.
  • Preparing your plants for the flowering stage.

Of the above bullet points, the flower prep is the most important element of LST for enhancing terpene production. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification of a somewhat complex process. Luckily, there is a ton of info on this site for any grower interested in learning about and mastering LST techniques.

2. Choose Your Grow Medium Wisely

For cannabis with a strong fragrance and flavor, you’ll want to use a grow medium that promotes these essential features. Soil and compost are your best bets for improving terpene profiles. Growers report that cannabis grown in soil and/or compost develops more intense aromatic and flavor properties. Hydro has plenty of benefits, including better control of your grow op, but if terpenes are what you’re after, it’s not the best choice. Neither are mediums like coco coir, perlite or any soilless mixes. For whatever reason, terpenes just don’t seem to develop as prominently in these types of grow mediums. Good ol’ soil and compost are what you’ll want to choose for some loud, terpene-heavy flower.

3. Take A Hands-Off Approach

Cannabis is a beautiful plant. As such, many growers want to fondle their flowers a little more than necessary during the growing process. While some pruning and hands-on maintenance are required, to get the best terpene profile, keep the touching to as minimal as possible. Terpenes are housed in the flower’s trichomes (which look like tiny little white hairs), and the more you handle your plants, the more damage you do to the trichomes and the terpenes they store. Touch the flower as little as possible, especially during the final stages of flowering, and you’ll help maintain and properly develop those tasty terps.

4. Keep Humidity Low

As with many of these tips, keeping humidity levels appropriately low is a best practice in general, and not just to improve the terpene profile. Low humidity has been theorized to boost terpene production. The ideal level for humidity is 50 percent during most of the plants’ growth, to help keep mold and mildew at bay, and also help promote terpene production. During the crucial final weeks of flowering, dropping the humidity levels to 30 percent will cause the plants a little additional stress and further boost terpene production.

5. Promote Terpene Communication With Companion Plants

Terpene communication between plants is a documented phenomenon. While it’s not a surefire way to increase terps in your cannabis, it is one somewhat novel option worth exploring.

In a study by Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), titled, “The world’s most spoken language is…Terpene,” scientists explore the complex relationship and communication between these volatile compounds and the fungi, bacteria and other life around them. Typically, this terpene communication is used to benefit cannabis by planting companion plants, like marigold and garlic, that help repel pests and disease.

But there is evidence — albeit anecdotal evidence — that terpene communication can happen among cannabis and plants in other ways, too. For instance, if you house lavender plants with cannabis, you may later notice a slight lavender fragrance on your cannabis. Citrus fruit trees may have the same effect. This could be the result of other processes as well, but given the potential for terpene communication between plants, it does make sense that it could be possible.

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While not unique to cannabis, terpenes are naturally occurring organic compounds found in many of the plants and fruits we grow and consume. (Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash)

6. UV Lights For Your Cannabis Grow Op

In addition to delighting our endocannabinoid systems, trichomes exist on cannabis plants to protect buds from pests, disease and even UVB light. Similar to humans slathering on sunscreen when the rays from the sun get too powerful, cannabis boosts its trichome production to protect itself from too much UVB light. So, one way to boost trichome production, and subsequently terpene production, is to add a few UVB lights into the mix. You don’t want to overdo it. One to two watts of UVB light per square foot of canopy is plenty to help boost trichome and terpene production. However, some grow lights, such as metal haloid, already contain plenty of UVB light and don’t require supplementation.

7. Maintain Ideal Temperatures In Your Grow

Temperature maintenance is an integral part of enhancing terpene production in cannabis plants. The most important thing is making sure your grow room doesn’t get too hot. Heat can destroy some of your terpenes. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your room at around 79 degrees Fahrenheit specifically, and not let it get above 80 degrees. The last few weeks of flowering, drop your room by about 10 degrees at night, to right around 70 degrees, and it will also help improve your terpene production.

While keeping it cool is essential to terpene production, you don’t want it to get too cool or it will be counterproductive. Any temperature under 60 degrees is not only damaging to terpenes, but to your plants in general. So yes, keep it cool — but not too cool.

8. Terpene-Enhancing Nutrients

The least labor-intensive and arguably most effective way to boost terpene production in cannabis is to use terpene-enhancing nutrients. Science has formulated just the right food for your plants to enhance terpene production, and each nutrient formula can direct you to feed your plant at the exact right time.

Bud Candy from Advanced Nutrients is one such nutrient that utilizes sugars, aminos, carbohydrates and vitamins to produce better tasting and scented flowers. One common method growers use to boost terpene production is feeding plants with blackstrap molasses toward the end of the flower cycle. Molasses is effective but may contain the secondary nutrient sulfur or low-quality ingredients that can have a negative effect on your cannabis plants if not administered in the correct dose. High-quality, terpene-enhancing nutrients will provide the same benefits of blackstrap molasses, without the potential negative effects.

9. Let Your Cannabis Crop Mature Completely

This one should be obvious, but needs to be repeated nonetheless. Do not harvest your plants before they reach full maturity! Aside from something catastrophic like a pest or disease threatening to spread, there’s really no reason to harvest early. Not only will you be sacrificing THC production, and overall quality, but you’ll also be denying your flowers the last chance to produce those tasty, desirable terpenes. So, waiting until your plants are good and ready before you cut them down will not only ensure they’re more potent, but they’ll be more tasty and fragrant as well.

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Any method that rushes the drying process will inevitably damage terpenes.

10. Dry And Cure Plants Correctly

The final step in ensuring your cannabis has as many terpenes as possible is to properly dry and cure it. Rushing either step can have disastrous effects on flower’s flavor and fragrance. Dry slowly, and make sure proper temperature and humidity levels are maintained so as to not damage trichomes and terpenes. Any method that rushes the drying process will inevitably damage terpenes.

Once drying is complete, be sure to follow proper curing procedures as well, using jars to cure, and letting in fresh air each day to make sure it circulates. Not only will this help preserve terpenes, but it helps cannabis smoke and vape better so that those who sample it will be more easily able to notice the subtle flavors, as their consumption experience will be more enjoyable.

More Terpenes Means Better Buds

Cannabis that contains ample terpenes makes for a more enjoyable user experience all-around. Not only do they taste and smell wonderful, terpenes also affect the high of cannabis consumers. Maintaining the integrity of these volatile compounds makes your cannabis better, period. To that end, following these tips, which are generally just cannabis growing best practices, will help you grow bud that not only looks good and is potent, but that has optimal fragrance and flavor, and a robust outcome and effect.

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