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The Chemistry of Cannabis: Nice Tight Buds


There aren’t many cannabis connoisseurs who say “I’ll take some of those fluffy little popcorn buds, please.” We like to see something the size of our fist that’s covered in fur and makes a “thunk” sound when it drops on the tray. Consumers shell out big bucks for top shelf nuggies, so growers have learned the tricks of the trade. Now that legal cannabis gives people the option of growing their own, amateurs are lining closets in aluminum foil and learning a new hobby. Results aren’t always what they expect.

Buds clenched like a vise

Tight dense buds are easy to achieve if you pay close attention to the basics. New cannabis growers have a hard time imagining that a plant classified as a weed could be so difficult to cultivate. Everything about the whole process seems to be an arcane mystery to the beginner.

It’s true the plant will grow like a weed but the end result is much more suited to making rope from than actually deriving pleasure or pain relief. The first factor to consider is breeding.

Genetics plays a huge role. If the DNA codes for loose buds, that’s what you end up with. In general, Sativa strains are looser than Indica. Check with your provider for strains which produce dense flowers so you know that your plants have potential to produce them.

Modern seed suppliers have full genetic profiles and growing suggestions available to the public for just about every strain out there.


Once you pick an appropriate strain, the experts agree that the “most common reason buds aren’t dense is the plant didn’t get enough light in the flowering stage.” To your pot plants, light is food.

The plant can survive in low light conditions but it will never produce any smokable flowers to speak of. At the same time, if the light is too bright or two close to the plants, the flowers “develop poorly and/or produce airy, hairy fox-tails.” Along with light conditions, heat plays an important role.

Just the right temperature

Cannabis plants require a specific range of temperature for optimal growth. It’s handy that they like the same range we do. If the temp creeps up above 85°F they start to “develop loose buds, grow airy foxtails, and experience herming.” Transgender pot plants aren’t a good thing.

Once you have light that’s bright but not too bright or too close, and a temperature between 60 and 85 degrees, you want to supply the proper nutrients.

According to Grow Weed Easy, “Buds won’t fatten and get dense unless they’re getting the right nutrients at the right time, which means plenty of Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) in the flowering stage.”

They also warn that you want to watch out for excess Nitrogen which is a main ingredient of all-purpose plant food. Too much in the flowering stage will loosen the flowers.


Other factors to keep an eye on are airflow and spacing. Poor “airflow around buds and lack of strong, direct light” will prevent them from developing. Each cola of tasty flowers needs some space of its own to get big and dense. It’s geared by nature to prepare for pollination so the flowers with the best air flow get all the plant’s attention.

“In the wild, cannabis is a wind-pollinated plant, so it only spends energy growing and fattening” the ones exposed. Each big cola on your plant “should have a few inches of space around it that it’s not sharing with leaves or other buds.” This article doesn’t have the scope for an exhaustive how to guide but there are lots of resources to answer any specific questions.

What do you think?

Written by Mark Megahan

Mark Megahan is a resident of Morristown, Arizona and aficionado of the finer things in life.

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