Popcorn Cannabis Buds: What They Are And How To Avoid Them
6 min

Popcorn Cannabis Buds: What They Are And How To Avoid Them

6 min

When it comes to cultivating at home, we all just want the best for our cannabis plants. Unfortunately, sometimes things get in the way of their progress. With stunted growth comes "popcorn buds". While a seemingly innocent problem, we delve into their causes, uses, and what you can do to prevent popcorn buds from occurring on your prized plants.

Everybody likes popcorn, right? Well, while it may be the delicious snack of choice when you're at the cinema, it's a word you want to avoid when cultivating cannabis. If you've not heard the term “popcorn buds” before, consider yourself lucky. However, it's a very real problem that plagues plenty of growers, and can essentially turn your A-grade yield into B-grade before you know it. Stick with us while we delve into everything you need to know about their causes and uses, as well as how to prevent popcorn buds from occurring in the first place.

What Are Popcorn Buds?

What Are Popcorn Buds?

So, what are popcorn buds, and why are they not so desirable, you ask? When it comes to growing cannabis, we all strive to cultivate the biggest buds and the largest yields possible. Popcorn cannabis buds are essentially the tiny, fluffy flowers that don't quite develop into plump, prime nuggets. There are a variety of direct and indirect causes of this phenomenon, which we’ll cover shortly. However, regardless of the reason, popcorn buds are generally found toward the bottom of the plant underneath the lower canopy.

What Do Popcorn Buds Look Like?

Popcorn buds are underdeveloped, and their physical characteristics reflect this. The flowers are often small, leafy, and loose—a dramatic difference from their fully formed counterparts. They can even take on a hairy, almost fluffy look. While looks are one thing, popcorn buds wouldn't have such a bad rep if these physical shortcomings didn't also impact the overall potency of the yield.

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What Causes Popcorn Buds?

So, what causes popcorn buds? As mentioned, numerous factors can play a role, although poor light exposure and stress are the two biggest culprits. In the case of the latter, this stress could be due to a lack of watering, an absence of nutrients, overall improper care, or even an infestation. All can negatively impact how a cannabis plant develops, thus resulting in stunted growth and popcorn buds.

However, the former issue (poor lighting) is the dominant cause of popcorn buds, and can really stunt the development of buds and lower your plant’s overall yield potential.

Let's explore these issues in more depth.

Poor Light Exposure

Popcorn Buds: Poor Light Exposure

Cannabis naturally tends to grow into a Christmas tree shape, wherein the topmost bud sites, closest to the light source, develop into big, swollen colas, while the lowermost flowers remain small and unimpressive. As large fan leaves develop during vegetation, they can shade the bud sites below and inhibit their ability to pack on mass, ultimately limiting the yield.

However, this can be rectified by properly training and defoliating, thereby increasing light exposure to all of the bud sites and making for larger, more homogeneous flowers. We'll discuss some of these methods in more detail later on.

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Overwatering or Fertiliser Stress

In order to achieve good results, it's no secret that plants need to be well-maintained throughout their growing cycle. And half the battle is ensuring that they're regularly watered and fed. However, it is easy to overwater and overfeed your plants, which in turn inflicts a great degree of stress and inhibits their ability to use the resources you give them. In fact, it’s safer to underfeed and underwater than to give too much, although either case will render poor results, so try to find a healthy balance and stick to it.

Heat and Humidity Stress

Popcorn Buds: Heat And Humidity Stress

Excessive heat or humidity can harm your plants and cause them to produce wispy buds in an attempt to fend off potential mould, pests, or pathogens. The result? Less-dense and less-potent flowers come harvest time.

Pests and Plagues

Like most other organisms, cannabis plants are susceptible to pests and plagues. This can cause irrevocable damage to the plant and its buds. Of course, this can be countered with the proper measures, but infested/infected plants late into their vegetative and flowering stages are seriously hindered in their ability to grow an abundance of dense flowers.

Overcrowding or Overshading

Not only does each plant need ample room to stretch out, but all of its individual bud sites need access to sufficient light penetration from above. Placing too many plants too close together will cause unnecessary shading and overcrowding, which not only limits light exposure to the lower canopy, but increases the risk of pests and plagues.

Improper Training

Popcorn Buds: Improper Training

As we mentioned earlier, training can be hugely rewarding when it comes to preventing popcorn buds and enhancing overall yield. However, if carried out incorrectly, HST and LST can cause irreparable damage to your specimens. So if the grower is not confident in the techniques they’re using, it’s best to gain some more experience before proceeding. You don’t want to snap off a branch or cause unnecessary stress, as this will just adversely affect a plant's potential to grow dense, fully formed buds.

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Will Popcorn Buds Get You High?

Popcorn buds are very much capable of providing a high, albeit one less potent than that of their fully formed brethren. These small, wispy buds still contain THC, but you'll require a lot more to pack out a joint or bowl than you normally would. As such, popcorn buds have a tendency to not go as far as regular buds.

Can You Smoke Popcorn Buds?

Can You Smoke Popcorn Buds?

So the issue with smoking popcorn buds is that you’re getting less “bang for your buck” as it were. But by all means, it is still completely possible to smoke or vaporize them! Just make sure to give them a proper dry and cure, and don’t have wild expectations.

That said, there are a host of other ways to truly get the best out of your humblest flowers.


Creating some delicious edibles from your popcorn buds is a viable option. Make oils, butter, cookies—even popcorn bud popcorn! The options are only limited by your imagination, so go wild! The use of popcorn buds in edibles is ideal as it hides their physical imperfections and concentrates their meagre potency into something powerful. That said, when crafting edibles using popcorn bud, it’s worth adding a little more than usual to achieve the desired effect.


And, of course, for the dabbers and tincture-lovers out there, you can make your own concentrates or hash. Like with edibles, you will have to use more plant material to create a product of equivalent potency to other concentrates, but it’s well worth it. Ultimately, these forms of cannabis offer up a great way to sample the flavours and effects of your strain.

The best choices for at-home users include pressing some rosin using a dedicated press or hair straighteners, making some bubble hash, or simply making an alcohol-based tincture. It’s entirely down to you and your preferences.

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 different in this respect. So take a little time and make your harvest work for you—you won't regret it.

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How To Avoid Popcorn Buds

We've covered what popcorn buds are and what you can do with them should you find yourself with an abundance—but how can you actively avoid them? Here are a few steps you can take to ensure you keep the popcorn buds to a minimum come harvest time.


Low-stress training (LST) is hugely popular among home growers, as it’s one of the more beginner-friendly methods. Screen of green (ScrOG) is an elevated take on LST that genuinely has the potential to get the best out of your plants.

By implementing some pruning and defoliation, plants are trained to grow through a mesh screen. The result is an even, horizontal canopy that stretches over the entirety of the growing area. Simply prune underneath the screen to ensure all of the plant's energy is directed to the regions above, where the buds grow. This method maximises the available light, reducing the risk of overshadowing and almost eradicating the chance of popcorn buds.


Another anti-popcorn-bud technique is lollipopping. As popcorn buds have a tendency to grow toward the bottom of the plant, the risk of them developing can be significantly reduced by removing any foliage and bud sites.

In turn, this leaves the top area full, bushy, and rife with the potential to produce high-quality colas. While it may seem counterproductive to prune your plant in such a fashion, it actually helps it to flourish. The appearance is top-heavy (hence the term “lollipop”), but the growing energy sent to these areas almost guarantees excellent results. Of course, a little TLC throughout will always be welcomed.

Don't Throw Popcorn Buds Away!

Don't Throw Popcorn Buds Away!

So, it's come to the big day and you're ready to harvest your plant, only to be met with a bevvy of popcorn buds. Well, don't sweat it; we've got some tips to help you keep them intact and ready to use.


The process of trimming your popcorn buds is very much like doing so with regular-sized buds. Just take the same level of care—using viable trimming scissors—and you can't go wrong. Those looking to create concentrates or edibles needn't be quite as thorough; however, if you're planning on smoking or vaping, be a little more attentive and remove any wayward fluff or foliage.

Drying and Curing

Once you've trimmed your buds, you can dry them on a wire rack, for example. This allows a large majority of the moisture to evaporate. Given their fluffy nature, popcorn buds tend to dry much faster than denser bud. Once suitably dried, you can place them into curing jars and allow them to really develop their flavour, aroma, and potency. After a period of around a month, your popcorn buds will be ready to go.

Lastly, but arguably most crucially, don't be discouraged by the appearance of popcorn buds, and most definitely don't throw them out! As we've discussed throughout this article, they still have plenty of life to them.

Of course, we all want the largest buds, but every growing project is a learning experience, regardless of whether this is your first time or your fiftieth. So enjoy every aspect, record your results, and then figure out how you could improve next time. Perhaps try some training methods or move your indoor grow outdoors, or vice versa. But above all, care for your plant, give it some love, and you will certainly be rewarded!

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
Professional cannabis journalist, copywriter, and author Adam Parsons is a long-time staff member of Zamnesia. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides, and explores an ever-growing range of products.
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