How to LST (Low Stress Training)?

December 13, 2021

What is Low Stress Training (LST)?

Low stress training (LST) is a method used by growers to increase their yields and manipulate the plants’ overall size and shape. It derives from the ancient practice of espalier; cultivating or pruning a plant to grow up and across a trellis or other type of flat 2D structure.

LST is a bit like cultivating bonsai trees, as you are manipulating the shape of the plant to your will. You are essentially bending and manipulating the stems.

Fig trees were trained in this way to grow along walls in Ancient Egypt, and similar methods have been used in various types of horticulture for centuries. In medicinal plants circles, however, low stress training is mainly used for growing medicinal plants indoors but also outdoor growers adapt methods of low-stress training.

How to Low Stress Train Medicinal Plants (step-by-step)

Step 1: Gather materials

The goal of LST is to manipulate your medicinal plant as much as possible, without causing a stress response. You can use anything that is not too “sharp” because thin iron wire can easily cut through a plant. Most people, therefore, use special iron wire with a thick rubber layer around it. But you can get creative. Other popular alternatives are, for example, thick wool, clothes hangers and pipe cleaners (the things you use to clean pipes).

This is what you need on your shopping list:

  • A young medicinal plant seedling (or two, or three!)
  • Twisty ties or plastic clips
  • Sharp scissors
  • Duct tape – this is invaluable in securing ties or canes or repairing accidentally snapped branches
  • To provide support for the bend, there is a range of options. You could use bamboo canes or drill small holes near the rim of the pots.

Step 2: Select stem

Start by carefully feeling how flexible the stem or branch is that you want to bend, so you know if you can work with it “safely”. If you suspect it might snap, it’s not suitable. Then visualize the type of shape you would like your plant – it’s best to stick to a simple medicinal bush for beginners. At this point you can pinch out the top leaves, it’s up to you.

Step 3: Tie the highest branch

Tie or clamp the highest branch so that the former top is suddenly at a lower level than the rest of the plant. Look carefully to see if the stem bends smoothly and do not try to bend it. It is essential that you start any low-stress training as soon as possible. It’s best to start when your plant is very young, though, with LST, it’s always better late than never.​

The main idea is to keep all the stems about the same distance from the light. So, you want to continually bend the tallest stems down to the same level as the others, and use a twisty tie to secure it gently but firmly in position.

Even if you never top the plant, you can simply bend it in the direction you want it to go.

Step 4: Organize the canopy

Continue by organizing your canopy by bending everything to the right places, especially the small new side branches that are now going to grow vertically. You could also tie the next highest branches down to enhance the LST effect.

Step 5: Watch and wait

24 hours after bending, the branch will start to grow up again, but it will start as low as the rest of the branches. As the secondary branches start to receive more light and grow up, you may need to LST them too.

Step 6: Repeat tieing process

Wait until your canopy is properly filled and uniform again and then repeat the tying process.

Step 7: Flowering

A sea of ​​equally large peaks will emerge during flowering. Once your medicinal plants start to flower, they will grow incredibly quickly. At this stage, pruning the lower branches that will never have any chance of reaching or getting any light is a good idea, it will encourage the plant to be more productive up top where it matters rather than wasting energy on stuff that will not actually affect the final yield of your plant. It also will allow better ventilation for your canopy. Take off doing the bottom two or three leaving the leaves on. The leaves get pruned a little later as the flowers are bursting.

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