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Cannabis Defoliation: What Is It and What Does It Do?

Cannabis Defoliation

Cultivating cannabis plants today is a lot more different than what it once was. While the traditional ideas and concepts still apply to today’s weed gardens, people have found various ways to tweak their crops. Some go into adjusting the ways that their marijuana plants grow. Some may attempt to increase their yields and some just wants a much cleaner garden. Today, different techniques are available that you can apply to your gardens! 

Defoliation generally incorporates a concept that does both! If you are just starting out on your weed gardens, chances are you may have never heard of defoliation before. However, it is actually an effective way of getting more buds. In addition to decreasing the foliage of leaves that comes with most marijuana plants. So, do you wanna learn more about defoliation and how it affects your marijuana crop? Then read on!

What is Defoliation of Cannabis Plants?

Defoliation refers to the process of removing certain fan leaves scattered all across your cannabis plants during certain time frames. What this does is that it stops any excessively large fan leaves from absorbing too much sunlight. It also block any sources of light that may be absorbed by the buds and sugar leaves. 

You see, sugar leaves refer to those leaves that grow out of the cannabis plant’s colas and surround the buds. They are called “sugar leaves” due to their high concentrations of trichomes. Which also makes them a lot more significant for THC production. On the other hand, fan leaves are bigger and wider types of leaves. It usually grow in the other places of the plants. They contain much lesser (or even none at all) amounts of trichomes and can get pretty congested if left unchecked.

The fact that they tend to entangle themselves with one another is one of the main reasons for defoliation. As the thicket of fan leaves start becoming more and more robust, this increases their chances of hindering the light absorption of buds. It may lead to the underdevelopment of potency in the flowers!

As such, defoliating basically allows light to travel deeper into your plants. It exposes the plant to more lighting, and provide a better flow of air around. While this seems like a practical reason for defoliation, you should keep in mind that fan leaves also absorb needed energy for photosynthesis! With this in mind, defoliation should be practiced carefully and should be done in a way that gets rid of a certain number of fan leaves at certain time periods!

Defoliation vs. Pruning

A lot of people tend to mistake defoliation with pruning. While they apply the same basic concepts in their procedures and objectives, they are two completely separate and different things! For one, pruning is a much more aggressive form of stress training.

 It involves removing and discarding whole colas off of your plants along with thickets of leaves in order to allow more room for bud growth. Pruning focuses more on the colas and nodes of your plants and aims to increase the amount of yields that you get by adding more than one primary cola in your cannabis plant.

On the other hand, defoliation is much more mellow and less stressful to plants. This training method focuses solely on the removal of fan leaves in order to allow a more even distribution of light and air! While it does not aim to increase the amount of primary colas present, defoliation relies more on sunlight to increase yields. As such, it is often paired with other training techniques like pruning and scrogging for a better overall output!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Defoliation

Interfering with the growth of your cannabis plants, no matter what your intentions are, will always bring risks in doing so. With that being said, defoliation may pose a few problems for growers despite being in a very controlled and regulated form of training your marijuana plants. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of cannabis defoliation:


  • Getting rid of certain fan leaves during the growth of your cannabis plants will allow much more light absorption and penetration in your cannabis gardens. Light, as you already know, is extremely important for cannabis growth. With as much light as it is able to handle, your plants will definitely have more robust growths. 
  • As many cannabis strains are quite bushy and compact (most especially indica strains), the overcrowding of leaves can lead to the underdevelopment of the buds and plant structure. With defoliation, your cannabis plants are exposed to a cleaner and tidier growing area. This keeps it neat while avoiding the possible development of molds. 
  • The added space that your marijuana plants are allowed to grow in due to being less congested allows the growth of bigger, chunkier buds that will also come in bigger yields! As a grower, you will want nothing more!
  • Of course, an open growing area means that your plants will have a better air circulation system that allows the plants to breathe better and develop more freely rather than being restricted due to the space issues.    


  • Defoliation of your cannabis plants will rely mainly on the timing and amount of fan leaves that you are going to get rid of! If you are unfamiliar with the way cannabis plants grow, then you might need to reach a certain degree of expertise first before defoliating your plants. 
  • Improper defoliation may cause much more harm to your plants than you would imagine. One error in the timing or amount of fan leaves that you take off can lead to unwanted stress in your plant’s systems! Not only will this prove useless, it can even result in lower yields and the stunted growth of buds! 
  • Taking off fan leaves isn’t the hardest concept to grasp when training your cannabis plants. However, not all strains will respond the same to defoliation! As such, you are better off using this technique with durable and low-maintenance strains in order to avoid killing off your crops. 

How to Defoliate Cannabis Plants

Cannabis defoliation will rely on the how, when, and what of things. You should know how to properly take off the fan leaves at the right times! Additionally, you should also be aware of keeping the right number of fan leaves in your plants as they will still come in handy for absorbing light for photosynthesis. 

HOW: First off, start by taking a pair of clippers or scissors and sterilize them in alcohol or hot water. Doing so makes sure that no bacteria makes its way into the plant once you make your cut. Also, using tools instead of your hands makes for a much cleaner process without bruising or damaging the other parts of your branches!

Do you take away the leaves only or cut off the whole petiole as well? Take everything from the petiole! This makes sure that you will get nice, even branches without leaving any fractions of the petioles protruding. 

WHEN: It gets pretty tricky once you start talking about when to start your defoliation. This depends solely on the amount of fan leaves that are present at a given time. In addition, consider how thick it becomes. But one important thing to note is that you can defoliate your plants during the vegetative stages and flowering stages. Doing so once with an interval of 5 to 7 days in between each time gives you plants enough time to recover from the process. 

You can start around 2 to 3 weeks before the end of the vegetative stages. Once your plants enter their flowering stage, it is good to wait around 2 weeks before defoliating again. 

WHAT: Remember, you are removing the fan leaves of your plants! Do not even think about touching the sugar leaves as they are an important part of the development of potency! Discard around 1 to 3 leaves max every time you start defoliating. The goal of this process is to help get rid of any crowded places, not to strip your plants naked. Removing a total of about 20% of the foliage is the ideal time to stop. 

Also, you should keep in mind that a lot of fan leaves are located in the inside layers of leaves! These ones are the most important ones to discard as they are the main culprits of overcrowding your gardens. Make sure that you only take away fan leaves that are a safe distance away from the bud and flowering sites! Leave any fan leaves located around these areas as they will help photosynthesize your crops. Lastly, discard dead and dry fan leaves immediately. These have the tendency to act as agents for molds and disease development. 

Defoliation of cannabis plants is something that every grower can do! With some practice and patience, this process can easily be mastered. It is definitely a very beneficial procedure that can enhance the growth and development of your cannabis crops! 

Any seeds that will respond well to defoliation can be purchased here at SunWest Genetics. Because we breed and develop each strain in our genetic pool with the utmost care and consideration of quality, you won’t have to worry about stressing your marijuana plants out too much1

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