As the name implies, cannabis defoliation involves the removal of leaves from the cannabis plants. I am sure most of us have heard about pruning and the good things that come along with doing it. It is not a new technique in farming and gardening. This process has been used in a lot of crop growth, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, cotton, and chia, among others. When it comes to cannabis, defoliation during flower is all about increasing yields. In this article, we will understand more about this farming technique that has become so attractive to the best and highly experienced marijuana growers.
Benefits of Defoliation Technique
Cannabis defoliation is much more than getting rid of yellow or damaged leaves. It is about removing any excess leaves to produce healthier crops. If you are not familiar with the technique, it may sound pretty counterintuitive and many growers might recoil in horror at the mention. However, science and experience have proven the effectiveness of the practice for all kinds of cannabis plants, from photoperiod to auto-flowering varieties. Some of the well-known benefits of the defoliation technique include the following:
- Increase bud production without increasing the number of plants. This is especially advantageous for growers who are working in reduced spaces or indoor gardens. It makes efficient use of space in an indoor grow area as the plants now focus on bud sites, especially during the initial stage of flowering.
- Manage the growth, shape, and size of the plants. Defoliation allows you to control the height and shape of your plants, optimizing the plant’s exposure to light and air. Plants with excess foliage and that are not defoliated or managed can quickly become cramped especially when grown indoors.
- Increase airflow. By removing the density of both big fan leaves and even new-born leaves, the plants can enjoy an enhanced airflow, which is essential in keeping plants healthy. A lack thereof, on the other hand, encourages molds, mildew, pests, and parasites to grow. Thus, the importance of having a good airflow, especially in indoor grows.
- Increase light penetration. Just like increased airflow, this technique can help solve light exposure issues and can even reduce costs dedicated to lighting equipment. Cannabis buds have been observed to grow to a good and fatter size when exposed to strong, direct light. Hidden buds trapped in the shade of bigger leaves often always stay small.
Defoliation During Flower Stage
Different growers defoliate their plants along different stages of the plant’s growth. Some may opt to defoliate during the vegetative state while others wait to trim until the plant reaches its flowering stage. Any defoliation done during the vegetative state is to simply thin out the plant if it starts becoming too bushy.
If, however, you decide to defoliate only upon reaching the point of the flowering stage, the goal is to improve light penetration and airflow to the buds as possible. This means removing all the large leaves, which could prevent any light from reaching all the flowering nodes of the plant. Defoliation at this stage can help reduce humidity and prevent the formation of mold and mildew. The good news is that cannabis plants are incredibly efficient at photosynthesis and will recover rather quickly after defoliation. Just like most other processes, however, you still would want to adhere to the following guidelines:
- Always use a sterilized and disinfected sterile blade regardless of your choice of tool to minimize the risk of disease and infection in the plants.
- First-timers should monitor post-pruning behavior closely. Start by removing just a few leaves and see how the plant responds over the next few days. Some strains are more sensitive to defoliation than others.
- Focus on removing fan leaves from the middle and lower parts of the plant. Avoid going overboard with defoliation as this may instead slow the plant’s growth. Be sure to focus on the fan leaves and leave future bud sites undisturbed. Many seasoned growers recommend defoliating a maximum of two to three times only, between the plants’ vegetative stage and flowering stage. It is easy for inexperienced growers to go overboard so it is good to aim to remove no more than 15% of the plant’s foliage at a time.
- Never defoliate or keep defoliating at a minimum towards the end of the flowering stage. This will give time for your plants to recover.
The first week of the flowering stage. At this stage, the plant slows down on producing new nodes or branches. Instead, it will put as much energy into growing flowers. Remove all the excess full-size fan leaves using a sharp pair of sterilized scissors. Leave the smaller leaves alone. If you can easily see the plant’s main stem, then you can stop. In about seven to 10 days, healthy, strong cannabis plants will regrow all their leaves and have dense foliage again.
The third week of the flowering stage. Roughly three weeks into the flowering phase, you would need to defoliate again. However, it is important to make sure that your plants have fully recovered as defoliation can stress the plants. During this second run of trimming, remove big fan leaves as well as any smaller leaves that are covering any bud sites. Again, remember to be extra careful to avoid removing and disturbing any of the young buds. After, make sure to feed and water according to your regular schedule, and avoid any further stressors for your plants to allow them time to develop their flowers.
Defoliation is a tried and tested technique that boosts yield potential for any cannabis plant. This process can be done during the different stages of the plant offering different benefits. Defoliation during the flowering phase, for instance, helps prevent mold, mildew, and pest infestations. On the other hand, defoliation during the vegetative stage will promote faster growth. It is important to remember, however, that when done at the wrong time or an excess, defoliation can easily reduce yields.