Cannabis defoliation step by step, when, where and why

Reading time 4 minutes

Image showing a gloved hand with pruning shears on a cannabis plant.

Surely more than once you’ve heard the word defoliation and you wondered … What is that? This has happened to all of us at some point, and for this reason we have decided to create this article, trying to clarify what it is, how it is done, why and when is the right time to do it.

⭐ What is defoliation?

Although the real definition of defoliation refers to the premature fall of certain leaves of plants due to different factors, in our case it is not really that. Cannabis defoliation refers to the deliberate and controlled removal of the leaves from a marijuana plant in order to improve aeration, light penetration or production in the aerial parts of plants.

This method is not exclusive to plants maria, it has been used in many other cultures for centuries, both in ornamental plants such as bonsai and in intensive agriculture for food. Defoliation comes with some risk, but if done right, it’s worth it, it is therefore interesting to know how to achieve it.

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⛳ What do you get with this technique

When you do not remove the leaves from some parts of the plant, its energy is evenly distributed throughout the structure, but of course those poorly lit areas, or the light does not penetrate well, cannot form buds, that you can see in the high or bright parts. On the other hand, if you tear off some of these leaves, the light will penetrate better and the flowers will be able to develop in a much better way.

But not only do you gain bud quantity or harvest weight, with defoliation applied to growing cannabis, you will find that the flowers are denser, harder and more resinous. This is because the extra light and ventilation that some parts of the plant gain with this special size technique allows you to take better advantage of the energy to finish forming these heads well.

Another added benefit is the pest and disease control, because by leaving fewer leaves on plants, insects have less room to hide and we can detect insects and fungal foci earlier. Nutrient deficiencies, excesses or blockages can also identify better when the branches are lighter.

✨ When should you defoliation cannabis?

This can be done at the both in vegetative growth phase and in pre-flowering, but we do not recommend doing it much later, as the plant would no longer have time to enjoy the energy gained.

It is very common to defoliate mother plants during the vegetative cycle, especially bonsai. It is also interesting to do this during the growth of indica or hybrid plants with a long vegetation time, because there comes a time when the large leaves shade the new shoots, this is the right time to perform defoliation.

From our point of view, the best time to apply defoliation is during pre-flowering, or the following weeks after changing the photoperiod to 12/12 indoors. In this phase, you can already see the structure of the plant and decide much better which leaves need to be removed to improve the final harvest.

Illustration explaining the benefits of extreme defoliation *
Illustration explaining the benefits of extreme defoliation *

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It is not difficult, but it cannot be done in a crazy way, because leaves are the solar panels and nutrient reserves that plants have, we must therefore choose very carefully which ones we are going to eliminate. It should also be borne in mind that every time you cut a plant you are opening a door to possible infections, so be careful and only when necessary.

You only have to remove the larger leaves if they block the light of the shoots, leaving the branches more visible, ventilated and illuminated everywhere. In the following drawing you can see an example:

If you look closely you will see that the branches continue to have leaves, just attached to the buds where the flowers will come out, but the largest have been removed, those whose petiole arises directly in the nodes of the main trunk.

📲 When is defoliation not appropriate?

There are times when, due to the vital state of the plants, it is better not to defoliate, as it will not gain in performance, on the contrary, it can even be negative. When a plant has deficiencies, pests, blockages or some other type of stress, it is not good to remove the leaves., because in this state the only thing that is achieved is that she becomes even more stressed and may even die if her situation is not corrected.

It is also not advisable to do this with very late flowering., because the plant needs a minimum of time to be able to benefit from the lighting and ventilation gained in defoliated areas.

Although not everyone thinks the same, from our point of view it is not good to apply defoliation to normal autoflowering plants. There are some very bushy Auto XXL that can improve production with this technique, but in general with autoflowering varieties there is little gain and the risk of irreparable damage is higher.

🚀 Extreme defoliation or radical Lollipop

There are cultivators, especially in America, who practice the intense defoliation, so much so that they barely leave the tips of the branches intact. This variant of the defoliation technique is also called Lollipopping, because plants have the shape of lollipops, very similar to excessive size. We don’t like doing this very much, except in some cases.

Among these exceptions are plants that have long been used as cuttings, i.e. large mother plants that will bloom. In many cases, these plants generate very woody stems in low areas and only develop well at the ends of the branches.

🎯 Conclusion

Today we saw a production optimization technique which has a few followers and many detractors. In case it was not clear to you, it it is better to leave more leaves than to remove some essential ones, but removing the necessary ones will increase the production and the final quality of the crop. Hope you liked the article, it would be nice to share it.

Fran Quesada Moya

Fran Quesada Moya

Pevgrow editor, cannabis activist and fanatic in all its fields, especially the breeding and development of new strains.
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