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When to Defoliate Weed: A Complete Guide

weed leaves after defoliation

In this article we will be talking about cannabis defoliation, which is generally considered as a high stress training technique.

If not executed properly, defoliation can cause significant stress to your plant, and because of that it’s typically advised that this method should be attempted only by growers who already have some experience with cannabis cultivation.

The sole purpose of defoliation is to increase the overall yield of cannabis plants, since removing some foliage can result in more energy being diverted to the buds.

Defoliation also allows a bit more light to reach parts of the plant that would normally be in the shadow, and it is also useful for increasing airflow, which is beneficial for mold and pests.

This technique is sometimes considered controversial since removing foliage diminishes the plant’s ability for photosynthesis, but defoliation generally implies only removing fan leaves that directly overshadow cannabis buds, and sometimes removing leaves in spots that are “overcrowded” with leaves.

The effect of defoliation is twofold, since the first objective of this method is to allow more energy to be used by cannabis flowers, and the second reason for defoliating is to increase airflow and prevent mold and other issues.

In this guide we will show you how to adequately remove fan leaves without causing too much stress to your plants, since over-defoliating can definitely have the complete opposite effect and be very detrimental to your plants.

The Main Advantages of Defoliating

It’s important to point out that the advantages and benefits of cannabis defoliation are completely anecdotal.

This is because cannabis remains illegal in most parts of the world to this day, which has prevented scientists from looking into the mechanisms of cannabis cultivation to find out what works best.

Even though it’s still technically unproven, many growers claim that defoliation is capable of increasing the yield and bud production of their plants.

If you are uncertain if defoliating your plants is the best option for you, perhaps it’s best to give it a go and determine for yourself whether this method produces any beneficial results.

Besides exposing the buds to additional light by removing leaves that are in close proximity to this, defoliation can also help the plant to redirect more of its energy resources towards bud production.

Another important aspect of defoliating is that it can be beneficial for airflow, and this is especially important for indica and indica dominant hybrids, since these varieties typically grow in a very condensed and bushy manner.

Such plants can greatly benefit from defoliation, because when a cannabis plant grows very dense, this can cause the humidity and temperature levels to significantly increase, which greatly increases the risk of mold and bug infestations.

By carefully controlling the density of the canopy, defoliation is capable of minimizing these issues.

The Ideal Time to Defoliate Weed

It’s typically advised only to perform defoliation during the vegetative stage of growth, but it also shouldn’t do any harm during the first week of flowering.

It’s also a good idea for your plant to develop a bit before you begin defoliating, so it’s adequate to give your plants at least two weeks of growth before you begin.

It’s essential to understand that some types of cannabis are better suited for defoliation, while some will have a hard time recuperating from this aggressive method.

As a rule of thumb, it’s always advisable to give your plants anywhere between 4 to 7 days between defoliation.

As for autoflowering types of cannabis, it’s generally considered that these varieties aren’t well suited for defoliating, so if you decide to perform this technique on them, make sure to use extra caution.

Defoliating is usually combined with other training methods like topping and scrog, as this allows the cultivator to manipulate the plants with greater ease.

As we already mentioned, defoliating weed is considered as a high stress training technique, so it’s always advisable to have some experience in growing weed before you attempt defoliation.

How Much Should You Defoliate

In order to avoid causing too much stress on your plant, it’s always smart to start light, and work your way up.

You can begin by removing a couple of leaves (somewhere between one and three), and give your cannabis plant sufficient time to recover (at least four to seven days).

During the recovery time you can easily observe whether the plant is having problems with defoliation or not.

Again, it’s important not to overdo it, and it’s generally ideal to remove somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of leaves during defoliation.

It’s also not a good idea to remove any leaves that are in close proximity to bud sites, as removing these leaves will directly influence the size and cannabinoid production of the buds.

How Should Defoliation Be Performed

Even though some growers perform defoliation by hand, it’s much smarter to make a clean cut with a pair of sharp and sterilized gardening scissors.

Removing the leaves with your hands might seem like a natural way to go, but it can result in damaging the skin of the plant’s stem, which is something that needs to be avoided.

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