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Guides, Lifestyle

To Defoliate or Not to Defoliate: Mastering Cannabis Plant Defoliation

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

December 5, 2023 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
To Defoliate or Not to Defoliate: Mastering Cannabis Plant Defoliation

Thanks to the growing wave of legalization, more consumers than ever can grow their own cannabis right at home. Growing essentials that used to be secretive are now bought and sold freely. This includes items, like grow tents, nutrients, LED lighting, HPS lighting, ventilation, and more. Keeping all these items straight is hard enough, but what about when you get home from the shop?

This is when growing cannabis really gets tough. Perhaps the toughest question growers must answer, however, is whether to defoliate their cannabis plants or not. Not to worry rookie growers, that’s what today’s blog is about. We’ll fill you in on the basics of defoliation, its benefits, and its downsides.

What Does it Mean to Defoliate Cannabis Plants?

You might think a cannabis plant with an abundance of leaves is a good thing, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Big, beautiful, bushy cannabis plants can be a sight to behold. Unfortunately, all that bush can also cause issues if extreme caution is not practiced.

Outdoor plants tend to be bushier than indoor plants. There’s a reason for this. When plants grow outdoors, they’re not limited by airflow. Light from the sun will also penetrate all around the plant.

When growing indoors, it’s a bit different. Experienced indoor growers go for big cola buds. The tiny little popcorn buds and larf located on the bottom of the plant are removed to make space. This process is called defoliation. In some plants, this can be deadly. However, when growing cannabis, especially indoors, this is necessary.

When, Why, and How To Defoliate Cannabis Plants

Defoliating cannabis in an indoor environment starts about a month into the vegetative stage. This helps your plant grow and become strong and stout. By about the first month of growth, you should be ready to start taking off the little leaves and branches at the bottom, often referred to as larf.

Removing these leaves and small branches allows the plant to focus its energy on the remaining stems and bud points. Defoling your cannabis plants also comes with the advantage of helping to prevent contamination. When there are too many leaves, it’s easy for moisture to facilitate mold and mildew growth. When plants are properly defoliated, the airflow through the plants prevents this from occurring.

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To start defoliating your cannabis plants, use a clean pair of snips to remove small leaves and stems from the bottom. Focus on leaving a healthy branch system for a good canopy. You can achieve multiple bud points by topping your plants at the right time, training with some twist ties or LST clips, and using good defoliation. Not only will this allow you to harvest more from your plant, but the quality will be better, too.

What are the Benefits of Defoliating Cannabis Plants

Defoliating cannabis plants has many advantages. As mentioned, removing excess leaves helps prevent moisture buildup that can lead to mildew and mold. By having the extra leaves removed, cannabis plants are able to receive more light in return, helping them grow better. Another great advantage of defoliation is the time it will save you trimming at harvest.

By properly defoliating your cannabis plant, you effectively allow it to produce more potent, flavorful buds. The nutrients previously absorbed by fan leaves or excessive leaves are now consumed by the beautiful buds you’re growing. When I first started defoliating my plants, I thought I had killed them. Watching them flourish was very rewarding. Not to mention that I really loved the improved yield and trichome coverage of my colas.

What are the Downsides of Defoliating Cannabis Plants

The negative aspects of defoliation occur when it’s not done right. This includes removing too many leaves at one time, using contaminated snips, or removing leaves at the wrong time (all at once or too early in growth).

Improper defoliation can cause reduced yields and frail plants. Make sure the growing environment is clean, and that proper pest control measures are taken. Also, make sure to start the defoliation process during the vegetation stage. Do a little bit here and there throughout flowering up until harvest. When done properly, you will see great results.

Things to Remember When You Defoliate Your Cannabis Plants

By doing a little research and applying what you’ve learned, you too can reap the benefits of defoliation. It is crucial to remember not to start the defoliation of your cannabis plant too early. I usually give my plants a full month before beginning any defoliation.  Removing the small stems and leaves should be done carefully so it does not damage any other part of the plant. Remember to use clean snips. Some people like to keep alcohol wipes on hand to wipe their snips between each cut. When removing leaves or stems, don’t cut right at the base. Instead, leave a quarter to half-inch of stem attached to the main stalk to avoid damaging it and potentially your plant.

Most importantly, remember that defoliation is a process. It should never be done all at once. Trust your instincts and only remove as much as you think is needed — doing so in phases.

Want to get your cannabis-growing journey started? Get your MMJ Card through Veriheal to ensure you have every protection available when you start.

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