Cannabis defoliation refers to the process of removing cannabis leaves from the plant to provide a healthier plant that produces a greater quantity and quality of buds. Nearly all commercial cannabis growers prune and defoliate cannabis plants as more experienced growers are familiar with the technique and aware of the many benefits.

Cannabis defoliation is a fairly simple process that even beginners and novice home growers can perform to recognize the same rewards. If you want to learn how the pros do it, read on to learn more about cannabis defoliation, when to perform it, how to defoliate your plant properly, and the many benefits it provides.

Cannabis Defoliation: Strategically Removing Leaves

Cannabis defoliation is more than just cutting leaves off of your cannabis plant; it has to be done correctly to recognize benefits and not harm your plant. Defoliation is different from topping and from lollipopping, which are other methods of training and pruning cannabis plants.

Topping refers to simply cutting the main cola after about 4-5 nodes appear to strengthen other branches and prevent a Christmas tree shape. Topping promotes cannabis plants to bush out and create more large colas.

Lollipopping is another pruning method where growers trim excess foliage at the bottom of the plant to focus energy on bud sites towards the top that are receiving maximum light. Defoliation can be done to plants that have been topped or lollipopped, although they are all different methods of hacking your plant’s natural growth to force it to take the shape you want, all for greater health and yield.

To defoliate a plant, growers strategically remove leaves all over the plant, which allows greater airflow and light exposure, ultimately increasing yield. It is a great way for indoor growers to maximize space and light usage, and many growers recommend only defoliating indoor plants.


Choosing the Right Plants for Cannabis Defoliation

It is extremely important to assess your plant’s health prior to performing any pruning or defoliation. Removing foliage causes stress to your plant and should only be done on plants that are strong and healthy with upright stems. Do not defoliate any cannabis plants that show signs of a deficiency, disease, pest infestation, light or nutrient burn, or appear frail in any way. Defoliating sick plants can cause stress that they may not recover from.

Many growers recommend only defoliating plants grown indoors since outdoor plants are consistently exposed to more environmental stresses like rain, wind, and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Unlike lights hanging in a grow tent, the position of the sun changes throughout the day and is capable of penetrating through bushy plants better than grow lights.

Once you identify the plants that are ready for defoliation, all you really need is a good pair of scissors.

When to Defoliate Cannabis Plants

Do not attempt to defoliate cannabis plants before the fifth note appears. Plants should be strong and healthy before removing any foliage. You should perform your first defoliation during the vegetative stage, about a week or two before the flowering stage, when many small leaves and branches are visible. This will also help to train your plant and get it accustomed to pruning.

Do not defoliate plants 3 to 5 days before flowering. This allows your plant time to recover from the stress of pruning to prepare for flowering. You also want to leave your plants alone during the first few weeks of the flowering stage because it is in an aggressive growth mode, and pruning during this time can severely stunt growth.

You can perform the second defoliation about 3 to 4 weeks into the flowering stage.
After this, you can defoliate during the flowering stage every 10 to 14 days or so, as long as new foliage has appeared since the last trimming. The key is to take it slowly and not overdo it. It’s easy to get carried away and to keep snipping when you shouldn’t. Remember, you can always trim more leaves later, but you can never put them back on.

How To Defoliate Cannabis Plants

Be sure to start slow and do not remove more than 10% of the leaves on your plant with your first defoliation.

  • Start first with yellow or damaged leaves
  • Move on to larger leaves near the top of the plant
  • Focus on leaves that are shading other leaves underneath them
  • Removes the largest fan leaves first
  • Remove leaves that are resting on other leaves or on the pot; this is a major source of infection
  • Remove leaves from the top of the canopy that are blocking light on other areas of the plant
  • Consider removing fan leaves that are growing inward, as they tend to restrict airflow
  • Buds require air and light, you should also remove leaves that are covering buds. *Be careful not to disturb bud sites

Remember, take it slow and reassess your plant without going overboard. Cannabis plants still need leaves to grow and take shape according to their training. Training your plants to grow flat and wide is a great way to increase yield when growing indoors.

Make sure you continue feeding your plants proper nutrition, which helps them bounce back from the stress of trimming.

Benefits of Cannabis Defoliation

When performed correctly, defoliating your cannabis plants provides many benefits:

  • Removing excess foliage helps your plant to better use the limited energy that it can produce toward bud development
  • Defoliation promotes better air circulation, which in turn reduces the risk of mold, mildew, and pest infestations
  • Better air circulation also helps to maintain a study temperature and humidity level
  • All of this leads to bigger, better buds for maximum yield

Always grow with high-quality cannabis seeds. Bunk seeds will never produce quality weed, but high-quality seeds can produce good buds, even in less-than-perfect conditions.

Mosca Seeds offers high-quality, award-winning cannabis seeds with a wide selection of seed types and strains developed with more than 15 years of experience in cannabis genetics. Choose from regular seeds, feminized, and auto-flower in your favorite strain, or choose a new drop for your enjoyment. Check out the Seed Bazaar now and get growing happy, healthy plants that you can defoliate to maximize yield.