Let’s be honest here – cannabis defoliation is extremely controversial even among cannabis growers. The community just can’t decide whether defoliation is worth the risks or not. Indeed, there are some risks attached to defoliation, stemming mainly from the possibility that you remove essential nodes and excess foliage. However, we still think that defoliation has a great potential to improve the plant’s growth and yield.
People doubt defoliation because they think that the cannabis plant has a good reason to grow all that excess foliage. However, the reason for that is simple – cannabis usually grows in the wild, where droughts and nutrient shortages happen all too often. The extra foliage serves a storage role for those bad times.
However, you’re growing your cannabis in a tightly-controlled medium. You provide heat, humidity, and the necessary nutrients to the plant. Droughts never happen, and neither does nutrient shortage. There’s no need for the plant to store extra nutrients and spend energy on excess foliage, when it could use all that energy to grow faster and produce higher-quality yields.
Defoliation entails the removal of all the excess foliage burdening the plant. In turn, this helps the plant use its energy and nutrients more efficiently, while also improving the airflow around the plant. This also lowers the risks of pests of mold appearing and ruining the plant.
What other benefits does defoliation have?
BudStars explains that cannabis plant can’t store or use an infinite amount of energy. The energy and nutrients it houses inside are either used for growth purposes or stored inside the excess foliage. The quality of the soil, humidity and heat levels, and the quality of the light are important for the plant.
When growing cannabis plants indoors, these factors aren’t governed by the randomness found in the wild. You deliver water, light, heat, and nutrients straight to the plant. It doesn’t have to store away that energy for the likelihood of a drought or lack of nutrients. Those events will never happen in an indoor environment.
On the other hand, we don’t recommend defoliating outdoor plants. Unlike indoor plants, outdoor ones have to deal with pests, lack of water, harsh winds, temperature fluctuations, and so on. Moreover, outdoor plants also receive much more light from the Sun. Defoliating them might actually harm them in the long-term.
You should only defoliate indoor, healthy-looking plants that have no pest problems, no humidity issues, and no nutrient deficiencies. Defoliation is a stress in itself, and adding it on top of other stress-inducing factors only serves to harm the plant further.
Cannabis defoliation step-by-step
You can’t randomly remove foliage from the plant or you could unwittingly remove a great future harvest. Moreover, when you defoliate the plant is essential. We recommend doing it during the vegetative and flowering phase, one time per each phase.
Here’s how you do it:
- Remove big, fan-sized leaves that prevent light from penetrating below the canopy
- Remove all leaves on the inside of the cannabis plant
- Remove all yellowed leaves and foliage. These are sick and don’t fulfill any purpose
In the beginning, you may want to only defoliate the bottom part of the plant to keep it safe. After you become experienced, you can defoliate up until the top of the plant, just a few nodes under the top. Usually, you shouldn’t remove more than 15% of the plant’s foliage. Even extremely healthy plants only resist to a 25% foliage removal. If you’re familiar with the lollipop and pruning techniques, you can combine them with defoliation to get even better effects.
During the flowering phase, you should defoliate your plants again. Like before, remove the biggest leaves first, the ones that cover everything else. Be more careful this time around because the flowering period is vital to a plant’s growth. To optimize your defoliation, start from the bottom of the plant and focus on each leaf that you remove. Use sharp scissors to efficiently cut off excess foliage!
If you have issues differentiating defoliation from pruning, know that pruning involves the removal of branches and nodes, not just leaves. While it is a more aggressive technique, its effects are also much better. The same principle of efficient energy usage applies. By removing undesirable nodes that take away key energy, you focus on fewer nodes that will produce the best yields.
Of course, you can use defoliation and pruning together to get stunning results. Many growers have used these techniques together, and their yields were several magnitudes above classic plant growth techniques.
We encourage you to try defoliating your plants now!