Defoliation During the Vegetative and Flowering Stage

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Introduction to Defoliation

What is defoliation?

The point of defoliation is to “hack” your plant’s natural processes in the early part of the flowering stage to cause it to grow its buds and colas differently. There is some discussion whether defoliation is actually helpful or not but in our opinion and experience it does indeed help the plant direct energy to areas producing buds. In this article we’ll take a look at how to defoliate in a gentle way—of course you could go very far and defoliate the plant until it is bare but only do this if you are confident in what you are doing.

What is extreme defoliation?

Extreme defoliation refers to the aggressive and extensive removal of a significant portion of a cannabis plant’s foliage. This practice goes well beyond what would be considered standard or moderate leaf trimming. While there is no precise definition of the threshold for “extreme,” it typically involves stripping away a substantial percentage of the plant’s leaves, often up to 50% or more.

Why does removing leaves from a cannabis plant increase yields?

Increased Light Penetration: Cannabis plants require ample light for photosynthesis, the process by which they produce energy for growth. By removing some of the larger leaves that may be shading lower parts of the plant, growers can ensure that more light reaches the lower branches and buds.

Improved Air Circulation: Dense foliage can trap humidity and restrict airflow around the plant, creating an environment conducive to mold, mildew, and pests. By thinning out the foliage, growers can improve air circulation within the canopy, reducing the risk of these problems and promoting healthier growth.

Redirected Energy: Cannabis plants allocate energy to various parts of the plant for growth and development. By removing some leaves, especially older or less productive ones, growers can redirect the plant’s energy to other areas, such as developing buds.

Defoliation During the Vegetative Stage

Topping

topping
You’ll want to start topping when your plant has 5 or 6 total nodes. Topping is when you cut the main branch right after a new node so that the two branches coming from the node site will receive more energy and will become stronger. This will encourage your plant to grow more horizontally and it will appear “bushy.”

Defoliation

You’ll want to give your plants a good trim about 4 to 8 weeks after planting your seed. You will see that you have created a number of new node points by topping as well as having encouraged stronger branches. Yet, you’ll also notice that there are a number of smaller leaves and branches within and beneath the canopy that are using energy without producing buds or capturing light. Prune away these leaves and small stems within and beneath the canopy. We recommend that you prune your plants every 2 weeks until about 1 week before you turn to flower. How do you know which leaves to remove? If the light to a single fan leaf is blocked by two or more leaves, remove it.

Defoliation During the Flowering Stage

Flowering defoliation is usually a little more dramatic than Vegetative defoliation but in order for us to defoliate correctly during Flowering, we first should cut away any growth tips, small leaves, or parts of the plant that aren’t getting light before we enter Flowering – right before. If you want to get the best results, you can try “lollipopping” your plants, which means removing all the leaves below the point the light reaches – the name “lollipop” comes from the fact that your buds look like they are candy on sticks when you’re finished pruning.

Defoliating during flowering stage

You can also prune away leaves higher up on the plant and have the growth focused solely on the buds – the technique is a little more advanced because you might remove some bud sites along the way so be careful not to damage those bud sites. Look carefully at where you’re going to prune and look for signs of bud sites and then remove the stems slightly above that point. You can either pinch or cut off smaller growths, whichever you feel most comfortable doing.

So there are three different times we recommend defoliating during Flower:

  • Right before you switch to 12/12
  • Once between the beginning of Flower and the 3-week mark
  • 3 weeks after beginning flower is the last time you’ll want to defoliate

After 3 weeks you will also want to remove leaves that cover buds and bud sites but other than that you should avoid defoliating any further. Your plants should be ready in about 7 weeks!

What happens if you remove all fan leaves during flowering?

Reduced Photosynthesis: As fan leaves are the primary sites for photosynthesis, where the plant converts light energy into sugars and carbohydrates essential for growth and bud development, removing all fan leaves would severely limit the plant’s ability to photosynthesize, potentially starving it of the energy needed to produce healthy buds.

Stress and Stunted Growth: Removing all foliage would cause extreme stress to the plant, disrupting its natural growth processes and potentially stunting its development. Without leaves to capture sunlight and produce energy, the plant may struggle to recover and continue flowering.

Nutrient Imbalance: Fan leaves also play a role in nutrient storage and distribution throughout the plant. Consequently, removing them could disrupt the balance of nutrients, leading to deficiencies or toxicities that further harm the plant’s health and development.

We hope this quick primer helps you during your Vegetative and Flowering journey – if you have questions or comments don’t hesitate to reach out to us!