If you are new to growing marijuana, welcome to the club. There’s nothing quite like growing your own herb, and being in control of your own medicine supply.
Growing weed is both a labor and a love. It can be challenging in the beginning, when you don’t quite know what to expect, and aren’t sure how to proceed. After all, there are so many different parts to the puzzle.
There’s the technical aspect, sizing equipment appropriate, optimizing your set up. There’s the cultivation aspect, knowing how to run a schedule and get all the tasks done on time. Then there’s the artistic/holistic aspect, of “listening” to the plants and knowing what to do next.
As part of our mission, we want to pass on the information we’ve learned to those just getting started on their journey to growing marijuana. If have not already done so already, we highly suggest you check out these two series:
- How to Grow Cannabis Indoors (5-part series)
- A Week-By-Week Guide to Flowering Cannabis (9-part series)
In this series, we are going to cover the topic of Defoliating Cannabis Plants.
- Part 1: What is Defoliation
- Part 2: When to defoliate your plants
- Part 3: Best Practices for defoliating your plants
What is Defoliation and Why should you Defoliate your Marijuana Plants?
In this first part, we will discuss the general concept of what exactly is defoliation. You may have heard the term. Or you may have heard people refer to trimming marijuana plants.
There are actually two different types of trimming when it comes to weed. We will discuss those below.
Trimming vs. Defoliation: What is the difference?
When we use the phrase “trimming,” we are almost always referring to the act of trimming the final product, cured bud. If we are talking about trimming the actual plant, we use the phrase “defoliating the plant.” This is not for some semantical argument, it’s just to clarify what we are talking about in this article series.
We’ve written before about trimming your bud, but this article series is all about trimming your weed plant. And so we are talking about defoliating your marijuana plant of its fan leaves.
Whereas with trimming bud, you are taking the dried flowers, removing them from the branches (we’ll call this shucking), and then trimming the fine leaves that have dried around the bud. This is an important obvious step in the cultivation process. But there is another very important component to a successful harvest, and that is removing excess leafy material from the plant during the both the vegetative and flowering stage. And we refer to this as defoliating the plant.
The Purpose for Defoliating Marijuana Plants
There are several reasons you will want to defoliate your plants.
- Increase yield
- Increase air flower
- Increase light penetration
- Decrease risks of disease and mold growth
Defoliating the plants Reduces risks of disease and pathogen growth
You actually decrease many risks by defoliating yoru plants. This is because one, you simply have less plant material crammed into each other. Less material for pests to latch on to. And less material to get sick in the first place and spread.
In addition, by removing all the plant material, you open up the passage ways of fresh air and increase the overall airflow above and below the canopy.
By increasing airflow, you reduce the risk of mold growth by making it harder for these spores to congregate and grow.
Increase Yield with Proper Defoliation
Of no small concern in any flowering cycle is yield. We all want to yield more. And of primary importance in achieving that goal is making sure your plants are defoliated.
When you defoliate your plants, you allow light to penetrate through the canopy and feed the entire plant. All the buds get a higher PPFD and are directly exposed to the lights. Given that cannabis like any other plant is fed through photosynthesis, this increases growth.
Let’s face it: Fan leaves on a pot plant are huge. And they will block a substantial amount of light from most of the buds. Instead of bright light, these nugs will get hit with a shadow cast from these giant fan leaves.
There is a line of thinking fan leaves act as solar panels and transmit the same energy through to the rest of the plant. But our real world experience has shown us that bushy, tangled plants do not yield nearly as well as plants that have been heavily defoliated and kept pruned up.
The bottom line is that if you want to maximize your yield, you must defoliate your plants during the flowering stage.
We explain the timing of when to schedule your defoliation activities in Part 2: When to Defoliate (i.e. trim your plants) in Cannabis Cultivation.