Should you defoliate autoflowers?

Defoliate Autoflowers

Defoliating autoflowers is different from defoliating photoperiod cannabis plants in that autoflowers don’t handle stress as well as photoperiod plants. 

However, this doesn’t mean that defoliating autoflowers isn’t worth the effort. 

Like all types of plant training, there’s simply a potential risk. 

In this article, we cover the risks and the benefits of defoliating autoflowers.

Cannabis defoliation
Cannabis defoliation

What is cannabis defoliation

Defoliation is a practice that’s similar to pruning

It removes excess or unnecessary foliage on your plants, so it can efficiently absorb light and direct the energy and nutrients to parts of the plant that are important, such as its colas. 

And while it is true that removing the leaves does hurt your plant, it’s only temporary, and the stress brought from it becomes beneficial to the plants’ growth.

Another similarity that defoliation has with pruning is that plenty of growers are skeptical about the practice since cutting and removing leaves from your cannabis plants seems counterintuitive. 

Why would a plant produce unnecessary foliage that would need pruning in the first place?

The answer to this is pretty simple. 

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Plants produce more leaves to serve as a way to store nutrients and efficiently transfer those nutrients and energy to nearby areas.

These areas are the unnecessary growths since the buds around them are sparse and loose, which you would eventually weed out during the harvesting process

While there are growers who will still question the benefits of defoliation, there are growers who use the practice to improve both the yield and the efficiency of their grows.

Defoliation also produces healthier crops since removing unnecessary foliage such as old yellowing leaves allows for existing leaves to get more sunlight and improves the airflow around your plants.

Defoliation is different from pruning because it’s a safer alternative since it isn’t as aggressive or intense. 

However, just like pruning, you can over-defoliate your plants, stunt their growth, and remove potentially good buds. 

This is especially true for autoflowers. That’s why it’s essential to know how to defoliate autoflowers and when to defoliate autoflowers.

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The risk of defoliating autoflowering marijuana

Removing too many leaves is a risk if you don’t know how to defoliate autoflowers. 

The plant needs its leaves for photosynthesis to produce energy. Additionally, the leaves also act as a way to store nutrients. 

If you remove too many, you can stunt your cannabis plants’ growth since your plants will not have enough energy or nutrients.

There’s also the risk of stress when you defoliate autoflowers which could cause them to hermie, a condition where your plants will begin to produce male flowers that would pollinate the buds of your female plants. 

A good way to prevent your plants from becoming hermaphrodites is by choosing cannabis seeds with stronger genetics since weaker ones produce plants that are more prone to hermaphroditism.

Despite the risk that comes with the practice, there are benefits when you defoliate autoflowers. 

By removing old fan leaves, your plants will have a better airflow, which reduces the likelihood of mold appearing on your plants. 

Pruning off excess foliage also helps with increasing light exposure on your bud sites.

Autoflower marijuana plants
Autoflower marijuana plants

How to defoliate autoflowers

The right time to defoliate autoflowers is during their vegetative stage because autoflowering marijuana has a shorter growing cycle than photoperiod plants. 

When it comes to defoliating standard cannabis plants, you can do it during both their vegetative and mid flowering stages.

When removing the leaves of your autoflowers, start with the lower ones first before moving up to the upper leaves. 

It’s also important to only remove only a few of them at a time to avoid overstressing your plants.

Remove big marijuana leaves
Remove big marijuana leaves

Remove the big Leaves

You want to start with the lower leaves first because the big leaves are often found in the lower part of your plants. 

These big leaves, or fan leaves as they’re also known, would begin to yellow at some point. 

Removing them helps your plants since those old fan leaves will block and overshadow newer leaves and bud sites.

Remove marijuana leaves that overshadow 
Remove marijuana leaves that overshadow 

Remove leaves that overshadow 

Once you’re satisfied with the trim you did to the lower part of your plants, you can move up to the upper leaves. 

You would want to remove the upper leaves to allow all the leaves on your plant to get loads of light and avoid any of the upper leaves overshadowing other leaves and bud sites.

Remove old yellow marijuana leaves
Remove old yellow marijuana leaves

Remove old yellow leaves

It’s a given that you would want to remove old yellow leaves since, at this point, they have exhausted all of their functions and are now just there waiting to fall off. 

Removing them wouldn’t take away any nutrients since the old yellow leaves have no more nutrients for the plant to handle.

Marijuana leaf tucking
Marijuana leaf tucking

Leaf Tucking: The alternative to autoflower defoliation

Another way for your buds’ sites to absorb light efficiently is leaf tucking. It’s a safer alternative to defoliation since it doesn’t involve trimming the leaves of your cannabis plants.

Instead, it’s a type of low-stress training where you tuck the large fan leaves down so that it doesn’t overshadow the bud sites of your plant.

It’s a fairly simple plant training method that doesn’t require anything, but just to be safe, you can tie the branches down with training wire to avoid the fan leaves from springing back in place.

The one drawback to this method is that tucking the leaves down makes for poor air circulation in your plants, leading to mold. 

However, this method is undoubtedly stress-free and is ideal for autoflowering strains.


So the question is, should you defoliate autoflowers? 

You can, and there is a clear benefit for your cannabis plants if you do. 

If you’re unsure where to start, try downloading and reading my free Marijuana Grow Bible.  

Once you do, you’ll be ready to apply defoliation and other plant training methods to both regular and autoflowering plants like a pro.

If you’re looking for high-quality autoflower strains with strong genetics to apply defoliation, shop at my online store,

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Happy growing,


FAQs about defoliate autoflowers

What does defoliation do for weed plants?

Defoliation helps by removing old yellow leaves that block newer growths and bud sites from getting the sunlight they need. This trimming method also improves the airflow and the efficiency and yield of your plants by removing unnecessary foliage that eats nutrients that your main colas should be getting.

How many times should you defoliate weed?

When it comes to autoflowering strains, you can only defoliate them once, and that’s during their vegetative stage. This is because autoflowers have a shorter growing cycle. Since photoperiod plants have longer growing cycles, you can defoliate them twice. Learn more about the method in my article on defoliation.

Is it OK to remove fan leaves during flowering?

Removing your fan leaves is defoliation, and it’s generally not recommended that you do it during their flowering stage. This is because the stress brought on by trimming the leaves during flowering has a higher chance of causing your plants to hermie than in their vegetative stage.

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