COMMON REASONS FOR LEAF DEFOLIATION

Identifying and Addressing Issues to Maintain Plant Health

Defoliation is simply the process of removing leaves from your indoor plants. Unfortunately, the reasons for defoliating are not always as straightforward as we’d like. It is typically done to manipulate or control the canopy, and prevent potential problems. If defoliation is done incorrectly, it can certainly have a negative impact on yields. Only defoliate if you understand why you are doing it!


Common Reasons for Defoliation


1. Create uniformity in your canopy.


Plants have a difficult time breathing and exchanging air if the canopy is too densely packed. This type of environment can lead to unwanted pathogen growth. 


It’s ideal to have uniform canopies for more even light distribution and consistent yields.


2. Treat pests and infestations.


You may have to remove leaves in order to physically reach an area of infestation. Especially if the canopy is densely packed.


3. Manipulate plants to make them more conducive for managing.


Be sure to speak with an experienced cultivator to learn how to better manage your canopy. 


How do I know which leaves to remove? 


There is not one simple answer to this question. You have to ask yourself if the leaves are going to contribute to any problems. If so, remove them. If not, keep them. 


There are no specific rules to keeping certain leaves over others, unless it is an unhealthy leaf. Resources and energy can be allocated towards keeping healthy leaves alive versus trying to remedy sick ones.


Leaves are also known as the sources of plants. They uptake photonic energy from light, then convert it into oxygen and glucose. These photosynthetic byproducts act as energy for the plant, which are then sent to the sinks. Sinks are parts of the plants, such as nodes, stems, or anywhere with new cell growth. When you remove a source (leaf), many sinks are left waiting for energy to be poured into them. Do not remove healthy leaves, they keep the plant growing!


Only remove what you need to, in order to treat or prevent problems!


There is no cookie-cutter answer for how and when to defoliate. With this being said, defoliation typically occurs during weeks 3-5 (strain dependent). During this timeframe, plants begin really throttling their growth. If the first time around was not sufficient, defoliating can be done again around weeks 6-7.


Seeing potential problems within the canopy isn’t always easy, and comes with time. The process of defoliation can be hard to execute and understand, especially for new growers. Even experienced growers should defoliate with intention and caution. Sometimes it takes trial and error, gaining a better understanding of your strains, and learning how to mitigate risk along the way.

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