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How do you Prune and Defoliate a Cannabis Plant?

If your cannabis plant is healthy and happy, you can cut, bend and generally shape the plant however you need. If a branch isn’t where you want or the plant is too tall during the vegetative stage, you can cut and train the plant to a shape or size that works best for your growing environment.

Any time you cut or prune a plant, growth will temporarily slow down while the plant recovers. The heavier the pruning is, the longer it can take for the plant to start growing again. Healthy plants will continue to grow new leaves and branches in a matter of days. Once you’ve pasted week 2 of flowering, new leaves will continue to grow but new branches will not.

The most successful pruning technique is called perpetual thinning. With perpetual thinning, 20-30% of the plant’s leaves are removed every 3-6 days. Thinning should start in mid to late veg and continue all the way through mid-flowering. An ideal thinning removes the leaves in the mid to upper canopy that are blocking important flowering sites below. Healthy leaves in the lower canopy should be left during the thinning process. These lower leaves will help the plant during photosynthesis and keep light from being wasted and leaving the canopy. By thinning less leaves and doing it more often, less stress is brought to the plant allowing for faster growth and quicker recovery times.

Many growers have seen mass defoliation techniques that have become popular in certain growing circles. While this aggressive pruning technique does not kill the plant, it does bring with it a lot of unnecessary stress, which in turn can bring a lot of secondary problems. Self-pollination (herming) and reductions in quality are a big concern when using this technique. The benefits of a mass defoliation do not justify the potential risks involved. When properly done, perpetual thinning is a much better approach and a technique every grower should add to their cultivation skill set.

Updated on December 10, 2019

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