In a natural environment (outdoors), plants tend to develop more leaves than necessary. The plant does this to survive during times of drought.
Indoors, developing too many leaves is not necessary for a plant. The grower provides the necessary light, water and nutrition. Your plant however will care little and follow her primal instinct, with the result that the excess and dense foliage becomes a burden for the development of buds.
Too much leaf will cause the plant to receive less light where it is needed. If this is the case, it is time to give your autoflower a trim in the form of defoliation.
What exactly is defoliation?
Defoliation means that you remove the leaves from certain areas of your cannabis plant to improve the penetration of light. The result of improved light penetration is a healthier plant, stronger growth and a bigger harvest.
However, as a home grower you need to be careful with this method. Especially when it comes to autoflowers.
Can you defoliate autoflowers and what is the point?
Although it is a risky procedure due to the short life cycle of the autoflower, the short answer to this question is: Yes. It is definitely possible to defoliate autoflowers.
In fact. With caution, defoliating is a very good way to:
- Improve airflow
- Improve light penetration
- Increase harvest potential
- Reduce humidity
- Reduce the chance of mold
Increased yield is what most growers do it for. However, it is also a method you can apply with other techniques such as low-stress training (LST). The choice is yours! If you’re feeling experimental, it’s even possible to combine defoliating with techniques like budding and lollipoping.
Is defoliation of autoflowers safe and advisable?
Defoliating autoflowers is not entirely without risks. This method is therefore not recommended (for beginners) for several reasons.
First, autoflowers, although they have developed tremendously over the last decade, still possess a very short vegetative phase. That said, there is little margin for error. This is because the plant has little to no time to recover.
You need to know in advance how your plant will react to trimming in order to judge when and how much to remove.
When and how do to defoliate an autoflower safely?
Defoliating an autoflower in the right way is of great importance. Done with a little common sense, careful defoliation can pay rich dividends!
The opposite is true. If you do not defoliate your plants properly or at the right time then you will develop fewer buds and your harvest will be (significantly) less than it should be. Timing and execution are therefore leading.
When to start defoliating?
The most important thing to remember with autoflowers is that you only remove the leaves during the vegetative stage and not during flowering. The reasoning behind this is as follows:
In order to grow, a plant mainly needs leaves. After growth, buds will develop which in turn need mainly light, water and wind to mature.
How to safely defoliate your autoflower?
Once the stretch is out of the plant the defoliating of your autoflower can begin.
Start with the low hanging leaves that are going to fall anyway. Often this is the leaf that looks less healthy. In this way you encourage the plant to use its energy only where it is needed. In the following week you can focus on the leaves that are higher up in your plant.
At all times use sterile scissors to cut off the leaves. In this way you will prevent infections. Remove the leaves with care and take it easy. By removing a few leaves at a time you can, in the limited time you have, still see how your plant reacts.
Extra tip: squeeze out popcorn buds
Although not entirely risk-free, during the early stages of blooming you can use your fingertips to pinch out small popcorn buds. These are buds that are unlikely to develop into anything useful. Again, this will motivate your plant to concentrate its energy where it is needed.