Is it safe to defoliate autoflowering cannabis?

Cannabis growers continue to try out methods to improve the yield of their plants. One of such methods is defoliation. While defoliation is a method that has been proven to help increase the yield of cannabis plants, the difficulty of the process makes it one that many growers shy away from. The defoliation process is best suited to photoperiod cannabis plants as they have sufficient time to regrow their leaves and build up strength. Autoflowering pot seeds, on the other hand, grow really fast, which has brought rise to the question of if they will be able to endure the process of defoliating. This write-up outlines the pros and cons of defoliation in autoflowering plants in a bid to answer this question. 

What is defoliation?

Defoliation is the process of removing leaves, usually older ones, from a plant to redirect its energy to produce a better yield. Defoliation seeks to eliminate the older, bigger leaves, which are of limited benefit to plants but take up a lot of nutrients, sunlight, and water. Research on plants has revealed that older leaves do not benefit plants as much as newer, smaller growths. These studies form the basis of the defoliation process. 

Cons of defoliating autoflowering cannabis plants

The disadvantages of defoliating autoflowering cannabis plants are linked to your experience and skill. Defoliating is a complex procedure, and many things can go wrong in the process, especially when carried out on autoflowering plants. 

If not done properly and at the exact right time, Defoliating can lead to the opposite of the desired effect. As defoliating results in a period of weakness for the plant, carrying out the operation on sickly or fragile plants can end up killing them or greatly reducing their yield. 

Also, unlike other advanced growth techniques, defoliating cannot and should not be tried by beginners, except you are prepared to lose all of your growth. Defoliating has to be done at exactly the right time, or you run the risk of ruining your plants. 

What are the benefits of defoliation?

While many things can go wrong if defoliation is done wrong, it has obvious benefits when done correctly.

  • Larger yield

The purpose of defoliation is to boost the yield of cannabis plants. Two phenomena support this boost in yield. The first is the presence of a hormone, ethylene, in plants. This hormone triggers the aging process in plants, therefore reducing yield. Ethylene is present in greater quantities in older leaves and flowers, the removal of which can help increase yield. 

Since older, larger leaves are removed during defoliation, the rest of the plant can receive more sunlight and air, which leads to better growth and an increased harvest. 

  • Efficient light absorption

Light is necessary for the effective growth of cannabis plants. Besides photosynthesis, sunlight also stimulates growth in plants and the formation of resins. Defoliation removes excess leaves, which are mostly old and yellow and don’t carry out much photosynthesis, leaving the newer leaves. 

  • Better ventilation

As cannabis plants grow, the increased number of leaves can sometimes cut off of air supply to some parts of the plant. This can be detrimental to the plant’s development, and defoliation can help to mitigate this. 

  • Lower risk of bacteria

With the increase in airflow and light absorption, the potential for bacterial infection is limited. Increased photosynthesis also results in the production of resveratrol and apigenin, plant phenols that combat bacteria. 

How to defoliate autoflowering cannabis plants

Deflowering autoflowering cannabis plants can be a little tricky. Here’s how to pull it off:

  1. Get rid of the big leaves.

When defoliating autoflowers, the first leaves you will want to get rid of are the large ones that cast a shadow on the lower leaves, preventing them from receiving light. These leaves are called fan leaves and are identified by their large size. Do this in moderation, though, as you do not want to take too many leaves off your plant. Also, if your plant has few leaves, you may not need to carry out defoliation on it. 

  1. Remove overshadowing leaves

You will notice that some leaves grow inwards and cast shadows on the buds, preventing them from receiving adequate energy. You should get rid of some of these leaves. When defoliating, you should only get rid of between 10 to 15% of the plant’s leaves as anything more than 20% will hurt the plant rather than help its growth. The leaves you remove from your cannabis plants can then go into producing complementary cannabis products like cannabis tea or oil. 

  1. Remove old, yellow leaves

Old yellow leaves have expended their energy and are no longer useful for photosynthesis. They also contain hormones that hinder the development of your cannabis plant. Removing these will help to redirect your plant’s energy to actual development. It also helps get light and air to important parts of your plant. 

Tips for defoliation

  • The best time to defoliate autoflowers is in their vegetative phase. Do not try to defoliate autoflowering cannabis plants in their flowering phase, as this will result in your plant yielding a smaller amount of cannabis. 
  • Patience is a virtue when defoliating. Make sure not to cut off too many leaves when you defoliate. Work slowly to avoid snapping off your plant’s branches. 
  • Combine defoliating with some other low-stress training method to help strengthen your cannabis plant. Make sure not to try out something high stress as this will harm the plant. 


While defoliation has obvious benefits, the complications that can arise if done incorrectly make it a highly debated subject among cannabis growers. To answer if defoliation is safe for autoflowering cannabis plants, it depends on your experience with growing cannabis plants. As long as you remember not to defoliate the plants in their flowering stage, you should be able to reap a bountiful harvest. So, yes, it is safe to defoliate autoflowers. You, however, decide if you are willing t try it or not. Regardless of your decision to defoliate or not, you need autoflower seeds to grow autoflowers. Contact Highway420 today for the best automatic cannabis seeds available.