Should I Pull The Fan Leaves?
The answer is both yes and no, these giant fan leaves are basically solar panels, and are the workhorses for photosynthesis. They take in the most amount of energy to help the plant grow. That being said, there is a time and a place for them to shine.
When should I pull off fan leaves?
Once the plant is established, you may begin to remove just some of the giant leaves. Start by pulling off the ones at the very bottom and aren't receiving much light. As the plant creates more head sites, pull the large fan leave up top that may be shadowing other important sites. Removing leaves is referred to as defoliation vs. pruning.
What is Defoliation?
Fan leaves can get larger than a human hand, have a red stem, and form a dense canopy of foliage. Smaller leaves are called sugar leaves. Sugar leaves emerge as plants enter floral growth and are sticky with trichomes. Those trichomes make them valuable as opposed to fan leaves which are not a valuable final product. Fan leaves can become problematic because of their size and density. They can block light transmission to the buds and flowers growing below.
Defoliation is the process of removing fan leaves from the top of the plant. Scissors are not usually needed to defoliate, most growers pull them off by hand. The aim of defoliation is for the plant to grow four or five stems with the flowers of the plant residing in the top 6 to 8 inches where they are exposed to the maximum amount of light.
Benefits of Defoliation
Some feel that defoliation is a tedious task taken up by obsessive growers. However, there is real value in pulling fan leaves. This includes having higher yields of well-developed buds. When plants are defoliated properly they can produce up to 20% more flowers.
Improper defoliation can reduce yields and damage plants, be cautious not to get too heavy-handed. The bulk of the plant should not be able to be seen through. Defoliating also will not be advantageous to plants that are already weak or sickly, it should only be performed on healthy plants.
How and When to Defoliate
Specific timing will vary based on the growth rate of the particular strain, but in general, defoliation can be performed two or three times during the floral growth phase. Most plants are generally ready for defoliation around day 35 of floral growth when the buds are pea-sized. Around the 50th day of floral growth, or about 2 weeks after the first defoliation, a second defoliation can be done.