First start with cleaning up your bottom area.
Rule of thumb never take off more than 20% of the entire plant at one time.
Next cut or bend/tuck any large fan leaf that is blocking a bud sight.
Then get to know your defoliation timelines…
Take a look at the defoliation timeline and follow as a rule of thumb…
Nebula’s Bud-Based Defoliation Technique (Quick Summary)
So basically, my (personal) cannabis defoliation technique could be summed up like this:
Plant Training – Train plant(s) to grow into a generally flat and wide shape, so they fill your grow space like a table. This makes it so you have multiple colas located at the top of the plant and close to the light. Or choose a Sea of Greensetup (growing many small plants) and skip the training!
Defoliate the middle and bottom of your plant(s ) whenever you can’t see light coming through them. When the middle is completely dark it means the plant is too bushy!
Right Before Switch to 12/12
Do this step when plant is about half the final desired height (since it will about double in size after the switch to 12/12)
Lollipop the plant (completely strip the lowest leaves on the plant that will never get light, leaving the bud sites intact)
Remove big fan leaves on the upper part of the plant (making sure not to damage bud sites) until plant is not leafy. If you can easily see your plant’s stems it’s a good time to stop.
Week 3 After Switch to 12/12
One Last Defoliation at Flowering Week 3 – Now that you’re three weeks into the flowering stage, do another major removal of just about all the fan leaves. Make sure to especially take any big leaves with long stems, or leaves that are covering bud sites! Again, avoid removing or damaging any developing buds!
After Week 3, I only defoliate huge fan leaves that can’t be tucked away. Otherwise I just wait until harvest and reap the rewards!
Defoliation is a technique, but it is also an art ! The above instructions should get you started but cannabis plants are like big bonsai trees and you’ll eventually learn how to defoliate without hesitation. It’s fun to try to alter the growth patterns of cannabis plants and I encourage you to experiment with your own plants and develop your own particular defoliation style and rhythm!