Should You Cut Off Fan Leaves Before Harvesting?

The most recognizable part of the cannabis plant, the fan leaves have the signature size and shape that has been a calling card for marijuana for a number of years. The largest and most notable leaves on the plant, they serve a vital role in the development and growth.

Although they are important for growth, many home growers have made it a point to actively trim these leaves prior to the point of harvesting their cannabis. If these leaves play a role in growth, why is this done?

We’ll talk about actively trimming the fan leaves on your cannabis plant, and how it can boost the growth of your buds for more efficient plant development.

What Are Fan Leaves?

Normally displaying around seven petals, fan leaves on a cannabis plant are the largest and most pronounced leaves. Present on the branches from the top to the bottom of the plant, they are a crucial factor in the development of cannabis buds.

Although fan leaves are not covered in trichomes in the same way sugar leaves are, making them somewhat less useful after the plant has fully grown, their ability to absorb energy for bud development is how they contribute to the overall growth process.

How Do Fan Leaves Contribute To Growth?

As with any flower or traditional plant, the fan leaves on cannabis are the hub for photosynthesis and energy creation for plant growth. Absorbing sunlight (or artificial lighting) and carbon dioxide, the chlorophyll filled leaves create carbohydrates to stimulate the growth of the rest of the plant, most importantly the THC filled buds.

Image presenting cannabis leaves

Similar to many other plants, the additional byproduct is the creation and spread of oxygen. Because these leaves have the largest surface area, giving the most access to absorb light, they will be the determining factor in healthy and fast growth.

When it comes to the energy created within the cannabis plants, the fan leaves will contribute to the buds directly below it on the same branch. Once these buds have been developed, the fan leaves are no longer necessary for their development and can be trimmed at your own discretion.

What Is The Difference Between Fan Leaves And The Other Leaves?

When it comes to fan leaves, their main function comes down to the aforementioned photosynthesis and energy production that comes with their size. Additionally, cannabis plants also feature “sugar leaves”, which are smaller leaves covered in trichomes.

These are somewhat different to fan leaves, containing a higher density of trichomes in comparison, making them more useful for edible products or oils.

Why Would You Want To Trim Your Fan Leaves?

Once the buds on a specific branch have been developed, they can continue to grow without the aid of the chlorophyll filled leaves above them. This will allow you to trim the higher leaves and branches, exposing the leaves below to increased lighting.

Marijuana grinder and buds trimming scissors

Lightly pruning solely the leaves from branches that have buds appearing will not only slim down your plant’s footprint, but also allow for more efficient growth for the buds at the bottom of the plant. This will not only shorten the process of your plants growth, but you will also experience a bigger overall yield from the resulting harvest.

When Is The Best Time To Trim Your Fan Leaves?

When figuring out which methods of defoliation are best for your plants, there is a fine line between over pruning and potentially causing harm to the plant, and trimming just enough to expose the lower nodes to increased lighting. While there are some theories into extreme defoliation, causing your plant to grow bigger buds out of a sense of survival, these are risky strategies and far from proven.

In theory, you can begin to trim your fan leaves any time after the buds have begun developing, however doing it in multiple stages once every two weeks throughout the flowering stage could be preferable.

What Are The Benefits Of Trimming Fan Leaves?

Aside from increasing light exposure to the lower parts of the plant, there are a few other key benefits you will notice with pruning:

What Are The Risks Of Trimming Fan Leaves?

As mentioned above, there are some risks if you take pruning a bit too far with your cannabis plant:

  • It may stunt photosynthesis, limiting the overall surface area of the leaves and energy creation
  • Less effective hormone transfer throughout the plant
  • Limits the total amount of nutrients the plant can absorb

What Can You Do With The Excess Fan Leaves?

You may assume that simply throwing the fan leaves away is your only option after you are done trimming your plants. This may be the most common method of disposal for the leaves, however, you can get creative to make use of them in a number of ways.

Trim before drying - cannabis leaves

While there will be very little if any THC or trichomes on the fan leaves themselves, resulting in the inability to smoke them, it doesn’t mean they are useless in cannabis products. Here are a few ideas to make use of fan leaves:

  • Using the plant leaves in an MCT oil for tinctures or other liquids
  • Creating tea or juice
  • Using them as a garnish for edibles

Frequently Asked Questions

Should fan leaves be trimmed?

When done in moderation, slowly trimming the leaves over a number of weeks, it will generally be beneficial to trim the fan leaves on your cannabis plant. This will allow for easier growth on the lower nodes of your plant, exposing it to more light.

Additionally, it can let your plant “breathe”, limiting potential rot, mold, or congested areas for insects.

Why do people trim the fan leaves off before harvesting?

Aside from the benefits of trimming during the flowering process, trimming your fan leaves off when it comes time to harvest is another common method of slimming down your plants. Not only are the leaves somewhat unnecessary after the growth cycle has completed, but it will make drying and trimming the buds much easier during the final steps.

Do fan leaves contain cannabinoids?

While fan leaves do contain levels of THC and other cannabinoids, they are trace amounts that won’t carry much use in practical terms. The average THC levels in a fan leaf come in around 0.3%, while the average CBD level comes in around 0.7%.