If you were told that chopping off the vast majority, if not all of the leaves of your cannabis plant would increase your yield massively, you’d probably think that person was bonkers.
It turns out that this might actually be a valid theory. Something about chopping off the fan leaves of your indoor crop when they are in the flowering phase triggers an abundance of healthy cannabis.
What most of us are familiar with is defoliation, which refers to clipping off a few leaves. “Schwazzing” on the other hand, refers to stripping the plant of all its leaves.
Join us as we explore what schwazzing is and find out whether it can actually massively increase your yield.
What Is Schwazzing?
I was recently asked about “the schwazzing technique” used to grow cannabis. It apparently is found in a book that goes for a whopping $500!
Given that price, I have of course not read the book. I have however studied the technique and gathered a few snippets to share with you.
The term “Schwazzing” is found in this book called Three a Light authored by Joshua Haupt.
It outlines a specific time sequencing for extreme plant defoliation to increase yields. The title “Three a Light” comes from the concept that each light will be able to produce a massive 3lbs (about 1.4 kb) of bud due to this training method.
In his book, Haupt compares schwazzing to going to the gym. While working out, muscles are beaten up while at the same time being exposed to stress. This process damages and tears the muscle in order for them to grow back even stronger in the anabolic phase.
Weed plants also respond in similar fashion to such tough love. Haupt however noted that for the muscles to rebuild better and stronger, good nutrition is vital. This analogy applies to our weed plants too. After the process of Schwazzing, adequate, appropriate nutrients need to be provided.
The basic concept of schwazzing is that if the plant is not using energy on the chopped off leaves, it can concentrate all its reserves on the buds. This would explain the explosive growth experienced by the buds after the process is carried out.
Though many other theories explain this phenomenon, it is for sure that plants whose leaves have been removed during the early part of the flowering stage have bigger, denser buds than those from leafy cannabis plants.
Some other theories that have been floated to explain the success of Schwazzing are:
- Cannabis is inherently a wind-pollinated plant – In the wild, only plants that are exposed to fresh air and the breeze get pollinated or basically thrive. The same concept would apply here in that, in exposing the buds, they access that natural environment and thrive.
- The extra energy goes to the colas (bud sites) – When cannabis plants are first switched to the flowering stage by changing their light schedule to 12/12, staggering growth is experienced in the first 2-4 weeks, known as the “flowering stretch”. During this period, cannabis plants have been known to double or even triple in height. If there are no leaves for the plant to focus on, likely all this “energy” will go towards bud development.
- Reaction to stress during the flowering stage – The extreme stress occasioned by the striping of the leaves may push the plant to into the “overdrive” to produce bud.
Interesting fact: Cannabis is not the only plant that utilizes defoliation. Growers of some other plants like cotton “hack” the natural plant system to trick it into producing more abundant and better quality output by employing this tactic.
How To Use Schwazze To Increase Your Cannabis Yields
Step 1: Defoliate heavily right before initiating flowering
Right before you switch to 12/12, excise most of your plants fan leaves, especially the ones that are bigger. You will notice that initially the leafy plants do not allow enough light past the canopy shadowing the rest of the plant. After defoliation, the bud sites will be exposed to light and the circulating air. Even the colas that are deeper into the plant will get exposed.
Step 1B: This is an optional step. It involves removing everything below the top 2-3 growth tips on every cola. This can only work if you have already trained your plant to grow wide and flat and therefore have more colas.
When a cannabis plant begins making buds, the buds appear all over the plant. Wherever you look, there’s a growth tip! (Growth tips are any new stem that is coming out the side of another. They are usually located at the base of a fan leave which is also where all the bud sites are located).
Not removing the extra growth tips may lead to them developing into smaller bud sites which will end up competing with your main colas for resources. These colas may develop into leafy buds, which are buds that do not fully develop but still “steal” precious resources.
Removing the unnecessary growth tips will force the plant to focus all it “energy” on the best bud sites, resulting in bigger, denser buds.
Though this process may result in extreme defoliation, if practiced carefully could lead to an even more abundant harvest.
Step 2: Defoliate again 3 weeks later
Three weeks into the 12/12 schedule, you should have plenty of new buds forming. If the plant also happens to be getting bushy again, defoliate by removing the fan leaves that are a bit bigger, and all the others that are in major shadow.
At this stage, it is recommended to defoliate “lightly” as compared to the first stage. This second stage of schwazzing will ensure your plant continues to receive light and air and experiences less shadowy areas.
The exposure of the buds in this phase brings about almost immediate rapid growth of the buds. If left in their previous state, most of these buds would not get direct light and air and may therefore stagnate.
After the week 3 schwazzing, no more trimming is done, save for the occasional pruning of small growth which don’t get light or big fan leaves that seem to be blocking the light from the bud sites.
The reason for going slow on schwazzing after the first 3 weeks of 12/12 is that after this period, the plants don’t make very many leaves, and leaves are still essential in sustaining the plant till the buds are ready for harvest. Though buds should be exposed for maximum benefit, it is also important to have adequate leaves.
Why Is Schwazzing Done In Week 1 & 3?
These two are not magic numbers. However, they are general timings that have been noted to be ideal to defoliate growing cannabis plants. This is because cannabis plants can “re-lief” themselves in the first weeks of flowering but cannot do so in later stages. If defoliation is done too early, or too late in the cannabis flowering stage, the plant might be unable to generate new leaves and it will essentially die.
By only schwazzing in weeks 1 and 3 of the 12/12 light cycle, you maximize the benefits of this process and still give the plant adequate opportunity to grow enough plants to see it to the end of flowering.
Advantages Of Schwazzing
- It facilitates increased circulation of air as well as penetration of light all through the plants entire structure.
- It encourages the production/distribution of both auxins and cytokinins.
- It encourages the homogenous plants to develop.
- It greatly increases the yield of the cannabis plants.
Disadvantages Of Schwazzing
- The results are not uniform. Some varieties may experience greater success using this method than others.
- It takes an abundance of experience to be able apply this technique successfully.
- Small-scale tests need to be performed before this technique can be rolled out to the entire crop.
Giving your plants adequate amounts of the right nutrients after the process of schwazzing enables them to recover immediately and cope with the stress of the process.
Can You Use Schwazzing on Autoflowers?
While it is possible to use schwazzing successfully with autoflowers, it is generally not recommended because of their much shorter vegetative and flowering stages.
Schwazzing involves removing a significant number of leaves, which can stress a plant and temporarily slow down growth while the plant recovers. With autoflowering strains the shortened growing time doesn’t allow much room for recovery and this could negatively affect their growth and reduce yield.
Additionally, autoflowers are much smaller in size compared to photoperiod strains, which means they have less foliage to begin with and may not be able to withstand significant leaf removal without experiencing stress. Instead of schwazzing you can instead still defoliate autoflowers, however, instead of removing so many leaves, do it in a calculated and controlled fashion.
If you do want to experiment and try schwazzing on autoflowers it is best to attempt it on a sativa dominant strain. That way the longer flowering period will allow a little more time for the plant to recover from any stress that is endured.
Schwazzing Method Conclusion
This method of cannabis defoliation got its name from the sound the scissors make as they cut off the leaves. You can only imagine how intense the process has to be to make this lasting impression. Though it is a very risky procedure, schwazzing tends to lead to massive harvests in most varieties.
Removing the leaves of the cannabis plants on day 1 of flowering and then again on day 21 allows enough time for the plant to recover. However, for this process to be successful, adequate nutrition has to be provided. This will enable the plants to make up for the massive leaf loss by focusing all their energy on developing the buds.
In cases where this defoliation does not take place, the plant focuses its energy almost evenly all its parts, resulting in smaller buds at harvest time. As we have discussed, the defoliation also enables adequate light and air to get to the bud that would otherwise be hidden under a nest of leaves. This leads to the buds flourishing in their growth stage and resulting in a bumper harvest. Though schwazzing might be a process that is a bit on the harder side, it is definitely worth it!
Learn How to Grow Weed
If you are looking to learn how to grow weed online we suggest attending Cannabis Training University. CTU offers amazing online content on how to grow marijuana indoors and out. CTU has online cannabis courses suitable for all levels of cannabis growers.