Extreme Defoliation: High-Risk Ways to Boost Cannabis Yields and Bag Appeal

Pruning, or defoliation, is a technique that keeps your cannabis plants healthy and growing properly. By removing small amounts of foliage during various phases of the life cycle, growers can increase a crop’s yield and potency by allowing light to hit bud-producing nodes more directly.

All growers perform some light pruning, but there is a different and more advanced approach to plant training: extreme defoliation. This practice requires the mass removal of fan leaves and foliage from an entire canopy during key phases in the cultivation cycle.

We’ll talk about two prominent extreme defoliation techniques, schwazzing and back-building, and how they push the boundaries of defoliation. Coming with a high risk yet offering high rewards, these techniques polarize opinion. Neither method is recommended for beginners, and growers experimenting with these practices should do so with caution.

If you are interested in these techniques, try performing them on one plant at a time. Experimentation in the garden is highly encouraged, just be sure to start slow to reduce the odds of losing an entire crop.


From Joshua Haupt’s 2015 book Three a Light, schwazzing takes the idea of defoliation to the next level. According to the book, this practice removes the entire canopy of fan leaves within the first few days of the flowering cycle and then again at the third week.

Joshua Haupt coined the term “schwazzing” to describe the sound of scissors and snipping that takes place during the process. The book’s title refers to getting three pounds of cannabis per light, or about twice as much yield in a harvest or even more.

By the entire canopy, he really does mean every fan leaf below the top two or three nodes. The caveat to this risky maneuver is that the stripped plants must receive

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