Schwazzing is a method of heavy defoliation during the flowering stage of the cannabis plant. The process involves removing fan leaves during flowering to eventually increase yields.
What is Schwazzing?
While “schwazze” (and schwazzing) is a term first used by Joshua Haupt in the book Three A Light, a how-to grow marijuana book, the concept behind schwazzing is a commonly used method of defoliating cannabis plants during vegetative and flowering phases.
But where did the word schwazze actually come from? While the word schwazze is invented by Joshua Haupt and his friends because the method involves cutting the leaves with scissors and such (plus, according to Haupt, “it sounded cool”), the concept lends itself similar to the well-known practice of “pruning” in horticulture and silviculture.
Whether you call it schwazzing or any of its similar terms such as leafing, stripping, pruning, defoliating, or scissoring, the idea is that you give your plant heavy leaf-trimming to promote optimum flower growth in the areas where you can get the best possible yield.
In horticulture, pruning involves the selective removal of certain parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots. Depending on the plant or crop (and your goals for growing your plant), specialized pruning practices may be used.
Generally, the horticultural practice of pruning entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants.
In schwazz, it’s all about knowing the what, why, and hows of cutting all fan leaves off before harvest to increase yields.
Before taking a deep-dive into schwazzing (with a simple how-to guide below), it’s great to have an understanding of the benefits of removing fan leaves during flowering.
Heavy defoliation during flowering is one of the advanced techniques used by expert growers to increase cannabis yield, usually at scale. Some swear by this method, while some would rather not touch the plant at all and just let the weed grow as it wants.
Whether you think that doing some pruning during flowering is the best for your cannabis cultivation or not is beside the point of this guide. However, should you think you are ready to understand the benefits of removing fan leaves during flowering (like in schwazzing), as well as a simple guide you can bookmark when you are about to do some schwazzing, keep reading!
What are the Benefits of Removing Fan Leaves During Flowering?
How can trimming and pruning a cannabis plant possibly increase its yield? According to Three A Light, “it’s kind of Yin and Yang if you think about it. On one hand, we take away, and on the other, we receive!”
“Our favorite comparison is working out at the gym,” Haupt continues. “When you break down your muscles through constant repetition and heavier weight, your muscles grow stronger and larger. [Similarly] by removing fan leaves from the plant, we are creating more space for airflow, light penetration, and most importantly, we are refocusing the plant’s energy where it matters most: flower development.”
In short, techniques like schwazzing which focuses on trimming fan leaves during flowering have three main benefits, according to experts in defoliation during flower.
The three key benefits of schwazzing:
- Promotes airflow
- Light penetration
- Increases yield production
Instinctively, experienced growers will tell you that introducing stress by defoliation in flower would make the plant more resilient. And, that a healthy amount of stress introduced through properly-timed defoliation would promote nutrient use in the plant. One could argue that the reason why this works is that the technique eases the plant’s transition from vegetation to flowering period by removing leaves that will otherwise not be as useful during flowering.
Leaves are the main parts of the plant where photosynthesis occurs. It captures and transforms sunlight into energy for the plant. As the plant reaches flowering, this usually signals a shift in the photoperiod. Where you are wanting more light prior, the flowering phase isn’t as light-intensive and is initiated by introducing a 12-hours on, 12-hours off light cycle.
It is possible that by removing fan leaves during veg, the energy is refocused instead in targeted areas of the plant (usually towards the cola or the vertical tip of the cannabis plant) where the energy that bolsters flower development is harnessed.
In agricultural plant management, “massive leaf defoliation removes the opportunity for photosynthesis and most plant functions decline… As the growing season ends, proper defoliation practices will allow the plant to produce and build up carbohydrate reserves to survive the dormancy,” according to the National Forage & Grassland curriculum. This could partly explain why this technique also works to get better yield in cannabis, compared to not pruning.
The idea of removing certain leaves at a certain time of the growth stage of the plant is an accepted concept among all sorts of plant experts, along with knowledgeable cannabis growers. But how is schwazzing different?
A Guide to Schwazzing
Schwazzing in particular tends to focus on yield production, with the aim to harvest yield that consistently produces 3 pounds (of weed) per light (bulb). The method claims to increase total yield with just 2 Schwazzes at key points in the flowering cycle.
This is where the key difference between schwazzing and defoliation supposedly lies. Schwazzing is all about taking the idea of defoliation to an extreme level—by cutting all fan leaves off before harvest to achieve highest possible yield.
If your primary goal to grow weed is maximizing yield, knowing the steps to proper schwazzing is vital.
4 Key Ways to Maximize Yield with Schwazzing
Schwazzing is not for the faint of heart. People who are new to pruning cannabis leaves might feel a bit uncomfortable with the volume of leaves one will end up trimming away. With less green foliage from when you started schwazzing, the cannabis plant should be able to bounce back within a matter of days to weeks with refocused energy towards developing the buds. It is important, however, to understand the guide below to get the best possible results when schwazzing.
This is How to Schwazze a Cannabis Plant
- Removing fan leaves during veg
You will want to schwazze at different key periods within the plant’s growth cycle. Some will suggest to schwazze two times, with the first one always to be done just before the beginning of the flowering phase of the plant. The grower will remove the vast majority of fan leaves from the plant, leaving them looking almost bare, at first just before flowering and the second one during flowering.
Alternatively, you can try getting a better feel for how your plants react to schwazzing by making strategic foliage trims four times instead of two. This means that instead of trimming your plant once before and once again after flowering, you can then instead schwazze thrice during flowering.
Selective leaf pruning involves removing fan leaves during veg that cover nodes or budding sites. It is key to do the first defoliation just before the flowering period to deny light access to leaves that are below the first layer from the plant’s vertical peak.
- Pruning fan leaves during flowering
After about 20 days into the flowering period, your plant should have bounced back with new fan leaves. These new layers of vibrant leaf-growth after the first major trim could be shading key budding parts of the plant which could obstruct the growth of the flowers. This is where you should come in to create as much necessary breathing space for the buds by pruning fan leaves during flowering.
- Heavy defoliation during flowering
While the focus of the two previous techniques revolved around the leaves of the plant (specifically, the fan leaves), heavy defoliation during flowering means making sizeable trimmings to the plant, from bottom to top, exterior and interior leaves, and even low-growth branches that are just using up precious plant energy.
All leaves pointing towards the interior of the canopy can be removed. Scissors are optional when trimming. Kyle Kushman’s how-to supercrop plants will teach you how to simply pinch the leaf and stem using your index finger and thumb.
Don’t start this type of pruning until your plant is growing vigorously again. And no one wants crowding, even the nodes and branches of your plant. So, once you see the leave crowding each other and shading the lower nodes, you’ll know it’s time to start selectively pruning.
- Cutting all fan leaves off before harvest
Thinning out plants like this is vital before flipping for harvest. When your plants are all mature and just about ready for picky, it’s time to do some final leaf-trimmings off the flower. Trimming your cannabis plants will help improve the final appearance, texture, potency, and flavor of the buds once cured.
Cutting all fan leaves before harvest, as well as smaller underdeveloped leaves can be trimmed as long as they are not covered in trichome. Be careful not to cut the actual buds and to collect the excess hash from your tools and hands.
It can’t be recommended enough to check this guide to trimming cannabisfor a look into what tools you might need and other precision techniques for a well-manicured cannabis that connoisseurs look for.
And while this guide is geared towards more beginner cannabis growers, whether you have one homegrown cannabis or growing to scale, cultivators of all experience-level may have their techniques to trimming cannabis leaves with slight technical variations than the ones listed below. Use the following techniques to develop the most optimal schwazze for you.
Three a Light Feeding Schedule
A great way to improve the yield of your plant is by eliminating less useful bud sites and delivering energy exactly where you via defoliation. However, another key difference that sets schwazzing apart from similar techniques is the focus as well on introducing specific nutrients delivered at the proper times and amounts. In this case, Three A Light offers a line of growing nutrients, specific to the micro and macronutrients required by a grower.
According to the book, “Macronutrients are those used in larger quantities such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Micronutrients are used in smaller quantities but are just as important to proper plant functions, especially when growing cannabis.”
Each cannabis strain has its own unique set of characteristics. Some are more resilient to stress than others, while some can produce more potent buds than others. Nevertheless, choosing the right cannabis strain could also have an effect on how successful your schwazze will be at the end of the process.
And because heavy pruning introduces heavy stress to the plant, development issues could arise if not done correctly. There are risks of introducing unwanted traits to the plant due to stress which could result in hermies, where certain strains could be more prone to than others.
It is, therefore, crucial to plan your schwazze right, from seed to yield. Start by choosing the right cannabis seeds for you to grow. Some of the best autoflowering seeds for sale – with growing times as short as 7 weeks – can be found here at Homegrown Cannabis Co.
Schwazzing autoflowers are perfect for growing indoors since it is easier to time when to do your schwazze schedule with autoflowering cannabis seeds.
Start Schwazzing for Higher Yields!
As a cannabis cultivator looking to provide all the additional support for a plant’s increased bud development, you can find schwazzing to be beneficial to your growth goals with the right seeds for schwazze, the right trimming schedule, and even plant nutrition.
While the general principle of horticultural pruning should be kept in mind, you will develop your own skills and techniques over time with defoliation.
If producing higher yields of cannabis that are beautifully manicured appeals to you (as it does to premium cannabis connoisseurs), the guide to schwazzing above, coupled with the right autoflowering seeds, could be the beginning of your journey to your best yield yet!
If you have a few tips and tricks of your own when pruning, let us know in the comments or talk to fellow homegrown cannabis growers online.