Fraser Horton
Fraser Horton
Last Updated on March 29, 2021

The cannabis plant has a similar anatomy to that of other plants: it’s made up of roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. Of course, there are also specific parts that give it its distinctive characteristics, such as cannabinoid presence.

Like with any other plant, the cannabis plant has leaves which are responsible for photosynthesis and transpiration. And with cannabis being the special plant that it is, it has two different kinds of leaves – fan leaves and sugar leaves.

So, let’s find out more about the different varieties of cannabis leaves as well as how many leaves you can find on a cannabis plant.

The Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant

While the main parts that are of interest to cannabis growers are the buds, sugar leaves, and fan leaves (since they contain the most cannabinoids), the cannabis plant has other essential components. 

  • Roots (the lifeline of the plant that distribute air, water, and nutrients to the rest of the plant);
  • Main stem (responsible for transferring nutrients from the root system to the branches);
  • Branches (get the nutrients, water, and air to the cannabis leaves and flowers);
  • Weed leaves (produce food for the plant as a result of photosynthesis);
  • Cannabis buds (the main part of the cannabis plants used to make cannabis products);
  • Bracts, calyxes, stigmas, pistils (female reproductive parts);
  • Pollen sacs (male reproductive parts);
  • Trichomes (both male and female plants produce resinous trichomes, although female plants have more trichomes compared to male plants; they contain cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and terpenes responsible for the specific taste and smell of cannabis).

Marijuana Plants and the Importance of Weed Leaves

Weed leaves are essential to marijuana plants, as they provide the vital fuel that helps the plant thrive with the help of chlorophyll through photosynthesis. Chlorophyll, together with the absorbed light from the weed leaves, are responsible for providing nutrients to the cannabis plants.

Marijuana plants have two different kinds of pot leaves: sugar leaves and fan leaves. Sugar leaves are the trichome-rich leaves that are closer to the buds, while fan leaves are the bigger plant leaves that are found on the lower stem of the marijuana plant and are often trimmed during the flowering phase.

The leaves are the parts of the plant that tell the grower whether the marijuana plant is thriving or wilting. Yellowing means that your plants might not be getting enough nutrients, but it can also indicate light burn. On the other hand, white or black spots on your plants might suggest mold or bud rot. Moreover, fan leaf sizes and width can indicate the variety of the cannabis plant.

Essential Information About Fan Leaves

  • The main purpose of fan leaves is to support photosynthesis, and for that reason, they have a large, finger-shaped form that enables them to collect as much sunlight as possible.
  • They give an indication of the overall health of the cannabis plant in the vegetative stage and all stages in general. Since they’re located at the bottom of the plant, nutrient deficiencies and other issues will primarily show on the fan leaves.
  • They’re often trimmed during the flowering stage to increase airflow and stimulate bud development, which is a process known as defoliation.

Essential Information About Sugar Leaves

  • Sugar leaves are smaller leaves that grow out of the buds and are more hidden than fan leaves.
  • Their name is a result of their appearance, since the trichome coating at the end of the flowering stage looks like dusted sugar.
  • They can be used to make different kinds of cannabis products due to  their high THC content.

How Many Cannabis Leaves Are on the Cannabis Plant?

The number of marijuana leaves, as well as the number of points (fingers) on each weed leaf, indicates the type and variety of the marijuana plant. A marijuana leaf can have anywhere between 3 (e.g. ducksfoot strain) and 13 points, while there are also a number of wild leaf variations found in nature that widely differ from what cannabis growers cultivate. 

Cannabis Indica Plants

Indica plants have broader fan leaves and thick fingers that have between seven and nine points. The plant is shrubby, stocky, and shorter than Sativa plants. It produces firmer and more compact buds. Their appearance is a result of the harsh environment in their native territory – the Hindu Kush mountain range. As a result of their short, stocky appearance, they’re better off being cultivated as indoor plants.

Cannabis Sativa Plants

Sativa plants have elongated and narrow fan leaves that have between nine and thirteen points. The plant is taller and leaner compared to Indica strains, and produces thinner, longer, and lighter buds. Their appearance is a result of the warmer climate where they originate – eastern Asia. As a result of their lean and tall appearance, they’re better off being cultivated as outdoor plants.

Cannabis Ruderalis Plants

Ruderalis plants look short and bushy. Rudealis leaves are similar to Indica leaves, although they generally have five-point leaves that are smaller and narrower. Compared to Sativa and Indica, ruderalis plants have lower levels of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Cannabis ruderalis originated in eastern Europe and was used by the Mongolians to treat depression, which has been elaborated in the book Marijuana medicine: a world tour of the healing and visionary powers of cannabis.

Tips for Marijuana Growers for Growing Healthy Plants by Monitoring Weed Leaves

First-time cannabis growers have a million and one questions when it comes to cultivating healthy and thriving cannabis plants. For that reason, we’ll give you information about how you can monitor your weed leaves to see if your cannabis plants are doing well, and whether you need to change anything in their care regimen.

Nutrient Deficiencies (Macronutrients and Micronutrients)

In order to grow healthy marijuana plants, growers need to strike a balance between Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) – the essential macronutrients, as well as Calcium, Magnesium, Sulphur, Manganese, Boron, Zinc, and Copper – the essential micronutrients. 

Each nutrient deficiency presents itself differently. For example, magnesium deficiency can present itself with yellowing leaves, while phosphorus deficiency can present itself as purpling of the leaf stems.


Different growing mediums (soil, hydroponic, coco) require different amounts of water and nutrients, so as a cannabis grower, you must find the amount suitable for your plants. Make sure to maintain proper hydration and humidity levels, since overwatering can cause marijuana leaves to firm up, curl down, and eventually, to starve for oxygen.

Light Burn

Maintaining proper light and carbon dioxide levels in your grow room is important for bud growth. Your cannabis plants need different light cycles depending on what stage of growth they’re in, and they will need more hours of light in the seedling and vegetative stage compared to the flowering stage. Get good grow lights and time the hours of light accordingly. Otherwise, you risk your leaves curling up and browning if they receive too much light.

Final Thoughts on Weed Leaves

In the end, cannabis growers decide what type of plant they want to grow. For example, autoflowering plants don’t require changes in the light cycle to start flowering, and photoperiod strains produce a larger yield. Different strains require various growing conditions, and you should tailor the conditions based on the plant’s needs.

In order to make your buds heavier and of higher quality, look into defoliation to remove yellowing leaves that might be taking up nutrients that could instead contribute to producing more buds. Don’t throw away the healthy trimmed leaves, since they can be used to make all kinds of cannabis products like cannabutter and cannabis oil, which you can use to make weed brownies or other savory and sweet cannabis dishes.

The cannabis plant has a life cycle of one year. If you cultivate one type this year and don’t like it, nothing’s stopping you from changing it up next year without having to put too big of a strain on your budget.


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