Whether you’re a novice grower or are well on your way to mastering grower level, it’s crucial to know the differences in cannabis leaves and how to understand the signs of healthy and unhealthy plant growth.

Here, we provide you with the tools to fully utilize the leaves of your cannabis plant for a bigger and better yield.

Types of Cannabis Plants

Before we dive into the intricacies of cannabis leaves, it’s essential to know the differences between the four types of cannabis plants.

Indica Plants

Cannabis Indica plants produce airy, more developed buds than Sativa. It originates from the Kush region near Afghanistan and is from a colder, mountainous climate. Indica leaves are shorter and bushy and have dark green leaves and clumpy buds.

This type of marijuana plant has higher THC and lower CBD and is known for its relaxing high. It’s completely normal for nighttime due to its body-high and pain-relieving effects.

Sativa Plants

Cannabis Sativa weed plants are from warmer climates, producing tall, long leaves and dense, thick buds during the flowering stage. It has more CBD cannabinoids and less THC and is the perfect strain to consume in the morning due to its energetic, cerebral high.

Hybrid Marijuana Plants

Hybrids are cross-germinated from two different strains to form a combination of Indica and Sativa. Typically, one or the other will be dominant and will, in turn, produce the effects experienced by the user. Hybrid strains are prevalent and offer a more balanced high.

Hemp and Ruderalis

The hemp cannabis plant (ruderalis) is legal in the US, thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018. They are deficient in THC, causing little to no psychoactive effects. Ruderalis is from Russia, is an auto-flowering plant, and has short, thin stems with large ruderalis leaves.

Hemp is more similar to Indica and Sativa, but it doesn’t produce much THC after the vegetative stage. Hemp is used in the textile industry and for its production of alternative cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBG.

The Anatomy of Weed Leaves

There are two main types of cannabis leaves. They are opposite in physical traits and have different uses. Read on as we define sugar and fan cannabis leaves.

Fan Leaves

Cannabis fan leaves are large and capture light for photosynthesis. They are the iconic marijuana leaf, though they are usually discarded once trimmed because they do not produce resin.

Sugar Leaves

Sugar leaves are smaller than fan leaves and produce quite a bit of resin. These leaves are where the buds are formed and can be saved after trimming for pre-rolls, extracts, or concentrates.

Identifying Cannabis Leaves

Now that you know the types of cannabis plants, being able to identify your plant and understand its needs through the cannabis leaves will ensure you grow healthy plants after the seedling stage.

Indica Leaf

The indica leaf is short and broad, producing between seven and nine vast leaflets along the plant stem. Indica-dominant strains usually have a bush-like appearance with chunky and wide leaves.

The indica leaf’s short stature makes it a good choice of cannabis to grow indoors. You can spot Indica leaves, even in young plants, by their deep shade of green, signifying a high chlorophyll content.

Sativa Leaves

Cannabis Sativa plants do well outdoors due to their height of up to twelve feet. The thin Sativa leaf produces more leaflets than the indica leaf, up to thirteen, and is a light green color.

Sativa-dominant strains typically take longer to mature but produce higher yields and a taller weed leaf.

Hybrid Cannabis Leaf

A hybrid cannabis leaf tends to be more challenging to identify as it may possess various traits from its parent strains. White Widow, Cannatonic, Blue Dream, and Sour Diesel are some of the most popular hybrid weed strains available today.

Ruderalis Plant Leaves

Ruderalis is a species of auto-flowering cannabis that grows wildly in Central Asia. It is shorter than Sativa and indica, typically reaching a foot or two tall at most with a small root system. Ruderalis leaves are thin with no more than five leaflets.

Russian Auto CBD is the most common dispensary Ruderalis strain, however, pure Ruderalis strains are hard to find.

Why is it important to know the differences?

Distinguishing between Indica and Sativa leaf varieties will prove a valuable tool for novice and experienced cultivators. Understanding how to read cannabis leaves gives growers insight into their plants’ health.

Most deficiencies will begin at the leaves, and you’ll notice signs like drooping, tip-curling, or leaf spotting that signify light or heat stress, nitrogen deficiency, nitrogen toxicity, carbon dioxide or nutrient deficiency, or other issues.

It’s vital to assess the health of your cannabis plants daily to check for signs. Keeping a close eye on cannabis leaves during all growth stages can help you control any issues that arise as they happen, allowing for a better chance at a healthy plant.

What is Australian Bastard Cannabis?

The ABC strain is wild hemp originally from Australia and is typically referred to as Australian Bastard Cannabis. These cannabis plants naturally grow all over Australia. At least one species of cannabis has been found on every continent except Antarctica.

ABC plant flowers stay small and aren’t particularly potent, but the breeding possibilities are enticing for some growers. Auto-flowering strains originated from the wild hemp

Ruderalis plants that naturally grow around Siberia yet now, through breeding, offer a vast range of high-THC versions, so these cannabis plants could also be hybridized to produce larger high-THC buds.

What information can leaflets provide?

Your cannabis plant can communicate with you via the number of leaflets it possesses on its leaves. Under normal circumstances with proper nutrients and fresh air, healthy marijuana leaves produce over three leaflets on adult plants. If not, there could be too many nutrients or not enough for the pot leaves to flourish.

The number of points can vary due to genetic differences and the age of a plant. The first set of true leaves produces just one leaflet, and the second set typically makes three. It will vary from vegetative growth to full-grown cannabis buds.

Each leaf usually contains between five to thirteen leaflets, depending on the strain and plant type. However, it’s important to note that if your mature plant starts producing leaves with only one to three fingers, it could signify light stress.

Cannabis leaf phyllotaxy

According to the common phyllotaxy or the arrangement of leaves on a stem, cannabis leaves are compounds with multiple leaflets that grow in a criss-cross pattern rather than alternate.

This is different than many simple outdoor plants that grow a single leaf per stem its good to know the difference when pursuing cannabis cultivation.

Health Benefits of the Weed Plant

Many people report that smoking Sativa makes them feel energized, creative and focused. These psychological effects make Sativa strains best for daytime use because using them at night may cause insomnia due to the higher THC levels.

There are many reasons people use Sativa cannabis strains, including: 

  • Easing depression symptoms
  • Headache and Pain relief 
  • Decreasing Nausea
  • Fighting appetite loss
  • Better Focus

Since Indica strains tend to be relaxing, it’s best for nighttime use due to the intense body high.

There are several reasons people may smoke Indica cannabis flower, including: 

  • Relieving severe body and muscle pain
  • Reducing nausea and increasing appetite
  • Easing insomnia and promoting healthy sleep
  • Reducing anxiety symptoms

How Can Cannabis Leaves Help Identify and Prevent Pests?

Cannabis leaves are essential in common cannabis pests management. By closely examining the leaves, growers can spot signs of pest infestations early on and take preventive measures. This proactive approach can help protect the plants from potential damage and ensure a healthy crop yield.

Ways to use Weed Leaves

There are several methods for utilizing the leftovers of your marijuana plants. Cannabis leaf buds can be extracted, juiced, dried, and more along with cannabis seeds and stems in some cases.

Cannabis Leaf Tea

Grind your cannabis leaves and stick them in a teabag. Then, brew a cup of delicious and potent cannabis tea. You could infuse it with lemon, honey, lavender, or any other of your favorite flavors.


Make a raw marijuana juice or smoothie from the marijuana leaves. Just put a handful of cannabis leaves into the blender with spinach, fruit juice, ginger, berries, or oat milk for a tasty treat.

Cannabis Oil

Infuse coconut oil with raw cannabis leaves in baking recipes for potent and delicious edibles. You can also topically apply cannabis-infused coconut oil to the skin.


Cannabutter is unsalted butter infused with cannabis and is an essential ingredient in many delicious weed edibles. It’s just one of the numerous ways to consume marijuana, but definitely among the most popular.

How to Make Cannabutter in a Crock-Pot

If you’re looking for an alternative method to make cannabutter, you can also decarb weed using a slow cooker and olive or coconut oil instead of butter. You’ll place dried cannabis leaves and your chosen oil into the slow cooker for this recipe.

How much cannabis will depend on the amount of butter you want at once. Then, cover and cook on high for an hour. Turn the slow cooker down, cook on low for another three hours, and strain the cooled butter.

Sous Vide Canna Butter

The method for sous vide cannabutter is an excellent choice for those wanting to release as slight an odor as possible if you live in an apartment complex with your parents or want to discreetly, this method will work for you.

With the sous vide method, you’ll still begin by grating the cannabis leaves with a hand or coffee grinder and placing them in a heat-proof, vacuum-sealed bag. After that, place a large pot on the stovetop and fill it with water.

Once the water has reached 230 Fahrenheit degrees, place your sealed bag of buds in hot water and cook for an hour and a half before infusing the butter.

Using the Double Boiler for Cannabis Butter

First, you’ll fill the lower half with water for the double boiler method and melt the butter in the top half above your hot water pan. Then, add a cup of water to regulate the temperature at low heat. Once thoroughly mixed, add your cannabis leaves, simmer and stir occasionally to ensure your butter doesn’t overheat.

Hash or Kief

All the leftover tiny, resin-soaked cannabis leaves are an excellent resin source. Save and dry the sugar leaves once you have finished trimming your buds. Then, you can turn them into kief by shaking the leaves above a fine screen, allowing the dry trichomes to collect at the bottom.


While you can utilize a lot of the cannabis leaves, there will inevitably be waste associated with cultivation. A great way to ensure the whole plant is used is to compost the leftovers to use a fertilizer for other plants.

Leaf tips

Several cannabis leaf symptoms can tell you what is wrong with your plant.

Pay attention to the leaves in your grow space to notice any of the following or other cannabis leaf symptoms:


Underwatered plants will be droopy and appear to hang; growth will slow; water more frequently or increase volume and check the Indica strains and Sativa strains leaves ranges frequently.


When female plants are overwatered, the leaves will curl down and appear rigid; they will show signs of being overly full of water, leading to root rot. Check the soil for dryness before watering to correct this issue.

Nutrient burn

Nutrient burn means overfeeding the individual plants; the plant will produce cannabis fan leaves that are brown and crispy, beginning at the tips and moving inward as they are unable to further absorb nutrients.

Light burn

Light burn happens if your grow lights are too close to the plant, your plants will turn bright yellow and then become brown and die. It’s best to raise your led grow lights if you notice yellowing.

What’s a job in the cannabis industry that directly works with leaves? 

cannabis harvest technician provides support for a cultivation team’s operations. This marijuana job is typically responsible for preparing and processing the harvest for extraction and sales. Essential responsibilities include: 

Offloading, harvesting, sanitizing, reloading, milling, and disposing of cannabis waste.

Drying and curing wet cannabis plants.

Weighing and recording post-harvest materials and managing cultivation waste.

Cleaning and sanitizing dry rooms. 

Communicating thoroughly with the management team and co-workers in a timely and efficient manner.

Develop and Maintain an organized work area.

Ensuring compliance with all company policies and procedures and federal and state laws.

Final Thoughts

The Cannabis plant will produce leaves that can communicate a wide variety of information to an experienced grower due to the plant’s unique chemical composition.

Once you’re aware of what to look for, the appearance of cannabis leaves allows you to understand several important factors that affect your plants’ health and allow you to create strains.

Cannabis leaves will also enable you to understand and meet their nutritional needs, increasing the quality and yield amount of your harvest.

Whether you compost or find an edible use for your cannabis leaves, many growers feel that they are far too valuable to be tossed aside from the harvested plant.

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