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What Makes Cannabis Plants Grow 3-Point Leaves?

This article explores the cause of 3-point cannabis leaves.

3-point cannabis leaves (each leaf has 3 “fingers”)

Every cannabis strain is a little different, and some plants grow with more “points” on leaves that others. Most cannabis plants grow a few 3-point leaves as seedlings, but by the time a cannabis plant is mature, the leaves usually have more points.

The second set of leaves after germination usually has 3 points each. After that, leaves normally have more than three.

What is considered a “normal” number of points? Seven is the most common though it varies by strain. Seeing 5, 9, 11 or even 13 points isn’t that unusual. Though typically an odd number, occasionally you’ll see leaves with an even number of points. Your growing conditions affect this, too. Big, fast-growing plants in an ideal environment tend to grow leaves with more points.

Cannabis leaves most often have 7 points

Yet there is a lot of variation between plants, and even on the same plant. This leaf has 13 points if you count the two middle ones!

But what if you had a plant with “normal” leaves that starts growing 3-finger leaves? What does that mean?

What causes 3-point leaves?

  • Light stress – One of the most common culprits, especially if there is a significant change in grow light type or light levels
  • Unusual photoperiods – Such as when grow lights turn on and off at a new time, or the plant’s lighting schedule is otherwise changed. Sometimes you’ll see 3-point leaves after switching to a 12/12 light schedule to initiate the flowering stage.
  • Environmental stress – Extreme temperatures, stagnant air, underwatering, and other stresses can trigger the unhappy plant to grow 3-point leaves
  • Re-vegetating – If a plant starts making buds in the flowering stage and then switches back to the vegetative stage, it can cause leaves to grow with 3 points. Learn more about re-vegging.
  • Genetics – Some strains grow 3-point leaves due to genetics, such as any Ducksfoot strain. If plants are otherwise healthy and grow 3-point leaves from seed to harvest, you likely don’t need to worry.

It is a stress response when a healthy plant “reverts” back to 3-point leaves. Typically this happens when there are major changes in light quality or light schedule. For example, the following plants were switched from a fluorescent light to a powerful LED. A few days later, all the leaves were growing with only 3 points. In this case, there was nothing really “wrong” as much as different. The plants adjusted to the light and started growing regular leaves within a few weeks.

These plants started growing 3-point leaves after being switched from a weak fluorescent light to a strong LED

Here’s a closeup

A change in light schedule can also do it. Plants may grow 3-point leaves if you switch your grow light “on” period from the day to the night, or otherwise give irregular or uneven light schedules.

These plants are growing odd leaves due to re-vegging

For outdoor growers, you can’t control what’s happening in the sky. These outdoor plants in Australia began to grow 3-point leaves after massive bush fires created smoke that blocked out the sun. The odd light periods caused the 3-point stress response.

Smoke blocked out the sun, triggering 3-point leaves in these outdoor plants

Some strains such as the Ducksfoot strain naturally grows 3-point leaves even under perfect conditions

A Ducksfoot cannabis plant grows 3-point leaves from seed to harvest

If your plant is growing 3-point leaves in response to stress, all you need to do is correct the issue and/or wait for plants to grow out of it.

But if you see 3-point leaves appear suddenly on a plant that was growing typical leaves, don’t ignore it! Try to determine what’s causing the change. Learn more about the number of “points” on cannabis leaves.

What Makes Cannabis Plants Grow 3-Point Leaves? This article explores the cause of 3-point cannabis leaves. 3-point cannabis leaves (each leaf has 3 “fingers”) Every cannabis strain is a

The Blog

Sometimes with clones or from seed, you will encounter a cannabis plant with irregular growth. Stress is the primary cause for a one leaf or three leaf weed plant. It usually is the result of a plant that started flowering, stopped and reverted back to vegetative growth. Photoperiod fluctuation will not only stress your plant out, but it will also diminish your harvest potential dramatically. To avoid this situation, indoor growers should employ a good timer. Timers are cheap but are very important for maintaining a stable photoperiod for your plant. If you are an outdoor grower, look for light sources like patio lights or street lamps that might be affecting your grow.

Three Leaf Weed Plant

Like I mentioned above, single blade leaves or a three leaf weed plant is primarily caused by a fluctuation with photoperiod lighting. While rare and unlikely, other factors such as heat stress and bugs can also lead to this phenomenon. However, most cases occur because of plants with photoperiod stress. On the other hand, certain strains are more prone to irregular growth. OG’s and Skunk’s tend to demonstrate this characteristic most often; though I wouldn’t go as far as declaring them a 3 leaf cannabis strain.

We avoid this problem by maintaining a stable photoperiod environment. Sometimes we employ the Gas Lantern Routine when vegging our plants outdoors. This trick works great for almost all strains, but we have experienced the rare exception. Although very rare, some plants are more prone to flowering than others and will flower despite using the Gas Lantern Routine.

If your plant is experiencing any type of irregular growth, do not take clones. Always take clones from healthy, stable mothers! Gardeners looking to clone a plant with one or three fingered leaves should wait for normal vegetative growth to resume before doing so. To increase the odds of your plant resuming regular growth, place in a stable environment. Make sure you plant gets enough light, water and fertilizer. Some gardeners claim that plants that are forced to re-veg never quite get the yield of the original. Probably because one and three leaf plants tend to produce stringy loose buds. If your plant has 3 leafs, looks healthy and is flowering, I would recommend staying on course. At that point, there is really nothing you can do that late into flower.

Conclusion

I hope this short blog helped a little. Lastly, if you have any questions please post them in the comment section. If you are interested in learning even more about growing cannabis, please check out my blog. Here are a few of my most recent posts:

A single blade or a three leaf weed plant usually occurs when it is confused about lighting. Most common when a plant changes cycle from flower to veg.