What Makes Cannabis Plants Grow 3-Point Leaves?

Published Aug 29, 2020

by Nebula Haze

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!

Cannabis leaf with 13 "fingers" or points

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

These clones were recently taken from a flowering plant. They have started re-vegging, which is causing the odd leaf growth

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

Cannabis plant with ducksfoot style leaves

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

Frisian Duck in the vegetative stageIf 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.

Did you enjoy this article? Check out more cannabis plant oddities!

 

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