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Cannabis Leaves Comparison: Indica VS Sativa VS Ruderalis

One of the most prominent images of marijuana is the green serrated leaf. It is recognized all over the world and is found on almost anything related, or unrelated, to cannabis. The green leaf icon is on recreational and medicinal marijuana products and is also on different cannabis products like apparel, accessories, jewelry and so on.

But do you know that there are different kinds of cannabis leaves? The green serrated leaf is similar to the appearance of a sativa leaf. Indica and Ruderalis leaves look different as well.

So how can you tell the difference between a Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis plant leaf? To grow Cannabis ruderalis seeds, sativa and indica, you must understand these differences.

Consider the following when comparing these three leaves:


  • Appearance


Cannabis sativa plants

Sativa plants are known for their tall and stately appearance. Some growers compare cannabis sativa plants to Christmas trees because these have large fan leaves at the bottom and a slender top with usually one cola.

The leaves of sativa plants have 5 fingers with serrated edges. The leaves are just like the iconic marijuana green leaf symbol.

The leaves are also arranged in a nice pattern from one branch to another. Very large fan leaves are present near the bottom and these need to be removed to enhance airflow under and inside the plant canopy.

Some sativa leaves are covered with thick trichomes especially when the plant is nearing harvest time.

Cannabis indica plants

Cannabis indica plants can be easily differentiated from a sativa because of its compact size. Indicas are small growing only 4 to 5 inches in height.

Compared to the tall and stately sativa, indicas are bushy and small. It has small but strong branches that can withstand strong winds and hard rain.

The leaves of Cannabis indica plants are round and small with irregular growths. Just like the sativa, large fan leaves are also present at the bottom canopy.

These fan leaves should also be trimmed to allow light and air to move through the small canopy of the plant.

The leaf has seven fingers with clean edges, unlike the serrated sativa. Some strains may have leaves that are covered with thick trichomes which develop during harvest time.

Cannabis Ruderalis plants

Cannabis Ruderalis are species of plants that are also known as autoflowering plants. This means that the plant will be able to flower without the help of special lighting. Ruderalis plants are quick- flowering plants which will bloom in just 7 to 9 weeks.

Ruderalis plants are used to the cold temperatures and have developed structures to cope with the freezing temperatures.

Small, compact Cannabis Ruderalis has smaller leaves compared to Cannabis indica plants. The leaves are tiny, round and are barely similar to the Indica and sativa plant.


  • Size


Of all the three strains, Cannabis sativas are the largest with the largest sativa strains looking like huge fans.

Experts say that the Cannabis sativa has developed large leaves to get the most out of the hot and humid temperatures. And because of the large leaves, sativas have grown into tall and huge plants especially when grown outdoors.

Cannabis indica plants have small leaves and experts say that this is because indicas are mostly found in cold temperatures.

Finally, Cannabis Ruderalis strains have the tiniest leaves. Experts believe that this is a way for the strain to adapt to its freezing environment.


  • Color


Cannabis sativa leaves usually have green to deep green in color from the leaves’ center to the leaf edges. Some leaves have developed darker edges as the leaves grow older. The veins may be easily seen especially in larger leaves.

Cannabis indica leaves have light green, green to dark green color. It’s hard to see the leaf veins because of the small leaf size.

When it comes to the leaf color of the Cannabis Ruderalis, these have green to dark green in color. The veins are hardly visible.

Some cannabis leaf tips

Cannabis plants communicate using their leaves. You can tell the following or diagnose the following through the plant’s leaves:


  • Overwatering or under watering


The cannabis plant leaves will tell you if the plant has had enough water or needs water. Wilting is a sign of poor watering or underwatering. From Cannabis sativa, indica to Ruderalis strains, wilting is very noticeable.

Leaves may also tell you if the plant is over watered. If the leaves look too juicy and there’s remaining water on the soil or ground where the plant is grown then this indicates that the plant is over watered.


  • Nutritional deficiencies


Cannabis plants need special nutrients to grow healthy and resilient to disease. Just a few nutrients that cannabis plants need is nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Cannabis plants also need micronutrients such as Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, and iron.

The plant leaves may turn into different colors signifying that the plant is suffering from some kind of deficiency or toxicity.

Take nitrogen toxicity for instance. Cannabis plants need nitrogen during the growing phase. Plants need nitrogen to grow more leaves and stronger stems and branches. But as cannabis plants enter the flowering phase these will cease to grow. Nitrogen is no longer needed and thus this will settle on the leaves leading to yellowing and wilting of the leaves.

Cannabis leaves may turn into different colors depending on the kind of nutritional deficiency or toxicity. Leaves may turn dark green, light green, blue, purple, yellow, orange and white.

Along with the changes in color, leaves may also develop a thick texture or a rugged appearance. It is also possible to see different color combinations and color patterns in leaves.


  • Amount of light the plant receives


Light burn is a condition wherein the tips of the plants burn up or become charred because of intense light. You can tell that the leaves of the cannabis plant are burned up when you spot some browning at the tip of the leaves found at the topmost part of the plant.

The leaves have burned tips but you can’t smell any burning. The size of the damage will depend on how much the leaves were exposed to the intense light. Usually, cannabis sativa plants have burns on the tips of the leaves only while indica and ruderalis strains may suffer a much larger area of the leaf and even the entire plant.

To avoid this, place the lamp farther from the plant tips. You may also change your lighting system to improve the amount of light that your plants get and avoid burning. At the moment there are three prominent lighting systems for plants: HPS, LED and CFL lamps.

Of the three, LED lamps are the best choice considering that LED lamps can burn brighter but will remain cool to avoid leaf burn and to prevent temperature increase inside your growing area. LED lamps are also cost efficient since it consumes very little power to light up and will take years before an LED bulb burns out. LED bulbs may be the most expensive type of lighting system but many growers still prefer to use it because of its impressive advantages.

HPS lighting is the second-best lighting system for cannabis growing. HPS is a high-intensity lighting that uses chemicals to burn and create light. Although the light coming from HPS is very bright, this can be too hot for your plants.

HPS can cause light burn and can even increase the humidity inside a growing room or space. HPS lighting can promise good yields as long as you follow the correct instructions on how to maintain HPS lighting.

Finally, CFL is the least common because it does not shine as bright as the two. This lamp is cheap but you need several of these to emit an intense light similar to an LED and HPS lighting. Understanding the different lighting methods can help you provide the best lighting solution that will benefit your cannabis plants.


  • The age of the plant


The condition of the leaves will tell you the age of the plant. Cannabis sativa, indica, and ruderalis all began from seeds. Germinated or sprouted seeds will grow taproots and afterward, a small plant growing from the seed cotyledon. Leaves at this point all look the same: round, bright and very small. Usually two small leaves will emerge and afterward, a group of true cannabis leaves will grow.

Having two more groups of similar leave would mean that the plant is ready to be transferred to its final container. As the cannabis plant grows older, distinct features of cannabis leave become more and more evident.


  • The presence of pests or molds


Leaves will also tell growers about the presence of pests or molds. The underside of leaves is where pests like spider mites accumulate because this area is the soft and meaty side of leaves.

Some cannabis plants have developed unique resistance to disease and pests. ¬†With these plants, you can grow cannabis with confidence knowing that you won’t have to deal with molds, pests, and disease as your plant grows older and taller.

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