Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on December 26, 2022

One of the most important things in cannabis cultivation is knowing your way around the parts of the marijuana plant. Apart from the buds, the leaves are also important because they can give you a lot of information about how your plants are doing. Any positive or negative changes will immediately be reflected in the leaves’ appearance. 

Some cannabis enthusiasts think that all marijuana plants look the same, but this isn’t true because their biggest differences are found in the leaves, and this depends entirely on the strain. Therefore, today we’ll talk about how marijuana leaves look like in different strains.

The Anatomy of the Marijuana Plant

While marijuana doesn’t have complicated anatomy, the leaves are just one of the many parts of the plant. Let’s review the others:

  • The roots, whose main role is to keep the plant alive and healthy by absorbing water and nutrients from the soil or hydroponic medium;
  • The main stem and the branches that support the plant and transfer the water and nutrients from the roots to the other parts of the plant;
  • The fan leaves which are responsible for absorbing sunlight for photosynthesis;
  • The sugar leaves which are small and frosted leaves found close to the buds;
  • The cannabis buds, also called female flowers because they’re found on the branches of female plants. They have sticky trichomes that are abundant in CBD and THC content;
  • The pollen sacs, also called male flowers because they’re found on male plants. Male plants don’t have a high cannabinoid content and are not harvested for consumption;
  • The calyxes, stigmas, and pistils are the female reproductive organs;
  • The trichomes are tiny hairs found on cannabis buds that secrete the biggest concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. They’re more abundant in female plants than male plants, which is why female flowers are harvested for consumption.

What Does a Marijuana Leaf Look Like in Different Types of Cannabis?

After the flowers, the leaves are the most important part of the weed plant. They are especially important during the vegetative growth stage because that’s how the plants absorb sunlight for photosynthesis.

However, despite the very well-known cannabis leaf emblem, not all weed leaves look like that. In fact, there are some very obvious differences between the leaves of the main cannabis species.

There are three Cannabis species – Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. The leaves of all three cannabis species look different, so let’s see what the differences are.

Cannabis Sativa

The most noticeable thing about the Sativa plants is that they can grow very tall – up to 12 feet, and sometimes even 20 feet. Their overall appearance is tall and lanky, and the Sativa leaves also follow this fashion. They have up to 13 long and slender leaf fingers with ragged and spiky serrations. The leaves are typically a lighter green color, very lime-like, and this is due to the lower chlorophyll content. Sativas take longer to mature and have an extended flowering period, but they do give higher yields.

Cannabis Indica

By appearance, Indica plants are the complete opposite of the Sativa plants. They are much wider and shorter – 3 to 6 feet tall. Their overall appearance is stout and dense, much denser than Sativas. The Indica leaves are also wider and they have fewer thick leaflets, about 7 to 9. Their color is most commonly dark green, which indicates a high chlorophyll content. Indicas mature faster and the flowering stage of some Indicas is shorter than usual.

Cannabis Ruderalis

The Ruderalis plant is much smaller than both Indicas and Sativas, often reaching only a foot or two in height. The overall appearance of Ruderalis is small and rounded. The Ruderalis leaves are most similar to young Sativa leaves in appearance and color, but they have fewer leaflets, only 4-5 slim leaflets. The Ruderalis plant is an autoflowering species, meaning that its flowering cycle doesn’t depend on the hours of light it receives.

The Fan Leaves Can Tell You a Lot About Your Cannabis Plants

One of the main concerns for cannabis growers is the health of their plants. Healthy plants are luscious and vibrant, and they produce fragrant flowers with an abundance of cannabinoids which will later result in a high-quality stash. 

That being said, the leaves of the cannabis plant can be great indicators of the health of the plants. Any nutrient deficiencies or nutrient burn, as well as problems with watering, will immediately show up on the leaves. That’s why a close inspection of the leaves is always recommended for both experienced and novice growers.

For example, if the tips of the leaves start turning yellowish-brown while still in the vegetative stage, you’ll know that you’ve gone overboard with the fertilizer and you’re dealing with a nutrient burn. If you don’t notice it on time, the leaves will progressively turn yellow and your plant may suffer.

On the other hand, when the leaves are turning yellow and are looking dry, it may be a sign of a magnesium deficiency. Brown and burnt edges may indicate a potassium deficiency, while curled tips, small brown spots, and stunted growth may indicate a calcium deficiency.

Furthermore, if you’re overwatering, the leaves will look droopy and bend down towards the stem, and if you’re underwatering, the leaves will seem papery because they won’t have enough moisture within.

How You Can Use Cannabis Leaves

Cannabis leaves are smokable, but since they don’t contain as high cannabinoid levels as the buds, they will only offer you a mild high. However, there are plenty of other creative ways you can use the cannabis leaves and still get a nice kick.


Edibles are a great way to use up any fan or sugar leaves you have left after trimming your plants. Cannabutter is one excellent example of how you can make yourself a nice treat that you can use in a variety of ways. We have the full recipe for making cannabutter with leaves here.

Cannabis Tea

Did you know that cannabis tea was a thing? Soothing your soul with a nice cup is a great way to relax. The tea is very easy to make and you can throw any leaves you have left and make yourself a tasty brew.


A lot of users like to juice fresh weed leaves because they contain many nutrients, even though they’re not psychoactive as they have not been decarboxylated. Rinsing the leaves well before using them is recommended. You can add any fruit and/or veggies that you like, common choices include ginger, apples, lemon, celery, and bananas.

Dry Seasoning

Alternatively, you can dry and ground up the leaves and use them as seasoning. It’s a pretty versatile way to use the leaves, though it may not be to everyone’s taste since cannabis leaves have a very specific flavor. However, those who like it will enjoy it in soups, stews, salads, and any other dishes.

Bottom Line – Not All Cannabis Leaves Look the Same

The marijuana leaf may be the most famous emblem representing all marijuana plants, but the truth is that there are key differences between the leaves of different strains. Therefore, the appearance of the leaf can tell you which strain it belongs to. 

Additionally, any changes in the health of the plant can change its appearance. Problems like nutrient deficiencies and watering issues will cause noticeable changes in the leaves. 

Finally, cannabis leaves can be used in many different ways. Even if it doesn’t get you very high, it will still give you a mild buzz.

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.