Sunburn in Houseplants: How to Prevent and Treat

Just like our skin, houseplants can get sunburned. This can happen when a plant is exposed to too much direct sunlight, especially if it is not used to getting a lot of sun. Sunburn in houseplants will often cause the leaves to turn yellow, white, or brown, and they may become crispy or wilted. In severe cases, the leaves may fall off the plant altogether.

Houseplants outside

Signs of Sunburn

Here are some signs of sunburn in houseplants:

  • Yellow or white leaves. This is the most common sign of sunburn in houseplants. The leaves will appear bleached or washed out, and they may even have brown or crispy edges.
  • Sunscald. This is a more severe form of sunburn that can cause the leaves to become dry, leathery, and brown. In some cases, the leaves may even fall off the plant.
  • Wilting. If a plant is severely sunburned, it may wilt. This is a sign that the plant is not getting enough water to replace the water that is being lost through the damaged leaves.
  • Slow growth. A sunburned plant may not grow as quickly as a healthy plant. This is because the plant is using its energy to repair the damage caused by the sunburn.
Sunburn in Houseplants

It is important to note that not all yellow or white leaves are a sign of sunburn. Some plants naturally have yellow or white leaves, and others may turn yellow or white if they are not getting enough sunlight. However, if you notice that the leaves on your plant have suddenly turned yellow or white, it is a good idea to check for sunburn.

How to Prevent Sunburn in Houseplants

There are a few things you can do to prevent sunburn in your houseplants:

  • Choose the right location. When choosing a spot for your houseplants, consider the amount of sunlight they need. Some plants, such as succulents and cacti, need a lot of direct sunlight, while others, such as ferns and philodendrons, prefer filtered or indirect light.
  • Gradually introduce your plants to more sunlight. If you are bringing a plant indoors from outdoors, or if you are moving a plant to a sunnier spot, do so gradually. Start by placing the plant in a spot with indirect sunlight, and then gradually move it to a spot with more direct sunlight over the course of a few weeks.
  • Protect your plants from the harshest rays of the sun. If you live in a hot, sunny climate, you may want to protect your plants from the harshest rays of the sun during the hottest part of the day. You can do this by placing your plants in a spot that gets morning or evening sun, or by using a sheer curtain or shade cloth to filter the sunlight.
Houseplants outside

Steps to Help Houseplants Recover from Sunburn

If your houseplants do get sunburned, there are a few things you can do to help them recover:

  • Cut off the damaged leaves. The damaged leaves will not heal, so it is best to cut them off. This will help the plant focus its energy on growing new, healthy leaves.
  • Move the plant to a shady spot. This will help the plant to recover from the sunburn.
  • Water the plant regularly. Sunburned plants may need more water than usual, as the damaged leaves will not be able to photosynthesize as effectively.
Houseplants outside

With a little care, you can help your sunburned houseplants recover and thrive.

Related Article on Beginner Houseplant: Moisture Meters for Houseplants

Sunburn vs Sun Stress in Houseplants

Sunburn and sun stress are not the same thing. Sunburn is a type of plant damage that occurs when a plant is exposed to too much direct sunlight. The leaves of a sunburned plant will often turn yellow, white, or brown, and they may become crispy or wilted. In severe cases, the leaves may fall off the plant altogether.

Sun stress, on the other hand, is a condition that occurs when a plant is exposed to a lot of sunlight, but not enough to cause sunburn. The leaves of a sun-stressed plant may become more colorful, but they may also become wrinkled, scaly, or crispy. In some cases, the plant may even drop its leaves.

Houseplants outside

Sun stress is not necessarily harmful to a plant, and in some cases, it can even be beneficial. For example, some succulents and cacti will develop more vibrant colors when they are exposed to a lot of sunlight. However, if a plant is exposed to too much sun stress, it can become weak and susceptible to disease.

Related Article on Beginner Houseplant: Easiest Succulents to Grow Indoors

Differences Between Sun Stress and Sunburn

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between sunburn and sun stress:

CharacteristicSunburnSun Stress
CauseToo much direct sunlightA lot of sunlight, but not enough to cause sunburn
SymptomsLeaves turn yellow, white, or brown; leaves may become crispy or wilted; leaves may fall offLeaves become more colorful; leaves may become wrinkled, scaly, or crispy; plant may drop leaves
HarmfulnessCan be harmful, especially if the plant is exposed to too much sun stressNot necessarily harmful, but can weaken the plant and make it susceptible to disease

If you are unsure whether your plant is sunburned or sun stressed, it is best to err on the side of caution and move the plant to a shadier spot. You can also gradually expose the plant to more sunlight over time to help it build up a tolerance.

Houseplants outside

More Tips to Prevent Sunburn in Plants

Here are some additional tips to help prevent sunburn in your houseplants:

  • Water your plants deeply and regularly. This will help to keep the leaves hydrated and less susceptible to sunburn.
  • Fertilize your plants regularly. This will help them to grow strong and healthy, which will make them more resistant to sunburn.
  • Inspect your plants regularly. Help catch any signs of sunburn early on, so that you can take steps to prevent further damage.

Related Article on Beginner Houseplant: Benefits of Worm Castings in Indoor Plants

By following these tips, you can help to keep your houseplants healthy and sunburn-free.

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