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Can a Plant Get Sunburnt?

A plant with dried leaves

Indoor plants are a great way to bring the beauty of nature into our homes. However, they are not immune to the effects of the sun, both good and bad. Just like humans, plants can also get sunburned if they are exposed to too much direct sunlight. By understanding the risks of sunburn and providing the appropriate environment for your indoor plants, you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of nature without compromising their health.

Can a Plant Get Sunburnt?

A woman examines a burned plant

Yes, just like humans, plants can get sunburnt if they are exposed to excessive amounts of sunlight. Plant sunburn occurs when the delicate leaf tissue is damaged by the intense heat and harsh rays of the sun. There are two types of sunburn in plants: sunburn necrosis and sunburn browning.

Sunburn necrosis happens when the plant’s cells are damaged by extreme, prolonged temperatures. This type of sunburn can cause wilting, leaf veins becoming more visible, and eventually lead to the death of the plant without a change in environment.

Sunburn browning, on the other hand, occurs when the plant’s cells are exposed to high temperatures within a certain range, typically between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This can result in the browning of leaf margins and tips, as well as the development of white spots or patches.

Several factors contribute to your plant getting a sunburn. Some plants have hair-like structures, called trichomes, which can provide some protection against the sun’s rays by reflecting or diffusing light. However, other plants with hairless leaves are more susceptible to sunburn. Certain plants are also more sensitive to bright sunlight and can experience sunburn even with moderate exposure. Some plants that are most likely to get sunburned include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, strawberries, apples, and cucumbers.

IV Organic 3-in-1 Plant Guard, 1 Pint (Brown)

This can be used to protect plants against sunburn.

How to Tell If Your Plant Is Sunburnt

A dried and yellowing leaf
Lertwit Sasipreyajun/Shutterstock.com

When houseplants are moved from their indoor environments to the great outdoors, they may experience the unfortunate effects of a sunburn. It’s usually easy to tell your plant has been sunburned by looking at it.

One common indication is yellow leaves, which can then progress to a stark, white appearance as the sunburn worsens. Brown spots may also develop on the leaves, and in severe cases, leaves may fall off completely.

By being proactive and attentive to the needs of your plants, you can minimize the risk of sunburn and make sure they stay healthy.

Cool Area 55% 6.5ft x10ft Sunblock Shade Cloth Cover

Great for filtering the sun in super hot areas.

How to Fix Plant Sunburn

A woman cares for a plant

Plant sunburn can cause damage to the leaves, stems, and overall health of the plant. If you notice that your plant has been sunburned, you’ll want to act immediately to prevent further damage. Follow these steps to take care of your plant:

  • Provide immediate shade: Move the sunburnt plant to a shaded area or cover it with a shade cloth. This reduces the intensity of sunlight and decreases the risk of further damage to leaf cells.
  • Water the plant: Sunburn can dehydrate the plant and increase the risk of wilting. Water the affected plant thoroughly to rehydrate it and increase humidity levels. This helps the plant recover and reduces stress caused by sunburn.
  • Prune damaged leaves and stems: Remove any severely sunburned leaves or stems to encourage the growth of new, healthy foliage. Pruning also prevents the plant from expending energy on damaged tissue.
  • Apply mulch: Mulching around the base of the plant helps retain moisture in the soil, keeping it moist and preventing further water loss. Mulch also acts as a protective layer, shielding the plant from intense sunlight.

Taking these steps and providing proper care can help your sunburnt plant recover and thrive.

100% Natural Cedar Shavings

One of the most popular options for mulch.

How to Prevent Plant Sunburn

A man waters plants outside

Preventing plant sunburn is crucial for the health and vitality of your plants. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to avoid plant sunburn in the first place.

When bringing indoor plants outdoors, gradually introduce them to direct sunlight over several days. Start by placing them in a shaded spot, then gradually expose them to brighter light. This allows the plants to acclimate slowly, reducing the risk of sunburn.

Greenhouses are another valuable tool for preventing plant sunburn. These structures filter out harmful UV light, creating a more controlled and protected environment. They also offer a transition space for plants, where they can gradually adapt to outdoor conditions.

Greenhouse for Outdoors with Screen Windows

This portable greenhouse is perfect if you have a small backyard.

Choosing native plants is also an easy way to reduce the likelihood of sunburn, as they are already adapted to the local climate and sun exposure. These plants are less likely to suffer from sunburn when planted in appropriate locations.

Finally, maintaining proper soil moisture is essential in preventing plant sunburn. Frequent watering helps plants stay well-hydrated and more resilient to sun damage. Be sure to monitor soil moisture levels and adjust watering accordingly, as overwater can also damage your plants.

XLUX Soil Moisture Meter

The sensing probe ensures accurate and instant testing results.

Preventing plant sunburn requires understanding your plant’s needs and providing appropriate care. By understanding how sunburns happen and how to address them, you can create ideal growing conditions and ensure the health and vitality of your indoor and outdoor plants.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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