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Can Indoor Plants Get Sunburned? (Prevent+Save A Sunburned Plant)

Indoor plants do well as long as you provide the right kind of light. The moment you start providing too much light or direct sunlight to the plants, they get the chance of getting sunburnt. 

So, in this article, we shall learn all about how can indoor plants get sunburned and what are the steps to save a sunburned plant.

Indoor plants are adapted to live in indirect lighting conditions. So, if you expose indoor plants to direct sunlight or intense sun, then your plants are likely to get sunburned. Brown spots on the leaves, wilted leaves, and droopy leaves are common signs of a sunburned plant.

Indoor plants mostly get sunburnt during the summer and spring seasons when the sun is at its full intensity. It is not possible to recover the sunburnt parts, so prevention is the best way to go about it. 

With that being said, let us now understand the details of indoor plants getting sunburnt and ways of revising them and preventing further damage.

Fiddle leaf fig sunburn


What does a sunburn plant look like?

When you move your indoor plant outside and keep it there for too long or place it near a window that gets intense sunlight, the plant gets sunburnt.

Some indoor plants, such as cacti and succulents, can tolerate direct sunlight and do not get sunburnt due to it.

But most other houseplants cannot tolerate the direct intense sunlight. Shade-loving plants, such as the peace lily, will get sunburned very easily.

When your indoor plant gets sunburned, you will notice a change of color and texture in its leaves. 

Let’s take a look at some signs of sunburn on your indoor plant. 

If you notice these signs on your houseplants, it is time to bring them inside the home and save them from further damage.

Also read: Can Indoor Plants Get Too Much Light?

What causes plant sunburn?

Two main reasons cause sunburn on your indoor plants: Direct sunlight and high temperatures.

Direct sunlight

Most indoor plants cannot tolerate direct sunlight. Even the slightest exposure can cause sunburn.

Whenever you bring a plant in the house, research its light requirements and not place it in direct sunlight without understanding if it can tolerate direct sunlight.

The intensity of sunburn will depend on these two aspects:

  • The intensity of the light
  • The duration of sunlight the plant has been exposed to

If you expose your houseplant to direct sunlight, the leaves will get sunburned and discolored. The soil will go dry and stop functioning efficiently. All these will result in a dehydrated plant.

Also read: Do Indoor Plants Need Sunlight? (With 25 Examples)

High temperatures

One of the main reasons a plant is termed an indoor plant is its temperature tolerance. Indoor plants prefer living in a controlled environment where they are exposed to room temperatures.

Although many indoor plants come from tropical regions and prefer warm temperatures, too-high temperatures will not do any good and add to the sunburn.

When your indoor plants are exposed to direct sunlight, the temperature automatically rises and affects the condition of the plant.

Your plant might be experiencing sunburn already, and high temperatures will add to that problem and affect the plant more intensely.



Can plants recover from sunburn? 

The leaves of your indoor plants that have got sunburns will not recover. That is the reason why you should always try to prevent sunburns in the first place. 

Most indoor plants are tropical plants that prefer warm temperatures, but that does not indicate that they will enjoy direct sunlight. In the tropical regions, these plants find their sweet spot away from the direct sunlight under the shade of canopies. 

Moreover, not giving your indoor plants time to adjust to the changes and exposing it to direct sunlight all of a sudden can also cause sunburn that is irreversible. 

Although the sunburn leaves will not recover, you can still recover the plant that got the sunburns.

How do you fix indoor plants with sunburn? 

You might notice signs of sunburn on your houseplant. If you do, you should use the following steps to fix the plant.

  • First, cut off the damaged and discolored leaves. The leaves that have turned yellow, white, or have crisp brown edges will not recover or turn green again. So, you must cut these off.
  • Relocate the plant to a location that gets less intense light and no direct sunlight. Let the plant adjust and provide filtered light by using curtains or blinds.
  • If your plant is placed on the balcony or patio, you can bring it inside or keep it under a shaded spot.
  • Keep the soil moist as that would help the plant to recover. However, do not go overboard with watering as that will make the soil wet.
  • Do not use fertilizers till the plant recovers.
  • The next time you plan to keep the plant in a well-lit spot, give it time to adjust to the changes before making a drastic change.

However, if the sunburn is too intense and there are barely any healthy parts on the plant, it would be best to discard the one you have and get a new one. Or, if you notice any healthy part, you can propagate and get a new plant out of it.

How to prevent sunburn on indoor plants?

We have mentioned already that your plant or its leaves cannot recover from sunburn, but you can prevent it easily once you understand the light requirements of your houseplant.

If your indoor plant doesn’t prefer direct sunlight, do not expose it to direct sunlight. The houseplants that can survive in low-light conditions can easily get burned by the sun.

You might want to provide more light to your houseplant, but you should not do that suddenly.

If the plant stays in a low-light spot, bringing it to a spot with too much sunlight will cause sunburn. Therefore, any changes you want to make should be gradual.

If you want to move your houseplant outside, follow these steps:

  • Start by placing your houseplant in a spot that gets more light than its current spot. However, make sure there’s no direct sunlight.
  • After some days, when the plant adjusts to that light, place it under the direct soft sunlight of the morning. Start with one or two hours.
  • Keep increasing the duration every week and continue doing this for a few weeks.
  • Keep a check on the plant every day. If you notice any damage or signs of sunburn, bring it back to a shaded spot or inside the house, where it will only receive indirect light.
  • If your plant shows no signs of distress, it indicates that it is getting acclimated to the changes you are making.

How do you save a burnt plant?

We have compiled various tips that can help you keep your indoor plants healthy and save them from sunburn.

Understand the light requirement of your houseplant

If you understand the light requirements of your indoor plants, you will not make any mistakes due to which the plant might experience sunburn. The three things you should keep in mind are:

Light intensity

A south-facing window will have the highest intensity. If you place your plant near it, make sure to use curtains to create a filter. Or you can place the plant a few feet away from the window.

You can place your plant near the north, or east-facing windows as these locations get low-intensity light that won’t cause sunburn.

Duration

Most plants require long hours of sunlight, but some plants will not enjoy that. If you expose the plant to longer durations of sunlight than it needs, it might get sunburned. So make sure you provide it only as much as it needs.

Light quality

There are two types of light: direct and indirect. Your indoor plants will prefer indirect light and direct sunlight is what causes sunburns. So, place your indoor plant in a spot where it gets bright indirect sunlight and stays protected from the direct sun.

Find the right spot

It is essential to find the correct spot for your indoor plant inside the house so that you can keep it away from the direct harsh rays of the sun.

The ideal placement of the plant will depend on the light tolerance of the plant. After considering the light, try to look for a spot that would match the requirement of the particular plant species you own.

A general rule for most indoor plants is that they need a bright spot that receives enough indirect light. You can keep the plants that require low-light in shadier spots.

But keep all of them away from spots that receive direct sunlight.

Water properly

A plant getting less water will be more prone to dehydration and sunburn. So, you should water your indoor plants adequately and at the right time. 

It is best to water your houseplants during the early mornings so that the plant has sufficient time to absorb the water before it starts evaporating. During the hot and dry days of summer, consider misting to add moisture to your plants.

Use pebble trays to increase the humidity as moisture can both prevent and help a sunburned plant.

Mulch

If the soil of your indoor plants is getting dry, adding mulch can help retain moisture and save your plant from sunburn.

Mulch prevents sunburn and helps a sunburnt plant recover from its damaged state by improving the quality of the soil.

Pruning

If you have a sunburned plant, you will come across damaged leaves and stems, and pruning those is the first step of helping the plant recover. Since these parts will not recover, you don’t want the plant to use all its energy to fix those.

Always use a pair of sterilized pruners or scissors to remove the damaged parts. This will allow the plant to recover faster and encourage new growth.



Final words

Indoor plants getting sunburned is not uncommon. Often people take their plant out and forget to bring it inside and just a few hours of intense sunlight is enough for causing sunburn.

If you understand the basic requirements of your indoor plant and take care of it accordingly, you will be able to prevent sunburn.

Do not expose your indoor plants to direct sunlight, do not make sudden changes, and if you want to provide more sunlight to the plant, allow it to adjust first.

If you have a sunburned plant already, relocate it to a better spot where it will stay protected from direct sunlight.

Water it sufficiently to let it recover from the sunburn and prune all the scorched leaves and damaged stems. Avoid fertilizing the plant till it recovers completely.


Sources: University of MinnesotaDavid H. Trinklein, Horticulture State SpecialistThe University of GeorgiaThe Royal Horticultural Society.