Sunburned Houseplants

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As spring arrives and the days get longer and warmer, many of us begin to move our favorite houseplants to sunny spots outside. Outdoor plants can enjoy the fresh air and direct light, and we can enjoy their greenery on our decks, porches and balconies. Unfortunately, not all houseplants respond to their springtime move outdoors with vigorous growth and vibrant greens. Too much of a good thing can leave plants in the same condition that people experience when exposed to a long day of sunshine – a damaging sunburn.

Signs of a Sunburned Plant

When houseplants are moved outdoors you might begin to notice leaves turning yellow then white, developing brown spots or even falling off. If you see these symptoms, your recently moved houseplant most likely has a sunburn. This can result from the shock of a plant moving from the low light and moderate temperatures indoors, to the heat and sunshine outside.

Prevent Sunburned Leaves

The best way to deal with sunburn in houseplants is never to let them develop it in the first place. When it comes time to move your houseplant outdoors for summer, do it a little bit each day, a process called “hardening off.” Start with two hours of morning’s gentle sun on the first day and increase the time in the light by 15 minutes a day.

How to Treat a Sunburned Houseplant

If your plant develops a sunburn, the first thing to do is to get it out of the direct light. You should move it back inside to a place it previously thrived or use a sunshade designed for gardens outdoors. Slowly reintroduce it to the sunlight as suggested above.
Your plant will go through the process of replacing the leaves lost or damaged by the sunburn. As your sunburned plant recovers, cut its usual water and fertilizer feedings in half.
Houseplants kept indoors can develop sunburn too.
  • A new plant put near a sunny window.
  • A plant suddenly getting more sun as the days get longer and the angle of the sun shifts.

If you have a houseplant with no change in the light it gets and it begins to look sickly, it could be a pest or other problem. Our guide to caring for houseplants has lots of tips to make sure your plants are always looking and feeling their best.


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