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Houseplants get sunburned too!

Follow these steps to prevent sunburn on a houseplant

By: Sandy Feather 2015
Penn State Extension


Q. I moved my houseplants outside for the summer, and now many of them look dead. Can you tell from the attached photo what happened? Do you think they will recover? 

A. The photo showed a group of sunburned houseplants. Just as humans can get sunburn when exposed to strong sun (and not wearing sunscreen!) after a long winter, plants can also sunburn when moved outdoors without exposing them to sun gradually. Even plants that are started in greenhouses to plant outdoors, such as annual flowers and vegetables, should be gradually acclimated to life outdoors. If not, they can suffer from sunburn, too.


Sunburned plant leaves

Since we cannot use sunscreen on plants, it is best to place them in a protected area that gets no more than an hour or two of morning sun when taking them outdoors for the summer. Over the course of 10-14 days, gradually expose them to more sun until they are able to tolerate the sun in the location where they will spend the summer.

 

Just as there are different plants for sunny gardens than for shade gardens, do not expect houseplants that tolerate very low light conditions to do well in a very sunny spot. Make sure they have shade from the hottest part of the day.


Rx for sunburned houseplants

Most of your plants will recover, but until they start to show signs of life again, be careful about watering. It is very easy to overwater them since their leaves are not functioning well. Too much water leads to root rot, and they will not recover from that. If they are in a location where they receive rain, move them into a sheltered location so that you control the water for now. Also, do not fertilize them until they start growing again.

Plants actually produce different leaves in sun than they do in shade or indoors. Shade leaves tend to be larger and thinner, because a larger surface area captures more sunlight. That enables them to produce sufficient carbohydrates through photosynthesis to support their growth. Sun leaves are often smaller and thicker to prevent the kind of sunburn your plants are experiencing.


MORE

Frozen houseplants

Watering houseplants

Planting old grass seed

 

        


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