Too Much of a Good Thing: Your plants and sunscorch

Too Much of a Good Thing: Your plants and sunscorch

We all learned the basics of plant care and photosynthesis when we were young.  Light + Water + Soil = happy plants, right?  But as we all know, too much of a good thing can quickly become a bad thing, and so too much sun and heat can create stress in your plants, even sun hardy plants like succulents.   If your plant’s is looking a little bleached out or the tips of the leaves are a little brown, it may be a sign of sun-scorching, the plant version of sun burn.

The most common place sun burn shows up is in the leaves.  If leaves get yellow, bleached out, or get scorched looking spots on them it is an indication that the plant is getting too much light, or even just got more light than it was used to too quickly.  This is something to look out for particularly in the northwest if you keep your plants by your window. Sudden shifts to bright full sun after extended periods of overcast weather, accompanied by the amplification of light through your window, can be shocking to plants that are used to more sustained greenhouse condition or evolved in dappled shady environments like jungles.

White leaves, yellow leaves, and brown crispy spots or edges on your leaves are all signs that your plant may be suffering from sun stress.   The first step is to move it immediately out of the direct or strong sun to a more shady dappled light location.  This might mean moving it from a south facing window to a more easterly facing window, adding curtains, or just moving it farther away from the light.

Once the leaves are damaged, there is no coming back for them. Cut off the damaged parts or leaves and focus on supporting new growth.

Slow down your watering. When plants are under stress they slow production and over watering your plant might cause root issues on top of the sun scorching.  Water just enough to see the water drip out of the drainage hole if your pot has one, then let the soil dry out to 2 to 3 inches from the top.  Once you begin to see new leaves develop you can increase your watering until it’s back to where it was before.

Finally, reduce the fertilizer you are using until the plant begins to show new growth. Similarly to watering, your plant is not using the nutrients it would normally be because it’s growth has slowed due to stress. You can maintain your fertilizing schedule but only use half the amount or fertilize with the same amount but less often.

Especially if you have tropical plants, you might also make sure the plants are getting the right amount of humidity.  Even if your area is naturally humid, it’s possible for your plants to get dried out depending on the method of your temperature control.  If you wake up with cotton mouth, have dry skin, or your contacts are drying out and you drink a normal amount of water, it’s a good indication your home is probably on the dry side.  You can remedy this with your plants by spritzing them regularly.

Summer sun is a delight, but just like we have to be aware of our own exposure, too much sun can have a negative impact on your plants.  The best prevention is just being aware of your plants light preferences and noticing how that light changes in your home over the seasons.  With a little forethought you can keep your plants looking vibrant and happy year round.

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