How To: Diagnose and Heal Sun Damaged Home Or Office Plants

chinese evergreen 001 225x300 How To: Diagnose and Heal Sun Damaged Home Or Office PlantsCan plants get sunburn? The answer is yes! Most plants are not susceptible to sun damage, but many common home and office plants can suffer from sunburn because they are specifically suited to shadier locations – a leading reason they have earned a place in artificially lit environments.

Pictured here are a few leaves on a Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) plant, that was accidentally left outdoors on a sunny ledge during an office cleaning spree. The plant was brought back indoors two days after it was set outside, and was already showing signs of burn damage.

How can you tell if leaf damage is sun related?

  1. The most immediate symptom displayed by a sun damaged plant is muted leaf color, and an overall greyish tone to the previously green plant.
  2. There will be an obvious difference in color between the leaves exposed to more light on the top of the plant, and the leaves deeper into the interior of the plant, which have been kept shaded. Yellowing will occur in the leaves that follows straight lines, such as above, denoting the areas of the plant that have been shaded by overlapping leaves. Unlike fertilizer burn, and plants suffering from a lack of water, which display irregular yellowing patterns (developing at the tips of the leaves), this yellowing does not turn into brown leaves that curl, or dry up.
  3. Burned leaves remain on the plant looking off color, or yellowed slightly, without falling off. Often the color of the burned area will soften to a transparent hue, where you will be able to see through the leaf, or the leaf will develop irregular bumps on the yellowing area that will look much like a reaction to sun-poisoning in people.

What to do with sun-damaged plants:

  1. Place the plant in an area away from direct sunlight, drafts, and excessive heat.
  2. Water the plant to keep the soil moist, but not wet.
  3. Monitor the amount of leaves damaged by the sun, and remove burned leaves by pruning back.  I generally prune off the leaves in groups over a gradual period of time (several days to weeks), to give a plant that may have a serious case of sunburn a chance to send out new leaves to take over the photosynthesizing, since a badly damaged plant may need most of it’s leaves eventually trimmed off. Trimming all the damaged leaves at once could place the plant into additional shock.

Remember, any shade loving plant can suffer from sunburn, it’s what you do with the plant afterward that will assure the plant’s full recovery.  Err on the side of caution with office plants, when exposing them to direct sunlight, and you may be able to prevent problems like this from ever occurring with your green office companions.

Your thoughts: Have you had plants with sun damage? What tips and tricks have you tried to bring them back to health? Please share any ideas you have with everyone!

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  1. Amber and Ada says:

    Thank you for your post. We recently moved and left our houseplants outside in a too sunny location and they are all burned. I am wondering if a feeding would help in addition to the rehab methods you describe. Thanks again. It was tough to find an article dealing with this issue. Cheers!

  2. Amy says:

    Amber and Ada,

    Feeding is helpful, but the recovery is really dependent on new leaf growth. Most plants will survive from sunburn without any problems, they just don’t look as good as they did prior to the sunburn for several months. Thanks for reading along, and happy gardening!

  3. Michael says:

    Good Morning,

    I inherited an office plant about five years ago.
    It tends to get dark brown & black tipped leafs.
    It is watered regularly.
    It does receive indirect sun light.

    I am not sure what type of green non flowering plant it is.

    Thank MP

  4. Charmaine Serron says:

    I put my cabbage out into the garde some of them look really wilted will they com back

  5. teresa pence says:

    My Mother in law gave me a house plant that come from my Father in laws funeral and I put it outside while cleaning house and forgot about it for several days and the leaves are so sun burned…it just makes me sick…I have taken your advise and pruned back some of the leaves just a few for now…I pray this works and thank you for your help..i don’t have a green thumb to start with

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