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Sunburned Succulent (How to Avoid and Treat Them)

Succulents enjoy sunlight, but too much of it can be harmful. 

Excessive lighting causes burns on succulents, which can leave permanent scars or seriously harm their health.

Here’s how to prevent burns on your succulents and cacti, as well as how to identify and treat burnt succulents.

To better understand burns on succulents, I propose a comparison to human skin. 

Humans differ in their sensitivity to light due to genetics and melanin differences; some people tan beautifully in the sun, while others get painful sunburns. 

Succulents, like other plants, have a genetic basis and can tolerate different lighting conditions depending on the variety.

Also, if we gradually expose ourselves to the sun, our skin will gradually change color. 

However, if you expose yourself to long periods of bright light, you will undoubtedly become sunburned and in desperate need of hydration.

As a result, succulents that are suddenly exposed to more light suffer burns that can leave permanent marks and significantly weaken them. 

In contrast, when succulents that are gradually exposed to more light support it, do not burn and take beautiful colors.

It is therefore critical to understand how to properly adapt our succulents to higher sun exposure. 

And, if they do suffer burns, act quickly so that they do not suffer damage.

Succulents With Burn Marks

How can you tell if a succulent has been burned?

1. Spots that are lighter in color than the rest of the plant, or spots that are white

Spots that are lighter in color than the rest of the plant
Spots That Are Lighter in Color

In addition, these spots may have a rough texture that is rough to the touch. These light spots appear when the burn is not yet severe.

2. Yellow, brown, and black spots

Brown Spots on Succulent Due to Sunburn
Brown Spots on Succulent Due to Sunburn

If you’ve had severe burns, you’ve probably seen these spots; the dark colors indicate damaged cells. Succulent may also turn purple or pink due to excess sun exposure.

These marks are almost permanent; if they appear on the leaves, they will remain until they are renewed and replaced by new leaves.

3. Plant parts that are “dry”

Succulent Leaves Dry out and Fall off Due to Sun Burn
Succulent Leaves Dry out and Fall off Due to Sun Burn

Severe burns, in addition to the stains or scars they leave, can “dry out” parts of the succulents. 

For example, some burned leaves begin to dry from the edges and fall off the plant.

How to Keep Succulents From Burning

[1] Acclimatization

The key to preventing sunburn on your succulents is to gradually increase their exposure to light.

Check the lighting conditions at the nursery or store before purchasing new succulents. 

As soon as you get them home, keep them in a well-lit area out of the direct sun. 

Once they are able to tolerate being in their final location, you can increase their exposure to sunlight by 30 minutes per day.

If you move succulents from a place with lower light to a higher light, you should increase the amount of light by half an hour every day. 

For example, I move the winter-protected plants in the spring and gradually expose them to the sun until they are able to withstand spending the entire day outside.

Be sure to keep an eye on how your succulents adjust to the new environment during the acclimation period. 

Color and texture variations should be monitored closely.

  • If you see white spots, wrinkles, or closed rosettes on your succulent leaves, it’s a sign that it’s not coping well with the change and you should take it easy.
  • A change in color, especially at the leaf tips, indicates that succulents have reached the point where their natural pigments have been activated due to stress.

[2] Taking Care Of The Epicuticular Wax Layer

Some succulents have an epicuticular wax layer or farina that covers their leaves and stems. It acts as a natural sunscreen by reflecting ultraviolet light rays, among other things.

Maintaining and caring for the epicuticular wax layer is critical if you want to keep your succulents free of sunburns. 

Using certain products, such as rubbing alcohol, can irritate or harm this protective layer, so it should be avoided.

As a result, I recommend that you avoid touching your plants and exposing them to friction. 

Also, if you’re going to use an insecticide on your succulents, I advise that you test it on a leaf first to make sure it won’t affect the bloom.

[3] Avoid The “Magnifying Glass Effect”

Magnifying glasses act as a funnel to concentrate and amplify the sun’s rays when placed in the sun. 

This phenomenon is referred to as the “magnifying glass effect,” and it can be seen in crystals, as well as water droplets.

The magnifying glass effect can cause your plants to burn because it amplifies the sun’s rays. Therefore, our recommendation is:

Keep succulents away from windows when there is direct and strong light, as the glass can create a “magnifying glass effect.”.

In glass terrariums that get light in the morning or afternoon, avoid the brightest hours of direct sunlight because the glass in the terrarium can magnify the effects of light.

Do not wet the leaves when watering, especially if the succulents are in direct sunlight. 

Even small drops can have a magnifying effect, leaving visible marks on the succulents’ surfaces.

[4] Avoid Spraying And Excessive Exposure To The Sun

Succulents become more sensitive to light when treated with a variety of insecticides, both commercial and homemade. This means that sprayed succulents are more likely to burn.

This is why spraying late in the day will not harm your plants, as they will have had the entire night to rest and recover.

In addition to this precaution, I relocate some of the sprayed succulents to the shade or spray when several cloudy days occur in a row. We can avoid burning the succulents this way.

[5] Sun And Heat Protection

Depending on how hot it gets and how intense the sun is, even properly acclimatizing your succulents may not suffice.

Do not forget about seasonal changes, especially in spring and summer when the days get longer. Remember these safety precautions as well:

  • Make sure your succulents are well-hydrated by providing plenty of water on a regular basis. They are more prone to burning if they become dehydrated.
  • Keep succulents in the shade if the weather is too hot or sunny.
  • Succulents that can’t be moved shade with screens, shade cloth, or awnings.

How to Treat Succulent Burns

The severity of the burn will determine how well a burned succulent responds to treatment and recovery.

In the case of minor burns

There are only white marks or spots on the surface to indicate burns, so they are clearly visible.

  • Put your succulent in a shady spot to avoid burning it.
  • If the substrate is dry around the succulent, give it some water. A healthy amount of water intake will be necessary for it to fully recover.
  • Keep your succulent in low light for at least three days before moving it.
  • Re-acclimate your succulent to the sun by increasing its exposure time each day.

Succulents that have been exposed to these mild conditions may fully recover or have a mark that is barely noticeable after a few months.

In cases of severe burns

When the plant has dark spots or is severely dried out.

  • Relocate your succulent to a location where it will receive less light.
  • If the substrate is dry around the succulent, give it some water.
  • Put the succulent through “water therapy” if it is extremely parched.
  • Remove or prune the affected stems and leaves after a week. Please keep in mind that severe burns will last until the plant itself regenerates its leaves, whichever comes first. So, if you want, you can directly prune and remove the worst-affected parts.
  • To re-acclimate your succulent to the sun, expose it to it more and more frequently.

Finally, I always emphasize the importance of learning to listen to and understand the signals that our plants send us. 

I hope you found this article useful in identifying burns on succulents and, of course, preventing and treating them.