Although many people view succulents as hardy sun-loving plants that do best in bright sunlight, they’re still sensitive to spending a long time in the bright sun. Like many other plants, they can become sunburned—sometimes to the point of no return. It can be alarming to see discoloration or wilting on your succulents, but you can solve this issue with proper care and preventative techniques.
Here are five steps to save a burnt succulent:
- Determine whether or not your succulent can be saved.
- Take your succulent out of direct sunlight.
- Water your succulent (if it’s dry).
- Keep your succulent in the shade until the damage fades.
- Gradually put your succulents back into the sun.
While you may not always be able to save a burnt succulent, it’s possible in most cases. It may take time for your succulent to heal, but new growth will come in with time, making your succulent look as good as new. Let’s take a closer look at the steps we’ve mentioned above.
1. Determine Whether or Not Your Succulent Can Be Saved
Once you notice that your succulent is showing signs of burning, one of the first things you should check for before attempting to save your succulent is whether or not it can be saved.
To see if the succulent is worth saving, check how much time your succulent has been under the sun. If it has been left out in the sun for a couple of days, it should be okay, but if it has been left out in the sun for multiple days, your chances of saving it are lower.
Additionally, if all of the leaves on your succulents are entirely black, there’s a high chance they can’t photosynthesize. So, if there are no green leaves left on your succulent, it’s almost certain that it won’t be able to survive, and you will have to throw it away.
If there are green leaves on your succulent, there’s still a chance that it will grow back, and you should attempt to salvage it.
Depending on how much time your succulent was left out in the sun, it can either be mildly or severely burned, which will determine the process for saving it.
Severe vs. Mild Succulent Sunburns
To check for the severity of the sunburn, take a look at the leaves or the surface of your succulents. If you notice white spots on your succulent that indicate burning, this means that only mild burning has occurred, and you can easily save your succulents.
If you notice brown spots, or even black spots, on the surface of your succulent, then the burn is much more substantial, and the chances of being able to save your plant are lowered.
With brown marks, you cannot undo the damage that has already been done, but that doesn’t mean the plant is completely unsalvageable; it just means there’s a different protocol for saving it.
2. Take Your Succulent Out of Direct Sunlight
Once you’ve determined you have a burnt succulent, it’s important to take it out of direct sunlight immediately. If your plant stays in the sun for too much longer, the risk of it getting burned will increase exponentially.
Once this is done, there are some important variables to consider before proceeding to the next step.
3. Water Your Succulent (if It’s Dry)
If the soil inside the succulent’s pot is feeling dry, moisten it with some water, but don’t try to overwater it to compensate for the burn.
This is a really important step, as dry soil combined with harsh sunlight could have contributed to the issue. While harsh sunlight can burn any plant, the risk of destroying your plant is minimized when it isn’t completely dry.
4. Keep Your Succulent in the Shade Until the Damage Fades
One thing that you want to avoid is putting your succulents back in the sun too quickly. While you don’t want to deprive it of light completely, you want to make sure that the plant stays primarily in a shady area until the burned parts of your succulent are mostly gone.
You don’t want to forget about this step because you shouldn’t put the succulent back into the sun too quickly, which leads to our next step.
5. Gradually Put Succulent Back in the Sunlight
If your succulent has made it this far, and the signs of burning have been minimized, you have successfully saved your succulent.
However, this is where the importance of preventative care comes in. You want to make sure that you have a plan for your succulents so that they can stay healthy and continue to get the right amount of sun.
This step requires careful monitoring of your succulent, as it’s really easy for your plant to burn again. By taking your succulent out into direct sunlight gradually, and in short time frames, it will start to adjust to direct sunlight again, and can be left out by itself.
How To Prevent Succulent Sunburn From Happening (Again)
If you’ve managed to save your burnt succulent and restore it back to its former glory, there are several things you can do to prevent it from happening again.
- Succulents need at least 4-6 hours of sunlight every day to be happy and thrive.
- Don’t place succulents in the direct sun right away. They need to be acclimated, especially if they were purchased inside a store without access to bright sunlight. You need to gradually move it outdoors, starting with only a few hours each day, moving it back in the shade, and then outdoors until it can stand long hours in the sun.
- Place your succulents in the shade, under other plants or succulents. In natural environments, succulents will typically be under at least partial shade, so this is an excellent way to ensure that your plant will get the sun it needs while not frying.
- Don’t place young plants under direct sunlight. You can use a grow light if necessary for the first few months, but make sure that the plant is mature before they are left under the sun unprotected.
Now that the succulents are correctly placed, you should be monitoring them to make sure that they are receiving the right amount of sun.
Especially if you have recently acclimated your succulent to a sunny location, start by checking in on them every few hours to ensure there aren’t any signs of burning on the plant.
Once you have been checking periodically for a while and can be sure that your succulent is happy with the amount of sun it has been getting, you can start to monitor it less frequently while still checking in when watering it to verify it’s healthy.
By monitoring your succulents as they get acclimated to more sun, you ensure that the plants don’t burn, or if they do, that the damage is minimized.
This step is especially useful if you have grow lights but is still useful for indoor succulents. To prevent burning, and even succulent legginess, move your succulents around to different areas so that different sides get light.
This will ensure all sides of your succulents are getting the light they need while preventing burning, as you should occasionally be moving your succulents to shadier areas.
Consider Investing in a Grow Light
Grow lights are good ways for you to get light to your succulents without causing severe burns. Most options are cost-effective, and they give you opportunities to control how much light you are giving to your succulents.
If you don’t have a grow light on hand, I recommend that you purchase one with a timer so you know that your succulents are getting an adequate amount of sun.
While weighing both features and price, I strongly recommend this HyGarden Grow Light With a Timer available on Amazon.com. Not only can you control precisely how much light your succulent will be getting with the built-in timer, but you also get the ability to put multiple succulents under one light.
I also recommend the Briignite Grow Lights for Indoor Plants (also available on Amazon.com) for the ultimate customization your plants need. It has 4 separate lamps with adjustable goosenecks so you can place light where it’s needed, and each operates independent of one another if you choose. This grow light also offers 10 levels of brightness and has a 24 hour timer.
Types of Grow Lights
For indoor plants, there are different types of grow lights that work better for different purposes. Depending on the plant that you want to grow, different types of grow lights will suit your needs.
Here are the three most common types of grow lights:
- Fluorescent Lights: These bulbs are one of the more common options for growing plants indoors, as they are long-lasting and more energy efficient. When shopping for fluorescent grow lights, there will be multiple options for light intensity, and the bulbs come in many formats, with one of the most common being a tube shape.
- LED Lights: These lights are also one of the most common options for growing plants indoors, and they are also one of the most efficient types of grow lights out there. Some major benefits of these lights are a lack of heat production, and a much more focused ray of light. Unfortunately, these lights are on the more expensive side, and the lights can be harmful to your eyes.
- Incandescent Lights: Although incandescent bulbs are technically sold as grow lights, they are definitely one of the more inefficient types of grow lights. Not only can these lights be more expensive, but the wavelengths on incandescent bulbs are not adequate for plant growth.
How To Use a Grow Light Properly
If you decide to use a grow light to control the amount of light you are giving to your succulents, you may wonder how you can use it to its full potential.
Here are some of the most critical points to keep in mind when using a grow light:
- Put your grow light a reasonable distance away from the plant while still providing enough coverage. Most lights will emit heat, so you want to make sure that you avoid further burning on the surface of your plant. Try to put it at least six inches (15.24 cm) away from your plant, but don’t put it more than 40 inches (101.6 cm) away.
- Move your succulents around to avoid only certain parts of your plant getting sunlight. What typically happens with grow lights is that people will leave their plants in one position under the grow light, preventing other sides from getting light. If the light isn’t covering the plant enough, it may become leggy as a result, stretching toward the light source.
- Keep your succulents on a daytime/nighttime schedule so that they can get some darkness in between. You don’t want to put too much stress on your succulents by keeping them under constant light; they also need rest.
Sun-Tolerant Succulents Vs. Shade-Tolerant Plants
To assess whether or not your plants are more likely to burn, one good way to check is by seeing whether or not your plant is sun tolerant or shade tolerant.
It can be both, but keep in mind that with succulents, it all depends on the acclimation process. If you put a succulent in direct sunlight without any adjustments, it will almost surely die. However, if you acclimate it, it can grow used to the sun.
If a succulent that doesn’t like strong sunlight gets too much of it, its chances of burning are much higher than that of a sun-tolerant plant.
Here is a list of common sun-tolerant succulents that you can buy:
- Agave: These are very hardy plants that do well in sunny locations. You can either put them in pots or plant them in the ground.
- Aloe: Also used to treat burns and mild skin conditions, aloe is very hardy and sun-tolerant so that it can grow indoors and outdoors.
- Pencil Tree Plant: Characterized by their cylindrical branches, they love full sun and are very hardy plants. Despite how much they love the sun, make sure that you water them when exposed to the sun for long periods.
- Sedums: These are easy-growing plants that love the sun and are great to be grown in the ground, as they cover a lot of areas.
- Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum): These plants quickly multiply and are suited best for full sunlight. Make sure that you water them frequently, but don’t let water sit in the soil.
- Jade Plant: These are one of the most popular types of succulents. These plants are low maintenance and can do very well in full sun with their thick green leaves. However, the only thing to know about them is that they do need to be acclimated to harsh sunlight, as most, if not all, succulents do.
What’s important to know about shade-tolerant plants is that many (but not all) of them enjoy the full sun too.
With that in mind, here is a list of common shade-tolerant plants:
- Snake Plants: These plants are popular home decor choices because they are relatively low-maintenance. They are shade-loving plants, so they can be put in corners of rooms or shady areas outside.
- Zebra Cactus: These are very striking plants, and they can be grown very easily in shady areas. They are also very small plants, so they won’t take up too much room in your house.
- Burro’s Tail: This is a very popular hanging succulent that can do well when placed in partial shade. An important thing to know about this plant is that once it is situated in a particular area, you should be careful not to move it as it can be extremely delicate.
- String of Bananas: With this beautiful hanging plant, it should be placed in a condition similar to the burro’s tail. You can put it in a basket and even in a shady area outside where it will still get adequate light.
- Fox Tail Agave: This is a variation of the agave plant that can grow very tall and loves the shade.
- Bear Paws: These are beautiful succulents with blooming flowers and thick green pads. They love the shade and work well with smaller spaces as they don’t usually grow more than a foot tall.
Although the steps to saving a burnt succulent are straightforward, it is the process of preventing future burns that can be more complicated.
However, by following the steps outlined in this article, you will be much more successful with growing healthy succulents.
To review, make sure that you are following these steps when saving a burnt succulent:
- Determine whether or not your succulent can be saved.
- Take your succulent out of direct sunlight.
- Water your succulents if the soil is dry.
- Keep your succulent in the shade until the damage fades. Bring your succulents back out to the sun.