Yes, The Sun Can Burn Houseplants INside. Who Knew?

by | Nov 6, 2018 | 2 comments

Did you know the sun can burn houseplants inside? Who knew? I found out the hard way.

A sunburned houseplant

I care for a few plants at my church and an African violet was on the guest desk six feet to the side of a large south window. It received the right amount of light and grew and flowered well. Unfortunately, someone thought it would do better ON the windowsill because all plants belong on windowsills. This is what I came back to the next week. Ahhhhh! A sunburned African violet.

How the plant looked before I removed the burnt leaves

Sunburned houseplant flowers?

Notice the flowers aren’t damaged. Since the leaves are the part of the plant using the sunlight, they were the parts damaged.

Seeing gorgeous flowers on top of the sunburned houseplant was weird. If plants could scream or cry, I’m sure this one would have. I spilled boiling tea on my hand the other day and I had ice on it for hours. It was so painful! Too bad the violet didn’t have a friendly Aloe vera nearby to lend some soothing gel. I wasn’t home and didn’t have my aloe, either.

Houseplants do like windowsills

Houseplants are fine on windowsills if it is the right windowsill for the plant. Sunburn wouldn’t have occurred if this violet had been moved to an east window.

Southern exposure and sunburn houseplants

The sunlight in a Southern exposure is intense in the summer and best for your high-light-loving houseplants. Cacti and other succulents, crotons, and ficus love it. It isn’t as bright in the winter as the sun is lower in the sky, but it is hot in the spring and summer.

The violet had been 5 feet from the window, receiving bright light. The area outside is a courtyard, surrounded by 2 wings of the church, and the only open area faces south.

It had been in its place for a few weeks and acclimated to that exposure. Placing it in the direct sun was the same as putting a white pasty Michigander in the hot sun after a long, dark winter. We ARE going to burn!

Acclimatize your plants.

Unless the south window has a sheer curtain, an awning, or a tree outside providing shade, a southern exposure is NOT for African violets.

The point is, moving a houseplant from low light to higher light should happen in steps. Move the plant gradually so it can acclimate to the higher light. Research your plant to make sure it wants to grow in high light or you may end up with a sunburned houseplant. The burned leaves will not heal.

Which exposure is best?

The moral of the story is to find out what light your plant needs before you place it in your home. If you researched African violets, you would find that they like bright light, but not intense, hot sun. I’ve found that an east exposure is the best, but the west is fine too.  I removed the sunburned leaves and placed the plant back where it had been and it will recover and bloom again.

Has this ever happened to one of your plants?

Have a great week, plant friends!


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  1. Marie

    Oh yes i did that and lost all my African violet. I was a bad move

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Marie,
      Isn’t that awful. I’m sorry that happened. I don’t think people realize it can happen inside! Lisa


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