Philodendron Sunburn SOS: How to Rescue Your Plants and Keep Them Healthy

YIKES 😱! Your precious philodendron has been sunburnt! Don’t worry, though; it’s not as bad as it looks. The good news is that with a little TLC, your plant baby will return to its healthy self in no time.

First things first, let’s tackle the burn. It may look severe, but it’s really just on the surface and won’t harm your plant long-term as long as you follow this step-by-step guide to help you heal your sunburnt philodendron.

Philodendron Sunburn

In this guide, we will be covering:

  • how to identify philodendron sunburn
  • common causes of sunburned philodendrons
  • ways to prevent sunburn, and
  • treating your sunburnt philodendron the right way.

So go make yourself a coffee and get comfortable. We’re about to get our hands dirty.

Sunburned Philodendron Backstory

We are no strangers to a sunburned philodendron.

We faced this very problem when we discovered an abandoned Philodendron Birkin on the side of the road on our way to a Mother’s Day lunch.

Sunburned Philodendron

Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture, the philodendron Birkin sustained extensive sun damage to the new leaves on top of the plant.

If you have been around the Garden Bench Top before, you know we love a good challenge!

And nurturing this sunburnt philodendron back to health was the perfect opportunity.

Plus, what type of plant parent would we be if we left this beautiful specimen to continue deteriorating on the roadside?

How to Identify Philodendron Sunburn

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of treatment for your plant baby, let’s first confirm that what we are actually dealing with is, in fact, philodendron sunburn.

Signs & Symptoms of Sunburn in Philodendrons

The typical symptoms include:

  • Discolored leaves turning yellow, brown, or black around the top of the plant
  • Leaves feel dry, papery, or have a crispy texture.
  • Leaf edges curling or adopting a burned appearance, and
  • Dropping leaves prematurely.
Close up of burned philodendron leaves

Looking at the images of our sunburned birkin, you can clearly see the upper leaves had turned brown and sustained most of the damage.

Coupled with the fact that, when we discovered the philodendron, it was a clear sunny day. Since philodendrons prefer indirect bright light, the direct sunlight was too intense for the new growth, resulting in damage.

There were also a couple of brown leaves at the bottom of the plant, which indicated that it may also have been dehydrated.

How to Differentiate between Sunburn and Other Plant Problems

It’s equally important to understand when your plant may suffer from problems other than sunburn.

Some symptoms to look for that may indicate your philodendron plant has other issues include:

  • Inconsistent pattern damage – sun damage usually occurs at the top of the plant or to parts exposed to direct sunlight. If your plant baby has damage that doesn’t follow a specific pattern, there could be other problems in play.
  • Irregular damage – typically, sunburn results in crispy brown patches on the leaves. Whereas leaves with brown spots surrounded by a yellow halo tend to suggest a bacterial infection.
  • Stem and root damage – sunburn is generally superficial damage that occurs on the most vulnerable parts of a philodendron, the leaves. Observing problems with the stems and roots alongside leaf damage would suggest an overwatering issue.

What Causes Sunburn to Philodendrons

Causes of Philodendron Sunburn

Like us, the leading cause of philodendron sunburn is excessive exposure to direct sunlight.

While some plants can withstand the intensity of direct sunlight, like snake plants, philodendrons are the bottom dwellers of tropical rainforests. This means in their natural environment, they are sheltered by the trees and canopy of the forest.

Another factor that contributes to sun damage developing on a philodendron is a lack of moisture in the soil and immediate environment. This may result from a lack of care or a change in seasons.

This relates to ALL three Plant Parent LAWs we like to teach our Garden Bench Top community: LIGHTING, AWARENESS, and WATERING). We’ll discuss these in detail in the next section.

Preventing Sunburn in Philodendrons

It is easy for a new plant parent to assume philodendrons love sunlight because they are classified as tropical plants; however, by increasing their PLANT AWARENESS, indoor plant enthusiasts can level up their parenting skills and take better care of their babies.

As we established earlier, philodendrons reside on the tropical forest floor, so they do not receive much direct bright sunlight.

If anything, they may experience some dappled sunlight as it penetrates the forest canopy. But the exposure would only be brief.

So, it’s clear that learning about your plant’s LIGHTING preferences will help you avoid these innocent mistakes. And the most effective way to prevent your philodendron from experiencing sunburn is to keep it away from direct light.

We like to keep our philodendron birkin in bright direct sunlight, where it can still receive the benefits of sunlight without the harsh intensity of direct exposure.

Keep Them Well Hydrated

Water is one of the keys to keeping your indoor plant collection thriving.

Ensuring your philodendron is well-watered with elevated humidity levels in the ambient air will help bolster your plant’s defenses.

This means it can withstand the sun’s intensity before its vulnerable leaves become sunburnt.

Garden Bench Top Tip

But do the watering sparingly. It’s easy to shower your plant babies with too much love and tip them into the overwatered zone. We encourage all our readers to master the three Garden Bench Top Plant Parenting LAWs. It is an art form, so if you want to learn more, visit this ARTICLE.

Know Your Lighting Conditions

In addition to using your Plant Awareness to understand your philodendron’s light preferences, you also need to pair this knowledge with the lighting conditions in your home.

This is where mastering the LIGHTING plant parenting LAW is helpful.

Familiarizing yourself with the type of light in your home is critical to preventing your philodendron from becoming damaged due to inappropriate light.

Place your philodendron near a window but not directly in front of it. This way, it will receive bright but indirect sunlight.

Sheer curtain to filer light

If you have limited options and cannot avoid placing your philodendron in full sun, try using a sheer curtain to diffuse the light through the window, reducing its intensity.

Treating Sunburned Philodendrons

Let’s be honest. The main reason you are researching “philodendron sunburn” is most likely because your beautiful philodendron has experienced some sun damage.

So prevention is going to be little help.

How to Revive a Sunburnt Philodendron

Let’s now turn our attention to the steps we took to treat the philodendron birkin we discovered abandoned on the side of the road.

  1. Immediately move your philodendron into a position away from direct sunlight to minimize damage
  2. Remove all damaged leaves. This includes leaves that might have brown, crispy edges that are yellowing or have welts on them. This will help your plant baby focus on recovering and generating new growth. Remember to sanitize your scissors before and after use to prevent the spread of diseases
  3. Set your plant up for success. Check the soil moisture levels and ensure that your philodendron has sufficient water. Remember, not too much water, as this can lead to root rot; maintain consistent moisture.
  4. Monitor your philodendron for positive or watch for negative signs, like yellow leaves. You should see new leaves sprouting in a few weeks, and the overall plant health should improve. Give your plant some extra TLC by wiping the leaves down with a damp cloth to remove dust and promote better photosynthesis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do philodendrons like sun light?

Of course, they do! Philodendrons, like most plants, require light to survive. However, they prefer bright, indirect light – think of a spot well-lit but not directly hit by sunlight.

Ideal locations for a home in the Northern Hemisphere could be near a north-facing window or slightly away from east or west-facing windows, depending on the light intensity throughout the day.

Keep an eye on their leaves – if they start yellowing or drooping, they might need more light; if they seem burned or dry out quickly, they might get too much sun.

Do philodendrons recover from sunburn?

Just like us, philodendrons can bounce back from sunburn! Follow the steps detailed in this guide by relocating it out of direct sunlight, pruning any severely damaged leaves, and sticking to a consistent watering schedule. Remember, recovery takes time, so be patient and monitor its progress.

How often should I water my sunburned philodendron?

When rehydrating your sunburned philodendron, the biggest challenge is to resist the urge to overwater. Instead, aim to water it once a week, checking first if the top inch of the soil is dry using the soil finger test. If it’s still moist, wait a few more days. Remember, over watering can lead to root rot which will cause more headaches for you.

Can I still propagate my sunburned philodendron even if its leaves are damaged?

Yes, most definitely, you can still propagate your sunburned philodendron!

Despite the sunburn, there’s a good chance it can still blossom into a thriving plant. Find a healthy stem on your plant and cut about 6 inches just below where a leaf attaches (this spot is called the ‘node’). Remove any leaves near the bottom of your cutting, as they’ll only get in the way when planting. Place your cutting in water and wait for it to grow roots – this could take a few days or up to two weeks. Opt for a clear container so you can easily see the progress! After you spot roots, it’s time to plant them in some potting mix and place the pot in bright indirect light while keeping the soil slightly moist. Give yourself some patience; before long, you’ll have a new thriving philodendron!