How to Protect Your Plants Against Sunburn

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How to Protect Your Plants Against Sunburn

Sunlight is no doubt beneficial to plants. It helps them produce food through photosynthesis, provides warmth, and aids in their growth. However, too much of a good thing can be harmful. 

When plants are exposed to too much sunlight, much like people, they too can get sunburned. This can lead to the leaves drying out, curling up, and eventually turning brown and dying. 

So, how can you prevent your plants from getting sunburned? We have listed a few tips below. 

What Exactly Is a Plant Sunburn?

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Before we dive into how to prevent plant sunburn, it’s important to understand what it is. 

Plant sunburn is a type of plant damage that occurs when leaves are exposed to too much sunlight. The symptoms of sunburn include brown or yellow patches on the leaves, and in severe cases, the leaves may become crisp and fall off. If the sunburn is severe enough, it can kill the plant. 

Sunburn is most likely to occur during periods of intense sunlight, such as late spring and early summer. However, it can also happen on cloudy days if the sun is strong enough. Low humidity, low nighttime temperatures followed by strong daytime sunlight, and varied horticulture methods such as how a tree or shrub is cut or shaped are other stressors.  

Differentiating Plant Sunburn From Plant Sunscald

There are two main kinds of sun damage in plants: sunburn and sunscald. Here’s what makes them different from each other:


When the leaves of a plant are exposed to direct sunlight, the UV rays can cause the cells in the leaves to break down. This process is similar to what happens when human skin is sunburned. The symptoms of sunburn include the yellowing or browning of leaves, or the leaves may become crisp and fall off.  


Sunscald happens for the same causes—too much sun exposure—but instead of the leaves being damaged, it’s the trunk or branches that are affected. Wood that has been sunscalded is more prone to wood-boring insects and fungal illnesses. In the worst-case scenario, the bark becomes girdled with cankers, obstructing the passage of nutrients via the inner bark and resulting in the plant’s death. Sunscald can also happen to fruits, causing skin damage and making the fruit more vulnerable to pests and infections.

How To Protect Your Plants From Sunburn

Now that we’ve gotten you up to speed on what plant sunburn is and the different types of damage it can cause, let’s discuss how you can protect your plants from it. There are a few essential things you can do:

1) Plan Your Plant Placements

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Even plants that thrive in sunny conditions need some form of shade during the day. This is because prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause leaves to scorch and wilt, eventually leading to plant death. 

Shade helps protect plants from the damaging effects of the sun, and it can also help keep the soil moist and cool.

The key here is to be strategic about your plant placements. If you have a garden that gets direct sunlight for most of the day, place sun-loving plants near the edge so they can get some relief from the shade of taller plants. And if you have potted plants, move them around throughout the day so they don’t stay in one spot for too long. 

2) Try Applying “Sunblock”

You can also try applying a physical barrier, such as sunscreen or shade cloth, to protect your plants from the sun. 

For example, mulch helps keep the roots of plants cool and moist while also reflecting some of the sun’s rays. Landscape fabric can be used to create a barrier between plants and the sun, and it’s available in a variety of densities to provide different levels of protection.

Both these options are readily available at most garden stores. They’re easy to use and relatively inexpensive, so they’re worth a try if you’re looking for ways to protect your plants from sunburn and help lock in moisture.

3) Invest In Shade Netting

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Shade netting is an essential investment for any gardener who wants to protect their plants from the sun. 

Made from a durable mesh material, shade netting provides vital shade and protection from the elements. It can be used to create a temporary shelter for young plants or installed permanently to provide ongoing protection.

Shade netting is available in various sizes and styles, so it’s easy to find an option that suits your needs. In addition to protecting your plants, shade netting can also help to extend the growing season by providing a cool, protected environment for tender plants. 

4) Learn To Water Your Plants Properly

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Plant dehydration is one of the leading causes of plant sunburn. This is because when plants don’t have enough water, their leaves become stressed and unable to properly photosynthesize. As a result, they become more susceptible to damage from the sun.

To avoid this, make sure you’re watering your plants regularly and deeply. Check the soil before watering to see if it’s dry, and water the plants until the soil is moist but not soggy.

You should also be aware of the signs of dehydration in plants so you can catch it early and take action. Some common symptoms include wilted leaves, yellowing leaves, and leaf drops.

5) Plant Transplants Under the Cover of Stronger Plants

If you’re looking for an alternative to shade cloths or row covers, one option is to plant transplants under the cover of stronger plants with established root systems. 

This can provide the young plants with the protection they need from harsh heat or pests while also benefiting from the established plant’s root system.

In addition, this method can help reduce the amount of water and fertilizer needed, as the roots of the established plant will help to share these resources with the transplants. This can be an excellent option for gardeners looking for a more sustainable way to grow their plants. 

6) Plant Seedlings Deeper

Want to give your seedlings a head start? Plant them a little deeper than usual. This will help to protect the delicate leaves and stems from the sun’s rays while they’re still young and developing.

By planting seedlings deeper, you’ll also be able to reduce the amount of water needed as the roots will be able to access moisture more easily.  It also effectively shields the delicate leaves from direct sunlight, helping to prevent sunburn.

Need Help Protecting Your Plants From Sunburn?

If you’re looking for a little more protection for your plants this summer, reach out to Kel Lake Garden Centre. We have all the supplies and knowledge you need to keep your plants healthy and happy–even in the face of some intense sun! Have questions or want advice on how to best protect your garden? Contact us today. We would love to help!

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