In Diseases & Problems

Complete Guide on Identifying and Caring for a Sunburned Succulent in Your Garden

Even for the best gardener, you can choose a spot that is difficult for even a succulent to thrive in. Too much sun causes sunburn. Sunburned succulents will turn white or brown on the leaves in large patches and need to immediately be moved to a less sunny location but there are many other factors that go into saving one.

3 tips to avoid sunburned succulents in your garden

Tips to Avoid Sunburned Succulents

  • Avoid direct, midday sunlight
  • Get your plant used to its sunny location slowly
  • Use sprays at lowest effective rate

Choose Filtered Sun

The simplest way to save a sunburned succulent is to avoid the issue in the first place. You should start by choosing a location in your home or yard that gets a decent amount of sun. But that sun needs to be in either the early morning or evening. If your location gets midday sun, you need to at least make sure it’s filtered sun.

Acclimate Your Succulent Slowly

If you do have a sunnier location that you want your succulent to live in, you should slowly adapt your plant to the sun in that location. Start with just an hour or two each day for a week. The next week, add another hour or two each day. Eventually, the plant will be better adapted to living in that location.

Avoid Pesticides and Sprays

The final tip to avoid a sunburned succulent is to avoid spraying pesticides, insecticides, or alcohol onto the plant. These products wear away at the succulent’s naturally protective outer layer and make it more susceptible to sunburn. If you do need to use these products, dilute them down so that you use them in as low a rate as possible.

Can Sunburned Succulents Recover

If your succulent did get sunburned, your can recover the plant; provided that your sunburned succulent has not gotten too damaged. The moment you notice any sun damage, you need to act on it because the sooner you act, the more likely you can save the plant.

sunburned succulent care

How to Treat a Sunburned Succulent

  • Move the plant out of the sun
  • Make sure your succulent is watered well enough
  • Remove any dead or crispy leaves
  • Choose a location more appropriate for your succulent

Surprisingly, you should treat a sunburned succulent very similar to a sunburn on a person. The more severe the damage, the more drastic your measures need to be. But similar to a person, your succulent can recover.

First, move the plant out of the sun so that it has time to recover. The succulent doesn’t need to be in the dark by any means but it should be in a location that has less direct sunlight.

Check to make sure that your sunburned succulent is watered well enough. You may not need to water it more but succulents that develop sunburn are also susceptible to underwatering.

If there are any leaves that are obviously dead or crispy, remove them gently. Just like a severe sunburn on a person needs to have the dead tissue removed for healthy tissue to replace it. Don’t remove a leaf just because it has a patch of sunburn on it though as this will severely weaken the plant.

Finally, you need to choose a more appropriate location for your succulent. Choose a location with sun that is less likely to be direct or midday sun. Your plant may have been too close to the window and the glass magnified the force of the UV rays. But try new locations until you find one that your plant seems to like.

Damaged succulent leaves

Should I Remove Sunburned Succulent Leaves

The question to remove sunburned succulent leaves is a difficult one. Of course, if your plant only has one or two leaves with visible damage, you can remove them if you are gentle.

Just remember that the more material you remove from the plant due to sunburn, the fewer leaves the succulent will have to not only hold water but also to produce energy to grow and recover.

Do not be tempted to remove more than a couple of leaves from a sunburned succulent or you could easily shock the plant into an early death.

Will the Leaves ever Turn Green Again

This is the one area in which a sunburned succulent is different from a person. In a person, new tissue will grow and there may not even be a scar showing where a sunburn happened. But in a succulent, the plant will always show signs of a sunburn. The leaf will never turn a bright, healthy green again.

What Does a Sunburned Succulent Look Like

At the beginning of a sunburn, the plant will develop white, yellow, or light green spots on its leaves. There won’t be a regular pattern of small spots. Instead, a sunburned succulent usually develops larger patches of damage. At this point, you can definitely save the plant with the solutions already discussed.

These spots will then turn darker and browner as the plant gets more damaged. As the damage gets worse, the leaf will start to wilt or droop as the cell walls are damaged. Depending on how many leaves are damaged, or the percentage of the plant damaged, you may or may not be able to save the sunburned succulent at this point.

Eventually, the brown leaves will turn crispy and begin to fall off as they die. There is no saving a leaf that turns crispy.

Type of Succulent Prone to Sunburn

  • Echeveria
  • String of Buttons (Crassula perforata)
  • Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’
  • Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
  • Zebra Plant (Haworthia erythraea)


If you keep succulents long enough, eventually you will need to take care of a sunburned succulent. Start by trying to prevent sunburn. But once you know what to look for and how to treat it though, you should be able to successfully and easily take care of one of these plants. When in doubt, treat your plant like you would treat a sunburned person and you’ll probably do the right thing.

You Might Also Like