how to deal with a sunburned monstera

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Monstera getting sunburned is a very common occurrence.

I can only assume that this is because fenestrations and large leaves are only possible if you give Monsteras a TONNE of light, so excited Monstera owners shove their poor, defenceless plant baby out into full sun on a balmy July afternoon.

Plants burn VERY easily.

Monstera are very good at adapting to the conditions they’re given. It’s one of the reasons they’re still popular.

But they need time to adapt. They will LOVE growing outside in full sun IF they’re acclimatised properly.

By the way, the rule I follow regarding having Monstera outside is this: if it's too hot/cold for me to be outside, bring them in. 

You're allowed to wear a light jacket in this scenario, but not a winter coat.

Hope this helps!

How Monstera get sunburned

Same way we do – the sun is hot & bright, and it burns them.

Before you go spraying the factor 50 on your plants, it’s worth mentioning that plants are better at adapting than we are*.

*ok, not better. Just different. But somehow being able to produce one’s own sunscreen from within one’s body seems more impressive than building a house to sit in, or putting a hat on.

Plants produce compounds called sinapate esters that help to protect them from the sun.

One type, sinapoyl malate can filter out all UVB radiation. Impressive stuff.

But plants need time to build up these compounds up. There’s no use producing them if you spend your days chilling on someone’s side table, 2 metres from a window in Manchester.

Don’t put variegated Monstera outside – they have less protection than their all-green counterparts and are WAY slower to regrow. You have been warned.

What do sunburned Monstera leaves look like?

It depends on how sunburned it is.

I don’t have a sunburned Monstera, and I’m not going to burn one of mine to show you, but if you leave your plant in the sun and the leaves go brown, black or droop completely, it’s fair to say it’s been burned.

Should I cut off sunburned Monstera leaves?

Yes.

Sunburned Monstera leaves won’t return to their green, unburned state. The cells are dead.

The dead leaves won’t actively do any harm to the plant, but they can become a breeding ground for bugs. Snip them off with scissors, as close to the stem as you can, and chuck them away.

If the leaf is only half-burned, you can trim off the burned part of you like (the edge will still blacken). Any green left can still photosynthesise and provide energy to help regrow the plant.

How to fix a sunburned Monstera

There isn’t a lot you can do, other than chop off any dead bits and start again.

The first thing you need to do is rehydrate the soil.

Soil that’s been baking outside in the heat can become hydrophobic – which means it won’t absorb water readily.

Instead of top watering it, sit it in a big bowl of cool water and allow the soil to soak up the water.

The water can be room temperature or slightly cooler, but don’t use cold water, because you’re risking shocking the plant and it’s already gone through enough.

That’s all you can go really.

Interestingly, if all the leaves have been burned to crisp but the roots are ok (which is often the cases because soil stays a bit cooler), you could try leaving the Monstera in the same place outside.

The new leaves are likely to be more acclimatised to the light and will grow quickly due to the bright light.

This really depends on how bright/hot it is. Again – too hot for you, too hot for Monstera.

If it were me, I’d move my Monstera into the shade – ideally somewhere that gets direct light in the morning, and is in the shade in the afternoon, when the sun is at its hottest.

How to put Monstera outside without it burning

1 – Make sure it’s in the shade

Even shady parts of your garden are likely to be brighter than the brightest parts of your house – you just can’t tell because our eyes aren’t that great at discerning how bright something is.

2 – Acclimate it properly

This is just a process of gradually exposing your Monstera to more light.

Monstera can deal with pretty bright light, as long as their other needs are met. They grow wild, vining up exposed palm trees, in Florida in pretty bright light, because they’re getting the water and humidity they need.

You’re unlikely to find them out in the desert because it’s too hot and dry, but the bright light isn’t the issue.

Try putting your plant in the shade for a couple of weeks and see how it likes it. It will more than likely start growing faster.

Gradually move it into brighter light until it’s in the spot that you like. Keep a close eye on it every time you move it – just in case you need to move it back.

How long will it take a Monstera to recover from sunburn?

Sunburn does all the lasting damage at once – a leaf can burn in a matter of hours – but that it. There won’t be any ongoing damage.

The damage, however, is done. Burned leaves won’t regrow.

If you’ve burn your prize, 8-foot Monstera to a crisp and you want to know how long it’ll take for it to recover, then that’s a more difficult question to answer.

First, check the roots. If they look shrivelled and brown, the plant is toast. That’s fairly unlikely unless the plant was already very underwatered.

I have an article here on getting Monstera to grow faster, but we’ll do a quick run-through on how to get your Monstera to grow faster now:

  • A lot of light

Don’t give up on keeping your Monstera outside – just move it to a shadier pot. If you want to keep it indoors, put it in a bright window or under a grow light to maximise growth.

  • High humidity

Monstera don’t NEED high humidity, just like I don’t need a healthy diet.

BUT

If you give it humidity of around 75% it’ll grow much faster. Try a grow tent (if you have the space, they’re really fun) and get a light on it, and it’ll grow enormous in a year.

To illustrate this point, think about how your body will improve if you eat fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, and seeds. Your body will be FINE if you eat unhealthy food, but get the bare minimum of your nutritional requirements. But it could be INCREDIBLE if you ate super healthily.

Not grow-110-feet-up-a-tree incredible, like a Monstera, but I’m just trying hammer home how much faster plants grow if they’re thriving.

  • Food and water

Water it when it’s dry, fertilise it every 4 weeks. That’s…pretty much it. Monstera aren’t particularly picky, and are happy with tap water and any type of fertiliser you can find. I would half the suggested dose of fertiliser, but other than that, just use whatever you can find.

Can the leaves of a sunburned Monstera recover?

Errrrr no. The leaf is dead. Sometimes, if you’re fast enough, a leaf can sustain a bit of damage and bounce back, but if it’s got black marks on it, it’s probs toast (was that a pun? Kinda).

In conclusion

Sunburn is rarely a death sentence for Monstera, unless you leave it out there for a while and the roots perish.

But burnt leaves ain’t coming back, so chop them off. Draw a line under the incident and resolve to grow your Monstera back bigger and better than before.

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