Is Your Pothos Sunburnt From Too Much Sun? [With Pictures]


The Pothos is a popular plant for beginners due to its relative ease of care. It’s one of those houseplants that enjoys a range of lighting conditions, but it’s this flexibility that we sometimes forget that the Pothos can get sunburnt.

The Pothos can experience sunburn and permanent leaf damage when exposed to direct sunlight for an extended period. The risk of burning depends on the weather temperature, humidity, light intensity, watering, and fertilizing. The most common signs of the Pothos being sunburnt are the discolorization, wilting, and curling of the leaves.

If you have a Pothos that you think might be sunburnt, I present a few examples for a visual comparison. I also provide everything you need to know to ensure your Pothos doesn’t get sunburnt again!

What Causes Sunburn in Pothos?

There are several factors that contribute to the over-drying and scorching of leaves:

  • Excessive direct sunlight
  • High weather  temperatures
  • Low humidity
  • Heatwaves
  • Insufficient watering
  • Over-fertilizing

The Pothos ranks below average in resisting sun and heat damage. It has waxy leaves to retain water moisture, and its shine deflects some of the sun’s rays. However, the Pothos does not have traits to adapt to the drought environment, such as succulents.

When the Pothos is placed in an open environment that is susceptible to changing weather conditions and sun exposure, it is very likely to experience burns on the leaves. The risk of scorching is further exacerbated if you live in a region of occasional summer heatwaves.

Another cause of sunburn that is not often thought about is fertilizer burns. These burns occur when fertilizer is sprayed on foliage when the plant is under the sun. The fertilizer contains salts that draw moisture out of plants, and with the addition of sunlight, this causes yellowing and brown discoloration of leaves after a few days.

To reduce the risk of sunburns on the Pothos, it’s best to do watering and fertilizing activities early in the morning, away from the intense sun that arrives later in the day.

Is Your Pothos Getting Too Much Sun?

There are visual cues that tell you that your Pothos is getting too much sun. If you see brown patches, yellowing, wilting, and curling of leaves, there’s a good chance that your Pothos is feeling the sun scorch. As you would at the beach, the plant needs to be moved into a shaded area immediately.

Take a look at the Neon Pothos that I had mistakenly left out under full sun:

The leaves of this Neon Pothos that suffered more than 30% burns were irrecoverable. They curled, yellowed, and dried over time which meant that I had to cut the leaves off. There were still some good leaves remaining, so the plant re-grew new leves after I positioned it away from the sun.

I also have the Golden Pothos that had taken on too much sun during summer. After the Golden Pothos was left under the full sun for a week, the upper leaves of the plant were clearly scorched:

Although the Golden Pothos has waxy leaves to shield against the harsh sun, the low humidity and hot weather temperatures resulted in faster burns. The leaves started to yellow and feel crispy, so I moved the plant elsewhere.

Here’s another example of a Pothos getting fried:

Photo Courtesy of Savannah Beavers (FB)

Again, the sunburn on this Pothos is seen on the yellowing leaves and crisping edges. This plant may have been underwatered, further contributing to the overall wilting appearance.

Does the Pothos Like Direct Sunlight?

The Pothos does not mind a few hours of direct sunlight. It prefers to be positioned where it receives morning sunlight where the sun rays are not as harsh as in the afternoon.

I have a Pothos plant placed under the carport where it receives a half-day of sunlight. It stays in the same place all year long except during the summer days when the temperature reaches 86 to 95 Fahrenheit  (30 to 35 Celcius), and the air is dry. I make sure that the Pothos is entirely out of the sun’s way.

Keeping the Pothos under partial sun conditions has resulted in my Pothos growing quite well. Compared to the Pothos that I have grown indoors, I’ve noticed that the stems grow much thicker and their leaves broader when it’s placed outside. The size of the Pothos resembles more of those that are found in the forests:

For the plant beginner, the safest spot to place your Pothos is near the window with bright indirect light. Even if it’s exposed to some direct sunlight, it should not suffer leaf burns as these plants are pretty hardy. Its thick waxy leaves give it some protection against the sun.

Does the Pothos Need Full Sun?

No, the Pothos does not need a full day’s sun to grow.

The Pothos grows well under bright indirect lighting conditions. For this reason, the Pothos is a common indoor plant that is positioned near a window. It’s also a very popular plant choice for offices, cafes, and restaurants where there is limited lighting but still provides beautiful greenery in its given space.

I Think My Pothos Is Sunburnt? What do I do?

Any discolorization of the leaves does not necessarily mean that the Pothos have been sunburnt. Take, for example, this Pothos that was provided by a April Waters:

Photo courtesy of April Waters (FB)

The browning patches of this Pothos may seem like it’s experiencing some overheating and dryness. However, as it turns out, the plant lacked nutrients, so April Waters gave it some worm castings on the top of the soil. The plant has been thriving ever since.

The lesson here is that before assuming your plant has been sunburnt, check the conditions of your soil, such as water moisture and any visible pests. If the Pothos is being overwatered and there’s the presence of bugs, it will also cause discolorization of the leaves and wilting. Also, note whether your Pothos have been placed under direct sunlight.

If you’ve analyzed the situation and concluded that the discolored Pothos have been sunburnt, this can be fixed by relocating the plant to a shaded spot. Cut the damaged leaves near the nodes and remove any dead leaves that have fallen. Water the soil until moist, and your Pothos will most likely produce new growth.

AskthePlantician

Hi I'm Mike, a self-proclaimed plantician (an invented profession to describe a plant enthusiast). Based in Sydney Australia, I enjoy the great outdoors and the greenery things around the garden, in particular, indoor climbing plants.

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