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One of the easiest houseplants to grow, pothos plants are attractive in almost any style of decor. They do not have special care needs and thrive on benign neglect – fortunately, for those of us who, ahem, may forget the odd watering from time to time! 

However, if you have a home with large windows and tons of sunlight, there’s one thing to be aware of: much like the rest of us, a pothos with sunburn isn’t a happy pothos. 

So if you’ve noticed your plant looking less than perfect recently and are wondering if your pothos gets too much sun from that perfect spot in your home you chose for it, keep reading to find out what to do.

4 Simple Steps to Save a Pothos With Sunburn

Can pothos get sunburn?

Yes, your pothos can get sunburn. Pothos plants prefer bright, indirect light and if you put them in too much sun, their leaves will become discolored. This is a sign of sun damage to the leaves.

Sometimes people notice that their houseplants are dusty. If it is rainy outside, putting the potted plants outdoors on a porch is a great way to clean them (and it’s certainly true that your pothos can live outside!). However, if you forget about your pothos or put it somewhere less than ideal during that period, especially a spot where your pothos gets too much sun by being exposed to direct sunlight for too long, it could mean bad news for your plant.

This often happens when people move their houseplants to a covered porch for the summer months. If the sunlight is too intense, or the change is too abrupt, you can end up with a pothos with sunburn.

How much light should a pothos get? Find out here.

What are the signs of sunburned pothos?

Pothos plants are known for their beautiful, often variegated leaves, but a sunburned pothos plant will have definite signs. This often first includes white blotches, like the leaves are bleached, followed by those spots turning brown. You’ll tend to see this on the tops of leaves as these are most exposed to the sun.

Eventually, these brown spots will start to turn crispy, leaving the leaf looking pretty dead. You may also see those brown spots turn into holes in your pothos’ leaves, with excessive direct sunlight being one of the main causes of these forming.

pothos with sunburn
Example of a pothos with sunburn, including damaged leaves

How do you fix a pothos with sunburn?

There are several steps to helping your poor pothos plant recover from too much sun exposure. If you do these things, your plant will most likely be able to recover from the sunburn. 

  1. First of all, get that plant out of the sun! Bring the pothos inside to a cool area and keep it in a shady spot. It will need to get healthy before it can go back to its typical spot.
  2. Second, your plant was most likely dried out by its sun exposure. Give the plant a long, cool drink by watering it until the water pours out of the holes in the bottom of the pot (as your pothos has drainage, right?). You may even want to mist the leaves of the plant with a mister to help it cool down.
  3. Third, be sure the pothos plant is in a place with good ventilation. It is probably very hot and will need to cool off. Your plant may even benefit from a fan being turned on near where the plant is located.
  4. Last, after a day or so, pothos leaves that are damaged by the sun will turn brown. You should remove leaves that are badly damaged by clipping them with scissors. Leaves that are only slightly damaged can stay on the plant.
watering can next to pothos with sunburn

What do you do with burnt pothos leaves?

Burnt pothos leaves won’t recover so should be trimmed or removed altogether from your plant. Simply throw them in the trash or a compost pile. These leaves are not diseased, just damaged, and will not infect other plants.

Make sure though that you only completely remove those leaves that are damaged beyond repair. Often, when it comes to a pothos with sunburn, only part of the leaf will be damaged, with the rest still being green and healthy. In those cases, it’s fine to trim off just the burned part.

What happens if pothos gets too much sun?

A pothos that gets too much sun will develop sunburned leaves. This will involve the top sides of the leaves turning white then brown and drying out. If the problem isn’t resolved quickly enough, this can cause the plant to die.

Generally, a plant won’t die from sunburn unless it’s really left in the sunlight for a while. Usually, you’ll only lose a few leaves and while your plant may look sad for a while, it will soon recover. Moving it away from the excessive light and giving it a good drink will go a long way to you making your pothos fuller again.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your houseplants anyway. In this case, this will make sure that you catch the problem in time so that your sunburned pothos doesn’t have too many burned leaves. Otherwise, without enough healthy leaves to photosynthesize, it may not survive.

How can my pothos get sunburned?

Pothos can be sunburned indoors as well as outdoors. If you bring home a plant from a dimly lit plant shop and put it in a brightly lit window, it can get sunburn. Additionally, if you put it outside on a porch for the summer, quickly changing the lighting, it can be sunburned.

Pothos can make these transitions well, but the key to making the changes is to slowly change the pothos plant’s environment. If you bring home a new plant, put it in a low light area for several days before putting it in a bright window. If you want to put your plant on the porch, it needs a shady spot for awhile before it will be ready for brighter light. A pothos that gets too much sun straight away really won’t go well.

You may want to move the plant to the brighter place for a few hours in the morning, the first day or two when you start exposing it to more light. Morning light is gentle to plants. Slowly increase the amount of light that the pothos plant receives each day.