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When raising healthy houseplants, it’s easy to make mistakes, particularly if you’re growing a plant that you haven’t before. For example, you may accidentally provide too much light for your plants and cause plant burn and other problems if you’re not careful. 

As a result, it’s vital to know the main signs of too much light on your plants to ensure that you keep them as healthy as possible and to minimize long-term damage.

It’s also good to not only know if your plant has too much sun (or artificial light), but also what to do next so your plants can soon get back to their happy, thriving state!

houseplants next to a window showing signs of too much light for plants

What happens when plants are exposed to too much light?

Plants that are exposed to too much light can experience overly dry soil or burned leaves and stems, which can prevent photosynthesis. This, in turn, can lead to your plant no longer growing and even eventually dying if the problem isn’t fixed in time.

When watching for signs your plant is getting too much light, you need to understand precisely what happens when your plants get exposed to too much light. I’ll run through the symptoms of too much light on your plants below but, safe to say, it’s a good idea to understand your plants’ light needs upfront. That way, you can at least try to position them in a way so that you can hopefully prevent any issues before they arise.

At the same time, keeping an eye on your plants, including for any signs of their getting too much light, should be part of your regular houseplant maintenance routine. In doing so, you’ll be ready to take action if any potential problems start to appear.

Find out more about what is direct sunlight to help you position your plants in your home in the best place possible.

Can indoor plants get too much light?

While it is true that it is more common for indoor plants to get too little light, indoor plants can still get too much light instead. This problem typically occurs when the plant is placed near a specific window in a home where they receive more direct light than they need.

In particular, when placing them in south or west window ledges, you’ll usually notice plant problems. This is because these areas typically get the most sun and can cause severe plant damage very quickly. Moving your plants to the east or north windows may help out and minimize this risk.

Furthermore, plants may get damaged by indoor growing lights as well, especially if they create too much heat. Plants are pretty tough, but even the strongest and most heat-tolerant plants will eventually experience health problems if left in the sun for too long. This especially includes if they tend to be low light indoor plants, meaning they actually prefer far less light than you may be currently giving them.

houseplant next to a window without any symptoms of too much light for plants

Symptoms of too much light on plants

If you’re worried about getting too much light for your plants, it is essential to understand a few signs and symptoms of this problem. The following symptoms are all signs of too much light on your plants and should be watched so that you can make any adjustments to your plant care methods.

1. Droopy leaves

One of the chief signs your plant is getting too much light is drooping leaves. When a plant suffers from any health problems, its leaves are usually the first thing to experience problems. Drooping leaves indicate dying leaves and could be a severe problem for our plant’s overall health.

2. Brown patches

Plants may develop brown patches throughout their leaves that indicate it is getting too much light. These spots may be caused by the sun or plant burn from grow lights. It may also be that your plant is getting too hot and drying out, which could also cause some problems.

3. Faded look

As your plants age, they may lose some leaves from time to time, with normal aging leaving them looking relatively green when they fall. If they look faded or pale when they fall off, your plant is likely getting too much sun and should be moved to help it recover from this damaging problem.

4. Hot plant surface

If you want to know if your plant has too much sun, touch its surface (including the leaves, stems, and branches) to feel how hot it is under your hand. If the plant is too hot to touch or seems uncomfortably warm, it might be getting too much direct sunlight and may be moved.

plant getting light through a window showing signs of plants getting too much light

5. Crispy leaves

When your plant leaves seem crispy or crumble under your fingertips, they’re probably getting far too much light and heat. Remove these damaged leaves so that healthier ones may grow in their place, water the plant if its soil is dry, and move it to a window with less sun.

6. Dried out soil

Some signs of too much light on your plants won’t even be evident on your plant’s body, but on the soil instead. If your soil regularly dries out much faster than the plant species allows, you will know if your plant has too much sun. Move the plant to a window with less direct sunlight to minimize this danger.

Can plants recover from too much sun?

Plants can certainly recover from receiving too much sun, especially because most plants take some time to die from this problem. This means that if you catch the issue early enough, it’s more than possible to save your plant with a bit of time, care and patience.

Plants are very strong and can surprisingly bounce back from some pretty severe problems. However, evolution has provided them with a broad array of different protective and recovery mechanisms that help them come back if you’ve given too much light for your plants, as this issue was common for many plants centuries ago.

plants next to a window

These mechanisms include causing the dying leaves to fall off and temporarily stopping photosynthesis, as these methods minimize damage by stopping a plant’s natural processes. Leaving a plant in too much light after that is likely to cause even more problems, though.

If you’re worried that your plant has been getting too much sun, the best thing to do is to take your plant, move it to a window with less direct light, and let it recover a little. Your recovering plant may also need more water than usual, so pay attention to their soil every day and give them water based on their soil dampness and natural plant needs.

Can too much light kill a plant?

Too much light can kill a plant as burned leaves and stems can cause your plant to stop photosynthesizing. When that happens, your plant will no longer generate the energy it needs to survive, so can die. Too much light can also dry out your plant’s soil too much that it essentially dies of thirst.

If you’ve decided that you’re accidentally giving too much light for your plants and are worried about whether they’ll survive, this is, unfortunately, a valid concern. That is, while plants may recover from this severe overexposure, many more will end up dying. This problem typically occurs if you don’t take corrective measures in time.

For example, if you leave your plant in the sun for days after noticing signs your plant is getting too much light, the problem’s intensity will only worsen. As a result, you might see more signs of too much light on your plants and see them wilt and start to turn brown as this problem worsens. It can also help to check on your specific plant’s light needs, as you might be dealing with a plant that survives without sunlight and thus any light is too much light.

Thankfully, if you notice the symptoms of too much light on your plants early on and make the necessary adjustments, your plant should recover. Just think of these burns like you would a sunburn on your own skin: the plant will need minimal sun for a while, as its recovery mechanisms come into play and keep it protected and safe, but it should likely be fine in the end assuming the burn isn’t too severe.

Related: 6 Clear Signs Your Plants Are Getting Too Much Light

Why do plants get damaged from too much sunlight?

While plants generally need some sunlight to survive, too much light can damage the chemicals that are needed for photosynthesis. This, in turn, can make it impossible for them to operate smoothly, meaning the plant can no longer photosynthesize and, eventually, won’t be able to survive.

While too much heat is the main damaging factor for plants getting too much sun (as mentioned in a previous section), even light itself can become a problem as certain studies have found.

As a result, it is a combination of excessive heat and potential photosynthesis issues that can cause problems with plants exposed to too much light. Plant owners can avoid this by simply shielding their plants from the sun during hot days or moving them to less exposed windows, as needed.

Can plants get too much LED light?

Plants can get too much LED light, especially when the setting is too strong for a particular plant, the light is placed too close to a plant or the light is left on for too long. It’s for this reason that plant owners should check what their specific plant prefers before placing it under a grow light.

LED lights help indoor plants grow by providing them with a healthy alternative to sunlight, one that can give them a suitable and comfortable growing environment. However, when your LED grow light is too strong or placed too close, you may experience some problems with your plants that could cause long-term damage.

LED grow light shining on plant

Remember: your LED grow light probably has a few strength settings you can adjust to get the best results and to avoid accidentally giving too much light for your plants

The best way to know for sure is if the plant’s surface seems warm after sitting under the LED light. A little warmth isn’t necessarily destructive, but too much can be problematic. So turn down your LED light intensity or more away from your plant, as needed, to help minimize plant burn.

Related: What’s the Difference Between LED Lights and LED Grow Lights?

Do plants droop from too much light?

A plant can droop from too much light but also from too little light. A drooping plant can also be a symptom of a variety of other problems. For example, your plant might not be getting the right amount of water, as both under- and over-watering may cause drooping leaves on most plants.

That said, it’s true that a drooping plant is one of the main signs of too much light on your plants, especially if you’re sure that you’re following proper watering guidelines and keeping your growing area at a reasonable humidity. If this sounds like it could be the case for you, take your plants out of these heavily sunny areas and position them in shaded areas to keep them healthy if you notice them starting to look a bit droopy.

This problem may worsen if your growing area is dusty or not cleaned up properly. Dust on your plants can cause trouble absorbing light or trap heat on their surface, and cause severe damage. Dust your plants regularly or mist your plants with a spray bottle to keep them healthy.

Do house lights affect plants?

Though you may think a plant needs UV light to grow, a simple house light bulb may help them grow. It won’t be as effective as a proper grow light, but house lights can help. At the same time,  light bulbs and lamps may also cause damage by providing far too much heat when placed close to a plant.

While more modern light bulbs have a lower heat output than traditional lights, they can still cause damage if they’re placed too close to a developing plant and can result in too much light for your plants. This can be an important point to keep in mind when hanging plants in areas where they may be close to ceiling lights, especially any low light hanging plants you may have that would prefer as little light as possible.

That’s why LED lights and proper growing-light setups are a much better idea for plant growers. They have the perfect setup for many types of plant growths and can ensure that things go smoothly for you. They can also give you an attractive and easy-to-use setup for your plants.

Does 24-hour light hurt plants?

Some plants will thrive under 24-hour light and be very healthy for a long time. However, it is also true that some species of plants need periods of some darkness to bloom and that too much light will damage them. Ultimately, it comes down to the plant species here and what each needs with their light.

That’s because there’s also a “dark reaction” to photosynthesis, one that can occur when plants are or are not exposed to sunlight. Some plants need darkness for these periods, particularly perennials planted through zones nine through 11 or those grown in 10 through 12.