How to Revive Plants From Heat Damage - Backyard Boss
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How to Revive Plants From Heat Damage

The worst has happened. You check on your plants, and they are wilting or sunburnt. The edges or tips of the foliage are brittle and brown. If you’ve left the plants too long, the leaves may be turning yellow or white.

There are other reasons leaves wilt or turn color, but burnt leaves are hard to miss. You’ll know the plant is burnt if it only affects the upper or exposed leaves. As a gardener, you’ve likely experienced this with a plant or two. It’s devastating to lose a crop or plant to heat damage but, try not to panic. This guide will walk you through how to revive plants from heat damage.

Why Does Heat Damage Occur?

exotic plant with ornamental foliage
Image credit: Teona Swift via Pexels

Heat damage most often occurs in late spring and summer when the rays of the sun are the hottest. It is the case for both indoor and outdoor plants. As the intensity of light increases in late spring, the sun’s rays can burn houseplants that were fine in the same location during the winter months. Calathea’s are a popular and beautiful houseplant that will burn in direct light.

For outdoor plants, heat damage most often occurs when temperatures soar early in the season. Plants that haven’t had the chance to send out enough leaves to provide shade will be susceptible. Tomato plants are particularly prone to heat damage which can impact their ability to produce fruit. Bringing indoor plants outside without acclimatizing them first can also cause heat damage.

Material’s Needed

pots near plants with garden equipment
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Reviving plants from heat damage isn’t a difficult task with the right equipment. Find below the list of the most essential tools you will need:

  • Garden fabric, shade netting, or bed sheets
  • Rope or zip ties
  • Garden hoops or PVC piping (optional)
  • Mulch

Step One: Move the Plant

plant in living room by window
Image credit: Charlotte May via Pexels

The first step is to get the plant out of the direct sun. If possible, move the affected plant to a shaded location.

For indoor plants, you can move them back a few feet from the window or pull a curtain across the window to protect them from the sun. Placing the plant behind or under another plant may allow for adequate cover to ensure the plant is shaded from the midday sun.

For outdoor pots, tuck them up against a north-facing exterior wall or fence. Look around and be creative with the space you have. If there are any nooks, ledges, umbrellas, or awnings that provide shade, these might be perfect locations for your potted plants.

Step Two: Cover the Plant

row of fresh green plant with plastic cover
Image credits: moxumbic via Canva

For plants difficult to move or those rooted in the ground, try covering them with fabric. You can use garden fabric or shade netting if you have it, but old bed sheets also do the trick.

Secure the fabric over the top of the plant with ropes or zip ties like you would a tarp, leaving room around the plant so it can breathe. The sheet shouldn’t touch the plant.

For something more permanent, you can install garden hoops or PVC piping to hold the cover-up. Row covers have many benefits, including protecting from pests and wind.

Step Three: Mulch

flowers in a mulched bed
Image credit: Faith Crabtree via Unsplash

Mulch can also provide much-needed shade for the roots and help to hold in moisture. You can use mulch for both indoor and outdoor plants. 

Mulch can help indoor potted plants retain water and keep them cool from the heat. Be sure not to use too much mulch for indoor plants, as this can lead to root rot.

For outdoor plants, mulch will also help cut down on the weeds.

Step Four: Wait

backyard with potted plants near table and bushes
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Try to avoid doing too much at once. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to reverse burn marks on the leaves, but your plants can bounce back. Let your plants acclimate to their new environment. If it is still peak heat of the day, wait until the sun has set before watering so the water has time to reach the roots and avoid evaporation. Watering in the middle of the day will likely cause more stress to the plant.

Even if the wilting and yellowing leaving are bothering you, leave pruning for later. These leaves are still protecting the rest of the plant. Instead of pruning, let the plant drop the leaves on its own.

Do not fertilize during a heatwave. The nitrogen in the fertilizer encourages new leaf growth instead of protecting its current leaves and root system.

Step Five: Water

a woman watering plants
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If your plant has heat damage, it may also be lacking water. But, this is not always the case as wilting can be another sign of overwatering. Water deeply as opposed to giving the plant light sprinkles. In a few days when the soil is dry, try to water in the morning before the heat of the day. This will help to ensure the plant is well hydrated for the hot afternoon sun.

If your plants don’t need water, the wilted leaves should recover once the heat of the day has passed. If the leaves of your plant are still wilted, and the soil is dry, now is time to water. Just make sure to go over your watering checklist before giving your plants a drink.

Step Six: Maintain and Prevent

woman in beige sweater cutting a plant
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Water deeply when the soil is dry according to the plant’s particular needs. Wait for the yellowed or wilted leaves to fall off. Once the plant has recovered, you can cut off any remaining damaged foliage or fruit.

In a few weeks or months, you should have a healthy-looking plant again. The sooner you act, the quicker your plant will recover.

If it was a fruit-bearing plant, the growth may be temporarily stunted, but with any luck, the new fruit will grow to full size.

Step Seven: Acclimatizing to a New Environment

potted plants on a window
Image credit: Mustafa Hussein via Pexels

If you were trying to bring an indoor plant outside when the heat damage occurred, you may still be wanting to relocate the plant.

When moving a plant to a new location, especially one with higher light, it’s best to do this gradually. This is especially important for plants that have medium to low light needs.

Move the plant to the preferred location for a few hours every day, slowly increasing the amount of time. Start with the early morning hours and ensure the plant has shade during the heat of the day. It’s almost like you’re training your plant!

Heatwave? No Problem!

Heat damage such as wilting or burnt leaves can’t be reversed, but don’t give up on your plant. You can revive many plants with a little extra care. Damaged leaves will drop, and in a few weeks, you should be rewarded with a beautiful plant again.

Have you ever revived a plant with heat damage? Tell us about it in the comments.