Your majestic succulent is sunburned; it can happen due to various reasons. Let’s see what you can do.
Placement of the Succulent
This is usually the first step most new succulent owners take and it seems reasonable to place the sunburned succulent out of the sunny location to a less sunny place. You are right to make this move as long as you don’t take it indoors!
You might think it can recuperate inside with other indoor plants. Sorry, the sudden shock will stress the succulent further instead of letting it heal. (Sunburned leaves won’t recover, but the plant will).
You can move it to a shadier area outdoors only or provide some kind of shade during the afternoon sun. I have seen succulent lovers propping up umbrellas to give relief from the blazing sun. Anything goes when it comes to the safety of your beloved plants.
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Now, those of you who already had a succulent placed near a window can pull it in after your plant has received its dose of 6 hours of bright indirect sunlight.
Those of you who are considering taking their succulents outdoors in the summer can do that by placing them in a completely shaded area outdoors for a week to acclimatize them. Gradually introduce them to 2 hours of bright morning sun, and then place them back to their shady place. Keep increasing the amount of sunlight every week so the plants can adjust without getting stressed in the process.
Succulents perform gloriously if they can get at least six hours of early sunlight, especially in the summer as the afternoon sun is way too hot for most types of succulents. The same goes for your sunburned succulent; it needs that amount of sunshine to keep it alive. The morning sun is cooler and hence doesn’t burn the succulents the way afternoon sun can because of its intensity.
The strong UV rays combined with the high afternoon temperatures compound the problem, resulting in pale beige color that gives the leaves a shiny kind of appearance, especially at the base. Take this as a warning sign and move the plant away from direct sun. If caution is not taken at this stage, then the succulent can develop permanent brown patches.
If your succulent is sunburned with brown and black patches, then move it to a shady area after the morning dose.
Remove the Sunburned Leaves
This step is to be done if a leaf is 70% to 80% sunburned as it will just be taking nutrients from the plant. If the leaves are still quite green, then you can leave them as they can still make food for the plant in the day time.
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The damaged leaves won’t heal once they develop brown and black spots; so, it’s better if you cut them with a sterilized knife or a pair of scissors.
Your succulents can tolerate high temperatures, but after all they are living things and I think I must emphasize again that a combo of intense sun and soaring temperatures have sunburned your beautiful plants.
We know most tropical varieties need at least 50 to 60 degrees to be healthy so we naturally assume that a bit of heat won’t do anything bad. Here we err. You can push it by a few degrees, say 65 or generally for most succulents 70 degrees, but high temperatures pushing 80 degrees and above can sunburn your succulents.
We might think succulents are desert plants and should thrive in sun without any cover. We forget that many succulents are from tropical zones and need indirect sunlight. Moving the plants in and out of sunny and shady areas is quite a hassle.
Rigging up a shade cloth will do the trick. These come in a density of 5%to 95%. Your succulents need a shade cloth that can block 35% to 70% sunlight in the summers, especially if you live in the hottest zones. Also, don't mistake color for density. Darker color does not guarantee better coverage so carefully read the product specification before you buy a shade cloth.
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Moisture in the Soil
Yes, you don’t have to water it every day, but if the plants are outdoors then you can mist the soil lightly as that helps the roots remain cool and sufficient moisture in the leaves helps the plant fight the heat. Check everyday to see whether the medium is dry and add moisture to the soil in early morning to avoid sun-heated water that can potentially harm succulents' root.
You don’t want to stress your succulent so any new changes such as exposure to sunlight and increase in water intake should be made gradually.
See more about How to save dying succulents - Part 1 - Overwatered Succulents
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