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How to Protect Plants from Sun? [10 Best Ways]

Are your plants drying up from full sunlight, especially intense lighting in the high summer heat? If so, then you must strive to protect them pronto.

Generally, there are multiple ways to protect partial and complete sun-loving or shade-loving plants from intense sunlight. Some include covering the plants with a shade cloth or row cover, installing a cold frame (greenhouse), and bringing them inside.

In fact, you can choose from multiple proven ways to protect plants from the scorching sun based on their condition and need.

10 Ways to Protect Plants from Sun Damage

Indoor plants do well in dappled sunlight, but outdoor ones can endure full intensity in an optimal quantity.

The shade-loving plants, including hosta or impatiens, cannot tolerate the full sun if grown outdoors.

They can experience leaf scorch or sunburn and chlorophyll breakdown in the leaves, only to get pale or yellow areas on the leaves. Later, the infected area can be brown and brittle.

So, here are ten great methods to protect your plants from extreme sunlight.

1. Bring Plants Inside

Bringing the plants inside is the best method to protect them from direct sunlight, but it would only work with potted or small plants.

You can protect them from direct sunlight or high-intensity lighting, especially during mid-day or summer.

  • Provide 2-3 hours of early morning sunlight for shade-loving potted plants, then carry them inside.
  • Move potted plants from the garden or patio to indoor shade just before summer and keep them in the east or west-facing window as required.
  • Introduce shade by slightly reducing the light over five days; move them to progressively more shaded locations to acclimatize.
  • Plants that need 6+ hours of direct sunlight should be left outside and provided with temporary shade in summer.
  • Plants kept at the south-facing window can be moved a few feet back to prevent the risk of burn from intense sunlight.

2. Use Shade Cloth

Shade cloth or garden shade cloth exists for a reason, to protect sensitive plants from the sun.

Using mesh-shade cloth will come in handy, especially when growing light-sensitive plants outdoors or protecting them from high-intensity light and UV rays.

These shade cloths are designed to block about 40-90% of sunlight.

shade cloth over the plants
Using shade cloth will protect plants from 30-90% of sunlight and UV rays.

Here are a few recommendations:

ProductSun filter
Shade cloth black premium mesh shade panel40%
Agfabric Shade Cloth Net Mesh30%
Shatex fabric sun shade cloth90%

Therefore, both shade and sun-loving plants can enjoy their benefits.

  • For shade-loving plants that enjoy the warmth, use thicker shade cloth to prevent direct sunlight altogether.
  • For sun-loving plants, use a thinner shade cloth that allows more sunlight to reach them without burning them.
  • Switch between thin and thick shade cloth in the morning and mid-day during summer when the risk of a heat wave is maximum.
  • Alternatively, you can grow heat-sensitive and tender plants into summer using shade cloth to prevent heat wave damage!
  • Ensure the cover is kept at least several inches above the plants to allow enough space for air circulation.

3. UV Blocking Sheet

UV blocking sheets are handy protectors that keep your sensitive plants from the way of UV damage throughout the year.

The UV-blocking polycarbonate sheets allow the sunlight to pass through but block harmful rays that often lead to sunscalding.

Moreover, it can be quickly adjusted just above the plant rows using stakes or frames or built into a permanent structure.

You can apply UV protectors in late spring and summer when the risk of sunscalding is higher.

However, it retains a lot of heat; therefore, you should consider keeping the sides open when installing the UV sheets.

You have two options, plastic sheeting for DIY structures and panels for permanent installations, like A-frame.

4. Portable Greenhouse

You can use a portable greenhouse to create mini-weather for your plants in the hot summer.

The plastic or glass sheet on the greenhouse is variably UV resistant but allows plenty of light in.

You will significantly benefit from a portable greenhouse because it will keep the extreme sun intensity away from the plants.

Therefore, you can install a portable greenhouse over garden plants susceptible to sunscalding and heat damage.

Portable Greenhouse
Greenhouses will protect plants from extreme lighting and temperature.

However, be wary of rising temperatures, which may require installing side vents, air circulation fans, or staging fans.

Here are a few recommendations for a portable greenhouse.

EAGLE PEAK 8' x 8' Portable Walk-in GreenhouseInstant 8 x 8 feet portable greenhouse with adjustable frames
Home-Complete Mini Greenhousea 4-tier greenhouse appropraite for both outdoor and indoor plants including seedlings and herbs

5. Introduce Row Covers

Row covers are similar to UV sheets or shade cloth, which wards off intense sunlight and UV (depending) from your garden plants.

The row covers are specially designed from thin polypropylene fibers that create a layer of protection.

You can quickly install row covers over the hoop house or buy a built-in row cover with frames instead.

You can install row covers that block from 30% to 90% of sunlight and UV rays based on your need.

It is more affordable than shade cloth, portable greenhouse, and UV blocking sheet if you want something cheaper.

Moreover, row covers protect plants from frost damage, especially winter veggies and fruits.

Here are a few recommendations.

Agfabric Plant Covers Freeze Protection10 x 50 feet floating row cover appropriate for large gardening needs
Garden Hoops Kit with Plant CoversBuilt in garden hoop with plant cover appropriate for small garden

6. Introduce Tall Companion Plants

Introducing tall companion plants works excellent if you are not up for using shade cloths or plastic protectors.

The taller companion plants work great by providing shade to shorter plants like herbs, root vegetables, and short shrubs outdoors.

Choose companion plants like sunflowers, corn, tomatoes, and devil ivy grown on a trellis that love sunlight and give beneficial yields.

However, you need to be meticulous with companion plants because growing them afterward will not protect shorter plants.

Instead, grow them early in the season or the year before to allow them to attain a significant height.

Moreover, choose suitable plants that are less likely to harm their companions.

Find the list of best companion plants for Lavender, Potato, Garlic, Raspberry, Blackberry, Basil, Marigold, Thyme, Mint and Lettuce

7. Don’t Skip the Mulch

Although mulching the soil does not necessarily protect plants from harmful sun rays, it will protect the soil and roots from heat stress.

Therefore, mulching protects sensitive plant roots and soil from drying up.

The protective layer of mulch will reflect sunlight and UV from hitting the soil, preventing excess water evaporation.

Some common mulch materials that work great with almost all gardens and houseplants include;

  • Straw
  • Pine bark
  • Wood chips
  • Shredded leaves
  • Pine needles
  • Aged compost

Spread the mulch to 2-4 inches thickness to effectively prevent sun damage, or spread the newspaper before applying the mulch to create an even surface.

However, be careful to use germ-free mulch materials by buying certified products or leaving them in full sun for 24 hours.

8. Pop-Up Canopy

Pop-up canopy is a quick idea to provide much-needed shade to garden plants.

Unlike other shade materials, you need not install or spend time fixing a pop-up canopy that comes built-in with necessary fixtures.

Buy an appropriately sized pop-up canopy and fix it above the garden plants that require shade.

Depending on your need, it can be waterproof, UV protectant or transparent to allow more sunlight.

Here are a few recommendations.

ABCCANOPY Instant Canopy SunWall10x10 feet canopy sunwall made from 300 denier polyester that is 100% waterproof and blocks 99% UV rays
Impact Canopy Zippered Mesh Sidewalls10x10 feet canopy with wide screen walls and zipper entries for private access

Otherwise, you can always use a pop-up canopy for recreational events and garden use.

9. Water Deeply and Routinely

Watering your plants routinely is a preventive measure to ward off sun damage.

Depending on your plants’ needs, water them deeply during the schedule (Weekly, biweekly or twice a week)to encourage deep roots.

Moreover, timely watering will ensure the soil remains moist, which helps combat heat waves and drought conditions.

  • Most garden vegetables require 2-3 inches of water every week in spring and 2-3 times in summer.
  • Vegetables and fruits may require 2-4 times watering to induce fruiting and combat drought.
  • Potted houseplants require 1 inch of water every week and twice when grown outdoors.
  • Succulents require 1 inch of water every two weeks.
  • Outdoor-grown succulents will require weekly watering.
  • Use the drip-irrigation method for a raised garden bed to keep the soil moist throughout the growing season.
  • Larger plants and those with deep roots require more watering during a heat wave.
Find out whether watering the grass in the sun burns it.

10. Avoid Wetting Plant Leaves

Damp leaves are never a good idea when watering plants as they invite mold and diseases.

Wetting plant leaves during hot sunny conditions can produce excess evaporation as the moisture amplifies sunlight like a magnifying glass.

Therefore, it is never a good idea to leave water droplets lingering on the foliage.

  • As a preventive measure, constantly water your plant early morning to let the moisture seep into the soil.
  • Wetting leaves in the early morning is less likely to damage them as they evaporate before the midday sun.
  • Water frequently early morning during a heat wave to moisten the soil beforehand.
  • Constantly water the soil or around the plant base to allow the maximum water to reach the roots.

FAQs about Protecting the Plants from Sun

How often should I water my garden in 100-degree heat?

Always start deep watering the plant before the heat wave, which is common in USDA zones 11 or above during summer.

Once the heat wave arrives, water your plant 2-3 times a week, depending on their watering requirement or dry soil.

Moreover, water the plants from early morning but noon to prevent them from evaporating before entering the soil.

How do you shade indoor plants from the sun?

Protecting indoor plants from the sun is more straightforward, unlike outdoor plants that require introducing different shades.

Simply move your plant from lighting sources such as windows, doors, or patio and bring them inside.

Otherwise, keep closer to the light source, a few feet away, if they demand medium to bright dappled sunlight.

Should I fertilize the plant in extreme sunlight?

Fertilizing plants during hot summer or heat waves is a No-No because the soil dries out quickly.

The water may not be readily available to break down excess nutrients, and extra fertilizer can increase the soil temperature leading to stressed plant roots.

Instead, fertilize throughout spring and early summer or throughout summer if the temperature remains below 80 ° F.

From Editorial Team

Some other ways to protect your plants from the sun include using plant cabanas, roller blinds for the patio, an A-frame with trailing plants, or using picnic umbrella.

Whatever option you choose, ensure to balance sun time so your garden plants are not deprived of essential lighting.