bougainvillea help!!

norapabst(8)October 12, 2005


I've recently purchased two bougainvillea from a woman who moved them to Oregon from Hawaii. They were not flowering and looked rather sparse, but I bought them anyway. I repotted them in soil that allows for good drainage and put them in front of a big south facing window. Since then they have started losing their leaves quite rapidly. I've searched online but can't tell if this means they're dying or if this is to be expected in the winter. Should I be cutting them all the way back like it's a geranium? Should I leave it alone? Is there another trick I could try? Anyone have any ideas? Thanks very much.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

In my experience, bougainvillea thrives if given a cool dormant period. Most people cut it way back in the fall, and keep it in a garage, basement, or porch (as long as it is not too cold) for the season. I would think that in your climate, you could overwinter a bougainvillea safely outside without fear of freezing to death.

I have a friend who has had one for several years, and it has never been moved from the same location on her veranda. It blooms quite heavily a couple times during the growing season, for long periods of time. She cuts it back nearly to the soil level every fall.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 11:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
roxy77(Houston Z9)

They love the sun and the more you give them the better, you shouldn't have a problem keeping them outside in zone 8 at all. Also, they have fragile root systems so it might just be pouting about being replanted.

Also, they say if you keep them stressed they bloom more...but I have found thats not necessarily true. You may just try it out and see.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 12:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

As Roxy noted, they do not like their roots toyed with. In my estimation, the possibilities of why the plant is defoliating are:

A) Over-watering. The plant needs to dry thoroughly after a watering, especially after a repot and/or in light other than full sun. I think this is most probable - especially if you're new to their culture.

B) Decreasing light levels. Changing from bright to lower light levels is frequently the root cause of defoliation in many plants.

I don't know much about tending them in your zone over winter, but here, I prune lightly & set them on the basement floor where the only light they receive is what "leaks" from the fluorescents over my indoor growing area. They go back outdoors when temps allow & get pruned when new foliage begins to appear. This is consistent with the treatment Dorie (Rhizo) described.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 5:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lisa455(z9 LA)

They are not hardy in pots outside where I live (10 miles from zone 8). My parents have them in metro New Orleans and they are in full sun and they bring them in when frost is expected overnight onto a sheltered porch. They also fertilize them regularly. They do not bloom if they are in too much shade. I had some for three years that survived being brought in the garage overnight when it froze. They need to go back outside in the sun during the day and can only stay inside for a day or two. I got lazy and left them out one frost and they did not make it.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 8:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I acquired a potted bougainvillea a few weeks ago from my mom, whose living room window area had become overcrowded. :) I placed it in front of a south-facing window in my condo. It has lost quite a few leaves, but it's still blooming. From what I've read here, I'm thinking the leaf drop is due to overwatering, or simply the change in conditions. Freaked me out though when I came home the other night to see so many yellow leaves. I'm going to refrain from watering it until it looks bone dry.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 3:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

ok - Call me crazy but I am in zone 5 and brought home a bougenvillea and planted in in my back yard. It protested at first and the colored leaves turned brown but for the most part it was strong and bore the transfer well. Now it is thretened by its first winter. I have been told that I can simply pile a mound of mulch or wood chips over the base and let it freeze up - come spring it will sprout back to life. Is this true? Should I bail out and dig it up? Should I cut it back? If I cut it back, will it grow a lot next year? It is already as tall as my chain-link fence and It was that tall when I bought it. It doesn't seem to grow very fast.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 4:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
greenfingers_ni(Waikato, N.Z)

It's most likely a reaction to being disturbed and watered, and everyone has pretty much suggested what I would have.

Bougainvilleas overwinter here o.k outside, so long as they are protected from frosts. My mothers one is tucked up under the eaves of her house facing east and is soooo rootbound it looks like it's going to climb out of its pot. She hardly ever waters it, never fertilizes it and it rewards her every year with glorious blooms and the biggest thorns I have ever seen!

It's got itself into the swing of things down here - drops it's leaves with the onset of winter, looks dead and reshoots again in the spring - at the moment it is smothered in bronzy-red new growth and small flower buds. Any shoot that strays out from under the eaves gets naturally pruned back by the frosts.

2hrs further north of us (still zone 9!), bouganvillias don't drop their leaves for winter and they don't even sneeze at a frost (although their frosts are more like "f"s!).

Good luck with them,

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 7:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


    Bookmark   December 31, 2005 at 8:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

They are NOT frost hardy, so I would not recommend inground planting in any zone below zone 9. And they resent root disturbance, which may be why it defoliated so soon after planting. If you are attempting to grow bougs in colder climates, they can be grown successfully in containers if given winter protection, but they need a hot, sunny location to bloom and only enough water to keep them going and minimal fertilization. Prune back hard in late winter or early spring as you begin to see new growth or when it is safe to move back outside after last frost. In other words, treat as you would a wisteria with the exception of the hardiness issues.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 4:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hi, i have a bouganvill in my balcony that comes from my neighbour downstairs, he is chopping it down but i wulod like to pot it in a big vase i have, i have bouhgt som rooting powedr, CAN I CUT IT A PLACE IT IN THE EARTH; WIIL IT BE OK?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 10:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I just purchased a bougainvillea in an 8 inch pot. the plant is about 28 - 30 inches tall. I admit that I'm not used to a plant needing to be so dry, so I watered it. now all the leaves have turned yellow and have fallen off. the blooms are still in good shape. Is overwatering my problem? How dry should the soil be before watering? Please help!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 9:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is my second bougainvillea in 1 year. The first one died in 3 months due to overwatering. I've been watering it once a week (about 1 gallon of water). Is this too much? The soil always looks dry and it's difficult to refrain from watering it. It only gets about 2 hours of direct sun but it gets plenty of light on the porch. How much sun should it get? Someone please heeeeelp!! I can't take killing another one!!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 9:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My bougainvillea did terribly in the pot, but I'm thinking it was a size/ drainage issue.

Now that it's in the ground with full sun it's blooming insanely. Once I use up this roll of film I will post a couple pictures. It seems to actually be liking the more sun+less water+cooler weather (48-68 this last few days) weather.

I have a pale pink mandevillea climbing it, which hopefully will winter alright in ground as well. (fingers crossed) It's in a mound above ground level because there is a major soil depth issue.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 3:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I just receiced multiple Bougainvilleas for Motehr's Day and my hubby wants to get them planted. I have two in pots ( sorry I don't know the exact types) that have the pink/salmon/rust colored "flowers" and now two very tall Bougainvilleas currently in pots that my hubby wants to put in the ground to train to cover two trellis areas to provide a small amount of privacy. These two are already tall and beginning to climb posts ( deep purple in color "flowers"). If I allow him to plant them in the ground, could they survive the winter? We have two palms that we wrap the bases in plastic for the winters until it dries up a bit and keep the bases (or root ball) mounded to insulate with dirt. SO far so good for 2 years there - anything like that possible with these Bougainvilleas?? I really don't want to kill them - I am noting that we are probably overwatering and will cut back immediately ( as we lightly water each evening all of our beds). Suffice it to say, zone 8 is cooler than 9 or 10, and we do get a VERY brief spell of snow - MAYBE a sprinkle that melts off each day for about 2-3 weeks I would guess. Rarely much more - unless it is a BIG year - those come infrequently. My zip is 9713 if anyone wants to look at an avg temp before giving insight?

THANKS in advance!!!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 2:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have recently bought a bouganvillea from our local garden centre in the UK and put it in our conservatory. Although it is growing and blooming, the leaves are going yellow and dropping off. We water once a week when it looks bone dry. The temperature can get to 45c in the day inside the conservatory and down to 17c at night. It looks as though it is dying slowly. Please help. We are not exactly experienced Bouganvillea growers in the UK

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 3:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have two bougainvilleas and this year they look like sticks as if they have died but I understand there is a chance they could come back. I have a watering system for the whole garden as I am not always here and I fear I have over watered them. Should I leave the watering off and leave it until my next visit which is the end of May so that it dries out and would it help to cut them right back at this time? They are both in pots and they feel damp to the touch. Do I have any hope? I live in Nice in South of France so they will get sunshine. Many thanks for any help. The difficulty is do I leave the dripper off and if not, how often should I water them. It has been twice a day for 5 or 7 minutes each time. They surely needed some watering during the winter. They are outside. Thank you

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 11:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Okay, I have a beautiful fuschia pink bouganvillea. I planted it on the ground this spring facing east. It bloomed profusely until summer arrived. Now it has no flowers, plenty of greenery and its growing like crazy but no flowers. I water every other day and only when it looks a little dry. Is the heat in Georgia killing it? Should I move it to a cooler spot next fall? I was hoping to train it along the edge of my front porch but not without flowers.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 2:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am new to this site so give me some laitude if I don't do everything in the proper form. I will learn!

I have a bougainvillea that has bloomed a couple of times since I've had it. I moved into a new house a month ago and realized that the plant looked horrible. It had some leaves but they were riddled with holes. I spoke to a local gardening expert and she said most likely catapillers (sp?). And she gave the additional advice that bougainvilleas need to be fed once a month,needs a lot of water in the hottest months and to keep the tips pinched back to encourage a fuller plant.

I sprayed for the catapillers, fed the plant a food especially for Bougies, kept it watered well and started pinching it back. The difference in the plant is unbeliveable. No more holes in the leaves, a massive amount of growth but not even a hint of a bloom. There are many Bougies in my neighborhood and they are all blooming but none of them have the new lush green growth.

What do I need to do to encourage blooms?

I live in Zone 10 and NONE of my plants come inside in the fall and winter. If there's any advisory for Cold Weather Caution here in South Florida, I just go out and cover my plants with sheets....haven't lost one yet.

My Bougie gets a full 8 hours of direct sunlight, it is trellis trained and was repotted 2 weeks ago but the repotting that has nothing to do with what's going on because it hasn't bloomed in many, many months.

Someone please give me some help. My Screened patio is in full bloom with beautiful flowers but no Bougies.

Thanks for any help or tips you may provide for me.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 5:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 11:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gardenerme(z9/21 inland socal)

I am in socal. Bougies grow like weeds here, outiside, along the freeway, everywhere. They get pretty bare in the colder weather, really just a bunch of sticks. Then as the weather warms up, they bloom their guts out. However it is easy to see that the most beautiful ones are the most neglected ones.

We are experiencing foreclosure fever here, and the bougies at the abandoned homes with dead lawns and shrubs have the most awesome blooms. They thrive on neglect and really sulk when you fuss with the roots. If you water and feed well, they give you beautiful leaves.

That's how it has always been here . . .

    Bookmark   December 27, 2008 at 7:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I posted to surprise bougainvillea in pots about a week ago, and all the leaves are falling off like everyone's saying. Some of the tips of the limbs look dead now. From reading everything listed, I'm guessing I've watered it too much and it's just being touchy about being replanted. So I'm going to leave it alone and see how it does . . .

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 3:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have 2 bougeinvilleas in pots. They are growing and flowering beyond expectations probably because of the extreme heat and dry weather we are having this year in zone 6. Is there any chance of us planting these in a south facing area protected by our house if we mulch heavily prior to the cold weather?
If not, if we were to bring them inside and put in the basement for the winter, how should they be cared for? They will get minimal light in our basement.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 10:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We're in Z9, and I planted a beautifully thriving bougan in late June; now end of July and the many blooms are turning tan/brown and falling off. The green growth continues, and the leaves are in good healthy color. The plant faces east, gets about 4 hours of direct sun daily before being covered by shade. Other bougans in our area are thriving with only minimal bloom fading. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 2:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This hanging pot bloomed for me most of the summer on my north patio
where I get a lot of sun for a north exposure. Usually, I bring it in
start of Fall with the weather getting cooler. In about a week the
leaves seem to drop off and I guess go dormant. Not this year, its
indoors for almost a month now and none of the leaves have dropped,
but the blooms have. What should I do if the leaves should fall and it
looks bare?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 3:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Pretty please to the recent posters - start a new thread. No one will mind and it's the easiest way to get an answer.

If this forum looks too quiet - head out to a regional forum or a specialist one.

For Jack - a shift to the south seems a good idea. They relish a lot of sun.

For boothbay - keep it frost-free and barely damp (about once a month or even less if the top inch is still damp). They can take a while to come back in spring so go easy with watering until the leaves are back on the branches.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 11:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am having the same problem as the original post. Yellow leaves. I would love an answer to that post instead of all the questions.

Thank you

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 8:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I raise you a double help.I purchased a white and pink bougainvillea three springs ago.I planted it in good soil.I used Bougainvillea food.The first year it grew by double it's size and had blooms everywhere. The second year was another double.It handled a few frosts but started blooming with the beginning of spring.This winter the plant was hit with a three day freeze.I cut the branches all of the way to four inches from the soil.This summer the plant went everywhere. The branches we solid green and grew about four to eight feet in length.I did two things wrong. First, I cut them too far back and second I used Algoflash all-purpose.It is a great fertilizer by not for bougainvilleas.I roped all of the branches in two spots to stop it from laying on the ground. I have removed most of the leaves on two occasion only to find more leaves.I have not seen one bloom and for the last six weeks I have been using bouginvillea food. What can I do? I miss the flowers. Tommy

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 12:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I recently bought a Bougainvillea shrub from the local Home Depot, I don't know the type - but it had orange/pink leaves on it. I re-potted in a slightly bigger pot and water it using drip irrigation. It's been over a month now and I see that the shrub has lost all its leaves. I use drip irrigation to water it everyday - only for a minute, and by the end of the day the soil in the pot seems to be pretty dry. Could overwatering/underwatering be the problem? Should I fertilize it? What can I do about it?
I live in East Bay Area (Zone 9). I have attached a photo of the shrub. Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 12:49PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
killing weeds
I read what one member does to kill weeds around her...
Stopping grass growing under picket fence
We have moved into a new home. The front border has...
Dust & Insects in Seeds. Still OK to be planted?
Hi, i have a pack of wheatgrass from about a week ago....
Please help diagnose Dracaena Janet Craig's problem
Hello. I got this Dracaena Janet Craig from Lowe's...
Need advice on tackling front garden
Hello all, I just bought a house a few months ago,...
Arthaith Swan
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™