Why is Your Bougainvillea Dropping Leaves & How Can You Save It?

Bougainvillea is a beautiful and expansive flowering plant known for its thick pink foliage, found in home gardens and commercial settings worldwide. The easy-to-grow climbers are best planted in warm outdoor settings where there is plenty of space to train them to climb using the support of the structure you would like it to mimic.

That’s why you find bougainvillea growing over walls, fences, arches, and pergolas and covering the structure for a colorful flowery showcase. However, these hardy plants are pretty specific when it comes to taking care.

So if you own a bougainvillea and it is suddenly losing its leaves without any apparent reason, there are certainly a number of reasons that you need to uncover to diagnose and treat it. Moreover, it is important to note here that apart from the waxy green leaves you can see on the bougainvillea, the fuchsia bracts are also considered leaves that, in turn, cover the flower. Therefore, if your bougainvillea is losing leaves, it might be losing all its vigor and foliage in one go, and diagnosing the issue here is crucial to saving your plant.

Why Is My Bougainvillea Dropping Leaves?

It is understandable that you are wondering if bougainvillea is such a hardy plant and so easy to take care of, then why has mine just started dropping its leaves. While all of these facts are true, there can be multiple reasons behind your bougainvillea dropping leaves. Because despite being a low-maintenance, hardy plant, bougainvillea knows what it wants and how much it wants it. Hence, instead of automatically assuming the worse that your plant might be dying, it is vital to get to the bottom of your situation to treat it properly for better results.

Because if you consider the multiple reasons all at once, you might not cater to the one specific issue causing the bougainvillea leaves to drop, which will only worsen the situation. Hence, it is crucial to consider every reason to address the situation and treat it accordingly. For instance, the reason might simply be the weather change, so a little environmental change would suffice. But if the reason is overwatering and you change the environment while continuing to water so much, your bougainvillea will continue to deter.

Hence, here are each of the common reasons behind your bougainvillea dropping leaves:

Temperature Change

You might know well enough that bougainvilleas are native to warmer temperatures and climates where their flowers can blossom and thrive during a long, exotic summer like in the Mediterranean regions. However, shockingly, these hardy plants are not so hardy when the temperature drops, and it becomes an easy reason for the bougainvillea to drop its leaves when in cooler temperatures.

In fact, the temperature doesn’t even have to drop below the freezing point for a bougainvillea to drop its leaves. It can be an instinctive response to a sudden cold snap that your city might be experiencing which goes against the climate that the bougainvillea is used to. Moreover, bougainvillea may drop its leaves because of scattered winter sunlight that doesn’t have adequate levels of intensity to help it.


Many plant enthusiasts and even knowledgeable gardeners would be found guilty if inspected for overwatering their plants. Don’t believe that you might have been the culprit too? Well, it is weird but try recalling that for some reason. Whenever a new plant is in the house, you just can’t help but water it frequently? Relatable? Well, that is precisely what leads to overwatering, which can often be highly sensitive to plants like bougainvilleas.

Moreover, if you have an outdoor bougainvillea and you have been watering it, but your region is susceptible to heavy rains, this can also be the reason behind an overwatered, leaves-dropping bougainvillea. The overwatering dampens the soil, making it vulnerable to the amount of moisture and, in turn, leads to root rot. If not caught in time, it can damage your bougainvillea beyond repair and be fatal to the plant.

Not Enough Sun Exposure

Bougainvillea is a fast-growing plant, but here’s the catch – it only does so under adequate sunlight. This means that if your bougainvillea is in the shade, it will not grow as fast or may even not grow at all and start dropping leaves instead. Therefore, sunlight is definitely one of the top most important factors in bougainvillea growth. The plant loves at least six hours of sunlight on a daily basis.

Furthermore, if you have not planted your bougainvillea outdoors and instead kept it as a potted plant indoors, it is always best to find a sunny spot to place the planter. Probably a big enough window that exposes sunlight for six hours or a balcony should do. Because if you are noticing your bougainvillea hasn’t bloomed or suddenly is dropping leaves, chances are high that the reason is lack of sunlight.

Transplant Shock

If you have bought a pre-grown bougainvillea plant and right after a few days of bringing it home, it has started to drop its leaves, chances are that your bougainvillea is going through a transplant shock. Transplant shock happens when a plant is relocated or moved from an environment it has adapted to. The relocation stresses out the plant, and as signs of being stressed, the bougainvillea starts dropping its leaves.

The main reason behind this is that the bougainvillea you just bought was cultivated in a controlled environment. So the plant adhered to specific conditions. Probably in the greenhouse, it was kept it. Moreover, with all the soil balancing, fertilizer, watering, temperature, and drainage coming into play – it makes sense that your plant is anxious and will take its due time in trying to adapt to a new environment.

Diseases & Pests Infestations

Bougainvilleas are hardy, so it is rare to find a pest infestation causing issues to your plant. However, once it does get the hang of it, it becomes a nasty little nuisance to get rid of. Aphids are the most common type of pest infestation that is found in bougainvilleas. They are tiny bugs that are so small that you can’t even see them with the naked eye. However, they are powerful enough to eat your plant leaves from within, causing them to drop.

Therefore, getting your gloves when tending to your bougainvillea is all the more important because you don’t want to contaminate your other healthy plants. Moreover, your bougainvillea may even start losing its natural color and vigor, which can testify to the disease or pest infestation. So you should take some professional advice at this point to help save time and address the situation before it is too late.


How To Save Your Bougainvillea Dropping Leaves?

Now that you know the main reasons that can be the culprit behind your bougainvillea dropping leaves, you can better assess the issue and address it accordingly. However, to make things easier for you, we have combined some caretaking and saving tips for your bougainvillea. Following these instructions will surely help you get back your plant with the same growth spurt and vigor that it has lost over time. However, it is always better to deal with the plant in a timely manner and not try to speed up the plant’s healing process.

So let’s get started, shall we?

Saving the Bougainvillea from Cold Temperatures

Assuming you are developing bougainvilleas outside in chilly environments, it is best practice to develop them in a pot or holder so you can bring the bougainvillea inside before the temperature goes underneath 5° C (41° F), as bougainvilleas are not strong for cold and frequently show up deterioration signs if left in the cold weather. That is also the main reason why they only grow and suffice in warm weather.

The shock of cold temperatures can cause leaf drops; however, this doesn’t be guaranteed to imply that your bougainvillea is passing on, for however long it is shielded from frigid temperatures with agricultural downy or by being inside. Suppose the leaf drop is related to cooler winter temperatures. In that case, your bougainvillea can recuperate in the spring when the temperatures warm up as long as you place the bougainvillea in a sunny window.

Aiding To Bougainvillea Leaf Drop Due To Overwatering

Downsize your watering recurrence. Bougainvilleas ought to be watered inconsistently to imitate their local dry climate states. You ought to water bougainvillea when the dirt feels dry to a fingers profundity. Normally, watering a pruned bougainvillea at regular intervals is a decent equilibrium for the bougainvilleas water prerequisites and for permitting the dirt to deplete between episodes of watering with the goal that the roots stay sound rather making the leaves drop. Bougainvilleas that are laid out in garden soil frequently just require extra water in the midst of a remarkable dry spell.

Guarantee that the pot or compartment has seepage openings so water can get away from an overabundance in the wake of watering your bougainvillea. Some beautiful plant compartments have no waste openings, which makes the dirt immersed, emulates the effects of overwatering, and makes the leaves drop. Assuming you have put any plate or saucers under your bougainvillea pot, void them consistently so that water can escape and the dirt can dry out between episodes of watering.

Relocation for Recovery via Better Sun Exposure

It is better to relocate your indoor bougainvillea near a big sunny window or on the balcony where it gets plenty of sunlight all throughout the day to start growing its leaves back. Better yet, after the colder temperatures have gone by, plant your indoor bougainvillea outside for the rest of the summer to allow for a healthy growth spurt and blooming of the flowers that might not happen due to lack of sunlight and majority shade indoors.

Getting Back to the Native Environment after Transplant Shock

Although it is difficult to mimic the controlled and professional environment of a greenhouse that your pre-grown bougainvillea was adapted to. But you can always talk to a professional, do your research online, or take advice from the horticulturist from whom you bought the plant. This way, it can become easier for you to look after your new plant and recover it back to health without losing much of its growth spurt.

Assessing & Treating Against Pests & Diseases

Assessing diseases or pests like aphids can be difficult and challenging to treat just as much. Hence, try washing off the leaves and flowers by hand as carefully as you can to remedy the damage. Moreover, as we mentioned earlier, try involving a professional so that diseases and pests can be treated accordingly without the danger of contamination to other plants or not treating the infestation as needed by yourself.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, if you notice that your seemingly healthy bougainvillea is all of a sudden dropping leaves, your first instance should be to note any weather changes that may have caused the inefficient amount of sunlight for your bougainvillea leading it to drop leaves. If that is not the case, check your garden schedule to see if you transplanted it recently and be sure it might be the case. However, if none of the reasons seem to fit your problem, we’d recommend involving a plant expert to help you assess the situation and treat it accordingly. Moreover, we believe you might have many other plants in your garden too that would be in need of some care and love. So if you are looking for more such plant care guides, connect with us at Mo Plants – your one-stop gardening directory for more gardening know-how. Our comprehensive guides will be an excellent resource for reading more about other plants, vegetables, herbs, and fruits to take care of them for long-term results and expand your home garden into a colorful sanctuary of plants from all over the world. Cheers!