Why Your Bougainvillea Is Losing Its Leaves

Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by Stephanie

Bougainvilleas shed their leaves because of low temperatures, lack in sunlight, shock from transplants or as a result of stress caused by overwatering. Bougainvilleas are susceptible to cold and may lose their leaves during Winter or as a result of an abrupt change in temperature.

Bougainvilleas remain evergreen even in climates with mild winters, but they shed their leaves and flowers in colder climates. They should be protected from cold temperatures.

Bougainvilleas are able to recover after losing their leaves so long as you know the reason for its loss of leaves and follow the best methods of taking care of bougainvilleas. the leaves will grow back…

Bougainvillea Dropping Leaves Due to Temperature Change

Bougainvilleas originate from warmer climates like Brazil and keep their leaves and show off their blooms in Mediterranean climates, but they die in colder climates. (Cold hardy in USDA zone 9)

Bougainvillea plants shed their leaves due to colder temperatures, as well as sudden changes in temperature and also due to less sunlight intensity during the winter months.

This implies that the temperature does not have to fall below freezing in order for bougainvilleas suddenly shed their leaves, but it could be due to an unexpected cold snap contrary to the regular mild or warm weather.

How to Save Bougainvillea Losing Leaves

If youre growing bougainvilleas outside in cold climates, it is recommended to cultivate them in a container or pot to allow you to bring them indoors when temperatures drop below 5 degrees Celsius (41deg F) since bougainvilleas arent cold-hardy and usually die in the winter.

The cold snap may cause leaf loss, but this doesnt necessarily mean that your plant is dying, so long as its protected from the freezing temperatures by the use of horticultural fleece or inside.


If the drop of leaves has been associated with colder Winter temperatures, then your plant can be revived in the spring when temperatures begin to rise provided you put the plant in a sunny window and you water it frequently during the winter.

This is a picture of my Bougainvillea which was moved inside before night temperatures dropped below freezing. it shed its leaves, but new growth of leaves emerges in the spring.

When you bring the bougainvillea inside in winter, it can suffer some degree of shock being relocated from cold temperatures outside to the relatively warm indoor temperatures.

This could actually cause fall in the leaves, however the bougainvillea is not able to withstand cold temperatures, and the leaves start to grow in the springtime.

If the temperatures at night are always at or above 5 degrees Celsius (41degF) then you are able to put your bougainvillea outside again in a sunny spot.

It is recommended to put the bougainvillea outside for a short period of time during the course of one week prior to letting it go outside to give it the chance to adjust, instead of putting it outside after a time of being inside.

With a little patience, the new leaves on your bougainvilleas will begin to emerge in the springtime as a result of warmer temperatures and longer hours of daylight.

Not Enough Sun Causes Bougainvillea to Lose its Leaves

Bougainvilleas are vines that need the full sunshine to provide the most beautiful blooms and are the most robust and healthy plants.

If the bougainvillea is situated in shade, it is less able to show flowers, and the leaves may become yellow and fall off because this is in opposition to the conditions in which theyve adapted to their natural habitat.

If you notice bougainvilleas that have stunning displays of flowers and plenty of leaves, they are in areas that receive full sunand high temperatures because sun is directly related to the flowers that are that are on display.

(There are a variety of reasons the bougainvilleas flowers stop appearing and I have written a second article on the reasons the reasons why the bougainvillea isnt displaying flowers and the best way to fix the issue).

It is therefore essential that your bougainvillea be situated in the sunniest area of your garden in order to avoid the loss of its foliage, so make sure you choose a spot that has at least six hours of direct sunlight.

The suns rays also increase the rate of evaporation, which is a factor in preference for dry conditions for bougainvilleas.

Bougainvilleas will recover after being moved to a sunny location and you will begin seeing new growth in the coming weeks.

(Read my article on on how you can cultivate bougainvillea inside pots).

Over Watering Bougainvillea Causes Leaf Drop

Bougainvilleas originate from the hot and dry regions in South America and thrive in similar climates, like those of the Mediterranean as well In California.

Bougainvillea is specifically adapted to areas with relatively low rainfall. They are prone to stress caused by excessive moisture around the roots, which could result from:

  • Too often watering bougainvillea.
  • The bougainvillea is growing in pots or pots with drainage holes at the base.
  • The use of saucers or tray underneath the pots to stop the excess water from draining away.
  • A heavy downpour.

If the roots of bougainvilleas kept in the soil for too long, the leaves will often become yellow and fall in a sign of stress.

If the bougainvillea is constantly overwatered, it can result in fungal infections such as root decay that can kill the bougainvillea that is water-sensitive.

(If you believe your bougainvillea is dying , read my blog post on why my bougainvillea dying to help save it).

How to Restore Bougainvillea by removing the Leaf due to Water Overflow

  • Reduce the frequency of watering. Bougainvilleas are best watered regularly to mimic the conditions of their natural dry habitat. It is recommended to water the bougainvillea whenever the soil is dry to the touch. Typically watering the potted bougainvillea once every two weeks is a great amount of water for the plants needs and to allow drainage between sessions of watering to ensure that the roots remain in good health and do not cause the leaves to fall. Bougainvilleas that have been established in soil of the garden usually only require watering during times of extreme drought.
  • Make sure that the container or pot is equipped with drainage holes to ensure that water that is leaking out can be drained when you water your bougainvillea. Certain decorative containers dont have drainage holes, which makes the soil saturated, which is similar to the effects of excessive watering, and can cause the leaves to fall.
  • If youve placed containers or saucers under the bougainvillea plant, remove them frequently to let water escape and the soil will dry out between periods of watering.
  • The high rainfall may also create excessive moisture around the roots of your bougainvillea, which could result in leaf loss. In areas with more rainfall, it is recommended to plant bougainvillea in pots or containers since they offer better drainage than garden boarders. Add horticultural sand, grit , or perlite to aid in increasing the drainage , so that the soil doesnt remain damp for long, causing the leaves to fall or cause root to rot.

In creating dyer soil as well as watering environments that resemble the natural environment of bougainvilleas The soil is given the potential to dry slightly between watering sessions which reduces stress on the plant and decreases the chance of losing its leaves.

The leaves of bougainvilleas can re-grow following an over-watering incident and they should show more flowers in soil that is dyed.

If your bougainvillea has a pot be sure to water it well but not often.

For instance, it is generally recommended to fill the pot with an occasional soak every two weeks during Summer instead of watering it only a little every couple of days.

This helps to ensure proper growth of the root to allow the roots to get the nutrients and water they need for an overall healthy plant.

(Read my article on on how you can water your bougainvillea pots).

Bougainvillea Losing Leaves After Planting (Transplant Shock)

If your bougainvillea has begun to lose its leaves following the time you purchased it from a nursery or garden center, or maybe you moved to a new home, it is an indication of stress because of the different conditions.

Bougainvilleas are sensitive to variations in temperature, sun exposure and airflow as well as frequency of watering.

If you purchase the bougainvillea plant from a shop, it is usually grown in the specific conditions of greenhouses that have control of the sun watering, fertilizer, and temperature. When it is moved to your garden, the change of the conditions could cause shock, and cause the foliage (and the flowers) to fall.

It is not uncommon and the bougainvillea is able to be able to recover from the loss of its leaves if it is taken care of properly. It needs:

  • Full sun for blooming and keeping its leaves.
  • Warm temperatures. Take your plant indoors to provide protection against frigid temperatures (bougainvilleas are best planted in containers and pots when in colder climates).
  • It is watered less frequently. (typically the bougainvillea needs to be regularly watered every two weeks or whenever 2 inches above the dirt are dry).

If you follow the most effective care methods, you can reduce the possibility of your bougainvillea dropping its leaves.

It could take a while to adjust your bougainvillea to its new surroundings , but it will begin to sprout new leaves when it is content with its surroundings.

I wouldnt recommend feeding your bougainvillea with fertilizer after it has shed its leaves because the plant is in a condition of stress, and any further fertilizer could cause harm to the plant.

It is possible to use a half-powerful of fertilizer in spring and summer months once every month after the leaves are beginning to grow again.

Key Takeaways:

  • The most frequent reason that bougainvilleas shed their foliage is due to the cold weather and excessive watering. Bougainvilleas are indigenous to dry and hot climates, so they shed their leaves in a sign of stress because of excessive moisture around the roots caused by excessive irrigation and cold weather.
  • Bougainvilleas may also shed their leaves when they are relocated or within a short time after you purchased the plants. Leaf drop could be an indication of stress because of the differences in temperature as well as the amount of sunlight and frequency of watering of the nursery in which they were planted prior to selling and also the conditions in your yard.
  • Bougainvilleas originate from sunny regions, where they flourish in full sun. If theyre in shade, the leaves and flowers tend to fall.
  • If you want to save a bougainvillea plant after having lost its foliage, its essential to recreate the conditions of its natural habitat by watering it less often, placing it in full sunlight and guarding it against cold temperatures.


Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)