The Q&A Archives: Fading Bouganvillea, Drying Leaves

Question: I recently bought a large potted bougnvillea for my balcony. It was fine for the first few days, then the leaf bracts began to fade from a lovely magenta to off-white, and many of the green leaves began to dry and shrivel up. I have been giving it a good deal of water, and it does not seem to be solving the problem. It is in a location with part-sun and part-shade, and it is a bit windy on the balcony. Tokyo is a very warm and humid climate May-November, so I thought it would thrive here. Could you please advise on what the problem might be? Could you also give me some general advice about growing bouganvillea?

Answer: Generally, bougainvillea thrive on neglect. They take full sun and if in the ground, will bloom better if they are stressed for both water and fertilizer. However, in a pot, they will need to be watered and fed more frequently. Even so, don't overwater. Apply water slowly and deeply so it soaks through the root ball (not just running down the side of the pot). Make sure you have a drainage hole so roots aren't sitting in wet soil. Water when the top inch of soil dries out. Fertilize once a month with an all-purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Windy conditions can be very drying to plants and that may be the reason for the drying foliage. Try to set up some protection from wind. Also, as they age, the brightly colored bracts will lose their color. Finally, depending on the conditions the plant was growing in where you bought it, it may be suffering from "transplant shock" in its new location.

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