The Q&A Archives: Large Reddish-edged Leaves On Bougainvillea

Question: I have a number of bougainvillea plants, generally they do well. One large san diego red is normal in all respects, except for the fact that its older, more mature leaves are larger than most (3") across and edged in bright red. The leaves are also more brittle and crisp. It shows no sign of insect damage. It has been fertilized lightly twice this spring and is watered about once a week. Otherwise, it's young leaves are green and flowers robust. As are other san diego red bougainvillea in its immediate area. Can you tell me why this plant is producing such leaves?
Gregory Burke
San Francisco, Ca.

Answer: What you describe can indicate a nutrient disorder, cold weather damage, or nothing more serious than the natural aging of older foliage. Broadleaf evergreens such as bougainvillea eventually shed their older leaves to make room for new foliage. Some leaves remain for 2-3 years, by which time they can begin to look a little shop-worn. Since you're watering and fertilizing regularly, we can probably rule out nutrient deficiency. Cold winter weather can cause the foliage of fuchsias, azaleas and bougainvilleas to take on a reddish cast. Sometimes this goes away and sometimes the off color remains until the leaf falls off the plant. As long as the new growth is normal and your bougainvillea appears otherwise healthy, I'd chalk up the odd colored foliage to natural senescence.

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