Bougainvillea is a climbing shrub that, depending on the variety, can be found both deciduous and perennial. It is characterized by its oval leaves of intense green color and its small yellow flowers. Under normal conditions it can reach 5 m in height, being widely used to cover walls, fences, pergolas, etc. Like any plant, it needs certain care, including irrigation. In this post we will analyze what happens when you overwater your Bougainvillea. We will also give you the best tips for proper watering.
Table of Contents
- 1. What does an overwatered bougainvillea look like
- 2. Causes of overwatered bougainvillea
- 3. How to fix overwatered bougainvillea
- 4. Tips for watering bougainvillea
1. What does an overwatered bougainvillea look like
Either because you have watered too much or because the pot does not have enough holes, the truth is that it is not strange that your bougainvillea suffers from excess water. The good thing is to be attentive and know how to detect the symptoms of this problem in order to solve it in time.
Keep in mind that if you leave the roots of this plant exposed to excess water for a long time, they can end up producing fungi. Over time, these fungi will spread throughout the root system, starting to rot these roots. Hence the great importance of being able to detect excess irrigation in the first days.
The first thing you will notice is that the bougainvillea has a somewhat sickly appearance. This is because its roots with a lot of water are not being able to absorb nutrients and oxygen. So little by little the plant will weaken.
The leaves will begin to take on a yellowish color. And since it doesn’t have enough energy, little by little it will start to drop all its foliage. So if you see that your bougainvillea leaves are falling, it is one of the most common symptoms of this problem.
Leaf drop can also be caused by other problems, including a lack of watering. Therefore, there is the small difficulty of knowing how to differentiate if your plant lacks watering or the watering is excessive. But do not worry, we will analyze that detail in the next section.
1.1 Difference between underwatered and overwatered
As we have just mentioned, a very common symptom that occurs when we are watering a bougainvillea poorly is the fall of its foliage. But this symptom is common in both excess and lack of watering. So how do we differentiate between these two problems?
Doing it is very simple and it will suffice to take into account two key points:
- Texture of the leaves: the first thing you should do is touch the leaves, if they are crunchy what you have is a lack of irrigation. On the contrary, if the texture of the leaves is soft, that is, softer than normal, this is due to excess irrigation.
- Observation of the soil: if you have not been able to define the texture of the leaves, you can do so by observing how wet the soil is. Do not stay with a simple superficial observation. The first few centimeters may be dry, but underneath there may be mud. Therefore you must dig at least 5 cm and detect if it is dry or very wet.
With these two tips, you should have no problem recognizing what you’re doing wrong with your watering. Keep in mind that a symptom such as leaf drop can be due to other factors such as a sudden change in temperature, stress from transplants, various diseases or pests, etc.
2. Causes of overwatered bougainvillea
Not only is it important to know how to recognize the symptoms produced by excess watering, but it is also essential to know what its causes are. Because although the most common is to add more water than your bougainvillea needs, this is not the only cause.
2.1 Amount of water applied
As we have just commented, the most common way to overwater a bougainvillea is by applying doses of water higher than what it needs. Although at the end of this post I will leave you some tips to water correctly, I tell you that you should never water until you cause a puddle on the ground.
2.2 Soil type
Bougainvillea roots do not like to be flooded with water, so that this does not happen, it is not enough to add the right amount of water. It is also necessary to use a soil that allows adequate drainage.
It is useless to apply the correct amount of water if you have planted your bougainvillea in clay soil with poor drainage. The little or a lot of water that you pour into the pot will stay there for a long time due to the poor drainage capacity of the soil.
Use a soil mix with a good amount of aggregates like perlite, pumice or sand to give it a porous structure. If you add elements such as peat (with water retention capacity) it should be in small proportions, otherwise the soil will retain too much water.
2.3 Type and characteristics of the pot
When we talk about pots and irrigation, the first thing that comes to mind is the holes in the bottom. This is the first thing that we must observe. Check that it has a good number of holes that are capable of correctly evacuating the irrigation water.
But the holes are not the only important detail in a pot. Selecting the correct size and material is also key. These last two factors are generally not taken into account, which is why they are often the cause of poor irrigation.
Let’s talk about the material first, in plants like bougainvillea it is important to select materials that help drainage. In that case a material like terracotta is the ideal. This is because with its natural porosity it helps to lose water by evaporation through its walls. This does not happen with other materials such as plastic.
Regarding the size of the pot, if you plant the bougainvillea in a pot that is too large, there will be many spaces in the pot that the roots will not reach. Therefore, in such places, water is held for a long time. With this in mind, if you are going to repot your bougainvillea into a larger pot, keep in mind to reduce the amount of water you apply, otherwise overwatering may occur.
To finish, there is one last factor to take into account so as not to overwater any plant, it is the weather. You should know that the amount of water a plant needs goes hand in hand with the temperature of the environment. This means that during the winter you have to reduce the irrigation doses, if you water evenly throughout the year you can cause an excess of irrigation in winter or perhaps a lack of irrigation in summer.
But not only temperature influences the amount of water a plant needs, air currents also help evaporate water. This means that the more ventilated the environment is, the greater the need for irrigation. An outdoor bougainvillea will always need more water than an indoor one, of course as long as it doesn’t rain.
The last climatic point is the environmental humidity. Whoever lives in a tropical area should logically observe less than someone who lives in a desert. But the same place, depending on the season, also varies the environmental humidity, if this factor is not taken into account, it is possible that it is over-watered.
3. How to fix overwatered bougainvillea
The key to being able to solve an excess of irrigation in a bougainvillea, as it happens with any plant, is to face the problem in time. Otherwise, if you let the root system rot, chances are good that whatever you do, you won’t be able to save the plant.
Let’s see here how you should act when you detect that a bougainvillea has been overwatered. To make a deeper analysis we will divide this topic in two; indoor bougainvillea and bougainvillea planted outdoors.
3.1 Potted bougainvillea
The moment you detect an excess of watering in your bougainvillea planted in a pot, it is important that you stop applying water. Next, check what has caused this excess watering. To do this, keep in mind the four points that we analyzed in section 2.
Move the pot out to a spot where it gets sunlight, which will allow the water to evaporate faster. You can place absorbent paper towels in the bottom of the pot to help dry the soil. Also, tilting the pot a bit often helps to remove excess water.
If the problem is not very serious, that is, if you have acted in time. It will be enough to stop watering for a few days and solve the cause that has caused the problem. If you water too much you should start watering less, if the holes in the pot are small you should enlarge them, if the pot is too big you can change the pot, etc. But if the problem is more serious, it will not be enough to stop watering, you will see that the health of the plant does not improve day by day, on the contrary, it will get worse.
In cases where the health of the plant does not improve after stopping watering, it is very likely that there is rot in the roots. To try to solve this problem, you must take the plant out of the pot and prune the roots, eliminating all those that are soft and darker than normal.
Once the root pruning is done, you need to plant the bougainvillea with new soil. Throw away the existing soil as it is contaminated with fungi. Remember to use a porous soil with good drainage. If you are going to use the same pot, disinfect it correctly to avoid new infections.
3.2 Outdoor bougainvillea
Once you have detected an excess of watering in your outdoor bougainvillea, the way to proceed is similar to what we have recommended in case it is planted in a pot. For mild cases, it will suffice to stop watering for several days and water again when the first 10 cm of soil is completely dry.
The difference occurs when the problem is more serious, and you see that the plant does not recover just by stopping the irrigation. In these cases, it is very possible that the roots of the bougainvillea have fungi, the problem is that if you take the bougainvillea out of the ground, it is very likely that it will not survive the transplant.
My recommendation is that in these cases you start by applying a fungicide. For this it is important that you get good advice and apply the correct fungicide. Depending on the type of fungus and the type of plant, one fungicide may be more or less effective than another, so you should not apply any fungicide without first getting proper advice.
If you have already applied the fungicide and notice that the bougainvillea’s health is not improving anyway, you can opt for the last resort, digging up the plant. Pull the plant out of the ground very carefully, try to pull it out with as much soil as possible on its roots. Then you must inspect the root system and cut all the roots that are in poor condition.
Once all the roots that have been attacked by the fungi have been eliminated, proceed to transplant the bougainvillea. Take advantage of checking the type of soil in which it is planted, it is a good time to replenish this land in case not enough water drains.
4. Tips for watering bougainvillea
Watering a bougainvillea is not a very complicated task, you just have to be a little observant and identify the right times to water.
As we said, these are plants that are not very resistant to excess moisture, so as a first piece of advice you should try never to flood the soil. Apply abundant irrigations but that can always be absorbed by the soil.
As a very general rule, I can tell you that a bougainvillea should be watered three times a week in times of high temperatures (spring and summer). While in autumn and winter it is convenient to reduce the frequency with one or two weekly waterings, it will be enough.
The frequency just mentioned is mainly for indoor bougainvillea. In those planted outdoors, it is not so easy to define such an exact frequency since it will always go hand in hand with the rainfall regime.
Personally I prefer not to follow a defined frequency but to observe the ground. I only water when I see that the first two or three centimeters of soil have dried out. Following a defined frequency, without first observing, can lead us to make mistakes of lack or excess of irrigation.