Bougainvillea Common Issues: What Is Eating My Bougainvillea?

All plants can suffer from specific pests and diseases, and Bougainvillea is no exception. Let’s have a look at a few Bougainvillea common issues, so you can take care of your plants as best you can.

Why Is My Bougainvillea Dropping Leaves?

why is my bougainvillea dropping leaves

There are a good any reasons why Bougainvillea may drop their leaves. Let’s have a look at a few of the most common reasons for this happening:

  • Too much water. Bougainvillea don’t like to waterlogged, so stress from too much moisture can cause leaf dropping.
  • The stress of moving. Transplanting plants can cause them a bit of stress and can cause growing issues, so if you have just re potted your Bougainvillea then you may notice leaves dropping.
  • It may be too cold. Bougainvillea are used to a hot climate, and while they can cope with a cold spell or two, they won’t like it long term.
  • Too much fertilizer. Although your Bougainvillea will enjoy an occasional feed, too much can stress it and cause leaf drop.

This video explains why Bougainvillea drop their leaves, and also what you can do to sort it out. This one in particular is excellent for those of us who live in colder climates:

Why Are My Bougainvillea Leaves Turning Yellow?

Bougainvillea leaves may turn yellow for the same reasons that make them drop their leaves, but there may be other issues too:

  • Too little water. Although a Bougainvillea don’t like to be waterlogged, if they are not getting enough water this can make the leaves turn yellow.
  • Lack of sunlight. These plants need a minimum of 6 hours of full sun every day, so if they are not getting enough light this can cause issues.
  • Transplant shock. These plants can be quite sensitive, so if you are moving it them consider doing it gradually, to minimize the stress.
  • Not enough nutrients. Yellow leaves on Bougainvillea are a sign of Magnesium and Iron deficiency, so you could consider feeding it to perk it up.

Why Are My Bougainvillea Leaves Curling?

why are my bougainvillea leaves curling

If you notice your smooth Bougainvillea leaves changing shape, this can be due to fungal or bacterial diseases.

Leaf Spot Disease is characterized by discolored spots on the leaves, followed by leaf curling and wilting. It is caused by Pseudomonas Andropognis bacteria, in case you wanted to know!

You can help this problem by pruning off the infected leaves, and removing all the usual plant debris regularly.

Root Rot is another issue that can cause leaf curling, and this is a more serious infection.

When the roots are damaged, the plant cannot effectively take in nutrients and water, so this can cause issues with the leaves and flowers.

Keeping your Bougainvillea in its favorite conditions, with the right soil and nutrients, can vastly reduce the incidences of these types of infection.

What Is Eating My Bougainvillea?

Although most wildlife and domestic pets won’t touch Bougainvillea, there are other, much smaller pests that may eat your prized plant.

One of the most common is the Bougainvillea Looper Caterpillar. It mainly affects Bougainvillea, but also some other plants in the same family.

They come from a tiny moth, only about an inch wide, but whose offspring can cause devastation to your beautiful blooms!

The caterpillars are so tiny that you probably won’t see them, but the damage they cause will be very noticeable – chewed leaves, tender shoots munched off, and even if the infestation is bad enough, the loss of all the foliage.

The best thing to do is to control these pests naturally – pick them off when you see them, and if you can, attract their natural predators. These are birds and other omnivorous animals.

If you can’t control them naturally, or the infestation is too huge and threatening the life of your plants, then you might need to take a harsher route.

Neem oil is a good pesticide against these little critters, and if all else fails you can use a chemical pesticide. Just watch out for effects on other wildlife and pets.

Common Bougainvillea Pests

what is eating my bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is, thankfully, relatively free from many of the pests that can decimate other plants – but they can suffer from a few specific creepy crawlies:

Spider Mite

This little mite feeds on sap, and can cause leaf discoloration, and even death of the plant, in severe infestations.

You should keep a close eye on your plant, especially if your Bougainvillea is indoors or in a greenhouse, as this is where spider mites will commonly be. Keep the plants clean and free from debris, and avoid overcrowding them.

Introducing natural predators of this little creepy crawly will be the most effective thing you can do (here is a link to the RHS website that tells you where you can order these from,

Pesticides should really be a last resort, as they can be damaging to the environment and affect other plants, but if you really need to deal with an infestation then this is a route you can follow.


Another sap feeder, this one also excretes a stick substance that can allow mold growth.

You can help control these little chaps by keeping your plants clean and free from debris, and also by hanging sticky yellow sheets (you can get these from garden centers) in order to trap the adult white fly.

It can also be very helpful to introduce white fly’s main natural predators – a type of tiny wasp – which you can order online.


This well known garden pest makes gardeners the world over shudder in their gardening boots. It lives on sap, and can cause big problems to a plant.

Check your plants regularly, as aphids are big enough to see easily, and you can then isolate an infected plant and deal with the problem.

You can manually remove aphids by squashing them (not pleasant, and your fingers will get sticky, but it can help sort the problem).

Natural predators such as Ladybirds, some types of beetle, and earwigs, can really help you control your infestation in as natural a way as possible, without harming any other wildlife.

Chemical pesticides that control aphids are available, but these should be avoided in anything but the most severe of cases.

4 thoughts on “Bougainvillea Common Issues: What Is Eating My Bougainvillea?”

    • Strong smelling herbs and spices are great at deterring aphids – look out for garlic, oregano and chives to repel the little critters. You can soak them in water for 24 hours then place the water in a spray bottle to cover your Bougainvillea, and watch the pests drop right off!


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