Light Freeze Damage on Bougainvilleas: What It Looks Like & What to Do About It

Introduction: Light Freeze Damage on Bougainvilleas: What It Looks Like & What to Do About It

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Do you think your bougainvillea has been hit by the cold? Mine were a few weeks ago. I want to show you what light freeze damage looks like on bougainvilleas & tell you what my plan of action is.

Step 1: I Want to Show You What Light Freeze Damage Looks Like on Bougainvilleas and Tell You What My Plan of Action Is.

I worked at a wonderful nursery in Berkeley many moons ago. One January a very atypical 4-5 night consecutive freeze hit the Bay Area. My client who lives on the coast just south of San Francisco had an iced-over bird bath! The bougainvilleas in the Oakland and Berkeley Hills totally froze to the ground. Some started sprouting back up in mid-spring but many bites the dust.

That’s what a hard freeze does to bougainvilleas. The water inside the plant freezes and it can be the kiss of death depending on how the roots fare. This light freeze that hit mine effected mainly the upper branches of my “Barbara Karst” that wasn’t against the house. The leaves on those branches wilted (it looks like the plant is dehydrated in the early stages) then dried up and fell off.

Step 2: The Flowers Have Dried on This Branch & a Couple of the Leaves Have Curled.

If your bougainvillea has been hit by a freeze (light or hard) in early winter, resist the temptation to have at it with your Felcos at this time. A light freeze will just superficially effect the plant so wait until the evening temps are consistently warmer. With a hard freeze you may have to wait even longer to see if any new growth is appearing. And, no fertilizing your bougie at this point thinking you’re going to pamper it.

Don’t worry if the leaves on your bougainvillea are turning yellow and dropping off at this time of year. Here’s the scoop: Bougainvillea is native to coastal tropical areas. One of the causes is the cooler winter temperatures. In some climate zones it’s semi-deciduous and the leaves partially or totally fall off.

Happy Gardening,

Nell Foster

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