bougainvillea woes

pquinones

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I bought a lovely bougainvillea from a nursery that was just BEGGING to be trained. I wanted to let it grow just a little bit more before I begin training it, so I repotted it into a more suitable container (1.5 gallons).

The plant looked fine after the repotting (perhaps a week ago), but has been looking rather sad as of late. The leaves are drooping, which I know to be a universal sign of thirst, though I have been making sure that the soil is moist, but not wet, when I water it. I have also been letting the soil dry out between waterings because I have read that bougies like dry spells between waterings. Regardless, I'm not sure if there is something I should be doing.

It is fairly hot in Ann Arbor, Michigan (80's in F / high 20's in C), the plant gets direct sun from 8 am to 4 pm. the plant is in plain potting soil mixed in with its original soil (also potting soil).

I'd appreciate any advice any of you have.
 

jk_lewis

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If the tree was small (under a foot with a half-inch trunk (or so) a 1.5 gallon pot is much too large and the roots won't be able to cope with the moisture in the soil.

If it is just nursery (potting) soil, that will keep the soil much too wet. Bougainvillea don't just like "dry spells" thay lik to be quite dry all the time. They do NOT like wet feet.

I suggest you keep the soil very dry and maybe water as few times as once a week until you can get in into some honest-to-goodness, free-draining, granular bonsai soil.
 

pquinones

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Thanks jkl. Before reading this, I miraculously discovered a mix of tropical/sub-tropical indoor bonsai soil and transplanted it.

I should have specified the size of the plant.... The shrub was a little over a foot tall (14") and about 2 feet wide (23"). The plant came in a fairly large pot (1 gallon) with its long-dead sibling, for which they lowered the cost by half. It looked like the live plant had actually allowed itself to spread out through most of the container, which I thought might be a good sign that it might also like extra space.

Since discovering my bonsai soil, I've put it in a 4" wide circular pot about 8 inches tall with the new soil and am crossing my fingers.

After repotting, I checked the original nursery potting soil and it was on the dry side (nowhere near moist), so I'm not sure what that means for my little bargain purchase. I just read this morning that bougies do not like to be repotted and I might have traumatized it!

I have held off on watering it after repotting, but perhaps someone has a suggestion on whether I should? It's evening here, and I don't like watering at night for fear of root rot!
 

jk_lewis

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You need to water when you repot. That helps settle the soil around the roots. After that, let it dry out.
 

treebeard55

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JKL's been giving you good advice. I live in your general area (about 3 hours SSW,) and have one bougie. As you've been told, they like it dry once established, and like it hot. I wouldn't worry about temperatures in the 80's.

My only additional suggestion would be to keep it in semi-shade in the afternoon for a few weeks while the roots re-establish themselves. After that, let it sunbathe! :)
 

rockm

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And FWIW, the width and height of the tree is really inconsequential in providing growing information. Both are highly variable. Trunk diameter gives a better idea of how big a tree is and a better parameter for measuring its needs.
 

pquinones

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Thanks all for your comments. My bougie is still wilted, though the leaves are not terribly crispy. All of this comes after letting it dry out after its initial watering (and before its subsequent watering).

Perhaps, I left too much growth on the plant for what was left of the fine root system, such that there was not enough water getting to the leaves. I guess I will let it continue and see what happens. I've already hacked away quite a bit of growth, hoping to get rid branches I knew I'd remove anyway, thereby allowing the nutrients to sustain fewer branches.

Last resort is to cut back even more...
 

jk_lewis

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Leave it alone. Give it time to recover.
 
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second the leaving alone... and second the putting in the shade for a couple of weeks before moving into the full sun, and lastly second the watering of only about once a week...

I would recomend personally any plant brought home from a nursery, goes into sort of quarantine for a couple of months before any operations are performed... expecially if past history of the plant is vague or not known...
 

treebeard55

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... the watering of only about once a week...
...
Sorry, I have to differ with the idea of a set schedule. How often you water is affected by a number of variables: sun/shade, and the texture and composition of your soil, are among the most important. My own bougie is in a coarse mix, with no particles smaller than 2 mm. Thus it's quite free-draining. I can safely water once the surface has dried, tho I can also safely water a day later.

My point: you need to keep an eye on the soil day-to-day , and water when the tree needs it rather than by a so-many-days schedule.

Keeping up the ambient humidity will also definitely help it while the roots re-establish themselves. Misting and wetting down its surroundings with a hose are two ways to do that.

(In case you're interested, my bougie's mix is a 3:2:1 blend of Turface, composted bark, and poultry grit. I got the recipe from Jack Wikle of Tecumseh.)
 
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the so-many days scedule is of course only a kind of guide to demonstrate to pquinones the watering of a bougie... so yes you are very much correct treebeard.
having said that, I would still recommend that he only waters about once a week...
 

jferrier

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Do you have any pics? Mine sometimes pout too after repotting and have even dropped all their leaves after severe root pruning. The have always bounced back though after a few weeks of partial shade and careful watering. Generally, I water when the leaves droop, since these guys are tolerant of rather dry soil, and here since its 100 daily that usally means every day, but they are also in a coarse mix, so you won't need to water nearly as often. Once it comes back give it full sun though. Hope it perks up!
 
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