6 Causes of Bougainvillea Leaves Turning White [Solutions]

As difficult as it is often to pronounce Bougainvillea, this ornamental plant is known for its stunning and bright pink-colored foliage. With the paper-like texture of the flowers and leaves, the plant is quite popular in tropical countries and changes the look of your garden.

However, with certain roadblocks and challenges, the bright pink appearance of the leaves and flowers might turn white. It could be due to multiple reasons – both due to lack of care and environmental factors.

Causes of Bougainvillea Leaves Turning White

We will highlight some of the common causes of why your bougainvillea leaves are turning white and how to fix them.

Reasons why Bougainvillea leaves are Turning White

From sudden temperature changes to genetic mutation, several factors can contribute to the sudden discoloration of the bougainvillea leaves in your garden. Let us walk you through the most common complications.

1. Experiencing Sunburn

Like humans, even plants experience risks of sunburns, especially tropical plants like bougainvillea. The plant requires sunlight but prolonged and excess exposure to the same will end up doing worse than good. If your plant is constantly exposed to sunlight and temperature over 38 degrees Celsius, be assured that the same will contribute to the leaves turning white. Sometimes, extended exposure to sunlight is the primary cause.

Experiencing Sunburn

How to fix it?

If the plant is rooted into your garden bed and you can’t move it to somewhere with shade, prepare a shade with some plastic wrap over the plant. Also, if you are already growing it somewhere with shade, focus on enhancing the humidity in the area since lack of humidity can contribute to sunburn as well.

2. Extremely Low Temperature

Not just high temperatures, but even extremely low temperatures can change the color of the bougainvillea leaves to white. Ideally, the optimal temperature for growth should be between 21-30 degrees Celsius. Anything too less from that will leave to damage to the plant by inhibiting its nutrient intake and causing freezing to the plant. If the same happens for a prolonged period, the condition can lead to wilting and falling off the leaves.

Extremely Low Temperature

How to fix it?

Extremely colder temperatures aren’t favorable for the plant at all. However, once the freezing temperature kicks in, there’s not much you can do for a plant in the outdoor setting. Ideally, we’d recommend covering the plant in some plastic sheet to offer an extra layer of protection.

Extremely Low Temperature

3. Presence of Mildew

The powdery white residue that you are noticing on the plant is likely mildew deposition. This is a form of fungus and if not treated on time can lead to the utter destruction of the plant in a matter of few days. The mildew is very destructive and attacks the leaves and the flowers that are growing on the bougainvillea plant. The issue is mainly seen when the temperature is warm and humid. So, if you notice the weather changing, keep an eye out for these.

Presence of Mildew

How to fix it?

The easiest way is to look for the mildew and cut off the parts that are infected. Once you have done that, spray some neem oil all over the leaves and flowers. This will keep the mildew out.

4. Genetic Mutation

Sometimes, you might notice your bougainvillea leaves and flowers coming out as white and not the bright pink that you expected. This could be a result of a genetic modification called bracts. They aren’t anything you have to worry about but they will alter the appearance or color of the leaves and flowers on the plant. Some of the common colors include white, pink, red, and even yellow as well.

Genetic Mutation

How to fix it?

If it’s a genetic modification and you have a unique color palette on the bougainvillea plant, why do you want to fix it? We’d recommend that you let it be because it adds a very unique appearance to the backyard or garden, something out of the box.

5. Chlorosis

Chlorosis is a common issue that infects a lot of the plants that are grown outdoors, especially ornamental plants. Initial or mild impacts aren’t something you have to worry about. However, if the degree of chlorosis is too steep and severe, we’d recommend taking immediate measures. The extreme lack of chlorophyll in the plant will not just affect the color of the leaves but also end up damaging the nutrient balance and the function processed in the plant. So, taking measures is a necessity.


How to fix it?

You have to check the soil pH since the altered pH is a leading cause of chlorosis in the plants. Ideally, bougainvillea plants need a pH between 5.5 to 7.0. If the levels are drastically low or high, you might have to fix that immediately. Also, spray the area with some chelated iron fertilizers to sort out the issues. 

6. Leaf Miner Attack

When it comes to leaf complications and damage in a plant, leaf miners are probably the first to blame. These are larvae that can damage and cause havoc in your bougainvillea leaves. They are very common to create tunnels around the cells, much like a miner would inside a mine and hence the name. The tunnels lead to the whitish appearance of the leaves that most gardeners complain about. If the infestation isn’t controlled, the damage to the leaves might make the leaves fall off the stem.

Leaf Miner Attack

How to fix it?

Start by looking into the degree of damage first. Once you find the damaged leaves, cut them off immediately. Once that’s done, create a solution with oil, dish soap, and water and transfer it to a spray bottle. Spray this solution all over the leaves and the plant until you are sure everything is tended to properly.


1. What causes white spots on bougainvillea leaves?

If this is your first time growing bougainvillea and you are confused why there are prominent white spots all over the leaves, the most common reason is due to fungal disease. It spreads quite quickly, so you need to be proactive with the steps you take to combat the issue.

2. How do you revive a bougainvillea sick?

When you notice the bougainvillea plant dying or becoming sick, the first step is to identify the cause behind it. Ideally, there are possibilities that the issue is due to some sort of infection or pest infestation. Once you identify the problem, treating the plant with the remedial solutions should fix the issue in no time.

3. How do you treat leaf spots on bougainvillea?

Leaf spot disease is very prevalent in bougainvillea, which is one of the reasons why your growing parameters might fall short. What we’d recommend you do to treat the issue is find the infected leaves first. Once you do that, you need to remove those leaves and then apply the treatment to fix the infection or infestation.

4. Why is my bougainvillea losing color?

Besides risks of fungal infection, another potential reason why your bougainvillea plant is losing color is due to lack of water. Sometimes, the plant not having enough water in the roots leads to the leaves turning white or even discoloration in the leaves. We’d recommend you water the plant immediately to fix the issue.

5. Why do bougainvillea flowers turn white?

Not just the leaves, but even the flowers might turn white in the bougainvillea plant due to improper nutrition, light exposure, lack of optimal water balance, etc. in the soil. If you find that happening, take immediate measures to fix the issue before things take a turn for the worse.


Bougainvillea leaves and flowers are soothing to look at. However, leaving it to fend for itself when the leaves start turning white is the last thing you should do. Instead, analyze what’s causing the issue first and then implement the required remedy to turn around the impacts. Sometimes, you must take immediate measures before things hit rock bottom.

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