I have recently moved apartments to be closer to school, and sadly where I have moved is a basement apartment without a patio or windows that get a lot of sun. I have a fair collection of plants and I want to continue adding to my collection. My two biggest challenges right now seem to be a lack of space and a lack of light. I have purchased two LED grow lights and that has seemed to help the plants I have come back to good health (except for my bougainvillea). My bougainvillea seems to be rather sad and has lost all of it's main leaves. They stay green and just fall off. Could this be because the grow lights do not provide sufficient light? (pictures will be posted after classes today) Could over crowding due to little space also be a cause of leaf loss? enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

1 Answer 1


That is a bummer, I've been in the same place having to move all my plants (in a U Haul once, 7 hours in 20 degrees below zero, I wrapped each plant in newspaper and every single one made it...love newspaper for insulating) but I am glad you have already done the best thing possible by purchasing grow lights. What are the specs of these lights such as wattage? How big are these lights? How far away are these lights from your plants?

Your bougainvillea probably was shocked because of the move and during the move. Some plants are far more touchy about their environment and will drop their leaves just because of a new draft in the room. Dropping leaves is a normal response by a plant to protect itself especially when introduced to winter temperatures outside during the move.

Crowding plants is the best thing for your plants. They shouldn't be so crowded that the light gets blocked from the smaller plants or that air isn't allowed to circulate around each plant. I would also turn them once a week. Warmth and humidity and perhaps communication (via chemistry) is afforded when plants are all grouped together. Do not mist your plants. I take all my indoor plants and put them in the shower once or twice a year and let them be washed of dust and possible insects. Let them sit and drain and dry off right in the shower.

If I am imagining your group of plants correctly, I would put white plastic down on the floor, lift the bottoms of all pots off the surface they need to drain into with pieces of tile 1/4" thick. The biggest mistake you could make would be to water all of your plants at the same time unless they are truly on the same schedule.

Get used to the heft of a pot and its plant. Only water when that pot is obviously light. Some plants need constant moisture but most do best if you allow the soil to dry out before watering again. You probably know the needs of your plants very well.

Please send pictures of the entire group of plants, your Bougainvillea. The lights. Tell us what you used for soil in your pots, what you are doing for fertilizer and what your water source used to be and what you have now. Tap water is usable for awhile but chlorine and hydrofluorosilicic acid (fluoride) are poisonous. If you have a friend that has well water I would go 'borrow' some water in a few 5 gallon buckets to use for watering. Chlorine at least, dissipates when left out in an open jug for a few hours. I would plan on changing out the soil once per year if you have to use tap or city treatment water.

Your Bougainvillea, should be fine if you do not water too much, because it isn't photosynthesizing much, fertilizer only if you've never fertilized and only a small amount. Did you use rocks or gravel at the bottom of your pots? If you did we need to discuss getting your plants transplanted into new potting soil with no rocks at the bottom, no moisture holding gimmicks such as sponges or gels and certainly no fertilizer added to the potting soil. Keep fertilizer separate.

We'll look for your pictures!

Edit: Your bougainvillea looks like it is coming back just fine. Those lights need to be lowered about 4 or more feet. They are too high. Lower them to a foot from the top of your tallest plant.

I was hoping you weren't going to tell me you used gravel in your pots. I guess you misunderstood that that is a big no no. Causes a perched water table which in essence means you've got worse drainage than having no drain holes at all. This doesn't have to happen right away but it does need to happen. All those pots should be dumped and only potting soil goes into those pots.

Long time myth that is still to this day very believed. Nothing but potting soil and plant goes in pots. A perched water table means there is a difference between pore spaces in the soil layers. The top layer with small pore spaces has to become completely saturated before the water even begins to enter the gravel with large pore spaces. Too much water for far too long. Cut back on watering for sure until you repot your plants getting rid of that gravel/rocks at the bottom.

I hope this makes sense, please let me know if you understand this perched water table thing!

Get those lights hanging just a foot from the top of your largest plant. Then lets talk about the specs on your lights. They look good but nice to know for sure. Certainly those lights need to be lowered to make use of the light they offer.

What is the white on your largest black pot? Is that pot peeling or is that stuff granular?

Good news on the fertilizer. Less is best but not enough will kill as well as a little too much. Those lights look great, just lower them.

  • Thank you for the great advice! I will keep in mind the watering and I will be very careful not to over water. All the pots have a healthy amount of gravel on the bottom for drainage and if there isn't a drainage hole in the pot they have more gravel than the others. I fertilize with a balanced liquid fertilizer about once a month, the bougainvillea is just in a miracle grow potting soil mix.
    – Bluefox
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 23:09
  • It is very difficult to follow your answer. Can you perhaps make a summary of it for future readers?
    – VividD
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 17:02
  • 1
    @Bluefox Miracle grow potting soil mix might have added fertilizer. Do you still have the bag? Please let me know if you do. Bougainvillea is most likely stressed, I see new growth already. That gravel at the bottom of your pots is causing very bad drainage. Your plants sit in water too long. I am glad to learn about the gravel, you don't have to change the soil right now but you do have to get rid of the gravel soon. Until you are able to get fresh soil, water sparingly! Is there any part of my answer you would like to be clarified? Perched water table?
    – stormy
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 23:31
  • I don't have the bag anymore sadly. I used it up over the summer. But I do know that it was a white bag from Costco. I will water sparingly from now on, that's really good advice and when the weather warms up I will change the soil out to something more suitable.
    – Bluefox
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 15:14
  • I think that will work...plants are tough, adaptable. Win win?
    – stormy
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 8:10

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