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How to Grow and Care for Bougainvillea

Bougainvilleas produce large, showy flowers along evergreen climbing vines. They climb trellises and fences but can also be trained as trees or small pot plants. As tropical plants, bougainvilleas aren't cold tolerant and must be grown in warm climates that don't experience winter freezing. They're also extremely heat tolerant, making them a good choice for areas with long, hot summers. While bougainvilleas are higher maintenance than other flowering shrubs, they do provide long-lasting colour and interest to the landscape year-round.

Plant bougainvillea in full sun and well-draining soil. Choose a bed with slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.0 for best growth and flowering. When growing in pots, use an acidic potting mix such as those formulated for azaleas.

Water bougainvillea keeping in mind that they are drought tolerant and sensitive to overwatering. It's best to keep them slightly on the dry side, though you should not let them dry out completely. Plants in pots should be watered when the potting mix becomes dry. It's better to water well infrequently than lightly too often.

Fertilise bougainvillea once every three months with a time-release 10-10-10 fertiliser or once monthly with a liquid-soluble fertiliser. Apply at the package-recommended rate for the size of your plant.

Prune plants after flowering, removing up to half the plant's height as desired. Cut back with sharp shears, removing overgrown or damaged branches. Continue to prune and shape until the plant goes semidormant in late fall.

Move potted plants indoors once temperatures drop below 18.3 degrees Celsius at night. Place them in a warm, sunny room until the weather warms up in spring.

Tip

Use clay pots for potted bougainvillea. These tend to dry out more, and drought stress encourages further bloom. Bougainvillea grows readily from softwood stem cuttings taken in the spring.

Warning

Bougainvillea is prone to wind damage. Plant in an area protected from high winds and storms.

Things You'll Need

  • Fertiliser
  • Shears
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About the Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.