Bougainvillea Growing Tips

The luscious Bougainvillea is an eye-catching flower that grows in tropical regions. The distinctive purple or fuschia flowers grow abundantly on woody vines, which can be trained to trail and spread or grow short and bushy. Bougainvilleas are excellent hanging plants. Even though they're very hardy, they can need a lot of care.


Bougainvillea on the ground should have containers that hold at least 5 to 10 gallons. Terra cotta pots work best because they dry out quickly and prevent moisture from sitting in the soil. Hanging pots should be at least 12 inches across or larger.


Bougainvilleas flourish in full, hot sun. The more sun they get, the more flowers they produce. At minimum, the plant needs at least half the day in the sun. Bougainvilleas do not bloom well indoors, but you can bring them inside if a winter frost threatens. They do not tolerate freezing.


These plants are native to the Brazilian coast, so they do better in dry soil. Stress actually improves bougainvilleas' flowering, so give them as little water as possible. Watch the leaves carefully and water them as soon as they start looking droopy. Let the water drain out the bottom of the container, and don't keep the container in a tray or saucer where water can sit.


The soil for bougainvilleas should be slightly acidic, between pH 5.5 and 6.5. Their fine roots need a very well-drained soil. Soil-less potting mixes are a good medium for bougainvillea, but make sure the peat content is low. Peat holds too much moisture for these plants.


Bougainvilleas are heavy feeders that fare best on monthly feedings of a small or diluted amount of fertilizer. Don't overfertilize the plant, especially with foods that are heavy in nitrogen and phosphorus. Your fertilizer should have these elements, but each one should make up 20 percent or less of the mix. Make sure the fertilizer also contains micronutrients like iron, zinc and magnesium.


If you plan to move the plants indoors for the winter, you should prune them and remove any stringy or weak growth. Don't prune the plant too hard or you can encourage thorns instead of flowers. The plant usually stops flowering after being cut back, but foliar growth is increased. Bougainvillea plants can be pruned any time of year, but the best time for shaping the plant is right before it flowers. When an unwanted stem begins to grow out, pinch or clip off the end of it to encourage it to send out new side vines below the cut.

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