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How to Prune Bougainvillea

Gardeners living in warm regions often add lovely bougainvillea flowers to outdoor landscapes, either in containers or as large hedge plants growing directly in the soil. Even gardeners who do not live in regions that stay warm year-round can successfully grow bougainvillea plants if they take them indoors over the winter to protect them from cold temperatures. Prune a bougainvillea plant regularly to encourage prolific flowering and bush growth.

Perform “soft pinch” pruning on a bougainvillea plant any time of the year to promote bushier, lateral branches. Use your index finger and thumb to pinch off the top 1/2 inch of new growth you find on stems. The stem will snap off easily. This pruning technique will encourage the bougainvillea plant to send out new stems from just below the point where you pinched.

Prune back bougainvillea in containers when the plants are finished blooming. Use pruning shears to cut back all of the stems so they reach just past the edges of the container. This will keep control of container-grown bougainvillea and prevent them from becoming overgrown or unshapely.

Use pruning shears to cut back bougainvillea plants using the “hard pinch” technique immediately prior to moving them indoors if you live in a cold climate. “Hard pinching” is when a gardener removes almost all of the branches from a bougainvillea plant so it does not extend past the container. The bougainvillea plant will recover from this pruning and grow with renewed vigor, ready to blossom energetically.

Care For Bougainvillea

Native to South America, Bougainvillea is a popular showy vine because of its ability to produce vivid blooms 11 months out of the year. Choose a spot that receives at least six hours of sun each day. Bougainvillea plants love the hot sun and will grow best in an area without shade. They’re drought resistant and thrive in loamy, well-drained soil. Be careful when removing the plant from the pot as the roots break easily. Water them thoroughly every three to four weeks or so, taking care not to over water. Viney varieties of Bougainvillea require an arbor or trellis for support. Plant in containers in frost-prone areas to bring inside during cold weather. Bougainvillea plants have fragile roots, and too much handling will cause them to break. Once the bougainvillea is potted, choose a spot that gives it as much direct sunlight as possible.


Bougainvillea grow best in full sun in areas getting at least five hours of sunlight daily. Indoors or in shadier spots, they won't bloom as well.

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