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How to Care for a Bougainvillea Plant

The bougainvillea is a climbing plant that thrives in warm climates. Native to South America, the bougainvillea is quite adaptable to its environment and can be grown as a hedge, espalier, potted plant or ground cover. The bougainvillea grows in an array of colors and is ideal as a bonsai tree.

Plant the bougainvillea in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Elevated locations are ideal. Make sure that the location is in an area that provides at least 6-8 hours of full sunlight each day. Keep the plants in warm conditions, avoiding temperatures below 60 degrees F.

Water the bougainvillea lightly and infrequently. These plants are extremely drought tolerant and prefer very limited amounts of water. Look for signs of dry soil and early signs of wilting before watering. When time to water, water the plant thoroughly, providing plenty of moisture to the root system. Water indoor plants until the water slowly pours from the drainage system. Water outdoor plants until a thin layer of water rests at the top. Do not water either until the plant shows early signs of drought.

Feed the bougainvillea plants. Use a slow release fertilizer with high levels of nitrogen and micronutrients, especially iron. A 20-10-10 combination is ideal. Apply according to the directions. Apply the fertilizer in early spring and again in late fall. Avoid excess fertilization to prevent root burn and die-back.

Prune the bougainvillea plant to control its growth. Remove all dead, dying or wilted areas from the plant. Cut back blooms shorter than the desired length, as Bougainvillea bloom on new growth. Seal the pruned areas with pruning seal to prevent rotting of the area. This plant requires very little pruning. Prune only to control growth and eliminate dying areas, otherwise, leave the plant to grow freely.

Propagate the bougainvillea using root cuttings or branch cuttings. Plant the shoots in sandy, nutrient-rich soil. Position the new planting approximately 6 inches into the soil. Ensure that the area contains plenty of heat and moisture.

Re-pot indoor and outdoor Bougainvilleas that are grown in pots. Completely remove the plant from the container. Remove any excess soil from the roots of plant. Avoid pruning excessive amounts of the bougainvillea root system. Re-pot the plant using fresh soil--never use old soil.

Inspect the bougainvillea plant regularly for signs of insect infestation, such as webs, small spots, nibbled or eaten areas, or disintegrating leaf tips. Beware of caterpillars, aphids, scales and greenflies, which all thrive on bougainvilleas. Check for signs of fungal disease, which is also common to the plant. Look for signs such as die-back, growth stunting, wilting, browning or yellowing of foliage, or scabs at the base of the plant. Reduce humidity and water levels to help prevent infection. Spray the plant with a fungicidal treatment to help eliminate and prevent fungal disorders.

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