Bougainvillea is tropical vines with vibrant flowers that is very popular in the warmer regions of the world. While not frost hardy, it is very drought hardy and thrives in the sun. However, it as a very delicate root structure and can be very tricky to transplant. Below are a few tricks to improve your chances of a successful transplant.
Step 1: Choosing When to Transplant
It is best to transplant any plant when it is dormant. Early spring or late fall are the best times to transplant bougainvillea.
Step 2: Prune, Prune, Prune
Bougainvillea have delicate, wide spread root systems. There is little chance you will successfully collect the full root system in a root ball. The best way to be sure you do collect enough roots to support the plant is to cut back the size of the plant. Fortunately, bougainvillea recover from extensive pruning very well. You can remove up to 70 percent of the plant and it will bounce back. Remember to leave at least 30 percent of the foliage as well as 30 percent of the branches.
Step 3: Dig Up Your Bougainvillea
Remove as large a root ball as you can manage. Make the cuts through the root system clean both to the sides and at the bottom. Slide the root ball onto a tarp or burlap bag to keep the root ball together during the move. Disturb the root ball as little as possible to minimize transplant shock. Also, be careful moving the plant around. The connection between the vine and the roots can be very delicate. It is preferable to lift the root ball from the bottom or drag it on the tarp rather than lift at the vine.
Step 4: Prepare the New Site
If possible, choose a location with a similar light level to the old location. Bougainvillea do like the sun, but if the old location was shady it will take time for the plant to adjust. If it is small enough, consider placing the root ball in a pot for a few weeks and gradually move the plant into sunnier and sunnier locations in your garden until it has adjusted to the increased light levels.
Dig a hole in the new location that is 3 times the size of the root ball and at the same depth.
Step 5: Place Your Bougainvillea
Carry or slide your bougainvillea to the new hole. Place the root ball in the center. The plant should be at the same height with the ground as it was at the old location. Fill in the soil around the root ball gently. Do not tamp with your feet. Adding some compost to the soil mix is a good way to provide nutrients to the soil, but avoid fertilizers for the first year. Fertilizers promote leaf growth, and your bougainvillea needs root growth first.
Step 6: Water and Stake
Water the bougainvillea well once it is in place, and continue to do so every few days for the first several weeks. This will help offset transplant shock. Also try staking your bougainvillea vine upright and stable. This will keep the plant from being tossed about by the wind, potentially damaging the roots further. You can remove the stakes once the plant shows signs of solid growth.