Mistakes to Avoid When Growing a Bougainvillea

A pink bougainville archway.

Bougainvillea is a delightful, tropical flowering plant with vine-like branches that are easy to train to climb trellises. The solid trunk also allows bougainvilleas to be trimmed as a bush or tree. A bougainvillea can even be trained as a bonsai. A rapid grower, the bright flowers of a bougainvillea are easy to get in any part of your garden. There are just a few mistakes that a gardener should avoid to get the best possible profusion of blooms.

How Much Water?

Bougainvilleas are tropical plants, but they do not like wet feet. Their roots are rather delicate and if left in standing water will quickly rot. In addition, bougainvillea will not flower as well when they are too wet. In fact, letting the plant get a little dry will often net you extra blossoms. On the whole, it is better to let your bougainvillea get a bit dry than a bit wet.

On a related note, if you are growing your bougainvillea in a container, ensure you have good drainage. Do not let the container sit in a tray that can collect standing water.

To Trim or Not to Trim?

Do not be afraid to trim your bougainvillea. Whatever its size now, it could lose seventy percent of itself and still do just fine. Most varieties bloom on new growth, but if you trim a branch, it will just grow new branches at two or three leaf buds on the part of the branch you leave behind. Some gardeners believe that bougainvillea thrive on being trimmed back. Then again, it could be they simply thrive as a part of existence.

If you are not careful, a bougainvillea can take over a corner, or a patio, or a fence. If that is not the look you want, trim it back. Remember to wear gloves as bougainvillea do have thorns.

Watch for Root Damage

Bougainvillea have very delicate roots. Cutting them when transplanting can badly damage your plant. Also, the joint between the trunk and the roots is equally delicate. If lifting a bougainvillea, do so from the root ball, not the trunk.

Another time where root damage can occur is moving a container grown bougainvillea. If you allow the container to sit on the ground, roots can grow out of the drainage holes and into the ground. When you lift the container, huge parts of the root structure can break off. To avoid this, leave an air gap between drainage holes and the ground by propping the container off the ground on bricks or boards. The roots will stop growing down when they hit air.

Repotting Too Soon

Bougainvillea actually blooms better when the roots are crowded. This means a bougainvillea planted in the ground will take some time to establish enough roots to bloom well, and that a container grown plant will bloom best when it probably should be repotted. Spacing out your repotting cycle and only increasing the pot size as much as you absolutely must will keep your bloom production high.

Don't Make Sudden Environment Changes

Bougainvilleas love sun. They often bloom best on the south side of the house (or north if you live in the Southern Hemisphere). However, if you have a plant that's been grown in the shade, it will suffer if suddenly moved into the sun. The opposite is also true. To keep your plant healthy, transition it gradually to the sun. It won't be long before you get a bright crop of flowers in that sunny spot.

You are all set to grow bougainvillea in your garden. You and your guests will surely think they are in the tropics.