One of the marks of a conscientious gardener is a desire to research and educate oneself on the species being planted. This applies to novice and expert gardeners alike. Plants are similar in many ways but some species are unlike any other plant and have certain aspects about them so unique, even the most knowledgeable gardeners will struggle and possibly fail without some preliminary research. This ensures preparedness for anything unknown.
These butterfly-magnets have strong personalities that take a little finessing; you don’t handle them the way you do other plants. It’s no surprise that many gardeners find their tough-but-delicate, easy-but-challenging dichotomous nature frustrating and even off-putting.
We’re going to take a look at how low-maintenance and easy these plants really are, and how beautifully they’ll perform for you, once you master a few key points. But before we do that, a little background.
Artistic close-up of 2 Bougainvillea bracts, lit from behind. “backlit bougainvillea” by Steve took it is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Bougainvillea: Discovery, Arrival in the U.S., and Fascinating Biology (links)
The cover of the English-version of Bougainville’s ‘A Voyage Round the World’ from 1772, the trip on which Bougainvillea was “discovered” and subsequently introduced to the rest of the world.
How It All Began…
In 1766, a Frenchwoman by the name of Jeanne Baret boarded a ship with her lover, Philibert Commerson, who was traveling on an important voyage as an official botanist and naturalist to catalog the new discoveries that would be made. Ordered by the King, the voyage was meant to sail around the globe, and was headed by a famous French explorer named Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Only 26 years old, Jeanne was already an expert botanist, with a genuine passion for plants and herbs especially. She also loved adventure, and relished the thrill of posing as a man called ‘Jean’ in order to make the trip with her paramour.
Jeanne and Philibert collected many new specimens of plants and flowers together. An entire genus, Baretia, was named after her; Philibert said both the flowers and she were defined by contradiction. They would eventually land at the coast of Brazil. Exploring the lands, Jeanne happened upon a strikingly beautiful plant which she gave to Philibert upon her return to the ship. In the excitement, her true identity was revealed. Women were prohibited on excursions of this nature, and she was condemned to die by Bougainville.
Commercon begged him to spare her life, and declared he would name his showy new specimen in his honor if he did so. As this was quite a prestigious honor, he accepted, her life was spared, and what we now know as the Bougainvillea was born. This voyage also made her the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
An exciting beginning for an exciting plant!
This is only one of several versions out there of how exactly this happened; there are varying details surrounding the discovery of Jeanne Baret’s real identity and the danger she would find herself in as a result. In all versions, her life is ultimately spared.
One of her biographers, Glynis Ridley, pieced together documents and journal entries from passengers on the ship and wrote a book about her called ‘The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe’. It is available on Amazon.
In 20 years of landscaping, I worked with many species of plants. The xeriscape-friendly Bougies are probably in the top 3 plants I worked with the most. One of the things I love most about them is, no matter how well you think you know them, you get the feeling there’s still more to uncover; but with the amount of hybridizing and cross-breeding going on, it never will be. So, for me, there is a mystique about them I find fascinating.
We’re going to discuss cultivars first, then jump right into growing, so if you’re interested in learning more about this plant’s fascinating existence, including their discovery, arrival in the U.S., and scientific breakdowns of their unique biology and botanical milestones, I urge you to read the following short articles.
- Evolution in Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea Commers.) – A review by Priyadarshini Salam, Veluru Bhargav, Y. C. Gupta, and P. K. Nimbolkar
- Plant Story—Bougainvillea, From Brazil to the World by Kathy Keeler
- CABI Invasive Species Compendium: Bougainvillea spectabilis (great bougainvillea) Data Sheet by (original text) Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA
- How Bougainvillea Came to Brighten California’s Springtime and Summer by Nathan Masters
Bougainvillea climbing the wall of a building on Queretaro Street in Mexico. “Querétaro Street (1)” by Carl Campbell is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
If you read any of the above links, you now know about the Bougies’ discovery in Brazil in 1768 by a French naturalist/doctor, and how he named it. You also know a little about how they spread to other countries, and their eventual landing in California, where the pronunciation of the name morphed into a version heavily influenced by the Spanish language of neighboring Mexico. It is the pronunciation commonly used today.
- This is how we say it in the desert southwest: “bō-gun-VEE-yuh” (long ‘o’ in the first syllable, as in “ode” or “hope”)
- I’ve also heard: “boo-gun-VEE-yuh” and “boo-gun-VIL-lee-uh”
- Many people shorten the name and say: “bōg” (with the long ‘o’ sound), “bōgz” (plural), or “BŌG-eez”
I use “Bougies” naturally in my regular speech and therefore refer to them as such throughout this article.
Modern-Day Bougainvillea Cultivars
‘Raspberry Ice’ is more compact and makes an excellent container or hanging basket option. “#037 variegated bougainvillea (‘Raspberry Ice’)” by Nemo’s great uncle is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
If you’re going to be working with Bougies and you’re taking the time to get to know more about them, that knowledge base should include how the number of current cultivars came to be, and how they are identified. What’s going on in the world of Bougainvillea cultivars is, as far as I know, unique to Bougainvilleas. No other plant genus or species has been faced with this sort of thing.
There are over 300 different varieties of Bougainvilleas – note the use of the word “varieties” instead of species as with other plants. There’s a reason for this.
The 3 Original Parent Plants
There are somewhere around 18 total species (officially recognized and cataloged by the groups of scientists and botanists that manage plant classification) that belong to the Bougainvillea genus. Of those 18 there are just 3 that have the trademark colorful bracts for which Bougies have become known and that are therefore of ornamental value. In other words, valuable to wholesalers, retailers, and growers, for example, in the landscaping industry.
Those 3 are:
At one point, these 3 species were responsible for every single cultivar (or variety) with color being produced and used for ornamental and/or commercial applications. Any 2 of the 3 can be crossed with each other to create new varieties, and either of them can be the designated male or female. Where the original 3 parents only grow naturally in red or magenta colors, the progeny resulting from the cross-breeding has opened up a far wider range of colors and visual interest.
Ms. Alice is another popular cultivar, known for her large white bracts, compact size, and for being thornless. “Ms Alice” by Dinesh Valke is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
The 3 Hybrid Groups
These 3 parent plants have been crossed so much and so many cultivars have resulted from those crosses, an additional layer of naming designators had to be created and implemented in an attempt to keep it all organized. In lieu of becoming species, these three hybrid designations were assigned:
- × buttiana (glabra × peruviana)
- × specto-peruviana
- × specto-glabra
While this may have helped in some ways, it has confused matters in others. Now, crosses are occurring under the hybrid group names and the names of the original 3 species, and it is not uncommon for the same cross to occur (unintentionally) in different parts of the country, or different parts of the world, by different people.
This has resulted in multiple names being given to the same cultivar. It has made cultivars difficult to distinguish. It has created confusion in cultivar identification. It is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to determine the parent plants of cultivars.
Going Even Further: Mutation Breeding
These crosses sometimes produce progeny with spontaneous “bud sports”, which are small parts of the plant that are morphologically different from the rest of the plant. For example, a single leaf or flower petal that looks totally different from the rest of the plant.
This cultivar, named ‘Cherry Blossom’, was in the first grouping of multi-bracted Bougainvillea to be produced, which is regarded as an important milestone in Bougainvillea cultivation. The more common term is “double-bracted”, ostensibly referring to 6 bracts – instead of the standard 3 – around each bloom cluster. Because it is actually quite more than 6, and that number is fluid, many people say “multi-bracted” instead. “Bougainvillea Cherry Blossom Shenzhen Lianhuashan Park, China” by KHQ Flower Guide is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
These isolated anomalies can be taken and, through a process called induced mutation breeding, crossed yet again with any other species or cultivar to create even more cultivars. Every new cultivar that is produced becomes a candidate for crossbreeding to produce yet something else. And on and on this process goes.
Breeding with a bud sport is what gave us double-bracted varieties. Since we know all multi-bracted cultivars originated from B. x buttiana (aka B. glabra X B. peruviana), we can deduce that all doubles are a result of a Buttiana progeny being crossed with a bud sport via induced mutation. The mutation breeding process also gave us variegated foliage. So, noteworthy cultivating is happening as a result. Both of these mutated varieties are considered cultivation milestones, and I don’t know about you, but I think it’s very cool.
Thankfully, the results of and response to all this cross- and induced mutant breeding has been and continues to be positive. We get to bear witness to life and science coming together with exciting outcomes; outcomes like increasingly interesting and beautiful varieties with amazing features.
That they have not lost but instead managed to retain their original characteristics that made them so beloved in the first place is somewhat astonishing. The beautiful display of color, the penchant for living in high heat, exceptional capacity for drought tolerance, and wonderfully transitioning to little to no maintenance as they establish and mature are all traits every new cultivar still has as strong as the original 3 parents.
That’s impressive. Truly amazing, really.
The Bougainvillea ‘Enid Lancaster’ is just one example of the same cultivar unintentionally ending up with more than one recognized name. Like me, you may also know this beauty by ‘California Gold.’ “Bougainvillea X buttiana ‘Enid Lancaster'” by Kew on Flickr is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Worth noting: With specific regard to reproduction, all of these crosses, hybrids, and cultivars are either hermaphroditic (hybridization occurred in nature, can be pollinated) or sterile (occurred artificially, cannot be pollinated as there are no flowers but can be reproduced by rooting clippings).
I’m sharing all of this here because, aside from just being some really cool plant biology, I think it’s important to know as much as possible about the plants with which we work. Especially something as basic as where they come from. Knowing our mediums inside and out ultimately makes us better, more conscientious, and more responsible gardeners.
Since we’re on the topic of the Bougainvillea’s unique biology, let’s cover one more thing.
Bougainvillea’s Vibrant Color Display vs. Actual Blooms
This is something every gardener of Bougainvillea should know. Many people make the understandable mistake of thinking the visible color on the plant is the bloom; I hear it referred to as such all the time. But, it’s not.
That vibrant red, magenta, fuchsia, purple, white, yellow, orange, pink, and apricot display of color that you see? Those are actually not the blooms or flowers; they are leaves. They are modified leaves called “bracts”, and they do not photosynthesize the way regular leaves do, hence the color differentiation.
Close-up image of the colorful Bougainvillea bracts, commonly mistaken as the flower or bloom. The actual flowers of the Bougainvillea are the 3 white small blooms in the middle of the bracts.
The bracts grow in little circular clusters of 3, and inside those 3 leaves are the actual Bougainvillea blooms: 3 teeny tiny little white to pale yellow flowers.
The bracts’ purpose is to protect the blooms. They are also meant to attract pollinators with their vibrant colors, which they do quite well.
Alright, now that you have some useful background and context on these Brazilian beauties, let’s talk about growing some Bougs.
5 Crucial Dos and Don’ts of Successfully Growing Bougainvillea
When it comes to successful growing, 5 specific needs must ALL be met, and they must be met in specific ways. These are not suggestions, nor can you get by with doing just one or two. Bougainvilleas need all 5 or they will not perform as they are meant to at best; they will not survive at worst.
The infographic below sums it up for you in a handy snapshot you can print out for quick reference as needed.
How to Grow Bougainvillea: 5 Requirements for Establishment.
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail.
This is an urge many people have but it’s crucial to the Bougie’s survival that that urge is resisted. They need to be taken almost to the point of under-watering. They have a very flimsy root system that is overly sensitive and susceptible to Root Rot.
When you do water, give it a good, thorough soak but then allow it to thoroughly dry out before the next water. The less you can water a Bougainvillea, the better off it is, and the more color you’ll see. It is being on the brink of under-watering that triggers a bloom cycle.
A Bougainvillea that is getting too much water even by a small margin, apart from now being at risk for Root Rot, can react by staying in its growth cycle for too long, when it should be transitioning to its bloom cycle.
*The only exception to this is newly planted Bougainvillea plants in their establishment process.
Don’t: Deprive your Bougies of sunlight
No sunlight = no color. The bare minimum is 5 hours of direct sunlight per day. That is a true bare minimum. If you want color, they will not perform with any less than that. Substantially more than 5 hours a day is better. A southeast corner of your home, for example, works well as it will get both morning and afternoon sun. If your Bougies are in containers, move them outside, weather permitting. If the weather does not permit, move them to doors and windows to receive as much indirect sunlight as possible.
Worth noting: 90% of all Bougainvillea issues are either too much water or not enough sun. 90%!
Do: Be Generous With Giving Your Bougies Fertilizer and Supplements
The fertilizer needs to be the right blend, given at the proper frequency, and in the right amount. Bougainvilleas are heavy feeders, especially when they are younger and establishing. Organic options are preferred by many these days because they won’t burn the plant or root system, and they do not endanger pets and children.
3-4-5 is a good ratio that works well because Bougainvilleas don’t need much nitrogen (represented by the first number). What they need is more of the secondary elements, phosphorus and potassium, which are represented by the 2nd and 3rd numbers respectively. Hibiscus fertilizer works well too.
SuperThrive is a growth hormone I have been using for decades. It’s safe for every plant and can be safely incorporated into an existing fertilizer schedule. I often feed it by itself and it’s especially effective when nursing sick plants back to health. I highly recommend it. Bougies respond better to liquid supplements so use the liquid form. It is available on Amazon in various sizes and price points.
Don’t: Disturb their roots
Bougainvilleas are known for having very weak root systems and can be severely affected if they are disturbed. Therefore many compensate by planting them while still in their nursery containers. “File:Starr-100623-7708-Bougainvillea sp-potted plants-Pukalani Plant Company Pulehu-Maui (25042177995).jpg” by Forest and Kim Starr is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Don’t disturb their roots. Don’t disturb their roots! Oh, and did I mention, don’t disturb their roots? This is your new mantra when planting and dealing with Bougies. Bougainvilleas have a very temperamental root system, to the extreme. Even the slightest disturbance can retard their growth for a substantial period. This is why when it comes time to plant, you will need to handle them with very soft hands.
Do: Perform selective pruning after each bloom cycle
You mustn’t underestimate the significant role of pruning, or even skip it altogether. Bougies don’t need (or like) too much, but the little they do need is necessary to keep them performing at their best and cycling through their biological processes.
The best time to prune is right after a bloom cycle. You simply need to remove the ends of the long limbs that are growing at a faster rate and weighing down other parts of the plant, so that they are more in line with the size of the other limbs. Also, remove any dead or bare sections at the ends of the limbs as well. This prompts new growth.
Nicholas Staddon from Monrovia has a good 2-minute tutorial on Bougainvillea pruning that you can watch on YouTube:
Cuts should be made by hand and a good bypass pruner can easily get the job done. I recommend the Corona brand bypass pruners in the 1” size. If you are so inclined, you can also pinch the ends off.
If you’re pruning in this manner and the plant is getting too big for you, take your cuts down to your desired height/size and trim the plant uniformly. In my opinion, it looks more interesting to vary the resulting length of the limbs within several inches of each other, as opposed to doing them all the same length. This is just a matter of personal preference.
Make sure you wear gloves to protect against thorns.
Worth noting: Bougainvilleas are biologically either in a state of growing, or a state of blooming. One or the other, always. They constantly cycle back and forth between these two processes, performing only one at a time. When one process is in its cycle, the other shuts down. New cycles start approximately every 3-5 weeks.
A Display of Bougainvillea for sale at a nursery in Hawaii. “starr-060928-0425-Bougainvillea_sp-in_pots-County_Nursery_Kahului-Maui” by Starr Environmental is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Planting Your Bougainvillea
This is a step by step guide to the way I planted Bougs during my years as a professional. It’s how I was taught, it’s how I did it when I worked on a crew, and it’s how I instructed my crews to do it when I was running jobs. There are no big secrets or mind-blowing tricks; it’s just a matter of doing the right steps in the right order, using the right amendments and fertilizers, and handling every single plant with the greatest of care.
- In the ground or in a container?
The first thing to do is make this determination. If you live in cold hardiness zones 9-11, you can safely keep Bougainvillea in the ground without losing them to frost. Just about any variety will thrive in the ground. Options here include in the ground shrubs and also in the ground climbers – arbor, pergola, trellis, or wall climbers that start from the ground.
Lower zones will get too cold, therefore you will need to use containers that you can move inside in wintertime. Bougies don’t do well in temperatures under about 40 degrees, though there are a few cultivars that have been specially bred to be cold hardy to around 20-25 degrees, such as:
‘Barbara Karst’ – 20 to 25 degrees (does well as a shrub in the desert southwest; used mostly as a vine as it climbs up to about 20 to 30 feet)
‘California Gold’ – 25 degrees (is a nice option for a container trellis)
‘James Walker’ – 20 to 25 degrees
Local, dedicated nurseries or wholesale growers open to the public (as opposed to big box stores) are good about stocking plants that are suited to your zone and will grow successfully. If you choose from the selection they have available, you should be in good shape.
Some nurseries will broker in species for you from other states, for an increased rate, if desired. Be sure to do your research and ensure you’re ordering a climate-appropriate variety. I used to broker in Bougies from California quite a bit, back when I was trying to grow San Diego Red and California Gold here in the desert. The San Diego Red is my favorite and it looks so good with some California Gold peppered in. Unfortunately, Phoenix isn’t the place for those two, and I have to settle for seeing them when I’m in California.
If you live in a humid climate, give that mix a try.
The one-of-a-kind color of the ‘San Diego Red’ variety. A perfect in-ground option for humid climates. “Bougainvillea “San Diego Red”” by Italo Pinto Lütjens is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
At a big box store, you run the slight risk of getting a variety not fully acclimated to your climate. It’s not as common as it used to be, but it does happen.
If you want to try a different species not readily available in your area, you can buy other varieties online. Again, just make sure you’re ordering a variety that is proven to be a successful grower in similar temperatures, air conditions, and soil conditions.
My favorite container Boug is the variegated ‘Raspberry Ice’. It looks and performs great in a hanging basket as well. The contrast between the hot pink bracts and the variegated foliage is very eye-catching.
- Choose a Sunny Spot
Sunlight is an absolutely necessary part of successful Bougainvillea growing. You definitely won’t have any color without it, and your plant may not survive at all.
Find a place in your yard that gets hit with full-on, full blast sunlight. An open space is preferable but not required; they will survive against or along walls and can take a good amount of the reflected heat. A southern-facing spot is ideal, and if you have a southeastern home for it, all the better.
The spot you choose needs at least – absolutely not one second less than – 5 hours of full sunlight every day. That’s a hard bare minimum. Most sources will say 6 hours. If you can get 8 or 9, that’s brilliant.
- Ensure Well-Drained Soil
The spot you choose needs to also provide excellent drainage. Bougies are incredibly susceptible to Root Rot and will decline quickly if the soil they’re in retains too much water. If you need to amend the soil to accomplish this, by all means, move forward with that straightaway.
Amendment options to consider:
- Chunky pieces of rock down toward the bottom to help with drainage and avoid standing water or heavy moisture pockets
- Limestone or sulfur, only if needed, to raise or lower soil pH, respectively (Bougies like soil a bit on the acidic side so considering 7 is neutral, below that in the 5.5 to 6.5 range is good)
If possible, check the soil pH before planting. Shoot for a range between 5.5 and 6.5. “A field kit used to determine soil pH” by umseas is licensed under CC BY 2.0
- Organic material, like organic compost, to help nutrients get to the roots more easily
- A perlite additive to aid in keeping the soil aerated
- Planting the Bougainvillea
Planting is best done during the spring or summer. This gives the plant as much time as possible to root in before it has to endure its first winter. Remember to wear gloves to protect against thorns.
There are two schools of thought on planting, which means there are two options here. I’ve done both, and I’ve had equal success with both. The key: BE CAREFUL.
When digging the holes, dig them about twice as wide as the size of the root ball – same as any other plant. The depth can be the same size as the root ball, just break up the dirt at the bottom of the hole so it’s not compacted when the plant goes in. Add any amendments you decided to incorporate.
Option 1: Leave Bougainvillea in their nursery buckets
This option is all about protecting the root ball and keeping it intact, which is important. Sometimes trying to jostle a plant out of a nursery bucket results in the whole thing coming apart. Normally that’s not a big deal; with Bougies, it is.
You want to get the plant in the ground, in the hole, with that root ball still intact and undisturbed. No teasing, no brushing, not even touching of the roots beyond what is necessary to hold the ball in your hands.
With this option, you will use a sharp knife to make some slits into the sides and bottom of the nursery bucket. This is to provide an additional space for the roots to overflow when they can no longer be contained.
These need to be clean cuts. There can be nothing jagged left behind for the roots to catch on so the cutting utensil needs to be very sharp. That said, care must be taken to avoid piercing the bucket too deep. You want to avoid severing any roots or causing too much of a disturbance to the root ball.
When the Bougie has been situated in the hole, add fertilizer, backfill the hole, water the plant in, and give the earth around the base of the plant a couple of light taps.
Be sure to have a rake and shovel for in-ground planting, and hand tools like a trowel and spade for container planting.
If you’re planting the Bougie in a container, the same process applies. You will need to decide if you want to use a large pot that is going to give the roots a lot of room to spread out and grow into over time, or if you want to use a smaller pot that will keep the roots more constricted the way they like to be. With the latter option, you will need to transplant to a larger pot when the roots become too root-bound.
Either way, the container you choose needs plenty of drainage holes.
I would personally go with the larger pot, but if a transplant is a risk you’re willing to take, just do the best you can to go through the process with soft hands, keeping that root ball together.
If you’re going to do any kind of espalier growing, remember to plant near the apparatus. As height allows, gently train tendrils around the base of the growing structure.
Option 2: Remove Bougainvillea from nursery bucket before planting
The process is largely the same as leaving the plant in the nursery bucket. Ready the hole and add amendments.
Root rot caused by Pythium fungus, one of 3 fungi that target Bougainvillea. Look for stunting, yellow, curled, or falling-off leaves, and branch die-back.
- Position yourself on the ground so you’re close to the open hole. Get in a position where you’re low to the ground but still have a wide range of controlled motion for your upper body. I usually get down on one knee, with the foot of my other leg flat on the ground. This provides stability, and your upper leg is there for a brace or support, which you may need if you’re planting 5 or 15g size. 5s have a little heft to them, and 15s are flat out heavy. If you’re planting 1s, this is not necessary as those are very light in weight.
Take the nursery container in both hands.
- With soft hands: Place one hand palm down on top of the root ball/top of the nursery bucket, and the other palm up on the bottom of the bucket. Quickly but gently rotate the plant so it’s now upside down and the weight of the root ball is resting on what was your top hand, now your bottom hand.
- With as little movement as possible, use your free hand to gently slide the nursery bucket up and off the root ball. Remember, the goal is to keep the root ball together.
- Place the same hand back onto the bottom of the root ball, palm down. Quickly but gently, keeping the root ball intact, rotate the plant back to right-side-up orientation and in the same movement softly place it into the hole.
When the Bougie has been situated, add fertilizer, backfill the hole, water the plant in, and give the earth around the base of the plant a couple of light taps.
Caring For Your Bougainvillea After Planting
Congratulations on what hopefully turns out to be a successful planting! Hopefully, the root ball stayed intact for you.
As you move forward with your Bougs into achieving establishment, and after, do the following to keep them in optimum condition:
Water conservatively, then sparingly
A drip irrigation system will help ensure you do not overwater. If watering by hand, give Bougainvillea infrequent, long soaks (as opposed to frequent short waterings).
This means you will need to give them more than normal (“normal” = established), but with great care not to over-water. Even though they need more when young, they can still be harmed by too much. Once established, water sparingly.
Your Bougie will tell you when it’s ready for a drink. Assuming you’re inspecting it carefully and frequently, you will notice the first signs of wilting right away. This is when you water. Give it a good, long, deep soak.
Continue with regular fertilization
Remember we talked about Bougies being heavy feeders? Don’t forget about that. Every few months should suffice. If you feed it more than that you may find that it will start getting too big and difficult to maintain. If that happens, just cut back the fertilizer.
If you fertilize only once per year, do it after the frosts, in the spring. This will be a good kick-off to the growing season.
SuperThrive is something I use regularly on all my plants. It can be incorporated into whatever fertilizing you’re already doing. It’s a vitamin B and kelp based hormone that is safe and effective for all plants.
Relocate Containers as Needed
If you planted in containers and live in a climate too cold for the Bougie’s cold hardiness, bring it inside. Find an inside winter home for it where it will get as much sunlight as possible. Once the low temperatures are not below its hardiness, your plant(s) can go back outside.
Perform Regular Selective Pruning
This ultimately comes down to your desire as far as how big or small you want your Bougs to be. They can withstand a pretty hard cutback so don’t be afraid to do that if they have gotten out of hand. If you want to keep your plant smaller and more compact, you will need to prune it more often.
A pair of Corona 1” bypass pruners are the perfect tool for hand pruning Bougainvillea and any other plant.
If you want a large bush or are looking for a lot of coverage, the need for pruning will be less frequent.
Climbers will need very little pruning – just what breaks away and separates from the rest of the crawlers. If the apparatus it’s climbing is 30 or 40 feet tall, you’ll have to do very little; you won’t even have to take anything off the height, at least not for a while. When training climbers, just inspect them frequently and re-train any vines or tendrils that fall away.
Treat Pests & Diseases Immediately
One of the many pluses to Bougies is their general lack of issues with pests or diseases. They have a natural immunity to most diseases but are susceptible to infections like the aforementioned Root Rot, which can be avoided with diligent water management. Chlorosis is another concern that can be caused either by a nutrient issue or more commonly by Root Rot. So here again, this can be avoided just by ensuring you’re not over-watering, and that you’re feeding properly.
If you notice rust-colored spots on the leaves, and/or an overall rust-colored hue, your plant might have Leaf Spot. Remove and destroy the affected branches immediately and treat with a fungicide to prevent the spread to other plants.
Some pests don’t mind making a meal of Bougies but it’s an issue that is fairly rare. Aphids are a nuisance for all plants, and that includes Bougies. Mealybugs, worms, caterpillars, snails, and slugs have all been known to help themselves at times. Inspect your plant frequently. If you see damage in the leaves, or small black dots (which could be insect excrement), treat the plant with Neem Oil. Organic pesticides work well too.
Bougainvillea’s Never-Ending Benefits
I truly hope you enjoy your Bougie experience and that they perform beautifully for you. I hope their beauty brings you joy and that having them makes you feel good.
Benefits of Bougainvilleas’ Beauty: this amazing plant can bring beauty to your life in so many different ways…and colors!
As you get to know your Bougies better, perhaps you will consider branching out and trying your hand at grafting, hybridizing, or bonsai shaping. Maybe collecting rare varieties in hard to find colors appeals to you. This could be the beginning of a new passion or hobby!
Your body and sense of wellness can reap the benefits too. Snip off the end of a colorful limb, put in a vase, and you have a beautiful bouquet of flowers for a friend or yourself. Dry and press the leaves and bracts, then frame in a shadow box and display on your wall, or give as gifts. Read up on its many health benefits and learn how to use bracts for tea, and extract of the flower and leaves for other remedies. The flowers are shockingly packed with antioxidants, protein, alkaloids, phenolic compounds, and tannins, among other things.
You may have to work a bit at first to get it going, but what you get in return makes it so worth it.