are bouganvillias tricky to transplant?

flyskyhigh40(z17 N.Ca)May 12, 2005

I am buying bouganvillias for the first time, and they are quite expensive--$40.00 for a 5 gallon. So, I want to make sure to transplant them correctly. Any tricks to doing this?

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When I first got into the nursery business xxgarbledyxx-something years ago, bougainvilleas were not difficult to transplant.

It was rare, however, to buy one that had a good show of flowers on it.

Somewhere along the line, growers developed a way to grow a bougainvillea quickly to blooming stage.

So now we have beautifully blooming bougies in nurseries. But no root system.

They're not inherently root shy nor difficult to transplant. We've simply ended up with a marketable plant that's now "tricky" to get out of the can without the root ball dissolving before our very eyes.

Okay, enough of that soapbox.

Here's what I do...

I keep the bougie in the can near the location where I plan to eventually plant it. Over the weeks, I water it and occasionally feed it (with a fertilizer that has almost no nitrogren in it). The plant puts out a better root system and develops a sturdier top.

Sometimes it will drop a considerable amount of leaves because it needs to adjust to the surroundings versus the nice humid and hot greenhouse from whence it came.

I've never lost a bougie.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 12:50AM
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They are tender rooted so you want to handle them gently. Avoid disturbing the root ball. It's going to be trickier with a five gallon size. If the pots are thin enough you may want to cut them away if the plant does not readily slip out. If you have problems with gophers, I would recommend lining the planting holes with chicken wire. My Bougies got eaten to nubbins by gophers.

A also use a planting technique called 'mud puddling'. I picked it up off of a site about planting natives, but it's worked well with everything I've planted. I dig the hole, not very big actually and slip the plant out of it pot and set it in there. Then I fill it with water and throw the dirt back in while the hose is still going. I soak it really well. the first day. My plants don't show any kind of transplant shock and they usually start growing right away.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 12:54AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

When the planting hole is ready, I cut the bottom out of the pot, then set the pot in the hole. Put some of the backfill in and mix in a little slow-release fertilizer, then cut down the side of the pot on 2 sides, remove, and fill in completely, adding more slow-release fertilizer mixed in the soil. Do the planting dance around the outer fill to snug in the soil. Water thoroughly.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 11:42AM
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plantRN(SoCal zone10)

Be careful. If the root ball is disturbed then you will have a plant that just sits there for months on end and do nothing - we had to replace about 8 of them in our parkway (between the sidewalk and the street). Extra caution and a good fertilizer at planting can save you serious $$

Good luck.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 10:00PM
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They hate having their roots disturbed, and can sulk for quite awhile after. But when they get over it...POW!!!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 10:22PM
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East2West(9 and 10)

Is there any secret to getting bouganvilla to bloom? I planted four. Two are beautiful and two are just getting leaves on them. Are they like children?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 8:44PM
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When I first moved to California from the east coast I read in the Sunset Garden Book that Bouganvilleas were very sensitive to transplanting and to gently slice the can away from the root ball once it was placed in its planting hole.
I had always followed this advice and never had a lost.

A couple of years ago we had to transplant and rip out a bunch of bougies.
I told the client it was probably going to be a waste of time and that they most likely would not take the transplant.
I was wrong.
In several cases where I thought it was going to be a lost cause in transplanting, I just ripped the plant from its hole , threw it in the back of my pick up truck and for the hell of it threw it in another hole in the ground at my house.
It was brutal plant abuse at its worse ... and the bougies are thriving in their new locations.

go figure .

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 1:06AM
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Bougainvillea's are essentially indestructible.They will flourish with benign neglect. I would disagree with disturbing the rootball unless it is terribly root bound. I don't even rough up the rootball when I plant them. If you can, trim them back to the shape you wish.Water only until established you will see new growth on the bark.To increase blooming keep them very very dry and don't fertilize ever.When I first moved to St. John I thought there were different varieties of boug's those that grew on pergola's, tree types, those in pots. I soon learned a boug's shape is totally dependent on how it is pruned and trained. The same plant can in a fifteen gallon pot forever as a deck plant or bonsai for a coffee table. Good Luck

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 11:24PM
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I recently got a small bouganvilla that was in a 1 gallon pot. It was bone dry with the leaves curling inward. The flowers are the orange to pink color. I carefully transplanted it into a larger container,and watered it. I noticed it had sort of a floppy root system, not tight. That was 2 weeks ago. The leaves are still curled in, it "looks" like it is wilting all the time, and needs water, but the leaves feel firm. I never had this on my other bougies. Why would the plant look like this ? Also how often do you water a new small bouganvilla transplant?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2005 at 9:46AM
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Wow, I am in utter disbelief over what I am reading and chuckling along the way. :P To think of all the mean things (hehehe) I've done to our poor Bougainvillea over the yearsÂpoor babies. I never was very 'easy' on 'em when transplanting. They seemed to do okayÂin fact they were just fine. I didn't realize how sensitive they were. We just recently dug up the monsters and gave them away (they probably went into shock!) and they're doing just fine. Maybe they were just used to our manhandling? :) We now have four that are in pots (a pair in each pot) and they're doing great. :) I will be much more gentler with them (but then they'll probably wonder whyÂ).

    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 11:26AM
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    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 10:50AM
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CA Kate

WOW! I'm not sure you can. Bougies HATE to have their roots messed with; and you will need to cut away the protruding roots to even get it out of the pot --- unless you're willing to sacrifice the pot by carefully breaking it away and not disturbing the roots. But then, you'll still need to dig those roots in the ground, sooo.......

You might try removing the roots that are coming out of the pot first, leaving the others undisturbed and allow the plant to recover the loss of roots before un-potting it... but then even that might kill the plant.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 1:46PM
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I am growing mine in pots. I started out with a gallon pot & am now using a 25 gallon container. My experience has been they suffer transplant shock when repotting. They tend to like deep pots, & I pot them up a couple sizes whenever I repot. Mine have not thrived in small pots, but have in the larger pot. I also disturb the roots as little as possible. They also need more water when grown in containers.
It took 3 years for mine to get to a 5 gallon size. They are very inexpensive in the gallon size.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 8:37AM
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My bouganvillas are in the ground and I have discovered that they aren't getting enough sun. When is the best time to transplant them and how should I do it? I live in Savannah, GA where there are pretty mild winters. Should I transplant them back into pots so I can move them during the cold weather?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 4:50PM
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I've been having limited success with my bouganvillias as bonsai. I cannot seem to reduce the leaf size and periodically they loose much of their foilage. I was able to coax the smaller of the two to bloom last season. any comments? advice?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 10:26AM
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CA Kate

I can't imagine how you would use a Bougie for Bonsai since Bonsai requires root pruning -- and, as has been said in this thread -- Bougies DO NOT like to have their roots disturbed in any way, shape, or form; and will promptly die if such occurs. And, it has been my experience that they really don't tolerate much top pruning either.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 3:37PM
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The thing that I've noted about boogies is that they can be shocked, but don't die, though they may seem to have.

They may remain dormant for some time, perhaps on the order of years, but eventually, awaken from their sleep.

Transplanting is a shock to them.


Here is a link that might be useful: Art Link

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 8:58PM
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My 7" bougie bonsai is now 20 years old in a 5"x6" pot. I have trimmed 2 or 3 roots every 4-5 years. It blooms hot pink every other year about 6/7 bracts. Than I trim it back to about 10" on 3 of the 7 branches. I have two other bougies, one was a twig 7" long [now 5'] 15 years ago. I braided 3 of the stems, my hubby made a metal umbrella form for it so it stays in rounded draping shape. This year it gave me 300 hot pink flowers! It sheds its leaves every year. 2nd bougie a standard tree, hot purple, hasn't bloomed for 3 years. Can I take offshoots and propagate them- How? All 3 are in our apartment. I take it the standard isn't blooming because I transplanted it out of it's 20 gal. pot into a 40 gal. 3 yrs. ago by what I am reading - that one doesn't lose its leaves. Have begun starving them for water like my friend from India instructed. They seem happier that way.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 8:25PM
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Last year I bought three, two were planted in the ground the third in pot. The one in the pot was they only one that survived.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 1:58PM
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They're difficult to replant without disturbing the root ball, which tends to easily fall apart. Do the best you can, because the more careful you are the less time the bougainvilla will be in shock.

Shock presents with curled leaves and a generally unhealthy look.

Water the new plant as you would any other for the first months, but don't fertilize much. Prune ruthlessly, as each cut will generate multiple new growth.

After the period of transplant shock or dormancy, every bougainvilla I have planted has eventually rallied and taken off like a rocket.

While treating the sword wounds caused by trimming my 100-foot long 10-foot- high bougie hedge, I often curse the fanatic will to live of these indestructible killer-spined rainbow colored monsters.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 3:02PM
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