How to keep a bougainvillea compact and flowering?

gardenbear49(Florida zone 9b)October 5, 2012

I love these plants but don't love how they send all these sprawling long branches out with just a few flowers on the end. I grow them in full sun, mostly in the ground but a few in big pots and they all do the same thing. I see others in the area profusely blooming on very short branches and that's the way they come from the nursery too but I just can't seem to learn the trick. I have the everblooming purple, a supposedly compact orange that's no longer compact nor blooming, and a really sprawling red one that stays small and loaded with flowers for one of my neighbors but not for me!

I've all sorts of fertilizing and pruning routines. Any help would be great!

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I believe its the variety that makes them big or small. I have a little verigated one that hangs in a basket by my front door and is just the right size. The big ones are definately hard to control. I have one near my veggie garden and I am constantly backing into it and scratching up my legs. the other side of the coin though is when it is blooming in screaming purple and the flame vine is in show in screaming orange beside it....I forget all about the scratches and just enjoy the show! Look for dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 6:56PM
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Bougainvillea are as tough as old boot leather. I wouldn't bother with fertilising them other than very sparingly and infrequently. That could be what's causing the prolific growth.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:18AM
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Are you feeding it a lot or is it in rich soil? These guys can handle poor growing conditions. I have found mine tend to bloom better if i don't feed them as much. Or try laying off the nitrogen for a while.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:55PM
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Bougainvillea loves to be abused. Stick in sand and never feed it and don't over water and it will bloom its head off. The more you pamper it, the more it puts its energy into making leaves rather than blooms.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:48PM
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I read someplace that they bloom on 'new growth' same as roses, so after pruning they should bloom, the trick is the weather and the 'season' figure into this as well....sally

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 2:49PM
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They bloom more if they are root bound. That will also help control the size.

Bury them IN a plastic pot with the bottom cut out, pot and all. That will bind the roots quickly. Also agree... lay off the nitrogen.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:32PM
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gardenbear49(Florida zone 9b)

Thanks all for your input!I've been lusting after the bouggies I've seen in Cabo growing in big pots and blooming away like crazy on these eentsy small stems. They must prune them within an inch of their lives, but they come right back blooming even on 3 inch branches. When I prune them like that, they don't bloom again until they grow 3' or more! The purple one seems to bloom year around the best. Some of the CA growers say to fertilize a lot and use a specific boug. fert. and others say to starve them. Confusing...

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 9:27AM
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timetraveler(9b Melbourne Beach FL)

They do bloom on new growth (at least mine do). The key to blooms is pruning. As soon as the flowers are finished, cut the plant back to sub-compact. After it blooms again, cut it back again.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 8:26AM
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Pinch the tips of new growth!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 10:44AM
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gardenbear49(Florida zone 9b)

Thanks Timetraveler,
I see we are neighbors! Yes, I've tried pruning wayyyy back but they still will not bloom again til they'e sent out these sprawling 3' or more branches. Even my 'dwarf' orange one. I'd like to get them to bloom on short stems so the plants stay more compact and densely flowered on short stems.
Thanks Leahreneel,
I have tried to pinch the new growth, but still no blooms til the resulting new stems get way too long and gangly.
How do the growers get their potted plants to bloom so well on such short stems, I wonder. They must pour on the fertilizer in order to push them along to sell as soon as possible!?? Growth inhibitors maybe??

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 12:04PM
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lol,yeah, what they said! My bougainvillea is stuck in indigenous soil in full sun. I've had it for 18 years. I've never watered it, never fertilized it. The only thing I do is give it a SEVERE pruning when it starts to pull the privacy fence panels down OR when I know a freeze is coming.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 12:27PM
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