bougainvillea care

karyn1(7a)May 10, 2007

I was given a beautiful bougainvillea today and would like to keep it that way. lol What conditions do these plants like? How much sun, water, humidity and fertilizer and when should it be fed? Should I remove spent blooms? Right now it's in a 12" pot and it's about 3' tall. Will it be able to remain in that pot for the rest of the summer? It will have to be wintered over in the greenhouse or in my house under grow lights. Does it need to be pruned at any time? I grow a number of tropical plants but this is a new one for me.



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Just about all the info you could possibly need can be found RIGHT HERE

Briefly, the "flowers" are actually colorful leaf bracts, and form during short days, so the further north they are grown, the greater the likelihood that blooming occurs around the equinoxes (spring and fall). Small pots are adequate, the soil must be dry before watering (even more so than plumeria), just let the plants wilt and then water.

They can be stored dormant overwinter like plumeria, the leaves will drop, and they can be kept in a cool location, but kept slightly moist so the roots don't dry out completely.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 6:54AM
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Thanks so much for the info and link.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 9:11AM
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sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida 9a)

That is a lovely bouggie. Royal Purple?
My Royal purple gets quite tall, it is probably 10 ft now and I usually cut it back. I have heard people say they bloom on new growth, but mine blooms on both old and new, so...I dont know about that! It is a very reliable bloomer.

Bougainvillea once established are extremely drought tolerant. They can take blazing sun and love heat. I have seen them planted along the freeways in S. AZ that get extremely hot in the summer, and people plant them in their yards here, in gravel and sand with 120 F heat and no problems. They basically treat them like cactus.
They do need water more often when they are in pots. If they start to wilt, water them. If you have a water meter, keep them around a 1 (lowest #) if they are in a pot. I have many bouggies and I keep mine somewhat pot bound and only repot every 2 yrs. They do bloom better potbound. They also seem to love bloom booster and I have always given mine BB and get blooms pretty much year around (except during maybe Jan and Feb having less blooms but they still do bloom !) with no ill effects. Just make sure to water, before you fertilize. If you are going to overwinter them without bright lights you can let them rest and stop fertilizing them at least a few mos before they will be stored. Mine don't seem to like foiliar feeding, not sure why so I just do it the reg. way.

They can tolerate even the poorest soils. For pot culture, you can plant them in a cactus soil with extra perlite mixed in. Or make your own mix, with a good potting mix, sand, and perlite. They have fine roots and must have good drainage or they will root rot.
You can grow them like a shrubby vine or like a standard or espalier them. They overwinter in pots well if you keep them very dry, maybe water once per mo., making sure they dry out in between. I think they are easier to overwinter than say, mandevilleas.
My favorite ones right now are temple fire (starts out brick red -fades to hot pink), alabama sunset (starts out dk orange and fades to med/lt pink), and Seafoam, which starts out green and turns pure white (with no pink tinge) and looks refreshing next to all the other bright/hot tropical colors lol.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 12:01PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Hi Karyn. I have one that overwinters nicely. You can keep it going over winter as a houseplant with warmth and light, but it will likely drop some leaves. Or you can put it in a coolish place with very minimal water and low light and it will do pretty much the same thing, with less work!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 1:38PM
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Thanks for all the info. SJN that Seafoam sounds like a beautiful plant. I put it out back and it's getting sun from sunrise to sunset. Hopefully it will do well. If I want to allow it to go semi dormant over the winter can I prune it back so it doesn't take up so much room?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 9:35PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Yep, karyn, prune away!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 10:09PM
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If possible, set outdoors in'll reward you w/beautiful blooms.
Some bougs are deciduous, others evergreen..I'm not sure about Royal Purple..unfamiliar w/that one.
Perhaps, someone here can offer help. But if you notice leaves dropping around autumn into winter, don't toss plant..Toni

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 5:15PM
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Ditto on saving the plant even if all the leaves drop off. I put mine into a very cool garage toward the end of autumn and forget about watering it. It drops all its leaves and resprouts them and flowers once it gets outside again. Outside, place it in your sunniest, hottest, exposure and do not overly pamper it. Do not overwater or overfertilize--occasional drought actually increases flowering I believe.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 10:59PM
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firegurl(z10 CA)

Hey Karyn :)
You have gotten some great tips biggest advice for bouganvilla is to be gentle with the roots, they are fragile, fibrous and hate to be disturbed. It's not uncommon for them to lose all of their leaves if their roots are messed with. I have one on a trellis and it fell over with the wind gusts once, the plant went into a shock, the good thing is they may look dead but they'll sprout again...I agree with that. Other than that they like sun, moderate water, well-draining soil. I never fertilized mine, seemed to do better without it as alot of tropicals live in nutrient poor soil. They can withstand some cold, but not continued frosts/snow. I cover mine with a sheet on cold nights esp. if we get a freak frost like this past winter in Los Angeles. Hope this helps :)
I am still trying to germinate those blue bead lily seeds you sent those are tricky.

:0 Danielle

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 3:51AM
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Thanks for all the tips. I have it in a sunny location and it seems happy, lots of new growth. It's in a 12" pot and I'll probably leave it alone. If I decide that I want it inground can I just sink the pot and lift it in Oct? Will the roots that get cut by lifting it in the fall shock it to death?

It's been very dry here and I only watered it once. When I first got it I gave it a dose of B1 & ST. I also wanted to make sure it was in a well draining mix, which it seems to be. I figure I'll wait until it looks droopy before I water it again. Would it benefit from misting the foliage?

When I allow it to go dormant this winter how much of the plant can I prune? At the rate this thing is growing it looks like it will be a monster by the end of the growing season. I'll keep it with my brugs and plumies, either in the garage or an unheated greenhouse.

Danielle The BB lilies can take a year to germinate. They might need a period of cold stratification. I had a good link for germination instructions. If I can find it I'll forward it to you.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 9:33AM
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Karen, anytime you set a potted plant in the ground, by fall when lifting, there will be root problems..they grow out through the drainage holes..I've done just what you're talking about several times, but when digging up had to break roots.
If you decide to plant in ground, after digging up I'd be sure to apply ST. (one last time before winter)
You can prune a good portion of the boug, (try rooting cuttings) Toni

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 4:19PM
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firegurl(z10 CA)

I wouldn't bother misting it. It does just fine in hot dry weather and I've never seen any bugs, mold etc on the leaves in the hot conditions either, why take the risk. If the leaves droop by all means water it generously then let it dry up a bit. I would just keep it potted up for now. When it outgrows its pot you can carefully repot it while it is dormant. I wouldn't put it in the ground, it won't survive your cold temps for long periods of time. A chill or frost in one thing, ice and snow is another, lol! Just make sure it won't knock over or be taken with the wind.
Thanks for the blue bead lily advice, I had them stratifying since we traded...I don't know that's at least 3-4 mts. think that was long enough? I am pretty sure you sent me germination instructions, i am just being impatient he he.
;) Danielle

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 2:23AM
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I wasn't planning on leaving it in the ground year round. I'd lift it in the fall like I do my other tropicals. I just wondered if that would shock the plant too much?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 11:43AM
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