Get the best from your Bougainvillea

The bougainvillea is an all-time favourite in the garden, never disappointing with its bold colours, daring height, and textural intrigue it brings to spaces. Maximise the beauty of your bougainvillea this month with Life is a Garden’s insights on pruning styles, container planting, fertilising, indoor growing, care tips, and more.

Planting tips for youngsters

Available in red, purple/mauve, white, yellow, orange, magenta, and many shades of pink, bougainvilleas are simply stunning but rather sensitive when young. In their adolescence, bougainvilleas have easily damaged, brittle root systems. When planting, we recommend thoroughly wetting the soil before transplanting from the nursery bag or container. Avoid loosening the soil away from the roots during this process to prevent transplant shock, which can greatly affect new arrivals.

Top tip: Bougainvillaeas love warm, sunny spots with well-drained, rich and loamy soil. They prefer infrequent but deep watering.

Styling and bougie training

Bougainvillea plants are essentially creepers, but with skillful pruning, they can be trained to grow into various styles and shapes. Encourage your bougainvilleas to form neat formal hedges using mesh or wooden trellises. In smaller gardens, they can be managed through frequent pruning and even shaped into ball shapes known as superballs or standards. Depending on the desired size or height, bold bougainvillea columns can also be created, serving as captivating decorative elements.

Top tip: Go for low-growing varieties and experiment with hedging styles and wall cover-ups. Remember to use string to tie down your bougainvilleas while still in training school.

Pruning yay’s and nay’s

Pruning should be carried out once your bougainvillea has finished flowering, encouraging new growth for the next flush of fabulous flowers. A general rule is that regular light pruning will maintain their shape with near-constant regrowth and vibrant blooms. Pruning also aids in disease reduction and prolongs the plant’s lifespan. Pruning during winter sets the tone for the new season, giving your bougainvilleas a great head start.

Top tip: Pinch off tender ends that are about to bloom to promote denser, brighter blooms.

Containers and indoors

Bougainvillea will also thrive in containers as long as the potting mix is well-drained, nutritious, and receives infrequent but deep watering. They require ample sunlight but can tolerate some shade during the day. When growing indoors, select a spot that receives partial sunlight and is well-lit throughout the day. Regularly prune indoor bougainvilleas and avoid overwatering them. When choosing a container, opt for pots with sufficient drainage holes (don’t forget the saucer) and consider that the size of the pot will impact the size of your bougainvillea growth.

Top tip: Try special container growing bougainvillaea varieties such as vera purple/white, flame, ruby, and rijnstar.

Feeding, frost, and pests

A balanced foliar fertiliser can be applied every four weeks during the growing period. Alternatively, a slow-release 3:1:5 fertiliser every two to three months will also yield excellent results. Consult your GCA Garden Centre attendants for advice and recommendations on feeding solutions. Another advantage of bougainvilleas is their virtually disease-free nature, provided they receive ample sunlight. In particularly cold regions during winter, a frost cloth should be used for protection, but they generally exhibit strong resistance and regrow well.

Top tip: Look out for aphids and red spider mites that may spawn during spring. Luckily, these are easy to take care of with the variety of organic and chemical pesticides available at nurseries.

Remember to mulch around all bougainvillea beds and containers to retain soil moisture and reduce weed growth. Follow these tips for optimal bougainvillea growth, and may your journey in cultivating creeping and hedging plants be flamboyant and ever successful! Life is a Garden, and yours certainly deserves a thriving bougainvillea.


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