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Gardening with Laurie: Get most out of your bougainvillea

By By Laurie Garretson
April 25, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 24, 2013 at 11:25 p.m.


Spring-like weather can bring gardeners many things. Of course, the most often thought is of the beautiful weather along with all the colorful plants. Spring gardening also seems to bring lots of gardening questions.

So today, let me try to answer one of the most commonly asked questions from the past few weeks. I figure if a couple of people ask the same questions, chances are pretty good that many more gardeners would like to know the answer, as well.

My bougainvillea was beautiful and covered in blooms when I bought it, and now it won't bloom. What's wrong? The color we see on bougainvillea are not flowers but actually bracts or colorful petal-like leaves. There could be several reasons why a bougainvillea doesn't bloom.

First of all, bougainvillea like to be root bound. Many times when gardeners take a bougainvillea home from the nursery they plant it in the ground, or a larger container and it stops blooming. Going from a small container to a larger container or to the ground can take the plant a couple of years to again become root bound and to then really start blooming again.

Another reason why bougainvillea plants won't bloom can be from soil that is kept too wet. All bougainvillea plants like dry periods. When you notice the tips of the stems wilting then water the soil, but let it go dry again before the next watering. Amend lots of good compost into the soil and fertilize the plant each month with some Rose-Glo fertilizer and a tablespoon or two of Epson salt.

Bougainvillea are heavy feeders. After a big flush of blooming color, bougainvillea will rest for a short while and then flush out into full color once again. They really do seem to like taking these little plant naps.

Bougainvillea want full sun. The more sunlight and correct growing conditions, the more blooms; the less sunlight, the less blooms, no matter how healthy the plant is. Hot weather will not necessarily equal blooms, but a southern exposure will be the best location for all your bougainvillea.

Bougainvillea are very sensitive to day and night length. Ideally they want equal amounts of both. This is why they do their best blooming in the spring and fall months. Never place a bougainvillea where it gets any artificial light during the night.

If you feel your bougainvillea is becoming too big and are afraid to cut on it, put these fears to rest. You can trim or cut on bougainvillea at anytime. They bloom on new wood. A happy, healthy bougainvillea will soon be covered in color after you do any trimming.

When transplanting bougainvillea do so with care. Bougainvillea plants do have a very fine root system, which is one of the reasons you want a good soil mixture for them to grow successfully.

Remember, bougainvillea like to be root bound. They can be happy in a container for several years before needing to be re-potted.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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