In warm regions, bougainvillea blooms almost all year round and thrives outdoors. However, gardeners in colder regions have a little more to do to keep this plant alive and happy in the winter. Plants freeze to the ground when temperatures drop to -1 degrees Celsius, but unless it gets even colder, they usually sprout right back up when it gets warmer. Good winter care of bougainvillea will ensure that the plant remains healthy and produces abundant colorful petals. How to overwinter bougainvillea, we give tips!
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Wintering bougainvillea: What to do in the fall
Proper winterizing of your bougainvillea is critical to whether you can enjoy the tropical plant again next year. To overwinter, follow these steps:
- Cut your bougainvillea back enough in the fall to make it a bit more compact. If the leaves have not yet fallen off on their own, you can cut them off directly.
- Choose a bright and cool place for overwintering. This should ideally have a temperature between 10 and 15 °C, but in no case below 5 °C. Also make sure that the soil is not too cold. In spring, you can slowly accustom the bougainvillea to a location in the garden again and move it completely outdoors as soon as no more late frosts are expected.
What winter care the plant needs
Even during hibernation, you should check on your bougainvillea from time to time to keep it healthy through the cold months. Although watering should be drastically reduced during hibernation, the plant is happy to be watered every four weeks. The soil should always be lightly moistened to the maximum. Also, check the bougainvillea from time to time for pests such as spider mites, which prefer to thrive in dry air. If you winterize your bougainvillea using all these tips, you can enjoy the exotic plant for years to come.
If you are overwintering the bougainvillea indoors, you will need a little more planning. The container should be a few centimeters (5 cm) larger in diameter than the root ball. The soil plays the main role here. A nutrient-rich soil that retains some moisture is beneficial. It may be necessary to cut the plant back severely if it becomes rampant and grows vigorously outdoors, for ease of handling and to save space.
When the leaves begin to turn brown, they should be removed to help the plant retain moisture. Winterizing a bougainvillea also includes watering and stopping fertilization. No feeding should be done until late winter or very early spring.
Potted plants can accumulate salts from fertilizer, so it is advisable to flush the container a few days after feeding the plant to avoid root burn. You can also simply fertilize the container with well-rotted manure or compost. Place the containers in a cool, but frost-free location. Often the garage or basement is ideal, but make sure the plant gets sunlight.
Part of winterizing bougainvillea plants is making sure they are not too dry. As spring approaches, gradually increase watering. As temperatures get warmer outside, you should gradually acclimate the plant to more light and higher temperatures to prepare it for being outside. Once there is no longer a risk of frost, move the plant outside.
Pruning bougainvillea plants
The bougainvillea is a deciduous tropical vine. In the warmest zones it seems to be evergreen and can bloom almost all year round. But the bougainvillea is extremely sensitive and can die from frost in unusual weather. Native to dry areas, the bougainvillea prefers a site with dry soil and full sun. Because they love the hot, intense afternoon sun that we try to escape from, bougainvillea plants are excellent for pergola planting.
In the landscape, bougainvillea can also be pruned back to grow as a shrub, ground cover or foundation planting for hot, dry areas. The problem with growing, pruning or trimming bougainvillea plants, of course, is the unpleasant, long thorns that most varieties have. Good gloves usually cover not only the hands, but also the forearm. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt when pruning can also help prevent unpleasant cuts and scrapes.
Good safety clothing is important, but the most important thing when cutting plants is sharp, clean, sturdy scissors. If you suspect pest or disease problems with the plant you are pruning, disinfect the shears between cuts by soaking them in bleach water. Make all cuts cleanly, as torn and ragged edges take longer to heal, giving pests and diseases more opportunity to infect the plant.
When to prune bougainvillea.
It depends on where and how the plant is growing. If they are growing as container plants in cool climates, you will probably need to prune the plants back each fall to move them to a protected location. In this case, there is really no right or wrong way to prune a bougainvillea. Simply cut the bougainvillea back to a manageable size and bring it indoors before frost threatens in your area.
After severe pruning, the plant will go into dormancy, but will fully re-emerge in the spring. It is also advisable to treat the plants for pests and diseases before bringing them indoors for the winter. Most plants are in a semi-dormant state in mid to late winter and cannot be harmed even by severe pruning. Cut out dead or diseased wood and also remove overhanging branches that prevent good air circulation in the plant.
Finally, there is rejuvenation pruning, which consists of cutting the plant to a medium height so that the lower stems grow again, thus rejuvenating it. Gradually cut the high branches so that the low ones continue to grow and you have a younger plant again.