Bougainvillea Not Blooming: How To Get Bougainvillea To Flower
By: Kristi Waterworth
As beautiful as they are the in garden or landscape, getting blooms on bougainvillea can be a difficult task because of the way most gardeners think about their plants. Plants, after all, need careful, dedicated care, so no flowers on bougainvillea must mean that they’re not getting enough food, water or light. Shouldn’t it? A bougainvillea not blooming is a problem that’s easy to overcome, provided you think differently about your plants.
How to Get Bougainvillea to Flower
“Why doesn’t my bougainvillea bloom?” It’s a common question that growers everywhere ask about the gorgeous plants they brought home from the nursery, when they find the blooms stop coming shortly after the plant landed in its new spot in the garden.
The problem with bougainvillea is that they’re tough plants, hardy to the point of almost being weeds. That being said, they need to be cared for like weeds if you’re to find success with them. They need to be neglected to within an inch of their lives.
There are several errors that growers tend to make that interfere with bougainvillea flower formation, including:
Overwatering. Being the hardy plants they are, bougainvillea don’t need much water. Like cactus, your bougainvillea is actually native to very arid conditions so water it only when the top two inches (5 cm.) of the soil feel dry to the touch. More than that and you’ll encourage root rot and discourage blooms.
Overfeeding. When you find your bougainvillea has lots of gorgeous green growth and no blooms, it’s probably because of an excessive amount of nitrogen fertilizer. Like other plants, too much nitrogen encourages bougainvillea to add lots of vegetative parts like leaves and stems at the expense of buds. If you want blooms and your plant looks healthy, focus your efforts on supplementing phosphate and potassium, adding nitrogen only when your plant’s leaves start to look slightly less green than usual.
Over Pruning. Heavy pruning of bougainvillea will seriously reduce the amount of blooms your bougainvillea produces, so if you must trim, do so carefully. It’s recommended that you only trim right after a bloom if you trim at all. Again, being wild plants, pruning isn’t really in their plans, so if you’re trimming just to keep your plant small, you might as well replace it with a dwarf variety.
Repotting. Again, your bougainvillea thrives on neglect, including being allowed to become root bound. This is why landscape bougainvilleas often don’t bloom as rigorously or as frequently as those planted in pots. Some growers choose to plant their bougainvilleas in pots buried in the ground, which works to marry the concept of root binding with landscape integration.
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Read more about Bougainvillea
Why a Bougainvillea Has No Blooms
Bougainvilleas (Bougainvillea spp.) are known for producing an abundance of vibrant blossoms in dry soil and intense sunlight. Grown under the correct conditions, bougainvillea will produce blooms throughout much of the year. Bougainvilleas are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9b through 11.
How to Grow: Bougainvillea
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Blooms on and off almost year round
Mature Height x Spread
Depending on the species can be 3 feet to 30 feet tall and wide.
Bougainvillea are vine-like shrubs that produce an abundance of colorful blooms almost year round in USDA zones 9 to 11. They are a “go-to” landscape plant in many California, Arizona, Texas and Florida yards. Although the many bougainvillea can grow to 30 feet tall and wide, newer dwarf versions keep the shrub a more manageable 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. The papery flowers come in colors such as red, white, yellow, orange, purple, bi-color and pink. The leaves are green or variegated. When grown in full sun in a warm climate, bougainvillea will bloom profusely, making quite a show.
Not only are they nice landscape plants, they can be pruned and trained to climb a trellis or pergola, trimmed into an informal hedge and grown in containers. Their versatility, ease of growing and ability to keep flowering makes them a favorite.
When, Where and How to Plant
Plant bougainvillea in spring or early summer so the plant can get established before the cold weather of fall and winter. Plant in a full sun, protected location. Bougainvillea don’t grow well when temperatures go below 60F or above 100F. If you’re growing them in a very hot climate, plant where they’ll get some afternoon shade from the hot sun. Plant on well-drained soil. Avoid wet soils that can cause root rot.
Plant nursery bought shrubs in a hole dug three times the diameter of the root ball. Remove the plant from the pot and wash off the potting soil revealing the root system. Prune off any circling or errant roots and plant, adding water and the native soil to the hole. Bougainvillea likes a slightly acidic pH soil, so add sulfur if needed to keep the pH between 5 and 6. Keep well watered until established.
Bougainvillea doesn’t need a lot of water or fertilizer to grow well. Once established only water when the soil is dry to 3 inches deep. Bougainvillea is very drought tolerant. Fertilize lightly starting in spring and every few months through the growing season. Too much fertilizer or rich soil will stimulate the shrub to grow lots of shoots and few flowers.
If planting bougainvillea near a trellis or pergola, train the branches up the posts and attach them to the posts with Velcro plant ties. Bougainvillea will not attach itself to vertical supports like a grape vine, so they will need help climbing.
Dwarf bougainvillea varieties are especially adapted to container growing. Plant in a container one size larger than the root ball. Fill the pot with moistened potting soil and keep well watered the first year.
Bougainvillea grows rampantly and can quickly become unruly. Prune after it finishes blooming for the season to keep the plant in bounds and stimulate more flowering. Bougainvillea bloom on new wood, so prune to stimulate the growth of new branches. Wear gloves. Some gardeners will get a rash on their skin from bougainvillea stems and leaves. Also, some varieties have thorns, making them dangerous to work around.
In containers, water and fertilize plants more frequently than plants in the ground. In colder climates bring potted bougainvillea outdoors in early summer once the weather warms until fall. Overwinter the shrub indoors in a sunny window and reduce watering.
Companion Planting and Design
Bougainvillea is a showy shrub all by itself. Plant it near the house, in the lawn or along a fence or wall and enjoy the endless flower display.
Bougainvillea also can grow well with other plants. Pair the color of the bougainvillea flowers with the perennial plants. For purple bougainvillea select yellow perennials such as coreopsis and rudbeckia. For orange and pink bougainvillea, select blue flowered Veronica and salvia. For yellow varieties, pair with purple alstroemerias. For white bougainvillea, try black mondo grass or dark leaf colored coral bells.
Leave potted bougainvillea by themselves in a container and bring in other containers with colorful flowers to compliment your bougainvillea flowers when grouped together.
There are hundreds of varieties of bougainvillea. Select yours based on plant size and flower color. For thornless varieties try ‘Miss Alice’ (white) and ‘Singapore Pink’. For dwarf varieties try ‘Helen Johnson’ (copper), ‘Fantasy Red’ (variegated) and ‘James Walker’ (orange). For semi-dwarf, try ‘Vera Deep Purple’. And for large shrubs look for ‘Yellow Glory’ and ‘Juanita Hatten’ (red).
Tag: bougainvillea with no flowers
Will my Bougainvillea plant grow in a container? Yes and it will be a very happy plant. Bougainvilleas do great in most types of pots and containers. These plants are not easy to transplant so make sure the pot you choose is big enough to last the Bougainvillea for years to come.
Although they like their roots crowded in a container, Bougainvilleas do not like standing water. Make sure your pot has good drainage so the Bougainvillea does not get root rot.
Growing Bougainvillea in large pots
Fill your container with potting soil and place the bougainvillea plant inside. Find a sunny location and it will be easy to keep your Bougainvillea happy and healthy.
Bougainvillea plants on your patio
Bougainvilleas have beautiful red, pink and purple colored bracts, which are specialized leaves that contain the plant’s white slender flowers.
Bougainvillea plants can grow rather large so they must be kept pruned in pots and containers. You can train your Bougainvillea to grow up a trellis or in the shape of a tree.
Pink Bougainvillea thriving in a large container
During the winter, Bougainvillea plants can be most striking and provide gardens with abundant color. Winter is when Bougainvillea Vines and Plants reach their peak color.
Bougainvillias are tropical plants, magenta flowers, heat tolerant
The small heart shaped bracts of the Bougainvillea are quite delicate to the touch, and are crinkly in appearance.
Bougainvillea potted plant growing up a trellis
How long will a Bougainvillea plant display their color? The length of time depends on how much sun and heat it receives and how healthy the Bougainvillea plant is.
Typically, a healthy Bougainvillea will bloom for about 3 weeks.
Bougainvilleas love sun and more sun. They are heat tolerant and the hotter the better. At the very minimum Bougainvilleas need at least 5 hours of direct sunlight.
Bougainvillea pink leaves and white flowers
Supply your Bougainvillea with regular monthly fertilization. Nitrogen and phosphates are critical to flowering. One of the best Bougainvillea fertilizers I’ve come across so far is BOUGAIN.
large containers to grow Bougainvillea Plants
You can prune your Bougainvillea any time during the year because it does not affect bloom initiation. If you want the Bougainvillea to grow up, then prune the outer branches. If you want your Bougainvillea to grow out, then prune the new growth. Trim your Bougainvillea drastically before bringing it inside for winter.
Bougainvilleas blooming in pots
Bougainvillea plants and vines have a BLOOM CYCLE followed by a rest cycle whether you trim them or not.
I recommend a little trim or pinching at the end of each Bougainvillea bloom cycle as it promotes more budding for the next one. Our plants just ended a bloom cycle so I will be trimming Bougainvilleas this week.
Bougainvilleas bloom better with more growth
Question: We have a tree-shaped bougainvillea. How can I get it to bloom?
Answer: Withhold the pruning to allow this tree form to set buds and open blooms. Cutting the bougainvillea back to a consistent size and shape removes the potential flowers. Last pruning should be completed by mid-summer to have buds that open during late fall through spring. The more bougainvilleas grow, the better the flowering, so you might consider allowing this plant to take another shape, such as a rambling large shrub.
Q: I purchased several pink poinsettias in October that have started dropping their leaves. Is there a way to keep them attractive through December?
A: Too low light is normally the reason poinsettias drop their lower leaves. Sometimes the wraps applied around the containers hide the foliage and prevent light from reaching the lower leaves. Other times, the light level is too low in the display area. Over two months is a long time to expect display poinsettias to look good and not lose some lower leaves. Try to extend their life by keeping the plants in bright light but not full sun. Also, make sure the soil remains moist and avoid adding fertilizer until after the new year.
Pruning your bougainvillea too often or at the wrong time may prevent it from flowering. Prune bougainvilleas only after flowering has taken place, to promote new growth. Pruning a bougainvillea too long after a flowering period may remove the unopened buds for the next blooming period.
Leslie Rose has been a freelance writer publishing with Demand Studios since 2008. In addition to her work as a writer, she is an accomplished painter and experienced art teacher. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in art with a minor in English.