Bougainvilleas are tropical plants, being native to Brazil, that thrive in areas outdoors with low rainfall and intense heat. For maximum blooming, they need direct sunlight for at least 5 hours per day. Bougainvillea thrives in hardiness zones 9 and up (Marco Island is a perfect setting for just that). For you seasonal residents, Bougainvillea can be enjoyed in other zones as long as they are protected and brought indoors during the winter months.
Bougainvilleas are heavy feeders, and they require regular fertilization, especially during the flowering months (Sept – Nov and Mar – May). It is recommended to use a balanced fertilizer with high iron and other micronutrients to strengthen the delicate roots and intensify the color bracts and foliage, a 20-20-20 or a 6-8-10 bloom boost formulation will work. Do not apply fertilizers to dry soil, and do not attempt to over fertilize, since this will not produce faster growth and may, in fact, damage the plant. Reduce the frequency to half during non-coloring months, especially under cool temperatures.
Bougainvilleas are drought-tolerant plants, and require very little water once established. Do not let your Bougainvillea become too dry, as this will cause flowers and foliage to drop. On the other hand, over-watering, or allowing Bougainvillea to sit in water, may cause severe bract-drop or even may cause the plant to stop blooming altogether.
Simple Rule of thumb: If few leaves, but some color – not enough water; If lots of leaves, but little color – too much water; If a combination of healthy leaves and bracts – just right.
Pruning & Pinching
Pruning & pinching bougainvillea are important techniques to promote the greatest growth and flowering – as bougainvillea only bloom on new growth.
On Marco Island we (landscape professionals) commonly perform a hard cut at the first sign of summer, and keep on a regular trimming schedule all summer long to maintain size. Pinching is the method of removing the soft tips of young plant stems to encourage fuller growth. Pinch (Pruners or fingers) about ½ inch from the tip of the new soft growth. Bougainvillea will send out several new stems just below the pinched tip. The best time to prune or pinch is after the flush of color or flowering cycle is completed. Flowering. Flowering cycles are typically four to six weeks.
Reference source information compiled through Bougainvillea Growers International.
Alan Brown together with his wife Robin are owners of Island Gardeners LLc here on Marco Island, a licensed, insured and bonded company, specializing in Residential & Commercial Lawn Maintenance as well as design and installation of plant material for new construction and remodels.
Alan is a Licensed Landscape Contractor in Collier County, Is Greenscape certified for Marco Island (Marco Island’s new required license by all local Landscapers), is a Commercial landscape maintenance license holder from the bureau of entomology & pest control, and is a holder of an Agricultural Dealer’s license.