The Q&A Archives: Non-blooming Bougainvillea

Question: My bougainvillea hasn't had color in its leaves since planted last year although its growing well. How can I get the red back?

Answer: You may have to stress your bougainvillea a bit to coax it to bloom, says Harry Leuzinger, co-owner of Plumeria People, grower of more than 25 varieties of bougainvillea in Leander, Texas. Usually, bougainvilleas are free-blooming, putting out a flush of flowers starting in late summer. But some varieties can be late- or finicky bloomers, explains Leuzinger. Try the following wilt method to stimulate bloom formation. After the main flush of new leaves emerge in spring, cut back on water until the leaves hang straight down during midday. Give the plants only enough water each morning to prevent them from completely drying out. Don't worry if the leaves drop - your bougainvilleas will still be okay. Continue this procedure for two weeks, thenbegin watering daily, followed by a monthly application of a low-phosphorus, high-potassium time-release fertilizer such as 17-7-10 at a rate of one tablespoon per gallon container size. The plants should bloom well while you are fertilizing them, saysLeuzinger. Keep watering and feeding on this schedule until new leaf growth appears after flowering. If you are still having problems, try growing a free-flowering variety such as 'Barbara Karst', advises Leuzinger.

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