The Q&A Archives: Rooting Bougainvillea Cuttings

Question: Can I propagate my bougainvillea by taking cuttings and rooting them?

Answer: Bougainvillea can be rooted with softwood or semi-ripe cuttings that are taken with a piece of last year's growth (called a heel). They take about 4-6 weeks to root, and bottom heat of 59 degrees will speed the process. Hardwood cuttings can be rooted outdoors or with bottom heat of 70 degrees. They take longer to root, usually several months.

Take softwood cuttings from new growth that is not yet firm. The cuttings should be about two inches long, with two to three pairs of leaves at the top of the stem. Insert the cuttings into the planting medium, just up to the lowest leaves. Rooting hormone may be used, but is not essential. It helps to pinch off the growing tip, to stimulate more root growth. If possible, place the cuttings in a covered environment (a mini greenhouse) and provide bottom heat.

Semi-ripe cuttings are taken in mid- to late-summer from the current season's growth that has begun to firm. The cutting's base should be quite hard, while the tip should be growing and still soft. The cuttings should be 2 1/2 to 4 inches long; remove any side shoots. Make a shallow wound on the stem by cutting away a thin piece of bark (1/2 inch long). This stimulates rooting. Dip in a rooting hormones and insert in a soilless potting mix. Provide a humid environment.

Hardwood cuttings are taken when the plant is dormant in late autumn or late winter just before bud break. Cut about 12 to 24 inches of healthy growth. Cut the shoot at the union of the one- and two-year old wood. Bundle up to 10 cuttings with a piece of twine; dip the base into rooting hormone; insert the bundle into a box or bed of sand and put in a cool (but not freezing) sheltered place over the winter. They should root by spring. Keep sand moist, but not wet.

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