The Q&A Archives: Caring for Bougainvillea

Question: I recently bought a bouganvilla plant in a hanging basket after I came across a gorgeous picture of one growing over the balcony, full of gorgeous blooms. How can I get mine to grow like that? Can it grow year-round here in North Carolina? It doesn't snow often in our area, but we do have hard freezes.

Answer: In warm winter areas bougainvillea can reach outstanding proportions. However, in your gardening region you'll need to consider them as annuals, or plan to nurture them all winter by providing protection from frost. Sometimes bougainvillea can be grown as houseplants, or at least kept alive indoors, and taken back outside when weather warms.

For now, provide your plant with full sunshine, keep the soil moist but not soggy wet, and prune back the shoots when flowers fade. Bougainvillea flowers on new stems and they are quite vigorous growers. The more you prune, the more flowers your plant will produce.

If you decide to overwinter your plant indoors, keep it well watered during the spring and summer months then taper off on watering in early fall. Before nighttime temperatures drop below 45F take your plant indoors and place it in a sunny window, in an unheated room. Keep the soil almost dry during the winter, then increase the temperature and watering once spring arrives. When all danger of frost has passed, take your bougainvillea back outdoors.

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