The Q&A Archives: Confused About Bougainvilla - Shrub Or Groundcover?

Question: I am very confused. I purchased and planted two "rasberry ice" Bougainvilla plants this spring. My local nursery said they were good for ground cover. All other information I've seen on them talks about them being potted plants or trellis climbers.

I want them to flourish -- and I'm thinking about getting more. But tell me -- what is the best planting environment for them? As a groundcover, shrub, potted plant, for a trellis?

They are currently in the sunniest part of my garden. I watered them well the first month and then sparingly since then. They are doing fine, but I wonder how to make them thrive?

How best to winter them over and where SHOULD they be?

I'm in Brooklyn, NY, zone 6, backyard garden. 6 hours direct sun max per day.

Answer: This is a tropical plant and so must be brought indoors before cool weather begins. It is a scrambling vine and will climb if a trellis or other support is available. It can also be grown in a hanging basket and allowed to trail. It is rather a large plant with age, even becoming woody when grown outside in the ground. Since you will have to bring it inside if you want to try to keep it from year to year, you would probably want to grow it in a large container. They will do best in the sunniest location you can provide them both indoors and out. Be prepared for them to defoliate and sulk when brought indoors because they do not like to be moved; they also do not like being transplanted. If you do not have a greenhouse to keep them in, try for the sunniest window you have and also protect them from drafts. Their growth will slow in response to the shorter days. Water them only lightly and do not feed them during the winter. Next spring when they begin to perk up and grow, increase the watering and begin your fertilization routine again. Move them outside gradually so they can acclimate to real sunshine and being outdoors again. Good luck!

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