The Q&A Archives: Bougainvillea will not flower

Question: We bought a Bougainvillea last year. It had several lovely blossoms but never blossomed again. We brought the plant in over the winter(Zone 5) It grew and grew. This summer we planted it (Southern exposure). It continues to grow and grow but no blossoms appear. It has been fertilized several times. If we bring it in, should it be cut back and, if so, how much? Thank you

Answer: Evelyn,

Bougainvilleas like lots of hot weather and need to go through a rather stressful period of time to help them set bloom buds rather than be kept in a lush, luxuriant growing state.

In the tropics bougainvilleas bloom almost continuously. There the day and night cycles are more even. They bloom better for you in the midwest in spring, fall and even winter if they are in a warm greenhouse. Their bloom cycle lasts a little over a month. After this the blooms or bracts fall off and the plant cycles through a period of a 6-8 weeks during which it grows leaves and shoots but not blooms. Then it will often enter another bloom period.

Bougainvilleas bloom best when they are not in too vigorous of a growing condition. Potbound container plants and in ground plants living in marginally poor conditions seem to be among the best blooming specimens. Cut back on fertilizer and water enough to keep it going but not luxuriously growing. 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, then begin watering daily, and fertilize lightly with a product with a 3 1 2 ration such as 17 7 10 or 15 5 10. The plant should settle down and start blooming in time.

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