The Q&A Archives: Bouganvilla

Question: I just purchased two beautiful blooming Bouganvilla. They came with virtually no care directions. I understand they don't like soggy feet, but these are in hanging pots and dry out quickly. I don't want to drown them,but I also don't want to kill them by lack of water. Do I dead head them? Since they are in hanging pots can they support themselves without breaking off or do they absolutely need to be trellised? What steps d I follow to winter them? I know they can not stay outside in Iowa, but will they winter in the house in a south window? I need some guidance-they are so beautiful and I want to keep them that way. Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

Answer: During the summer, you may need to water your hanging baskets every day. Although these do not like "wet feet" they do need ample water during the growing season. As long as your containers have functioning drainage holes, go ahead and water thoroughly when the soil begins to dry. The plants should never wilt due to dry soil. You will also want to fertilize regularly with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 plus minors per the label directions. You can use a slow release or water soluble form.

In a hanging basket you would not need a trellis; they will arch outward gracefully with age -- allow plenty of space. Periodic trimming will be needed to keep them within bounds. Do this after each bloom cycle.

You will need to bring them indoors for the winter and then either keep them actively growing as houseplants, or allow them to rest in a cool place. When in active growth, these need as much sun as possible. During fall and spring, you may want to set them outside during the day and bring them in at night (when temperatures drop) to try to extend the growing season as long as possible; do not allow them to get colder than about 55 degrees if you want them to bloom indoors. Do not panic if they defoliate when moved inside for the winter, this is fairly normal.

To keep them growing indoors, provide at least six hours of strong direct sun at a cool room temperature of about 60 to 65 degrees. Water sparingly when their growth slows as overwatering can cause the roots to rot. This is a cyclical bloomer so look for periods of vegetative growth alternating with blooming. If you need to prune, do so right after a blooming spell. If you see them become leggy during the winter, you may want to add a grow light.

If you opt to overwinter them resting, leave them outdoors a little longer until temperatures are in the mid forties so they stop growing, then store where the temperature is cool but above freezing, the temperature should be about 40 to 45 degrees. Trim them back when you bring them indoors. Water just enough to keep the soil from going bone dry.

In spring, as the weather moderates, gradually acclimate them to being outside again. Resume normal watering and fertilizing as they begin to grow again.

Good luck with your bougainvilleas!

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