The Q&A Archives: Bougainvilleas won't bloom

Question: When we moved into our house in February 2006, we had 5 bougainvillea plants that were totally leafless. A landscaper said that they were alive and trimmed them back to about 2-3 ft. tall. Over the next month, these plants grew

Answer: Lynne,

I would not prune them again. They will be setting bud for later blooms. 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.

Some people take the drastic measure of root pruning to get their plants to bloom. This is done by forcing a shovel into the soil in 4 locations a foot or two away from the base of the plant, thereby cutting some of the roots. I would only do this as a last resort, such as if it wasn't back in bloom by next spring.

In Florida bougainvilleas should be pruned after the winter bloom, usually in February. Pruning consists of cutting back the lateral shoots of the previous summer's growth to within two buds of the base of the past year's growth. Without this pruning, there will be few blooms.

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