The Q&A Archives: Bougainvillea x Buttiana Care

Question: Hi,
My roommate and I just bought a Bougainvillea x Buttiana for our dorm room. Since we'll be keeping it inside year round, we wanted to know specifically how to care for it (ie. how much/often to water it, sunlight, pruning, etc). We are both new to gardening, but want to do whatever we need to to keep the plant alive and well. We replanted it in a 16 in diameter pot with Miracle Gro soil. Along with the plant, we bought some Miracle Gro All Purpose plant food. Anything you recommend will help us out greatly.

Answer: Bougainvilleas love hot, dry, sunny spaces and they seem to perform better when slightly neglected, so don't be to attentive to your plant and it should thrive. Water thoroughly and then allow the top inch or two of soil to dry out before you water again. The easiest way to test the soil moisture content is to stick your finger into it. If it is dry from the tip of your finger to your second knuckle, it's time to water; if it is still moist, don't water for a few more days. You can feed your plant a half-strength dilution of Miracle Gro every 3-4 weeks.

Bright light is necessary for flowering so your bougainvillea should be placed in bright light or near a window with at least 4000 foot-candles of light. As a point of reference, the amount of light at noon on a clear summer day is approximately 10,000 footcandles. On an overcast winter day, it may be as low as 500 foot-candles. Indoors, on a clear summer afternoon, the direct sun entering a window may be 4000?8000 foot-candles, but the level will be only about 600 footcandles in the shade to the sides of the window. The natural light indoors on the shady side of a dorm room may be 150?250 foot-candles, depending on the amount of window area and the presence of eaves, window blinds, or curtains. So, put your plant in the brightest spot available.

Bougainvilleas flower on a cycle, usually 6-8 weeks. And, they flower on new growth. So here's the cycle: they'll flower, then rest, then grow new branches, then flower, and rest again. To keep yours flowering well, allow the current flowers to dry up and fall off. Allow your plant to rest for a few weeks. When it is finished resting it will begin to grow new leaves and shoots. When it starts growing again, prune it back (by a few inches to up to a third of its size). It will respond by sending out even more new branches, which should flower in a few weeks.

Hope this answers all your questions. Best wishes with your new bougainvillea!

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