Bougainvillea Pruning Techniques and Care

The bougainvillea originated in South America, in sub-tropical rainforests. It is much admired for its colorful and prolific blooms which can flower all year round in warm to hot climates. With regular pruning bougainvilleas can be trained into a flowering hedge, to grow over fences and patios, to grow as a standard both in the ground and in a pot, to trail over the edges of hanging baskets and as a bonsai specimen. Different types of bougainvillea pruning are used to create different styles, so you need to know what look you want from the plant before you start.

The natural growth of the bougainvillea is long stems that twist and climb over anything in its path. These vine-like stems have no side shoots and will only bloom at the end. Pruning encourages the plant to produce side shoots which will then produce flowers, so pruning will give you more new growth and extra blooms.

You can actually prune a bougainvillea at any time of the year, but immediately after a flowering cycle is an optimum time. In many climates, bougainvilleas flower for much of the year, in flowering cycles of about four to six weeks followed by a period of rest of a similar length of time. When the plant is in bloom, you can prune off any dead or non-flowering branches. After summer, it is a good idea to trim bougainvilleas that you have growing in pots; prune all growth back to be level with the edge of the pot to keep the plant bushy and contained in the pot.

There are two different pruning techniques for bougainvillea, called pinching and pruning. Because the blooms of the bougainvillea appear on new season growth, it is important to prune in order to promote more blooms. Pinching is the process of removing the soft tips of the stems; this can be done by hand by simply "pinching" off about half an inch of the soft tips between your thumb and finger or you can use a pair of sharp secateurs.

When you prune, you remove larger lengths of stem from your bougainvillea. How hard you prune will be determined by what you are trying to achieve for your plant. If you have a garden bougainvillea specimen, you may want to keep it controlled by pruning off any stray stems that start to encroach on others plants in the garden. If you are training a bougainvillea over a structure like a fence or pergolas, you will prune off any stems that are not growing in the right direction and tip prune some stems to increase side shoots and bushiness in some areas. To train a bougainvillea as a standard, you will remove any low growing stems or twist several stems together to form an attractive supporting stem.

These tips on how to prune bougainvillea will help you maximise the flowers and keep your plant growing vigorously.