If you’ve ever strolled through the streets of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, you may be familiar with the glorious bougainvillea; an incredibly beautiful tropical flowering vine. It should come as no surprise that bougainvilleas, which practically radiate tropical vibes, are not naturally suited for life in Edmonton, so a caring hand is necessary to keep them thriving.
How Do You Care for a Bougainvillea Plant?
ougainvilleas aren’t especially demanding plants””caring for them is mostly about working around the realities of our short growing season. Since the vines are hardy to zone 9 (a far cry from our zone 3 climate), growing them from seed or cuttings is not advisable.
Instead, local gardeners are better off growing a mature, container-grown plant and either transplanting it into the garden or in a large pot. Whether in the ground or in containers, these plants love a location with at least 5 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Growing Bougainvilleas in the Garden
If you’ll be caring for your bougainvillea as a bedding plant, dig a hole twice the depth and width of the plant’s nursery container, backfill the hole with a mix of compost and native soil, and then place the plant level with the soil line, filling in the gaps with additional compost. Water daily for four weeks after planting, and then roll back watering to once or twice per week as needed. Don’t forget, your garden-grown bougainvillea will not survive our harsh winters, so you will need to transplant it into a container to bring indoors if you want to keep it alive long-term.
Growing Bougainvilleas in Containers
The advantage of growing them in containers is that they can easily be moved, allowing you to continue caring for them indoors during the winter. Container-grown bougainvilleas should only be watered when the soil is dry, and should be kept under a supplemental light source (such as a grow lamp) when overwintering indoors.
What is the Best Fertilizer for Bougainvillea?
Garden-grown bougainvilleas need only one fertilizer application per year. In the spring, apply a bougainvillea-specific formula, or alternatively, a slow-release, balanced (such as 5-5-5 or 10-10-10) granular fertilizer per package directions. Some gardeners also have success with fertilizers formulated for hibiscus.
Caring for bougainvilleas in containers is a bit more demanding; the smaller space means the plant relies on you much more to satisfy its nutritional needs. Fertilize container-grown bougainvilleas weekly in summer.
Bougainvilleas also tend to benefit from an application of chelated iron, which can help them keep those gorgeous pink, yellow, orange, white, purple, or red flower bracts looking vibrant.
More Tips for Bougainvillea Care
When caring for your bougainvilleas, keep these tips in mind:
- Be mindful of how much you’re watering your bougainvilleas; they bloom best when allowed to dry slightly between waterings but not dry out completely.
- Wear sturdy gardening gloves, thick clothing (like denim), and protective eyewear when pruning bougainvilleas, as their large, sharp thorns can cause injury and/or skin reactions.
- While bougainvilleas love to climb and cover walls, fences, and trellises, they can also be pruned back aggressively into a “bonsai” shrub form. This technique makes the plant much easier to store indoors.
Now that the warm weather is beginning to peak, it’s the perfect time to add a bougainvillea to your garden! Visit our garden centre locations in Sherwood Park or St. Albert to browse our selection today.