This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

August 24, 2014

Making your bougainvillea look its best

I don't have any bougainvilleas here at The Tropical Paradise anymore. I got rid of the one I did have, not because it was doing poorly, but because it was doing too well. I had planted it in the right place, and had given it everything it needed, and it rewarded me year after year with fantastic blooms. But bougainvilleas grow like wildfire, and have nasty thorns. After a few years of getting badly torn up trimming them, I decided that I had had enough.

So, this photo isn't my bougainvillea. It belongs to a reader in Phoenix who was asking me about the yellow leaves, and what to do. So I thought it would be good to review what to do to make your bougainvillea look its best.

• Plant it in full sun, and then neglect it. The hotter the better. If it's on a watering system, after the plant has established, turn the water off there. You can go spray it with the hose every once in a while, but too much water will not only keep bougainvillea from blooming, it will just make the plant look sad. No fertilizer. And even too much rain can make it looks sad. Be sure where it's planted has good drainage.

And there you go. Trim it back very hard every spring, and let it come back. I used to take about a third off of the plant. And, if possible, plant it so that it can spill over a west-facing wall. That's where mine was, spilling over the low courtyard wall, and every year it was covered with so much color you could barely see the leaves. And then every year I had to go out there and trim back the darn thing! Gardens are supposed to be a labor of love, but these dangerous plants took a lot of blood out of me!

I still like bougainvillea, and it looks great in the intense sun and heat of Phoenix, but I'll admire from afar!
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