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What Are the Best Tips for Pruning Bougainvillea?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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The bougainvillea plant blooms in bursts all year in tropical regions throughout the world, primarily in Central and South America. In a range of color configurations, this plant stretches its fast-growing vines and flowers where the conscientious gardener points them. Pruning bougainvillea plants by using sheers and squeezing the vines will promote growth in desired directions with the most amount of blooms during each month-and-a-half blooming cycle, which occurs every few months.

Hard-pruning bougainvillea vines before every winter will promote growth when spring starts, especially if taking them inside. This will prepare the plants for a season indoors to avoid any overnight freezes. These prunings should be close to the stem and remove about half of the foilage, preferably using sharp shears or scissors. If a bougainvillea plant is in a tropical region that does not experience frosts or freezes, it can be in the ground; if the bougainvillea grows where freezes do occur in winter, it should be in a pot that can easily be moved inside when the weather changes.

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In order to add vine shoots, a gardener should gently squeeze the soft vine tips between his or her thumb and index finger at the place the bougainvillea is beginning to shoot from the core plant structure. This will create two to four new vine shoots to add density to the plant, while promoting overall structural integrity. Conversely, to guide a bougainvillea vine in a certain direction, the gardener should not pinch the vine tips that start to stretch in that direction. This is pruning bougainvillea in a "soft" manner, guiding it in a desired direction and filling out bare patches.

Though over-pruning bougainvillea could inhibit growth, subtle tinkering with new shoots can take place throughout the year. Gardeners should try to contain pruning to non-blooming cycles, before buds start to form. Otherwise, they may hinder the plant's flower production.

When bougainvillea plants are not pruned, they will grow like weeds in every direction. For some this suffices, aesthetically. Others, however, squeeze new vine tips and prune away growth that is starting to yellow. In a fashion similar to bonzai tree production, gardeners are able to twist and prune their bougainvillea into a variety of shapes and sizes. A few varieties can be meticulously pruned into tiny windowsill creations; other fast-growing types of bougainvillea can intuitively fill up the empty gaps on a trellis in weeks.

Pruning is one of several components to keeping a bougainvillea growing in a satisfactory way. Others considerations involve providing the bougainvillea with full sunlight, warm temperatures and moderate watering — no more than every few days. Overwatering bougainvillea plants will keep them from flowering to full potential.

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