ALMOST every garden in Spain has one, and if you do in your garden how do you keep and care for it?
- Water sparingly. Bougainvillea plants weaken with too much watering, ending up with all leaf growth in place of flowers. On the other hand, letting the soil dry out will cause the plant to get stressed out. Find a happy medium – water enough to keep the soil damp, but not so much that you leave the plant waterlogged.
It is important to let the top 2 to 3 inches of soil dry out before watering. To check, stick a finger into the soil up to your knuckle. If the soil is dry to this point, then it is time to water.
- Fertilise regularly. Feed the plant a fertiliser every few months to keep the flowers blooming. Fertilising too frequently can cause the plant to grow quite vigorously, so if you find that it’s getting too large, cut back on fertilizer.
Most bougainvillea gardeners go with a 1:1:1 or a 2:1:2 fertilizer for regular fertilising, not the high-phosphate fertiliser used at planting. Organic or slow-release fertilisers work best. Be sure to fertilise at least once a year, at the beginning of spring, to help the season’s growth get underway.
- Prune the bougainvillea. Bougainvillea plants are prolific growers and need good pruning to force blooming and retain a pretty shape. After the bougainvillea has finished blooming for the season, cut it back by a few inches. This will promote healthy growth in the spring. Wear gloves when pruning bougainvillea. Some people can get a skin rash from pruning bougainvillea, similar to that from poison ivy. This is caused by the sap, not the leaves or stems.
- Train the bougainvillea. Bougainvillea plants need support to cover a wall, fence, or other area. If you’d like the plant to grow in a certain vertical spot, you can hang rows of wire or string against the surface that you want covered. Tuck the bougainvillea branches behind these guidance supports at regular intervals. Keep a close eye on growth and adjust as necessary until the bougainvillea starts covering the wall or other surface.