Styles / Pruning / Training: Use any style which shows off the bloom the best, choose pot colors based upon bract color. Use caution when pruning, wounds do not heal quickly and some will never heal completely. Always use a sealants, wood hardeners and/or a fungicide to slow the deteriorating process. Use consistent care to prevent disease and insects from attacking the open wounds.
Pinch and grow is the recommended training method. This will increase ramification and reduce leaf size. As new growth appears in undesirable areas... pinch it off. Wiring can be done when the growth is new and pliable (usually still green), older growth hardens off and becomes brittle. Bougainvillea will bud back well and sprout from the trunk, pinch off what you do not want, keep the growth if you wish to use it. New growth from the trunk can become a branch in time. If you are trying to get a new low branch to thicken up, allow that branch to grow freely while keeping all the other growth pinched back tightly. New leaves generally have a darker, reddish-brown tint when they are preparing to bloom. Check for bracts before pinching back.
Light / Water requirements: To achieve the best growth and bloom as well as naturally smaller leaves give your bougainvillea as much full sun as possible. The 'Pink Pixie' variety does not require as much sun as the other bougainvillea varieties to produce blooms. Full sun can be quite harsh in some areas, so use your best judgement.
Well draining soils are always recommended with bonsai. Roots that stay constantly wet can acquire root fungus and quickly rot. Bougainvillea appreciate ample watering and use much when they have alot of foliage to support. Check the soil and water as needed. 'Pink Pixie' does not need to be stressed to flower, for other 'bougies' some people advise using bloom booster to bring on bloom and some believe in withholding water and then watering vigorously.
Propagation: Cuttings, the most popular method, can be started easily during the warm months using root hormone and a loose soil mix and frequent watering.
Repotting Special Instructions: Bougainvillea prefer to be root bound and it appears to promote more blooming. Repot when night temperatures are mid to high 50's F. and continue through summer. Generally, repot in early spring every two to three years when they become root bound. Bougainvillea are strong growers and are very forgiving to mistakes. They don't have very complex root systems and what they have is very fragile. Use caution when repotting to maintain as many of the small fibrous roots as you can. Roots are sensitive and are brittle. Water the plant 2 days before repotting and allow the soil to dry. Support the root system when removing the plant from the pot. Use root pics or chopsticks to gently remove old potting material from between the roots. Bougainvillea will grow in a variety of soils, from completely inorganic to only organic. Make a soil mix which is well draining, yet holds moisture for optimum growth. Repotting shock can cause a loss of some, most or all of the leaves, however new growth should begin to sprout within a couple of weeks.
Insects and Diseases: Root fungus caused from over-watering is the main killer of bougainvillea. Watch for general garden pest, using a safe household pesticide will help to prevent any issues.
Temperature Requirements: Protect below 40 degrees F.
Reviving A Stressed Bougainvillea
If you have owned a bougainvillea you are probably already aware of how easily they get stressed and drop their leaves. Dropping leaves in times of stress whether from being exposed to cold temperatures, allowing the soil to go dry for too long of a period of time, containment in a dark space (during shipping, being covered in times of cold weather, etc.) is a natural event for all plants but the bougainvillea can act overly-sensitive and the difference between a bougie with and without leaves is quite dramatic and can cause their owners into a sense of panic.
If you know a potentially stressful event is coming you can prepare for it and take precautions which will minimize the stress on both the plant and yourself!
If you will be adjusting for the weather by bringing your plant inside, use a humidity tray, mist often, allow the soil to dry between waterings, acclimate the plant to the new location. Beware of where you place the plant, keeping it away from vents and drafts and placing it where it receives the greatest amount of sunlight for the longest amount of time.
One precaution that I like to take prior to shipping a bougainvillea is to apply a little bit of Superthrive in the waterings beforehand. If the weather is predicted to drop and I get a couple of days notice, I can give a little at this time also. This will give a boost to the plants immune system!
If a stressful event has occurred and the leaves have already begun to fall from the branches.....
A. A bouganvillea which was just received in the mail will go thru a period of stress during shipping and they can drop some or even all of their leaves at this time.
A bougainvillea that was recently subjected to temperatures below the recommended growing zone temperatures, a plant that was covered to protect from temperatures and lighting was restricted, a plant that has been moved from one location to another, will cause a bougie to drop its leaves.
A bougainvillea shows stress from light deprivation as dropping leaves, larger ones first and then the younger ones too. There are times when a bougainvillea bonsai will kill off its leaves so fast that they will still look green and placed well in foliage pads... until you try to move the plant and massive amounts of leaves will fall from the branches.
B. The soil was allowed to go dry for too long of a period of time, this will also cause stress to the plant and bougainvillea show this stress as limp leaves for a day or so and then leaf drop.
If you have Superthrive available and have not used it yet, apply a small amount in a watering to the bougainvillea.
If you don't have any Superthrive available, water your bougainvillea with fresh water. Watering from above for this first watering will be most beneficial and also give the plant a better chance. Watering from above will force fresh oxygen down into the soil and push out impurities from the soil freshening it.
From this watering do not water again until the plant is showing signs of new growth.
Your bougainvillea should resprout within a few days to 2 weeks depending upon the severity of the shock to the plant.
Place the plant in a warm, sunny area until new growth begins. It is best to get them right back out into the sun after light deprivation, it is my experience that they will bud back out quicker. Of course, protect from extreme heat or windy conditions. Don't be afraid to mist the bare branches, they can intake water in place of leaves.
Do not keep the soil too wet but do not allow the soil to be dry for too long of a period of time. Bougainvillea always like it a little on the drier side for short burst of times but don't neglect too long.
Do not cause more stress by allowing the soil to be too dry for too long, if your plant does not show signs of life after a couple of weeks, it may be too late to save it. There is still a chance that some part of the roots may still have life so you may not want to completely give up, just continue to give occassional waterings and see what happens.
I actually enjoy watching a bougainvillea defoliate itself and I also enjoy the benefit that a a nice defoliation brings which is reduction in leaf size! I enjoy seeing the movement in the trunks and ramification in the branches. There are times when defoliation is a good thing, but you should try to keep it from happening as much as possible. Stressing a plant causes it to be less healthy and constant stress can cause a sickly looking plant.
On the bright side.... bougainvillea often respond back with a vengence! Beautiful, new, tight, fresh foliage is a wonderful thing. And they will often sprout and flower out. Bougainvillea are known to sprout if you withhold water for a short time and then water well.... BAM! Flowers! They also like to be a little on the root bound side!
Do not fertilize the plant until new leaves have begun to sprout. New roots may also be sprouting and since a leafless plant requires less water and nutrients the newly forming roots may be damaged.
A bougainvillea is a tough little tree that can take a punch, but it faints easily!!
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