How To Prune Bougainvillea: A Simple Guide

All plants benefit from a little gentle pruning every now and then, and Bougainvillea is no exception. The right type of pruning, at the right time, can really help any plant to realise it’s true potential. Let’s look into how to do this for a Bougainvillea…

Why prune Bougainvillea?

Pruning a plant is a type of maintenance that can not only improve the look of a plant, and can help it to stop taking over the rest of your garden, but it can also improve the health of the plant itself too.

Plants can get diseases, and infections, the same as any other organism, so it is vital to remove any parts which are sick, otherwise the whole plant can become infected and die.

Another good reason to prune is to encourage new growth. If you remove old, woody parts of the plant then the plant will put more energy into growing new shoots, leaves and flowers.

You can also use pruning as a method to keep your plant in shape – that is, in a shape that suits the contours of your garden.

When to prune Bougainvillea?

when to prune bougainvillea

  1. Bougainvillea flowers only appear on new wood, so it is important to prune your Bougainvillea after the current flowering season has ended. You can give it a good hard prune in its dormant winter months, followed by a little spruce up in spring, before the new flowers have started budding, for the best results.
  2. Avoid pruning at all during the flowering period, which is usually in the summer, as this will stress the plant and prevent it producing any blooms at all. (Obviously ignore this advice if you find a diseased part of the plant in the summer – it will have to be removed whatever tie of year, for the best health of the whole plant.)
  3. If you are happy to just have your Bougainvillea trailing happily over the garden, and you’re not too fussed about flowers, you can just prune it gently to remove any diseased parts, or overgrown patches that are encroaching on the rest of your garden. However, if it’s the pretty flowers you are after, then you may have to do it slightly more scientifically.

Tools for pruning Bougainvillea

Tools for pruning Bougainvillea

When pruning any plant, it is important to start with the correct safety gear. Wear thick gardening gloves, as some Bougainvillea have sharp thorns that can cause injuries. and you can consider eye protection as well, to protect against squirts of sap or small particles getting into your eyes.

As for the actual pruning, a good sharp pair of secateurs should do the trick. These will need to be comfortable to hold so that you don’t strain your hands or get blisters, and they need to be the right size. It’s no good using tree loppers to prune small thin twigs! This being said, for a really old established tree that has very thick branches,you might need to use a pruning saw, or larger loppers.

How to prune Bougainvillea

The first step, once you’ve got your protective gear on, is to remove dead or diseased parts of the plant.

Once you’ve got rid of the dead heads, go for trimming the larger parts of the branches that can block off the light to the other parts of the plant. You’re looking to remove the old wood, at the same time as allowing light to reach the inside of the plant and other branches that are not often touched by the sun, to allow for more light reaching the parts of the plant that don’t often see the sun.

You can also prune your Bougainvillea into shapes; this is most often done with pot planted Bougainvillea. You can’t make them into fancy topiary shapes, but you can make them look like little trees or sturdy bushes.

Once the flowering bracts have died back, you can prune this long growth back to about half its length. This will encourage a second blooming late into the summer.

Final words

Pruning a Bougainvillea can make a huge difference. It can change a big, rambling plant into something that is the right shape for your garden, and it can really improve the health of your Bougainvillea too. Also, it will encourage new growth of those beautiful, prized flowers.

Now you have some tips on how to do it, get on with trimming your Bougainvillea to its best advantage!

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