door:bougnvlaWhile I would not recommend “pinching” many plants, that delightful shrub bougainvillea thrives on it. A tropical that Carmen Miranda would choose, bougainvillea hails from Brazil, her home country. It too is colorful, jazzy like Carmen and not exactly cold tolerant, making it a good choice for container growing. This could well be the plant for the gardener with more to do than stand around and water plants, being very forgiving of those who forget to water their gardens too.

Removal of spent blooms and pinching back to prune plants actually helps to promote bloom. Prune or pinch back plants any time of year.

For repeat blooms, remove spent flowers and pinch back like this.

For repeat blooms, remove spent flowers and pinch back like this.

Like hibiscus, bougainvillea prefers to be pot-bound. But unlike the hibiscus, bougainvillaea likes it dry, with good drainage that is a must for this plant that prefers an alkaline soil. Plenty of sunshine is necessary for a riot of colorful blooms that should cover these plants from October through May in bloom cycles of every four to six weeks. Of course you probably already know the colorful “flowers” on bougainvillea aren’t actually flowers at all, but are really bracts with the flowers being the cute, little white centers.

Varieties ‘Barbara Karst’ and ‘New River’ are not only the most popular choices, but the hardiest as well. Bougainvillea does not tolerate temperatures in the low 30s for four or more hours. Either bring plants under cover or giving them a good soaking at the base of the plant, not on the leaves, when freezing temperatures threaten—this being one time when extra water is warranted.

Overwatering on a regular basis is the biggest problem, and plants not getting enough sun are reasons why plants don’t grow well or fail to bloom. That means plants should get at least five hours a day of direct, full sunshine. And they go dormant in the summer, a good time for general shaping of the plant. Even so a regular feeding schedule of once of month yearround of a 6-8-10 plus minors fertilizer formulated for bougainvilleas is recommended. Although there are few pests that feed on the plants, the bougainvillea looper, a green or brown caterpillar about one-inch long, can do a lot of damage. Inspect plants regularly, and hand pick any of these pests. For more information about growing bougainvillea and common pests and diseases, visit the BGI website at: boug