Style your Bougie Get the best from your bougainvillea

The bougainvillaea is an all-time favourite in the garden and never disappoints in the bold colour, daring height, and textural intrigue they bring to spaces. Get the best from your bougie this month with Life is a Garden’s insights on pruning styles, container planting, fertilising, indoor growing, caring tips and more. 


Planting tips for youngsters 

Available in red, purple/mauve, white, yellow, orange, magenta and many shades of pink, bougainvillaeas are simply stunning but rather sensitive when young. As adolescence, bougies have easily damageable, brittle root systems. When planting, we recommend wetting the soil thoroughly before transplanting from the nursery bag or container. Do not loosen the soil away from the roots during this process to avoid transplant stock that really takes its toll on new arrivals. 

Top tip: Bougainvillaeas love warm, sunny spots with well-drained, rich and loamy soil. They prefer infrequent but deep watering. 


Styling and bougie training 

Bougainvillaea plants are essentially creepers, but with nifty pruning, they can be trained to grow into several styles and shapes. Teach your bougies to grow into neat formal hedges using mesh or wooden trellises. In smaller gardens, they can be controlled by frequent pruning and even styled into ball shapes called superballs or standards. Depending on the size of the ball or the height required, bold bougie columns can also be created and are real show-stopping décor elements. 

Top tip: Go for low-growing varieties and experiment with hedging styles and wall cover-ups. Remember to use string to tie down your bougies while still in training school. 


Pruning yay’s and nay’s 

Pruning should be carried out once your Bougainvillaea has finished flowering. This encourages new growth upon which the next flush of fabulous flowers will grow. A good general rule is that regular light pruning will keep them in good shape with near constant regrowth and banging blooms. Pruning also helps reduce disease and extends the life of the plant. Pruning during winter will set the tone for the new season and give your bougie a great head start. 

Top tip: Pinch off tender ends that are about to bloom to promote denser, brighter blooms. 


Bougainvillea creeper
Bougainvillea creeper
Containers and indoors

Bougainvillaea will also thrive containers as long as the potting mix is well-drained, nutritious, and receives infrequent but deep watering. They need as much sun as they can get but will tolerate some shade during the day. When growing indoors, choose a spot that receives some sun and is always well-lit. Prune indoor bougies regularly and be careful not to overwater them. When selecting your container, look for pots with plenty of drainage holes (don’t forget the saucer) and keep in mind that the size of the pot will also affect the size of your bougie growth.

Top tip: Try special container growing bougainvillaea varieties such as vera purple/white, flame, ruby, and rijnstar.

Bougainvillea bonsai
Feeding, frost, and pests 

A balanced foliar fertiliser can be applied every four weeks during the growing period. Alternatively, a slow-release 3:1:5 fertiliser every two to three months will also do wonders. Ask your GCA Garden Centre attendants for advice and recommendations on which feeding solutions to use. Another great thing about bougies is that they are virtually disease-free, provided they have lots of sunlight. During winter in particularly cold regions, a frost cloth should be used for protection, but they are generally quite resistant and grow back well. 

Top tip: Look out for aphids and red spider mites that may spawn during spring. Luckily, these are easy to take care of with the variety of organic and chemical pesticides available at nurseries


Remember to mulch around all bougainvillaea beds and containers to retain soil moisture and reduce weed growth. Follow these tips for the best bougie growing and may your creeping and hedging journey be flamboyant and ever successful! Life is a Garden, and yours definitely needs a thriving bougainvillaea.


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